Escape to wondrous worlds

Nicole Murphy & Elizabeth Dunk

Nicole Murphy & Elizabeth Dunk

The Making of Hazel

This story was crowd-created during the week I was curator on We Are Australia on Twitter.

The Making of Hazel

As she ran, her feet slamming into the grey rock floor of the tunnel, Stephanie’s stomach clenched in dread. She had to get away. She had to find somewhere to hide and then, when the fuss died down, she could search for Alia.

No matter what happened, she had to find Alia.

The shouts from behind her, the sounds of pursuit, were diminishing. Stephanie took a chance to look over her shoulder. The men and women of the moon – short, stocky, pale – were no match for her strong Earth-grown limbs.

The knot in her stomach eased and Stephanie ran with a smile, confident that she could create enough space between she and her pursuers to find somewhere to hide.

She rounded a corner and burst into a large space, brightly lit, walls carved from the same grey stone as the tunnel. She had a moment to feel revulsion for this life – forever underground to be safe from the extreme radiation of the moon’s surface – and then she skidded to a halt.

In front of her stood a moon woman. A couple of inches shorter than her, and round, with a soft cast to her legs and face. Her hair was lightly brushed with yellow, her skin pale and her large green eyes glowed, first with astonishment and then with joy.

“Alia.” Her cheeks stinging from the sudden width of her smile, Stephanie flung herself at her lover. “I found you.”

“Stephanie.” That wonderful soft voice that had brought Stephanie so much joy since they started communicating six months ago. “Is it really you?”

Alia felt squishier, more delicate in reality than she had in Stephanie’s dreams but she still fit perfectly against Stephanie’s body.

“It is me,” Stephanie said, stretch her neck down to press her face against the other girl’s white neck. “I got up here. I couldn’t be without you any more.”

“I’m so glad,” Alia whispered in Stephanie’s ear. Then she pulled away, struggling for a moment before Stephanie let her go.

“How did you get past the workers at the elevator?”

“I didn’t.” Stephanie looked over her shoulder, recalling the pursuit. “They’re after me.”

“Then we must hide you.” Alia grabbed her hand and led her through a maze of tunnels and soon Stephanie was lost and realising that even if she wanted to, she couldn’t find her way back to the space elevator. Back to Earth.

I don’t want to, she told herself. I’m here, with Alia. This is all I need. But she thought of her family back inCanberra, probably discovering her disappearance at this moment. They’d be worried, afraid. Then they’d discover her note and they’d be angry.

They hadn’t understood. Her brothers and sisters were too young to know the power of love. Her parents at first seemed to be supportive, but then they had turned.

“I know you love Alia,” her mother said. “But you’re only sixteen, Stephanie, too young to commit. You’ve got a lot to learn, about yourself and who you want to be, before you’ll be ready to find a partner to support you in that.” Her father had nodded his agreement.

But Stephanie knew she’d never find anyone better than Alia. Alia was sweet, practical, funny, compassionate. Not matter who Stephanie became, what she did, Alia would be the perfect partner.

Eventually, her family would understand. She looked forward to introducing them to Alia and having them realise how perfect she was.

Alia’s room was small – there was little space between her bed and her desk. Some hooks on the wall held two replicas of the greenish-brown jacket and trousers Alia and her friends wore.

There was no door, so Alia pushed Stephanie into the corner nearest the opening so she’d be hidden from view of anyone passing.

“You silly, foolish thing.” Alia lifted a hand and traced it down Stephanie’s face, her smile belying the words. “I can’t believe you took this chance.”

“I had to be with you,” Stephanie said. “You can’t go to Earth. This was the only option.”

Alia cupped Stephanie’s cheek and she shivered. They leant toward each other, slowly curving, until their lips lightly touched.

Their first kiss, and it was magical.

“I need to return to work,” Alia said. “I will get into trouble if I am not there and if I am to keep you hidden, I must not draw attention.” Another sweet kiss and she was gone.

Stephanie slouched onto the floor, drawing her knees up to her chest. Now that she had seen Alia, touched her, the reality of the situation was overcoming the dream.

She was on the moon. Already her body was adjusting to the low gravity. She’d read up on what to expect, but still to feel her heart beating so savagely to draw blood from her legs, to feel her face getting so puffy the skin felt tight, to feel the need to urinate growing on her despite not having drunk for hours, was disconcerting.

The longer she stayed up here, the greater the impact. Her muscles would atrophy. Her bones weaken. If she stayed for too long, it would be too difficult and eventually impossible for her to go home.

It was a lot she was giving up for Alia. Good thing she knew the other girl was worth it.

Peeing was the most important thing right now, yet how to do it while she stayed safely crouched in the corner? In the end, she spied a large dish under Alia’s bed. She risked exposure to grab it, relieved herself and then returned it. Then she settled back against the wall and waited.

