Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Sara, over at her imaginative blog, Fiction Fusion. Don’t miss her story this week, or the other wonderful submissions.
My plans for this year’s NaNoWriMo is a story titled, “Draconian Responses.” This will be a follow-on story to 2009’s NaNo story, “Empty Threats.” In preparation, I’ve been going over that story, refreshing the characters and situations in my mind as I plan on the events that will follow what happened. One of the things that happens in that story, is that the Empty in charge of caring for the Rover Hall decides to run away from her position, and goes to Epsilon Eridanus (“Qi’le”) with the main character. Because she was never programmed for life outside the Rover Hall, she has a difficult time adjusting, even though she is secured employ helping to care for an Inn. This changes when she experiences the Qi’le phenomenon called “B’sela,” which is the joining of two minds, believed by the people of Qi’le as God specifically bringing two people together in marriage. In the original draft, the Empty (who by then has decided to call herself Emily) has been presented to Musi for the B’sela, and he has consented. I skipped ahead to their Affirmation in the Temple, but began to think this week that it would be interesting to explore how Emily’s former life as an Empty might come into play in their early relationship. The result is this new chapter.
Next week, I hope to have the first excerpt from “Draconian Responses.”
The couple walked slowly along the edge of the forest, around the perimeter of the meadow surrounding Pisces. Emily held to Musi’s hand, trying to assimilate all the memories she could from his mind. Every aspect of his life was a new concept to her, and a painful reminder of all that had been denied to her because she was an Empty.
One of the older students from the priestess school followed perhaps a dozen or so meters behind them, providing a sufficient chaperone that all proprieties were maintained. The girl’s presence was subtle, and not sufficient to inhibit free conversation, though for most of the walk so far, they had both been silent.
Musi plucked a leaf from a low hanging branch and crushed it between his fingers. A pleasant scent wafted through the air, and he rubbed the fragrant greenery across his forehead and his neck. “I know your former home was at another star, but will your mother be offended if you do not present me to her for approval before our Affirmation?”
A panicked feeling ran through her, and she released his hand. She stood still and closed her eyes, struggling with whether to release the memories, or suppress them.
He sought her hand again, and took it gently. “I can sense you in my mind, exploring all that I am, as a child eagerly explores the forest for the first time, yet, you have a door to your mind that you have not opened to me yet. The priestess Se’Ana warned me of this, Emily, and I still accepted the B’sela. There cannot be anything in your mind that could break the bond we now share.”
She opened her eyes and blinked away the tears before meeting his gaze. “I don’t have a mother to present you to for approval.” With the B’sela, she could understand his Qi’le speech and even respond a little in kind already, but English was still easier for her.
“She has passed through the final dream, then?”
“Did she abandon you as a child?”
“No, Musi. You don’t understand. I never had a mother.”
He gave her a puzzled look. “No, I do not understand this. You are here, therefore, you must have had a mother at some time.”
She shook her head. “No. No mother, and no father, either.”
“What you are saying is not possible.”
Her hand slipped from his again, and she lowered her face. With a soft sob, she reached both hands up and placed them on either side of his face, with all fingers touching his skin.
“Emily, this is not proper - ”
Before he could finish the correction, she allowed the memories to flood through.
Her eyes opened for the first time in a sterile room. She sat up in a container, flanked on all sides by similar containers. Some were empty, and some contained other sleeping people, all younger than her. A woman walked over and consulted a device in her hand, before handing her a simple garment. She had never seen such a thing before, but somehow, knew what she was supposed to do with it. She stood up, and draped herself in the plain cloth.
“This way,” the woman said, and even though she had never heard speech before, she understood what she was expected to do and followed.
She was led to a doorway. “Open Empty Holding,” the woman said, and the door opened. “Go inside, and commence conditioning routine one.”
There were others in the room, dressed just as she was, and machines that she suddenly knew what to do with. On one, she would walk for a certain interval every day. On another, she would lift a bar in a prescribed pattern. Each machine had a different function, and each day, she would follow the others in the room through the routine.
She had no way of knowing or caring how long she spent in this room. Each day was the same as before – awaken, eat, exercise, take care of personal hygiene, eat again, and then sleep. She never spoke with any of the other residents in the room, and none ever spoke to her.
The next distinct memory was of another woman coming to her in the room. “You have been requisitioned,” the woman said. “Come with me.”
She was taken to another room. “Open Empty Programming,” the woman said, and the door opened. They entered, and the woman pointed to a cylindrical bed. “Remove your clothing, and lie down there.”
She did, and the bed glowed blue, and she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was handed a different kind of clothing, and taken to a different room. A man waited there, and he looked her over before nodding.
When he had walked around her several times, he stopped in front of her. “What would you like to do?” he asked.
“I would like to take care of the Rover Hall,” she replied.
“How will you do that?”
“I will clean the hall, see to it that the facilities are maintained, the linens changed between occupants and at regular intervals besides, and arrange for whatever needs or desires the Rovers express, in keeping with local laws and their ability to pay.”
The man led her outside to a transport, and took her to the Rover Hall in Eldorado. He did not even go inside with her – she already knew everything she needed to know about the building and the operation.
Emily wept softly against Musi’s shoulder, aware through the B’sela that tears ran down his cheeks as well.
“You have no memories of a childhood?”
She shook her head without lifting it. “My childhood was spent asleep in a chamber. I was created, grown, and maintained by a machine until I was an adult, and ready to be requisitioned.”
“They called you ‘Empties,’” he whispered. His voice sounded flat in the Terran tongue.
She nodded. “My mind was filled only enough to perform the tasks I was requisitioned for, until that moment you touched me.”
“How can they do such a thing?”
“I don’t know. I was never programmed to understand the technology.”
He reverted to Qi’le. “They will answer to God someday for what they have done. I am just a man, and may not understand the Scriptures very well, but this must be one of the worst forms of blasphemy.”
“I was nothing, Musi. I was property. When the day came that I was no longer useful for my requisition, I would have been disposed of like trash.”
He brought his hands up and placed the ring and middle fingers of both hands on her cheeks. “They may have thought of you as nothing, but they did not see you as I see you. You are the B’sela I have prayed for my whole life. You are the gift that God has led to me from across the stars, and the completion of who I am.” His melody changed to the formal dialect used for the liturgy. “Truly God has joined us as one mind. We shall be one heart, and when we have been affirmed, we shall be one body.”
She listened to his words and to his mind, and leaned back to look at his face. “I was supposed to say that last phrase to you when you gave your touch consenting to the B’sela.”
He smiled at her. “God had a different way for you to say it.”
“I don’t know what kind of wife I’ll be.”
“I do not know what kind of husband I will be, but we will learn together, and if the Most Blessed Mother of All grants that I place children at your breasts, we will learn together how to give them full memories.”