Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Electric Revelations

Hilda may have looked still but her mind was racing. So many memories were rushing in like water through a broken dam. They mixed haphazardly with the reality around her.

One moment Hilda was a little girl playing patty-cake with her grandmother. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not touch her grandmother’s hands. Something repelled her. Back then the old woman didn’t live with her, but visited often.

Suddenly a muscular brother was throwing her to the ground, encircling her wrists with metal cuffs. She did not resist and soon felt a chill in her arm muscles as she did when the man at the depot grabbed her.

Then she was in the past again. It was night and she was in the forest near the farm with Beatrix. They were laughing. They were floating. They were flying among the trees.

Someone hit her back-handed across the face. Hilda tasted blood in her mouth.

“That’ll teach you to laugh witch,” said the brother who had bound her. “Silver, help the Grand Regimen.”

She only saw this scene for a moment. It was soon replaced by her grandmother smiling up at her from her bed. This memory was from just a few years back. Beatrix had been sick and Hilda had sat up with her all night. Just before dawn, her fever had broken.

“I have taught you well, my child,” said the old woman. Hilda fed her a spoonful of tea. “Granddaughter, you are a Weaver. And there will come a time when you will remember this and take your place among us.”

“Take her to the maximum security cell,” said Brother Loomis in a weak voice.

Someone pulled her to her feet and led her toward the door. Hilda focused her eyes and saw the vile old man leaning on the arm of the man who had abducted her, the one called Silver.

As she neared him, Hilda felt a sensation difficult to describe. It was as if an electric insect was buzzing in her brain. The closer she came, the louder it became. She reached out to Silver with cuffed hands. When they connected, a lash of raw power ran through them both. Their eyes locked.

In an instant Hilda knew two things. Silver was not her enemy and he had her amulet.

The muscular brother pulled her away.

“You have something of mine,” Hilda screamed as she was dragged away. “It’s mine.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Unusual Interrogation

Ephraim Silver was in a small dark room with one of the brothers, a minor artifex. The thin-faced man was in charge of recording the interrogation about to take place in the next broom. In there, Hilda Ashman was sitting on a padded bench, her knees drawn up.

Brother Loomis had asked him to be here, had wanted him to see what the Domus Durum was up against.

All Silver could see was a small, almost childlike woman, with a mass of curly red hair pulled into a braid that ran down her back. Her eyes were lowered, but the day before in the depot her angry eyes had pierced through him. And her voice had been firm.

She reminded him very much of his mother back on Pil. You would look at her and think her as frail as a flower. But try and break a rule – sneak out at night, hide a bad grade, drink beer at fourteen – and she became steel. Silver figured his mother was match for any brother, except Loomis, of course.

But right now, this Hilda Ashman looked very afraid and vulnerable. Silver found himself gripping the arms of his chair as her cell door opened and Loomis entered. She startled, then stretched out her legs and stood up.

The minor artifex turned up the volume.

“We have much to discuss, my child,” said the Grand Regimen. His voice was soft.

The woman was silent.

“I know who you really are, Hilda Ashman. You think the principles you have learned are truth. But they are lies. You think your mission is beneficial. But it is dangerous to all decent people.”

“Please,” said Hilda, “I have no idea what you are talking about. My principles are pretty run of the mill and I’m not on any mission.”

“Don’t play your games with me, woman,” barked Loomis suddenly. “You’re a Weaver and I know it.”

“Look, there must be another person named Hilda Ashman that you want. I don’t even know what a Weaver is.”

Silver began to feel uncomfortable. This tiny woman with her arms wrapped tightly around herself was obviously distressed. And unless she was an incredible actress, she was clueless about the Weavers. Silver had only a vague knowledge of them garnered from conversations with some of the younger, more talkative brothers.

The Weavers were a group of women who were, for lack of a better word, witches. They supposedly had magical powers, but this seemed ridiculous to Silver. Whatever they were, Brother Loomis hated them.

