The Truth Will Out
Sara walked into her lab class three minutes late. She made brief eye contact with her teacher, his lenses scanning hers to make sure she had not been loitering. He nodded and resumed the lesson.
Sara took the last seat and grabbed her holo-pad to catch up on the lesson. Something bothered her about the girl at her table, a niggling thought tucked away in a forgotten corner of her mind, but she brushed it aside and began to take notes, her finger swirling over the holo-pad.
“What’s it like?” her partner asked.
Startled, Sara looked up at the girl. “I’m sorry?”
“What’s it like,” the girl repeated, “to talk to the dead?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I think you do.” The girl’s eyes narrowed to obsidian chips. “Tell me, what is the ‘Better Way’?”
Sara’s eyebrows tented in surprise. “How did you know about that?”
“If you had paid better attention at your appointment today, you’d know.”
Ro made a pretense of taking a memo on her holo-pad and snapped her fingers to direct Sara’s attention to her screen. On Ro’s holo-pad was Love’s note.
“I retrieved this note from your lenses today. Should have shown the good doctor, but I didn’t. Are you going to make it worth my while or not?”
Sara’s chest was tight with fear. “You were my tech today.”
Ro rolled her eyes. “You catch on quick.” She slowly clapped her hands three times.
The teacher shot a look at the two girls; a ping popped up on their lenses that warned another disruption would not be tolerated.
Ro shot a glance towards the window and smiled. She snapped her fingers again, pointing to her holo-pad.
Sara read Ro’s scrawled note silently: “Meet me tonight at the house across from your kitchen window. If you do not, I will alert the Pinnacle to your treason. Simple as that.” Sara chewed at the inside of her cheek, then nodded.
“Good,” Ro smiled. She leaned her elbows on the table and cupped her hands in her fists, her short black hair barely grazing the back of her neck.
Sara realized what had bothered her about Ro. Nobody else had hair that short. Not in the whole class. Not in the entire city. There were only two acceptable haircuts, long and straight for women, short and neat for men, and few exceptions. She wondered what else was wrong with this girl as she tried to concentrate on the lesson.
At dinner that night, Sara realized that tomorrow was a High Holiday, if she was still around to see it. She picked at her dinner.
“Sweetheart, the doctor is very concerned about you. She worries that you may have a vitamin deficiency. Have you not been taking them?” Her mother’s coffee colored eyes were soft and searching.
“I have been taking my vitamins,” Sara lied, “I think she was just being thorough.” She stabbed at the pile of beige mush on her plate and wondered to herself where the broccoli and chicken went. She wouldn’t ask her mother; it would only be another red flag that she was not taking her vitamins. She was beginning to see that Love had been telling the truth.
“Be that as it may, she sent a bottle of extra strength over and you’re to take two a day now.” She pulled the bottle out of her sweater pocket and tapped it on the table tap tap tap.
Sara flinched. “I think I’d better get to bed with tomorrow being a High Holiday and such.” She stood, walked over to the counter and scraped her plate into the square hole that served as their trash bin. At the end of every day, at precisely ten pm, the day’s garbage would be sucked down into the tubes beneath the city and incinerated.
“Don’t forget your vitamins.”
Sara turned to find her mother standing directly behind her, so close she could smell something sour on her breath. She was clutching the bottle of pills in her left hand and hugging herself with her right, gently rocking on her feet front to heel, heel to front. She shook the bottle three times with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Remember what the doctor said, Sara,” shake, shake shake, “you need to take your vitamins,” shake, shake, shake, “or she’ll have to report you.”
Something was wrong. Her eyes, Sara could see something was wrong with her eyes. They flashed with lights, green, a beep of red, a dart of yellow; it was almost as if someone was watching her through her mother’s eyes.
Shake, shake, shake.