Alexander climbed the ramp into the pod. He sat on his bench looking at his meagre rations, wondering what to eat. His store of emergency meal tablets from the last ‘ship was nearly exhausted. Ten years of dirt farming had yielded good corn at first, but the saved seed had a poor germination rate. Yet, there was a patch down in the lee of the red cliff that looked different. What would his father have made of it? Alexander wished he’d been able to learn more from him. Grow one league, rest the second, spread waste on the third, sow on the fourth. Round and round. Put enough by for nightfall. Keep the dirt firm and try to shelter it from the wind.
He decided to save his flour for Thanksgiving, and unwrapped half a meal tablet saved from two days earlier. As it dissolved on his tongue, flavours he could not name spread through his mouth. He let them linger, then washed them down with half his ration of water.
On the comms. unit was a message from Elena: ‘let’s pool our meals for Thanksgiving’. His six neighbours formed a strangely silent community, exchanging messages every moon-rise to prove they weren’t alone on this dirtball.
He dimmed the glows, lay down on his bed and let his bones stretch out - the weight of the day’s exertions scrunched them together. He slept.
The unaccustomed sound of the alarm woke him. He rolled off the bed, fumbling for his boots, and stretched out for the comms. There was an intruder in the silo. Strange. Intruders were unknown. The corn silo was all he had till the next harvest.
Outside the wind tore at his coveralls and flattened the silo door against the wall, giving it no chance to rattle or bang. The catch was undamaged. What sort of intruder could be there? He stepped in, fully alert, picking up a pitchfork just in case. A figure, silhouetted by the light from the clear roof, was filling a bag with Alexander’s corn.
Having spoken to no-one in six months, Alexander gave no warning. He charged at the intruder, who sidestepped, but not fast enough - the pitchfork hit him. He staggered; Alexander wheeled round and charged again. The intruder knocked the pitchfork to one side; it bounced off the side of the silo and hit him hard on the head. He fell to the ground, half in, half out of the doorway. Alexander stood over him, his head reeling with anger, and brought the pitchfork down into his chest. The intruder twitched and collapsed. Red liquid seeped through the coveralls. Alexander watched, fascinated. He hadn’t seen blood since his father died.
He took stock of the stranger. Standard build for a survivor: thin, almost emaciated, wiry body and upper half, strong thigh muscles and glutes. He turned away and sent a message on the comms. unit to his friends.
“Thanksgiving dinner will be steak this year”.