Friday, 4th March 2011
Leeza woke up with a start.
She’d been having one of those weird dreams, which her shrink said were replete with suppressed memories and significant objects.
She was in a classroom, the walls of which were painted aquamarine, and decorated with stuck-on pictures of fish. She imagined herself to be in an aquarium. Outside the classroom, there was a lot of noise; children were playing and laughing, and she yearned to join them, but at the same time, she was trying to will the paper fish to move. She knew this would be interpreted as living life in a fish-bowl, but she knew it really meant that she hankered after the warm Mediterranean sea of the planet she still called Home.
She wanted to dive into the soothing, clean, waters. She wanted to feel the sharp rocks of Buġibba prick her soles. She wanted to be reading a real book with the hot midday sun beating down upon her bare back; reading machines were so impersonal. She remembered how she’s clear her troublesome sinuses by taking a gulp of seawater and then forcing it out of her nostrils. She’d became quite adept at this trick – but what passed for the sea in her new home was a chemical brew that discouraged any such thoughts.
Her transfer to Saracen IV had put paid to all that. Being a pageant queen did have its drawbacks after all – especially when the hackneyed phrase “working for the good of humanity” was stretched to include populating a new outpost. For this one, they had chosen Beautiful People – as if aliens were likely to drop by for chicory and dandelion tisane (coffee, being a mind-altering substance, was prohibited).
Leeza was wise enough to act stupid. She had developed the perfect poker-face that allowed her mind to wander while outwardly, she was a deadpan picture of rapt attention.
She went over the details of her dream, knowing that her psychologist would insist on knowing the minutest of details. As she was wont to do, she sifted them into “tell” and “don’t tell” categories, in order to produce an inconspicuous storyline that would not see her banished to the Plateau. She’d learned her lesson, the time she’d inadvertently let him know the part about being chased by an angry swarm of bees and taking refuge inside a bathroom.
He’d said the bees indicated that she was feeling beset by many small annoyances and that she was afraid that those closest to her would hurt her. The bathroom indicated that she wanted privacy, which was anathema on Saracen IV.
He had insisted she was clamouring for attention (this, too, was forbidden). When she said that it had been her brain, merely processing the noise of a faulty ioniser into something that remotely fitted in with the dream of a lovely orchard, he had chided her and quoted chapter and verse that Clients had to acquiesce with the views of the Professionals.
Leeza yawned. Unless she went back to sleep pronto, she’d be too tired to tackle the toddlers at the Nursery, and she knew what that would mean. She’d be sent to become a Mother.
She was not quite ready for that right now. Truth be told, she was waiting for a new Regulation that would permit sex in the time-honoured way, rather than the sterile, programmed, batch-births Season that had been set up to “make things easier for everybody”. Hadn’t this been the praxis in the Roman Empire, too (without the sterility rider)?
She tried to lull herself to sleep by remembering the periodic table – although, of course, it was just one more bit of useless trivia on Saracen IV, where the laws of chemistry had to be re-learnt all over again. She ruminated about whether she should actually tell her psychologist about the aquarium-like classroom. Would he think that she wanted to leave her job (which was, after all, connected with classrooms) and join the hoi polloi out in the schoolyard (as exemplified by recess)?
Leeza drifted off to sleep. The familiar lampuki, brieqex, makku, and vopi had disappeared from the walls. In their place were unfamiliar, monstrous, translucent creatures with bulging eyes, antennae, webbed feet, and sharp teeth protruding from their lower jaws. They all appeared to be looking at her, waiting to pounce on her if she as much as moved.
In her subconscious, she knew that she ought to have been scared; yet she was calm, because she did not need a degree in psychology to know that these creatures signified that she had resigned herself to spending the rest of her life on Saracen IV, living in unfamiliar territory under silent protest.
She also knew that she could not relate this part of the dream to her psychologist, because he would misconstrue it and say she was eager to escape, and that would as likely as not commit suicide by stowing away on the next remote-controlled capsule leaving for water from one of Saracen IV’s five moons. And this would never do. It would be a waste of human resources. She would pretend she dreamt about teaching the Nursery kids their colours and numbers and letters. This bland story would earn her Brownie points and reinforce the idea that she was married to her job.
Her psycho-sessions had become a game. She played it by ear and led the psychologist by the nose by seemingly off-the-cuff comments and studied body language. Her capacity for sitzfleisch was incredible, and he always gave her a high assessment test score. It gave her a sense of satisfaction, knowing that she always won her battle with bureaucracy.
It had not been her wish to be one of the Colonists, but she was making the best of it. But Leeza was not just a pretty face.