Friday, April 6, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 13. Hen's House

Houseboat by apolloduck.co.uk
The narrator, upon searching for images of houseboats, discovered she favours vintage Dutch barges. Probably because they featured in the stories of her childhood, and even stayed over in a leaky barge that was kept on land.  

“This one,” Jack said.

I started running because I saw Hen with a small person clinging to her side. “Du?” I called, planning where I’d put my feet once I was on the deck. I couldn’t fall now.

Hen and Du stood in the shadows under an awning in the middle of a deck crowded with stuff. Coils of rope. Sausages of rolled up fabric (sails?) Bits and pieces of all kinds of materials.

Jack pulled at my shirt. Same handful. “Watch it,” he said.

I looked where he pointed. The edge of the plank-way trembled under my feet. Next step was in a gap a metre wide. Dark green water. “Deep?”

“You bet. That black siding is the hull of the boat. We need to get on board over there.” He led, dragging me by my hand as though I was the little sister. I promised both him and me silently, only where boats and water are concerned, Jacqui-Jack.

A walkway connected the plank-way with the boat’s side. Our feet thumping onto the walkway vibrated the walkway. We jumped down on a plank deck, thud, which vibrated under me with a deeper note. I walked toward Hen, didn’t run, there was just too much unfamiliar gear on the deck.

Hen pulled me and Jack under the tent with her. Hugged me. “I’m so very happy to see you, Kosi Lionhair!”  She hugged Jack. “You’re a champion, Jack Fetcher!”
Jack grinned.

The little person, who was Du, pulled at Hen’s clothes. “Me! Me am a champion too?” she said.

Hen dropped one hand from hugging me and cupped and stroked Du’s head. “You too, my lovely. This is your sister Kosi. Remember me telling you about her?”

Du stuck her thumb in her mouth and looked at Jack and me like we were invaders.
“Down the ladder-stair, you three,” Hen said. “Jack, show Kosi where to put her feet. And, Jack? Please take Du. I need to talk with Rokha and Zee. Maybe even cast off and put out into the river.”
Still the same Hen. Good at conveying an emergency without saying so. Well, it had been an emergency the whole time since Jack and I dived through that crowd on Level 1. How could that affect us out here?

Du started struggling in Jack’s arms as soon as we all heard the hatch above us close. She actually whined, something I’d never heard her do before. “Hen! I want Hen!”

“Miz Henry is busy, it sounds like.” Jack cupped a hand around his ear to listen better.

I did the same and listened too. So did Du in the end, thumb still in her mouth.

Two pairs of footsteps arrived running along the plank-way. Splash-ash. Splash-ash. Splash-ash. Two voices. Rokha and Zee speaking in quick short murmured sentences.

“Did you warn the rest of the boats?” Hen said. Her voice as clear as if she stood next to us. 

Jack pointed at a vent on the wall among a dozen pictures of all kinds of places and things. With a glance I recognized a couple that Hen brought to the Tween House for me to borrow, the waterfall with trees and plants and mosses surrounding it, and the scary cactus in a sandy desert. Hen’s voice was calm. Zee was nervous, with quick spurts of murmured words.

“Jack,” said Jack’s BigEar. He turned away to talk.

I recognised Rokha’s voice. I looked around the room, like an Aladdin’s cave, with coloured cloths hanging from the walls, over chairs, and one rich red fringed rug draped over a table just the same as the meal-time table in the Tween House.

“My cubby,” Du said, seeing where I looked. She dropped to her knees and crawled under the table. Sat there staring at me through the fringing. Glowering. Finally lying back on a couple of cushions, like a princess. But staring me gone.

And there were the framed prints. A kangaroo. A pair of galahs. Also statuettes, also of animals, and the tableaus. They were the little trays with a scene to take apart and build up again. I looked for the little space elevator. 

Hen had so many of the little scenes, I realised now, that some had to be stored in boxes on shelves. And one wall was all shelves. But overflow stuff stood on every surface, at the edges of the floor, on the table. Dress-up things hung from the ceiling and the walls. Loops of calico bunched things and bows of silk frottage tied them to make a passage through for walking among all the gear.

