Second Tourmaline: Palma (conclusion)
The Wainwrights had come when the invasion had been expected. Only expected, like an inundation, a volcanic winter, a thing that must be horrible in its encroaching effects. The sky had remained blue. Taxis had crawled the capital. Palma had dressed in heeled shoes and velvet frocks. Past midnight the café tables had been crowded.
The Wainwrights had come to write this story. They were stuck here now, both convinced David was dying. Palma wanted Mary to believe it, that he was not. She told herself she must not hate Mary. The impulse was weaponry…any state of emotion mere chemistry, an electromagnetic transaction between neural cells. One could feel the tap on the bone behind the ear. A stimulation to spark defensive wrath, to make enemies of allies.
And these pains, depressions, madnesses, that waved across the city, were the reason her people, quarantined within a color-wheel of central sectors, had not by force been disarmed. The pills given at the health clinic would finish David, not his back and his weakened sinews. He had gained so much weight. If he only would allow his wife to walk him to these gatherings, that his mettle might be awakened, his adamancy exhorted.
“What has David been able to do today?”
It was a speech-form she demanded of her fighters. Everything a refutation, a chance to show under the camera and the microphone, their undying will…to rise on a new morning, do the next new thing. Palma asked Mary this, and at once, hearing the prefacing sigh, turned her mind to her own thoughts.
No, Mary was courageous…her views not at all realistic. Her misfortune. She would martyr herself over this romantic dream—she thought Palma and Frederick so brave and so good.
She’d aspired, finding out there were natives here, to make a great study of the Hidtha. And of course it was wrong, coming at the herdsmen with curiosity and foreign diction. For many weeks, she hadn’t known the Ftheorde had given her his title; she had spoken to him with an off-kilter familiarity. The Hidtha did not tell their names. Mothers called sons and daughters differently from fathers. Only the titles, which were immutable, and had the neutral ending, could be used by non-Hidtha.
When they met, they began in this way.
Palma, their general, had stated these things to her fighters in the plainest terms. “They will like to watch us every moment. They will use radar or thermal imaging, come through the walls. And then of course, software to make the images real to their eyes. As in the days when everyone had information and could try things, you recall one sometimes saw pictures of galaxies. The galaxies had not been photographed. They were created from energy profiles.
“They don’t know if what we do matters or not. They have to pay attention. They have to file away their data and find it again. We will give them volumes of data.” The resistance had found that shared knowledge was language. There were dates on which things of significance had happened. Eyes, on the twenty-seventh or the fourteenth of particular months, would meet.
And of course, anyone might act at any moment. If he were a suicide fighter; if he had chosen this for himself.
“What will you read, Frederick?”
He grinned. “No other God before me. Friends—”
Yes, it posed something of a hazard to the G.R.A., but why would Palma’s fighters not rally themselves, preach sermons if they liked, lift one another’s spirits? Those forced to monitor these words (they must be rather lowly soldiers, tasked with such dull work) might find themselves tempted, counter-indoctrinated. The sentiments expressed were universal.
“Friends, long ago, among the sects who in those days practiced, and who accepted guidance according to those laws they called Commandments, there came to a northern state a wise man. His name was Moody. Moody said, of the first of these, a good thing: ‘That which you think about most often is your God.’
“Friends, we are an oppressed people. We long for consolation. The invaders, before they came—yes, even then—campaigned against our consolation. Our Brother David is left embarrassed and bereft of consolation. Our Brother Anton…”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)