• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 02
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Adorning the Night

She used to believe that if she hid her face, the Imperial gods would not find her. That was before the government’s facial recognition scanners became mandatory. She still keeps her head scrunched down beneath the black fur collar of her heavy red coat, popping it up only momentarily to let the security cameras in the building where we lived measure what’s left of her once-firm cheekbones and forehead. Squinting her droopy eyes, she glances away as the electronic trackers record the sagging lines around her mouth. Muttering under her breath, she tells me the machines are determining her age; something that people once honored. I squeeze her wrinkled hand as she talks to tell her I think she’s wonderful and wise.

Every few months, she gets a report issued from the state’s high-tech machinery. On it are numbers that relate to her years and to the value placed upon the estimated time remaining on her “living” chart. When that double-digit figure is equal to the calculation of her body’s life, she will be asked to step outside. Out there, weather conditions are not regulated.

Officials will remove her coat and, shivering, she will recoil from the sunlight. She whispers she will not be afraid. “When it happens, and it will,” she says, “I will be mad.” Lifting one foot and then the other she stomps around to show me her anger. The movement will keep her warm until nightfall.

When that day comes, I am to go to the window and look for the sparks flying up to the sky from her hands slapping together. “I will be there,” she speaks through the coat’s thick fabric, then sighs. “The gods will finally have me.”

After a few moments of silence, she adds, “My face will no longer be mine.” It will be placed alongside countless others that adorn the evening’s darkness.


Adorning the Night

I bring her hand to my lips and take in the yeasty scent of her aged skin. “I will always know which one is you.”