Here is my samizdat fiction. It is called A Thing That Will Not Die. I can not write fiction without getting into social issues. I also can not write fiction that is not sad and reflective, so I need to keep this tale outside the walls. I don't make any money writing this tale. I have revised it to remove all copyrighted terms. This story takes place in a wold that is similar to and inspired by Neopia but which is not Neopia. To return to the main samizdat page, click here.
A Thing That Will Not Die
Chapter 1 -- Owners Don't Steal Bikes?
Rosalita, the red sauro-2, who really has a longer name than that, careens down the newly paved path to the laundromat in the service building in the middle of the complex where the pets whose owners have not yet built homes all live.
It is a busy somewhat raw looking concrete complex. In some places the grass has not sprouted. In many places there are no paved paths, but when the paths were paved yesterday, Rosalita's owner bought her a red bicycle which she shares with her sister, Shanti, a white alien-1.
This is laundry morning. The owner is away at a meeting at her job in the world beyond the security gate so it is a morning for doing laundry. What kind of laundry do pets of The World do? They wash their sheets and bedding. Shanti carries the big sack of laundry on her lap and balances precariously on the bike's handlebars. This way both pets can use the bike at the same time.
Rosalita stops in front of the laundry and leans the bike against a big tree. The laundry is crowded with lots of pets doing their washing. There is a human woman at the counter. Since this is a story about The World of Pets, there are lots of other species besides human.
"And what can I do for you Mr. Sauro?" the cheerful woman who looks old and tired at the same time asks Rosalita.
"I'm a girl," Rosalita answers.
"Oh I'm sorry,"says the woman who hands Rosalita a token for the washing machines and a packet of detergent.
"Rosalita!" a voice calls out. It is Da_best (that is what her owner named her) a green canid-3" Can I borrow your new bike?"
"It's Shanti's turn to ride the bike," Rosalita explains as she slips her token into the machine. She empties the laundry bag in and sets the machine for cold wash. This was something her owner insists she does. The owner who brought in special custom made kente cloth bed spreads and pillow cases does not want the dark brown patterned things ruined in the wash.
"Hey," calls out Serenity, a yellow female felid-4. "How many bags of laundry can Rosalita carry!"
Rosalita shrugs. She and Shanti have always had only one bag of laundry to tote to the laundromat once a week. "I guess we can find out," says Rosalita.
"OK, everybody! Let's bring in your laundry. We're going to see how much the sauro can carry!" Serenity seems enthused. Too bad Shanti is missing the show.
Rosalita holds out her willing arms as canids, felids, lagos, dragons, chiros, rodents, unis and primates all drag in heavy bags of dirty sheets and bedding. Most linens are regulation white, a few are pink or light blue and some are black. A few have custom patterns stamped on them, but Rosalita and Shanti's are the only kente patterned ones.
Five bags, six bags, seven bags, ten bags... By now a huge crowd of pets has gathered to see how many bags the big sauro-2 can hold in her arms. Rosalita would break out in a sweat but I don't think sauros sweat. "Come on!" calls out Serenity. "We need more bags!"
The crowd grows larger. Pets drag bedding that is not even dirty into the laundromat. Suddenly Shanti pushes her way through the crowd. Her big red alien eyes are full of tears. In fact, she is sobbing uncontrollably. Worse still her behavior and the crowd have attracted two humans who are tall and male.
The humans wear dark blue pants and shirts. They each carry a night stick and a flashlight and wear a silver badge on their chests. They have mean older male human faces. They do not look happy. They look sweaty and hot.
"What is going on here!" the taller male human bellows.
"If this is some kind of fight break it up now!" bellows the second tall male human.
"An owner stole our bicycle!" wails a disconsolate Shanti, but no one seems to hear her.
"An owner stole our bike!" she cries again.
Pets begin to try to offload laundry from the overburdened Rosalita as she all but drops the bags on the floor. "Officer," she says in her loud sauro voice. The two security officers blink. "Someone stole our bicycle."
"You pets are going to have to learn to keep the peace among yourselves," says the smaller officer.
"It wasn't a pet who stole it," says Rosalita.
"Well who could it have been then?" says the taller officer.
"It was an owner," says Shanti.
"It was an owner," repeats Rosalita.
"I guess we'll have to investigate this," then "Er uh can...."
"Her name is Shanti and she is my sister," says Rosalita.
"Can Shanti make out a statement," says the smaller officer.
"Yes, if that will get the bike back," says a weepy Shanti.
"OK, the cart's outside," says the other officer.
The cart is a big golf cart. Shanti and Rosalita sit in back watching the apartment blocks go by. Security has its office in the chasm that separates the complex from the rest of The World. Owners entering and leaving The World of Pets do so through a gate at the bottom of the far end of the chasm. At the near end of the chasm is the bridge. Pets can not cross the bridge unaccompanied by an owner, but today the golf cart goes across the bridge.....
The golf cart goes across the bridge and then down a road that runs along the far side of the chasm. The Security humans live in a big two story building. It is yellow on the outside with brown trim painted to look like wood. Inside the building smells funny. It is a stale sour smell that Rosalita has never smelled before.
"I don't like it in here," says Shanti.
"Then you can leave and forget the whole thing," complains the taller officer, "but we dragged you all the way over here to make a statement and you are going to make one."
The officers have an office with a battered wooden desk and a computer. Rosalita realizes she is hungry and wishes the officers would give her something to eat. Of course they don't think of that. The taller officer powers up his computer and asks Shanti to give her statement.
"Well I was practicing riding the new bike," she began.
"Was the bike yours?" asks the officer.
"It was mine and my sister's. We share...."
"You have a sister."
"Rosalita is my sister. She's sitting right there."
The smaller officer rolls his eyes as if Shanti has just said something absurd.
"OK but the bike is partly yours and belongs to your...er...uh...family," says the taller officer.
"Yes," answers Shanti.
"OK," says the officer. "Now what happened to the bike."
"I was out riding it while Rosalita was in the laundry and an owner came up and asked to borrow it."
"How did you know this was an owner?" asks the taller officer.
"She was a human and she was small. Most owners are kids like us," says Shanti.
"And did you let her borrow the bike?" asks the officer.
"Yes, but she never brought it back." Shanti bursts into tears.
"Well if you let her have the bike, there's not much we can do," says the smaller officer.
"Excuse me," says Rosalita. "That was a human who stole our bike. Your job is to police the humans."
"OK, so tell me about the owner," sighs the taller officer. "Can you tell me what he looked like?"
"It was a she," says a weepy Shanti.
"Alright, then tell me what SHE looked like."
"Well she was smaller than my owner, but taller than Rosalita and taller than me. She had dark brown skin. Humans come in different colors just like we do. She was a brown human with very short hair. She had on an old skirt and a shirt that had something on it I couldn't read."