# It was hard to tell time in the artificial surrounds of the moon base, but Stephanie guessed five hours had passed when Alia returned. The moon woman stood in the middle of the room and looked down at Stephanie. “I’ve thought it over,” she said. “The trick is to keep you hidden until it is too hard for you to go back to Earth.” Alia shook her head. “Do you know how lucky you are to have met me when you did? You were headed away from the base, into the tunnels not yet used. You would have got lost and could have died there.” Stephanie smiled. “Serendipity,” she said. “I was meant to find you. It was fated.” She patted the floor. “Come, sit with me.” Alia sat down and Stephanie shifted to put her arm around the other girl’s shoulders. Alia relaxed and sighed. “I can’t believe you came,” she whispered. “I’m so happy. This is exactly what I wanted.” “That’s all I want to do,” Stephanie said. “Make you happy.” Then she kissed Alia and drew in the clean, powdery smell of the moon girl and knew that everything was going to be fine. That night, once Alia went for a walk and was sure everyone in her section was asleep, Stephanie joined her in bed and they made love. Stephanie had to learn to be gentle with the more fragile moon girl and Alia was shy in rising to match Stephanie’s passion. As she fell asleep, Stephanie knew she’d do anything to keep Alia in her life. Anything.

# A hand was on Stephanie’s shoulder, shaking her. She slapped it away. “Piss off, Jake,” she muttered at her brother. “Tell Mum to give me five more minutes.” “Wake, Earth girl.” Earth girl? That didn’t sound like Jake. Stephanie opened one eye then sat up with a gasp as she rocketed from drowsy to fully awake. A moon man leant over her. It took a moment for Stephanie to recognise the pale, strong-featured face. Again with green eyes. “Gregor.” He’d been her first friend from the moon. They’d spent several weeks in interesting conversation, until he’d made it clear he’d like something sexual to develop. After she’d explained she wasn’t attracted to men, he’d said there were no hard feelings but he’d quickly dropped the friendship. She didn’t know if his presence here meant good or bad news for she and Alia. “You must dress, Earth girl,” he said. Stephanie frowned. “Why?” “Alia needs you.” That got her moving. She pulled on her clothes, tossed onto the floor during last night’s passion. Then Gregor led her again through the grey stone corridors of the moon base. They came to a large cavern which was filled with moon people. Stephanie stopped in the doorway and stared at the sight of Alia standing in the middle of the room, naked. “What’s going on?” she said. “Come see what your selfishness has wrought,” Gregor said, and he pushed her inside. A wall of moon men stood between she and Alia, but Stephanie could still see her lover clearly. The crowd were pointing and sniggering and Alia’s face was flushed pink but despite her obvious shame she kept her head high. Stephanie’s emotions swung between anger and pride. A man in a greenish-brown uniform, marked with gold stars on the shoulder, came to stand in front of Alia. “This girl has taken a human lover, illegally, and thus is she punished,” the man. Stephanie’s eyes widened. She’d always thought if she got caught she’d get into trouble, but she hadn’t imagined that Alia too would be punished. The man continued. “The girl Alia is important to us all as a tenderer of our plants, thus must her mental health be protected and so her lover will not be returned to her home. But know that should anyone less valuable take an Earth lover without permission, that lover will be sent home. Should you be a valuable member of our society, such will be your punishment.” The man turned and nodded. Someone stepped forward – Gregor - raised his hand and held something against Alia’s back. There was a buzzing sound and Alia cried out in pain, her body shaking. Stephanie screamed and lunged forward, but ten moon people managed to hold her back. She could do nothing but watch as Alia was hurt twice more. The man who had spoken nodded and the punishment ended. “What about the Earth girl?” someone called out. “She will be put to work,” the man said, “to make up for the resources she will now use that we had not planned for. Her education, such as it was, is now complete. She will have no hope but to be a grunt.” Nodding heads suggested they agreed with this punishment. Stephanie couldn’t see anything wrong with it – she was going to stay, with Alia, and that was all that mattered. Then the crowd turned their backs on Alia and walked away. Stephanie’s guard moved aside and she rushed forward, flinging her arms around her beloved. “Bastards. What did they do to you?” Alia smiled. “It is nothing. Just some electrocution. Painful, yes, and humiliating to be punished when naked, but all I need is rest and I will be fine.” Stephanie helped Alia to bed and sat on the edge, brushing the moon girl’s pale hair from her forehead. “Why didn’t you tell me what would happen if I came here?” Stephanie said. “I didn’t want to scare you away,” Alia said. Her voice weakened as the pain took hold. “Nothing would scare me away from you.” Stephanie pressed a gentle kiss to Alia’s forehead. “And now we can be together forever.” A sound at the entrance drew Stephanie’s attention. She stood, her eyes narrowing into a deep scowl, as Gregor stepped into the room. He looked at Alia and smiled. “Well done.” “I hope you’re going to make up for this,” Alia said. “Of course, darling.” To Stephanie’s astonishment Gregor brushed her aside, bent and kissed Alia, deeply, carnally. Then he stood and faced Stephanie. “Strong,” he said. “Feisty. I like that. You’ll survive here.” Stephanie took a step backwards, her stomach again knotting. She looked at Alia, who had closed her eyes. The other girl’s lips were thin, her brow crinkled in pain. “What’s going on?” “What’s going on,” the man said softly, “is that your Earth-created genetics are going to give me the strong children I need.” Stephanie shook her head. “I don’t understand.” But her gut twisted, pain shot over her and deep within, she did. “The moon council would not allow me to have a human bride. I must point out that I’m happy with Alia. More than happy. She’s a wonderful lover, isn’t she?” He smiled down at Alia, whose lips curved despite the pain. “But I want my progeny to be the future of this station, and I need the strongest child I can get. Fuck what their testing shows, I know Alia and my children won’t be good enough. So that’s why we got you here.” “No.” Stephanie looked at Alia. “Ali? He’s forcing you to do this, isn’t he? We can go to the authorities and-” “No, he’s not,” Alia said. She opened her eyes and Stephanie was stunned by the coldness there. What had happened to the great love that she’d seen just last night? “I love Gregor, deeply and so profoundly, you have no idea. He’s my life, my everything. I’d do anything to make him happy.” Then Alia looked at Gregor and there is was – that blinding, oblivious passion that Stephanie knew so well. Having her own strong emotions parroted back to her, but aimed at someone else, was the most painful thing Stephanie had ever known. She pressed her hand to her chest, hoping to save her heart. “I love you,” she whispered. “You love me.” “No, she doesn’t,” said Gregor. “Although I think you enjoyed last night a little more than you thought you would, didn’t you, sweetheart?” He gently pushed a lock of hair off Alia’s forehead. “Stephanie is very passionate. You’ll enjoy her,” Alia said. “Fuck, no he won’t,” Stephanie said. “I’m not having sex with you.” “You will,” Gregor said. “If you don’t, I’ll hurt Alia again. I don’t want to, but the children you will bear are worth it.” Stephanie looked at Alia, at the pain reflected on her face, and knew she would do as Gregor wanted. A passion like she felt for Alia didn’t just die with a few words. And she knew that despite the words just spoken, Alia really loved her too. Her feelings were too pure to be based on a lie. They’d find a way out of this. They just had to wait. Gregor smiled, then jerked his chin toward her. “I liked what I saw this morning, while you were getting changed. I think we should start on the baby making now.” “Please,” Alia said, closing her eyes. “Please.” The things you suffered for love, Stephanie thought, then closed her eyes as Gregor approached. “You have brown eyes,” Gregor said in her ear. “Our children will have hazel.”  