I smiled, despite the flavour of emergency in the air. This room resembled the disaster in Hen’s stories that was always waiting to happen if I didn’t keep the Tween House tidy. Then I saw my absolute favourite object when I was an angry seven. Hen let me borrow it for months.

Du sat up as I crossed the room in two steps and picked up the glass sphere with snow in it. Hen encouraged me to shake up a storm in it whenever I felt stormy, so that snow puffed and twirled and whirled inside it. I cried when she took it home again.

“Mine,” Du said but she didn’t sound convinced.

“I’m your sister?” I said. “Sisters share.”

“I’m Brother’s little sister,” she said around her thumb.

And my little sister.”

“Only Hen is mine.”

I tried to recall what she’d been like before.

“I’ll show you through,” Jack said. “You want to come, Du?”

She’d been coming already, slipping her hand into Jack’s hand. “My Jacqui.”

I rolled my eyes. Mine. Mine. Mine. Was that all she could say? “I’m your sister whether you like it or not,” I said.

We went through a door in the left corner of the room, into a grey-lit single-file corridor. The left side of the corridor followed the shape of the hull to a narrow floor.

Jack stopped. “Watch my hand? Here’s the light switch.” He flipped it. The corridor became gold-lit. “Did you two ever meet at your house?” he said instead of telling me the light was powered by the sun or some technical fact.

Good thing he was in front, I was so embarrassed. I fizzed hot all over. Of course Du didn’t know me. We’d never met. And she is only five years old, I reminded myself. You thought you owned Hen then. “No windows,” I said to distract myself.

“Portholes in the room we just left, that are covered with the shawls, and portholes in the kitchen up front. This is the bunkroom, where visitors sleep.” He opened a door beside us. Three sets of double bunks crowded the room. A washable rug outlined the place where people would have to take turns dressing. “Seen it?”

I nodded. No windows, I didn’t say. Just like the Tween House.

“I’m not a visitors,” said Du in a confronted tone of voice.

Jack smiled over Du’s head. I might’ve been able to appreciate it if I wasn’t confronted myself. I didn’t smile back.

Jack shrugged. “This is the bathroom,” he said, opening the next door.

Shower basin toilet. A square of washable tiles to stand on.

“Hen’s room,” he said, indicating that door. 

“And mine!” Du said.

Jack frowned at me to warn me not to react. “And finally the kitchen and stair to the front hatch. The layout is back to front to most other boats, Hen told me. She hasn’t told me the reason. Maybe you can get that story from her?”

I shrugged. “You seem to know her as well as I do. Ask her in a different way. She likes people to think for themselves.”


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 12. Ground Level



Antique freight elevator from https://www.flickr.com/photos/dieselducy/6514961339
A longer instalment than usual gets Kosi and Jack to a kind of safety. It's all surviving aka learning, accepting and adapting ...

Jack’s mystery-making started while I input credits to get a buggy. “Punch in Level 1 for going to the Fetcher House, Kosi. We’ve got to go there first.”

I laughed. “Is this you trying to get used to my name? Is it that unusual?” I teased. “Level 1 or the Fetcher House?” I had my finger hovering.

He frowned. “Yes and yes. You’ll be in my group. I’d better get used to you fast.  Both. We’ll need tokens, and the likes of you and me get them at the Fetcher House. The elevator to Ground Level takes off from Level One.”

Oh. “Because it is like a vending machine?” I guessed, trying out some of my learning.

“Human operated, because of all the different things that have to happen to the freight. Some of it goes to the rubbish lighter. Some goes to the recycling centre. Some are grocery orders for the people living on the boats. Parra Seven doesn’t have enough tech, so it’s quicker if a human makes the decisions.”

People living on the boats? I had images in my mind for freighters going from place to place, and boats crossing sea lanes aka ferries and boats, for catching fish aka trawlers. None for people-living-on-boats kind of boats.

 The buggy rattled down to the first floor and a voice encouraged us off with a cheery word. “Jacqui and Kosi for the Fetcher House.”

