Chapter Twenty Nine

Chapter Twenty Nine

Sheen headed north. She ran the short and orderly length of her area to the northern edge, where the last houses marked the beginning of the decline of the hills. Other areas had built all over every kind of slant there was, particularly on the Slope, which didn’t have much flat ground to begin with, and then everyone came along and plopped their dwellings down wherever they pleased. Not so the inhabitants on the Dirty Hills. As Zena had noticed, it was easily the neatest of any area. Probably because the sneak-elves were used to dealing with the dirt and pine needles and dead leaves of the forest,  used to keeping ahead of the earthen paraphernalia so as not to fade completely into it, and keeping your property free of slush and mud wasn’t that different.

Sheen reached the edge of the area and, without hesitating, ran down it, stumbling over the uneven snow. Her feet couldn’t go fast enough for her, so near the bottom she gave it up and threw herself forward, off of the mountain and onto the fresh snow with reed and grasses poking up from it. I’m officially out of the colony, was her desperate thought, now I can cry. Goodbye, respectable self, nice knowing you. She would have liked to think she was banishing it forever, but she knew that wasn’t possible, and the thought of staying out of control was a little frightening. So she added, check back in a little while.

And she let the sobbing and the self-pity commence.

The meltdown progressed as normal. She watched her sphere of blame widen, from Jacques to the whole Council, from the Council members to their ancestors who had conquered hers, from there to all other cultures besides her own, and then it widened to all people, the whole human race, and there she both lost and gained it, giving into the fact that, after all, she was human, too. Once she had that and embraced it, she could cry some more, but for all of them this time, a weeping of hopelessness and despair.

And then there came her favorite part, the feeling that always made these tantrums worth it. The thought of what she could do, what they could do, the desire to shout down the pressing proof of human corruption. With this feeling she could lift her head, and when she could sit still and breathe without gasping, she could stand and walk.

Back to the colony she so wished to not call home, even though she really couldn’t tell what home was anymore, selfishly listening to the whispers that told her she’d never had one and couldn’t have one, and if she was the smart girl she thought she was, wouldn’t want one. Back to the ridiculous pessimism of reality, the heavy tasks she’d foolishly signed up for. Back to the people who made her laugh and scream, more often than not at the same time. Back to the world she’d inherited, the world that was impossibly lovely and yet unthinkably wretched and cruel.

End of Part I

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