Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Red in Tooth and Flame 1

Aseka doesn't want to play with the other children. She likes the library. The little island has a large library housed in a castle, endless corridors and mysterious towers and walls covered in books and warm stones in the sun where she can sit and read all day, and eat nuts when she gets hungry. She carries nuts and grains in her pockets wherever she goes, for staying out until late at night. The small island, so tiny it doesn't even have a name, gives little room for exploration, and Aseka has already seen all its forests and fields and mountains and valleys up close. But she can swim for hours and look for forgotten treasures on the ocean floor. There are old houses from the time when their people lived as comfortably under the water as on land, ruins overgrown with seaweed. Just a few structures remain standing, but almost anywhere she digs down there are square-cut rocks waiting.

Everything of value to the grown-ups has of course been reclaimed long ago, but she can still find pretty baubles carved of seashells, toys of treated wood, tiny sculptures of animals she doesn't recognize. And the discoveries she values at least as highly as these things, the sights. She finds an old hothouse with some shards of glass panes remaining just below the surface, and through the glass she looks up to see the sunlight turn a shimmering blue-green gold and she watches these dancing lights for far longer than she can easily hold her breath, until the world starts spinning and she has a hard time finding the way back up to the air.

And further out, where people don't often go, she makes friends among crabs and eels and sharks and plays with them more easily than the village children.

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