Faith in the Future
Indigo's spine showed through his translucent skin, every vertebra pushing hard against the thin, dry covering, following a gentle curve from the lost tail curling between his bony haunches to the last lump of the back of his neck, hidden beneath jagged black hair. Golda's hand, which was warm, stroked Indigo's back, which was not. Each raised spinal protrusion, and to either side the ladder of ribs, felt alarmingly noticeable to Golda's anxious fingers. Black hair and white skin contrasted, too strongly. It is a vivid thing, black on white, thought Golda, too bright, too noticeable. If he was really dying he should be grey. What is death, however, but a natural function, one of many.
That she had him at all came as a surprise to Golda,because she was used to not getting what she wanted from life, and having seen him, she wanted him. When Ruva told her what his name was she shivered and felt the future blow through her because names were important and she could not yearn over anyone with a pale name.
What she liked best was the contrast of him - black on white, black, ragged hair like feathers, carefully uncared for, it grew like wild grass (the body, its outward appearance!), and the whiteness of his skin, bleached pale by lack of daylight. It was all so much more intriguing than the standard beige of other men she knew. He wore dark coloured clothes and one midnight-blue feather woven into his black hair - Indigo.
One of the first things she told him was how much she liked his name, and in celebration they re-christened her Golda, which was very close to what she had been using up until then, but was somehow so very much more suitable. In return for her name, she gave him some of her own clothes to wear, a strange-shaped bottle of dark blue scent, and her unusual secret.
He left purple stains on the bathroom floor when he dyed his hair, and let her finger the lumpy scar on his back where something that shouldn't have grown there had been removed six years ago.
"My father's still alive," he told her.
"My parents were both killed in the Millenium Catastrophe," was what she had said to elicit this reply from him.
She was almost sure that he would invent a joke on the lines that her age seemed incompatible with having parents who had lived (and died!) so long ago, that was what most people did when she told them her unusual secret, which was why she didn't tell all that many people, but he didn't, he just looked at her, as if such a thing was no great surprise, so she told him:
"Of course, they were still legally entitled to reproduce, even though they were both dead, but there was a very long hearing, it was difficult to get a sponsor for a quite a while. Eventually I got three, so that's alright," she said, not wanting him to feel sad on her behalf.
"My father's still alive," he said, "even though he was from 60", but he said nothing else, leaving her to understand that any problems with his father were of the usual parent/offspring type, and nothing to do with 60.
It wasn't long after that, only months, when he started to have blood in his urine, in his faeces, in the sour vomit which stained her silk sheets and burned his mouth and throat with its acid, and when she found out he was dying she wanted to leave, to walk out and leave him to die alone, but she didn't, she stayed and watched his white skin tighten over his bones and the light slowly going out behind his eyes, and sometimes she though of putting an ivory silk pillow over his face as he slept, but she could never do it, because for all she wanted him to die, she wanted him to live more. The best thing and the last thing she did for him was that she was there when he died, on her pale sheets, though it was more horrible than she had prepared herself for, the sight of a dead human body filled her with terror, and she couldn't bring herself to touch what she had been touching only minutes before. It was neither peaceful or dignified. His eyes didn't close as his breath stopped, they remained open and staring, and she couldn't bear to touch him to close them, but they did seem to film over, as she had read that animals' did when they died, and for a long time all she could do was stare into those dead eyes which were dark, dark blue, but no longer Indigo.
3 Indigo's Father
- Indigo's father is still alive, and seemed quite proud of that. "I'm from 60, you know," he told Golda.
Golda didn't know much about 60, up until now most of her interest, understandably, had been with the Millenium Catastrophe. Minor disasters paled into insignificance.
"It was the year I was born," he reminisced, but she'd already got that, "and they traced everyone who'd been conceived during the critical period. Not that they were expecting anything, it was just that, well, after MC, people were a bit..... sensitive."
Golda could understand that.
"Well, of course, some showed up, more than was predicted statistically, but all in all it wasn't too bad..."
His eyes met Golda's and for a moment their gaze was inextricably locked. He was the first to break, although he didn't know her history. He thought he had more right, but his tragedy was twenty years ago.
