Blessed Are the Hungry22 min read


Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
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That afternoon they flushed San Carlos Seldran out the airlock. Everyone on Cabra Deck was required to watch, even the little ones.

Despite what old people tell you, in the vacuum of space your blood won’t boil. Your body won’t explode either. In less than a minute you’d simply die from a lack of oxygen. There wouldn’t be time to scream.

His was a humane execution — quick, clean and painless.

“The Lord preserves all who love him but all the wicked he destroys,” growled the ancient Holosonic, droning the day’s lesson with great pomp and solemnity.

My family and I watched as our former parish priest drifted away towards infinity. The void swallowed him up with a deep hunger, deep as the ever-present darkness. I wanted to close my eyes but I just couldn’t look away. None of us could. Instead we just watched him die and committed his soul quietly to Our Lady of Gliese.

The people of Cupang couldn’t let him go without a send-off. We removed our bracelets and dropped them to the floor discreetly, at random places, beneath the notice of the ever present Domini Canes. We’d made them from old cable ties and plastic bags, recycled colour against the blackest of blackness. Each one a secret funeral wreath for a good man we’d all loved and respected.

After the ceremony, Mother hugged my youngest brother tightly. It was Bino’s first excommunication, and he was understandably quite upset. He buried his head deeply into her bosom, sobbing quietly. We all turned away, to let my mother console him privately.

The sooner that Bino got inured to executions, the better it would be for him and the easier it would be for the rest of us. Life was hard enough as it was without the tears of a child.

“You have a beautiful mind, boneca,” a voice inside my head intruded, “but so twisted and so sad. Como você está?”

I heard it sometimes whenever I was troubled or depressed, flexing itself like a rarely used muscle. It was the voice of a young man, strong and reassuring, the kind I could perhaps fall in love with. I never told anyone about it, of course. People would say I was careless with our mushroom crop, or worse, that I’d gone mental. That would be a threat to the gene pool, earning me a one way ticket out the airlock. It was how the Curia had bred out claustrophobia and the loco ones so many generations ago.

We lived in a 10 x 10 meter capsule in the Cupang Cluster, a farming encomienda near the rear starboard engine of the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Our family holdings were not nearly big enough for the eight of us, plus the mushroom farm we were contracted to tend. But none of us really complained. Everyone in Cabra had the same allotment. Besides, to speak ill of The Edicts meant a private audience with the Ecclesiastic Police, the ndi Nri. No one ever returned from those “special” meetings. No one dared ask why.

On this ship, my mother always said, it was always safer to suffer in silence.

Ten generations had come and gone since our Generation Ship left the Earth, but the Prelates said we weren’t even halfway to our destination. I was born in space, and I would probably die in space. In my heart I knew that I would never see our new home, Gliese 581g — a small terrestrial planet in the old constellation of Libra. I suppose neither my children nor my children’s children would reach planetfall either. But I guess that was okay, it would have been far worse to have been left behind, dying slowly and painfully in the radioactive ruins of our poor, destroyed world.

The eight of us hurried back to our quarters, running past the warren of barrios and lean-tos that choked the narrow passageways. Everything was so closely packed together it was difficult to move around. We picked our way through generations upon generations of Earth junk, now treasured relics too precious to throw away. It would be the Angelus soon, announcing the beginning of the night’s curfew. We had to be home before the Domini Canes went on patrol.

That evening we had a simple dinner of protein soup, air-fried mushrooms and edible plastic that the boys had scavenged from the trash. Father kissed us goodnight and drew the thin curtain separating their small matrimonial space. There was never enough food for everyone. After our prelate’s arrest, all the rations were reduced further. Our parents said they didn’t have an appetite, but I knew they’d gone to bed hungry, again.

Today had been very long and tiring. My siblings, Orly, Igmeng, Chayong and Sepa fell asleep faster than usual. Bino, though, was still too upset to sleep. He tugged at the frail curtain, asking softly for our mother to read to him.

A part of me wanted to let him disturb them, to keep them from creating yet another mouth to feed. Eight people were really too much for our small space. If we had another sibling, Orly or perhaps Igmeng, who was younger but taller, would be forced to sleep in a lean-to at the corridor.

Father had said that Prelate Seldran was excommunicated because he’d asked the Lord Bishop, our Eze-Nri, to limit the size of families. Cabra Deck was already overcrowded, and many suffered from some form of malnutrition. My father and my brothers, for example, were effectively blind at night. In fact, all the men in our neighborhood lost their vision as soon as the deck lights were shut. None of the women were ever affected. It was, I suppose, another means of control.

