Excerpt from The Moon Maiden’s Mate by Suz deMello

Copyright © Suz deMello, 2015

Chapter One

New Brooklyn, Luna
Chanukah, 2114

Thank God it was the end of the evening. Turning her back on her date, Shayna wiped her mouth on her sleeve and closed the sli-door to seal the pod with a disgusted flick of her finger. She stomped into the kitchen, where the mild aroma of hydroponically grown coffee lingered.

“So what was wrong with this one?” her mother asked, cradling a mug.

She bent to kiss her mother’s cheek, hiding her blush. She wasn’t going to discuss her date’s make-out style with her ema. “He, umm, he hovers.”

“He vacuums? Shayna, what are you talking about?”

“Not Hoovers, ema, he hovers. He practically breathed down my neck when I ate my latkes.” She carried her mother’s empty mug to the sonic cleaning unit. Hoovering didn’t begin to describe what her date did with his mouth. She considered herself lucky to escape him with her tongue, teeth and tonsils uninjured. She liked deep kissing, but spraining her tongue at the root was a no-no.

“Such a nice boy, and a doctor to boot.”

“He’d make me meshugah.”

“You’ll have to go to the matchmaker for a shidduch.”

Her jaw tightened as she put the mug inside the unit, then tapped a button. The soni-cleaner hummed. “Please, no. I’m capable of finding a husband for myself.”

“You’ve been dating since you were sixteen. You’ve gone out with every single man in New Brooklyn, most more than once,” her mother said. “I don’t know what you’re looking for.”

Shayna’s mind flashed on the image of a tall dark man with smiling gray eyes and a demanding kiss.

Her mother continued, “This one hoovers, that one’s too short… There’s no alternative. If you don’t marry soon, you’ll have to go live on Earth. You know the rules.”

Shayna cast a fearful look upward. She’d never been to her home planet and didn’t want to go. Earth consisted of armed enclaves surrounded by post-Apocalyptic mishegass. On Earth, a Jew was safe only in Beverly Hills, Miami, and Israel.

Those who’d created New Brooklyn had dreamed of completely safe, wholly Jewish outposts on a pristine worldlet. Because of the harsh conditions, stringent rules governed conduct. Skilled personnel were at a premium, forcing the able-bodied to work and produce young to continue this, their great experiment. At twenty-four, she was pushing the age limit.

“All right.” She sighed. “I’ll try a shidduch.”

* * * * *

The next morning, Shayna tapped at the sli-door of Rivka Markowitz’s tiny office. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Dr. Rivka Markowitz was a valued member of New Brooklyn, not merely because she kept the peace and the laws as a member of the Bet Din ruling council, but she played matchmaker. In a small, tight community, the strength of family bonds was crucial. The men and women who had to marry and bear children while young had to be assured of appropriate mates. Thus, the value of a skilled matchmaker who could create a successful shidduch, an arranged marriage that would flourish.

The door opened, revealing Rivka’s podlet, cluttered with bones, skulls and other unnerving detritus of the anthropologist’s calling. Shayna sneezed, the dust from the artifacts tickling her nose.

Rivka, a diminutive brunette dressed in the same silvery Slicksuit everyone wore, looked up. “Ah, Shayna Goldstein. I’ve been expecting you.”

Shayna moved a stack of infodiscs and sat in the armchair Rivka indicated. “And which of the gossipy yentas infecting this town tattled?”

“Your ema called ahead. She thought it would be polite.” Rivka smiled. “But I’d expected you long before this day. Couldn’t handle the way Harold Mechlin smells, or how Jim Abrams kisses?”

Shayna burst out laughing. She bet that Rivka was good at her job. She’d put Shayna at ease in the wink of an eye. “I needed a towel, the way he slobbers. And the sucking! I had to check to make sure my teeth were still in place.”

“So I’ve heard. I’ll get him married somehow,” Rivka said. “All of the emas think that their sons are such princes that they won’t come to me. But everyone ends up here eventually.”

“Everyone?”

“Just about. Very few on Luna entrust their futures to a random selection process based on hormones.” After opening a drawer, she withdrew a carved wooden box. “Sometimes they merely want their choice confirmed. Others, like you, can’t quite make up their minds.” She passed the box to Shayna.

She lifted the lid, then raised her brows. “Tarot cards?”

Rivka winked. “Most people don’t know the tarot is based on the Zohar, ancient Jewish mysticism. These cards have been modified to receive the emotional and mental vibrations of the user, and I’ve programmed them with the identities of all the single folk on Luna. Go on, take them out.”

The tarots felt peculiarly heavy and greasy in Shayna’s hands. If they were programmable, that accounted for their weight since each card would contain chips or computers of some sort. Dubious, she flipped them through her fingers. They vibrated gently, perhaps responding to her thought waves or whatever. Sounded kinda hocus-pocus to feet-on-the-ground Shayna.

“Divide the deck into three on the desk, here.”

Shayna followed Rivka’s direction.

“Turn over the top card on each stack.”

Shayna obeyed. “Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick?”

Rivka frowned as Shayna mocked the old and honored game of Clue. She tapped a finger on the first card, which depicted a dark moon beneath a sky full of stars. The Earth, normally a constant companion in the heavens, was absent.

“You are to go to Farside,” Rivka said.

“Farside!” A chill zipped up Shayna’s back despite her Slicksuit, designed to keep body temperature stable.

Rivka tossed the second card at Shayna. It showed a circle of dancers in a festive scene. “The Chanukah party at Farside. You will see your intended there.”

“How will I know him?”

Rivka held up a third, last card, which depicted a dark man. A head taller than his companions, he regarded them with an air of authority. Another shiver chased the first up Shayna’s spine. This was her mate, her one true love?

A dark man. Could it be…?

“Barack Obama?” Shayna hid her nerves with a quip about the first African-American president of the now-defunct U.S. republic.

Rivka glared.

“Sorry.” Shayna shrank back into her seat. “But there are many dark males here. I’m sure Farside is no exception.”

“Your intended will know you. Few moon children are red-headed, remember?”

“But who is he?”

Rivka smiled. “The only possible mate for you.” She shuffled the tarots together before putting them away.

“But I don’t want to live on Farside!”

Rivka’s smile disappeared. “Why not?”

“I want to stay in New Brooklyn. I was born here. This is my home.” Shayna rose to pace, as best she could, Rivka’s tiny podlet office.

“Apparently it’s time you left the cocoon.” Rivka tapped the top of the carved box. “The programming in these tarots has a reliability factor of over ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundredths percent. I assure you, your mate is correctly selected.”

“But why do I have to go?” Shayna wailed.

“‘Whither thou goest, I shall go.’”

She recognized the ancient words from the book of Ruth, and her shoulders slumped.

“It is time for you to commit to something beyond yourself, Shayna maydel.”

 

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