October 15th, 2006

Grownups Meme

And now it's time for me to do the deservedly famous grownups meme from the deservedly famous snarkout_rat.

-Which of the same habits you had as a teenager do you still have?
Coffee. Oy, frackin', vey.

-What notions about "the adult world" that you had as a teenager have you been disabused of, and how did they differ from what you thought?
That when adults (especially teachers or professors) act like they know what they're talking about, they actually know what they're talking about. BWAHAHAHAHA!

-Do you still listen to the same tapes you listened to at 16--not just the same music, but the same tapes? Which ones?
You betcha. I love cassettes. I still have some of the tapes my friend Chuck made for me, including a demo for Leigh Gregory's band (of which Chuck was a member).

-In Googling/Myspace searching your high school crushes (I'm not going to even bother asking whether you have, because of course you have), what have you found out about them?
Nothing. Actually I've very rarely googled my high school crushes because I still have these very juvenile crushes in adult life.

-What have you done as an adult that as a teenager you never thought you'd do?
Hmmm .... that's be a post in itself.

-How do you feel about the fact that the mainstream world views LiveJournal as the province of teenagers, and you're your age and on LJ?
Ummm, this should worry me?

-Do you think there is a certain type of adult that does LJ? If so, what type is that?
No idea. One of the things that's changed is that as a teen I copped an attitude of "I don't care what other people think of me" ... but now as an adult I REALLY AND TRULY DON'T GIVE A FUCK except that I like to have friends, so I focus on the things that matter - people skills, relationship skills, and so on - and forget about the BS.

-Do you have more money or less money than you did as a teenager?
Lots more. But there's this thing called "rent", that I don't recall having to worry about when I was sixteen ....

-Of the things that you didn't like about yourself as a teenager, which ones have changed, and in what way?
I'm a lot more comfortable around people, I find dating much easier, and I just generally feel way better about myself and about life.

-What do you think of today's top 40 music?
Ummmmm ...

-What do you think of 80s top 40 music when you hear it today?
Heh. Love it. Maybe I'm biased, but I really think the songwriting was much better.

Khalfid

[The Queen's Courtesan - our story so far: http://asher813.typepad.com/fiction/ ]

The universe had closed around it like a wound.

The memory of her death was now blessedly opaque; the conscious mind had blotted it out with the rough, unfeeling tissue of oblivion. Blessed be the Merciful, for the gift of forgetfulness.

But the void was still there, and it would never go away. This was not the creative void of the cosmos or the womb, but a different and malignant emptiness. No breath was drawn but had Lhior's absence engraved on it; no draught of water was taken but had Lhior's loss dissolved within it.

Even now, Khalfid winces at the memory. Even now, she cannot look at another woman without remembering the one whose embrace was everything. Making love with her, and sharing the intertwining of their souls, had taken Khalfid into another dimension and another world - a world so vast it could encompass even the barren landscape of the lifeless, nameless rock they called their home.

You are not you,
not even a star;
you are a hole through which
I see only shining. ...


Khalfid remembers the lines from an obscure Human poet; their child had written the verses down, first in translation and then in the original language. She can smile now, knowing that she still has something left of Lhior: their child. The child Lhior bore, the child whose face reflects Lhior's features - but the spirit, perhaps something of the girl's spirit is Khalfid's own.

She knows how tempting it would have been for her to cling to the girl, to turn the restless, inquisitive child into a surrogate for Lhior - and she knows too how destructive it would have been for the child. And after all, Khalfid's role as a bondmother was not to nurture - that was Lhior's domain - but to guide the growing girl into the greater world. And so, she held the girl at a distance.

The homeworld is the soul's cradle - but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.

It was a quote the girl had come across in one of her books, and one she recited endlessly. The first time Khalfid had heard it, she thought it was a verse from one of the Gilkesh classics, perhaps The Way of Power or the Cypher, but she'd been wrong.

The girl never gave much of herself away. Following the construction accident that had killed her birthmother - a strange accident it had been, too - she'd grown even quieter, but her work in school never suffered. Her fierce intellect and her interest in alien cultures stayed as keen as ever. She studied hard and trained assiduously in the school's gymnasium, where the girls were exposed to their mandatory hour of Standard Gravity - the only place on the planet with artificial gravity - to prepare them for the unlikely possibility that they might one day journey to the Homeworld.

And now? She's out there somewhere now, Khalfid thinks.

