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Andrea's Explanation of Rain

Tony Dunnell lives in a Peruvian jungle town on the edge of the Amazon rainforest. He tries to write all day but is frequently interrupted by his dog, his cat, or strange, flamboyant insects. His stories have previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction and MetaStellar. You can read more of his writing at tonydunnell.com.

"So it was like the whole world was in the shower?" said Mili as she hopped up onto the end of the bed to sit beside Andrea.
"Well, kind of. But not the whole world, just some parts. Then the rain moved on or stopped."
"But everything would get wet. Everything," said Mili. She wasn't buying it, Andrea could tell. She was one of the most intelligent fourth gens on the ship in her age group, but the idea of rain had her puzzled. If only her ship status was high enough to access the archives, then Andrea could show Mili some vids of Earth. One day, perhaps.
"When it rained," said Andrea, "people dressed in waterproof coats. They put on boots and hats and carried umbrellas. Or they stayed inside, in the dry. Some people loved the rain. My grandmother said it was beautiful."
"Umbrellas?" said Mili, frowning.
"Umbrellas were little plastic domes on sticks that people carried to keep the rain off."
A smile flickered across Mili's face, as if she enjoyed the image of people carrying little domes. Then her smile stiffened into tight-lipped concern. "Rain must have been dangerous."
"No, not really. Not always. But sometimes the rain was so hard you could barely see. Sometimes it was so heavy that whole cities flooded. That's what they say. But most of the time it was just rain."
"Will it rain on Gliese?"
"No, not like it did on Earth. Maybe, one day, after we engineer the climate."
"Good," said Mili. "Rain sounds silly."
Andrea laughed. She put her arm around Mili's shoulders and drew her in close. Little Mili would be in her fifties when they arrived at Gliese. If they arrived. Maybe the girl would live to see rain. As for Andrea, she would be uncommonly old if she survived to see planetfall. She accepted the reality of all second gens: Shipborn and destined to die aboard. It was her grandmother, Maiti, an Earthborn, who had told her about rain. Rain and snow and thunder. Seas and rivers. Mountains and birds.
The only live animals aboard the Industry were dogs and cats, but the gene banks and bio pools would one day allow them to reproduce all manner of life from Earth on Gliese. It made Andrea sad to think she'd never see all the animals, but second gens were raised with a certain mindset. Stoic. Caring. Trained as crew, not colonists.
Mili was dozing off, her head--a delicate little world of thoughts and fears--resting fragile on Andrea's chest. Mili shuffled and turned her brown eyes up to Andrea's. "Was it cold? The rain? Cold like space?"
"I don't think so. Not so cold. Maybe as cold as the showers when they ration the power."
"That's not very cold," said Mili, snuggling closer to Andrea. "I don't like being cold. It feels like space has got in the ship. That scares me."
Andrea kissed Mili's forehead. "Now, don't you worry about that."
Mili fell quiet and shut her eyes. Then she asked, "Did the rain stop when the Earth died?"
Andrea wasn't sure. Maybe it did stop. Or maybe it was different now. A bad rain. "I think it still rains, Mil. And maybe it will wash everything clean, eventually. That would be nice, right?"
"Maybe," said Mili. "But I still think rain is silly."
"Well, it was all a bit silly, I think. That's why we had to leave. But we're here now, safe and dry." Andrea rested her cheek on the top of Mili's head. She hugged her tight.
Was it true, she wondered, this explanation of rain? Perhaps, she thought, but the old world was hard to know.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 4th, 2022
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