"Can alien's read?" the smaller officer asks his companion.
"We can both read," snarls a tired Rosalita.
"Well maybe the shirt was too advanced for you," says the taller officer.
"We are rated brilliant," says Rosalita.
"OK, so why couldn't you read the shirt," laughs the taller officer.
"I could read the letters b-o-i-r-e-z d-i-a-b-l-o m-e-n-t-h-e" says Shanti.
"That's one strange shirt," sighs the taller officer. "I guess we've got a mystery on our hands." He sighs. "Well we'll do our best with this. I guess it's time for you to go."
The pets and officers head back to the golf cart and ride back up the chasm, across the bridge, through the aparmtent complex and back to the laundry. It is nearly time to put the wet linens in the drier.
Suddenly Da_Best, the green canid-3, rushes back into the laundromat and cries out. "Rosalita, Shanti the [unrepeatable name] who stole your bicycle just left it by the big tree while you were with the police."
Sure enough the bicycle is back. "We went to the police for nothing," says Shanti.
"Maybe not," says Rosalita. "Owners don't usually steal from pets."
Chapter 2 -- The Thief Has No Shoes
"This apartment looks magnificent!" crows the owner as she surveys the freshly made up day beds, the clean table cloth, the swept out floor and even the scrubbed down stove, sink, and counter. "I should leave you two alone more often." The owner smiles. She is a well preserved middle aged woman who is smaller than a few of the tallest kids. She has a long brown pony tail without any grey hairs in it. It is only in her face where subtle lines show that she is much older than your typical owner and in her clothes, knit skirts below the knees, panty hose, and sensible shoes or sandals.
"An owner stole our bicycle today!"Shanti proclaims.
"You're kidding me," the owner nearly laughs. "I see it right there on the bike hook on the wall."
"She brought it back afterwards," answers Rosalita.
"Then if she brought it back, it's not stealing."
"She took it and rode off with it and had it for way too long," Shanti further explains.
The owner strokes her chin. Then she gives up pondering the problem. "Look, we need to restock the store. Which of you girls wants to come with me?"
"I'll go," says Rosalita. "Good because the Pharaoh hasn't blessed you," says the owner. The Pharaoh, or rather his ghost, lives in the Desert World which Pets of the World and their owners could reach by bus or tram.
"Can we eat first?" Rosalita asks. "I'm hungry," and if you don't feed me I'll steal whatever you have in the food box and help myself. Rosalita had done this one or two times in her several months of existence. Usually though the owner is good with the food.
"OK, girls what will you have. We have mushy peas and baked beans." Shanti detested mushy peas so it had to be baked beans. The owner opened up a family size can of baked beans and set them cooking on the stove, keeping her eye on the pot and stirring. She had tried to teach Rosalita and Shanti how to cook beans or peas, and Rosalita had usually eaten the beans before they were cooked. If it were up to her, she would open the can with her teeth and just help herself right then. She would use a bowl. That was not too much trouble, but labor over a stove. Shanti, though, liked her hot lunch hot.
The owner portions out the food into three cream colored stonewear bowls with brown kente trim. Like everything else in the apartment, the dishes were custom designed. Rosalita notices that the owner always bowed her head and said something into the food before she starts eating. Rosalita never asked what this thing she said was. It must be private.
They eat in silence; for hard work is ahead of them, at least for Rosalita. Shanti stays behind. She can practice riding the bike or walk down to the community building and see if there are any activities. Goku, the blue canid-1, probably will not invite her to play soccer since she is not particularly fast or athletic.
Rosalita is still thinking about Shanti and the bicycle and the thief as she shoulders the wicker carrying basket which is full of food. She and the owner walk slowly down the paved path, past the community building and the laundry and towards the chasm. At the chasm bridge, the owner flashes her ID and a guard in the booth hands out a plastic bracelet that goes around Rosailta's left front leg near her clawed hand. This marks her as a pet in custody of an owner. The guard waves them on and over the two of them go along with lots of other pets and owners. The bridge is always crowded. Rosalita thinks about riding across the bridge in the Secrity cart earlier today.
As she and the owner walks she tells about Shanti's and her visit to security. The owner tells about a time when her stereo was stolen and it took forever to get it back from the police. The owner had to make many visits to the police station. "That must have been awful!" says Rosalita.
By now they are nearing the retail complex. It is a huge grey building in the center of The World. Rosalita's owner only has a small store and it is located several floors down in a long anonymous hallway. Most of the stores are little booths painted white. Rosalita's ownner however has wallpapered her booth in a creamy washi cloth print and put up a custom shop board which announes the day's news, usually when the store was restocked or will be again. While, the owner rewrites the board, Rosalita unpacks the basket. She is aware of the prices for most goods and puts their labels on them and runs the codes for the labels into the shop machine which makes sure none of the goods will be stolen. Painted on the front of the machine is an illustration of a sauro-2 in full battle gear. He is fierce and handsome. The owner calls him Mr. Cassini. The store is called Cassini, named after the space probe, named after the explorer. Rosalita once read a book about stars, but the stars over The World of Pets are different from the stars and planets in the world that owners return to beyond the chasm.
"OK are you ready!" announces the owner. Both owner and pet walk back towards the center of the retail complex and down two more flights of stairs. Harsh halogen bulbs bathe the screaming pit in a sick but bright yellow light. All around the edge of the pit are bleachers. In the pit are big cork boards and a platform. Shop owners take turns reading the boards. There is always a congregation of them doing this and then they take their place on the platform and scream out their store and then paste their own announcment on the board. Piles of paper with self stick adhesive are available for this purpose. The announcements do not last long because other owners who have stores, paste theirs over the older ones.
The owner grabs some paper and heads over to the board on the right. Rosalita takes her place on the bench. In the wicker food basket in her small travelling bowl is Bahiti the white frill fish mini pet. Bahiti blows a long string of bubbles in disgust. The benches in the bleachers are all full of pets watching their owners scream their stores. A rodent-1 custom painted like a strawberry sits down next to Rosalita and Bahiti.
"Wow a white frill fish," sighs the rodent-1. "What did that cost your owner?"
"Four thousand dollars," says Rosalita rather coolly.
Bahiti says "bloop."
"She's not too intelligent," says strwberry rodent-1.
"She just can't talk that's all," answers Rosalita. "My sister couldn't talk when we got her either."
"What species is your sister?"
"Alien-1," answers Rosalita.
"We're both rated brilliant," Rosalita retorts. "Our owner used to read books to us, but now we read them ourselves."
The rodent-1 snorts. "I'm Sasha," says the strawberry rodent-1. "I'm supposed to help people and other pets feel good."
Rosalita had heard talk like this before. She is not sure why she distrusts it. Just then she sees her owner make it to the head of the line and seize the stage. "Watch this," she tells Sasha.
