by Frank Zuo
Art by Julia Wang
Issue: Nostos (Winter 2019)

Dirty, ragged, and about twenty in number, they scampered over the rickety rooftops with practiced dexterity. The skeletons of old structures groaned under their feet as they leapt from perch to perch. Gathered on various platforms, the slum children stood pointing and gesturing towards the sky. 

“They’re really building it!”

“In the sky! It’s happening in the sky!”

They watched, transfixed by the process. Millions of drones rose from the distant skyline, carrying dark, obscure chunks as they accelerated towards the heavens. Like a swarm of humming angels, the drones rose until they disappeared behind the lumbering gray clouds. 

“The city men are building a paradise off-world,” a child proclaimed. “My Pa told me so. They call the new world Nahada.” 

“The water in Nahada will taste like honey,” added another. “Everyone there will own a house made of crystal glass.” Widening his eyes, the child drew shapes in the air. “And Floaters, too. They all drive the sleekest Floaters that spit fire from the back.” 

Streaks of blue lightning arced across the patch of sky where the drones had ascended to. A murmur broke out among the children, now turning to face each other.

“How do you know what Najada will look like?” someone questioned. 

“I’m just guessing. But that’s what rich people do in the films. Their houses are huge and they can go wherever they want in their Floaters.” 

More flashes of blue light appeared in the distance. The drones were returning now, spiraling towards the city. The material they had carried to the skies remained there, suspended in space by forces that crackled with energy. Overhead, nimbostratus clouds tumbled and streams of blue-black plasma danced wildly across the empyrean plains like ghosts. Miles and miles above the surface of the charred planet was the birth of a new world.

The slum children observed in silence now. Each of them secretly knew that its construction would not be finished in their lifetimes, nor in the lifetimes of their children. Before then their descendants would have to first have to leave the slums and move to the city. Generations would pass before the first of them could rise above the surrounding dust and decay. Najada would hang, like the moon in the sky, until they overcame the weight of gravity that trapped them to Earth. 

So the children kept their thoughts to themselves as the second wave of drones rose, flying into electrified heavens that shimmered with the promise of a distant home.