“You grandmother was a sorceress of the highest level. She was a treacherous viper.”

“My grandmother is a fragile, old woman who would never hurt any living creature.”

“Was,” said the old man.

“Was? What do you mean?” As realization dawned, a look of horror emerged on Hilda Ashman’s face.

“Yes, Beatrix Bluestar is dead.” He spat out each word.

“No, no, no.” Hilda sank back onto the bench. The resolution on the screen wasn’t very good, but Silver was sure tears were streaming down her face.

Brother Loomis had said she would not be harmed. Silver thought that technically this was not being harmed, but it was cruel. The Grand Regimen looked directly into the camera and made a motion lowering his hand. The minor artifex turned the volume down so there was silence.

“Why are you doing that?”

“I imagine that Brother Loomis is trying to extract sensitive information from the witch that we don’t need to know. “

Silver was trying to remember the artifex’s name. Ximen? He mulled over this but then movement on the screen caught his eye.

Brother Loomis had come closer to the woman. He looked enraged and kept pointing at her. Her face was blank. He clearly wasn’t evulsing any information from her. Silver was relieved this wasn’t like some interrogations he’d heard about. Some whispered that there were instruments, pain-giving instruments, that made extraction swift but terrible. He’d never seen any of these things but assumed they were real.

After all hadn’t he been given the devise in his glove that was supposed to make his apprehension of the woman easy? It had been. Or maybe it had been because she was a small, weak woman and he was thug towering over her?

Then something happened that shocked him and Brother Ximen.

Brother Loomis was very close to Hilda Ashman, his hands tensed as if to grab at her. But she was no longer cowering. She stood erect, glaring at him. She cast a fierce look at the camera and began to speak.

Silver could not read lips, but she seemed to be repeating the same word over and over again. Her face was transformed and focused like the brothers chanting their devotions. She placed her palms together. Now Brother Loomis was the one who looked scared. He took a step back.

She faced her palms toward him and moved her hands forward as if she were pushing him away. She never actually touched him. Nevertheless, the old man went flying across the room, hitting the back wall and sliding down to the floor.

Hilda Ashman stood there hands on hips. She was still as pandemonium broke loose around her. Several burly brothers burst into the room. Silver ran there too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dream Weaver

Hilda was dreaming. She was walking through a forest. It was neither day nor night. Rather an unearthly light filtered down through the branches illuminating a mossy path ahead of her. On either side, stained glass windows hung in the air, glowing eerily as if candles burned behind them.

She looked at one. It depicted a man in a black robe, his hands raised in celebration. Another man lay before him. The robed man had one foot pressed against the head of the fallen man.

A breeze blew around her playfully. It carried the scent of soap. She looked behind her to see her kidnapper. He also wore a black robe and those black leather gloves. He reached out to her and Hilda backed away. His expression was not angry or threatening, but sad and pleading.

She turned away from him and – as only happens in dreams – she ran forward achingly slowly, as did her pursuer. Something at the end of the path was drawing her. Each step was bringing her to something strange and new, yet also familiar.

Then Hilda was in the meadow next to her home. Beatrix was standing there, arms outstretched. Her eyes were clear and her thick white hair was piled high in a bun. She stood tall and straight. This was the woman Hilda remembered from her childhood and she embraced her.

“Do you see the amulet?” said her grandmother looking up into the dark sky. Instead of the moon, Hilda saw her amulet. She nodded.

“My child can you see and speak with it? Do you remember your true name?”

Hilda nodded again.

“It is your legacy. But for now you must keep it a secret.”

Suddenly Hilda felt another presence behind her. She did not have to turn; she knew it was her kidnapper.

“What about him?” Hilda asked.

Her grandmother looked past her, a small smile on her face. “I don’t know. You will have to find out what his part is.”

Beatrix began to shimmer, then glow brighter and brighter. A strong wind surrounded the two of them. Hilda wanted to ask more questions but her voice was gone. Her grandmother was metamorphosed into a whirling column of light which suddenly exploded out!