"CASSINI CASSINI CASSINI
"Your mom's store is a piece of dung," says Sasha. "All she sells is cheap junky food."
There is no such thing as junky food, thinks Rosalita. "Have you ever been to our store?" she asks the impudent rodent.
"Yeah and it's got nice wallpaper and a good board but so what..."
The owner goes to grab more paper. "My owner sells minipets," boasts Sasha. "See her over there." The owner was a not quite grownup female human with long blond hair and shiney lips and smooth skin blemished by just one or two zits. Though much older, Rosalita's owner got zits too. She said it was part of being an adult female. This must be an adult female human.
Sasha's owner races across the stage and announces: "I have minipets. Just restocked!" and then gets down. She adds her paper to the board on the left side and then mills around looking uncomfortable. Rosalita sees that she looks very uncomfortable carrying a very heavy contraption. It looks like a metal rack or case except when Rosalita gets closer she can see it is composed of little cages. In each cage is a minipet. The aquatic varieties like frill fish and such are in plastic bags but the others just stand on the bare wire looking sad. Rosalita tries to avoid Sasha's owner's eyes. They are blue and oddly angry.
"Excuse me," Rosalita struggles for the words "but didn't you say you just restocked?"
The girl nods and avoids Rosalita's eyes. Then she glances around Rosalita and through the crowd. Rosalita's owner has again found her way to the stage and is yelling about CASSINI in a big voice.
"Why do you keep those poor minipets in all those little cages?" Rosalita presses her inquiry.
"Minipets are worth a lot of money," answers Sasha's owner acidly. "I don't want them stolen. I almost had a black comman stolen last week. Some little twit of a scammer did it. She was a hopeless noob. I hope she's had her account purged."
"Did you get the black comman back?" asks Rosalita. "Yeah, she brought it back after a couple of hours. She just handed it to me. I told her I was reporting her and she laughed. She said a whole bunch of stuff that was in some foreign language."
"What did it mean?" asks Rosalita.
"How should I know says an impatient Sasha owner. "I don't speak any foreign language."
"My owner speaks some French," says Rosalita. "There was a French owner in here and she and my owner talked."
"Good then you go and talk French with your owner. I have work to do." The owner moves away and looks back at the board to see if any one is interested in her minipets.
That is when Rosalita remembers the shirt that Shanti saw on the thief. She goes looking for her owner and sees her mount the stage for the third time. She waits until the shop scream is finished and meets the owner at the board. "I need to talk to you. It's about the thief..." says Rosalita. The owner is pink and sweating from her work. "We need to check the store to see if any one has been there," says the owner.
Rosalita scoops up the basket and follows her owner back up the stairs and down the hall. Half the merchandise has been sold already. "You did a good job," says Rosalita. "It doesn't feel like it," the owner replies.
"It said something on the thief's shirt that Shanti could not read," says Rosalita.
"Which thief?" asks the owner.
"The one who stole our bicycle and then brought it back after way too long."
"Oh that thief."
"Yes, that thief."
"OK what did her shirt say?"
"b-o-i-r-e-z d-i-a-b-l-o m-e-n-t-h-e."
The owner smiles "Boirez diablo menthe. means drink peppermint soda in French."
"Sasha's owner had one of her minipets stolen and then brought back by a thief who could not speak English," says Rosalita. "She carries all her minipets around in little metal cages now."
"I want to scream the store a few more times," says the owner whose mind is on selling what is left. She works up another sweat on the stage while Rosalita tries to talk to Bahiti in her bowl. Sasha and her owner have left having presumably found customers for some of the little and very expensive creatures she deals in.
CASSINI sells out twice that afternoon which means that Rosalita and her owner not only have to scream the store or watch the screaming but they have to shop for inexpensive food stuffs and restock. CASSINI thrives on small markups, surprisingly large volume, and a lot of screaming.
"My throat is hoarse," the owner complains as she and Rosalita emerge into the late afternoon sun and begin the walk to the bridge. "Was Bahiti good to you this afternoon?" the owner asks.
"She bit me on the nose once," Rosalita reports. The bites are way more insult than injury but still Rosalita would never act like that.
&quuot;Take her to the battle pit in the Citadel and hope she loses," says the owner and they make their way to the tram stop for Medievalia and walk up the hill to the Citadel. There is a white angelkit waiting to fight Bahiti. Rosalita dumps Bahiti out of her bowl and coaches the minipet on her moves. She does this in seemingly good faith. A win is nice but a loss is even better.
Bahiti loses her fight and Rosalita puts her tired and beleagred frill fish in her bowl. Rosalita and the owner catch the tram back to the main world and then walk up to the bridge that goes over the chasm. At the guard house, Rosalita surrenders her plastic bracelet. She is home now but the owner has places to go and things to do outside so she is leaving for the day.
Wait! What is that crowd doing on the paved path to Rosalita, Shanti, and their owner's apartment building? It's Da_best (That's what her owner named her), the green canid-3, and she is in tears and angry. "That [word unrepeatable here] stole my green eye shadow. She asked if she could borrow it could try it and then she took it and ran away!"
"Did the girl ask you in English?" asks Rosalita.
"Of course she did," says Da_best. "What other language does any one speak. I mean...she did talk kind of funny now that you mention it. There are owners from other countries."
"What did she look like?" asks Rosalita.
"She is a [name unrepeatable], shorter than my owner, and she had on a green t-shirt and a raggedy tan miniskirt and no shoes."
"What did it say on the t-shirt?" Now it's the owner's turn to ask.
"I can't read," Da_best confesses.
"I have an idea," says Rosalita. "Let's stay and wait for the thief. She brought our bike back yesterday. She brought a minipet back to Sasha the strawberry rodent-1's owner a few days ago and she'll bring back your eye shadow."
Da_best doesn't like the idea. The owner who has things to do bids the pets adieu and heads back toward the stairs down into the chasm that the owners use, and all the pets, Da_best, Rosalita, and several others sit down for a long wait. It is not that long. The owner flits out from behind a tree. She is small, and skinny. Rosalita thinks she is a very young owner but maybe not. Owners are usually not so skinny. This owner also has very dark brown skin and hair that is so short it is almost a crew cut except it curls up like wool. Even the owners eyes have whites the color of the cream on cappuchino. The thieving owner also wears a green t-shirt with the words: "boirez diablo menthe" on it. The thieving owner squats down and carefully, almost delicately, places the green eye shadow back in Da_best's paw. "Merci...thankyou" says the thieving owner. With that, the thieving owner turns and goes. That is when Rosalita notices the owner is barefoot and that the souls of her feet are lighter than the rest of her skin. Rosalita has never seen an owner without shoes before. She wonders if any one else notices.
