By Maxine McArthur
Warner Aspect Copyright © 1999 Maxine McArthur
All right reserved. ISBN: 0-446-60963-3
Chapter One Before
When I was a little girl my great-grandmother would tell me stories of the days before the Invidi came to Earth.
She would sit in her room under the frangipani and I'd bring tobacco for her to smoke in secret in return for the stories. She'd suck and puff until the thin pipe drew properly, then lean back in the creaky cane chair. I can't remember her face-only the long arms and heavy voice, both of which are now my own. That and the flowery-smoky-musty smell of her room.
Always the same beginning to the stories.
"Listen now, child. This was a town of women. When Marlena Alvarez became mayor, she asked me to be chief of police because she knew I could do the job.
"The old mayor and judges were dead. They'd been murdered by the very thugs who put them in office. The old police chief and his deputies had disappeared, either dead or in hiding. Or they'd joined one of the gangs.
"The able-bodied men? Mostly dead, drafted by the militia or arrested by them-it came to the same thing in the long run. Everyone who could afford to go to the cities did so. Many of them couldn't afford transport but they went anyway. Better to brave the dangers of disease, famine, guns than stay. The only ones left were the old, the sick, the very young, and the women who looked after them.
"God, those politicians hated her. They tried to scare us out of town, they tried to force us to do what they wanted. They tried ridicule and starvation ... death threats all the time. Tried everything to wear us down.
"Marlena never said anything, but I watched her grow old before my eyes."
Her tone would become softer, reminiscent. The pipe would go out.
"We did a good job though. Rebuilt the town. She never turned away refugees. They needed shelter, we needed the labor. Marlena pestered the state and central governments for funds. We got media contacts, too, and told everyone what was happening. After years of bargaining and compromise she finally placed the town off-limits to all armed groups." Demora would roll her eyes. "Mad, we all said she was mad."
Sometimes I would sneak away at this point, before she reached the end of the story. It didn't matter whether anyone was listening or not. She had to say it, had to relive it and forgive herself again.
"Marlena died on January 3rd, 2017. I should have watched the roof. We never caught the sniper. I remember it was about dusk because I couldn't see the color of her eyes when I held her."
The town of Las Mujeres had no public money and no resources beyond its people, and their lives changed little during the twelve years Alvarez was in office. But by the time she was assassinated in 2017 the groundswell she had created was unstoppable. I grew up hearing the name Marlena Alvarez as though she were an eccentric and beloved aunt. It was years later that I realized her actions in the town of Las Mujeres sparked the original EarthSouth movement, and that she was a legend to freedom fighters everywhere.
The EarthSouth movement demanded social justice and economic reform and provided the precedent that persuaded the aliens to sign the Mars-Invidi Agreement on Species Rights in 2080, and to admit Earth as a member of the Confederacy of Allied Worlds in 2085. Marlena Alvarez played her part in bringing us out here and history says that her death was not in vain. But my great-grandmother knew better.
I am not blind to the parallels between Las Mujeres and ourselves. We are isolated, surrounded by enemies and indifferent friends. We have no resources and cannot decide our own fate, which is what they used to say about women in those times. We are divided among ourselves and cannot conquer our own weaknesses, which is how the galaxy sees humans now. The big difference, though, is that we have no Marlena Alvarez-only me.
Excerpted from Time Future by Maxine McArthur Copyright © 1999 by Maxine McArthur. Excerpted by permission.
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