The way inside was filled with a line of khaki-green uniformed soldiers but my mind was on who announced us. “That was L …”

Jack put his arm around my neck, hand over my mouth. “Shh. We don’t normally get crowds down here. Definitely no green-clads.”

That was Lilah’s voice, I had been going to say.

Jack took my hand. He hissed. “Pretend you’re years younger than me.” He tipped a soldier on her elbow. “We’re Fetchers going home to the Fetcher House.”

The line parted. The people being contained inside sagged maybe from tiredness standing up for a while. Who knew how long they’d already been here. They looked unkempt. Hen’s word for un-brushed and unwashed. The space we were in wasn’t a full-sized concourse. There wasn’t a transport well in the centre, I realised. Instead a dark-grey cubical structure with three doors a side squatted in the centre, its doorways guarded by more of the green-clad soldiers.

We trotted into the crowd.

Jack glanced furtively for ways through. I glanced at the soldiers. How many kinds of army were there? Hen never mentioned green-clads. Their prisoners looked at the ground and muttered at each other out of the sides of their mouths. I wouldn’t mind drifting over and hearing what they said.

Jack turned left and dragged me through a squared archway into another even smaller hall. An overflow of people half-filled that area too. Here the green-clads surrounded the unkempt solidly, making a chain of themselves with arms over each other’s shoulders.

by the walls coming closer. Hot inside my clothes. Sweat prickled me. In a minute I would scream. Fight loose. Hen had a lot of solutions for when I was in that panic. I gulped. Hen not here with me now. Give me air. I shut my mouth, breathed deep. One of the things she told me.

Jack repeated his story. “Fetchers going home.” We ducked under and made for a pair of young guards, dressed in washed-out camouflage, standing in front of a wide grey door. “Zee. Bodhi.” Jack nodded. “This is Kosi Lionhair?”

“Miz Bardelote Henry’s older girl?” Zee said like she didn’t want to be overheard either. 

Bodhi studied me openly. “Hey there, Fetchers. It’s just about dinner time. What took you so long?”

I nodded. I wasn’t sure what I could say where.

“Could she stay here with you while I get some tokens?” mumbled Jack. “Miz Henry asked to have her to stay overnight until she is processed in tomorrow.”

“I love it. Didn’t I tell you something would turn up?” Zee said at Bodhi with a head gesture towards the crowd. “Incomplete Life Lottery intake. The buzz I’m hearing is that they can’t take off without the full complement. We’re flaunting our licences as a result.” This to Jack and me.

They both wore large colourful badges on their left breast pockets. I had no badge. I put my hand over my pocket. Neither did Jack have a badge.

Zee talked into her BigEar mouthpiece with it almost pressed against her lips.
The door opened enough to let through two adult guard-women whose shirts bore numerous badges. The tallest of two said, “Good work, Zee. You’re with me, taking these children to Miz Henry’s house.”

Jack took my hand again when she said ‘children’ like it was a signal. The second woman took Zee’s place. Zee took a rear position while the first woman walked between me and the green-clads. Jack was on my other side.

It was only five paces to some of the same doors as in the cubical place in the other hall. The woman gestured her head at the green-clad soldier guarding the door and she stepped aside. “Jacqui?” she said.

Jack pressed a button. I squeezed his hand, asking. “Elevator,” he mumbled. I nodded. Had watched numerous film clips of elevators over the years.

Ping. The elevator arrived at Level 1. Its door slid into the wall. We all hustled into a little room. The door slid shut with Zee pressing a similar button on the inside jamb.

“Take any of the green-clads to Ground Level yet?” the woman said.

“Good day to you too, Rokha,” a man said. “No. All safe down there. You expecting to go up again?” He stood in a rear corner, dressed in mid-grey, the same colour as the walls. Well camouflaged, I thought in Hen’s voice to cover that I hadn’t noticed him, a man. My face got hot just the same.

Everyone around me relaxed a bit. “Not today, I think,” Rokha said.

“Wise move. I was intending to stall everything midway,” the man said. “I drive them, girlie,” he said into my blushing face.