In the heat of one homily, our priest had raged about too many children dying every day. “Why can’t we keep them all hale and hearty,” he had asked, “instead of constantly creating, discarding and replacing?”

Despite daily entreaties and numerous attempts to get an audience with the Lord Bishop, nothing ever happened. Matters of life and death on the steerage decks were just too low in the Curia’s priorities. The Domini Canes simply collected and stacked the regular toll of bodies. At the start of the day-cycle they were flushed out of the airlock like yesterday’s trash.

One day it simply became too much for our old Prelate. He began to explain an idea, a dangerous, radical concept which our language had no words for. His homily about unfulfilled coition made people cover their ears. The church band began to play loudly. I, myself, wanted to shut him out. Whatever he had said, however right he was — it just seemed so wrong. The Edicts had decreed that relations were solely for procreation. It was our sacred duty, something upon which the very security of our ship depended on. That was why on my thigh they made me wear the cilicio, a wire mesh studded with small spikes. The constant pain was meant to remind me of the law, of my personal responsibility, at least until the Curia paired me with a gen-screened husband.

That homily had proved to be his death warrant. Our parish priest had committed heresy, an act of terrorism against the Most Holy Curia.

Everyone knew that Generation Ships required a “minimum viable population” to preserve genetic diversity and prevent the sin of in-breeding. Posters all over Cabra reminded you about it constantly. However what that actual, necessary figure was, no one knew. Like everything else on our deck, no one spoke a word about it. Not that anyone could.

The only certain number was that each family had to maintain at least eight souls. This was the minimum at all times. I had always wondered how many people were already on-board our one-way trip to Gliese. The decks were forbidden to mix, although Father said that hadn’t always been so. For all we knew, there were millions of people on the higher levels, multiplying like roaches behind our nano-plastic walls. That was probably why our rations got smaller every year-cycle, even when the mushroom harvests were good.

I pulled Bino to my bedroll and took out our family’s only book, an ancient primer that had once belonged to our great-grandfather. It had no covers and many of its pages had gone missing long ago. Mother had composed her own rhymes for the missing letters, writing them on the blanks behind the surviving sheets. Despite the primer’s poor state and the nonsense of its verse, Mother had managed to teach most of us to read.

“Read me the whole thing, Ate Elsa,” Bino asked, stretching his arms to look for my shoulder, “please…”

“No,” I said firmly. “It’s already late. I’ll only read the ones with pictures.”

“But I can’t see them,” he protested. “They’re all blurry.”

“Too bad for you,” I whispered crossly. It had been a long day for me too.

A is for Apocalypse, when the sky fell down forever

C is for the Celestial Beacon, a light that never severs

D is for Death, wife to vanished Earth

E is for the Eaters, cannibals from the dirt

G is for Gliese, where the Bishop will lead his sheep

N is for the New Cities, where the dead downloaded, sleep

“You forgot about R,” Bino added.

“What do you mean R?” I asked. “I said I would only read the ones with pictures.”

“R is for Rock,” he said, listening intently to the sound of air circulating in the room. Like other night-blind kids, his hearing was incredibly acute. This talent would fade as Bino grew older, but for now, it seemed almost superhuman. Without looking up, he pointed to one of the farm racks. “Father keeps that page behind those mushroom logs. I heard him take it out last night.”

My brother was right. There was one page missing. R is for the Readers, I remembered, for the ancient heretics that had worshiped libraries.

I stepped over my sleeping siblings towards the walls of our farm and knelt in front of the stack that Bino had pointed to. With great care I removed each log of sterile media until I found what father had been hiding — a small bundle wrapped in a torn page of the primer.

I took it out and unwrapped it. Inside was an anting-anting, a small rock — a piece of planet Earth that some ancient fool had smuggled on-board. It had been laser-etched with the mano poderosa, the symbol for the hand of God. I looked at the other papers. They were all secret missives from Prelate Seldran. Each one spoke of the food shortage and every successive communication was more strident than the last.

“It is never just to follow unjust laws,” he wrote, “but people driven by fear choose stability over freedom. They need to be pushed.”

The final note alarmed me. It was from father asking the men of Cupang to attend a mass action in the morrow. Father had been staying out late more often. I suspected he had been planning something, ever since the rations were halved last week. This week-cycle alone, he had twice risked the Angelus.

