Author : K. Pittman
In the crypt, the door about to close, she dances. Her bodysuit lined with cpipe and circuits, feet bare on plascrete, steps unpracticed but confident.
She dances, gazing briefly at the helmet on the low shelf beside the windowless crèche, beside the suit’s lined tabi, beside a neatly folded stack of gray utility garments, beside her ring, beside her wife’s ring.
She hadn’t danced at their wedding. There wasn’t time or space there in that floating, golden moment in the bursar’s office. A signature, a brief, lingering kiss, a tap of the chit on the flat screen. An aircab. Lifetimes ago, before broken past.
She hadn’t danced as a child.
Mama was sick, Papa was old, and they had no friends. There were no others, no predecessors, no cousins, no siblings. “You were a gift to us,” her parents would say, at their brief meals between endless rotating shifts, lying past pain and stress and trouble, past thin walls vibrating pointless hate and sick ambition. “You were the best thing that ever happened.” She didn’t dance, but her childhood was relatively untroubled.
She kept to herself, and while a happy child, didn’t dance.
School had no dancing. The other kids danced, though; in their rooms, cam-to-cam and face-to-face, secret dance parties peeped in snips on devs over mealbreak in School’s evening shadowed breezeways, like some old movie everted.
There was no explicit rule against it, but there was no public dancing. There were uniforms and drills, tests and training, mealbreaks, lounge cycles, and a loosely enforced caste system, and compulsory viewing of mendacious school news, full of what she’d later call “mathematically attractive” student anchors unquestioningly and unwittingly lying about nothing and everything, about out- and in-school. The em-ays were about the same, in her nascent estimation, as the snitches, and cowards, and idiots, and quiet creeping killers, which were all the other kids. Not her scene.
She kept to herself, got decent marks, never thought about dancing.
The crypt door is closed now.
Streaks of gray fall across her eyes as she rocks and sways to a music alit from within her, her head, her body – patches of colligated melodies and rhythms swell and she starts as it, she grows as it – shuffles shakes shimmies shudders springs left prances right sways gently into turgid mental winds viscous in unseen swirling colors pulled aloft by time, shapes pushed into forces.
Soon a bell, the sound of a bell, will fill the crypt, followed by bitter cold and sleeping stink, and what she’s been told is a dreamless hibernation until the ship, the carriage of her crypt among millions of others, assumes a safe parking orbit over the terminus of a new world, under the disk and staring eye of a new system sun. Her wife waits for her in a hablab, watching the birth of a Spindle while stealthy probes map the planets and circling dust. The sound of a bell, and she’ll don the tabi, attach the helmet to the suit’s cowl, climb into the creche lined with quilts of acceleration gel, and sleep the sleep of sleeping sleep.
Many long tomorrows from now, she’ll dance with her brilliant love under concatenations of alien constellations, and those tomorrows are tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow.
Tonight ends soon, after a bright tone, and tonight she dances for the first time, seconds against the bell.
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