Chapter 3 -- A Book Without A Picture on the Cover
The newbie arrives after the owner has gone back to her things to do. She is about the owner's size wtih short dark brown hair and a round pleasing face. She is of course much younger than the owner. She has a blue marsu-1 named Maria for a pet. Maria looks scaird and nervous as the new owner begins arranging and customizing the apartment three down from the owner's, Shanti's and Rosalita. Shanti and Rosalita watch through the screen door, a custom feature their owner has installed.
"Don't worry," says the new owner. "I'm going to bring you lots of extra stuff."
I wish our owner would bring us stuff thinks Rosalita. Goku, the blue canid-1 gets cheese cake slices with cherries on top. Those taste like joy itself.
"I have to run out and get stuff. I'll be back," The new owner makes a hastey run down the stairs and down the paved path towards the laundry, community, center, and chasm. "Will she really be back?" asks Shanti.
"Who knows," says Rosalita who pushes through the screen door to greet the pet. She asks Maria, the blue marsu-2, if she has eaten and Maria says she got her meal at the Welfare Office. Rosalita remembers eating there once. After that though the owner quickly had too much money. All their food now comes from shop stock. Fresh fruits and vegetables and vegetarian sausage are rarities. Mostly it's baked beans, mushy peas which are sort of like pea soup, boiled desert potatoes, and olives. Shanti won't eat the green pickled olives, and once Shanti made the owner angry by refusing to eat fresh brocoli. The owner gave it to Rosalita. She remembered it as tough and fibrous. The best thing Rosalita has ever eaten is a red apple.
Well at least the soup at the Welfare Office didn't taste like anything worth remembering. "Mostly, " explains Rosalita, "You're going to eat food out of cans. My owner used to live in Utica, New York where they grew apples and she says they are quite inexpensive but not here. You won't ever see cheese. I think I tasted some when Serenity had it, but it's salty and not that great. Sweet corn with tomato sauce is delicious and...."
"I'm back," chirps Maria's owner who trundles up the stairs and down the deck that acts like an outdoor hallway between the apartments with a big brown cloth bag under her arm. Rosalita asks of what the sack is made. The owner says she thinks it is burlap. Rosalita asks to touch it. "If you're not careful she'll eat it," says Da_best whose owner has apparently taken one of her three siblings across the bridge leaving the green canid-3 to her own devices. "I won't eat the sack. I'm not hungry," Rosalita protests.
Rosalita handles the introductions. Da_best looks bored. "I've brought some toys," says the new owner who takes out a bucket of light colored plastic with a translucent lid. Maria stares at the object as if she can see through it. "Are those crayons?" asks Da_best.
"No it's walk chalk," says the new owner. "I'll show you all how it works."
Shanti, Da_best, Rainbow a rana-2 who just got painted, Rosalita, and Maria the blue marsu-2, all head down the stairs after the new owner who pops the top off the walk chalk and takes out a large light blue piece. With a few strokes she has drawn a convincing and wonderful portrait of Maria.
"Wow!" says Maria. "Can you teach me to draw?"
"I'll never be able to draw like that," wails Da_best.
"I can't draw but I can write," says Rosalita. "Want me to write your name?"
Maria smiles. Rosalita takes a piece of pink chalk and accidently breaks it in her big right hand. "You idiot!" complains Da_best.
"It's no problem," says the new owner. "We can still use both pieces."
Rosalita takes the larger piece of chalk and writes out "M-A-R-I-A"
"Very good!" says the new owner.
"I'm rated brilliant," Rosalita explains.
"You're very lucky," says the new owner.
"Our owner reads to us," explains Shanti.
"Books are expensive," Da_best quips.
"Yes, but not as expensive as a magic paint brush," Rainbow boasts.
Just then the small barefoot owner with very dark skin steps out from the space between the two apartment buildings across the way. She runs over, bare feet flying through the grass. She is still wearing the same green t-shirt that says "boiirez diablo menthe."
"The [word unrepeatable] is a thief!" complains Da_best.
"She is not," says Shanti.
"She had you crying when she took your bicycle," Da_best answers.
"Yeah but she brought it back," Shanti insists, and Shanti is right.
"Sil vous plait, may I borrow your chalks please...." the owner begs in a mixture of French and English with a very strange accent.
"Yes," the new owner says.
"I hope you'll remember to bring the chalk back soon," Rosalita reminds the brown skinned owner with bare feet.
"Je returnerai," the barefoot owner says and she slips away running over the grass and between the two buildings.
"Well that's the end of your chalk," Da_best grumbles.
"You weren't using it," says the new owner.
"Yeah, well someone ought to report that [name unrepeatable]!"
"Who taught you to use that kind of language?" the new owner asks.
"No one...." Da_best stammers.
"Well don't use it around me," the new owner commands.
"What will you do, report me?" Da_best asks.
"Owners can't report pets," Rainbow adds.
"Your conscience will report you,&qout; the new owner answers.
"What's a conscience?" Da_best asks.
"I think it's something in your head," says Shanti.
"Not in your head," answers the new owner. "In your heart."
"If you want the chalk back," says Rosalita. &qout;You have to stay here. The thief always comes back to the place where she takes your stuff and Maria will need someone to wait with her."
Maria looks as if she will cry. Poor new pet. "OK, then I'll stay and read to you. I brought you a book."
"You can only read to one pet at a time. Every three or four books we get more intelligent," Rainbow explains.
"I have a book we can all share," says the new owner. "I've read it many times and I'd like to share it with you."
"That doesn't sound right," says Da_best.
"It's a wonderful book," says. "It's the best book that's ever been written."
The new owner darts up the stairs just in time for the barefoot owner to dart out from between the two buildings across the way. She carries the chalk bucket under her arm. She places it at Maria's feet and says "Merci, thankyou."
"You're not welcome,&qout; growls Da_best. "And you Rosalita, you're not doing your job. You are a sauro. You're supposed to be big and fierce."
Rosalita watches the barefoot owner run away. Why does she run all the time, the sauro-2 wonders. Carefully Rosalita removes the top of the chalk bucket. "I want to make sure she brought them back undamaged," she explains just as the new owner comes down the stairs with a small black book under her arm. The book has no picture on the front. Rosalita wonders if it is a book of magic spells. She wonders if they could be dark spells created by a dark fairy or maybe by the evil, Dr. Drado. There were son many villains in the books Rosalita had to read to get her brilliant rating.
Rosalita tries not to think of villains and instead thinks of chalk. One piece is indeed missing. It's the smaller piece of pink chalk from the chalk she broke herself. She wonders if she should tell the new owner about it. The new owner smiles when she sees the chalk bucket is back. Maybe she won't miss a fraction of a piece. If Rosalita tells the new owner while Da_best is around. Da_best will use more bad names for the barefoot owner. Rosalita realizes though that the barefoot owner is really a thief now. Can one be a secret thief?
"OK, I'm going to read to you the most important story in the world:" the new owner begins.
"Where's the picture on the front of the book?" asks Rainbow. Rosalita remembers the book and suddenly feels relieved that someone besides her has noticed it is different.