### Here’s how the prompts that I chose, the prompts that you gave me, were used to create this story. Favourite colour – green and hazel. This became the colour of the eyes – green is the rarest, so seemed a good match for the moon people and hazel can be created from having parents with brown and green eyes. The colour hazel is also reflected in the colour of the uniforms of the moon people. Favourite song – My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music and They Weren’t There by Missy Higgins. A line popped out at me from My Favourite Things ‘Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings’. I knew that the moon had to feature somewhere. Then I did some research on geese and mythology and found they’re often associated with marriage and children, which led me toward what the story would be about. They Weren’t There is a beautiful song and as I listened, I read the lyrics and it struck me it was about that overpowering love that you have when you’re young, that feels so real, even though people are saying that it isn’t. I decided that love would be the centre of the story. Favourite words – Serendipity and myrtle. Serendipity is an easy word to use in a story, actually, because fiction is full of serendipitous moments – in this case, the happy accident that the person Stephanie runs into while fleeing the guards is in fact the person she’s looking for, Alia. Myrtle ended up being a little more subtle in its use. For starters, myrtle is an important part of marriage (there’s been a sprig of myrtle in the bouquet of every royal bride in Britain since QueenVictoria), so it reinforced the geese connection that this had to be about romantic commitment. Also, myrtle can be both a shrub and a tree and here we’ve got these two races that are both human, but so different – the moon people, many generations removed from their Earth-bound ancestry and Stephanie. All those things started to meld and develop. I’ve written about five pages of notes and ideas for the world and the culture and the characters, and the story went through three edits. I may in the future return to it, do more developing of the world in the attempt to build a richer story. But for now, here it is – my gift to you all.

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