As I wrapped everything up again I noticed that Father had written something behind the torn primer page. It was gibberish scrawled in a desperate frenzy, as if to remember a dream that was fading too quickly.

In a Library of infinite dimensions… Tang–ina, Ancestors were Readers… now in a red room with millions of monkeys. Que huevas! The head gave over–ride key. Translux Baboon? Translucia Baboon???

= Bene legere saecla vincere — To read well is to master the ages

Elsa Bring Orly or Igmeng

My name had been crossed out, that much I understood. Whatever Father had planned, I was not to be part of it. That wasn’t fair. I was the eldest. Ay wey, I had a right to fight for my future too. Whatever happened, no matter what he did to stop me, I made up my mind to join them.

“Elsa, I’m still hungry,” Bino said, rousing me from my brooding.

I ignored him and returned the bundle to Father’s hiding place. When I came back, I handed him a greasy piece of Tupperware. “I only have this,”

“Yuck, that looks so old,” he said, making a face. “I hate edible plastic.”

“I’m sorry, baby. Wiz na. That’s all I have,” I said as I kissed him good night. “Just close your eyes. Close your eyes and try to go to sleep.”

Bino snuggled against me and cried himself to dreamland.

The next day, a riot erupted on Cabra Deck.

It had started peacefully as a prayer rally. Father had taken my eldest brothers, Orly and Igmeng, to Cupang’s tiny chapel. There they attended a memorial service for our fallen priest.

I had fought with my father, begging him to let me come along, but he was adamant and as unyielding as the rock he had secreted in his pocket.

After they left I badgered my mother for permission. “Please, come with me Mother. What if they shut the lights? They’ll be taken by the Domini Canes. We can’t let them.”

“You know your father has forbidden you. Kodi, kodi… let it be.”

“Why?” I challenged her. “You always tell me to have my own mind. We need to be there.”

“Remember what the Edicts say: Thou submittest the wives to their husbands, for a faithful and chaste obedience.”

I lost my temper, something I had never done before.

I screamed at my mother and called her out on every mistake and every hurt she’d ever visited upon me. I told her she was a terrible wife and a horrible mother for allowing them to face danger so casually, so recklessly.

“I know about the anting-anting,” I said finally, crying in pain, crying in shame. “I read all the secret papers. The Bishop is starving Cabra.”

“Then you know why I can’t let you go,” Mother said, putting on a steely face that I knew was her mask of false conviction. “You are smart, young and healthy, Elsa. You will make a great breeder, perhaps even for the Cabrón. I know you hear the voices. You are our family’s most valuable asset, our best insurance.”

“I don’t hear anything!” I wailed, covering my ears.

“You can’t hide something like that from your parents. Never ever disrespect me again.”

“I’m sorry Mommy, but Orly and Igmeng…” I cried. Big hot tears were rolling off my cheeks like ball bearings. “That’s not fair! They’re just boys!”

“Precisely, and boys are less important,” she answered coldly. “You are old enough so I won’t lie to you. The Curia is starving Cabra as a lesson. Many people will die but if some of us are to survive, we need to hedge our bets. Right now our food stocks are so low we don’t have anything to eat tomorrow. We’ve already finished the mushrooms, and the new spawn aren’t edible yet. The only ones left are the Bishop’s Narco, and you know those are poison.”

“But that’s not fair!” I screamed. “I’m the eldest! I should be the one with Father.”

I bolted towards the door in defiance but Mother had already locked it. Outside our quarters, a sharp pealing of bells announced a sudden curfew. All power was shut off, and Cabra was plunged into a vast black ocean.


“I’m sorry too, Elsa,” she said softly, as if she had expected the darkness. Mother stood up and prepared to draw their privacy curtain. “There’s no more soup, there’s no more plastic but I left three mushrooms on the counter. Air-fry them and divide them among you. I’m not hungry so don’t leave any for me. I… I need to get some sleep in case your… before your father returns.”

Behind the thin screen, Mother cried in silence.

An hour later, she finally fell asleep. The three youngest kids had also nodded off, victims of the oppressive boredom and the crippling lack of power. Somewhere outside our quarters, a lonely Igbo flute played an ominous narcorrido. It sounded just like a dirge.