With a jolt Hilda awoke. Her heart beat like a hammer.

As she sat up the details of her kidnapping came flooding back. Her hand dug into her pocket but her amulet was gone.

She took a look at her surroundings. She was in a room that was empty except for the padded bench on which she’d been sleeping. Light from a small fixture on the ceiling revealed nothing but drab grey walls. And a door. The door had a tiny window near the top with thick smoked glass.

Hilda didn’t need to try the knob. She knew it was locked.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going out in a Blaze of Glory

The woman whom Hilda had hired to care for her grandmother was a stranger in town. That was an oddity. No one moved to the sleep little farm town. Hardly anyone visited. She had told the shopkeeper Mr. Bevins that she had cousins in a nearby town, when she came to put up a “job wanted” note up on his bulletin board.

Hilda had entered Standard Wares just as Mrs. Seawell was clicking the last bit of information into the electronic wall. The grey-haired woman had struck up a conversation and Hilda had felt an immediate kinship.

Mrs. Seawell was tall and big-boned. She wore her hair in a tight bun but curling wisps of it were always escaping. Aside from this aberrance in her appearance, she was scrupulously clean and radiated a quiet authority and order.

Hilda had hired her on the spot, not even bothering to check her references – which was very unlike her.

Now the woman bustled about the cottage cleaning and humming. Hilda was not the most stringent housekeeper. But Mrs. Seawell was wiping windowpanes, dusting rafters and washing every cup and saucer. The house was prepared as if for an important event.

Cleaning done, Mrs. Seawell brought a glass of cold water into the bedroom.

“Here you are. I thought you’d like something to drink.” She placed the glass in the gnarled hands of the old blind woman and then sat on a stool near the bed. “Would you like anything else?”

“It is you, Tamara, isn’t it?” she asked.

“Yes, Beatrix, dearie, it’s me.”

“Oh, I’m so glad. I hoped you would be the one to come.”

“It took the girl long enough to leave. I thought I’d be too late.”

“Yes, I know, Tam, Hilda is very attached to me. I thought I might have to order her to go see her sister. We have very little time now.”

Beatrix was beginning to sweat profusely. Tamara Seawell got a basin and cloth and began to bath her hands and feet with cool water.

“Beatrix, I have to make a report. What do you want me to tell them?”

Hilda’s grandmother sighed. “They aren’t going to be pleased. Tell them I’ve taught her all her lessons. She is talented and discreet. There have been no suspicions in the town. I gave her the amulet and told her her special name.”

“That’s it?” Tamara dropped the cloth into the basin with a splash. “She has a duty to fulfill. She needs to know that.”

“Tam, please. I was very direct with her mother and we all know how that turned out. But I have prepared…”

She had to stop speaking. Her body began to tremble. Her teeth chattered. Slowly and with some difficulty Beatrix composed herself.

“I have prepared something. I have set a very specific dream sequence in motion. She will gently come to understand who she is and what she must do. The amulet will help her and those twins of Giselle’s, my great granddaughters, are strong in our blood. They are only children but they can help her, too.”

Mrs. Seawell spread a white gossamer sheet onto half the bed and then carefully lifted Beatrix onto it.

“I bet that feels cool and clean. That’s good, you’ve stopped trembling. You’re right, they won’t be pleased. But Viv will see her. I hope she’s as talented as you say. She’s needed. Things have gotten bad, Beatrix. You’ve been isolated here.”

“Please, please, give her some time. Let her discover it for herself.”

“I will advise them to wait. But I can’t promise anything. They don’t really listen to me. Anyway…”

“What Tamara? There’s something else. I can feel a troubling presence near, but I can’t see it clearly. My physical eyes stopped working long ago. But now my inner sight is fading too.”

“I hate to even say it…but there’s a Domus Durum cruiser orbiting this planet.”

“No, no,” Beatrix cried. “They can’t know about her. You know how careful we have been.”

