Thursday, October 29, 2015

At First, I was Afraid

  My name is Rose Reeve the Third, and this is the one-hundred and thirty-first day of my exile. At first, I was afraid. Of my gift, of the world, of these wild places I now call home. This is no longer the case. I discovered my gift while tending my garden after a long day's work. My petunias had been wilting, not enough sun I think. I reached out to them, and when I touched them, they sprang back to life. Their colour returned, and even though they were out of season, they began to bloom. I knew instantly that this was not some metaphorical green thumb, but the real thing.
Now, I have always been an avid gardener. I've put as many hours into flower beds as many have into their jobs. Despite my best efforts, many varieties of plants simply don't grow on this planet. Now that I had this ability, I had the confidence to plant seeds I would have otherwise saved for future generations. Lily and Morning Glory, Lotus and Orchid, my little flower garden had more colours than all the rest of the settlement. That was when I noticed side effects. I could smell the flowers at a distance, and more richly than ever before. I could tell what neighbors were cooking from the street, and even recognize them without sight. Again I was afraid, but there seemed to be no harm in it.
Soon, my neighbors began to suspect something had changed. I was reorganizing the flowers around how they smelled, creating a discordant mix of colours. To the ungifted, it seemed like I might be slipping. So, fearing for my health, they began to pay closer attention to my behavior, and so discovered my gift. I was turned over to the Overseer, Fred did not hesitate to exile me, even for all my social standing. Some would say he wanted my power as Judge of the town, but I think he was really just afraid and trying to maintain control of the world around him.

Now I am in the wilds. At first, I was afraid. Now, I have turned these untamed wilds into a fresh garden, giving me all the food and shelter I have ever needed. Still, I find myself gravitating towards the settlement from time to time, as I did today, and I saw the most particular sight. A boy, no more than fifteen, was exiled from the settlement as I was. Christopher Williams, the Overseer called him in his most pompous voice, a boy with an unnatural power. I know that there were others before me; the captain and many others left of their own volition, and I have seen many more beside. He was the first I saw so young, so afraid. I have lain out a path for him now: fruit that can be eaten, berries that can be picked. Soon, I will help you to see your gifts a strength; soon I will help you to say as I have. At first, I was afraid.
   Author's Note:  I wrote this as part of a series of short fiction stories about a year ago, and must apologize for only now uploading them.  


“Thank you for reporting this to me, Constable Wilkens, I'll head down to the Williams residence to confirm this straight away.”  The Overseer terminated communication.  Another report, this was the fourth one of the year.  It had been getting worse.  If the beacons they'd left hadn't been damaged, he'd have reported the world as hazardous to prevent another ship from being launched.  Now it was too late, they'd be here in a year.  All he could do was maintain order and hope that the settlement could be salvaged.  Maybe there'd be scientists who could study these phenomena and find a solution, but he doubted it.  The plan, as explained to him by the his predecessor, Captain O'Malley, was to send families and more supplies on the second ship.  All of the research personnel on their ship had died or begun manifesting strange abilities.  When the Captain had begun experiencing unnatural qualities, he entered a self-imposed exile, and took many of the researchers into the wilds to prevent contamination of the rest of the populace.
It hadn't worked.
And now the Overseer found himself trying to enforce the last set of orders he'd had.  Persons manifesting unnatural abilities were exiled.  It was hoped that they would survive, but it was primarily to prevent whatever was causing the phenomena from spreading.  He'd had to take on much of these responsibilities himself.  Chief Constable Kidd had grown soft, left to his own devices he'd have kept the aberrations in the settlement.  Her Grace, Lady Rose had opposed the measure vocally in council meetings.  It was a relief when her neighbors reported seeing some sort of unnatural activity in her garden.  And they were hardly alone; many of the settlement's more active, forthright members were of the opinion that the exiles were not making any difference.  But he was the Overseer, and it was his job to look out for his people.  Even if that meant he'd have to exile a child.

