She Who Wrote the World, a novella by Hannah Brewster-Stein
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Part Five: The Dinner
The most painful lesson I ever had to teach you is that you cannot hear from her yourselves. It is not possible. You are not led, inspired, or moved by her. That is not to say you are powerless. On the contrary, you are capable of changing the course of your destiny and those around you and the more you emulate me, the more power you will have. But no, you cannot receive the messages I receive and upon learning this, I was very distressed. Yes, I was heartbroken to know that you could not experience the voice as I hear it and at the same time I was overwhelmed at the responsibility this placed upon me.
It is easy to understand why this is so if you think of a King. A king does not go in person to the village and tell each individual his message. Rather, he tells his messenger and that messenger is responsible to ensure all hear. I am that messenger and the message is me.
As I sit here trying to focus on the task at hand, my mind wanders over the happenings of the years that have brought me to this place. And I think of how, like pages of a book, time is inconsequential; my life follows a sequence from birth to death, but I can flip through the pages at but a moment. All that is and will be existing together between the bindings. Here we exist, altogether inside her mind’s eye just as I picture my memories within mine. And just as I can see my beginning, so too, I can see the end.
Holly was engrossed with the Author’s recording. She had no choice, but to be. While the data flowed into her brainchip, all circuits were being utilized to organize and overlay the information. It was overwhelming and overriding all other thoughts so that when the Author stopped the flow of information, Holly was jolted back into reality as if being woken from deep sleep with a punch to the stomach. Although, it felt more like a punch in the head. It took a few blinks and deep breaths to steady herself.
The Author was considered the standard for beauty, fashion and decorum. The mindblogs lit up whenever the Author made an appearance, analyzing her latest wardrobe, her flawless skin, her radiant curls and how one can achieve a similar look, especially by purchasing their sponsors’ products. Whereas the Author was tall with feminine soft lines that bent themselves in provocative confidence, Holly’s small frame was boyish with an apologetic posture displaying years of dejection. They were only nine years apart in age, but Holly felt both juvenile and old. Holly had to admit, she was a handsome woman.
They were gazing at each other and Holly, suddenly aware of her open scrutiny of the older woman, felt her face redden and quickly averted her eyes.
“Perhaps it’s time,” the Author spoke aloud, “to end our recording sessions for the day. You look especially tired, my character. Let us partake in some nourishment and then I will show you your room.”
“I’m not going home?” Holly asked, genuinely surprised.
“Of course not,” she laughed, “You are my recorder and my guest and you will remain with me until our work is complete.” The Author rose from her cushion on the floor with one elegant motion and turned toward the door without giving Holly a chance to respond.
Becoming aware of her surroundings, Holly realized that the shimmering rainbows that had danced upon the wall had now disappeared. It was nighttime; the sun no longer shone through the glass that had surrounded them, which had played its light through the crystal hanging down from the center of the ceiling. The night was darker than usual and Holly knew a storm was coming and did not particularly relish the idea of getting caught in it walking home. At least Holly will not have to see Clara tonight. That will give her some time to cool off. Besides, Holly had never slept in luxury before. While a Page for the Order of Writers, she had slept most nights with her head on her desk; she hadn’t been allowed to go to bed till her work was finished and it almost never was.
Holly rose also, or rather stood then tripped over her foot, which she discovered had fallen asleep and proceeded to follow painfully behind the Author. The glass tower was as narrow as it was tall and it only took a few steps outside of the main room to find the transfer disk. A shirtless guard stood on either side of the flat metallic sphere. While the Author alighted the gap between the disk and the floor with an athletic ease, Holly had no choice but to accept the guards’ outstretched hands and be almost lifted like a child and set down beside the Author.
The floor beneath the disk opened, or more accurately, the nanobots moved aside, to allow the disk to perfectly fit itself through. They descended through several floors until they reached the base of the tower, the walls changing from glass to stone. Holly did not recall going up the tower. Actually, now that she thought of it, her last memory outside of the tower had been meeting the Author just inside the gates of the great hall before the sun had fully rose; they must have been recording the entire day.
