On Newbie Writers Podcast this week, we are reviewing the second draft of a book: mine.
This is the second part of the Opening chapter to The Five Elements of Time so you can play the game at home.
Please do comment here, or email me with suggestions.
Premise: What if you have your whole future before you, and it sucks?
The sheets were not even dry. Charity pushed them away and lit the stove.
The house lights flickered again, Charity held her breath, the lights dimmed, then surged back on to full strength.
Charity took the last two pieces of the dense, coal – like fuel, dranit, and fed them into the stove. It was the only certainty this week – that fire was warm. Was real.
“Nancy reported the Fabers in the market were down.” Mother walked into the kitchen, testing the sheets as she went. She wiped her damp hands on her pale blue skirt.
They used to just toss the dirty sheets and Nancy, their main servant would bring in new from the market replicators every week, the old sheets were recycled for their essential material. The family was probably using the same sheets over and over, on a molecular level, but it was still nice to have new.
Not any more.
Charity glanced at the hanging sheets, no longer the original white. Just this morning she had helped her mother wrestled those sheets out of the big tub, the fire burning underneath.
Charity was used to such odd behavior from her mother. She had little choice but to help. So she automatically arched over the hot flames and helped her mother pull the wet fabric to the wringer.
“They are out of material for fabric.” Her mother said quietly. “I told you it’s good to know how to wash. Your sister, “ she left the rest unsaid and continued to wrestle with the old wringer.
“She was suppose to return today.” Charity announced.
“Mirabella?” Her mother jerked the wet fabric from the rollers and gave the fabric a mighty twist putting her shoulders into the effort. “I know, she was.” Her mother held Charity’s gaze for a second before twisting the sheet with more force than Charity ever saw. Water, precious water, streamed from the fabric. Finally mother stopped her shoulders sagged.
“She is gone honey.” Her mother’s faded blue eyes watered. “I’m afraid she died in yesterday’s train wreak.”
Charity’s whole body turned cold. Her first friend in school, her first pal, her only pal, gone?
“Ray is devastated of course.” Her mother concentrated on the laundry and did not meet her oldest daughter’s eyes again. “Of course. He’ll find someone else. He needs a wife to go into the Government Guards. All Guards have a wives.” And all those men involved in the RC ,the Reality Cloud, needed a wife to keep the family fed, organized and together. If a man wanted to work, or participate in any of the Realty Cloud world, he needed to marry, put his wife into a nice house and make sure she was blessed with children.
Charity stopped wringing the sheets. The warm water dripped on her bare feet. They never wore shoes in the house, an old tradition. There used to be so much toxic material outside that the women finally stopped everyone from tracking it into the house by creating the rule – no shoes inside. Now it was a law.
“He asked for you.” Mother said finally.
Nancy, one of their five servants, was late. She pulled her kerchief more firmly over her blond hair and ducked her head. “I’m so sorry Mother, the lines were long for the dranit today. And the village riots stopped us from leaving the market.”
“Takes a lot of electricity to manufacture the dranit.” Mother never raised her voice at the servants, she insisted on treating them as people, even individuals. Charity kept that eccentricity to herself, her friends, like Mirabella, reported that Mothers were suppose to berate servants and keep them in line, something Charity’s mother never did.
Mother simply took the offered fuel, two day’s worth. “If only we could harvest wood ourselves.”
“There are no forests.” Hope importantly flounced into the kitchen. She was 16 and just feeling her strength as a leader, now that all the boys in her class had been transferred to the RC Colleges. “I learned that today.”
Mother sighed and considered the huge wood burning stove. The electricity was channeled mostly to the Government where the replicators and RC equipment were kept. The family owned a small one of course, but the food pods were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, even for a well placed family like themselves. The only reason they weren’t hungry, the only reason Faith was even as well as she was, was because mother grew food in the back of the house. Dirt Food. Charity never told anyone. But she had to grudging admit that her mother eccentric gardening had kept them from going hungry many nights.
Only two days ago everything was as it should be. If she had known, she would have ben kinder, not pinched so hard. Charity drew in a shuddering breath and batted away the drying sheet. She wanted things back the way they were. But according to Mirabella, that wasn’t even possible. “RC has been fluctuating, I can feel it. Most women our age can feel it. Sometimes I worry that we aren’t even real.” She held out her arm. “Pinch me.” She commanded.
Charity reluctantly took a pinch of Mirabella’s flesh and dug her nails into the skin.
“Yikes!” Mirabella glanced down. “That’s going to bruise.”
“Then you’ll know you’re real won’t you?” Charity shot back. They didn’t dare linger on the street. They continued to the Temple, but now that Mirabella mentioned it, the houses really did vibrate as she walked: sometimes revealing a plain one story home and sometimes turning into the glass and wood castles she always envisioned, remembered.
It wasn’t all that bizarre, they heard early on in their education that reality was one of two things: a shared community effort or an individual vision. The shared world community, represented by the 100 year old Reality Cloud, was preferable. Women were proud to support such an instrument of world peace.
Yes, increasingly, Charity was experiencing the individual version of reality. It was not comforting.
Mirabella liked to see her world one way, and Charity sometimes wanted to see it differently.
But they were alike in two important ways.
Their reality was shifting.
“What do you think is going on?”
“My dad said the grids are down more and more that it’s difficult to work in the RC, there are surges. They blame the villagers.” She lowered her voice, “They sent out bot after bot to fix the problem. I heard they are even sending out drones but can’t find any reason for the electricity or for the the decrease in pod production .”
“Nancy said the lines were getting longer.” Charity confirmed. The food pods for their replicators ran low at the end of every month, forcing some family to eat dirt food.
“They’ll have to find the villagers .” Mirabella confirmed.
But they didn’t need to find the villagers, the villagers had found them.
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