Terraforming Mars proved a spectacular failure. So much so that only 2 groups are greedy, stubborn, or committed enough to stay. These are the miners & the Gabrielists. The miners are like miners everywhere, but the Gabrielists are something different.
The Gabrielists are a strange religious group, that some call a cult. They are despised by most Western religions for their strange philosophy. They believe that after the Crucifixion God abandoned humanity. That on abandoning humanity God put the archangels in charge with Gabriel being the most concerned with humankind. Gabriel then set up Muhammed as a prophet, but they anger Muslims by stating the Q'uran came only from Gabriel. They clearly see Allah as a fraud, which caused them to be run out of several lands. They further anger Christians with the creed they say at the beginning of every mass. Some see it as almost Satanically mocking the Apostle's Creed because it begins
"We believe in one God father almighty, who despises us as wicked children
We believe in Gabriel our Lord & Master"
They do believe in a prophetess who will someday reunite womankind with God. They state clearly "womankind" because they believe at that point men will be obsolete. They are in fact an intensely matriarchal religion, which believes males should be castrated on producing their second child. This despite believing in a fatherly God.
They live in communes that have exactly 215 members. There are to be no more than 215 communes at any one time. To keep this arrangement from getting stale they have what is called "The Winnowing". Martians see this as one of the most beautiful festivals on the planet.
Basically the Winnowing is a celebration of renewal & change. It occurs once every 43 Martian years. On that date 43 of the communes are chosen by random number selector to celebrate. The male Miners are invited to go to these communes to drink, make merry, etc. At the end the female Gabrielists are to go home with the miners.
The next day they are to return to within 5 kilometers of their communes. They then hold hands & dance in a circle. They sing & praise Gabriel before ascending to the sky. Once in the sky they do the most marvelous aerobatics. They are said to look very much like the angels they praise. So enthralled are the spectators they almost never notice the explosions or the burning. The male Gabrielists screams of agony are overpowered by the sad farewell of the Gabrielist women. The women say good bye to their old lives & begin anew with the Miners.
Earth people tragically fail to see the beauty & necessity of the whole thing. They call it "cruel", or inhumane. They don't understand the harsh beauty of the place. Of a Gabrielist Mars that like a tree needs pruning & a chance for regrowth. They certainly don't understand that for the life Miners know it seems Mars needs women.
Copyright © 2002 by Thomas R. and Bewildering Stories.