Monday 22 September 2014

To be Gifted

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

The pink fruits were bubble gums stuck to a forest from this vantage point. Atop the gabled roof of the farmhouse, Edna swung her legs over the air, chomping on one of the round fruits as the sun turned even the sky a tickled shade of pink. Edna herself felt tickled. Here she was, a pink-haired girl in a pink sweatshirt heralding a pink sky over a pink polka-dotted field. Her eyes casually swept over the field, looking for another pink head among the stalks. He’s late for dinner, she thought. Again.
Taking another bite of the fruit, she closed her eyes. Its syrupy flavour caressed her tongue, while its biting sourness sent tingles through her skin. Its surface was firm but fuzzy, like a peach only better. The Rosalina, Edna thought, Fortune Valley’s gem. She opened her eyes and held up a fist. Raising one finger up, she began counting as her mouth sank into the Rosalina’s flesh again.
She looked down, spotting a pink head. Full of twisted strands dangling around a square face, it wasn’t the neat lines and narrow face she was looking for. Swallowing, she shook her head, “He’s taking his time!”
The head cursed and muttered, “I told him he could do it tomorrow.” A door slammed and Edna resumed her watch.
Soon her tongue slunk around her mouth for the Rosalina’s seed. She took it out, examining its narrow shape, like that of an apple seed, marvelling at how Gifted farmers could grow so much of the wondrous fruit with just that, and yet being Gifted was so common that the whole valley was deemed fortunate. Still, her hand closed over the seed and brought it to her lips. Thank you, she kissed.
Her eyes flitted to a distant part of the field, where her assigned head slid quickly through the stalks.
“He’s coming!” she called down.
Gazing back at the field, Edna frowned. Why is he stopping? She wondered. Suddenly, the head dropped and a mass of white and red spots surged up to cover him, moving quickly towards the farmhouse. Edna’s eyes widened and she immediately hooked her head down to yell once more.
The force of the hook knocked her off-balance and she flipped forwards with a scream. Instantly, hands caught her in their arms and put her down in one smooth motion.
“You stay with your mother! I’ll get Jeff-”
“Jeff, he’s already…” Edna’s mouth stopped working. What was she reporting?
Her father met her eyes squarely.
“I’ll get Jeff,” he repeated, squeezing her shoulder.
She bit her lower lip and nodded emphatically. Her mom ushered her in the house and locked the door, her uncle and aunt already at work shuttering the windows and spreading strong herbs around possible openings.
“Go hide in the cellar!” Her mom ordered, agitatedly tugging a strand of her own pink hair behind her ear. “We’ll finish sealing off the house and then join you. Your uncle’s already called the Superiors.”
“But I want to help!”
A swift slap swung her head to the side.
“GO!” Her mother growled.
Edna obeyed. The cellar yawned like a cavernous mouth that quickly swallowed her as she closed the door. Splaying her hand against the wall, a faint pink glow lit a crystal inlay that she removed and held out in front of her as it brightened her way down the stone stairs. The silence throbbed in her brain.
Fortune Raiders, her thoughts echoed. White masks painted with a black tetra star slashed in blood. White, black, blood. Suddenly, three white faces appeared, flinching in the light.
“Relax, it’s me,” Edna exhaled with relief. Her little cousins immediately clung to her clothes. She led them further into the cellar, past the rows of barrels and flour sacks to a metal door she unlocked with a splayed hand and firmly slid shut.
“Thank you, Edna.”
“It’s your fault we lost our crystal!”
“Shush!” Edna reminded. “I know this is a special bunker, but keep it down. Who knows what’ll happen?”
The bunker door slid open and Edna screamed.
“It’s me, Aunt Fiona.”
Edna relaxed as she recognized the familiar plump face and small mouth in the pink light. Her children immediately glued themselves to her skirt. “Don’t worry, it’s all over,” she shushed. “You can come out now.”
Edna followed, floating up the stairs and out the front door. That quickly? She thought. And then it stared at her. Her father, kneeling with her back to her, her mother’s shaking shoulders, a bag that two Superiors agents were lifting into the air.
Ah, Edna thought, numb. Jeff never got back up.
Her eyes flitted to the left of the scene where several men and women were also kneeling, hands behind their backs. One of their shirts was smeared with blood. She gravitated towards it, a mass of rolling thunder building in her chest.
“I hope you die in Fossil Desert for this!”
Edna blinked. That wasn’t her voice. She turned around to see another Superiors agent, a boy with silvery blond hair and crystal blue eyes. A Cursed born, she realized with wonder. A Sprite holder just like them.
“I hope you get eaten by Tsukiyomi!” He continued screaming, thrashing in the arms of an adult agent who held him back. His eyes glistened with tears as his thrashing intensified and his knees began to collapse from under him, giving in to grief.
The roiling thunder in her own chest subsided. Turning from the bloody man, she walked towards the boy and gently placed her hand on his shoulder.
“Thank you,” she said. “You’re the tenth blessing I’ve counted today.”
Once the last black uniform left the farm, she allowed it to rain down her cheeks, thunder in her chest, high-speed winds wailing out of her throat until only a few shudders of the storm remained. Her heart stilled, but Edna knew it would beat again.

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