Dear readers, tonight with me is young woman, a Teller’s apprentice, from the lost colony on Luna.
When the vast and ancient machines that bring rains to the Dust of Luna fail, she – together with a band of fellow travelers – must face a long journey into the forsaken ruins of the Mongers’ abandoned cities, seeking a way to ensure a happy ending for her people.
She is here to tell us about life in the distant future.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I was born to New Harlan Camp, one of the five largest Camps. Life was hard, of course, but no harder than it is for anyone born to the Dust. Daddy worked the mines, Mama was the Camp’s senior Yarb-Wife, and my brother, Enoch, was busy with his apprenticeship to the Engineers’ Union. I helped Mama most days, treating sickness and such, until I neared my seventeenth harvest. That’s when Jonah came calling and took me on as his apprentice. Reckon I didn’t have too much time for anything but my studies, after that.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
When I had seen one score and ten harvests, Jonah took me to the Grand Hall. It was the first time I had ever left New Harlan, and I still remember the wonders of it. It was where the Tellers were founded, where the Council of Picard had been held. There were books -so many books! – and carved records, and even great memory-machines scavenged from the cities of the Mongers. That was the day I was given my Teller’s coat and my guitar, the first things I had ever really touched that had been from the Paradise of our Ancestors. I spent two whole harvests there, learning the Ancestor’s tongue, the Old Calendar, and so many other things besides. It was amazing, to have my horizons broadened so far.
What do you do now?
I am the apprentice to Jonah Teller, the Teller of New Harlan. My lessons are mostly complete, though. Most of my time is spent teaching the youngins of the Camp, helping them learn what they’ll need to know before they join a Union.
What has been on your mind, lately?
I reckon my Oaths will be coming soon, which means leaving Mama. Fair certain that Mama’s fine with it, what with the Dust-Lung. She does not have long left, but with Daddy gone on and Enoch having vanished and myself about to leave the Camp when my apprenticeship ends, that is likely for the best. Ira was mentioning some of the Terraforming Network’s engines acting strange lately the last time we talked, something the Engineers are not saying much on. That is a worrying thought, I must admit. Ancestors help us all, If those systems break down…
Do you ever wonder about your brother’s disappearance? Do you ever think about searching for him?
I do, yes. I miss Enoch dearly. But the truth is I have made peace with him being gone, and I have my duties to the people and the Camps to tend to. Enoch was a brilliant man and knew the Mongers’ technology better than anyone. If he had found anything at Roanoke and lived to tell it, he would have returned to us by now. That he has not just shows how dangerous it is to trespass in those forsaken ruins.
You’ve mentioned ‘Mongers’ a couple of times now. Could you elaborate on them?
The Mongers were those who brought our Ancestors here to the Dust, seeking to escape the ruin they wrought upon their Paradise. They abandoned our ancestors here to die over twenty-four score harvests ago, leaving for alien worlds and abandoning their great cities. A Monger does not care for anything that does not bring him worth, and the Camps have no truck with those who would seek to follow their wicked example. Greed destroyed the Ancestors’ Paradise, and it would destroy us if we let it take root here.
You’ve also mentioned ‘harvests’?
Ah, yes. Reckon you may not know this, but the Moon – that is what the Ancestors called the Dust – does not have ‘days’ or ‘seasons’ like the Ancestors’ Paradise. While we Tellers know of the Old Calendar, it is hard to keep it in such a place. Thus, the Camps keep the time by our crops, specifically our bean harvests.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Reckon my two best friends are Sarabeth Frye and Ira Clay. I have known them both since we were Dust-moppers. Sarabeth is a Deputy Marshal, which is no surprise really. She always did have wild dreams of adventure, and she is just too wild-spirited to have kept settled-down somewhere. Ira is just the opposite really. Ira followed Enoch into the Engineer’s Union, which I reckon sort of dismayed his father, the Camp Foreman. Still, Ira is brilliant with old machines – Enoch once said Ira has the sharpest mind for them that the Union’s seen in generations.
Any romantic involvement?
Ancestors, no. Reckon it is in a Teller’s oath that we leave the house of our father, taking no Match and having children of our own.
Tell us about you. How do you relax?
If I ever find time to do so, I will be glad to tell you. In seriousness, I enjoy spending time just listening to Ira and Sarabeth, hearing what they have been working at over a jug of Shine. I do enjoy work with the youngins, as well. They are still too young to have lost that bright spark of wonder in their hearts, and their enthusiasm for my Songs and Tales is a balm on my weary spirit.
What does the future hold for you?
Once I finish my apprenticeship and speak my Oath, I will be headed back to the Grand Hall in the Mare Crisium . The Elder Tellers will convene to decide which of the Camps I will serve. Reckon I speak enough Cant that they might send me to New Guangzhou, but since I have kin there it’s more likely to be Calypso or Kemerovo. Reckon I might even be made a circuit-rider, visiting the smaller Camps that are not large enough to keep a Teller of their own. Regardless, I will serve my Oath until the Dust takes my weary bones.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
Well, so long as you keep this to yourselves. We speak of the Teller’s Burden, but most folks do not understand what we mean by it. They see our black coats and know we sacrifice our ties to our families to put all our attention toward the good of the Camps as a whole, but they do not know the whole truth, the entirety of the Tellers’ purpose. We help the Yarb-Wives find Matches, keeping the Camps healthy by ensuring that the blood of the Camps’ surviving houses does not pool and turn rotten, but we also have spent generations shaping the Camps’ people to survive the hard life of the Dust. When the Ancestors first came from their Paradise, they had many cultures and beliefs, and when the Mongers left them here to die chaos came. It was in response to that chaos the Tellers formed, and we worked to bring an end to it by uniting the Camps into one society, drawing the best parts of the Ancestors’ cultures and removing the troublesome ones. For all our Songs speak of finding Paradise, none of us truly believes it exists. It is a cruel deception, but if the people had no hope they would surely succumb to the sorrows of living in the Dust and be lost. All Tellers share the experience of that heartbreaking revelation, and we all carry the duty of hiding it from those we are sworn to serve so they are not destroyed by it. That is the truth of the Teller’s Burden.
Born into the foggy foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Eugene W. Cundiff was immersed in a culture of storytelling from an early age. He draws inspiration from the folklore of the Appalachian region, world mythology, and the pulp science-fiction and fantasy works of his youth.
You can find Elisheva on the pages of Songs of Earth.
Join us next week to meet a young woman from the forgotten colony on Luna. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.