What we are, Lady Vanadyl, is so reminiscent of organized chaos: A wagon-flock of pioneer survivalists away from the civilization that would destroy us. We know not how we will get by, yet that that is life in your hands; a romantic adventure against all odds on a planet coated with radioactive metals. If indeed for this all you ask in trade for this safe harbor is a tale ‘from the heart’ then that is what I will offer you, take it as you may.
The Twin Cities, protected as they are, never knew me nor I them. To say I was proud of the Crown military initiative which preserved them would be a grave error. I have no pride in the economic superpower, and the part my family played in it. Peace is too steep a price to pay for ignorance, by your reckoning, and I do not disagree on that point of judgment.
When I was six, however, I did not care for such things. Greenswede Farthing Co. operated a refining and processing plant of which my grandfather and father were both employed on the board of directors. My life was a total bore; I was home-schooled and always attended by family.
My parents worked, and though I have such poor memory now of Mum’s manner of employ. She was an attractive, kind woman, but distant and not always understanding of my ways. I remember she was “lit up” by two aspects of life: my happiness, and a new travel prospect.
Perhaps I despise that a little.
Father knew all of my fancies. The little girl next door, the flowers down the lane, the chocolate-orange bitters at Benhagle’s Sweet Shop. So it could only have been a surprise to a child to receive the most wonderful gift on one special occasion. My birthday perhaps? I can no longer remember.
Gran’an had such a delightful smile. I thought her teeth were like snow, soft and very large. The box she presented to me was positively enormous, half as tall as myself. What could be so big? It was neatly wrapped in glossy emerald paper and a large red and silver bow by hand, no less.
“Gren m’dear, are you just going to stare at the box?” Gran’an’s voice had wafted into my memory and reminded me what I was about. I smiled at her and tore the thing apart promptly. Half as tall, was it? The lid was not at all flimsy, sewn together with great care and skill.
I remember the clatter of the lid on the wood floor and the chiding Mum gave me for being so careless. She was right, I deemed, but she could not see what had entranced me. She saw a bear. I saw a furry, bow-tied friend.
I was elated, and I lifted him straight out of the box. He had black, shiny eyes with hair the color of chocolate. Orange fluff in his ears and on the ends of his feet and paws stuck out at me like bursts of fire. He wore an understated green and yellow speckled bow tie over which was an enormous emotionless frown.
I’ve always had the impression that something terrible had happened to him, but he had not decided how to feel about it. It elicited an intense feeling of sympathy from me. I squeezed him immediately and told him everything was going to be okay.
“Ellis Orange,” I cried out, seeing the looks of astonishment that washed over my grandparents faces. Imagination is not my best quality, but that name felt right. Naturally no one questioned it, and I was allowed to run right off with Ellis and show him my playroom.
Gran’an made sure I gave her a hug before I went. Gratitude never took second place with her.
Father, Ellis and I never once argued on our adventures, playing together as occasion permitted. Even when were hanging by our pants over a dangerous pit they never tiffed about whose turn it was to save the day. We were famous together. I could not have been happier. Mum was gratified, and I her heard her thank Gran’an for her “delightful gift”. It was the kindest thing she ever said.
Then, one day, a strange thing happened. Ellis fell over.
Ellis Orange had a special perch in my room, like all of my special friends. Not being very imaginative — I do hope I have made that point especially clear, Milady, it is very important — I took to posing my toys in the likeness of things I saw around me. Unfortunately Ellis Orange had the worst posture, being jointed at the shoulders and hips and not strung in any way. I had to sit him down, and there weren’t many scenes I could think of with war heros sitting down.
Do you know Alms Kardic Wester? Perhaps because he so resembled my Father I took a shine to him. He was a young writer, and so very brave following around the soldiers in the battlefields, getting shot at and blown up. In the picture Gran’an had given me of them he was sitting down so he could get his pen to write straight. That’s how I thought of it, you see.
It happened one day that teacher Snagg and I watched a video of Wester’s return home. Wester was wounded so badly he never walked again and on that day someone took a photograph of him on a hill sitting next to a cooled hill of molten plasteel. He looked so cool and unafraid that I wanted to be just like him. Knowing I couldn’t, at least Ellis could pretend he was.
‘Ellis the Brave Journyist,’ I titled it. I gave all my scenes titles.
There was a low cabinet on the wall opposite my bed which was perfect for the hill Father and I made out of wood and plastic blocks for Ellis to lean on. He couldn’t hold paper, so I just laid it in his lap with a little toy pencil clipped to it with some scribbles of mine. I wrote:
‘I am not skared / I shall tel them.’
That night I slept as any other night, except that I dreamed of being a terrible writer, and of falling. I was in a tunnel of words of countless fathoms, yet I could spy saw it was not bottomless. Whenever I looked up there was a light but I couldn’t touch it. In my hand was a pencil, very like the one I lent to Ellis Orange, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t complete my words. The silly pencil had no eraser, which I deemed of greater import than the fact that I was falling. Consumed by the need to complete my tale, I awoke.
In those days you could see the sun, not just its light though the shield, and that was what awoke me. I sat up and realized, looking at the cabinet, that Ellis Orange was missing. So I leapt out of bed and found him sprawled on the floor as though he had jumped. I picked him up and hugged him tight, scared for some reason I could not understand. I had had the terrible feeling he was trying to leave, and I did not want him to!
Gran’ad was would not listen to my tale, insisting that I do something else. This was typical of him, but at the time I was uncommonly put out. When Father came home from work, the morning event took center stage. He listened intently, and indulged me singularly, as always. Somehow I could tell he did not comprehend the entirety of the matter.
I explained that Ellis could not have fallen. I showed him the angle that at which he sat, and how I ensured he did not slide or slip. Father was impressed and critiqued all seven of my scenes, congratulating me on details he recognized. He told me what war events they were from, and I felt very proud.
Then I brought him back to the real problem: Ellis Orange had fallen! I was too young to understand professionalism, but it was almost as thought it were at stake. Father creatively and sympathetically explained that all plans are “going to go awry despite our best efforts”.
His confidence in my endeavors softened the impact of my failure to communicate this crucial fact. I had never before known such profound dissatisfaction! However, at the very moment I was about to protest further, dinner was served. Called away, I promptly forgot the whole matter.
Yet, to this day, I cannot explain why ‘skared’ was struck-out and respelled correctly on the sheet of paper I had lent to Ellis Orange.