- Dei’s World
I flew with my arms out like an airplane, through the corner window of the ancient American White House. Inside, brown-robed monks shouldered boom boxes, their asses releasing frosted wind.
“Aren’t we supposed to be learning about Churchill?” I said to Sarah, my meld partner. I spotted her sitting on an oscillating chandelier made of peacock feathers.
Sarah tilted her sunglasses down, that blaze of black hair whisking in a whirlwind. “So then what happens?”
“Then,” I said, levitating above the dancing monks, “salt water pours in through the windows.” CRASH! The monks fell like heaps of dirt. Electric sparks flew from their stereos. “The White House is the Titanic,” I said as the entire stone structure tilted. Men in suits poured out screaming.
She gave a light chuckle. “You’re vile. Such a travesty, the Titanic.”
“So what should I conjure next?” I said with a grin. “Lead the way, Dei.”
Sarah smiled when I called her by that name, the name she was not allowed to speak. “Well,” she said, “how about a flood! Can you do that?”
My mind communicated a new code, speaking the machine’s language, and we levitated together through the rooftop and watched the White House float like abandoned cargo in an endless sea.
“Life begins anew,” I said. “The end of mankind!”
Dei’s body somersaulted in midair laughter. “Killed by their own technology—”
—Children! [End Page 285]
I awoke from the mind mesh, sweating, my heart beating in my neck.
“Children,” our caretaker said again. She stood near the canyon-wall chalkboard, her frail body hugged by a burlap dress, her wooly gray hair poking out in all directions from a blue bonnet blocking the sun. “Who is the good student? Who listened to all of Sir Churchill’s speech, and can recite the last lines?”
My eyes followed the small black wire from my forehead to the fist-sized meld machine and then to Sarah, a girl whose body shone with a heavy sweat that seeped through her burlap dress. We sat on red stones at the bottom of the great canyon that protected us from the toxic gray fog above. I heard that small black creek running nearby, indifferent to our lesson.
My eyes met hers. We smiled at each other like we were being chased. Annoyed, the caretaker called on someone else.
Two years before, her people emerged from the fog on the northern edge of our canyon. They wore industrial gas masks and carried all their belongings in wagons and wheelbarrows. Hundreds of them had escaped the chaos of the subterranean mounds, only to spend weeks journeying through the fog, never pulling off their masks except to drink radish and pea soups cultivated from their underground farms. We, the canyon people, had only heard of their kind, the mound people, from our scouts. We gave them space to camp on the higher edges of the canyon, closer to the fog.
My eyes first met her defiant gaze in class, while the caretaker was leading our weekly singalong:
Who is who is who isgoing to get eatenby the fog fog fog fogWho?All the mountain people!And?All the island people!And?All the mound people! [End Page 286]
I felt embarrassed, knowing that some of our classmates had just come from the mounds. But the other children sang with fervor, even the new refugees. I moved to the back of the classroom and found one other child singing like me, in small whispers. It was all the breath she could muster. Somehow, our skin was the same tint of brown. Her arm looked like mine, and seemed just as smooth to touch. I volunteered to be her partner in the meld machine, a virtual world where we learned about all of human achievement. I was supposed to help her adjust. We were supposed to use the machine to observe and honor the world before war scorched the planet. Before the fog took all the men.
But Sarah only used the machine for play. And with my unrestrained imagination, we defiled every honorable...