Wrong Thoughts in the Age of Miracles
1327 words long
"Let the children come to me... for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." And so it shall--but at what cost?
Notes from the author:
The string-of-ten prompt began with the word "node" and finished up with a quote about Superman saving people in trouble, so I began writing a cheesy send-up of a Superman TV show. Then Rita showed up to complain about it, and Tommy to chide her for her complaint. But the thing didn't really take off until I realized that their school had literally arrived, like a space craft, and the teachers were using Superman as propaganda.
Basically it's V, but instead of water-stealing space reptiles, you get recruitment officers from Krypton.
I really wanted to use a photo taken from the very spot where Tommy and Rita sit and talk. But I'm not in Metairie right now, and I won't be until late December. And I was reluctant to call home and ask Dad to do it, because--well, just because, OK? So I turned to flickr and found a pretty good runner-up: Sunset along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, but as seen from Lakeshore Park rather than Linear Park. (The tower is clipped from a photo of the Panama City Skyline. I thought it looked sufficiently science fictional.)
When the Node began to thrum and blink, Superman knew that there was trouble. He barked an order to the lieutenant commander. Then he shot up into the sky--
"This is stupid," said Rita. "It's the same story every time. Trouble on the Node! Superman to the rescue! Punch the bad guy's face! The end. Can't we watch something different for once?"
Tommy hit the PAUSE button. Privately, he agreed, but he was very careful not to say so in front of the TV. They had finally replaced their old model when he began attending New School two years ago, and it had an electronic ear that was always listening. Everyone said it was just calibrating for voice recognition commands, but Tommy wasn't so sure.
"Rita" he said, "Superman is one of the classics. If you arrive at New School without having watched it all, everyone's going to think you're uneducated."
"But I have watched it all. I might as well have, anyway. Every episode is the same. Besides, who cares what the other kids think?"
Again, Tommy carefully guarded his words. What he wanted to say was, It's not the other kids I'm worried about. "Listen," he said, "let's go for a walk. We'll watch the sun go down. That'll be different, right?"
Rita shrugged. "Sure, I guess."
They walked out the door and out under the open sky. Tommy took them north, to the end of the dead-end block and up the levee. They could hear a few birds singing, but only a few; most were flying home to their roosts. The afternoon joggers and baby-strollers had all gone home, too. Cooling twilight air met day-heated earth and kicked up a light breeze in protest.
As they climbed above the level of the neighborhood rooftops, they could see New School shining like a giant cyborg finger held up tall against the sunset. The track of beaten-down grass running east to west along the top of the levee seemed to run directly into New School's front gates, though you'd have to cut across six lanes of heavy Causeway traffic to get there that way. Tommy sat down just to the side of that track, and Rita followed suit. From here, no one could eavesdrop on their conversation, and they would be able to see anyone approaching from several minutes out of earshot.
"What you have to know," Tommy said, "is that the New Teachers aren't like the teachers at our old school. They know all sorts of good stuff, but--well, you have to be careful around them. They aren't human, you know."
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for November 14, 2014. The fictionette appears in its entirety (1327 words) at Patreon and is available to all Patrons pledging at least $1/month.
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