Sunday, May 8, 2016

Remembrances for a Certain Pilot

Prologue

It’s on days like today, when I have the money from my toil and sweat taken from me by force, get beaten up, and have my swollen face forced into a puddle by the side of the road.

On days like this I remember one girl, wearing a white one-piece.

She's standing in a sunflower field, her silvery-white hair fluttering, staring at me with equally silvery eyes as she speaks.

“Promise me you won't cry anymore.
“Even if you get lonely, don't do anything bad. Okay?”

I just nod obediently. The girl smiles like the sunflowers behind her, reaches out, and without even thinking about her pretty clothes getting dirty, embraces me. I don't know why, but I want to cry. But I'd just promised her not to cry anymore, so I hold it back. A pleasant warmth and smells drift from her, and feelings from deep within my soul, feelings I don't understand, like pain, grief, and misery, are wiped away.

I lift my head from the half-frozen water and wiped my face with my sleeve. A mixture of mud and blood smears onto the cloth. I touch my head; there are two big lumps.

A group of homeless Levahmian orphans had assaulted me. They'd mistaken me for an Amatsuvian and attacked me. Six of them. I didn’t stand a chance. All the money I'd earned from scrounging up iron scraps was stolen.

It wasn't the first time I'd been attacked by a group of orphans. Violence is a daily occurrence here in the Amadora slums of Rio de Este, and people pay as much attention to it as they do to the cries of the pigeons. But my mother was an Amatsuvian and my father was a Levahmian, so I end up being targeted by Levahmian orphan groups too, which is really frustrating. It's been a year since my mother was stabbed and killed by a drunk, and I've since remained unable to join either group. And as my parents had no friends, I've been stuck living here alone.

Bestado.

People like me, with mixed blood from both countries, are given that label and are reviled for it. In areas of conflict like San Martilia, where the two powers are constantly struggling with each other, bestados, who you’d think should fit in with society regardless of which power is in control, are considered untrustworthy and end up being shunned. Of course, the reality is that bestados can't fit in with either society, so there's no actual benefit. Instead, they are faced with endless hate and distrust. As a lone orphan, all I can do is carry this label to my grave.

Pressing a hand against my hurting head and wrapping the other arm around my empty stomach, I wander around the city looking for a place to sleep for the night as I shiver in the cold air. Every so often, I cough. It's a cough coming from the depths of my lungs, reeking of metal.

The narrow stoned alleyways are a mess of rotten vegetables and household garbage, horse dung and urine. People who'd not once taken a bath in their life and wear clothing they'd never washed hold a bottle of gin in one hand and shout insults at each other with mouths which had never been cleaned. Every now and then, black liquid falls down onto the rancid streets below. It’s the contents of buckets which are sometimes flung from the windows of houses above.

If you're unlucky and get hit directly, even during the winter you end up needing to wash yourself in water. I try to avoid traveling next to buildings as I walk, looking up at the December sky.


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