"It doesn't have one." explains the new owner. "It doesn't have to have one. I'll read the words and you'll see the pictures in your heads."
"Will we see them in our hearts too?" asks Shanti.
"Yes," answers the new owner who really likes Shanti's answer.
Then the new owner begins to read: "'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.'"
"That's religion! That's illegal! I'm going to report you!" screams Da_best.
"Pets can't report owners," Rainbow reminds Da_best.
"Quiet down, I want to hear," begs Shanti.
"'The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without him was not anything that was made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men, and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not."
"I'm leaving. We'll get in trouble if we listen to this," says Da_best.
"It doesn't make any sense," says Rainbow.
"Did God make this world too, or just the world beyond the chasm?" asks Shanti.
"He made the whole universe," answers the new owner somewhat perturbed.
"Did he make pets too?" asks Shanti.
"Of course He did," answers the new owner.
"He did not!" screams Rainbow. "Andrew who invented the World of Pets made pets."
"And what is Andrew?" asks the new owner.
"He's a human," answers Rainbow.
"Then God made Andrew. Look," says the new owner. "I have to go home and do my homework. It's a school night. Would one of you like to borrow my Bible?"
Shanti steps shyly forward. "If it doesn't disappear when you read it," she stammers.
"It won't," the new owner assures her and hands the white alien-1 the book with the black cover and no pictures.
The new owner heads off down the paved path toward the community center, the laundry, and the chasm and home to her own world. Shanti and Rosalita retreat to their own apartment. Maria looks tired and goes in for a nap in her standard issue apartment strewn with toys smuggled in in a burlap bag.
"Did you notice," Rosalita informs Shanti. "the new owner started her book near the end. You're supposed to begin a book at the beginning."
Rosalita then wonders what will happen if she starts reading at the beginning. She is not entirely sure that the book is not filled with evil spells. Still she does nothing as Shanti fearlessly starts the book in the proper starting place:
"'In the beginning,'" Shanti reads. "God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was void and without form. and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said "let there be light"..... And God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth after his kind"; and it was so.'" Shanti looks up and smiles. "So God made pets too," she says. "It says so here. The new owner should have started with this story, Genesis."
"What about aliens?" asks Rosalita. "You weren't created here on this world, but on the Orange Thing, the moon. Dr. Drado then enslaved you all until the Celestial Fairy freed you."
"It says God created the Heavens and the Earth. That means He made the orange thing too."
"What about Andrew?"
"Maybe Andrew was working for God?"
"My, my, my, my," says the owner as she pushes through the screen door of the apartment. "You're learning theology...."
"We have a new neighbor and she lent us a Bible," Shanti explains and she shows the owner the black book without pictures.
"You have to keep this well hidden until you give it back," the owner admonishes. "I could get reported for having this in the apartment."
Shanti looks scaird. The owner closes the big wooden door to give the pets and their smuggled Bible some privacy. "Does any body need to eat or get a grooming before we go to the golf links tonight?" she asks.
Rosalita is not particularly hungry but a grooming sounds like a good idea. She stands while the owner goes over her scales with a brush. Then it is Shanti's turn. Shanti will go golfing tonight and probably to the Pharaoah as well, but instead the owner picks Rosalita after reminding Shanti to always read the Bible behind a closed door. The owner smiles and walks easily in the evening air.
That is when she sees the barefoot owner dart out from behind a tree, squat on the walk and write something with the stolen piece of chalk.
LIBEREZ DARFUR writes the barefoot owner.
"Oh my God," groans the owner.
God made the Heavens, the Earth, the Orange Thing, and all the World of Pets, thinks Rosalita.
The owner falls to her knees as if someone has hit her. "Je regrette," she says. "Je regrette et tous mes mots peuvent ne suffit pas. Ils peuvent ne faire rien. Je regrette. J'espere que vous connaisez." [Translation: I'm sorry. All my words can not suffice. All my words can do nothing. I'm sorry. I hope you understand.]
"It's OK," the barefoot owner says. "You did rien....nothing. You OK."
"I'm going to see no one hurts you or tries to....you deserve better. It may be too late for you but you deserve better."
"Nothing hurts me now...rien," the girl explains.
"And nothing will hurt you her. Comment appelez-vous?" the owner asks.
"Je suis Djaffi," says the barefoot owner.
"Je m'appele Roanna," the owner replies. "Come on Rosalita. We need to go back to the apartment."
The owner makes sure the big wooden door was shut; for this requires privacy. Rosalita can see the owner is almost crying. "What happened?" Shanti asks. " Is someone going to report us?"
"No," answers the owner. "Not yet, and if we're careful it will never happen. I want to tell you as much as I can about Djaffi. She's the little black girl who has been taking stuff and then bringing it back. She's not a thief. She's a refugee from a country called the Sudan, from a province called Darfur. She is poorer even then the poorest pet and certainly much poorer than the poorest owner. You must, be kind to her. You must not report her to the authorities and you must convince the other pets to do the same. It is very important." The owner collapses on to one of the day beds. Her face is as red as it gets when she screams the store....No, wait it is redder.
"Will we get in trouble?" asks Rosalita.
"We'll have to try not to," says the owner.
"Can owners get in trouble for good things?" asks Shanti. Neither the owner nor Rosalita answer.
Chapter 4 -- Dancing in the Dark
"Please read me that sign," Da_best (that was what her owner named her), the green canid-3 asks Rosalita. "The sign says Big Dance. 3am WST [World Standard Time] August 28th. To Better Enjoy This Event SOCIAL DANCING LESSONS will be offered every afternoon at 1pm WST in the Community Building." Rosalita smiles. "Sounds like fun," she says. If dancing is any kind of a sport it should be fun. Rosalita also thinks of Maria, the blue marsu-2 three doors down. She is still timid and disoriented. Dancing lessons should be good for her. Marsu-2's have an especially good reputation as dancers.
That afternoon when the owner arrives, Rosalita asks her to take Shanti out so she can attend dance lessons. The dance instructor is an older female human with a round belly that is suspiciously sauro like. She wears a purple leotard and matching thick tights and white sneakers on her old feet. Her hair is faded going somewhere from brown to grey but she has strong shoulders and calves and thighs filled with muscles. She brings with her a boom box that plays CD's and when she puts on the music, she is not old any more. She moves with grace, liveliness, and rhythm. She makes the pets stand in line to practice steps. Several of the boy pets get bored with this. "This is [word unrepeatable]" complains Goku, the blue canid-1 who always organizes soccer games. Crazy the red primate-1 or just plain primate is also bored. Soon half the boys sneak out.