I went over to Mother’s worktable and grabbed a bottle of her special ground mushrooms. She had found a way to store Psilocybe and Panaeolus as a powder without losing their nightmare potency. It was illegal to sell these to anyone outside the Curia. Father told me that they were considered sacred and fed only to the clergy with telepathic augmentations. In fact, to use them for any other purpose was a sin punishable by death. However, sometimes it earned us extra rations, so Mother persisted with her dangerous trade.

One of the things she’d taught me was that if you combined the powder with luminol and a few other chemicals, it would glow for an hour or so, like a jar of distilled stars. I stole just enough to light my way through the corridors.

“Your father can hear us, just like you,” the voice inside my head spoke. “I gave him the code. Be careful, boneca. Find me if you can.”

Ay wey, I must’ve inhaled some of mother’s hallucinogens,” I thought, shaking my head to drive the voice away. Time was of the essence, and I didn’t need any stupid distractions.

Chayong was our next eldest, so I left her in charge of the household. The two of us quietly removed the cover of an unsealed service hatch. It had been hidden behind one of our large farm stacks. I’d seen Orly slip out at night from this hidden exit. It was the only way for him to meet his syota privately — at least not without having to get married first.

The sewer smelled of shit and organic waste. I crawled through as quickly as I could to keep myself from gagging. Just before the exit, I saw one of Orly’s salvage bags hanging on a spike. Inside were a wire cutter and a spare paltik, a homemade electrolaser that he and Father had made from stolen electronics. It was what my brother had been using to protect himself from the Domini Canes. I whispered a prayer of thanks and clipped both to my belt.

Outside our quarters, Cabra Deck was eerily quiet. Signs of violence lay everywhere: all sorts of broken things, pools of blood and torn pieces of clothing. I knew that there’d been a riot, but there was absolutely no one in the corridors.

I flew through Cupang Cluster like an águila, moving furtively between blinds, alcoves and abandoned lean–tos until I spotted some activity.

In the small plaza just outside the chapel, a crowd of men were on their knees, fearful but unbowed by the beasts of the ndi Nri. Many of the rioters were injured and bleeding. Piles of broken bodies had been stacked near the church door.

A snarling pack of Domini Canes had surrounded the survivors. The heavily-armed telepresence robots rumbled menacingly as they sent their masters the head count, the body count and every possible threat assessment data.

I ducked out of sight as soon as I saw the wolf-like mecha, shrouding my lantern with my shirt. Frightful as they were, I was mesmerized by their strange beauty. In the half-light of the Holosonic, their liquid-armor bodies shimmered purple, vermilion and bronze. I imagined these to be the colors of a sun that I had never seen, the burial clothes of a mother-star that we had abandoned so long ago.

Father and the boys were at the front of the group. Orly was bleeding from one leg and his clothes were badly torn. Igmeng’s face was covered in bruises. They were on their knees, but father still seemed defiant. His back was ramrod-straight and his head remained proud and unrepentant.

“Our children are hungry,” I heard him say. “Please, we are only asking for the rations to be restored.”

“Trust in the Bishop with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,” the Holosonic blared, with its hollow Jovian voice. “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

“There’s no more food!” someone else protested. “You take all our mushrooms and then cut our rations. What are we expected to eat?”

Murmurs of dissent started to rise and ebb among the rioters. Then, quite unexpectedly, someone started to sing. Soon everyone assembled had joined in and were chanting softly: “Shalom, maging payapa. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled. Shalom, maging payapa. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

The singing spread like magic from the rioters to the gloomy corridors of Cupang. Every household, it seemed, had come together to form a Jericho wall of hymns.

“Dissent is a disease,” the Holosonic declared. Its groaning screen sputtered to life, flashing pictures of the bracelets we’d made for the funeral. The images cycled so fast it made some people in the crowd vomit. “Whoever spares the rod spoils the child,” it drawled, “but those that are diligent discipline.”

In the plaza, the Domini Canes suddenly raised their guns. “Trust in the Bishop with all your heart. Peace lives in silence. You must be silenced. By orders of the Holy Curia and the authority vested in our system by the Eze-Nri, the Most Blessed Office of the Lord Bishop, you are all hereby excommunicated.”

The rioters and the rest of our cluster became deathly quiet. The voice on the Holosonic ordered all the men to line up single file and walk towards the airlocks.

