“To pick ourselves up,” I finish is a voice so soft I’m not sure I actually said it.
I smell like refuse or I will if I don’t get moving. I stand up as best I can, grab my bag and gingerly descent Mount Trash. A crack coincides with my foot hitting the floor. I have broken glass. I snatch up a jagged piece for protection and accept Plakkan superstition. If I don’t twirl around three times I will not find true love. I don’t care about true love at nine and seventeen. I flick my eyes around and hear the door to the basement open. I scurry between the dumpster and the wall and hold my breath to keep from making noise and because of the smell.
“I told you if I hate Vecher. They’re abominations, every single one of them. That’s what I said.” The fix-it man tells someone as they come down the stairs. Their shoes pound down the stairs into the dim room with small, dirty windows near the ceiling. We’re partially underground and I’m too far from the sun for my comfort. It’s my Vecher side. I never talked to Houssam about it because he already thinks my eyes are hideous. He thinks I have thin blood but my doctors warned me before they had to hide me. “As you can see, Commandant, there’s no one here.” A switch forces the light bulbs into eking out eerie light. I am doomed and hold my scrap of glass tighter trying not to cut my hand.
“What’s over there?” A gruff voice barks. That must be the Commandant. Plakkan military has sent a Commandant? I surely can’t be that valuable at their nine. That’s twelve promotions from Corporal. Chasing me is not a Commandant’s job. My free fingers pull into claw shape.
“It’s the trash,” Foosahn, the fix-it man gives the Commandant flat diction. Their footsteps scuff closer to me. My mouth opens and I shake with trepidation. They will kill me; I know it. “Over here is the furnace.” I see him now and try to flatten myself even more. “It burns real good during the cold season.” This is more sarcasm. Foosahn’s father was somewhere between Corporal and Commandant but I can’t remember what promotion. That’s something only Houssam knows from direct conversations. Foosahn hates young and he never took a liking to me like he could tell I am worse than his wildest imagination. All youth do is apparently break things though he’s never had to fix anything I broke. “No Vecher here,” he informs while opening the glass door to the furnace. I close my eyes to make sure my eyes burn in the reflection. It’s ten minutes before I’ll remember I’m wearing my covers.
“Say, Commandant, you pay for Vecher information, no?”
“It depends on the information.” Commandant is uninterested in what the fix-it man has to say. Here Foosahn looks in my direction while rocking the glass door back and forth like he’s trying to make sure they’re alone white quelling a nervous tick. My body goes cold and his face loses some color. Foosahn makes his eyes go to the Commandant.
“I’ll give you good information but I want something out of it. I want 40 Notiles now for it and 40 Notiles tomorrow night when I’ll tell you all about it.” He means me even though I clearly have female physical traits and have had them for two Plakkan cycles.
“Why won’t you tell me now?” The Commandant doesn’t like the steep price. He is cheap when information about me would make him rich and get promotion. I thought military men were supposed to see the sea and the cup of water in hand.
Foosahn suspiciously looks around the basement and cautions, “The walls have eyes.” That’s the spooky phrase Plakkans use—especially to ill-behaved young—to let everyone know Vecher are everywhere. My top layer of skin goes pallid—classic Plakkan instinctive behavior as exhibited by Foosahn. Foosahn leaves my line of sight after slamming the glass door shut. I see the image of the Commandant. He is very young with pursed lips. The shard of glass breaks through the top layer of skin. My mouth opens in pain but nothing comes out.
“Here’s 30 and I will come back tomorrow.” It was a very forceful tone. Four feet rattle on the stairs and the basement goes dark—not necessarily in that order. As the door bangs shut I pull the sharp piece of glass out of my hand and throw it on the floor. It cracks. I wait, still behind the dumpster and count in Plakkan and in Vechan until I’m ready to get out. I see something in the furnace door and whip around to find paper. I kneel down to inspect it. Foosahn left his Notiles for me. I pick them up like they are a precious keepsake. One has a word written on it.
~Raging and quivering female mass of hormones and tosser of Dark Side Cookies™ (trade marked by Etoile)
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