"There was Karen, at the Institute," he spoke quietly to minimise the fuss, "... she died... they took us all in to study, to run tests, that sort of thing." A nostalgic smile settled on his face. "Made a lot of friends there. We were all in it together, see? Funny how things like that pull you together. Shared danger, like being in a war or something. Can't blame people."
Golda didn't want to listen to any more of this man's rose-tinted ramblings, she had told him Indigo was dead, but for some reason the passings of the past were more vivid to him, having lived with them all these years. She wanted to go, but he snared her with his tangle of thoughts spoken aloud, used as a net.
"A few died, most didn't. We kept in touch, over the years, some of us. Used to make jokes about it, sometimes, you know, another year gone by without a funeral. The Institute told us what to expect - things to look out for, but you just have to get on with your life, you can't spend every moment thinking about it."
If he would just stop talking, Golda thought, then she could leave. She wondered if she had the nerve to walk out in the middle of a sentence.
"Funny how it was worse with the children. You'd think it would get diluted, or something.... I don't know. I'm not the expert. I mean, they did mention it, but somehow you expect there would be less chance, not more."
A cold thought seeped into her, like spilled solvent. The man's words were so pale and lifeless to carry such importance, but the thought hardened and condensed and became You Knew, All The Time You Knew. Dead two months and all the time you knew.
"There was James' kids, all three of them - and others, and when..."
"...when he had that.... thing, on his back... " He just shrugged.
"But I think they knew, all along, at the Institute. They didn't want to say anything, it was..."
And that was all there was to say. What she had come to tell him, he already knew. Had known, for 20 years, that Indigo was dead.
Indigo's father, however, was still alive.
Every time it was the same. No - struggle; no sense of overcoming; no triumph; no climax of victory. Just the dry snap of a man's neck breaking, listlessly. It broke so easily, almost accidentally, and betrayed her with its tiny click. No release.
In the disembowelling, a wide, red mouth opened up in the man's body, vertically, from the pubic arch to the sternum, a dark, ruby chasm, but it was so clean, the blood already congealed and the viscera unpunctured, unstinking, failing to flop out in heavy, slithery loops from the wide slash. And the man died easily, without bother. They suggested rape, but she shrank from that. The thought of raping some faceless beige man was repugnant. Golda knew redemption lay not in that direction. The counsellor was so insistent that she began to suspect his motives, so she substituted his grey face for the beige, wanting to kick it, to grind it into the sharp gravel before she broke his puny neck with her foot, then lied when he asked her if she was getting anywhere.
At first it had been Indigo's father she killed, mercilessly, but he died so easily and co-operatively that she knew he was not the one, and in vain she had searched for four months now for the face to appear, as a gift from God, the one who would die and give her release, who never came.
Her bland counsellor sat in front of her, alive again. She pulled the enhancement field from her eyes and sank back into the seat with a painful exhalation of breath. He was looking at her professionally. "You have now finished your course of Bereavement Counselling. I hope everything is resolved for you."
He wrote down, on a form lying on top of the grey desk in front of him, something she could not read.
He tore off a small portion of the form and handed it to her, keeping the larger part for himself. She took it and left.
Outside, she dropped the scrap of paper. It fluttered from her hand like a bird and landed a few feet away in an oily puddle of water, where it sank.
In two months she hadn't been able to find out any more about 60 than Indigo's father had already told her. All the information available was on the original victims. This meant they either didn't the know, or more likely were deliberately hiding the truth about ...........
She could not find the facts, or the face. All her conflicts and uncertainties remained unresolved.
Silk sheets comforted her as she lay curled, she couldn't tell if the smell of death was still in the bed, or if it was in her. Rather than fight it out with her thoughts, she emptied her mind by counting slowly. When she reached one thousand she turned and lay face down. She felt her own warm breath, and the coldness of the silk against her skin. She felt her own heartbeat vibrating through her body, felt the softness of her flesh pressing into the bed, the hardness of her abdomen, muscle hard, the lump which pressed into the soft bed, as if she had swallowed a stone, reminding her of its presence by the fact that every now and then she could feel it.