The dance instructor then teaches all the pets how to form up for the Virginia reel. The pets hold hands, wings, claws etc.... to make a tunnel and then one couple of pets at a time goes down the tunnel and forms the front part of the tunnel and the next group comes through. They have to remember to all step back or the tunnel will creep forward. It is while they are doing the Virginia reel that Djaffi from Darfur, the barefoot owner, appears in the community room door. "Come in," says the dance instructor. Da_best makes an unhappy noise. Owners aren't supposed to be at pet activities and where are Djaffi's pets anyway? Da_best asks this aloud. Djaffi pretends not to hear her.
With the reel dancing done it is time for the instructor to teach more line dances and partner dances. Djaffi takes her place among the pets. A lot of the pets have learned that it is wrong for pets of the same gender to dance together. Rosalita thinks this is silly. If there are no boy pets who want to dance or if the girl pet or the girl human is your good friend, why not dance with her. That is how Rosalita ends up dancing with Djaffi. Djaffi is an excellent dancer. She picks up all the steps and she loves doing the bounces and turns. She lets Rosalita lead, even though Rosalita is shorter. Rosalita is stouter then this little skinny slip of a dark brown skinned human from a place that is far away. A refugee is someone who is very poor. A refugee is someone who has run away. A refugee has to be someone who has run away if she is here. That is what Rosalita knows. Rosalita is glad that the refugee can dance.
When the social dancing lessons break up, Rosalita and Djaffi head back to the owner's apartment. As a precaution, Rosalita remembers to close the big wooden door. Djaffi says the Darfur is in Sudan in Afrique. None of that makes any sense to Rosalita just like the stars in the sky being different beyond the chasm. "Why did you run away from Darfur?" Rosalita asks her guest. "The battaile," Djaffi answers. "Les Jenjaweed. They attack. They kill. They steal. They do bad things to women and children. We walked many days on the road. We come to Tchad. We go there. We stay in a tent. There is food but not much medicines. J'ete consumptive...consumption."
"What's that?" asks Rosalita.
"Did your mom take you to the Wellness Springs?"
"The Wellness Springs in the Land of Fairies. You sit there and wait and then a fairy comes and heals you. Shanti got sick right after she was born and mom had to take her there. It took three tries to get her healed and it left her bloated for two days."
Djaffi shakes her head. "Il n'ya pas les springs of healing en Afrique. Ils sont des medicins tres expensif. I sorry. No healing springs. Just medicine but not for me. Not enough. I got very sick....&qout;
Djaffi says nothing. "The only good thing about dying is you only do it once each life." She smiles.
Rosalita says nothing. She realizes slowly that she now knows why Djaffi is not an owner. She also knows what Djaffi is. She has to be a wandering ghost except she doesn't look like ghost, yet she died back there in Tchad down the road from Darfur and she is wandering all over the place and she even takes stuff though she usually brings it back. She also looks like a kid and she is one too. This is complicated, thinks Rosalita.
Just then the owner comes into the apartment with Shanti who has just gotten an intelligence raise. Shanti is smiling from ear to ear. "My you look pensive," the owner says to Rosalita.
"I'm fine," Rosalita answers.
"How did the dance lessons go?" the owner asks.
"C'est terrifique!" Djaffi replies.
Rosalita smiles. "That's good. I have a surprise for all of you. It's been in my purse all morning. I figure this is what you are used to eating, Djaffi." From her large purse, the owner removes a bag of Dixie Lily Yellow Corn Meal. Djaffi glances doubtfully at the English writing. There is also a box of butter and a shaker of salt. "We need the big pan. When you make corn meal mush, you have to let the corn meal slip through your fingers into the hot water and stir it all the time or it forms lumps. N'est-ce que pas?"
Djaffi says nothing. "Je suis Americaine," the owner explains. "We have different names for foods."
The owner sets about making corn meal mush which is a fairly long process. When the mush is done, she spoons it into several bowls. It is thick and there is butter and salt on the table to season it. Djaffi takes no butter and rations out the salt carefully pourint it into her right hand first. Shanti and Rosalita look at each other. Djaffi also eats with her right and keeps her left hand tucked under buttocks.
"Why do you eat with just one hand?" asks Rosalita.
"Le droite est propre et pour le nourriture. Le gauce est sale et pour le WC."
The owner translates. "The right hand is for food. The left hand is for going to the bathroom."
After lunch the owner leaves and Djaffi leaves too. She says she will be back. "I don't like corn meal mush," answers Shanti who digs out the Bible and then takes one of the brown kente cloth pillow cases. She wraps the Bible up and slips out the wooden door and the screen door. If she is going looking for the new owner or Maria, then let her. Rosalita is still trying to sort all this out. She thinks of how the corn meal mush tasted. It was one of the few hot foods she has ever really appreciated. She tries to imagine eating it every day, without butter and where salt is scarce and where you have to keep your left hand clean for the bathroom. She tries to think of walking for miles because an enemy called the Jenjaweed has attacked and you don't know how to make war in the Challenge Dome and there are no fairies to protect you. There are not even Wellness Springs for healing. You can actually die of consumptive.
How does one make sense of all this? It isn't in any of the books that Rosalita has read to obtain her brilliant rating. Suddenly there is a knock on the big wooden door. "If you have this screen door then why don't you use it?&qut; It is Goku, the big blue canid-1. "I feel like some privacy," Rosalita replies. She does not feel like playing soccer which is a first for her though she thinks she better go because who knows if someone suspects something suspicious. Could the Jenjaweed from beyond the chasm attack here or will the fairies protect all the pets?
"We're having a meeting. All of us," explains Goku in a very official sounding voice. He is nearly a year old and the senior pet here in this part of the complex.
Rosalita who doesn't want any one to know what is going round and round in her head, follows Goku out of the apartment and down the stairs off the deck and then between the apartment complexes across the way towards one of the older apartment buildings two rows from the chasm. The apartment buildings are all two stories tall. All the apartments have outside entrances. Second story apartments have an ouside stairway that reaches up to a concrete deck with no rail that serves in place of a hall. Goku's apartment is on the first floor. He has no siblings and the apartment is full of junk his owner has brought in. Mostly it is soccer related, posters of famous players, goal posts, a real leather soccer ball, soccer magazines and more. The place smells of canid and leather and male human who has been running around in the hot sun. Inside the apartment, Rosalita can see Da_Best, Cleo the green pisci-3, Mandi the red rodent-1, Crazy, Alexa a rodent-2 recently painted plaid, and several other very senior pets.
Rosalita wonders if she is in some kind of trouble. Goku begins: "There is a someone or something loose here in the complex that does not belong here. It looks like an owner, yet it has no pets. It takes people's stuff and says it is borrowing it. It brings the stuff back, but it takes way too long. It also just doesn't belong here. I do not know what this thing is but it is bad. It could be a wandering ghost or maybe a minion of Dr. Drado disguised as a little girl. We have to stop it if we are good Defenders of the World."
