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There are two dawns on Morton— they are called Red Dawn and Blue Dawn. Morton’s red sun is a red giant star and it fills the sky with a ruddy glow. The red sun distorts the colors making the sky look like blood and the grass a sickly brown. The red sun fills the sky like a malevolent bloodshot eye.
The blue sun rises exactly an hour and twenty two minutes later and its blue white light restores the spectrum. The sky turns blue and the grass a familiar Earth like green.
The time between the two dawns is considered unlucky and unhealthy. All the inhabitants of Morton stay indoors during the Red Time. Similarly, the number 122 is fraught with significance and is believed by many to be either cursed or blest depending upon one’s belief system. It’s ironic that Morton’s World is the 122nd settled planet in the Confederation. We also rank 122nd in popularity, but that’s another story.
We are a superstitious lot we Morticians. No kidding, that is what we call ourselves. It’s funny but it isn’t. It certainly doesn’t help attract new colonists or make my job any easier. At the various planetary conventions our booth is always the most poorly attended. Morton’s World is a hard sell. We have a bad reputation as a frightening and unlucky place. No one even wants our brochures. Who can blame them? We are called the planet of the dead or the funeral planet. If you were seeking a new life would you pick a planet with our name? Our name doesn’t truly reflect our world but it is understandable.
Morton’s World, gets its name from the famous Admiral Harry P. Morton, the hero of the Second Thorg War. Every school kid knows the story of Admiral Morton and how he crushed the Thorgs in the battle of Sector 5. It’s fitting that there should be a world named after him and we are proud to bear his name. As it turned out, it hasn’t been a good PR move. Morton’s has the lowest immigration rate of all the settled planets.
When the blue sun rises and the Red Time ends, Morton’s is quite a lovely place. The land is lush and verdant, the soil fertile. Our small population means land is cheap and opportunity plentiful. But people are people and they respond to fears and superstition more than they do to reason. Regardless of our reputation, I love my world and am proud to be a “Mortician.”
This reputation of ours isn’t just the results of our unfortunate name and our scary red sun. There is also “the story.” You probably already know the basic outlines, it was galaxy wide news a few years back. You’d think the fact that there hasn’t been anything even remotely like it since would quell the wagging tongues but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I tell you all this by way of introduction; to give you some context into the story. I am speaking of the disappearance of Elizabeth Ward.
Betty Ward was 17 when she vanished from her family’s farm during The Red Time on the third of Amm, the 122nd day of our year and regarded by most, if not all natives to be an especially unlucky day. According to her parents, Betty was a good and obedient daughter and a second generation Mortician. Her family consisted of her parents, an older brother, Samuel, 19 years old, and a younger sister, Rebecca 12 years of age. The Wards were, by all accounts a happy and contented family. Able Ward, the father, ran a prosperous fruit operation growing and exporting genetically modified pears.
The night before her disappearance Betty told her sister that she was feeling “awkward” and that “the pears were speaking to her.” She told her mother, Isabel, she was having trouble sleeping. They found pieces of her body scattered over several acres of orchard. Some of her clothing snagged on high branches and bits of her flesh inexplicably absorbed into the woody parts of the trees. It was as if the trees themselves had torn the poor girl apart. The locals attributed the killing to The Red Time and over the years it became the source of legends about the evil that lives between the suns.
Stories like this don’t help recruiting efforts and, as a result the population of Morton’s World has been declining over the last few decades. We, the members of the governing council, are taking steps to reverse this trend. We have hired a top notch Public Relations firm. They have already come up with a spiffy new logo and a catchy slogan: “Morton’s—a world of color.”
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