Three Generations Pt. V
Glorious Victory held her arms out for the young girl, who shuffled sniffling into to her gray embrace. “I—don’t think I am cruel, baby. This is the best way. This is. I know it hurts. I know.”
Hundred Flowers sobbed into the old woman’s chest. “It seems so heartless. I’ve been told all my life The Council means the best for us, but—”
“Shh, shh. Don’t say it. They do. This is the best way. This way we’re all family. All of us. Take that ache with you and feel it whenever you see a child. When your next baby is born it will have a thousand brothers and sisters. The ache will be less, I promise.
“Sister, there must be ways some mothers see their children. Some leaders have special rights, they must get to know which are theirs. If I go to his father—”
“Bite your tongue! No one has special rights! The Council is of us, sprouts from us. They are the flower of our grass. They are our voice, our hope against the outside evils.”
Hundred Flowers held herself, safe in the old woman’s arms. She breathed in the scent of her old body, the woman who’d seen so much. The scent permeated the old woman’s grey shift, and the girl let herself be here for a moment longer. There was clean water to her smell, but also a breath of old teeth; a sweet-sourness to her body, like wood bark in early summer. Eventually she pulled herself out of the embrace. “Do you—Do you remember anything—”
The klaxon: “Remember the Three Rights: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Deeds. Strive to do right in all things. So says The Council of Seven.”
“Of my children? Of course, I just—”
“No! I mean, of your parents. Do you remember anything of them? How they smelled, or looked?”
Glorious Victory was taken aback, and rocked back and forth in the moment, almost as if nodding. “What an odd—well, I— Do I remember? It was so long ago. I mean I must have been very little, but I do remember being with them, and playing in a field with my big sister. Hah! We had a dog! I do remember him. And my father—he would hold one of us in each arm and spin in circles.”
Her eyes clouded in memory. Momentarily her brows creased. “But then, one day I went to school, and some women came in, and told us we wouldn’t be going home that day, but to a nice building where we would all live together, all us children. And we would play together, and learn, and work hard to make life better for everyone. Hmm. Hadn’t thought about that for…”
“What’s a dog?”
“Oh, it was—they were like, animals we lived with. They walked on four legs, hairy. Made a funny sound. How do I remember that? Yaf! Yaf!”
“I’ve never seen one. An animal? Like a chicken or a rabbit?”
“Bigger than a rabbit. Like a small child. They came in different sizes and shapes. Ours was big to me, with long, brown fur. We called him Zephyros, because he ran so fast. The things we old women remember.”
Three generations, Pt IV
The two worked in silence for a few minutes. Hundred Flowers felt that the day was warming already. There was a little breeze blowing through the top of the room, a little light slanting in from the suns in the east lit up their work.
Glorious Victory shifted herself around to put her sewing in the shaft of sunlight. The old woman stitched quickly with the good light, and the cloth seemed to flow together between her fingers, becoming sleeves. The sleeves fell into the bin next to her. Eventually she spoke again. “You know the other reason they let you little chicks come back to us after you lay? Not just send you back to the fields?”
A negative sniff was her only answer.
“It wasn’t always that way, how the soft units like Sewing get the girls who are pregnant by leaders. When I was younger we were all out in the fields, every one of us. But women, being what we are, look for any reason to take airs. It may be part of our nature, no matter how The Council, praise their wisdom, tries to breed it out of us. Anyway, we always had women who acted as if they were special for being bred to leaders—no matter that we never see the children again. Too good for honest peasantry, you know. I remember one girl my age, Conquers Adversity, out in the field did nothing but talk about her man. A secretary to one of The Council himself! How he chose her, how she was tied to him, how she was better than the rest of us. She must have been insane.” She shook her head at the absurdity of the memory. And paused.
In the building the klaxon sounded. “Resist the temptations of the evil ones. Our strength comes from our solidarity. Stand together against the outside! So says The Council of Seven.” The voice rang through the building.
“When she saw him again, and he didn’t remember her—who would, plain thing—she stabbed him with a scythe and killed him. Wasn’t the first girl ever, I’ve heard. Child was destroyed, of course, why take a chance?”
Hundred Flowers clutched the shears tightly, trying to push the blades together as she cut. The shearing sound of rough steel worrying the fabric apart cut through the air. “I know—I know he doesn’t remember me. Five of us were brought to him in a group.”
“Good girl. That’s why you are brought back here afterwards. Disabuse you of the idea that you’re special. Well, of course you are, each of us is special. We all pull the plow together, eh?”
