"Ambidextrose" by Jay Werkheiser
This story was published in "Analog Magazine" in the October 2012 issue.
A crew crashes their shuttle into an inhospitable planet. Only one man, Davis, makes it out alive. He is rescued by a human who is living on this alien world. Things are supposed to be poisonous and inedible, but here she is surviving. In the beginning he is tied down and fixed up on a bed. It reminded me of Misery, by Stephen King, slightly. It had that feel to it although later in the story it is nothing like Misery at all.
The planet is backwards compared to earth. They refer to this ecological system as wrong-handed. There two different ecological systems living, somehow, in harmony with each other. Part of the mystery of the story is how these two systems are actually living in harmony. Normally one ecological system would over run the other, only the strongest survives.
Food isn’t edible because human bodies can’t digest the amino acids or sugars in the plant life due to the backwards biological make up. Somehow a group of people have figured out a way to create ways to digest the amino acids, and have found foods that are digestible, called right-handed foods.
The woman and men have different roles that are more suited to the ecological system they are living in. The woman work and labor and keep homes while raising children. The term of marriage is not one that they really know about. The men are nomadic, they “come” and go (pun intended) and if a woman becomes pregnant then MAYBE a man will decide to stick around and claim the baby as his. Then he will become a mate and a father even if the baby isn’t his child.
The people living on this planet, outside the main colony on the planet, are afraid they will be discovered. The woman who basically run this little village all meet to determine Davis’s fate. Do they kill him, imprison him, what to do, what to do? While the women are in a meeting discussing the Davis’s future, he is pretty sure there is a rescue shuttle that is looking for him at the crash site. So he takes off running. What happens? I’ll let you finish the story and decide for yourself.
I liked this story overall. I felt that there was some meaning in this story. How two different cultures that are different like night and day can still coexist peacefully. Also, that in the end society expansion is inevitable. You can’t stop progress no matter how much someone might try. Someone might win a battle and slow down the progression, but in the end the progressive nature of humans will always win.