|Ten Minute Tales|
For your entertainment
a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
(except Friday when we have Novel Conversations)
A Future Fairy Tale
The capsule was definitely not as she had ordered. Six robot hands, reacting to her scowling face, deftly manipulated the paint colour; a faint beige became a gleaming gold as known for ever in the architronic records, as HER colour.
‘Don’t let that happen again,' she growled, looking at the screen set high in the glass wall, or to be precise, the phased array optics, that stretched all around her. The screen was impassive but she was sure something responded somewhere. Her hair, shaved short this morning, a necessary weekly task, stood on end, bristled in fact. Dor took off her transparent shape shifting metal gloves and ran a hand through it. She did not approve of these atavistic reminders of an earlier humanity. ‘In fact’, said a voice from the pocket in her uniform, ‘in fact not humanity at all but an animal instinct. There is much evidence in times of stress for an accelerated heartbeat, dilated pupils, and piloerection — the correct scientific name for each contracting muscle creating a shallow depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude…’
Dor clicked her fingers and the voice cut off in mid-sentence. There was a limit to being lectured so early in the morning. Especially the morning designed to appeal to all her senses. Beyond the glass, the real time hologram, a forest was growing, very rapidly and with exactly the right mix of trees. A glimpse of snow on a mountain, a body of water that she had been told in the briefing was known as a loch.
She could see berries and pine cones forming as she watched, thickets crowding together and brambles twining through them, and there were already fallen logs covered in fungi on the forest floor. Soon she would be able to touch the moss, feel the rough bark, the grey spongy lichen and soon she could smell the earth, and taste? Taste what? Her irritation returned. These missions were becoming absurd, but she had no say in where she was sent or asked to do. Not since the unit had broken up when it was overwhelmed by the shock waves that had been caused by the supernovae incinerating that dead star. No one had predicted this, and even though the explosions had been millions of miles away and only lasted a week, the galaxy was thrown off kilter and some planets were sent spinning away and out of the Right Zone, the zone that everyone knew was the best of all possible worlds. The zone where Dor and her tribe had lived for ever.
It was fortunate that there were other units who were eager to take anyone available, anyone left after the chaos and confusion. Dor was assigned to the Mother. The Mother had all control but was capricious and had strange desires. This mission was as the result of one of these desires. The entire unit had worked hard to make the images come true and the architronic records created everything accordingly. The glass dissolved and Dor spun the capsule so that it was facing where she would go. It would guard the entrance, the exit; it would guard her world and this other. She flexed her mind muscle to become receptive not stubborn and walked through into the forest. Her breathing quickened and she said one word. 'Once.' a difficult word to learn, an illogical word, nothing like the precise language that was her mother tongue where every letter made the sound assigned to it and did not deviate.
The forest sensations whirred and clicked, her mind sorted them out, recorded, compiled, catalogued, almost too much data but she was ruthless and sent it all back to Mother, kept nothing for herself. Her way was winding but she did not stumble or look to left or right. The path she took led her to a square building made of the trees. One door, three windows. She went in. Three shimmering globes, descending in size from something about the size of her shaved head to something about the size of her clenched fist in its glove. She clicked on her first command and opened her mouth. The first globe bobbed in front of her and there was dark burning sensation. The second globe lingered near her face, a smell and a taste of the water that came from Neptune’s Triton. Horrid and not to be drunk. She shut her mouth tight, it was difficult not to send panic signals back to Mother, these first two were making her body ripple with distress. The third globe seemed shy. It came near her and then backed away. Her panic subsided. It almost seemed it was observing her. She opened her mouth and the globe broke into smaller globes and flew in. A feeling of comfort, of goodness, of a taste that was neither burn nor salt, but just right. She was working at top speed to get the information stored so it could be retrieved correctly. Exhausting. Her body began to bend, she needed to rest, a large deep recess appeared in the air and held out promise but even as she relaxed, a danger signal, no not here. A smaller recess formed and her tired legs walked her closer but it spun around and would not let her any nearer. The last, smallest recess was circling her and she allowed herself to fall back into it. And found she was on the floor with an angry staccato message coming from her pocket. 'Leave this alone; you will damage all the protocols.'
Dor stood and gave an equally angry response. ‘I am here to experiment and record, what would you have me do?’
‘Explore,’ was the terse response. Dor made her way to the rest of the small dark building; her energy levels were very low. She sent a message to the capsule in case it needed to be prepared for a rescue. Three more objects, similar to the cloud formations they had been trained to observe for changes in Mother's moods. Dor decided it was time for another word. 'Upon.' she said. Not quite as difficult as the first. The clouds invited her closer. She lay on the biggest, so deep and soft that she felt her breathing begin to disappear. She struggled out of it and tried the next, not soft at all, surprisingly hard and scratchy. She left it in a hurry and sat carefully on the third, which enveloped her immediately, but not with menace, with kindness.
Dor closed her eyes as she said the last two words, 'A Time’.
© Erica Lainé
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