The other pets clap and applaud. Rosalita stares at the floor. "What's the matter Rosalita?" asks Da_best (that is what her owner named her.) Rosalita wonders if she can or should explain what a refugee is. She knows now because Djaffi told her. She also knows that Djaffi is a wandering ghost but not all wandering ghosts are evil. Out there beyond the chasm are some terrible places and terrible enemies and maybe there is a chance those Jenjaweed will come here and...Besides, Goku and the others will ask Rosalita how she learned all that and she will have to tell her what her owner taught her. Then...well pets can not report owners, but pets talk to their owners and other owners.... Rosalita remembers her owner saying they won't get in trouble if they are careful. Maybe now is the time to be careful.
"I need to go to the Wellness Springs," says Rosalita. "I don't feel good."
"Well ask your owner to take you," says Crazy.
"She's out with my sister," says Rosalita who takes her leave and hides behind the big wooden door of the apartment. She lays down on one of the day beds and just stays still. The knock on the door surprises her again. It's Da_best this time. "The pets are going to summon the Fairy Queen. She is going to get rid of the wandering ghost who steals our stuff."
Rosalita closes her eyes and moans. She has no choice. If she tells Da_best the truth, she puts Shanti, the owner, and herself all in terrible danger. "I hope your owner gets back soon," Da_best sighs.
Rosalita moans again and Da_best leaves. Rosalita barely hears Shanti reenter the apartment. "Celeste has the most wonderful chafing dish," Shanti begins.
"What is a chafing dish?" asks Rosalita.
"A dish that keeps hot lunch hot for hours. You can put baked beans in it, or corn meal mush, or semolian rubbed through a colander, or even steamed desert potato, and it stays hot all afternoon. You know Celeste lent us the chafing dish and we ate warm nourshing food from it."
"Who is Celeste?" asks Rosalita.
"The owner three doors down who owns Maria, the blue marsu-2."
"She didn't lend any chafing dishes. She lent a -- "
"She lent us a chafing dish," Shanti repeats "And we filled it with wonderful food and we felt full all day but not bloated, just really full....Alas I had to bring the chafing dish back this afternoon, but she will lend it again some time."
"Oh," says Rosalita. Then she sits up and hugs her sister.
There are social dancing lessons. The next day and the day after that. After the lessons, the owner makes corn meal mush for Djaffi. The owner says fairies don't do things to owners. She doesn't think fairies can come in the complex at all. That would make sense because the fairy hasn't shown up and the dance is tomorrow. Every afternoon, Djaffi and Rosalita dance together. They are learning partner dance moves. They will be the best dancers in the complex if.... Rosalita tries not to think about it. Meanwhile, Shanti borrows Celeste's Bible several more times always taking care to return it promptly and to read it behind the closed door only. One evening, Celeste draws Shanti, Rosalita, and her own Maria.
Then it is the night of the dance or perhaps the early morning. The dance is held when owners are unlikely to be around and when the most pets can come. Most of the male pets and a good deal fo the female ones stand around on the sidelines looking scaird and useless, but Rosalita has lessons and she shows Shanti the moves. There is a big stereo instead of a boom box, and there are special colored lights and a male human who works them, but the dance instructor is there too. After half an hour or so, Djaffi shows up as if it is the most normal thing in the world for a human to appear at one of these events.
Rosalita is glad to see Djaffi but she is scaird too. Still Djaffi joins the lines and the reals and finally she and Rosalita are dancing together. The do dips and twists and finally Rosalita picks up Djaffi and carries her in a circle and puts her on her broad sauro shoulders. This is much better than handling big bags of laundry. It is good to be strong. It is good to be a sauro. It is good to use your strength for something other than the Challenge Dome. The other dancers move out of the way and the human employees who have been shinging the lights, shine a big yellow spot light on Rosalita and Djaffi who dance like star beauty queens.
Then suddenly the music goes silent and the colored lights go out. Someone turns on the community rooms usual fluorescent bulbs. Pets begin to slip outside. Rosalita is not sure why. She lets Djaffi down off her shouldes. "I have to leave," says Djaffi politely as if the sudden stopping of a long awaited dance were an every day occurence. Djaffi looks around for a back door to the community room and seeing that there is none, head's toward the ladies' room to hide. Rosalita goes in afterwards. Hiding in the ladies' room won't work. It will be the first place they look. Rosalita pushes open the ladies room door but when she goes to look for Djaffi, the wandering barefoot ghost girl is gone.
Rosalita is not sure whether to feel relieved or sad. She stands dazed in a hall that is about half empty. The dance instructor comes over to her. "You need to go outside. Everyone has to go outside," she says. Rosalita wonders what has happened to Shanti. All the pets have gathered on the big lawn between the trees in front of the laundry and several older two story blocks of apartments. There are several black pick up trucks filled with humans in dark uniforms that Rosalita recognizes as Security. There is also a glittering pink golf cart lit up by a spotlight. Standing in that golf cart is an adult female woman with cloth wings on her back and a long pink gown made of some kind of filmy material. Her hair is long and streaked with purple. Rosalita didn't knwo hair could be purple. In the woman's hand is a small squat wand with a bulb on the end. This is the third time Rosalita has ever seen a fairy. She hopes the fairy can not find Djaffi.
"Sit in two lines. Two lines!" female Security personnel shout. They have the same tired authority in their voices as male Security officers. They too carry knightsticks and wear the same dark blue pants and shirts. "Sit in two rows and put your hands on your heads. If you don't have hands, use your wings and claws."
Rosalita makes her way to the line. Somehow she manages to see Shanti. Shanti is crying. She is not just crying, she is wailing like a baby. "What's gotten in to her?" Rosalita wonders as she sits down and puts her arm around her sister. "Put your hands on your head!" snarls a female Security Officer. "Do you think I'm just talking to air?"
"Yes ma'am," thinks Rosalita who complies. Rosalita wishes Shanti would stop crying. She wishes Shanti were braver. She watches the police in their pick up trucks drive down and among the blocks of apartments. Some police have already stopped their trucks and are opening apartment doors and climbing stairs on to second floor concrete decks. Lights come on. Sleepy or anti-social pets stagger out. The police enter in pairs. They carry plastic bags that are empty. Sometimes they take out objects and throw them over the deck on to the grass. Sometimes they just fill up the bags and take them back to the truck. Sometimes they stand together in pairs and confer writing down something secret on clipboards.
The Queen of the Fairies in her pink dress bathed in a spotlight and holding her stubby wand walks down the row of pets with their hands on their heads. "Everything is going to be alright. We are going to catch the evil that is running amuck among you. But we need all your help. You do want to help us, don't you?"
A Security Officer, throws several empty pizza boxes off of a deck. Another throws a motorized scooter to the ground. "Wow!" he cries loudly enough that the pets sitting with their hands on their heads can hear. "Listen up!" shouts a female Security officer.
