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by Sabrina RG Raven

Release date: June 2, 2018.

To pre-order click here


When I was born my parents wept. Not in joy like most parents do, but in sorrow.

Everyone in the world is born with a tattoo that matches their soul mate’s. We couple for life. I have no idea, even now, how it all works, how that soul mate is always close enough to be found, but I am blank. That is why my parents wept.

The hospital put me in isolation, capsuled in a humidicrib, encased in plastic, hoping that a mark would appear in time, like the spots of a Dalmatian puppy. But I remained blank. They took blood samples, and skin scrapes. They bottled my tears and called in healers. They genetically tested me, looking for missing markers and the like. They found nothing out of the ordinary. I was a healthy baby who grew into a healthy toddler.

My parents searched my skin a thousand times, praying that a mark would appear. It had never happened in my town – a blank child – at least not in the past 100 years of records. There were rumours, rumours that left me isolated and my parents embarrassed.

My sister was born when I was three. She had her mark emblazoned on her calf, the same place as my mother. They named her Joy, as they were finally going to be able to get past my deformity. My name, Almara, meant one who is alone. I guess they were right.

There was nothing but stories of people like me. Eventually though I was ignored enough to make my life liveable. I went to school, but was sat in the back, so as not to disrupt the other children. I was a curiosity, but I needed more in my life than being the blank child. I worked hard at school and did as I was told. I got good grades and my parents were proud, but I was never acknowledged for my efforts. I was ten when I started looking through the town archives.

The archives were housed in the basement of the town library. The librarian, Mr Elwood, was used to me being in the building; it was a good place to escape the stares and whispers of the locals. My parents were content with me being there as long as I was out of their way and not getting in trouble. It was safe there and I felt safe too, surrounded by books and data drives.

I had asked Mr Elwood about the archived town records, but he would just ruffle my hair and tell me I would be bored in there, steering me towards the children’s library. One day I overheard an adult ask for access to the archives and Mr Elwood shuffled through the stacks of books, leading the man into the antiquity section of the library. I followed behind, darting from shelf to shelf to stay out of view. When you spend your life trying to avoid stares you get good at walking as softly as a cat and blending in to the background. I was good at being ignored now.

The vanilla-like scent rose from the old pages of the antique book section, cracked leather sent swirls of warm dust into the air. I loved that smell. I heard the hushed voices stop as they drew up to a door. It was dark wood, with a metal keypad on the side. I darted to the next shelf to get a better angle on the keypad.

4-6-8-2 Mr Elwood typed in. 4-6-8-2, 4-6-8-2, I repeated in my head, locking the number away for next time. The man slipped into the room and banks of fluoro lights lit the white room beyond as the door swung shut with a sigh of hinges.

I scuttled a few rows over, just in case. Mr Elwood knew I loved the smell in here so I slipped a tome from the shelf and began to look it over. A History of the Oasis. Herios was my city, built on old forests with a thriving paper industry. I flicked through the pages, gently leafing through the history of my family home. We were Herians going back five generations. This book concerned itself though with wars and industry, and not so much the people or where the population originally emigrated from. I knew that most Herians were from the mountains and beyond; my family from the beyond part. I closed the book with a sigh and a small puff of dust, and was sliding it into its spot on the shelf when Mr Elwood appeared beside me.

‘Almara, what are you doing back here?’ he said with a smile as the book returned to its place in the shelf.

‘Just soaking up the smell, Mr Elwood,’ I replied with a laugh.

‘A young lady like you shouldn’t be digging around in the dust of these old shelves. Why don’t you head back to the children’s section? We got some new books in this morning that I just finished putting on display.’

‘But the old books are interesting,’ I said, trying to think of a better excuse. ‘It’s for a school report anyway. Just looking at the old history books. Stuff from before the war. If I could get into the archives…’ I grinned, knowing his answer.

‘We’ve spoken about that before. You don’t need to go into the archives. Anyway, if you need pre-war history, you’re better off going into the Libriophile system. The pre-war books are in there and much easier to read than these old things.’

‘It’s just not the same. And there’s nothing else for me to do, so I don’t mind spending the time.’

‘Well, don’t stay down here too long. You’ll end up all dusty. Your parents won’t like that.’

‘Yeah, I guess,’ I mumbled, knowing full well my parents wouldn’t give a damn if I came home soaked in paint, let alone dust.

Mr Elwood smiled and wandered off, whistling a quiet melody that echoed through the shelves. I heard the town clock chime half past five. I had half an hour until the library closed. The archives would have to wait until tomorrow. I went to the history section and grabbed a few books to take home. I had read so many books on history that I didn’t need the books, but I hoped to find something I’d missed about being blank in one of them. Maybe one day I would find answers as to what I was, and what being blank meant. There had to be more to it than meaning I was meant to be alone.

The clock chimed 6pm as I walked through the heavy doors of the library and down to the bus stop. The man from the library was there. I glanced up at him, trying not to draw attention to myself. I was envious of him. If I were an adult, Mr Elwood would let me into the archives too. He held a wad of paper in his hand, printouts of plain text, still curled on the corners from the warmth of the copier. I sat on the bench seat and tried to read the documents in his hand but he soon shuffled them into the bag he had slung over his shoulder.

The bus pulled up and we both got on. Soon I was home and sitting silently at the dinner table as my family talked over me as usual. I was their broken child and Joy had news. She had found her soul mate.


Published in: on April 24, 2018 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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