is this microphone on?


Sunday, April 25, 2032. Nisana’s diary, page 17.

It rained for the first time this year today. When the first drops fell like wet and cold bullets piercing the ground, those outside with their woven baskets stopped in utter confusion as they turned their gazes to the sky. Sweet winter toddlers who had never experienced such a thing either yelped and hid behind their mothers’ legs or asked their fathers why the sky was crying.

For those like me, we had a wide variety of reactions to this sudden burst of moisture. Some of us stayed inside and reveled in the miracle that was the staying of the tap water that we’d used to get through the winter drought. Those who were both old and healthy enough to work the fields carved out a space among the grains and beans and revived snippets of both extinct and dying dances from before our time. Sure, their feet stumbled all over the place since the grace of previous generations had all but been bred out of us, but the smiles on their faces as the drops dampened their up plucked brows was genuine. A handful from the crazy house dared to step outside onto the porch in their ghostlike white dresses and turn their scarred arms up to the sky so that they could feel something as well. Their faces remained stony, though, and the ghosts persisted as the downpour began and the rest of the villagers retreated outside.

My older brother also had his bridging ceremony today in between bursts of moisture from God’s armpit in the sky. It would have been a much bigger deal, seeing as he received the ID card that will allow him to leave this community safely, but the damn rain had to go and take all of the glory of his birthday away from him.

To the outside world, he is now Brigid Boutros, but to this little family of mine, he will always be Loreto Stepniewska. The persona of Brigid will keep my brother safe from the hawks that lurk outside this city with the intention of sucking kids into the technological wastelands of what lays beyond the horizon. Three this year have already made a deal with the devil and traded away their security for a life of ease and coddling. A few of those who have graduated and found themselves in the job of relaying news and critical medicines back and forth between the two worlds report without fail that the kids from previous years who have left before their time ended up  permanently stuck in the welfare system.

Mother rarely talked about his past, and on the few occasions that he did, it was when the teenagers as a whole grew restless. In all of the stories that Mother told me as he brushed my hair in front of the fire at evening- the sparks always cackled at the sound of his voice- the cities over the horizon were always painted as places of heartbreak and destruction. Parents prayed at night to gods of a thousand different names that their children wouldn’t be the next ones to disappear while on their route to the bus stop. Students constantly found seeds of inaccurate information planted among miswordings in their textbooks, but they kept their mouths shut because the last time someone proved a teacher wrong, they went missing like a puff of smoke dissipating into the sky.

And, unfortunately for those of you still listening, that is what I must do now. Good night, and good luck until next time we speak again. I hope that it will be on a much more positive note.


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