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In the Sunshine Mine
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

The day Mimi was sent down to the Sunshine Mines began just like any other.

Mimi’s grandmother had sent her out early, to scrape up a bucketful or two of frozen sun before anyone was about. They desperately needed the sunshine, to melt out slowly and fill the little house with a bit of warmth and light. They had almost none left, and no money to buy any from the corporation.

Mimi stuck her head out of the door and looked around carefully, the way she had been taught, left and right, and left again, and then upwards at the steel-grey sky. She squinted slightly – the warmsuit’s visor was old and scratched, so that everything had a slight halo – but couldn’t see any watchers, not even the speck of a drone glittering coldly in the light of the dawn. What was left of the previous evening’s sunshine lay in shallow red-golden pools and ragged sheets on the frozen ground. It wouldn’t be there much longer before it began to evaporate; and, besides, as the temperature rose and the air began to thicken, people would begin to stir and then it would be too late.

Mimi glanced back over her shoulder at her grandmother, who was all she had left in the world. Life had aged and bent the old woman, and she was far too slow now to harvest the sunshine. Stealing sun was a job for children.

"Nothing," Mimi reported. "I’m going out."

"Be careful," Mimi’s grandmother replied, her eyes worried. Some of the last of the sunshine they had glimmered dimly in the lantern, throwing into relief the nest of wrinkles which made up her face. "I hate to send you out like this."

"I’ll be all right," Mimi said with the confidence of eleven years, wrinkling her nose. "I’ve been doing this for months and months, grandma." With a last look to left and right, and a glance overhead, she hurried into the street, holding the buckets so the scrapers inside wouldn’t rattle.

At this hour the village was still sleeping, the houses blank-faced humps of stone and earth sheathed in gleaming blankets of frozen air, their little doors all sealed tightly shut. Mimi bent beside the nearest pool of frozen sun, scraping quickly with both hands, feeding both buckets at once. Speed was of the essence, but she was hampered by her warmsuit. It was too small for her, the material stretched tight over her growing limbs, and she knew that in a few more months she could no longer put it on. What she would do then she had no idea, because they certainly couldn’t afford a new warmsuit, and she couldn’t use her grandmother’s because she was already taller than the old woman.

Just as, she thought, scraping away furiously, they couldn’t afford to move. She wished they could, if only to a house with a yard, one which caught a bit of sunshine. They couldn’t do anything to you for harvesting the sun which fell on your own yard. But nobody who had a yard would ever give it up, for that very reason.

She had almost filled both buckets, the warmth of the sunshine beginning to seep through her gloves, when she heard a slight – very slight – sound. Quickly, she glanced up, her muscles tensing, but it was already far too late to run.

They must have been watching her for a while, almost from the beginning, and had moved carefully to cut off her retreat. There were four of them, their warmsuits camouflaged in white and grey to match the dawn, except for the small blue and red Corporation insignia on their chests. Mimi looked at them and quickly kicked over the buckets, sunshine spilling red-gold on the frozen ground.

"It won’t do you any good," the nearest of the men said. "We’ve got you on film." His hand shot out and grabbed Mimi by the upper arm. "Let’s go."

Mimi struggled, knowing it to be useless, feeling the motorised fingers dig into her flesh through the warmsuit. "I haven’t done anything wrong," she said.

"Tell that to the judge," the man said. "You kids think you can get away with anything." He began to pull Mimi down the street. Looking over her shoulder, she saw one of the others pick up her buckets and scrapers, while a third was making his way to her grandmother’s door. So they knew where she lived, as well.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:Science Fiction
Type:Medium length story
Rating:6.83 / 10
Rated By:16 users
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