The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter III)

Posted by Matt on January 7, 2011

Chapter I
Chapter II

Aia tried to focus on her work that day. The Park Council needed an additional thousand copies of their leak prevention pamphlets printed, as it seemed that the rainy season was upon them once again and the dome inspectors had projected that their would be more trickling through this year than in previous years. Some neighbourhood committees had petitioned to have glass roofing installed on as many flats as possible, but the idea was turned down as be a resource drain. Besides, why go to all the trouble of installing new roofs when there were a few simple precautions everyone could take to prevent water damage in their homes? At least, that’s what the pamphlet said. Aia really didn’t have the time to scrutinize any of these claims.

The Council provided most of the print shop’s work; of course, they were the only ones who could really afford it. The current chairman, Reid, a man whose most prominent feature are his perfectly round cranium and his large ears, was especially big on explanatory pamphlets. He was a do-it-yourself type, always encouraging people to find their own solutions to problems, rather than demand others to waste productive time to do it for them. He claims to have built his house near the security offices himself; everyone knew he was lying, or at least exaggerating. However, they didn’t look at it negatively, reasoning that he was just trying to show people that they can do anything if they set their mind to it. Of course, most of them were resigned about everything the councillors said. What were they going to do if the Council isn’t entirely truthful? Throw them out? Everyone on the Council was self-appointed, deciding that they should be the ones to take charge of the burden of the rest of the park because of their resemblance to the Poster People. “Why would they look like them if they didn’t serve some special purpose?”, was their argument. Nobody really felt like disagreeing; somebody had to lead, after all.

Aia was neutral on the matter as well. Nothing the Council did or advocated was so ludicrous that she couldn’t understand it. It all seemed entirely reasonable to her. At some points she felt sick of reading their mechanically-cheery instructions in every single item they ever printed, but it became so routine she has been able to detach herself from the whole activity after a while. She started to act mechanical too, she supposed.

Sometimes it felt like she was much more involved with the goings-on in the Council than most, and wasn’t entirely sure if that was a good or bad thing. Certainly she didn’t enjoy having to read what they have to say all day and then go home to hear Pearl recount everything their Little Brothers and Sisters had to say at the Hall. Pearl usually took everything her peers said at face value; even so, she always asked Aia about it afterwards to get a second opinion. Whenever a new topic was introduced, she was brimming with curiosity, and just wanted to know as much about it as possible. Aia always answered her questions to the best of her ability, but never felt like she was a good source of information for anything other than the intricacies of printing, or whatever she could gleamed from Brother Sal’s many years as a welder.

Something about the way Pearl spoke about the conversations with the Council spawn alarmed Aia on many occasions. They had such an arrogant, aggressive way of speaking, and hearing it through Pearl, who is such a gentle and loving soul, was fairly disturbing. She was under no illusion that hanging out with them was going to change Pearl significantly, she was too convinced of Pearl’s innate purity, but she always cautioned her to try and think about what her friends told her.

After pressing about 500 pamphlets, Aia went on her break. If there was one advantage to working at the print shop, it was that it was on the upper level of the park, which gave her a fantastic view. She could see the little box neighbourhoods, the crowded midways, the huge scrapyards where Brother Sal spent most of his time, the skyboxes that jutted from the sides of the dome, the muddy pond where most people visited on days off, and all the colourful tents that jumped out from all corners. The biggest tent, located in the center of the park, was where The Maker was stored. She even loved the view of the domed ceiling, although there really wasn’t much to look at; most of the panels were darkened with dark blown splotches that ruined their diamond-like transparency, and some were smashed up or absent. This was both blessing and a curse to many, as it allowed some real sunshine to break through and shower the landscape…but it also let the rain do the same. Thus the need for leak prevention pamphlets.

That seemed to be her entire day, every day: print, get a look at the park from above, go back and print more until closing time. Aia never considered it a particularly hard job, nor a particularly rewarding one, although she was paid well enough. A job was a job, after all. Can’t complain, especially not when you know it could be worse. You could be a street sweeper (although that couldn’t be that bad a job either, as long as you preferred working nights), or one of those inspectors who have to suspend themselves from the ceiling and check every panel for damage. Or you could be homeless. She never really thought of the last one as a possibility for her. She had no idea where the homeless people even came from.

By the end of the day, Aia was happy that she was able to get back into the swing of things, and not be completely overwhelmed by the events of the previous night. On the way home, her pride at not letting her productivity suffer kept her mind occupied further, although she couldn’t help but get a cold shiver up her spine whenever she saw an opening leading to one of those darkened midways. No matter, she didn’t have to use them ever again. The night at home was typical: a dinner of tablets and some of the loafs she had taught Pearl to make from corn meal. Pearl told her about what Benny and Jenny and Laurie and Ron had to say to her that day, which was mostly the same pointless guff they always seemed to talk about. This time, Aia couldn’t help but wonder how far their opinions were from their Big Brothers and Sisters on the Council. She had really no idea what those people were really like, considering most of what she heard from them is heavily edited instructions on a pamphlet or newsletter, which she edited further. Surely they couldn’t be really like that too, could they? On the other hand, the apple never falls far from the tree, or however that went. Then she thought of Pearl. Maybe that’s not so true after all.

Sleep did not come easy that night. Without the exhaustion, Aia had plenty of energy to think over and over again about what had happened the previous night. Her conclusion was that, although seeing the homeless man die right in front of her was a horrible thing, especially when she had spent so much effort before to avoid witnessing death (even if that ultimately cost her years of anguish), that was not what was bothering her so much anymore. It was her own actions, that one move, that one moment of weakness. She could vividly recall seeing the bite mark, the lingering taste of flesh that she desperately tried to get rid of. Once again, the question was why. Well, not quite: she knew why, but the answer was far too horrible for her to contemplate. There was a larger why involved: why would this happen to her? What did she do to deserve this? Why did it seem that she was destined to suffer from the worst kinds of personal failings? Was it some sort of cosmic joke? Was there something wrong with her from the beginning? Or did she pick it up somewhere? There was no way of knowing, but she still asked herself again and again. What should she do? Should she do anything? Is there anything she can do? What if it happens again? What would Pearl think if she found out? What would Brother Sal think if he were alive to find out about it? She played and replayed these rhetorical games in her head for hours, until she was so tired of them she forced herself to sleep through it.

This became a new part of the daily routine. She was able to avoid thinking about it during the workday, but once she was alone and given time to think, all the queries came back and echoed in her mind again until she basically gave up and forced herself into unconsciousness. At first, she really wished she could make it stop, and forget the whole thing. But no matter how much time passed, she couldn’t let go. She knew the why of that as well: one can’t find out one’s capacity to be truly monstrous and then shake it off. Even so, as days and eventually weeks passed, the whole thing seemed to blend into her life. It became as much a part of the routine as everything else, and she began to wonder what her life was like before it. It was like it had always been there.


One Response to “(Chapter III)”

  1. […] by icymatt on January 18, 2011 Prologue Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV Chapter […]

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