Désequilibré (Saturday, 2011 April 16)

April 16, 2011

[Retcon: Zhenae is now spelled differently, so as to be pronounced in English. I’m also thinking about the changing the human language to not be English, like let’s say "Panlac". This chapter’s a little weaker; it’s just to get towards the next chapter, which is considerably juicier.]

The less said about that night before we left, the better. I woke up on Cherry Drop’s couch, which implies that I must have peeled myself off Cherry Drop’s bathroom floor at some point. It was late o’clock local time and Cherry Drop was asleep so I took a shower, then I occupied myself submerging into the past few days’ information backlog. Tracking the signal in the noise is something of a way of life for us, you could say. I contributed a little signal, a little noise while I was at it. I couldn’t sleep.

Praying for us is like looking at a walkthrough — a little like cheating. If God wanted us to do exactly what He wanted, why did He give us free will? I was desperate for direction, though, so I gave it a shot, and got nothing but stony silence. I couldn’t tell if that was disappointment with my conduct or just a steadfast refusal to give advice. Either way, I was left to my own devices for a few hours.

We got up too early, so we could catch the bus to Grace’s Action, sneaking out of town like bandits to continue the party somewhere else. Buddy met up with us at the bus station. Cherry Drop was talking to a Zhenae. Cherry Drop’s Sumi is hilarious — it’s like a fruitcake, littered with raisins of delicious chewy English slang. "You are travelling? So, we also travel. You travel, like, where? Wow, cool!" Buddy found a Little Egg Person for breakfast, but I didn’t feel much like eating. Then it was time to board.

So it was that we escaped under the cover of darkness. The first leg of the trip was difficult, because I was afraid I was gonna throw up, but I closed my eyes steadfast and I managed to make it through. Cherry Drop showed me and Buddy the picture she took of me passed out on her bathroom floor — OK, it’s true she was there when I needed her to be, but that woman seriously does not care about other people. Buddy broke out some of his offworld candy and I feel like that replenished me somehow. I felt even more better when we stopped for a brief layover at Grace’s Point (which, yeah, confusing, but it’s Grace’s Point and then Grace’s Action) and grabbed a River drink. The Zhenae in front of us got ice cream, which prompted Cherry Drop to get some too.

That same Zhenae had studied English, which I found out when Cherry Drop let loose a "Shit!" and she fired us a dirty look. We struck up a conversation at the next police checkpoint, when the bribe-taking process started to take a little too long.

"What are they doing?" Buddy asked. (You have to admire his deftness. We were on vacation, but you never really stop being an offworlder or even a Missionary.)

"It’s a checkpoint," the Zhenae said. "They are taking their money."

"What money?"

"He wants a bribe to pass. Zhenae are a corrupt, dishonest people." She was shaking her head in disgust. "We have resources for improve our world, but the corruption prevents. The policies of dictators supported by Sumi."

Ah, right, that’s why she’s speaking English. The Zhenae hate their former masters, much though they all speak their language. It’s too late to cry over that particular spilled blood, but they do it all the same. At least she’s man enough to admit that it was Zhenae manning that checkpoint.

When we got into Grace’s Action, it was dusk, nearly dark again already. Grace’s Action was lit up like a Roman candle. You take for granted the absence of light pollution back home, but it’s alive and well on Zhen, just like the promiscuous advertising in Capital City. This is the kind of thing the Zhenae was talking about. People live on this planet, and it seems to work well enough, but it really could do a lot better, if only.. what? No idea, really. I don’t think blaming the Sumi or even themselves is the way to go, but how do you communicate that in awkward bus-ride half-interactions?

"How can you change it?" I asked. Silently: take some action.

"How?" she repeated, tasting the word. "Uncertain. The Sumi need to leave us alone."

I counted to ten, as I had taught myself to do in training. I considered my options — couldn’t browbeat her, couldn’t get mad. And anyhow, who was I to say she was wrong? I was just tired of stasis, an entire population doing isometrics on this planet.

We got to the Mission House in Grace’s Action with no great fuss. Travel on Zhen is either boring, or terribly, terribly interesting, so all told I guess we lucked out.

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