Sunday, 5 November 2017

The sixth of my many entries for this year's Pod and Planet. The first eight are all very short fictions, entered in the 'Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden' category. This one is 750 words.

From the Scriptures, Book of Reclamation, a book I'd love to read,

“Lead all children to the light of God, for Heaven is theirs to inherit.”

On Aya’s birthday, they played at being Wind Dancers. The Creche didn’t have much of a garden, so they turned on the blast-fans they used in summer, cleared the room, and stood and twirled in front of them with clothes stained blue or red. Aya had hacked the computer, and put her traditional Ni-Kunni music on, all rhythmic drumming and dazzling flutes, and was attempting to direct them as her troupe.

It wasn’t going well.

“No, no! You don’t stand there, you form a circle, and you twist with me! Danni, I can do this, so can you! Shala, stop spinning, you’re tallest, but you’re not first dancer. I am!”  
“No fair”, Shala replied. “Tallest, brightest, longest free, that’s how it works, Slave girl” Shala twirled her long pink scarf like a banner. Aya snatched it, and ran away across the room.  

“I don’t care at all!” she sing-song taunted. “It’s my birthday, and I’m smarter than you, Ame’ said so! She told the whole staff!” She capered wildly to the music, until it, like she, was abruptly halted.

“That’d be Miss Amelana to you, Aya Puhkastu! You’re lucky it’s your birthday, else I’d send you for punishment. You should know better than to be so disrespectful, especially on a day like today. Didn’t I tell you that the Holder was visiting? Why, I know I did.” Amelana pointed at the wall calendar, made of flimsy paper, which had a bright red pin stuck in it. “Of course, what do I find you doing?  Ignoring my requests and wind-dancing!”

“I’m sorry, Miss Amelana, I was just having some fun!”, Aya pleaded. “It won’t happen again!” Involuntarily, Amelana snorted.

“That’s what you said last time, Aya, and the time before that. You need to learn to keep your promises, else you’re lying before God.” Amelana gestured towards the Imperial Seal above the board. “I did say that you were clever, yes, and that’s why I’m back before lunch has finished … ”

“Lucky for you that I was,” she continued darkly. “If the Holder had caught you doing …  that, then he could have had you severely punished. You know better than to break the rules.”

“But Miss Amelana, it’s my birthday –”

“That may be so, child, but that doesn’t free you from obeying the rules. Everyone, clean up this mess, now! Aya, the Holder wishes to see you this afternoon.” When Aya didn’t move, Amelana reminded her: “Everyone includes you, child.”

Aya gulped, then joined in with the clearing up, and, once it was done, sat heavily in her chair.  Her pale face had gone a deep, bloodless white, which stood in stark contrast to her red hair. The Holder, meeting her? Masters aren’t interest in their slaves, Mummy had said, and she was only 8!

Time grinded itself slowly away, and the hour of fate approached. She dreaded every single minute that passed, and hated herself for it. What could he want? To punish her obviously, she knew, for her sins. Sins like hacking into the computer, or the school network, or lying to Miss Amelana about doing that. Eventually, the fateful hour arrived, and she was escorted to the Creche-Leader’s office.

Behind the desk sat the Holder, her master, and the Creche-Leader, who held the guarded smiles that adults often bestow on children. Her master spoke first, softly. “I hear a great many things about you and your family, girl.” Aya’s eyes widened, and her face drained of blood. “Hah!”, he barked, “Nothing bad, girl, nothing bad. Immense aptitude for technology, I heard. An ability to hack even the oldest, outdated machines.” At this comment, he glanced sideways. “Tell us all about it.”

And so she did, because she was commanded.

– And so that’s how you hack the network.”

“Fascinating,” the Holder replied, eyes tight with humour and frustration, “Will you get on that, Creche-Leader?” The Creche-Leader nodded. “Now, I know it’s your birthday, and I have a very special gift.” His secretary stood, turned and pulled out a heavy, graven box. It was sealed shut, and had no obvious openings.  “Inside this box, girl, is only one thing. Freedom, for you and your family. Your task, to unlock it.”

He paused, to examine the look on her face. She was disarmed, dumbfounded. He smiled.

“It won’t be easy, however. God’s test is without and within. Remember, you have been led into the light of God, and, through me, all of Heaven may be yours to inherit.”

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