In the darkness someone threw a rock at the Domini Canes. And then another and another. I heard the Holosonic shatter into a thousand crystal pieces. Our men launched a surprise attack, assaulting the monsters with all manner of improvised weapons. The boys acted as their olheiros; the “eyes” of the men in the blackness, telling them what to hit and where to shoot. Together, they shorted the liquid armour with paltiks and cracked weak spots with metal tubing. For the first time ever, cold silicon blood spilled on the floor.

But the battle was short-lived. It didn’t take long for more Domini Canes to join the fray. Horde upon horde of the vicious demon mecha appeared from the shadows, tearing people apart. The tzat–tzat sound of plasma discharges seemed everywhere, cleaving skulls from crown to teeth, or cutting arms clean from sockets. The plaza erupted with the bang of gas explosions and the astounded screams of fathers and sons, disbelieving their own deaths.

The slaughter proceeded ruthlessly, relentlessly. I had to do something — anything to help.

I used Orly’s paltik to short the seals off a nearby service hatch. The tunnel was much, much larger than the last one. I ran inside until I saw an old ordenador access panel. I’d heard stories of people trying to hack the ship’s brain through one of these, but no one had ever succeeded (except perhaps to trigger the intruder alert and get executed). I really had no idea of what I was doing, but I was desperate and running out of options.

When the password box appeared, I remembered what Father wrote on the primer page and typed Translux Baboon. An error screen, SAFIS 401 Unauthorized Error, appeared. I had two more tries before 403 Forbidden would come, setting off the alarm.

Translucia Baboon was also a bust. Sweat poured from my scalp like a leaky Neowater pipe. There was no ventilation in the tunnel, and my thin shirt was soon drenched with perspiration. It clung like phlegm to the small of my back.

A heavy door came down suddenly, blocking the entrance I‘d come though. Now I had no escape. I had only one more chance before the system sent the Domini Canes my way.

SAFIS 401 Unauthorized Error… SAFIS 401 Unauthorized Error…

I took a deep breath and said a prayer to Our Lady of Gliese. I typed in the first words that came to mind — Bene legere saecla vincere. “To read well is to master the ages”: the central tenet of the heretic Readers.

Somehow, in some way that I couldn’t explain, it actually worked. The words had acted like a kulam, a spell of some sort, disabling the defense systems and granting me full access to the ship’s living neural nets.

“Where did my father learn that?” I wondered.

A massive floating screen popped open above me, giving the illusion of infinite space. On it was a map of the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Our ship was a hollow, spherical shell 160 kilometers in diameter, divided into hundreds of self-sustaining sections. Less than a quarter of the ship showed any life signs — just three decks in steerage, Belo Horizonte, Cabra and Pagbilao, and a few clusters in engineering. On the First Class deck, seven cities had survived: Boston, Caracas, Maynilad, Tenochtitlán, Nri, Paris and Rio. Roma’s Ecclesiastic Ring had been completely decimated. Only one monastery remained — the one where the Cabrón, the Augmented Clergy, were kept from the laity.

The ordenador central told me that the Lord Bishop, the Curia and most of the ship had died long ago. It didn’t say when, how or why. The system, it seemed, had been running on autopilot, following the infallible instructions of a dead man whose word was law to a brutal, mechanical police.

On Cupang’s map, I saw that life signs were going out one by one.

I flipped through the screens frantically, trying to stop the Domini Canes or at least turn the power back on. But all the necessary icons had been blacked out. Nothing worked. People were dying with every second I delayed.

I pounded the maintenance console in anger, in frustration. “Our Lady of Gliese, help me,” I prayed. I reached deep inside my mind, searching for something, any scrap of information that could help. Without really meaning to, I called on the voice inside my head, “I need to save my family, please.”

“You only call out when you’re in trouble. Why is that?” the voice inside my head whispered. “Let me be of assistance. I can commandeer this ship but you’re the one with physical access. I will need to get inside your mind.”

“Do it.” I hissed. “Whoever you are, whatever you are, do it now!”

“Lamento, lamento, boneca… but there’s truly no other way.”

Without warning I felt something warm pour inside my brain. It was as if my mind, my soul had wrapped around someone else’s. Like new lovers we were circumscribed by a relentless rush of unfamiliar thoughts and emotions. We touched in an impossible space, an impossible time, suddenly called to witness the vast and endless perturbations of the universe. Desnudo, despido, our souls co-mingled with a profound intimacy that words simply lacked the depth, the ferocity to describe. He was so close, so very, very close I could literally taste him in my mouth.