“Mrs. Williams.  Would you mind if I came inside?”  The Williams residence was simple, sparsely decorated, but well maintained.
“Of course, is something the matter?”  Mrs Williams was much like the house, plain and undecorated.  She clearly worked hard, and was a valued, if not important, member of the community.  The overseer took no pleasure in what he would have to do.
“There have been some concerning reports about your son.  I was hoping I might be able to talk to him about it, and sort out the truth of the matter.”  He meant what he said, but it was recited like protocol.  Mrs. Williams gestured towards the hall.
“He's in his room.  What seems to be the matter?  Has he been in any trouble?”
“Constable Wilkens reported that..”  He paused, hearing boots on the front steps.
“Came as soon as I could sir.”  Wilkens was a good lad, did his job well.  He'd brought a second constable with him.
“Thank you.  As I was saying, Constable Wilkens reported that he saw your son with some floating rocks behind Utility Shed Three yesterday after school.  Now, I don't know that its true, but we all have to be vigilant in our responsibilities, and I am no exception.”  He felt like a politician courting voters.  But he was likely about to take a child from his mother, the least he could do was be polite about it.
“Oh.  Well, I'm sure that Constable Wilkens was mistaken; m-my son has never done anything of the sort.”  Replied the apron-clad woman, voice less confident than her posture.  “But I don't want to keep you from doing your job.”  She began to lead them down the hall.  “Chris, the Overseer is here asking about...”  She opened the door.  The Overseer came into view just in time to see the boy sitting on the floor, a single rock floating before his face.  He was so young, younger than any of the others by at least a decade.  “..flying rocks.  Oh Chris!”  She cried out, slumping down beside the door.  The constables stepped over her as the boy tried to run.  The Overseer stepped back and let them cuff the boy, administering his rights with practiced precision.  It was a pity, so young.

“Christopher Williams, by my authority as the Overseer, acting in the interest of the safety and well-being of the colony, you are hereby Exiled to the untamed lands.  May your unnatural power help you survive.”  The Overseer pronounced the sentence with finality.  There had been no trial.  He was caught red-handed and there were four witnesses, himself included.  It was not fair, but it was necessary.  Chief Constable Kidd took the boy's chains off and muttered something to him, advice?  He did not know what the soft old man said, only that it did nothing to console the poor boy.
As the two constable walked the boy to the gate, much of the town standing by, the Overseer began to wonder whether or not exile would make any difference in stemming the tide of unnatural activity.  What if it wasn't a disease?  The boy had no direct contact with any of the other exiles; it couldn't have been transmitted to him unless it were simply present in the world itself.  He stared at the boy as he pondered this realization, afraid of what it might portend for the whole settlement.  No, this was not the end of the exiles.  Things would only get worse from here.  He'd have to enforce stronger order: curfews, stronger constabulary presence, and he'd have to find a reason to replace Kidd with someone willing to do the job, whatever the cost.  They'd hate him for it; he knew that.  But what sort of Overseer would he be if he didn't watch over his people?

Author's Note:  I wrote this as part of a series of short fiction stories about a year ago, and must apologize for only now uploading them.


  “You say you saw Christopher Williams, moving rocks behind Utility Shed Three before the incident?” Constable Kidd was an imposing man; had been his whole life. He could still remember when they had first landed here, building the wall, and even the first exile. Many folks didn't think that far back, leave history to the greybeards they'd say. Well, he might be grey in the beard but he was still as fit and clever as any of his men and more than most.
“Yes Constable, clear as glass.” The younger constable, Wilkens, had taken off the dark helmets they wore on patrol. Why they needed helmets Kidd did not know, the settlement was a fairly peaceful place. Even before the wall had been built there hadn't been enough dangers to justify wearing the stupid things on patrol. They were clearly meant for combat, not public safety. At least the rest of the armor was fairly comfortable.
“Has the Overseer been told?” He knew the answer before he asked. The Overseer, damnit all now he was doing it, Fred had passed a rule requiring all reports of 'unnatural activity' be directed to him first, before reporting them to the Chief Constable. Edward Kidd did not like that policy one bit. How could the constabulary be expected to dole out fair and balanced justice if things just kept being passed over his head? It was bad enough that the Overseer had taken over the job of Judge when Her Grace had passed away, now he was trying to usurp the authority of the Chief Constable too.
“Of course sir. Rules are rules.” Wilkens was a good kid, and bright too, but he was still too naive to see what was going on. The Overseer was turning the settlement into a personal tyranny, and he was eliminating anyone who could or would oppose him. All this nonsense about 'unnatural activity' was just a front, and Kidd wasn't buying it one bit. Maybe if there were still a few scientists left in the settlement, they could explain some of the odd goings-on. Sure enough, they'd all been found 'committing unnatural acts', and now it was poor little Chris Williams turn.
“Damn. Well, head down there and meet him. I'll get things set up for the exile.” After Her Grace's exile, Chief Constable Kidd was going to keep his head down and his neck in. One child was not worth giving up any chance he had of fixing things. In fact, a proper public exile of a mere child would probably improve his chances of making a few more allies. They'd stop this madness yet.

