Nothing Sure but Death and Terrans
by Rachel Parsons
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears in this issue.
|part 2 of 3|
I was sitting in a vigil by Rhonda’s bed. She was still sleeping off the heavy spell that kept her unconscious, as Brevin, my head torturer, took a chisel and hammer and gently — as far as this operation could be gentle — chipped off the parts of Rhonda’s skull next to the thing in her brain.
He had methodically put all the bone fragments in a pestle next to the slab he had her on, and then when her gray matter was exposed, he followed Arianrhod’s directions, and inserted a long pair of tweezers into her cerebrum. I closed my eyes at this point.
“Tell me when it’s over,” I yelped to Arianrhod and Brevin.
No wonder he is so effective at extracting information and confessions. Shudder.
“Got it!” he yelled and I opened my eyes.
He then dropped a little rectangular object into a bowl — it made a tinkling noise — sprayed some gray juice into Rhonda’s exposed brain, after slapping his hands, making some neurons fly, kissed her grey matter, and then methodically put her skull back together, piece by piece. Each one glued together by some white stuff from a tube. I was hoping he knew what he was doing and hadn’t mistaken the bonding cream for toothpaste.
Finally, he declared, “It’s done.”
I relaxed for the first time in hours.
“Well she be okay now?” I asked Brevin.
“Don’t know. We got the whatchamacallit out of her head, and that’s what’s been causing her brain fever.”
“Brevin, it wasn’t brain fever, it was memory loss.”
His comment worried me.
“Well, what ever you say. If she doesn’t start remembering things in a day or two, give me a whistle.”
“You can fix that?”
“No. But I can extract her frontal lobes, so her memory loss won’t be as upsetting to her.”
“Uh, thanks, Brevin. I’ll keep that in mind.”
So here I was, between audiences, petitions, presiding over endless meetings with burghers and barons, reading up on law; keeping a vigil over my friend and personal attendant, hoping that she would not be a drooling idiot when she woke up and could explain the device in her head. It was an offworlder device, of that I was certain, as it was made of a pure, translucent substance, and had little feelers on it. It looked like a bug that had been frozen by a spell.
I had seen something like it when I was the darling of the court of New Dyved. They had used things like that in rectangular solids that allowed them to keep records of what their clients in that kingdom did, dispatch their messages to one another, and even entertain their youth for hours.
Rhonda started moaning. Then her eyes opened wide all at once and she looked startled. She stared at me. “Where are we?”
“Rhonda, you’re in your suite at the palace. You’re safe.”
“Where am I? What did you call me?” She pulled herself up. I went over and pushed her back.
“You just had your head cracked open; stay still.”
“My head cracked open? Another experiment? Mirror! Mirror! Give me a mirror!”
I handed her a hand held one that had been lying on her nightstand. She looked at her face. Touched the bandages on her head.
“Yes, you do look a fright, darling.”
“He said he’d do it. Oh, no, no, no. I’m so ugly. He said he’d make me beautiful, but I knew it would be by his standards.”
She pulled the sheets off and then her nightgown. Rubbed her stomach.
“My stomach: flat. He said he’d do that. But the ears, the nose, the eyes!” She started crying and looking at me in anguish. Then at the sight of me, she stopped bawling for a moment, blinked and said, “Who are you?”
“I am the Rhiannon. I think you have beautiful ears, nostrils and eyes,” I said, hoping I sounded sincere.
Beautiful for an outworlder; Rhonda was an ethnic Terran. Her family had fought with us against the outworlders, and had been living here for decades, since they first landed. They had adopted our customs, obeyed our laws, and as far as I was concerned, they are one of us. You may have a different opinion, but remember, I am queen. My opinion is the one that counts.
“But they’ve made me into one of them,” she blubbered. “I don’t want to be a Terran. Please, don’t hate me. They made me this way.”
She cried and cried and cried, leaving me open mouthed in astonishment. I was more astonished by what she said once she stopped crying. Her memory came back to her as she told me her story. Sometimes, for her sake, I wish it had not.
It had started out as a dare and a joke.
“You would not dare do it,” Sylvia said to Rhonda. Only her name wasn’t Rhonda back then, it was Anglia. “No way would you do it.”
Sylvia was adamant. They were sitting in a park by the distillery on the leeward side of New Prydain City. Sylvia was the oldest, almost a five-year from her Ushering, and hence, almost an adult. She was like the leader of the group. Anglia was next in line to the succession, being a four-year from an Ushering. Bruce was only one year from his. Gregor, Georgio, Hanskpur and Alana and the others were all in between. It was a sunny day, but then it almost always was in New Prydain, but it was not every day that a tutoring holiday had been declared, and the merchant-class teenagers found themselves on their own.
“You are as the chicken. I bet Bruce would do it. Won’t you, Bruce?” Sylvia wheedled.
“You bet. But only if Anglia does it after me.”
“Well?” Sylvia said. “Now’s your big chance to strut your stuff.”
The bunch was not particularly rebellious, but back then a lot of youth sprinkled Terran into their talk They would, strangely, imitate the lower classes with its use of contractions and such.