I nodded. “Thank you.” The elevator crept down, is the only word for the sensation of progressing in millimetres. The elevator man stared out of what I now saw was a long narrow window by his side. He had a remote in his hand.

“Water is up to the boards,” the man said. “Can the kids manage? Try not to splash down.”

“Not a problem,” Rokha said.

The sensation of stopping and starting stopped. The driver pushed through us and did something to the doors and went back to his place. He’d kinked them inward, and folded them aside. A narrow space had opened up. A cold breeze roiled among us. Everybody had something on them that fluttered. My hair lifted to remind me that I was as strong as a lion.

Rokha went first. Sat down, legs out. Rolled over onto her front. Hung onto one of the doors. Slid down. Thump-clop.

“Water over the boards,” Zee said. She kneeled in front of the doorway. “Jacqui, you’re next. Rokha will catch you.”

Jack disappeared. Thump-clop. Softer that time. From being caught, I assumed. My turn. I sat down. Wanted badly to see where I was going. Looked down. Rokha’s and Jack’s faces. Water as far as I could see, and over the boardwalk they stood on.

“Lie down and roll over, Kosi,” Zee said. She grabbed my wrists when I started to slide. “Good kid. You’ve done some of the tumbles.”

“In the doorway. Hen taught me,” I gasped.

She smiled. “I remember that. Wriggle down easy. When Rokha catches your legs, make yourself into a pole. Miz Bardelote Henry is my hero.”

I hung full length before Rokha grabbed me around my lower legs. I made myself a pole. She let me down easy, hand over hand up my body, and set me on my feet. Hardly any sound.

“You two start,” she said to Jack. Keep to the middle.” She turned to Zee’s legs dangling down.

“Let’s go,” Jack said.

On three sides of us were the tall cliffs of our buildings. The rest was so much sky that I dizzied and stumbled. Splash. Wet to the knee and elbow. At that level, a row of boat-hulls both sides of the walkway stopped me seeing the rest of the water.

“First time I was properly outside I did the same,” Jack said. “Hen’s boat is at the end. I think it’s urgent we get there. We’ll wade. Less splashing.”


-->
We waded, meaning we slid our feet over the boards through the water. We passed eight boats on the right-hand side. All shapes, several sizes. None were as big as my imagined boats. The plank-way was awash.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 11. Gotcha!

Flooded City Scape mural by Blair Urban Art & Design
Kosi finally meets a fetcher ... 

The elevator buggy rattled up from wherever it made its previous stop. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only one using the buggies. Though I hadn’t seen anyone since escaping the Tween House.

I glanced up to see the crane-arm and the caboose hanging under it. Knowing Jules and Lilah, and that they were up there directing the elevator buggies, was the best part now about catching a ride.

The crane-arm stuck out from Utilities. Sunlight glinted off the cabling sliding within the latticed arm. The sky above the arm was pale blue with the mist in it that was also rising up between the two buildings. I leaned over the safety rail, the chasm below was deep in shadow. I still hadn’t seen ground level.

The buggy stopped, the door slid aside and I jumped aboard. The buggy rocked and the door didn’t close. Oops. I stepped here, there, then found the place where my weight balanced the floor and allowed the door shut.

The buggy stopped at Level 9 and if I didn’t know better now, it would’ve seemed to be collecting its thoughts, but I waited for the clanging of the hooks against the buggy’s corners. There. The four hooks engaged successively with a smooth sliding sound.

The buggy swung across to Utilities, descended and stopped. I shot out and waved upward with big swings of my arms. I couldn’t stop grinning when the steam whistle hooted. At least somebody appreciated that I was alive.

Staring in through the concrete doorway into the concourse I suddenly felt ravenous, from hunger I don’t think so. More like I felt hollow from wanting excitement to fill me up. Or I felt hollow from fright wanting to see someone I knew. Or plan something familiar. Like be impulsive and jump into the newness?

The doorway was wide enough to take a fly-car, I remembered, but only high enough that I could and would, yes, touch the overhead jamb with the jump that took me diving into a thick wall, not a wall, yes a wall of sound.

