Tello Basra, Red Son of Cornucopia
It had been three hundred years since Tello had been home.
He stepped off the shuttle, his duffel slung over his one arm, and was happy to find the revolutionary dream had persisted.
Cornucopia stood, a paradise for all.
He walked the crowded boulevards in quiet awe at what his peasant town had become. The rutted streets where beast-drawn carts had floundered in knee-deep mud were bricked over, sidewalks given to cafes that spilled into the streets.
Above him loomed city blocs hundreds of feet tall. Once there were smokestacks here. A factory that his mother slaved at stamping tin for fractions of a coin. The sky had been black. His sister lost her hand to the machines.
It was a crisp Autumn day, festival season.
Tello stood before the city bloc that had once been his home. It was larger now, had burst from low row housing to three hundred stories of apartments with plazas and parks. Every third floor had a school. A theater.
His had a single cafe; now, every floor had a cafe.
He looked up at the bloc and wept. It was a testament to the victory he had helped win in the Autumn Revolution. fifty years ago for him, three hundred for his homeworld.
Tello asked if anyone knew what happened to his little row home and it’s little cafe. No one did.
“This bloc has stood for two hundred years,” a passerby said.
A brass plaque in the bloc’s meeting-hall said as much.
“Erected on the centennial of the Autumn Revolution, whose heroes built these halls and shelter us always.”
Tello left the place where his home once was to seek out others like him.
“The historical society has taken them on a retreat just two days ago,” the attendant said. She was kind, and offered to show him around, but Tello declined. She urged him to go to the Heroes’ Square,
The statue there rose from a mound of red-orange carnations, sweet even as they moldered. Women and children slipped past him to drop more at the feet of the monument.
Tello wept. The flowers were striking against the gone green copper, gold.
A detachment of partisans on the back of a war chassis. Young, ageless, always smiling.
Tello patted the leg of the chassis, crushing flowers underfoot; it was no matter. He had piloted one in another life. He had done worse that crush flowers.
He left the square as children spilled into it from the surrounding blocs. Midday recess, time enough for sport and to give the teachers a break for lunch.
Tello went back to the veterans’ office.
“The Reminder?” The attendant asked. “Oh, you mean The Slabs?”
Death on Cornucopia was, three hundred years later, the same as it was in Tello’s time.
Ashes. All returned to ash, to be mixed in with concrete, with alloys, with fertilizer. To be returned to the community, to build, to feed.
In hard times, to defend the community.
The revolutionary dead sheltered their comrades. Became the machines that built the nation.
His brothers, his sister, his mother, his friends - they were all around him, they were the community.
They built the world.
Tello rode the metro to the country, where The Slabs were.
It was a lonely stop. Not many came here unless they did for a lesson in history, in what became of reactionaries, of their old monarchs. The old devils.
A bored station agent hired Tello a car, and alone he rode to The Slabs.
He asked the empty machine to stop a little ways before the antimonument, to wait.
He walked the rest of the way, his hand tucked into his pocket. His missing arm ached.
To be dead and buried was to be useless. To be alone, even when your body was thrown in a mass grave.
The Slabs flattened the earth, prevented the corpses of the buried from feeding even grass. They would rot, they would shelter no one, would build nothing.
Tello stooped at the gate of The Slabs. A bough of Footman’s Poppy grew wild there. Tello remembered the hated bloom, and laughed.
Of all places, here. Of all places.
He tucked the flowers into his coat and let his feet lead him.
The birchgrass grew wild and tall between The Slabs.
He read the scrawled directions the attendant had given him: 20 slabs in, 3 to the left. In there.
Three hundred years after and they still knew where he was buried.
Union had pulled him away after the Autumn Revolution. Other homes to liberate. Other peoples to join the internationale. Other peoples, crying out for freedom.
The birchgrass snapped underfoot, dry in fall’s grip.
The Revolution had consumed Cornucopia when Tello was a boy. At sixteen he was given a pistol and told to charge the Royalist line. He lived. At eighteen, a war chassis and a command of men.
After the war he was still a boy, only one without a home to return to. So he left.
And he saw the galaxy. Saw wonders. Killed men. Slept on a pink shore under a sky alight with moons. His arm was torn from him. He saw the edge of cultivated space. Walked Cradle’s holy ground, breathed its air.
Saw the place where humanity first stepped from darkness to light.
Felt home’s call in a lost song. Wept in blinkspace. Filed for resynchronization.
He stood now about the mass grave that held his father, once a seneschal in the King’s court.
The Slab had no markings but ones that noted its position, +20x, +3y.
Lichen smeared across the black concrete, green and white. Bloodless.
Was he sad? Did he have regrets?
Yes and no.
His dream, the hope that carried him through the darkest nights of the Revolution, persisted. Three hundred years after it was won, the Revolution continued, and no one was hungry or cold or alone.
Tello sat on the edge of the slab that capped his father’s grave.
He set the bough of Footman’s Poppy down on it, a pop of orange against the speckled black.
Tello smiled at the small site. The King’s flower, even now. How he had hated that damn bloom.
Tello Basra, Red son of Cornucopia, sat still and listened to the wind. Maybe he would take that tour, after all.
Or, better, he would go find a little cafe, and enjoy the kind sun of home for a while.