My words bring horror. People call me Desertion.
My skin is the color of cliff-rock, and it flakes like cliff-rock.
The Great Canyon dark devours my soul.
My body becomes it, and the Canyon-Dark becomes my mind.
It rips my brain into small pieces that are the Canyon’s rivers,
And my blood is the soil that nourishes the people with fruit.
Such is my fate to serve for all time:
I revolted against our ways, the Karatha, the Tesekhaira, the ruler!
I chose to be alone, and what a mistake! I am no more.
I mukro bezurælotek kul magdu mosmur xai Tehjenan manlịdgu.
I neä rualịgzærmobæ glabdeml i blesgị mosmur xai lagịgzæla.
Ku klazæxub mosmur gleglælaben ku Narahjịgz lịbịmị̈nobæ.
Kusanglabdemlben omdag ku glịklazæ mosmur; radag kusanglabdemlben ku kovta.
Ku koværna belæla kul ösyosnosyosjab xai kul bizar ragazị glabdæl bakus
Xai i ëiza glabdeml i ịtö, ku sjenä i hjenganas nokla i ëiza.
I dom mosmur glabdeml lexai fubä, gåmịtit kolborị:
Ku tsærgbị mosbyur, Katatyan, Kerosyan, ñæ Deimolan natzssaịtrun!
Tselvit bladeissaịtrun, xai ku narlị glabdeml kolborị! Boglabdesunuakba.
These are my favorite words from a drama written by Akah Gysabala tal Katsun in the second century. We studied ler work for two months, and everyone in my school cohort loved lim.
I suppose that you’re reading this, Liga, so I should explain — I know that you could look it up — but le came to Menarka from a village in the Middle Depths while the Deimo’s seat was in the ancestral place and our ruler was properly called the Fadehin by the Ịgzarhjenya. Gysabala wrote two books of poetry and ninety-seven Narahji dramas. Ler family published ler memoirs posthumously.
They provide the most readable firsthand account of court life in second-century Tveshė before the Shiji stole the seat of Sehịnta from us. It may seem strange, but Towers of Smoke: The Memoirs of Gysabala tal Katsun provided me with most of the grounding to go into politics. Coming from a pivotal family with war heroes, it wasn’t always clear to me how, three generations later, I could make a difference that would live up to my grandmother’s accomplishments.
I want to be in politics because I want to change things from the inside. Those of us who come out of the Canyon Dark have histories and literature, science and technology. No one can take our accomplishments away from us or diminish how culturally important our people is to Tveshė. We are not Khessa. We do not leave the nation out of resentment when others take things that are not theirs.
Liga, the first time I read Towers of Smoke, I stayed up until dawn. Ler words burned into my skull. I have kept this book close to me ever since, and I pulled it out this morning to read during transit.
In 167 Standard Count, Akah Gysabala married Katvoa tal Kisrem, an ambitious young judge. Katvoa joined the family. They had met through Katvoa’s sister, one of Deimo Meksar’s attendants. On the second Ćelakhin of Thaukol 168, Akah Gysabala left the family home on Medesa Avenue. (This is now an open-air market; I don’t think any of that street survived the orbital bombardment.) Le brought a bag of correspondence and torn-out pages from a journal, all belonging to ler husband. Le walked down Hamakra Way and took the bridge to the palace. Before half an hour passed, the authorities arrested Akah Gysabala’s husband and ler co-conspirators. The man was executed seven weeks later for plotting to murder court rivals.
We do not live in the second century, and certainly, navigating Shiji culture will be difficult. You’re right: It is likely that I will have illegal evidence to support me, nothing beyond it. It is likely that I can steal documents. It is not likely that someone in a conspiracy would slip and say something wrong in front of me. I cannot make claims against members of the Daybreak Movement. At the same time, there was a world before Code 1830-229-17. We should live in a world without it.
In addition, I don’t know how any of this has evaded the police’s attention.
Joining Citizen Watch is not possible because I am a political movement staffer. I checked.
I know that you say you weren’t reading everything above as I wrote it, but you called me! I can jokingly accuse you of that still, can’t I? — Anyway, I will write some of the particulars of our conversation here so I can remember what we said. And I can move back to more organic entries. I suppose that I don’t need to call you out.
Liga made me close my window because the blætsa-like birds sang so loudly outside. We spoke softly.
Clearly, le wanted me to help, and I wanted to do what I could. If we were in the same city, this would necessitate a friendship ritual. I wouldn’t take chances. However, Suka swears by lim, and I love Suka.
“We need to set some rules,” le said. “What we are doing is technically illegal.”
“Right. But if I have writings —”
“It will be illegal until you transfer them to the authorities. Spies need to be discerning, like maksei digging into canyon walls. One wrong move and you will start a landslide and ruin your career.” Le looked directly at the camera. “We need to discern whom they have marked for bullets. The police will give you legal immunity if there is definitive evidence.”
“What do you need me to do?”
Liga spoke methodically for some minutes. I will hollow out one of my dreadlocks for an audio implant, which I can hide behind a cuff. Le will send it over via an ally in person, and I have been warned that le will have red eyes, like a nuamė. I said, “Is there anyone who has red eyes who is not in the nuamua? That is what they are known for!”
I will address you again, my apologies: You bit your lower lip and glared at me. The nervous chuckle that you used to cover that up hardly made me forget it! But as for the business at hand, I can field questions from Kati. For the bug, I will need to change how I wear my hair. Since the incident with Sehutañi, I have used pins. It is fine if some of my locks slip out from beneath my gyena, but harder to justify if the pins hold all of the other locks back.
I don’t want to ask Liga how le knows any of the nuamua. If the nuamua are involved, do I want to be involved? Notice how the line reads, “Ku tsærgbị mosbyur, Katatyan, Kerosyan, ñæ Deimolan natzssaịtrun!” Akah Gysabala wrote nothing about the nuamua. One does not make alliances with them, as my mother said. O Salus, what have you agreed to? Are you allying yourself with the nuamua? Namgyatzi? Are you Tehjen, bound to become the cliff-rocks and roots that support the world?
I need to ask Suka. How could I have given someone access to my private thoughts here whom I don’t know enough to answer those questions? Can I trust you, Liga, to honor my friendship with Suka and to be on my side?
I have at least the beginning of this foul business to mention. Akah Sehutañi always eats ler lunch in the rooftop gardens. I went up after securing my food: bread with a nut spread, two pieces of fruit, and marinated raw meats from one of the street vendors.
Le sat at another table, and when I sat down, le glanced up at me. Goosebumps flashed up and down my arms. My face felt hot. I nearly dropped one of the fruits.
Le lowered ler eyes, and I saw the color in ler cheeks.
Birds fluttered in my stomach as I rose to my feet. Le must have seen the gyena. Le must have known that le had slept with me. Le did know.
I sat down across from lim and said, “Look at us, sitting alone.”
Le smiled, and my heart beat faster. I fantasized about pulling myself over the table and kissing lim, and my cheeks felt even hotter. Le licked a spoon.
This will be so easy and so, so difficult.