The young girl couldn’t keep her eyes down, humbled. “Sister? Do you think I will see my—the child again?”
Glorious Victory snorted. “Do I? Of course! Every time you go onto the street or into the mess halls. Every harvest time I see my sons threshing the grain. My daughters are scything the stalks. You are my grandchild, praise The Council! How many times I’ve heard that question…” The bright light was starting to wash through the room, heating the air.
“You mean your own child, eh?”
“Sister, everything in my heart tugs me towards him. I feel as if my soul is somewhere out there crying for my touch. My breasts ache for him. My arms are empty.” She sped up to get her last few words in.
“Forget the uselessness of the past! Tomorrow is a new day, and we all meet the future together. So says The Council of Seven.”
Hit a little milestone this evening, with my 300th follower! Thank you ztvheddixr for pushing me past that mark. I know it’s not a big group by tumblr standards, but it means a lot to me. For a feed that doesn’t have pictures of naked wookies I’m very proud and thankful for everyone. Yay!
Three Generations, Pt III
When the voice ended the man waddled back to the kitchen. Hundred Flowers took the opportunity to return to the work room where she was overdue. Through the window she could see the suns beginning to rise above the mountains. The tiny red child sun came up first, its teardrop shape bathing the valley in a momentary reddish glow, before the large white mother sun came up, licking away the blooded light.
At the threshold of the work room, Hundred Flowers held her hands in each other, touching her thumbs to her forehead in a sign of respect. “Glorious Victory! Greetings, sister!”
The old woman smiled widely, revealing the holes where her teeth had been. “Little sister, welcome back to the unit. How was your delivery?”
The girl sat gingerly on the low stool. “Praise The Council, it went well. No bleeding or infection they say, but I’m still mightily sore.”
“Well, you’ve just done a mighty labor! I should say so!” The old woman passed a pair of worn steel shears to the girl, along with a pile of rough-woven, light-grey cotton and a wooden template. “You’re cutting today. I’ll do the stitching. Oh, the cloth these days.
“In the older times,” she continued on with barely a breath, “when I was a little kit like you, we didn’t have birthing rooms, clinics, all the things you children have. Did I tell you that? We had to give birth in our huts or outdoors. I dropped my third child in the field with nothing to cut the cord but my hoe. Dug a hole for the afterbirth, then finished planting my row.”
Hundred Flowers wasn’t sure what to say. “My weakness shames me, sister.”
The old woman grinned, revealing a line of gums, with only the occasional afterthought of a tooth. “Ohh, little sister, haven’t you learned about us old women these last few weeks? We chatter like rain on a roof. Praise The Council for giving us you pregnant bunnies so somebody actually listens to us. So, the baby was healthy?”
“Last I saw of it. Oh! Ow. I hurt. Along my bottom. They said I would sting…” The pain under her rectum shot through her when she leaned forward, and wasn’t going away.
Glorious Victory took the cloth and scissors from her, and cleared a spot on the work table, pinching a rough spot for possible splinters. “Here, up on the table. Lay back.” The girl did as she was told, delicately climbing on the wooden table, which rocked under her slight weight. The old woman lifted the young girl’s shift, examining the swollen area between anus and vulva.” She clucked her tongue, not in disapproval, just resignation. “I’m no doctor, but I know good stitching. This will do. They’re holding. Of course I could have done better with this fine thread they use, some boiling water… But you are a little red and pinched.” She took a bit of cloth and dipped it in the water jug she kept handy. The touch was cool, and when Glorious Victory stopped, the pain was lessened. “Tomorrow—” the old woman began, then abruptly paused and closed her eyes, waiting.
The klaxon sounded. “When we all pull together, then the plow will move forward. Pull hard! Look for slackers! So says The Council of Seven.”
“—I’ll bring you a poultice you can put down there. Soak it in cool water—make sure the water’s clean! And dab it down below. Here, down you come. We grow some herbs by our barracks. Some of the old women remember which plants to use when—” Her eyes clouded suddenly. ”Um. Never mind. So, boy or girl?
Hundred Flowers sat back down, trying to compose herself. The ache was still there, but the pinch inside was not so sensible. “A boy.”
“Like his father! Ha ha, that’s a joke we say. So, healthy, probably strong like his father. Have you told him?”