“Oh, all right. I’ll do it if Bruce does it. But you come and get me if I get mistaken for a slave or something.”
“We’ll come and get you. Don’t worry. You would make an awful slave,” Sylvia said.
“Thanks, Sylvia. May the goddesses get you for that.”
“Any time.” She dimpled.
So Bruce stripped, and everyone clapped and cheered. He ran down the parkway and back, looking all flushed and pleased with himself. As he put his tunic back on, and attached his cape, his smile said “Well?” to Anglia.
“Your turn,” Sylvia said teasingly.
“Okay, you guys, but nobody look, okay?”
“Okay, Anglia. We won’t look,” Sylvia promised and winked at the crowd.
Anglia stripped and ran off. Everyone, breaking their promises, looked. And laughed. Not that there was anything to laugh at on Anglia. Quite the contrary. The boys all got a new appreciation for her that day, and Sylvia noticed that. The flush on her face seemed to rise with the clapping.
“What are you doing, Sylvia? You cannot do that. She’ll get into trouble.”
“It’s okay, Gregor. We’ll bail her out, or whatever you do when you’re mistaken for a slave.”
What she was doing was stuffing all of Anglia’s clothes down a manhole. Soon her skirt and blouse and sandals would be washed out to sea, along with the city’s offal. Then Sylvia did something that shocked the others.
“She’s a runaway!” she shouted. “She’s a runaway!” Soldiers who had been standing around swilling something from a bottle came up to them.
“No, this is wrong, Sylvia,” Bruce declared.
“Where is the runaway, young ma’am?” the soldier who was clearly in charge asked, tipping his hat to her.
“Over there,” Sylvia said, pointing to Anglia. The soldiers headed toward where Anglia was turning around. “Now, everyone run!”
This sparked a herd instinct, and everyone started running, even as Bruce said, “What about Anglia?”
“Oh, I’ll tell her family. You have two days before you are sold, and by that time, everything will be straightened out and we’ll all have a good laugh at this.”
But Sylvia did not tell Anglia’s family that she was being mistaken for a slave and taken to a detention center. Anglia never learned why she did not. She just suffered the consequences of the oversight.
“Really, I’m not a slave,” she cried as the soldiers grabbed her, put her in leg irons and handcuffs, and frog marched her to detention.
“Shut up, slave. Know your place.”
An order that would be repeated almost endlessly in her life until she ended up at Caer Rhiannon. Followed always by being hit until Anglia practiced obedience.
After the two days were up, she was sent to the block. She was sold to a family which had two boys, almost of Ushering age. Things went well, until one decided he would learn what it was like to have a woman from one who could not say no to him.
He cornered Anglia in the laundry room of their house, as she was folding towels and hanging up garments, pressed her against the wall, and told her what he wanted her to do for him.
“No, I will not!”
He slapped her; she pushed him back, sending him crashing into clothes hangers, and scampered out the window. She was caught by a gendarme before she even reached the corner of their neighborhood.
She was sold to a breeder farm. The boys’ parents thought that was appropriate, as they believed his side of the story, that she had attacked him and tried to make him do the beast with two heads with her. At the breeder farm, she was forced, again and again, to give birth to ‘litters’ as they were called. She spent the next five years used as a reward for hard working male slaves, loaded up with hormones, and made to give birth to up to five babies at a time. After nursing them, they were taken away from her, to be raised as slaves themselves.
She was sold again, this time to outworlders. She was placed in what amounted to a kennel. At least, there were animals in other cages like it, as well as other slaves. The Terrans didn’t seem to distinguish between natives and their animals. All were naked, all were forced to use straw for their excretory functions, all were fed from bowls, and all were subject to the Terran doctors’ experiments.
Some were opened up, without a consciousness blocking trance, in surgery where their internal organs were inspected by medical students. Anglia listened to their screams and could not eat afterwards until they forced her to by prying open her mouth and stuffing ‘primate chow’ as they called it down her throat.
When her turn came for the surgery, the doctor decided he was going to “restore her beauty.” Her breasts had become sagging and pendulous, and there was loose, dangling, flapping skin where once a flat stomach had been because of all the breeding. He took a knife to her, and she screamed as tubes were put into her, sucking out fat, her jaw was broken and rearranged, parts of her nose excised, her eyes placed at odd angles, and her ears bobbed. She was conscious through all of it.
She came out looking like a Terran. But she must have been a beautiful one, as her surgeon showed her off to his colleagues, who took turns raping her.
* * *
“But how did you come to take the identity of Rhonda?” I asked, as she paused in this narrative.
Paused to take a shot of whisky — not exactly ordered by the Meddygon physician but one ordered by me. As much for myself as for Rhonda, as I was getting more and more scared listening to her story. I realized that my curse and my subsequent prostitution was nothing compared to what could have happened to me.
“One day, no one came to take us out of the cages. After we had missed several feedings, I broke out of mine. I took a piece of straw and used it to pull a key ring to me. Once I was free, I freed everyone else, and the true animals. Oh, we were scared to death that day, Rhiannon.”
I was shivering and not from the cold. It was, in fact, a blistering hot day.
Copyright © 2005 by Rachel Parsons