Turning the Page
Small shops littered the streets of Nova's old sector. Built of hand-hewn stone from the first days of settlement, they crowded around narrow paths following no grid.
Jamil glanced at windows. These quaint shops had been homes for the first settlers before they settled into farms. The city had grown and built over the first farms, and farmers moved northward.
Jamil tried to get his bearings. His parents had given him vague directions. Walking here with tourists from off world oohing and awing about how quaint the place was gave him a sour stomach. He hurried on, getting the duty to his parents out of the way.
At the next corner he found the street name carved into the block at the house corner -- Homeward Street, where it crossed Dreams Place. Prosaic names for what had been dirt and stone hovels back then. Wasn't really much better now, but it was oh-so-quaint for visitors.
He turned down Homeward, counting the houses on the right and stopped at number four.
When his parents visited twenty years ago, they'd found a bakery. The place had become an antique shop, the window lined with old book readers, boxes supplies had come in, and dusty toys.
Jamil pushed the door open and found three customers browsing and an older woman who sat on stairs that led up to the loft he had heard so much about. He looked up past her, grinning.
"Not much up there," she said.
"Oh, I know. This was my great-grandparent's first home on Terra Nova," he said, and noticed how the others looked startled. Off-worlders, probably from Earth on vacation. "I told my parents I would stop and see the place while I was here in the city."
"Ah. Gone north?" she asked.
He nodded at the common local term for anyone who left the city when it started to look more like something from Earth than a new world.
"Farmers. I'm here on business with the government -- renewal contracts, that kind of thing. How do you like the place?"
"Best place on the block. I had the choice of four." She ran her hand over the step beside her and stood. "I have something for you. Go up and look around while I dig it out."
He went up steps made of carefully measured stone, smooth and inlaid with colored blocks. He could see his great-grandfather and grandfather's touch in the contours of the windows and doors. This felt like coming home.
Jamil found the north window. You could no longer see the distant mountains since the city expanded. No one would dream of exploring anything if they looked out here.
He went to the south window and stared across the street to where his grandmother lived. He felt a little shock when a young woman glanced out the window. He waved. She did as well and laughed.
Terra Nova had been a different place when this was the only settlement of humans on world. Supplies from earth were uncertain. The first farms failed until scientists worked out plant genetics to fit Terra Nova. He had heard the tales of the harrowing first years, but he could almost feel the history now, imagining this place with no more than a couple glow cubes for power. Fever killed some. Horrendous on the fourth year had killed more.
But they held on.
He reluctantly went back down.
"Here." The woman tapped something wrapped in yellow cloth on the counter. "I did some rework on a wall after a storm, and found this had slid between the walls.
Jamil carefully unwrapped the cloth and his breath caught. "It's the journal my great-grandda wrote before he left Earth and after he came here. He thought it was in the stuff they took north. No one knew what happened to it."
"Probably fell during the packing," she said.
Jamil carefully opened the first page. Photos, faded with age, sat attached to the page. Words, hand-written in an elegant cursive script, covered a few pages. He shivered, realizing they'd been written on Earth.
"The pages are fragile," the woman said. "I it professionally scanned. Here."
She handed him a chit.
"Thank you," he said, still stunned. He closed the cover; sky-blue and white. Earth-made.
"I used to read pages every night," she confessed and smiled. "I don't know anything about how my own family came here, but it might have been something like your great grandda's journey. He had such dreams, and I think he made them real in this place." She brushed her hand over the wall. "I came to love this building all the more after reading how he built it while they lived in a tent and about your grandfather being the first child born here. Seventeen later everyone on the block celebrated his wedding, making paper flowers and turning the place into a garden. There are pictures. When he couldn't get the old camera to work, he drew instead until he got a new one."
"I heard those tales." Jamil felt odd to hear the stories from someone else.
"I'm glad to finally meet one of you. Your great grandda was a hell of a man. You look like him, you know."
"So people tell me." Jamil held the book close, a treasure beyond anything anyone had ever given him. "How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing. I had too much enjoyment from the journal. I still have a scanned copy of my own and I'll get a replicate made. You take that back home with you. And thank your family for me."
He gave her a very proper bow.
"I'd buy that from you. Good money," a man offered, coming closer. "And publish it on Earth. Sounds like something fascinating."
"No. No thank you," Jamil said. "Sometimes you just can't sell dreams."
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