"We all know you are good little Pets of The World. You can start by showing us how loyal you are. Who knows The World of Pets National Anthem." The World of Pets National Anthem is not such a great song but it was in one of the books both Shanti and Rosalita read and they sing along. Shanti is still too weepy to sing. She stares at the ground. Then the Queen of the Fairies asks the pets to sing the March Against Dr. Drado. This is one of Rosalita's favorite songs but she wonders why they have to sing it. Still she sings it in her good strong sauro voice. She is a good pet or at least she is going to be one until this awful night ends. They sing several more songs and all the while the police keep emerging from apartments with full bags of whatever they don't wantonly destroy. They must be taking out all the extra things owners smuggle through the gate. Rosalita thinks of the cheesecake Goku's owner brings him and of the custom dishes and bedding (but that is legal or is it?). Rosalita and Shanti's owner has never brought her pets much from the outside world. Rosalita also thinks of Celeste, Maria's owner, and her walk chalk and her.... Oh no!
"You're not singing any more," asks the Queen of the Fairies.
Rosalita finds her voice again though she can feel tears start behind her own eyes. She can't remember ever being so scaird. After a time the Queen of the Fairies gives up leading the singing and starts asking pets what their favorite place on the other side of the bridge is. Rosalita forces her hand up into the air and she says her favorite place is the golf links. She likes hitting the ball even though she hits it too hard and she likes that her owner always gets paid. Rosalita can still hear Shanti sobbing. Fortunately, the Queen of the Fairies has given up on Shanti as hopeless.
The Queen of the Fairies asks the pets what their favorite toy is. A lot of the girls talk about stuffed animals. Rosalita thinks about her bicycle but the idea drifts away. What will they do without their owner? That is the big question. What will happen when those police get to their apartment. They don't just have any contraband in there. They have Celeste's Bible. "Studying theology, are you?" the owner's words sing a mocking song in Rosalita's mind. The owner has a life outside the chasm but without an owner, a pet is either retired to the Deserted Tropical Island or dead.
"I don't want to die," thinks Rosalita. "Please, I know I should have kept them from summoning the fairy. I should have tried harder. I shouldn't have pretended I was sick. I was a coward. It was all my fault. I know it is too late now...but"
"I have something for some of you. I have some prizes," announces the Queen of the Fairies. She takes down a wooden box from a seat in the golf cart. In that box are color change certificates and certificates for special weapons to use in the Challenge Dome and training certificates and job certificates. The first pet to jump up and do some stupid stunt or other gets a prize to give to her owner. Rosalita feels no desire to jump. Since the pets are no longer singing and for the most part sitting quietly except for those going for the prizes, Rosalita can overhear the police talking and laughing and sighing. "Those kids have such rich parents. Look at all the stuff. I think these earings are genuine. Does your wife have her ears pierced? Wooh! Look at those magazines." The Security Officer's wolf whistle echoes through the complex.
Rosalita stares at the ground. Sitting here in this line is a terrible way to spend one's last few hours. Rosalita scarcely notices that the sky turns grey and day begins. The raid has gone on for hours but at long last it is over. Police stand beside pickup trucks filled with contraband. The Queen of the Fairies has no more songs to sing or prizes to give away. She walks up and down the line and signals out a pet here and a pet there. "Could this be a new game?" Rosalita wonders. Then she notices that the Queen of the Fairies has chosen Maria. Maria rises daised. The Queen of the Fairies has to coax her over to her golf cart.
Shanti groans and then lets out a wail that makes heads turn. Rocking back and forth Shanti lets forth with a new spate of sobbing as another dozenor so pets are piled into the huge golf cart. Then the Queen of the Fairies joins them and rolls off. The police walk in formation behind their pickup trucks loaded with contraband. Rosalita sits stunned on the lawn listening to Shanti cry. Other pets rise slowly. It is nearly light now. Rosalita struggles to her feet. She is light headed. She is probably hungry but she doesn't care if she will ever eat again. She coaxes Shanti to her feet. She knows enough not to ask her sister to stop crying. Shanti lets herself be led back to the apartment.
The police have ramsacked the place. Dishes sit in a pile on the table. Day bed mattresses are upturned and the sheets turned down. In the middle of the floor a bag of corn meal has been thrown and stepped on making a star of yellow powder. "We'd better clean this place up," Rosalita instructs Shanti. "Come on....You help me. It will get your mind off it. We're still alive you know...We have to be grateful for that."
"I gave the chafing dish back to Celeste!" Shanti wails.
"Thank God!" answers Rosalita taking her sister in her arms. "You saved our lives."
Shanti does not stop crying but only sobs out a louder answer. "Maria..." the alien-1 stammers.
"What about Maria?"
"Celeste and Maria. Celeste had the chafing dish..."
Rosalita stares at the floor and the big star of yellow cornmeal. What kind of creatures are humans who wantonly destroy food. Food is life. Rosalita, kicks the broken bag of cornmeal scattering more of the now useless food across the floor. If I had spoken up, maybe none of this would have happened, she thinks. Now all she can do is fetch the broom and the sponge and dustpan and try to put the apartment to rights. The apartment three doors down will have another pet and owner in it soon, a dazed newbie pet and a young owner who will obey the rules against religion.
"Why is it forbidden that we know we come from God?" asks Shanti as Rosalita sweeps the spilled cornmeal into a pile.
"I don't know, but we have to follow the rules to stay alive," Rosalita answers.
Shanti starts sobbing again. "But if we don't know things, what good is being alive?" sputters Shanti. " I mean you have to know who you are or think about it and...how you feel...and I feel like King David when he lost his baby boy. He well, humans are not sterile like we pets are. He met a lady who wasn't his wife and her name was Bathsheba and they had a baby and David had her husband murdered by sending him into the Challenge Dome only they called it a war. God didn't like that and so he let David and Bathsheba's first baby die. You know that...a baby like a newbie pet, like Maria" Shanti howls again.
"That was in the Bible," Shanti explains. "That isn't in any of the books we read to get our rating. We don't learn about people being sad because someone died. I knew they would take Maria tonight. They're going to purge Celeste's account."
"Come on," says Rosalita. "We have to clean up this apartment."
"Aren't you going to miss Celeste and Maria. Remember how Celeste could draw?"
Rosalita stops sweeping. She remembers even if she does not want to and she remembers the way Celeste let Djaffi have the walk chalk and never complained about the missing piece and how Celeste yelled at Da_best for using a racial epithet. It is definitely wrong when humans who do the right thing have their account purged. At least though Celeste is alive and outside the chasm. It is Maria who will suffer for her owner's stupidity...no Celeste wasn't stupid. "I wish I could make sense of all this," says Rosalita to no one.
"Would you die for Djaffi?" Shanti asks Rosalita.
Rosalita is not sure how to answer. Djaffi at least got away tonight. That is one good thing.