“It may mean nothing,” said Mrs. Seawell trying to soothe her.”They are having one of their stupid rallies today in your capital city.”

“Is Loomis with them?”

“Yes,” whispered Tamara.

“Oh this is terrible. I will never forgive myself. But she will be safe when she gets to Giselle’s. You’ll see to that, won’t you?” And she began to shiver again and then to shake violently.

“I’ll see to everything, dearie, don’t worry. It’s your time now. Don’t fight it. I’m here with you.” She held out her hand. Beatrix grasped it tightly.

The shaking became a rhythmic rippling of her flesh. Her breathing slowed and grew deeper. Intense heat began to radiate from her. Soon she was actually glowing. A wind blew up whipping Mrs. Seawell’s errant curls. It was a whirlwind erupting from Beatrix’s body. A low rumble barely in the audible range vibrated through the room

Beatrix now seemed to be composed of fiery spots of light, her eyes shining like twin stars. She let out one last breath and Tamara was sure she heard the word farewell. And then everything was still. Beatrix’s body had collapsed in on itself.

Her final caretaker looked down at the gossamer sheet and saw her friend was now a vague outline of fine white ash. She gathered up the sheet into a neat package.

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Late that night, Mrs. Seawell went into the meadow next to the house and shook out the sheet under the light of the moon. The winds carried the remains of Beatrix Bluestar high into the sky. According to Beatrix’s beliefs her spirit had already gone to the Creator, the being that was both Mother and Father, to join the great celestial adventure after death.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Domus Durum

Ephraim Silver watched as the door of the small shuttlecraft opened. A burly Auxilium in plain black robes pulled out the still unconscious form of Hilda Ashman and slung her over his shoulder. There was only dim lighting in the spaceliner’s shuttle bay; he could see the two disappear through a small door that opened and closed silently.

Silver still held Hilda’s satchel. He was about to exit the vehicle himself when a sliver of metal on the carpeted floor caught his eye. He reached down and retrieved a piece of jewelry, a round pendant on a chain. He slipped it into his inner jacket pocket. Then he got out and approached a large set of double doors.

On these doors was the crest of the Domus Durum, the organization that was Silver’s present employer – a square enclosing a raven with a bolt of lightning in its beak. The intricately carved bird split in two as he walked into the main corridor which ran the length of the ship

The day-night schedule was synchronized with the capital city of the planet they were orbiting. It was late but Silver could still hear the new initiates in one of the chambers chanting the lessons of the brotherhood. It was a constant sound that, in truth, irritated Silver to no end.

Oh how far I have strayed from my family’s world, he thought.

For countless generations the Silvers had been farmers – sometimes poor, more often wealthy – but always working the land. Producing. Creating.

It had seemed so boring to Ephraim. At eighteen he had left home to join the military. Although he knew it had broken his father’s heart, the older man had said it was an honorable and acceptable choice. Rising through the ranks of the Concordance Marines, had seem dozens of worlds and the many ways they fought. Most of the conflicts were minor squabbles with little serious combat. The worlds of the Concordance were relatively peaceful.

But the last mission had been profoundly different; the warring groups the marines were to keep apart were extremely violent. Silver had made a disastrous choice. So many dead. So much blood, it was all he could smell. A tribunal found him blameless. But it didn’t matter, no one trusted him. He was a tainted commander.

And he didn’t even trust himself. No document of pardon could erase the vision of that battlefield. It was always with him. And every night sleep would bring him right back to it. It was as if the insides of his eyelids were painted with fire and smoke and blood.

He resigned his commission and disappeared. He ran as far as he could and one day found himself at the doors of a Domus Durum chapter house. The brothers had welcomed him with open arms. After hearing his story they didn’t pull away in horror or even flinch at the gory details. Instead of admonishment they told him he was brave and good and capable. They gave him sanctuary.