Her steps are listless and fluid as she paces the floor of the small domicile. She gazes at the walls, at Lhior's belongings in a corner still untouched, at the pictures of Lior and their daughter on the walls. She thinks about what might have been and weeps without tears. She closes her eyes, and - from her home deep below the surface - looks up at the imagined stars. As if reciting a mantra, she repeats their daughter's name.

Joli. Joli. Joli. ...

The Investigation

[The Queen's Courtesan - our story so far: http://asher813.typepad.com/fiction/ ]


Three women step off of the elevator and walk silently down a hallway. The lighting is dim, even by Gilkesh standards, and their footsteps echo against the rock walls. Except for Garris, Shihar, and Orizhend, there is no sign of life or habitation in this abandoned sector.

They are now several levels below the Security office. Orizhend has never seen this area; Chief Garris herself has seen it only rarely, and Inspector Shihar only once. Wordlessly, Garris indicates a doorway, seemingly chosen at random. Shihar thinks it's the same room as before, but she can't remember for certain.

The room is furnished with a plain table of steel and crystal with four chairs. They close the door and seat themselves, the empty fourth chair creating a feeling that a fourth guest is expected - or perhaps already present, unseen and unheard. Shihar spreads her notesheets and datapads on the surface of the table. Garris carries no note-taking equipment; Shihar knows she doesn't need it. Orizhend is still clutching the lesson plan to her chest, as if protecting the girls whose names appear there ... but one of those girls is already missing.

"Don't worry about Urkni," Shihar says, keeping her voice low because she's aware of how tense and oppressive the silence feels. "We've issued an alert and there are search teams already looking for her. The rest of your girls are being escorted back to their homes. I've already spoken to the Education Director, and she's going to arrange for counseling when they return to school. Nobody should have to see what they saw."

The schoolteacher nods wordlessly, not meeting Shihar's gaze. Shihar lets a few moments elapse. When she feels Orizhend is ready (or perhaps on an unspoken signal from her boss, she's never really sure), she goes on with the interview.

"Did you know the dead girl?"

"No. No, I told you already ..." She's still not looking up.

"Had you ever seen her before?"

"No." It is unlikely that this is literally true; the population of the colony on Planet 138 is very small. But it is plausible that the woman doesn't remember seeing the vicitm, which - for now - will do.

"Did you notice anything unusual in the period before the death? Have you seen or heard anything, well, out of the ordinary in the last few days?"

Orizhend shakes her head.

"Please speak up," Garris interjects, softly but firmly. "I need to be able to hear your answers."

"No."

Shihar goes on. "Were you anywhere near the airlock before the time you found the body?"

"No! I was with my class - why are you asking me that?" She's worried now that they suspect her of being the killer.

Shihar leans forward and touches Orizhend's arm. "Listen to me. You're not under investigation, okay? But we need you to help us with this. Because -" She can feel Garris' eyes on her, so she stops herself. "It's very important that you help us."

Out of the corner of her eye, Shihar sees Chief Garris nod imperceptibly, which she knows signals both approval (whew!) and that the Chief would like to ask a few questions.

"Miss Orizhend," Garris begins, using the formal, respectful title the schoolteacher is used to hearing from her students, "I really appreciate your taking the time to talk with us."

(She's doing it again, Shihar thinks. The Chief, who normally has the personality of a paperweight, can become a completely different person when doing an interview - inexorably dominating and irresistibly sexy - if that's what it takes to get the information she needs. It's the most disconcerting thing.)

"This is an unusual case," Garris goes on, "and at this point there's a lot more unknown about it than is known. Here's what I can tell you so far. We think we have an ID on the girl, but we're still awaiting positive confirmation on that - so I'm afraid I can't disclose anything more about that just yet. As you told our patrol officers when they arrived, there were no signs of a struggle. In fact, the security video shows her just walking into the airlock and opening the outside door.

"So it looks like a suicide. And I don't expect it will turn out to be anything else, but we do want to know as much as we can about the girl - and about her last hours in this world."

This is enough to put Orizhend at ease. There is much more that Garris hasn't told her. While homicides are rare on Planet 138, the same cannot be said about suicides. But in Garris' experience, people usually end their lives with drugs, or occasionally they'll cut themselves. Airlock suicides aren't unknown, but they are very rare; and they're the kind of thing Internal Security doesn't release details about, to prevent copycat activity. An airlock suicide is an unusual event. Two in the same year would be strange. Three in a single year would be bizarre - like corpses getting up and walking around.

This is the third airlock suicide in a month.

"So, tell me," Chief Garris says, "What was the most unusual thing you noticed in the last 24 hours?"

Orizhend thinks for a moment. "It was the whispering," she says. "The whispering stopped."