When the mind-meld was over, my legs gave way, and I could barely stand. But I knew exactly what I had to do.

I pulled out a new screen to access a long dormant shellcode, the payload of a virus that heretic Readers had planted generations ago. The know-how for the exploit was solid and crystal-clear in my head, yet I truly had no idea how I knew what I was doing. I didn’t even sound like me in my own head anymore.

Gostoso, gostoso… what language was that? It was so… tasty?

In short order I had shut down the Domini Canes and restored the power in Cabra. I opened all the gates, hatches and doors that the ndi Nri had shut. Everyone was now free to access all the decks and corridors. Most importantly I found food, lots and lots of food stored in secret caches everywhere. There were also at least twenty fully-operational protein factories, only two of which had been used by the entire ship. And on the highest cluster, where the Lord Bishop and the Curia had lived, there was a vast garden, one with almost a hectare of self-sustaining vegetable farms and orchards.

I couldn’t wait to share my discovery with everyone on Cabra. Porra! I was so giddy with excitement that I’d almost forgotten about the riot.

“Porra?” I caught myself. Since when did I cuss in Português Brasileiro?

It was a mystery for another time. I returned my focus to my mission and pulled up every security camera near Cupang’s chapel. I needed to see if Father and my brothers had survived.

Fires had broken out across many corridors, knocking out many of the surveillance monitors. For those that worked, heavy smoke obscured my view. I powered up the auxiliary emergency system to vent the dirty air.

When the smoke had cleared, I saw many bodies lying inert on the plaza. Many were friends and neighbors that I had known all my life. Near the door of the chapel I saw Father and Igmeng. They were both wounded but alive. Father was tending to Orly who lay broken and bleeding at his feet.

I screamed. A great knot of fear had formed in the pit of my stomach.

“He is alive,” said the voice inside my head, “alive but very seriously injured. He needs a bone stapler. You need to find me and bring me to him. There is a hospital facility just two levels above your deck. Meet me there. Por favor, apresse.”

A new window floated above me like a phosphene sprite, showing me where to go.

“Thank you.” I said, as I ran back through the maintenance tunnel. “Who are you?”

“My name is Ismael, minha boneca,” he answered. I am a just a bicho simples, a novice with the Cabrón.”

“How come I can hear you in my head?”

“I have an alien parasite on my nape. We call them the Cafuné or sometimes Abacaxi, which means both ‘pineapple’ and ‘deep trouble’. They give humans telepathy,” He replied. “Your father was the first mind I found outside our deck.”

“My father?”

“Yes, that was why I could find him. We are… connected… you and I. My spores found you. They gave your father the access codes to the ship, but the Domini Canes, they discovered us and came for me. I was lucky you reached out to my Cafuné when you did.”

“What?” I asked. “I never did that.”

“You are doing it now,” he whispered softly. Suddenly, I realized I could feel something fuzzy behind my head, something that felt like flesh and cotton-wool. I reached to touch my nape, but there was nothing there. Still, I could feel it, squeeze it; flex it with my mind. It spoke to me in a swarm of new images and emotions.

“How is that… possible.” I stammered. “How… how do I know I can trust you?”

“You’ve seen my innermost self, my soul, minha boneca,” he whispered. “You know me inside and out.”

“Why me?”

“There are things under heaven which carry no logic and we… my Cafuné and I, we love your beautiful mind.”

I could feel the sudden sheepishness in his voice. An unfamiliar word appeared in my head, apaixonado, and something dirty, something electric stirred in my soul, a rapaciousness that I had never felt before. I took out Orly’s wire cutter and removed my cilicio. It was a sign of my bondage — no, our bondage, our failure to trust ourselves with our own future.

The maintenance tunnel was now brightly–lit. I dropped my lantern and ran as fast as I could, heading towards where Ismael had pointed me to go. I ran to save my brother. I ran to save our ship. I ran to chase a curious new hunger that now burned within my soul — a hunger as deep as space, deep as death, and infinite as the stars which were our true home.

  • Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

    Victor Fernando R. Ocampo is a Singapore–based Filipino writer. His fiction has appeared in Expanded Horizons, Lakeside Circus, The Philippines Free Press, Strange Horizons and the World SF Blog, as well as anthologies like Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction and Philippine Speculative Fiction (Volumes 6 and 9). He lives in Singapore by the side of foggy Bukit Timah hill with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @VictorOcampo.

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