Monday, May 11, 2009

The Watchers: Part Six.

A continuation of The Watchers. Copyright, Michael Wescott Loder 2009.

First Day, and all breeched and cloaked children as yet unmarried must be in school. Week-in and week-out, summer or winter, that was truth. It mattered not that Beriana shared a private tutor with her sisters and only brother four days a week. On First Day, she must be in the town school from sunup until sundown—a long day for anyone at high summer. Louisa-Bin might still have to suffer on a backless bench, holding tablets and codexes in her hands, but Beriana got an individual seat with a work surface in front. This added little to her comfort, for the seat’s smooth flatness meant that the slightest leaning back would promise a quick slide to the floor. All the students sat up straight and kept their feet firmly on the frayed rugs under their sandals.
“Beriana, did you hear about the hotel fire,” her neighbor whispered.
“Yes. We could see the smoke from the house.”
“We could hear the sirens up on the hill. How many died? What number have you heard?” Another girl added.
Beriana shrugged. “I heard over thirty, but …”
“Class, attention to the front—now! Beriana Krinklesdau,” Madam Teacher glared her. “What answer do you have to the fifth problem?”
“Arrival time of twelve and one quarter turns, plus or minus one tick-tock,” Beriana answered.
“Ah… That is correct. Thank you. Class, please now turn to the second set of problems that are on your screens.”
Beriana ignored the awed stares coming from her classmates and began tapping her way through the new set of problems starting to display themselves on her computablet. She had solved seven out of the eight when her eyes briefly widened. “Ah-oh’” she breathed. “Madam Teacher, please. I need a moment in the hall room?”
Madam Teacher frowned and looked at Beriana. “Yes, you may go.” She nodded to the floor guard.
Beriana stood, curtsied and left the room. The floor guard straightened and followed her out. A half tick-tock later, safely hidden from the attendent’s view in the farthest stall, Beriana opened her right hand and slowly flexed it six times, then laid the palm against her ear. For a several moments she stood still, listening, eyes closed, mind concentrated. Then she shifted her hand away, took a slightly longer breath and rubbed her right palm with her left before flushing the toilet. She remembered to give the guard a nod and smile on her way back to the classroom, even if her deeper thoughts were far away.

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