The tears came unbidden. Perhaps it was the pain. “No— he…”
“Mm. Mm. Well, I remember now, the father, he’s a good unit leader in a big agricultural section somewhere, isn’t he. Places his babies where they need to go, do the best good. Doesn’t get attached!”
Three Generations, Pt II
She leaned against the speaker pole, catching her breath. The trefoil bullhorns bloomed above her like metal flowers. She put her ear against the smooth wood, enjoying the coolness. Any moment…
The klaxon sounded from the speakers, vibrating the pole against her ear, an oddly comforting feeling. “There are many things to be done, and we are the people to do them. Work hard, and we shall remake this world into a paradise! So says The Council of Seven.”
She didn’t want to move away from the pole. She wanted for it to continue holding her up. Or even better, to sink into the ground next to it, planted deep into the dirt where she would stop hurting. But the thought of food and water at the factory made her feet shuffle forward, as she stirred up the dry dust.
Though morning twilight had awoken the valleys over two hours ago, the suns had not yet risen above the high, craggy eastern mountains. In the gentle light of morning the wooden factory building, on it’s kind rise, actually looked beautiful to her. It’s low, unpainted walls and single large door at the end, the snug rooms she knew inside, were to her The Council’s promises fulfilled. The dirt path led inside to coolness, and food, and smooth, hard-packed floors. The clumps of thin, wild grass around it a green hope of better days ahead, when the rains would return to their valleys.
She’d been assigned a billet here at the clothing factory during the final weeks of her pregnancy, and was allowed another week to recuperate. The old women, that flock of thin, dark-grey geese who were the permanent workers, had rotated her in along with several other late-term girls, and the work had been soft, the food relatively plentiful. She’d learned more about sewing in her short time here than she had in the previous fourteen years of her life.
The refectory staff, however, were not particularly pleased to see her. The two old, wide, women and the deformed simpleton who worked there were ready to clean up. “Why couldn’t you be here sooner?” the woman with the milky eye asked her harshly. “We are all done here!” The second woman, following her supervisor’s lead, twitched her big cheeks.
Luckily the factory supervisor was passing by and chided the women. “New Pathway, have you no shame? Look at this poor girl! She’s done more work this morning than you will all week. Fetch her a double helping, and a pitcher of water. Oh, dear, no need to cry. They can be firm, but they aren’t bad”
“No, I’m just so happy! I’m very hungry. Thank you.” She looked up at the steel-eyed woman. Her sharp, kind face gave Hundred Flowers hope for her own future. Maybe one day she could be there for another young girl. When the large clay bowl filled with jook came she could smell the duck egg in it, and her mouth watered.
“Don’t wait for me,” the supervisor laughed at the young girl’s hesitation. “This is all for you. I’ll see you here at lunch, all right?” She patted Hundred Flowers’ hand, and left.
The girl wolfed her first few bites, then slowed down, savoring the thick rice porridge. By the time she finished the jug of water, she was feeling as good as she thought possible—despite the women stomping around the kitchen. The simple man smiled at Hundred Flowers and picked up the bowl with his good hand, his other arm, small and shriveled, flopped like a chicken’s wing.
“Thank you, brother” she said shyly. He beamed back, then came to a sudden stop, waiting. He gritted his teeth, and stood there with his head bowed as if he were about to receive a blow.
She lifted her chin and waited too.
The klaxon went out across The Valleys, echoing from the hills. “No victory can be won without sacrifice. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the victory. So says The Council of Seven.”
Three Generations Pt 1
by Tony Jonick ©
Hundred Flowers shuffled out of the clinic and into the pre-dawn light, cool, and dry, and dark blue. There was little dew in these baked days of summer, and the rutted dirt road was already dry with dust. The fine, cloying soil of the street mingled with a cloud of slow midges and filled her face with dry grit, her nose with bugs. She snorted like a pack horse. Her weakness kept her from being truly annoyed, and she accepted the discomfort as she had grown up accepting everything else in her world. Still, in defiance of her weakness and hunger, she tried to lift her feet in more than a shuffle, to avoid disturbing the dust that choked her. Her dark grey shift hid her stumbling feet from view, hid her newly emptied condition.
In the factory there would be some food, some water. The clinic was supposed to have given her breakfast before sending her back to work, but they had run out before they had gotten to her bed. Not that the barley mash tasted like much, but it would keep her focused on something other than her next meal. Still, she had taken comfort in knowing her baby would be fed. The wet nurses on staff, she’d been told, always had high priority in order to keep their milk production at quota.