The Domus Durum had come into being some thirty years before. Its origins were a bit of a mystery. Brother Loomis the founder and Grand Regimen said he wanted to bring order to confusing times. He looked at the Concordance and saw the worlds on the brink of social and civil chaos. With its hundreds of worlds and their many cultures, there was always some friction between groups. Silver had always thought the fact that there hadn’t been a major war in over two hundred years was a sign of strength.

But Brother Loomis did not, he said he saw fault lines appearing in the foundation of the Concordance and only through the strict moral code and obedience to the Domus Durum could humanity be saved.

He’s preached this lesson to anyone who would listen and attracted a ragtag group of disenfranchised men. Women, he said, needed to be treated with respect but were not part of the solution. Full members were expected to offer constant service, an adherence to an almost ascetic existence and complete obedience to the brotherhood.

After forty years, he had slowly painstakingly gained a following of tens of thousands, many of whom were wealthy and influential

When he first arrived, a broken man, Silver had been attracted to the code and spirit of the group with its imperial Roman argot, and enticing message. We are virtuous and strong and we will bring true concordance to the worlds. The hardness and purity of the brothers impressed him. His own family seemed so soft in comparison.

And the brotherhood gave him a sense of purpose. Although, he wasn’t a brother, he’d become their special messenger, conveying important, if cryptic, messages. And he had visited the halls of power in the most cosmopolitan cities of the known galaxy.

It was obvious the Domus Durum was gaining real political power. He should feel pride; instead Silver’s heart was torn. He knew of many good works the brotherhood was responsible for – hospitals and schools in poor villages, funds for soldiers’ widows and orphans. At the same time he had begun to see cracks in the apparent diamond fa├žade. Some members high in the hierarchy seemed to live lives of far greater luxury than those in the lower ranks.

Ephraim Silver stood in the shadowy hall of a sleek spaceliner and tried to imagine himself standing in a field on his parent’s farm on the planet Pil. He tried to hear the wind rushing through the tall stalks of wheat and barley. All he could hear was the chanting of the initiates. Were his parents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters weak? Was he strong?

How could he think of himself as strong when his latest “vital” mission had been to abduct a defenseless woman? How could she be the “terrible threat” Brother Loomis had described.

“Ah, Ephraim,” said a soft, raspy voice behind him. Silver turned to see the aged slightly bent figure of Brother Loomis. “You performed a great service flawlessly. Thank You.”

“It was easy,” said Silver. She barely resisted. I was surprised.”

“Well, those bits of technology – yes, I’ll take them now, thank you – disarmed her. She is quite dangerous, believe me.”

Silver pulled off his gloves. He stretched out his fingers and looked at the thin strips of metal lightly glued to the inside of each finger. He carefully peeled them off and placed them in Brother Loomis’s upturned palm.

The old man grasped Silver’s large hand between his two gnarled ones. Silver felt a chill, perhaps an effect of the tiny machines.

“You are a good man, Ephraim, never doubt that. You should rest now.” The old man turned down the gloomy corridor.

“Sir, what will happen to her, the woman?”

“Don’t worry about that. Her threat will be neutralized, but she will not be harmed.”

Brother Loomis took a few steps and then stopped. He looked up, his head cocked to one side as if listening intently. Silver heard nothing.

“Ah,” said the head of the Domus Durum, more to himself than to Silver, “Yet another enemy is gone. What a good day this has been.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kidnapped

