Day One: Charlie



Matter of Rome

There is nothing new under the sun.

Where my people come from, there is more than one sun in the sky, but I don't imagine an increase in stars correlates to the amount of monotony one finds in their daily lives. There is nothing new under any sun, and even when you're constantly moving, life can be stagnant.

Dinner in the Damuzi trailer is no different. It's all just different shades of the same thing. We all take turns cooking, cleaning, or annoying the one who is working, and no matter how severely Tirigan burns the food, we all stuff our faces anyway. The tiny table wedged between the counter and the wall of the trailer barely fits my brother and me, let alone all four of us, so we usually sit around a picnic table my mother built a few years ago. When it rains, we eat on the floor of our small living room and watch old human movies that my father brings back from supply runs.

Tonight, it is my turn to cook and I pull out ingredients for a simple stew after tying my hair up. I find a few root vegetables in the basket next to our cooling chamber and walk outside to grab some roughage from the small garden my mother transports from place to place.

What's for dinner? Tirigan's thoughts float inside my mind. I turn slightly to acknowledge him before squatting next to the garden. My twin brother is lying in the grass, looking up at the sky with a small smile playing on his lips.

Stew. Maybe finish your daydream later and make yourself useful.

I pull some kale from the dirt and bunch it together in my hands.

It isn't my turn. I cooked last night, Tirigan argues.

If you can call what you did cooking then, yeah, I guess you did.

Tirigan sighs as I stand back up and turn to face him. He is up on his elbows now, his eyes on me instead of the clouds. His soft brown skin glows under the late afternoon sun.

Where are John and Calla?

"John is preparing for their shoot tonight, and Calla is stalking me in the kitchen," I say out loud, brushing dirt off the purple kale with my fingers.

Your reaction to our mother's physical placement is incredibly dramatic.

"She's the one who is dramatic," I argue. "I don't think she's ever been so weird about one of us getting hurt."

I hold up my hand, which I happened to cut the night before saving Tirigan from himself. He nearly chopped his thumb off while he attempted to chop parsley. When I took over for him, I immediately sliced into my own skin.

Define 'weird'.

I roll my eyes and make my way towards the door.

You. Generally.

Her concern is not entirely misplaced. We do not heal as quickly as father does.

That's not exactly new information, Tir.

My mother sits cross legged on top of the tiny kitchen table and is looking at me strangely when I get back inside. She’s pulled her hair into a messy bun, long auburn strands falling around her face and neck. Her skin is fair, a genetic mutation and a stark contrast to the dark brown of our father's. I’ve never seen an Anunnaki that wasn’t a shade of brown or blue, aside from my mother, but she’s never seemed self-conscious about it. In combination, my parent’s skin tones created a soft brown, almost golden hue for Tirigan and me.

"What?" I ask, eyebrows rising slightly. "I don't think staring makes people heal any faster, you know."

“You're hilarious," Calla responds lightly as her fingers fiddle with the necklace I have never seen her without. It's too large to be worn casually, but it still looks lovely around her neck. There are two purple stones in the center, with a simple leather strap tied behind her neck. The stones always seem to be glowing, even on the brightest of days. "Honestly, I don't know why your father and I haven't sent you away to tell jokes in the city." She clicks her tongue and gives me a sad smile. "Such wasted talent." I grunt out a laugh and return to the kitchen counter.

"I'm fine, Calla, stop worrying."

"I know you are," she replies, her eyes still burning holes into the back of my head. "I'm merely watching my daughter make me dinner. There is nothing like seeing your offspring provide for you. Makes me feel all tingly."

"Maybe you're the one who should go to the city," I reply, a fake grimace on my face as I begin to peel potatoes. "Maybe photography is just a beard for your true comedic passion."

"Ah, you know, I may just look into that." I hear her get down from the table and walk to the back of the trailer. "Don't worry about getting the equipment ready, John. I think Charlie has unlocked my true heart's desire."

My father, the alien with the lamest human name in history, chuckles from their bedroom. His parents, second generation Anunnaki immigrants, chose his name from a human baby name book and thought John sounded exotic. My grandfather was named using the same method and was dubbed Charlie. My parents named me after him, not at all concerned with the masculine connotation humans had bestowed upon the name. The Anunnaki have never bothered with gender roles.

John appears in the hallway a moment later.

"Is that right?" John kisses my mother's lips softly as he passes her in the living room, eventually joining me in the kitchen. "And what is that?

"Calla's going to be famous," I tease, still peeling potatoes. "Her opening act alone will attract Anunnaki from every solar system."

John laughs again, kissing the side of my head as he turns back to face Calla. "Oh yeah, she's a real charmer."

I don't have to look up to know my parents are exchanging adoring looks.

"Will you please take her out of here, John?" I ask. "She's hovering."

John makes a face of mock outrage. "Caring about her daughter? How dare she!"

"You two could open your own comedy club, really." I roll my eyes and begin chopping the potatoes into cubes.

"Come on, Charlie," John's voice grows much softer, the running joke slipping away. "Your mother just worries. We both do."

"Why?" I press, putting the knife down and facing my parents. "All Anunnaki heal at different rates, right? You said so yourself." I hold up my hand, which barely shows a faint red line now. "Why is this such a big deal?"

"It isn't," John answers quickly. "I think Calla just doesn't like to see you get hurt, that's all."

I roll my eyes again and sigh. "Well, maybe you should keep a better eye on Tirigan then." I turn back towards the counter. "He’s bound to impale himself on a tree limb one of these days."

"Where is he? On the roof again?" Calla asks, green eyes sparkling with mischief.

It's a good guess. Tirigan spends a lot of time up there practicing a sort of human martial art called Tai Chi. Sometimes I join, though, I'm fonder of yoga.

I shake my head no at my mother's question.

"Lying in the grass," I answer. "Avoiding the cheesy situational comedy that seems to be playing out in our kitchen."

"Well, we can't have that," Calla challenges, walking around me and exiting the trailer.

I watch her plop down in the grass next to Tirigan and lay beside him. She keeps enough space between them so as not to make Tirigan uncomfortable and folds her hands over her stomach. It’s a small gesture, but it's enough to assure my brother that she won't touch him. He smiles slightly, but he doesn't speak.

He never does.

Chapter Two