“Christopher Williams, by my authority as the Overseer, acting in the interest of the safety and well-being of the colony, you are hereby Exiled to the untamed lands. May your unnatural power help you survive.” The greasy man on the podium motioned for the gates to be opened. Kidd and Wilkens stepped up and removed his chains.
“Sorry Chris. Rules are Rules.” He wanted to comfort the kid, but he couldn't shake the feeling that even if he didn't agree with the rules, he was still the one standing there enforcing them like a faceless thug. He and Wilkens, who stayed silent, walked Chris to the gate. The boy was crying, but as the gates began to close Kidd saw something in his eyes. He was determined. That boy was going to survive, and he was going to come back. When he did, they might just need those helmets after all.

Later, in his office, Kidd found himself haunted by that last glance. Chris Williams probably was possessed of some level of power. He was a smart kid, and he'd learn to use it. He needed guidance though, or he'd go down the wrong path and become something dangerous. He should have been allowed to stay, given a place to train his abilities where he could have the support of friends and family. The wilds did things to a man.
“Constable Kidd?” It was Wilkens again. He'd taken off all of his armor and wore only the gray jumpsuit of a civilian. Good, it wasn't another report to file. “Sir? I was thinking.”
“My Pa always said that was a dangerous activity. What can I do for you son?”
“I was just... The boy, Chris Williams, he didn't really do anything wrong, did he?” Wilkens looked pretty broken up about it. You were supposed to try not to take the job personally, that's what they were all told in training. Kidd knew better.
“No son, he didn't. None of 'em did.” Kidd stood up and closed his door. He let down the window blinds, and he poured the junior constable a mug of coffee. “And by jove we're gonna make it up to them.” He held up the mug as a gesture of brotherhood. “Welcome to the resistance.”
Wilkens took the mug and looked up at him with confusion and admiration. Kidd smiled, in his own gristly way. And now there were nine.

Author's Note:  I wrote this as part of a series of short fiction stories about a year ago, and must apologize for only now uploading them.  


Chris glanced around the room cautiously. The steel walls of the prefabricated home that his family had been assigned glared back; their stark faces judging him in silence. Satisfied that he was alone, he drew a small stone from his backpack and sat down in the middle of the room. He'd been able to raise a wide variety of items since it had started a few months ago, but he hadn't had much success controlling it. Sometimes he could move rocks, sometimes he couldn't lift the lint from his own pockets. Perhaps if he just had more time to practice he could get control of this strange new power.
Slowly the rock rose as he focused his attention upon it. He blinked, doing his best not to lose focus again. He could have sworn one of the constables had spotted him after the incident on Monday. No one had said anything, but they'd never said anything before Rose had been exiled either. That's how it was with the Constabulary; everything was fine, and then you were exiled. The rock began to spiral agitatedly as he thought about the kindly Silver-haired woman they'd exiled. Chris quickly resumed his focus on the stone, no point in worrying about Rose; she was probably already dead.
“Chris, the Overseer is here asking about...” His mother opened the door. Chris had been so focused on the rock he hadn't even heard her boots on the hard floors. The rock went perfectly still in mid-air as Chris jerked around to face his mother. “..flying rocks. Oh Chris.” She sobbed as the realization hit her. He scrambled to try and reach her, spouting apologies and explanations. What was he supposed to do? As the Constables stepped past her into the room, the rock fell to the floor, the small clang inaudible over their pronouncements of his Rights and Crimes.

“Christopher Williams, by my authority as the Overseer, acting in the interest of the safety and well-being of the colony, you are hereby Exiled to the untamed lands. May your unnatural power help you survive.” The greasy man on the podium motioned for the gates to be opened. Two Constables in armor stepped up beside him and unclasped his chains.
“Sorry Chris.” The taller constable muttered sympathetically. “Rules are Rules.”
Chris choked back his tears. He had nothing, not even a canteen. They knew he wouldn't survive out there. If he could control it there would be no threat to anyone. A handful of small rocks and dirt rose at his feet, taunting his weakness. He set his mind to proving himself, silent tears falling among the rocks. He could control it; he just needed more time.
They walked him to the gate. A small crowd had assembled around them; a few of them he recognized from school or the farms. A couple seemed to start forward as he passed; maybe they knew it wasn't right, but they were all too afraid to act. Christopher turned to face the overseer as the constables stopped on the inside of the colony's lone gate. And as the gate began to lower, he saw something on the Overseer's face he hadn't expected to see.

Fear of him.  

Author's Note:  I wrote this as part of a series of short fiction stories about a year ago, and must apologize for only now uploading them.