Hilda was waiting at the bus depot for the transport which would take her to the spaceport. Giselle had been giddy when she spoke with her sister and immediately sent her money for the ticket. The waiting area was decrepit and dusty. It was open on three sides with an extra long awning to protect passengers from the sun. There was no breeze today to relieve the heat. It was always hot here, and humid. Crops grew well, but people seemed to stagnate.
In the far corner a thin man in a wrinkled yellowed shirt sat behind a desk. He was there to check tickets but seemed truly surprised when Hilda gave him her transport number.
“Going to the capital? Are you going to the rally?” he’d asked her and then quickly added. “No, I guess you’re not.”
She told him she was going to the spaceport and then sat on a bench, the only person in the depot. Her oldest friend Stella had driven her, a two hour trip with three of her five children in the back seat of her old truck. Stella had alternately chatted and scolded the whole way there.
“Going to visit Giselle, huh? That’s nice I guess … Phineas, be quiet, I have had it with you today ... Don’t know why she left, though. Going all the way to Terra Nova … Charan stop kicking your sister … There were perfectly nice men for her to marry here, you know … Trista, stop crying, you’re not hurt … Hilda, you be careful out there.”
Hilda had nodded but she hadn’t really been listening. There were too many thoughts swirling in her mind, unsettling thoughts. She fingered the necklace her grandmother had given just before she departed. She’d never seen it before and she was so sure she knew every item in their house. Where had the old woman been hiding it all these years?
The pendant was a thick silver disk on a silver chain. There were two small, flat, inlaid jewels. They were multi-hued and iridescent, changing as the light shifted during the drive.
Beatrix had put it into her hand and then motioned for her to come closer. She whispered one sentence into her ear, a shocking set of words which didn’t make sense. What could her grandmother have meant? She knew she was…
“Hilda Ashman?” a male voice asked.
Hilda looked up to see a tall man with short dark hair. His eyes were intense. He neither smiled nor frowned.
“That’s me.”
“You need to come with me.”
“Is there a problem with my ticket?” she asked. He said nothing but reached out for her.
Hilda tried to sink into the chair but his hand clamped onto her upper arm. Without hurting her, he pulled her up to her feet. He was a full head taller than her. Her satchel was in his left hand and they were walking. All this had happened in a few seconds.
Hilda wanted to scream, “Let go of me!” She wanted to ask him who he was and what was going on, but her voice was lost. She felt an unaccustomed chill in her muscles. Although it was a steamy day she began to shiver. She looked back but the thin clerk was gone.
They were almost out of the depot when the man asked, “Do you have a coat?”
She stared at him in disbelief. He was wearing a dark blue suit and black leather gloves. She was thinking, “Are you kidding, a coat?” But she could only whisper, “What is going on?”
Hilda’s mind was racing. Teachers and old aunts always warned about strange men attacking. She remembered that they said she should do anything not to be taken away. She took a deep breath and then collapsed to the ground, grabbing the legs of one of the benches. The man was not expecting this and momentarily lost hold of her. She began to scurry away, but almost immediately felt an icy grip on her ankle.
Again he pulled her up. She was now on her tip toes. Their faces were very close.
“Don’t make this hard,” he hissed between clenched teeth. “I don’t like doing this, but it’s my job.” The man smelled good – like incense and soap and the forest.
Then Hilda smelled something else, a chemical. He had put down her satchel and taken a small metal cylinder from his pocket. He turned his face and pressed a button. A tiny cloud of gas emitted from a pin hole.
Hilda tried not to breathe but couldn’t stop herself. She felt woozy and could barely walk. She leaned heavily on the man who was leading her away from the depot. Her vision and her consciousness were fading. The last thing Hilda remembered was being slid into the back seat of a dark vehicle. She felt it rushing forward. Then everything went black but for a moment she could still smell incense, soap and the forest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And her Destiny Begins

