City of Icons

Yet it deterred nothing. In fact, as one might imagine, the more desperate the communities became, the less food or water, the more criminal behavior increased. No one thought about first causes: climate change, toxic environments, over population, war — how these were all interrelated. Instead, death days became carnival like in their macabre glee. There were a few remaining videos of this too, of the last days. What a horror show. Hangings, flagellation, and even self-castration — there was no end to the torment.

I watched all the videos. I couldn’t stop.

My father’s father was an original waker. When my father turned thirty-six, his father died. At that time, there were eight wakers. Now there are seven. My father died earlier than any waker expected, including myself. He was the commanding waker, as I said, a serious occupation, even if he did show me the old Earth videos. He knew what he was about. But the cause of his death was a space accident, a loosened tether. I don’t like to think about it. I don’t even like to talk about it. But I’ll let you know, it was my fault. Or was blamed on me, anyhow. Why not? Someone had to be blamed.

In truth? I sounded the alarm as soon as I knew. Certainly, I didn’t want to see the end of my father. I watched as they pulled him in. They released a pod to rescue him but it was not in time. He was down to his last hour of oxygen when it happened. He tangled from the side of the arc lifeless as a solar kite. A freak accident, the wakers told me. But they looked curiously at me as if it were my fault. Weren’t you vigil that night? He floated for hours. Who was watching signal, Noah? Weren’t you watching signal, Noah, the O/2 meter? He, Noah, was your father.

I shook my head, sadly, “No.”

That is accurate I was not watching the O/2 meter, I was watching Isabella, Pod 32a. I was tracing my fingers over the glass on her face and breasts and imagining the way we would be if she were only a waker like me. By the time I saw the meter, my father’s ribs were crushed, and his eyes popped from the inside out, like old Earth popcorn.

Then my father visited me in a dream. I haven’t told anyone about this either. It wouldn’t go over well with the stabilizers and their monthly reports. Dreams of dead fathers seem remarkably unstable, somehow. They’d stick me in the ward, dose me with Miltown again and make me count backwards until my brain was erased. Sigh. So I told no one.

I didn’t tell them how my father appeared that night, ashen blue from starlight or lack of oxygen. I didn’t whisper a word about seeing his eyes bulging in the Galea, again, the veins on his forehead bursting. He said nothing, but his expression spoke rage and damage. When I woke up thinking of that anger, I walked quietly to the rampart looking for Stanislaus and my mother. I did not find them there, so I went to Stanislaus’ quarters which were closed, but carelessly unsealed. I could hear them inside, scraps of conversation:

“Clearly something must be done, Alicia. He’s spending his life in a reverie.”

“You know he could not have meant to hurt him. He is very team oriented. Besides, he looked up to him, admired him. And you’ve seen how sad he is now.”

“His intentions aren’t the point. I dare say he doesn’t know what his intentions are. Let’s face it, Alicia, he’s anomalous.”

“Oh no. Not anomalous.”

“It’s so, Alicia. I believe I must act.”

I stopped by Pod32a. I leaned my head against the glass and wept for the untimely death of my father that I had accidentally caused. I pleaded my innocence, and then I had this thought. Could I wake her? If only I could wake her? Of course, she had no answer. She was an icon, wasn’t she? I saw my reflection in the glass. Anomalous, I thought. Indeed.

Stanislaus took me to court when the twenty-sixth good world came into view. I thought he might. We were in the second day of approach when the world was spied. I was sucking a lunch tube with Marcus in the cafeteria. Marcus said he thought Stanislaus would land the arc here. “It’s perfect for us. The icons wouldn’t mind.”

“Maybe the world has earthquakes. Maybe the air is cyanide.”

“It’s not cyanide. Look at the meters. Oh, I forgot, you don’t read meters, do you?”

Then Stanislaus approached. He said that the latest psychological report showed that I was under undue stress. This coupled with the negligence at my father’s accident was a source of concern for all wakers now. He snapped manacles on my wrists, saying it was keep me safe for the time.

I lost the hearing. I said nothing in my defense. What was there to say?

I have seen Earth videos, I have seen the days of justice, the death days? I know what it is to be really human? I have seen the movies and know what the old happiness was? I know what the old evil was, too. Could I tell them that, how I had found the secret to the garden of the icons, that I understood love?

I did not.


Click below to continue reading