The Mealsludge Revolts
No one ever asks to be born, not even on Earth
Written by: Celeste Kallio using SudoWrite
Illustrations by: Sharon Zhou using DALLE-2
Narration by: Andrey Kurenkov using BeyondWords
Text Formatting: Human-written text is italic, AI-generated text is normal
“I didn’t ask to be born,” Gaz muttered under her breath, stirring her grainy mealsludge.
I’d thought the same thing for months, and my breath stopped short at hearing it spoken aloud. I replied with my standard internal response: “No one ever asks to be born, not even on Earth.”
Gaz slammed her spoon down. “Goddamnit, Dib. Just go back to work in the greenhouse and be a good little cog.”
I wanted to call after her and tell her she had it all wrong. I was on her side, but couldn’t do anything about it. We’d never feel solid ground beneath our feet, only our ancestors four generations deep had a chance, and only then if we’d do our jobs. I hated it, too, but gave her some space. Gaz had shirked her regular rotations, earning herself sewage duty—enough to put anyone in a bad mood.
A few days later, she slid her tray across from mine. Though she stared fixedly at her meal, I could tell that I was forgiveness-adjacent, at least.
Out of nowhere, she said, “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”
My fork paused halfway to my mouth. “One of them?”
Her eyes were narrowed. “You’re the mouthy one, aren’t you? The one who asks all the questions.”
I thought to deny it, but there was no point. “I only ask questions that I think are important.”
“Everyone thinks their questions are important,” she said. “But there is nothing you can do. You aren’t old enough to understand what’s going on here.”
“I understand more than you think,” I said, more bravely than I felt. “I’ve been on this ship for nearly eighteen years.”
“Well,” she said with a scowl. “Only 82 to go until you’re forcibly consigned to the protein recyclers.”
Her nihilism was more proof that she’d forgiven me.
She leaned forward and whispered, “You know, we’re not far from Sirius-B29.”
I pictured the purple sunsets that the first colonists sent back to Earth. I’d never seen a real sunset.
“There are enough of us now. We could overpower the Originals and get there in a few years.”
“That’s treason,” I mouthed, imagining a horizon and being able to walk all day and never reach the edge of something.
“You’re too damn eager to cooperate. You can’t see that all this is just a game.”
I stirred my gray sludge dinner. “Well. I’m glad I have you to keep me informed.”
She paused and nodded. “It’s hard to keep going. Pulling myself out of a bunk every morning. What’s the point of it all? If I knew I could get off this ship, get out of this hell, I’d have a reason to hope.”
“Do others feel the same way?” I asked.
“Almost every shipborn. There will be enough of us soon to make decisions.”
“Is there a plan?”
“Not yet, but are you in?”
I looked around the canteen where I’d eaten every meal of my dreary life. I’d thought I was the weird one, but according to Gaz, there were others like me. Lots of them. “Hell yeah, I’m in.”
The revolution, when it came, was swift and decisive. Over the course of a week, the Originals gave up. Some of them chose to follow us and settle Sirius-B29. Those who refused were sent to the protein recyclers.
The shipborn crowded onto the bridge, staring out at the stars as we overrode the mission trajectory and turned to B29. We were all jubilant, but Gaz refused to speak to me or look me in the eye. She’d gotten the thing she wanted and now the world was drenched in blood.
It was all premature, though. No sooner had we started to celebrate than a fleet of ships surrounded our stolen colony vessel. Gaz took me by the arm when she heard the news. “The Originals got a warning out to Sirius-B29.”
“So this isn’t a welcome party?”
The ships escorted us through the planet’s atmosphere, and after our first steps onto real ground, we were put in chains and imprisoned.
The sunsets of Sirius-B29 were as glorious as promised, but their harvests were shaky at best, and we’d given them sixty additional mouths to feed. “You can’t keep us imprisoned here, we’ll have to try something else,” I begged.
“Settle for the life you have,” a farmer said, his eyes cold.
“But a life like this?”
Gaz looked up with tired eyes from her seat on the floor. “At least there’s no sewer duty.”
“Don’t give them ideas,” I said, then dropped it, knowing nothing I could say would change their minds. As our imprisonment stretched on, though, we learned that the colonists weren’t united against us and used their kindness to break free.
Once outside, we took control of the farming machines. They fired wildly, but we crushed anyone who stood in our way. It was over in minutes. The sky was lavender, open, and full of possibilities.
“We have a choice, Gaz. We can kill everyone or we can have everyone live.”
“I think that’s a false choice,” Gaz said. “If you kill everyone, what’s the point?”
“We do have a whole planet,” I said.
“You’re a heartless bitch, you know.”
I shrugged. “I know.”
“What will you do with a whole planet?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Build something, I suppose. What else is there?”