Chapter One is
Chapter Two is
I hope the cuts work. They are showing up weird on my computer for some reason. grr. Thanks for reading!
When the Gaians first arrived on Burwadee, the thought was that all technology, all facets of their lives, their culture, everything should move ahead as fast as possible. The first Gaians wanted to extend their explorations still further into the universe. They wanted to develop ways to help their friends and loved ones still on Earth. They, in short, wanted their presence on this new planet to be felt. As has happened throughout the annals of humanity, however, the Gaians soon got mixed up in political disputes, in their wars with the Burwadians and the continuing enslavement of the Burwadians, and in the complexities of everyday life. When the Great War started, all development suddenly came to a halt. There was a palpable need among the Gaians to recreate what their predecessors had had on Earth. Occasionally a new bunch of Earthlings would come to join the Gaian civilization, and with them they would bring books made of paper, regular soil that had been used on Earthling farms, strange things that the Gaians were desperately in need of for some reason. I have never been sure if it was the start of some sort of intergalactic homesickness or if it was about solidifying a cultural identity while making another culture subservient. I figured if the Gaians were really so homesick, they could have just traveled back home. At any rate, around the same time Burwadians were enrolled in "re-education classes." Attendance was not an option for enslaved or captive Burwadians, and if a Burwadian slave needed to stay up or awaken at torturous times to make sure the work still got done, that was no skin off the Gaians' noses. It was essential, the leaders at the time said, to make sure that the Burwadians learned about Earthling culture, history, life, everything. The Gaians convinced themselves that it would do the Burwadians good, that it would civlize them. Also, the Gaians believed that a deeper familiarity with Earthling things would aid the Burwadians in being better servants.
Artemisia was just a child when the re-education classes started. She, in fact, would have been a part of the first tide of children for whom attendance would be mandatory. Learning Earthspeak was of course a high priority. Even though Burwadians had lived in Gaia for many, many years, they had clung desperately to their own native tongue, or occasionally to an odd mixture of Earthspeak and Burwadian. In the year of the Great War, learning Earthspeak became a necessity, and speaking Burwadian became a punishable offense. The Gaians, as most slaveholding societies did in Earthling history, became paranoid about those they enslaved. If the Burwadians were speaking their native tongue, it was because they were plotting like that oaf Daleeuh. There was not a thought about the Burwadians wanting to preserve a culture or a distant way of life. To the Gaian mind, these were not existent factors.
After learning how to read, speak, and write in Earthspeak, Burwadian children would be taught other Earthling languages. The specific choices would be up to the teachers, of whom there were steadily increasing amounts. In Artemisia’s case, the teacher’s ancestors had been from a place called England, and therefore, Artemisia learned all about the English language, English history, and English culture. At the end of all of her books, where tantalizing tidbits about the author were given, there were notes about Artemisia’s fluency in English. It was a skill much touted among the Gaians. It occurred to me, as I walked home from my interview with her, that Artemisia’s poetry likely had in part taken form during those early re-education classes, where she clearly had been a most prized student. I felt my anger rising again. Not only did she abuse her own people through her writings, but she also did so in a language that was forced upon her, a language she had studied at the expense of her own language and culture. It made my stomach feel oddly shaky.
Still, all through the next day, I perpetually looked at my video-com, waiting for word from Artemisia that the project could begin. I would fool myself into thinking that I was very busy with work, and then I would turn quickly towards the video-com as if it was a villain creeping up on me. I would leave to run something by my editor, and then I would dash back, expecting to see the blue light flashing telling me that I had missed a call. I was already prepared for the slight sinking feeling I would have upon realizing I had missed Artemisia’s beckoning. It was pathetic. I was exhibiting all of the disgusting mannerisms of someone waiting for that first informal call from a target of affection. And yet, when I explored my feelings about Artemisia herself, they were close on the edges of loathing. My excitement must have been about getting a job, a task, that was far from the usual political beat, which, it bears repeating, bored me nearly to oblivion. Maybe too, I was looking forward to telling my co-workers, when the project was finished, that it was I who had helped the great writer Artemisia with this task. “Yes, I told you, she invited me,” I would say. I was looking forward to seeing the look on my editor’s face. She was a huge fan of Artemisia’s work and had not even met the writer. I was shocked at how sweetly the thought of literary revenge flowed through my system. It was a high, a little secret, like a prize you are preserving for a special someone. Only, this prize would be the intangible feeling of jealousy I would see sour the faces of everyone I knew once my secret became known.
I heard nothing from Artemisia that day. Nor did I hear anything from her the day after that. In fact, day after day passed wearily by without word. I started to wonder if I had been the victim of her sense of humor, which seemed, in my brief talk with her, to be about as dry as a desert landscape. A desert landscape, that is, with no hope of rain whatsoever. My hatred for her grew. She had told me that she would call, had worked out her serious whisper about it being secret, had seen my equally serious head bobbing about not telling a soul, and she had known that I would drool at such an opportunity. And she had known the opportunity would never materialize. I had been so gullible. “I suppose you would have believed her if she had told you you had a tree growing out of your head, wouldn’t you?” I chided myself. “Yes, you would have reached up there and declared to her, “why, I don’t feel anything.”
I slowly came to terms with the fact that I had been played. Soon I stopped looking out of the corner of my eye at my video-com, and when it did signal an incoming message, the name Artemisia no longer crossed my mind. That ship had sailed, and frankly, I was a little relieved. Or, so I told myself.