Third World Gleaner

Third World Gleaner (pdf)

I first saw the woman from Earth on Harvest Day, or as we non-Imperial citizens like to call it, “Gleaning Day.” She was tall and square, but perfectly toned, and clearly military. You could tell from her uniform but it was even more obvious in her face and body language. I thought she must have been bred for the position like a thoroughbred racehorse. And it was clear why her government had chosen her as envoy to the Emirates—her keen eyes pierced everything they set their sights on, filtered by the weight of those indomitable, military-trained eyebrows. Even from my distance I could see that those eyebrows were working overtime to cast away or reinterpret the cacophony of alien information assaulting her from every side. This one might not have a panic attack.

She stood beside the Shah and his chieftains on the hovering platform, receiving the refreshments that were thrust upon her with a stern courtesy. Even at this distance I could see her uniform—once crisply pressed—wilting under the blistering sun, but she stood tall and dignified as the Shah explained to her the process of harvest transfer.

The enormous Collector had descended to its target altitude, five hundred meters above the stubble fields with their odd contours of luminescent magenta, and cast a shadow the size of a football field. Dozens of Harvesters had lined up in half a dozen parallel queues and began sliding forward across the fumes of boiling air churned up by their ventilators. To the untrained eye it looked like a procession of tanks marching off to war, and I wondered briefly if the Earth woman would understand it. But when each Harvester slid under the belly of the monster Collector, the transfer of Perillian Grain was unmistakable. The harvest load was propelled upward with a shocking amount of force and speed almost invisible to the naked eye aside from the cloud of gold and magenta dust which was produced. It was from this cloud that the rain came—a warm, earthy, nutritious rain of magenta tipped stalks. It was for this life-giving rain that I had come—I along with about seven thousand others.

You may think it far-fetched that she would spot me in all that crowd, moving back and forth like the waves of the ocean under the belly of machines. But as soon as I saw her, I knew she would. Anyone who’s traveled abroad knows how remarkably easy it is to pick out a fellow countryman. My skin had tanned, but its smooth quality practically glowed next to the rough, textured patterns of any given Emiratee. My dark brown hair stood out like a weed among their naturally ethereal silver manes. I knew there was a strong possibility that she would spot me, especially if I remained in the fore of the mob. I hadn’t planned on causing a scene. But those heavy-filter eyebrows, so determined to keep her own understanding of the world safe inside, proved irresistible.

Her gaze fell on me, but her expression didn’t change. I could almost see her considering the possibility that I was simply a mutant Emiratee. I decided to clarify the matter for her with an impromptu performance of “Single Ladies” that would have brought the house down in my non-English speaking karaoke club back home…

(finish the story: Third World Gleaner )