As she walked towards the factory, the bustle of the early morning still impressed her. So many people! The coolies hauling away the night dirt from the town, taking it out to the fields; the carts hauling food to the multi-storied dormitories; and the peasant’s work song wafting in from the fields west. They must have been up earliest of all, working hard for all.
The suns rise high in play, hey!
But we work through the day, hey!
The night moons light our way, hey!
And dreams will have their say, hey!
The singing brought her back to her early days in the fields, where as a child she had the delicate touch needed to plant the baby rice stalks into the mud. She missed her friends back at her first collective. But even as she was rotated, from farm to farm, she still had the rough-hewn love of the people, all singing together to bring the plants up from the ground. The singing made her lips twitch.
Though her impression had been that rainfall was slight this winter as well, she’d heard announcements there was more water than ever flowing from the mountain streams to irrigate the land. And in fact it looked as if the taro ponds were deep and full. Of course, that was what she had thought last year, and the suns had dried up the field before the corms took. She still missed the sweet-bland taste of poi, the slightly bitter greens.
What if the worst was happening? What if the last living place on this planet was drying up?
She thought back to the stories her teachers had told her when they wanted the children to behave, of the dead lands surrounding them on all sides. How they were the last true people on the planet. How the other lands held nothing but a few pathetic, half-human ghouls who scrabbled about in the desert of burning rocks searching for lizards and evil children. Her guts caught in the old tales, and she felt a yank of fear deeper than her hunger. How could she go on living knowing she’d brought a child into a world like that?
Announcement: Three Generations, Pt 1 coming soon
A few years ago I tried to get into a San Francisco Playwriting group. I had to submit something with two people, and so many pages. I wrote a short play about the collapse of a totalitarian state through the lens of a young girl and and an old lady. Perhaps I should have written something funny about guys & gals miscommunicating due to swapped cell phones. I wasn’t picked. But the scene was turned into a story and the story was going to be the first is a cycle of stories about the collapse of a country into totalitarian rule. Only told backwards, starting with the end story, and working towards the reasons why this came about.
Over the next few days, I’m going to run the one story I wrote, then synopses of the stories that were to come. That might still come. That someone else might be inspired to write. Who knows?
So Wednesday will begin part one of the Saga of the Three Valleys: Three Generations.
He was already an outsider, but he had friends who liked him. He thought it might be interesting to take alienation all the way, to see everything as a stranger to the world. Everything familiar became strange. Ice cream became frozen mammary liquids foamed with air. Hair became protein extrusions. He tried to withdraw from the emotional reactions driven by the unnecessary normal secretions which drove towards mating urges. Needless to say his alienation experiment worked too well. He found it hard to return the realm of humanity.
Different corporations & NGOs are working on viruses that insert genes into the human genome, spread like disease. One corporation has plotted to make a virus that makes most humans into docile creatures. But the science team has been infected from outside by a virus to make them more altruistic. The virus they create looks like docility, but instead increases empathy amongst the majority of people.
He was in his late 40s, and still getting nowhere on the corporate ladder. He watched his bosses getting away with stealing their customers’ life savings, and wanted in on the action. He became a distributor for a drug cartel, a suit shipping in large quantities, and getting them where they needed to go on the street level. As he moved into the wealthy neighborhoods, he was sexually tempted by his teenage children’s new friends, and got them hooked. Eventually he had a stranglehold over this wealthy neighborhood while sending his kids up the ladder.
Her father, an economics professor, recognized her genius. As a programmer and mathematician she was the first person to really understand programming quantum computers. When her father was killed in a third-world country by young, hungry men she decided to use her programming and cryptographic skills to break into every bank computer on the planet and destroy money.
His father was a world famous musician and poet, and at 17 had released an album that changed rock music forever. Even people who didn’t like the music, had heard of the man. But the father was manic-depressive, and killed himself when his son was little. The boy grew up in his father’s shadow, burdened by his last name, and expectations to follow in his fathers’ steps. As the son’s 17th birthday approached, he felt crushed by the expectations on him.
Bonus idea: the dad’s body was never found, or he was declared dead in a foreign country under mysterious circumstances.
She was revived from her coma to find that 12 years had passed. Her three-year-old was now 15, and a stranger to her. She had nothing in common with her husband, who had been living with his former secretary. The world was different and strange, and the only person she felt any contact with was the secretary/new wife. The new wife felt that after devoting all her time to the child, she was finally waking up from a long nap.