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About the Author
Kameron Hurley is a Clarion West 2000 graduate and obtained her Bachelor's Degree in History from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 2001. She will be pursuing her Masters in History at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa in February of 2002. Much thanks to Patrick Weekes, Julian Brown, Miriam Hurst and Bill Mingin for wading through the first drafts of all her violent feministic stories. Including this one.
If Women Do Fall They Lie
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The vessel had not been deloused. I learned this from the dormitory mothers when I asked that they wash her and prepare her for transport. I went back to my vehicle and sprayed myself in anti-parasitic spray as I called the androgynies at the city center and told them Daeva Four could dream. They arranged a meeting with the Kell city leader Ro Bhavesh.
The dormitory mothers presented the washed vessel to me. I put her in the vehicle. I had to sit across from her. My skin crawled.
The vehicle closed, the steely compound gate opened, and I entered our destination into the navigation console. All this time the vessel stared at me. She began to cry. I ignored her.
I would need a bath and disinfectant rinse, and with that I would wash away the last trace of this encounter with the vessels and the desert and the dusty, wrinkled faces of the dormitory mothers. Ro Bhavesh would deal with this vessel. Daeva Four was a Kell complication, not a man's.
The Kell, however, still did not appear to understand that I was better utilized elsewhere. When our vehicle arrived, two tall androgynies met me on the landing space and said, "You're to take the vessel to Ro Bhavesh."
I opened my mouth to protest, but androgynies never meet the protestings of a man with anything more than stoic androgynous silence. I have much experience with this. I closed my mouth.
The sky in Sapan that day was lavender, the leaves of the slender trees lining the sidewalks an orange-peppered yellow. Tomorrow I hoped they would be green. The orange made me think of the sun in the desert. Here in Sapan the streets were white, the buildings blue and gray and deep green, and the vessel and I were the only things here that carried dirt and contagion with us. The city air ate away at that contamination as I entered. I felt the conditioning system pump air out around me and the vessel, the microscopic machinated nits devouring the dust and decay on my face and arms and clothing. The vessel scratched absently at her skin, as if she sensed the cleansing of her body's filth.
Clerks and officials and smooth-faced boys selling sealed containers of starches stared as the vessel and I passed. I almost hoped no one would guess that she traveled with me, but she stayed so close behind that she could belong to no one else.
I came to Ro Bhavesh's spherical white tower and was admitted without trouble. The vessel and I were ushered into the Kell's meeting room by two androgynies. We stood in front of Ro Bhavesh. All this time the vessel had said nothing, but when she saw Ro Bhavesh seated in the tall white sculpted chair her black eyes grew wide and she cried out, "I saw you in my dream!"
Ro Bhavesh smiled. I had seen few Kell smile, and when this one did, it struck me that seeing this Kell smile was very pleasing to the eye. The Kell are not so different from men in appearance, and all that separates them from us is their lack of fluid and excretion. No sweat, no blood, certainly no tears. The Kell are the ascendant; they are all that the base vessels are not and never will be. Standing before this tall, slender Kell, its face so smooth and impassive, the eyes without moist sheen, the hair orange and wrapped about the scalp with impeccable precision, I remembered that I stood now somewhere between Kell and vessel, between ascendance and baseness, and I hated this vessel again for her presence, and her dreams, and her lies.
"You say you saw me in a dream, vessel?" Ro Bhavesh said.
"I dreamed you, and you told me stories," the vessel said.
"And what stories did I tell?" Ro Bhavesh said.
"You told me stories of women," the vessel said.
I watched the smile fade from Ro Bhavesh's clean, ageless face. For a moment, I wondered if I should not have brought the vessel here. I wondered if I should have destroyed her in the desert.
"I apologize," I said. "I have heard no vessel utter such a word. I believed it would be -"
The Kell held up its hand. "Enough, Kadru. Am I correct in saying that you are intimately familiar with cases such as this?"
I thought of the desert, and of my youth - and again, my skin crawled. "I have. I excelled at the selection of breeders, laborers, and genetic flaws. I did my work well, and was rewarded for it. I enjoy my place in the city."
And if you send me out into the desert again, I will perish, I thought, but I did not alter my expression.
"What do you make of this vessel, then?" Ro Bhavesh said, and its gaze stayed on the vessel who stared back at it.
"From what she says it appears she is not a teller of lies or stories so much as she is a teller of past truth. Most vessels are incapable of lies -- past or present -- unless they are persuaded to believe them as truth, but I have known genetic anomalies who carry the past within them, passed down from one casting to the next. She is a fourth casting. Someone felt it necessary to continue the breeding and growth of this mix beyond one casting. Perhaps they hoped this genetic storage of racial memory would manifest itself." I hesitated. "She dreamed also of the ocean."
Ro Bhavesh looked at me. I saw only cold Kell calculation in its face, the efficient rational thought of a mechanized ascendant. "Perhaps, then, we should take her there, and discover how much truth of the past she knows."
My first thought was to question its use of the term "we." My second thought was to wonder why Ro Bhavesh felt it necessary to question a vessel at the ocean. Did it expect to receive different answers in Sapan than it would receive at the ocean?
"Ro Bhavesh," I said, "do you think it is necessary to -"
"You question too much," Ro Bhavesh said.
The voice was without emotion, without inflection, but I was chilled by it. Ro Bhavesh nodded. It was decided. I was to travel to the ocean.
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