Ordovicia


They could not be beaten; they prepared for violence with unfathomable weapons that could kill one or twenty, or set fire to a roof, or extinguish a torch. Many men threw themselves at the invaders only to be piled in heaps on the ground. The farming tools raised against these would be conquerors were swiftly broken. A young boy, Jasper, watched his father die. His mother threw herself at his killer. Their bodies lay together in a posture mocking intimacy.

Some men moved to burn their homes and fields, that they not fall into enemy hands. Attempts, easily thwarted by technology and ultimately fruitless. It could not be understood by those that put their hearts and minds into seeds and soil, how the helmeted ones had seized control so quickly.

It was over. The penalty for the Wolins opposition was the removal of the the thumb from the left hand of every male under the age of adulthood and the slaughter of the keepers of the culture: the parents of parents. Jasper stood, flanked by other boys his own age, some younger. Some tried to flee. “Run, Run” corralled parents encourage, but none escaped.

Jasper did not pull away. He did not hide or curl over his fist. Jasper stood and held out his hand. The box device slid on and held at the wrist. He did not flinch, but he could not take a breath. His thumb, visible threw a small window, locked his attention. The receptacle for refuse was clear to him. The eyes of the operator regarded him, and he looked away from where his hand was held. The eyes conveyed a moment of respect, then glanced at the machine. A needle stuck his hand, feeling was lost; something clicked, his thumb fell into the designated container; extreme heat, accompanied by a red glow. This was when the other boys had fallen limp and been carried off. The pressure on his wrist subsided and he pulled his hand away holding it in front of his face. A round white bandage sealed his skin, covering the nub of where his thumb had been. Another of the helmeted strangers placed a hand on his back and guided him to a strange structure that smelled of food but not of fire. A bowl of porridge was placed in front of him. “Eeeat” The helmeted one spoke. He reached for the spoon and his hand slid past. The challenges of his new physicality became evident.

 

Windy Waters held her fathers hand. As they walked, she rubbed the scarred nub of her fathers knuckle with her own thumb. She loved time with her father, they were headed home while mother finished up at the shop. Like all women of her generation Windy’s mother was educated in the tally machines of the AvanCadre and allowed to conduct commerce. All of Windy's schoolmates, boys and girls, were taught the numbers of the AvanCadre. Father was not, all men of his generation were restricted to physical labor. Some times this made Windy sad; Father could not help her with her school tallies, she had to ask her mother for help.

Once, mother had sought to teach Father tallies, and Windy had sat side by side with Father while Mother checked their equations. It had not lasted. It hurt her when he had thrown the charcoal and papers and hollered at mother. Windy knew It had made mother sad too; she could always see through her mother’s anger. Father could not. Especially when blinded by his own frustrations. From her bed that night she had heard her parents in their bed; Father’s soft apologies and sobs, Mother’s comforting whispers, late in the night the sounds of them joining. It was then that she could close her eyes to sleep knowing her family would be whole in the morning.

When they reached the living assembly Father went straight to the hygiene module. He worked hard as a cultivator and often came home with much of the field on him. Windy would review her classwork until mother arrived home from the shop.

Sometimes mother would repeat rumors she had heard at work during dinner. Father indulged in rumoring a little less often; in the fields, cultivators had little time for socializing, or so he said.

Tonight they were having bazleaf and land bird for dinner. Father was a very good cook; Windy enjoyed his food. She knew Mother did too; she would joke with other commerce women that it was the reason her marriage was happy.

Mother arrived at the living assembly a little later than usual. Seeing Windy doing her classwork, she smiled. Touching her daughters shoulder, Mother proceeded to the preprectory.

“Breeze, you are home!”

“It took a while to finish up the tallies. What can I do to help.” Windy new the silence that proceeded was kissing. There was always more kissing when Mother was late.

Dinner was good. Father seemed happy with it, mother too.

“If bazleaf is mature, there must be shellcrawlers,” Mother inquired when she returned to the table from clearing the plates. “Don’t you trap them when they come to eat the leaves?” Mother looked forward to broiled shellcrawlers, when the season approached. Father would trap them with fermentquid placed out around the bazleaf stocks. Windy disliked prying the meat from the shells, so he prepare them special for Mother.

“I am sorry to say they have banned the practice. What crawlers we had they’ve taken, and they’ve put out contraptions to keep them from the fields.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear.”

“Maybe one of your trading women can find you some shellcrawlers from the sea.”