Or maybe a forest of sound. I smiled and smiled as I pushed through the murmuring crowd when it was them talking all at once but only people talking when I listened to the ones near me. Kids yelled. Aircon outlets hissed and purred. A thousand feet shuffled. Nearly all of them in the same direction, stopping at times at the flower, clothes, shoe, banner and toy stalls by the concrete pillars and filling the spaces between.

My mouth watered because I smelled food, food and fried food. Yet I remembered what happened last time. And nobody looked friendly. I walked in an empty circle. People nearby wrinkled their noses. The unfortunate smell of my clothes, perhaps.
  
I barged through the crowd to the safety rail overlooking the fly-car space. Fly-cars whined arriving and taking off. Utility trucks and freighters zoomed in and out with stately grace. Don’t know where I heard those words but they matched the action perfectly.

With difficulty I tore my attention from the sights and sounds. Concentrated on my situation. Maybe people getting on and off their transport, seeing me there, would be reminded of something needed to be fetched? I tried a few different expressions. Hopeful. Fearless. Competent. No one took the slightest bit of notice of me that I could see and I was hungrier by the minute.

I barged back into the crowd, sidled between a couple of stalls and their watchful stall-holders. Walked in behind the nearest concrete post and dug in my bag for a cube of duck bread. Its starchy goodness haha would settle my stomach. I sipped some of my water. Breathed deep. Go at it, fetcher-girl. Maybe walk against the flow this time? Make them notice you that way.

Then I saw a fetcher across the fly-space well. I moved back to the rail, couldn’t help myself staring. A real fetcher. She wore dirty shin-length pants and shirt, of patchy tans and no-colours, just like mine, and a short raggy overskirt of worn denim. She had an earpiece that she constantly talked at out of the side of her mouth. She wasn’t running, so probably she wasn’t on a fetch.

“Hey,” she called, catching sight of me across the well. “Wait there.” She started running around the safety rail toward me. I was on her patch? I turned and ran into the crowd. Zig-zagging through, I threaded between a couple of stalls. It was darker in behind the stalls as there were only a few lantern-style lights hanging from the columns, and only the one entry where the light came in.

I changed direction. My pursuer wouldn’t expect me to double back. The crowd between us helped me stay undiscovered. I arrived on the opposite, eastern side of the concourse still zig-zagging my way between the stall holders and people doing business in the dark corners.

“Gotcha!” A heavy weight thumped into my back and I slammed to the concrete.

The weight sat on my legs, my knees flattened against the pavement. “Ouch! Get off me!”

“Be quiet,” she hissed. “It’s a fair catch.” Out of the side of her mouth she said, “You can all relax. I’ve got her.”

Complaints came out of her earpiece and she addressed them. “She passed you, dipstick. She’s obviously smarter than you are. Go home. Miz Henry squared it with the House. We can have the rest of the day off.”

“You said Miz Henry.” I struggled to get free. “You’re talking about Hen. Where is she? Get off me.”

“Only if you don’t run,” she said, letting me sit up.

“You sound a lot like my brother used to,” I said. “I won’t hurt you if you don’t run, he’d say to my little sister.”

She got the secretly-laughing-can’t-wait-to-tell-you expression on her face I used to practise in the mirror and let me get to my feet. Even dusted me off. 

“How old are you?” I asked. “You’re no bigger than me.”

“Hey, you are weird. How about first asking what’s your name? It’s Jacqui by the way. Miz Henry told me yours. Kosi Lionhair. Weird.”

“I’ve got good hearing,” I said. I knew I boasted. “The fetcher complaining at you through your earpiece called you Jack. I think because she thinks you are a boy. And not just her either.”

He frowned, glanced about, then smiled. “Miz Henry set this up. A fetch to fetch a fetcher, she said. She told me what you’re like. She’s got a real sense of smart.”

It was like he warned me not to go on with the Jacqui-is-Jack mystery by trying to convince me that Hen would tell him all about me. Which I didn’t believe she would. He was just trying to distract me. 

“Are all fetchers dressed in skirtlets over shin-length pants?” I wanted him to be discomfited out of his superior tone of voice. I didn’t appreciate him calling the other girl a dipstick, whatever he meant about me in comparison.

