Cool water. Anae… Thank you Goddess for sending your own… bio repair cleanse sub-routine back-up enabled. Cleansed. Cleanse and break down toxins. Error. Block sections 45BV@@ribonucleotides to… Revery. Sleep.
… “I swear, you children are just so messy!” The voice is indulgent, a little breathless? How can a Goddess be breathless? “I deplore mold. It is a shame that Ru…Ruu..Risae… needs it so consistently.” Scrubbing and scouring noises. “Mel… Mel… Mel…Mella and Ot..Ot…Oas and Imbas are always bringing their dirt in here. Mud, fertilizer, compost teas, asteroids.” She clucked reprovingly to herself. “So hard to keep sterile. So hard to keep pristine. Oxytank seepage grows algae where I need tom… tomatoes…”
“Goddess?” I call and I am suddenly sitting in an Arkan kitchen. It has an alcohol stove, but it seems to be burning with no fuel bottle or lines. The kitchen is cool despite the light that gives off no fumes at all. The table is white and pristine. The floor is tiled in pale clay, white and blue. The towels hanging over the sink were incredible blue, next to the water spigot open and pouring water endlessly into the basin. The door to the kitchen garden stood open and the white chickens pecked in glisteningly clean quartz crystal gravel.
“There you are.” The Goddess is there. I didn’t see her come in. She has her hair short, though no longer shaved so close, the waves of hair sweetly curling over the browband with a green and glowing stone in the centre and at the temples. She sets a cutting board before me; hands me a knife that is long as my hand and like a razor. On the board are a pile of onions. Rotting onions. I try and lean back to avoid getting that stink up my nose and stop. She’s watching.
“Is it beneath you to cut onions?”
“No, of course not. I just don’t know if there’s any good in this pile.” My hands like the feel of this knife. It's white and I don't think it is steel at all. A ferret runs in and climbs up her apron, into the big pocket just under her belt.
“Try.” She sets out a set of metal bowls before me and a hole opens in the table. “That’s the disposal.” She drops a scrap of leaf into the hole and there’s a flare of light and it’s gone. “Broken down for re-use. This bowl is for good onion. This bowl is for Risae’s muck… this green, here.” Her finger taps a moldy spot. “This hue.” The finger moved and tapped another. “This colour blue.” Her hand waved over the rest. “This bowl for this colour. That bowl for that. Sort out the rest to be broken down. Then We can fix this part.”
“Thank you, Goddess. Thank you, for your scrubber, your washer man who threw water on me.”
“Lain's a good one.” She sniffed. “We couldn’t have you damaged while We fix things. Argos is terribly damaged and limping along as best he can, poor dear. You were sweaty and if you got any more sunburned you’d be bloody and that frightens people.”
“Thank you for not letting me get that deteriorated.” I was mucky to the elbows in onion bits, rot, brown juice. But there were bits going into all the bowls as She turned to the stove. “You may have iced kaf, after you work. The bits to go to Risae should help you fix the internal environmentals in the city.”
“I don’t understand, Goddess.”
“That’s all right. You need to work on fixing things till Mur…Mu…unas and Selina can gather up the threads and re-weave.”
“Am I dreaming?”
“No. You’re working.”
There are no more ruined onions to sort, but I’m dirty and tears are running out of my eyes.
“Dip the knife into the hole.” I do and it flashes clean. “Now your hands.”
For only an instant, a shiver of hesitation, I waver, and her smile at me fades, a bit. But I trust the Gods and I’ve put my hands in molten metal and glass at the Ten’s will. I thrust my hands, one at a time into the hole, but clench my eyes shut. She chuckles at me as there’s a warm flash that tingles and I pull my hand out of the hole clean. The second hand goes in without me dithering about it.
“Should this be so informal?” I ask. My hands are perfectly clean and dry. The seals are blindingly clean and glittering.
“This is a work session, boy,” She says, putting the bowls away and setting a frosted glass of ice kaf with ice milk in front of me. “Not a test.”
“Thank you, Goddess,” I take up the glass and the icy liquid slides down my throat, sending tendrils of coolness through my body. She nods and – when did She start sweeping?—touches the top of my head with the broomhandle.
“Sleep.” She says.