An excerpt from the rough draft I am working on:
I am twisted and old, but once I was young and my hands held no blood. Long before I came to this waiting place, I was a girl. And once, once upon a time, the fiery Uridim did not chase me in my dreams.
I remember being a child, trying to get my dress to twirl like those of the village girls celebrating the Jube Day. We did not celebrate festivals in my city of Garden, no, that sort of display was better left to the ignorant. We were scientists, after all. We were the reasonable builders, the innovators, the True bearers of the heritage of the first colonists of Eden.
It was another perfect, bright day in Garden, the capital city of the southern province. You’ve never been to Eden, I’ll wager. No, not now, when all that lives there is death. But when I was a child, what glory! What perfection! Babylon was but a pale shadow in comparison. Our city was carved into a mountain. It was like an enormous stone ziggurat, a series of broad steppes. And O! The glories of the gardens. The lowest levels of Garden began in a rain forested valley. Our engineers found a way to bring that moist humid air all the way to the top of the city. Those brilliant engineers, not only of wood and stone and metal, but with flesh and bark and root. All of our structures were bio-engineered organics, free form works art and circuitry. Our city was advanced, so advanced, millenia beyond anything on the home world. Nearly a million humans and assorted genetically modified hybrids worked together in this great center of learning.
My Father and I lived in a palatial villa near the top of Garden. From the porches, I could see leathery reptilian Fliers soaring through rainbow mists, carrying messengers the length and breadth of the province. Below us lie lush tropical rainforests. On three sides, I could see the white caps of the Enoian mountains, and with a spy glass I could just make out the nimble Saanen mining gold for our circuitry near the pass. In the North, on a clear day, I could see all the way out to the Great Sea, where the fabled KnKeth were said to live. I could spy the tiny fishing villages, and imagine the boats setting sail for the day’s catch.
One day, driven by curiosity, I pulled up some vids about the villages on a Screen in one of the gardens. I must have been about five years old. I finally found a recording of a village festival. The music entranced me. I practiced spinning like the sun bronzed girls in the images. When I was sure I’d perfected the technique, I ran to show my Father.
My father, was tall, with fine features and a steady demeanor. I don’t think I ever heard him raise his voice. He didn’t need to. His eyes could see the very depths of my soul, I was sure. He was a learned man, a respected man, even an adviser to the Abgal. I was one in over a dozen girls he was grooming to take her place one day.
“Father, Father,” I cried, rushing into the sunny porch he used as a study. It was actually an elegant columned portico. Father spent a great deal of time here, surrounded by multiple ancient communication devices, keeping track of many threads of politics and thought. Unlike the organic screens grown throughout Garden, these were ancient devices, mirrored surfaces on silver stands, set at a variety of heights throughout the porch. Messages urgently flashed across several of them. My father paced, touching a Screen here, swiping messages away there. Across the porch the Master Groomsmen, a fussy man who attended the noviates, reclined on a stone bench, looking perturbed.
“Look at me! I can do it perfectly and I only just learned today!” I spun on the tiled mosaic floor, the edges of my ecru tunic and robe fluttering around me.
I saw one eyebrow raise on Father’s stern face, and perhaps only imagined the hint of a grin. He spoke with a mild thoughtfulness, sitting on a bench so that we could see eye to eye. “ That is one way to spend your day. Can you think of any ways you could have spent your time more profitably? “
I lowered my eyes, embarrassed at my childishness. “I should have been studying, Father” I traced a design with the toe of my slipper. I knew what was coming next. It was that catechism that underscored my entire childhood.
“Why is it important for you to study?” I remember the cultured timber of my Father’s voice.
“That I may serve my people, either as a under priestess, or if I am truly Wise, the next Abgal.” It was the reason for my existence, my sole purpose in life, the only reason that I should be allowed to live or occupy space or breathe air.
“Do you think the next Abgal will be a girl who squanders her time in lesser pursuits? I always knew I wasn’t his favorite. Thea was more studious, Zigal sedate and wise. I was one of the younger initiates, a constant disappointment to my distinguished father.
“ No, Sir. The next Abgal will be a girl completely devoted to Knowledge and to the Good of the People. She will guide and rule the central province in all matters civil and moral. She will be the Keeper of the spirits of our ancestors, the Most Trusted and Trustworthy of all the people” The words shamed me every time I spoke them. I would never measure up. I’d learned my lessons well.
“It’s good you remember at least that lesson. Our city is increasingly troubled, and we require our future leaders to be uncommonly wise. Perhaps if you devote yourself to your other lessons…”
“Yes Father.” I never danced again.