“Shut up!” he said. He clamped his grubby hand over my mouth.

“Why?” I said against his fingers.

He hissed. “Because it’s not safe for me to be here.” He hooked his arm around my neck. “You gonna scream?”

“You gonna tell me where Hen is?”

“Miz Henry to you!”

“She’s Hen to me!”

“You’re in disguise,” he said. “A fetcher. And I don’t see anyone but a fetcher here, so Miz Henry is Miz Henry. She’s at her house. I’ll take you there. Remember that I’m Jacqui.”

“I know where she lives,” I said, recalling Hen’s code. “N-G-9A.”

“Oh, right. You know how to get there?” he said.

“It can’t be hard when N means north wherever I look. The northern dorm block?”

“Why don’t you take me over there?” He let go of me. He laughed.

There had to be trick involved. The northern arm of the concourse was the only side I hadn’t been yet. I pushed past him.

He followed me, running at my shoulder.

I was guessing of course. The G obviously took the place of the number for the floor level in my address-that-once-was. I ran through the big doorway and straight to the safety rail, thinking to check the numbers of the floor levels on the opposite building.

Jack grabbed me, a big handful of the back of my shirt before I got there. “Too fast. You could’ve gone over. Miz Henry wouldn’t have thanked me, and I would’ve been drummed out of the Fetcher House. Besides which, falling from this height, the water would be as hard as concrete.”

“Water?”

Maybe my mouth hung open and I looked like a dipstick too, because now he laughed all out, even to smacking his knees. “You didn’t know the basements are flooded. Nor that the river is the new ground floor. Where have you been all your life? We’ve been standing in the water all my life.” 

“Now you shut up!” I whisper-shouted. “You’re not the only one meant to be hiding.”

He stopped laughing instantly. Good trick. “Sorry. Miz Henry did tell me. Honestly sorry, I mean. Where to now?”

“G for Ground floor. That’s a guess. You said ground floor. You take me. I don’t know anything.”

“Hey, don’t put yourself down. Miz Henry wouldn’t be sponsoring you at the Fetcher House if she didn’t think you and your little sister weren’t …”

I jumped him. “Did you say my little sister?” I screamed. “Du? Du is with Hen?” I hugged him. “Why are we still up here?”

“Hey! Take it easy.” He made like he slicked sweat from his forehead. “Lucky we were outside. No one interested in a couple of Fetchers in a game. Lucky that Fetchers are nearly the only ones using the buggies.”

“And a few House Guards,” I remembered guiltily.

“Unfortunately, I’ve got no credits left. We’ll have to walk.”

“I’ve got some,” I said. “Ninety-six. I … took them before I left. Probably another good excuse for my father to have me hunted.”

He grinned. “Let’s get spending them. Ride because we shouldn’t walk.”


Monday, March 19, 2018

Imagery: Fragment 1

Fragment 1

See the whole photo and explanation, here, or by clicking on Imagery, the new page. 

#catpic  #placeholder  #imagery

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 10. The Princess-and-the-Pea Event

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Princess_and_the_Pea/
In which Kosi's actions now will have large consequences later, which, much later, will influence a life-changing decision. 

How did Hen get out of the house when my father forgot to leave a door unlocked?

She’d make an exasperated sound, then fetch her …?

Fetch her magnet. That was it, a big magnet. I concentrated remembering its shape and size and weight. A cube that filled Hen’s hand, the upper face in her palm. Her fingers and thumb grappled three sides. She’d heft it and swipe a door lock with it, then put it away.

Where would she have hidden it? I didn’t flutter around searching, wasting my energy or air. I let my mind search the places where my father would never think to look. Therefore not the bathroom cabinet, my shelves or Hen’s shelves. Not under my bed.

I checked the boxes by touch. Kneeling by Hen’s bed I dragged them out. The first one was for the emergency food. I felt around in it. Three packets remained. Shoved that box back. The middle box was for Hen’s outdoor clothes when she was with me, her indoor clothes when she wasn’t. I got a lump in my throat stroking her soft old indoor shirt. Shoved that box back under the bed. If I cried, I’d be using up more air than I could afford.