The Author was quiet as Holly followed her off the disk and down the hall, but it was a comfortable quiet and Holly wasn’t used to engaging much in conversation anyways. She led them past walls covered in beautiful illustrations of the Author’s teachings along with various portraits of the Author herself.
Holly smelt the spices of cumin, curry and garlic as if they permeated not only the air, but the stone itself. It touched a distant memory in the corner of her mind that she couldn’t quite reach, but that filled her with longing. The dining room was made of perfectly hollowed out stone, smoothed to shining and the dining set, carved immovably from the same stone, stood central.
“I hope you like curried cockroach and cucumber salad,” said the Author, gesturing for her to sit.
“Oh, yes,” said Holly, but she could not recall ever eating this extravagantly before.
The Author must have sent out a private message since three of her personal guard suddenly appeared through the doorway and automatically began dishing out the beautiful foods onto the women’s plates. The Author reached out her hand and gently rubbed one of men’s bottoms, slowly tracing her fingers along the muscular curvature of his well exercised glutes and watched Holly’s face. Holly quickly looked away, hoping she had not just seen what she thought she had and tried to hide the mortification she felt. Still, in her peripherals, she could see a second guard approach the Author and Holly turned her head and watched without meaning too. He fed her cucumber from his own mouth then licked the dripped dressing from her lips. Holly lost her appetite.
“That one’s for you.” said the Author, gesturing to the third man. “You can take him back to your room if you want.”
“No!” Holly said, too quickly and too strongly, before she could reign in her emotion. Holly had never been touched in any way, ever. Not by loving parents, not by close friends, certainly not be her teachers at the Order and certainly, not ever, by a male. And now she was being offered a man she never met before with her food like some kind of appetizer. She felt embarrassed, angry, disgusted and disappointed all at once.
“How dare you!” The Author stood up and her voice echoed off the stone walls, “How dare you deny that which I give you. Do you think you are better than me? Do think you can judge the Author – she who pens your fate? Me?” She threw her plate against the wall and it shattered causing her curry to splatter.
Holly was taken aback. Why is it that those you expect the best from always end up the worst? No one had ever expected anything from Holly.
As quickly as the Author had stood to her full terrible height, she crumbled back down to the chair, her head falling to her hand, her eyes rolling back. Her guards surrounded her, clearly concerned.
Within seconds, she looked up and asked in a faint whispery voice, “What happened?” The Author seemed bewildered to see Holly there, bewildered by the mess of curry and ceramic; just generally, she looked bewildered.
“Nothing, just an accident. I was clumsy,” responded the mouth-feeder guard, exchanging meaningful glances with the other two, and then a sharper one at Holly, as if daring her to contradict his story. “Let’s help you to bed,” he said, “you’ve had a long day with the recorder.”
“Yes, alright.” The Author’s tone was more normal, but she had a dazed look across her face. Two of the guards took each one of her elbows and gently led her out.
The remaining guard said to Holly, “Your room is this way.” He didn’t wait so Holly had to quickly hop up from her chair and catch up with him down the hall. He passed by her room, pointing for her to go inside, but continued on without looking to see if she complied.
The room was lovely, but Holly was not savoring it. She lay down, confused, scared and exhausted. She should have known from her life at the Order that no person is ever as good as they seem. Even if that person is supposed to be the Author. Maybe Holly had been too uptight. After all, who is she to deny the Author? But replaying the scene in her head only made her stomach feel queasy. And what had happened after that? Was something wrong with the Author? How could that even be possible with all the nanotech keeping everyone healthy?
Too bad Clara hadn’t won this. She was the one that had wanted it in the first place. Holly had only submitted her autobiographical video when Clara had come home and announced she would most likely win and then laughed when Holly had asked about it. It was the way she had laughed – like it was ridiculous for small, slow Holly to even consider the idea of applying. Well Holly had won what Clara had wanted, so, it appears, they both lost.