by B. Nagel
Qwentin, a Fifth, believed in fate and hope. His days depended on it. Marooned to die at Ward Hollow, that prison at the end of the shifting world, according to law, according to custom. The alluvial plain spread its arms around him, enveloped him in fens, washed the grit from beneath his swollen feet. The ropes that held him, faced him westward, would not yield but he had faith.
Not in Humanity or God but in poetry.
He recited the lines, lifted from the out-of-favor Book of Prophets:
"I found you in the waste land,
valued beyond measure,
hidden and forgotten.
I quested for you,
a jewel to sparkle around my neck."
Though the writer sank to a handful of dust before Qwentin's mother's mother passed; though Fifths never returned; Qwentin scanned the liquid sky for sails.
Jael would search for him. She and Qwentin shared a mother, shared a room, shared a plan to shatter the Rules. Strictures binding mothers to birth and children to task. Except for Fifths.
Firsts shall fight,
Seconds shall sail,
Thirds shall trade,
Fourths shall farm,
Fifths are never born.
A dimlit drowninghouse, to be born a Fifth.
Waters rose to swallow the sun, baptizing her parched skin. Qwentin closed his eyes.
A hand on his face awakened him to the night sky. Jael's eyes, a water jug to his lips. The ropes behind him loosened. A woman's voice in his ear.
"Come, son. Let us remake the world."