The last box contained my no longer new outdoor gear, which I might as well put on now. The opportunity to leave might come unexpectedly. I undressed and dressed feeling all the hems and seams and pockets in the fetcher clothes again, in case I missed any secrets in the excitement before. So long ago already.

I folded my indoor clothes into the box as best as I could. Not the magnet yet.

Our living room had my desk by the inner wall, and a table and two chairs by the unit’s outer wall, where we ate and played games. A pretend porthole was set into the wall beside the table that I used to delight in programming with outdoor scenes with palm trees.

Back to finding the magnet. I crawled around on my hands and knees to check the undersides of things. I banged my head on the table and then the desk.

I stopped until I had imagined the rooms and the furniture from my blind point of view on the floor. I think I dozed off. All the excitement, I suppose. Plus being hollow in the gut. I shifted to Hen’s bed. My head near the door, my feet on the pillow. I doubted that Hen would be back to rile at me. Only two doors between me and freedom if I left the door between her room and the living room open.

I would’ve slept but for the lump under my shoulder. What the sun did Hen keep in her bed? I ripped apart her carefully tucked in sheets and quilt.

Whatever it was, wasn’t in the bed.

I folded the mattress back onto itself.

Yes! The magnet! It sat half in the depression left by the bed-leg being extended out further because of Hen suddenly deciding one day that she wanted the bed higher.

I laughed. What did Hen tell my father for a reason that she suddenly wanted her bed hoicked up? I remembered his embarrassment having to hold it up, just so, while she crawled half-under it to adjust the screw collar. Ha ha, she bested you, you unnatural father.

Nothing was going to stop me now. I swiped the magnet over the door lock of the door between me and the study. The door swished open. Swiping the door-stop at the top of the track, I set the door on open. Waltzed through, feeling giddy with excitement and hunger. I swiped the door between me and freedom.

Nothing. No go. Zilch. Zero. Nought. The magnet didn’t work on the back door!

I almost threw the cube at the green line outlining the house computer where it was set in the study’s table top. Just in time letting my arm fall without allowing the magnet to fall to the ground. Whenever Hen let me hold the magnet when I was still real young she cupped her hands under it.

After setting the magnet gently on the table top beside the computer, I threw myself into my father’s chair. “Yes, yes, yes! Tra-lah! Lights! Internal doors!”

I danced into the legal house, laughing victoriously. Hardly any furniture remained. Didn’t look smell a house where anyone would be coming home. That sobered me. Breathing didn’t feel so good anymore. Just the dust was left, and the stale places where the heavy furniture had stood.

In the kitchen was a litter bin with the second half of a bag of stale bread cubes in it. My father thought to feed the ducks twice? Perhaps my brother had proven too smart after all. I was hungry enough that I gobbled up a couple of the cubes.

In one of the staff’s rooms I found a shoulder bag with a packet of coffee shots tucked deep in a corner. I added the rest of the duck food back in its plastic bag. My failure to get out preyed on me and quite soon I was back at the desk.

I found a file with the staff’s codes to get in and out. Household security was not my father’s strong point, I decided. Hen’s code was N-G-9A.

N-G-9A? What did that mean when all codes also told where people lived?

I couldn’t wait any longer, had to know if it worked. I punched N-G-9A into the keypad by the exit door. The door slid open! I was out and could order a ride …

Forgot. No credit on my cell. Beg my new friends up top for a ride across? But after that? I had to eat. Fetching could be irregular.

I drooped back into the study. With keystrokes dropped back into the system. Deeper and deeper. The-man-my-father was a lot more careful with his own codes.

There. Numbers. 

According to his credit records, my father had three children. Each child – Daughter, Son, Daughter – had a row of figures assigned to them that were storing varying large amounts, larger than the amount in my father’s own row.

I transferred one hundred credits from his account to my comcell. Enough so it would be easy to misread the new total of 500 as the original total of 600. I deleted his children and all their credit.


Because he acted like he had no children.