Chapter 6 – The Dancing Washers

This is chapter 6 of “Redemption” a fictional tale set in the EVE Universe.  Please see this page for more background on this story.  

Lydie loved watching her Magic Washers dance. She would put them next to each other on the metal floor and every time it the big banging came, the 3 warm steel rings would dance, touch each other, jump up in joy and sometimes even somersault. After every jump, Lydie would move them a little, find some dirt to angle them on and try to make them jump all at the same time and kiss each other in mid-jump. Mother said that she wasn’t allowed to lie on the floor in the big metal room where everyone had run to when the banging started but dad had allowed it, “you think she will die of germs?” he said to mum and that was that.

She loved her dad. He always had funny stories and made her laugh. And he gave her the three Magic Washers, he said he found them at work, they were special. They would bring luck as long as they danced, he said and she took it very seriously to make them dance as best as she could. She knew her mum washed the clothes of soldiers and engineers, often with blood on it which was yucky – and so these little rings of metal must be very special to be dancing. Magical. So whenever the alarms sounded and everyone rushed to the big steel room, Lydie would grab them tight in her fist, even when mum dressed her into her ugly suit.

Lydie hated that suit. It was orange and too big. Orv used to wear it but he grew out of it. It had a big hose on the front that made it difficult to lie on your belly. But she wasn’t allowed to take it out, Dad said so and he was in a suit just like hers, just not orange but bright blue. She wanted a blue suit like his. Mum had a black one and Lydie was scared of it. It reminded her of the man they found all black and shriveled up after they had come out of the steel room before. He had not made it into the shelter in time before the dose closed and the banging started.  Dad said the vacuum did had done that to the man. Lydie didn’t know why the vacuum had been so mean to the nice man but Mum’s suit reminded her of him and she was afraid. Orv was in a suit for an adult. He looked funny! It was beige with spots on it like some animal on the holovids and it was way too big for him. He couldn’t run really, but he couldn’t run anyway and Lydie made fun of him.  She loved her brother.

And she loved the three Magic Washers. She picked them up and looked at mum. Mum was afraid. Lydie didn’t know why but she wanted mum to smile. Mum always smiled when she danced so Lydie danced and danced with the washers in front of Mum. She would fall into the beat of the massive drums outside that made the room shake and floor move. Lydie became one of the Magic Washers, always in motion, always dancing. She was the fourth, their magic protector and together their dance protected the family. Because Lydie knew that they were in danger. People had said it was “capsuleers” shooting missiles at their station. Lydie didn’t know what that meant but “capsuleers” sounded like a mean word. Not like “Strontium”. People always talked about “Strontium”. How much they had. How much time that would buy them. Lydie wanted to have strontium, she wanted to buy time. Time with her parents and Orv, but Orv was boring, he just sat there with his books. “Stront, Shtront, Thront”, Lydie would sing when she danced. It made her happy. Strontium seemed to be a powerful thing that protected them, like the Magic Washers. It could buy time.

Time ran out a few times. Lydie couldn’t remember how many but she remembers being rushed through the big sliding door into the large corridor full of people in weird suits. Orange, and blue and black (she hated black) and a few beige ones like Orv’s. They would rush out, Mum would grab her by her hand and dad and Orv would carry each a big bag with clothes. Orv would carry another bag with books. They would run to a ship and squeeze into a big room in the ship and stand there for a long time until it all filled out. Then the doors would close and the ship would take off. That’s when Lydie was afraid. She was shorter than everyone and they were squished in so tight she couldn’t talk to anyone. She couldn’t dance either and she needed to go to the toilet. Sometimes she would pee herself but in the her suit, it would all go to her feet and slosh when she moved. She was ashamed. Mum said that she was a very brave girl when that happened and that she shouldn’t be ashamed but Lydie cried anyway.

Once though it was great. The room in the ship was huge and had a high ceiling.  There was spacedust everywhere and dad had put her on his shoulders. She could see over the entire room in the ship, there were lots of people, more than she could count. And she could count to two hundred already. Orv taught her.  Dad stood by a window in the ship and she could look at out at the station where they had lived for a few weeks.  When they came, it was all shiny and new, now it was all charred and full of craters, there was steam coming out of the Hangar Array where she went to school and the Ship Array where her dad worked was upside down. Dad built really big ships there he said, Dreadnaughts.  She had seen one, it was huge!  She was proud of her dad.  But now the big blue bubble she loved so much was gone. It had shimmered and pulsed like a big soap bubble.  Mum said it kept bad people away.  Now it was gone and bad people would come so they would have to run away again.  The bubble had always been there. Now that it was gone, all there was left of her home was some smoking metal against the black sky.  There were warships all around and they were shooting missiles at each other, like fireworks.  Lydie saw fireworks once.  It was beautiful.

She saw a large flash right next to her, a ship like hers had been hit by something. Lots of people spilled out like peas from a bag. Most thrashed around in their funny suits, some didn’t and Lydie thought they were the smart ones – if there was no floor, what good would dancing do? But then she saw that they were not wearing the silly suits either.  She saw their faces, black, burned out eyes, crinkled and shriveled as if they were frozen in a scream.

++++

Lydie screamed herself out of the nightmare and sat upright on her mattress. Her heart was racing and she was sweating, she could still smell the fear of the 600 refugees crammed into the Covetor that someone had rigged for the evacuation. She felt her dad’s matted and sweaty hair that she grabbed as she said on his shoulders. She felt the klaxons more than she heard them and she saw her mum fiddling with something on dad’s suit. She saw Orv staring blankly ahead. He was solving mathematical theorems in his head, his way of removing him out this world. Almost every night these nightmares would come to Lydie and they were the reasons why she wasn’t allowed to sleep in the quarters with the others but on a mattress in the cellar. Her screams kept everyone awake and since all had their own war stories, nobody wanted to be reminded. Domestic slaves like her could get plenty of drugs that would numb the pain and make her forget. But Lydie refused to take drugs.  In these dreams, at least her family was still together and she could not let go of it.  Being awake was worse than any of her nightmares.

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