snowpuppies and lily_lovely have requested a pass for this week.
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Voting will end on Wednesday, August 19.
The Price of Peace
It was peaceful here.
Not as peaceful as in the Black; that was the absolute peace of the universe pressing on one tiny insignificant speck of a girl. More peaceful than Osiris; that was the artificial peace of too many people trying to live together without going mad.
This was the peace of a summer’s day, the peace of the end of a job well done, the peace of a person who could breathe deep, spread her arms and turn around without stepping on another person’s toes.
It was the peace of the Rim.
All the advertising vids had a scene just like this. A pretty girl, apple-cheeked and with an approachable grin skipping through a green valley, beside a burbling brook, in a dappled forest. A brown bunny hops by.
It whispers of good health, of success, of freedom. It speaks of new life, new opportunities, new hope. It whispers of the future.
The vids never show the dangerous men trailing along behind the girl, protecting her from the hidden dangers. They don’t show the angry men cutting lustful eyes at the girl, trying to lure her into danger. They don’t show the valley plowed under, the brook dammed, the forest cleared. They don’t show the bunny in the stewpot.
Real, actual and whole.
Just like the apple-cheeked and dark haired grinning girl at the centre of it all.
“Think of them as your pets,” they said.
Claire sits in front of the mirror, and looks at her scars as if she’s never seen them before.
Is that what she is to them? Just the pet rabbit, who accidentally got within reach of the dog?
Something to be taken to the vet, and patted, and nursed back to health…
…and put back in the rabbit cage.
She has one scar – right across her lip – that’s slightly more to the right than she usually pictures it. Claire touches it tentatively, feeling the point where it splits her lip in two.
Poor little bunny, not pretty any more.
They must have been so disappointed that their pedigree animal was spoiled – that she looked like a mangy stray.
They must have been horrified.
And then they’d sigh and move on, because that’s what you do with pets.
And yes, she’s upset, and traumatized, and curled in the back of her hiding place licking her wounds, but that’s okay. Because she doesn’t really exist anyway.
She doesn’t even really remember how she got these scars. (Not up with Topher restraining a patient, that’s for sure.)
Claire traces a finger along the gash on her forehead, remembering the blade slicing through.
Funny how a fake memory can feel so much like the real thing.
If it really does. Maybe she only accepted these memories as real because she doesn’t know what real ones are supposed to feel like.
Cute little pet, thinks it can talk.
She’s always treated the Actives as if they’re children – too young to know better, too innocent to understand.
Is that how everyone thinks of her?
Be nice to Doctor Saunders, she’s trying her best.
And they all pat the bunny absentmindedly, and go back to the conversation.
All the medicine, the books, the stethoscope, the labcoat, the folders filled with records…
Nice toys to keep her happy in her rabbit hutch.
It’s all so ridiculous.
Claire shuts her eyes, and tries to remember what she looked like without scars.
Jewel’s fur is soft in Billy’s hands. Her teeth are sharp, sharp enough to break into a carrot without trouble. If she bit him he would bleed, but she doesn’t bite.
He learned about Jewel one day when he saw Penny throw away a shirt that had a hole gnawed in it. Apparently she hadn’t noticed the damage before. He’d assumed it was a dog.
Billy wants to offer Jewel a carrot, but he already tried that. Water—he tried that too. He would take her to the vet, but that wouldn’t make anything better.
Penny hadn’t brought up Jewel during their few talks at the Laundromat, and he hadn’t asked. He only knows her name by the tag on the collar.
Penny has too much stuff for just one rabbit, Billy already noted. He found another tag, this one labeled “Coral,” hanging on the wall above their cage like a makeshift headstone. But there isn’t a grave; it just isn’t possible in an apartment to have a grave for a pet.
He imagines that she rescued them from some terrible fate, like being put to death or hit by a car, and adopted them as her own. He imagines that Coral was Jewel’s older sister and only friend in the world until Penny adopted them, and that Penny helped Jewel through the grieving process.
He had assumed someone would come take the dog, or rabbit as it turned out. He had assumed Penny had relatives and a will. He would have come over sooner if he’d known. Shit.
Maybe Jewel was so sad about Penny not being there she stopped eating. Maybe the bowl was in a different place than it normally was. There was certainly enough food in the bowl for a week or more.
Billy sets Jewel down in the cage and leaves.
The last bit of Penny is dead.
He doesn’t look back.
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