Hilda Ashman’s heart ached from loneliness. She felt that she was stuck in the most forgotten corner of the least interesting planet in the galaxy. As much as she loved her grandmother, the years of caring for her alone had begun to wear her out. Lately she had begun to find strands of silver in her bright red hair and thought she might just lie down and die next to the 86 year old Beatrix Bluestar.
The truth was that Hilda was in a protected corner of the most hidden planet in the galaxy. And though her eyes were milky white with blindness and there were only a few hairs on her head, Beatrix was using her incredible inner strength to keep her granddaughter shielded from the rest of the world.
But that inner strength had begun to ebb. Beatrix knew she could not maintain the concealment nor should she keep Hilda with her forever. There was exciting, dangerous, important work for Hilda to do.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Hilda smoothed the coverlet over her grandmother. It was early morning and the old woman had had a bad night. Sweating, slipping in and out of sleep, muttering. She was in a deep, peaceful sleep now. Hilda collapsed into a chair beside the bed and watched the first rays of sun shine through the curtains. There were two small succulent plants on the sill in bright blue pots.
Next to the window was a small dresser with the few articles of clothing, Beatrix still owned. Above it on the wall hung a mirror and next to it a framed picture of Hilda, her sister Giselle and their mother Raphaela. Near the door were another wooden chair and a low table full of medicine bottles.
Hilda could name every item in this house, in which she grew up. There wasn’t a shelf, corner or drawer that was unknown. The meadow next to the stone dwelling was also as familiar as the back of her hand. The small orange wildflowers were as numerous as the freckles that spread out across her hands and up her arms.
The familiarity, as well as the constant nursing duties, was draining the life out of her.
“Hilda, you are the only one left,” whispered Beatrix, suddenly awake. “You must be so sick of me.”
Hilda hated it when her grandmother seemed to be reading her mind.
“Grandma, I take care of you because I love you. You know that.”
“Yes, I do. But it isn’t good for you. You’re 26; you need to get on with your life.”
“I’ve never needed anything more than … this town, this place. Have I ever complained?
“You could go visit your sister. Just a short visit. Hire some nice capable woman to take care of me. A little vacation for you?”
Beatrix pulled a cramped hand from under the coverlet. Hilda took it in her own pale, long-fingered hands. The old woman’s touch was warm. Did she have a fever?
“I couldn’t do that. What if you…”
Beatrix grunted. “What? What if I died while you were gone? Oh, child, I know you love me. You know I love you. We have had many important conversations. I have nothing left to give you. Go see Giselle. I know you want to.”
Hilda blushed. Blind – or deaf and dumb for that matter – her grandmother always knew how she felt. The sun had fully risen filling the room with light. She wondered what sunrises on other planets looked like. What was morning like in New Amsterdam, the capital city of Terra Nova, where Giselle lived.
Giselle. Fate had chosen a much grander life for her. No, she had created her own fate, left this planet, married well and lived in the highest penthouse in the most luxurious city in the galaxy. She had twin daughters, Elspeth and Cressida, about eleven. Hilda had only seen pictures of them, pale blonde hair and big blue eyes – just like their mother.
Hilda wasn’t ugly. She just wasn’t the dazzling beauty that Giselle was. She was small, thin and angular. She had bright red – almost orange – hair, and none of the curves that graced her sister’s body. And inside she was beginning to feel her soul becoming hard and angular. There were far too many sharp points wounding her heart. Nothing soft was left.
A breeze lifted the old gauze curtain. For a moment it transformed it into a fantastical undulating shape, a beckoning hand.
“OK, Grandma,” said Giselle standing up. “I’ll visit Giselle. Now you get some sleep.”
She kissed the woman’s forehead. It was cool and dry now. Beatrix smiled sweetly up at her.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
That night, in her own bed, Hilda made lists. There was a packing list. That one was short. She had just a few outfits, a journal and a picture album. No jewelry or fancy clothes, because there were few reasons to get dressed up in her town. It was really just a collection of farms, a few shops and a school. Not even a theater. And no one seemed to mind. Everyone had been shocked and confused when Giselle had left, as if there were no world outside their own.
And there was the list of Beatrix’s medicines and favorite foods for the hired woman. Mr. Bevins said that Mrs. Seawell was the second cousin of the first grade teacher from the next town over. He didn’t really know her but she seemed nice enough and was looking for work. And as soon as Hilda had met her she felt as if she had known the woman all her life. She was sure her grandmother would be safe with her.
And now with moonlight pouring through her window, Hilda was contemplating other moons circling other worlds. She drifted into a sleep that was filled with dreams of excitement and danger and importance.