A Dystopian Story

"Put that cheapot down, Helen." At the sound of the high-pitched voice, with its imperious tone, Helen jumped so badly that the cornflower-blue teapot nearly fell out of her hands. With hands still shaking, she slotted the teapot back into its hexagonal niche in the wall, and the pneumatic door slid closed in front of it almost before she could withdraw her hands again. Helen's daughter stood crossly in the doorway, hands on hips. "I don't know why I haven't gotten rid of that filthy old thing yet. In fact, I think I will tomorrow." With a gusty sigh (made somewhat less impressive by her tiny lung capacity), Helen's daughter skipped across the room towards the large plush purple beanbag in the center. "Daughter, no, please, please don't-" The small child spun on her heel to face Helen, and stomped her foot. She pressed a button on the remote control dangling from her wrist, and Helen had to grit her teeth to hold back the scream. Helen always had to be careful about her screams when she was punished - some children liked them, she knew from the Manual, but not her daughter. "Don't argue with me." Helen knew she wasn't really that angry - she had remembered to spin on her heel and stomp her foot, after all. That meant she was doing it for show. It was only respectable to reprimand a parent for speaking out of turn, and PurpleLava was eminently respectable. It was also only respectable to have the teapot vaporized if she expressed a wish to preserve it. It broke just about every rule of respectability in this enlightened era to preserve an object established as old, on the entreaties of a parent. Helen knew it was hopeless, could feel it in her aching spine. Still, she had to give it a try. "I'm sorry, daughter. I shouldn't have said that, should I have?" Helen's daughter calmed. "No, you shouldn't have. But that's okay, if you know that." She fidgeted with the pin-and-purple plastic beads on her wrist. "Why should I keep it, anyway?" Helen smiled. She knew she was much better off than most parents were in their homes, with a daughter like hers. PurpleLava (that was the name she had most recently picked for herself, and the folks at the Development Centre said that it was a sign of an out-of-the-box, progressive bent of mind) was on her way to being a Scientist. That made her more open-minded to ideas that Helen put forward, even if they were by definition backward ideas, coming from a parent. "It's a curiosity. It's not something that you see everyday, is it? Even if it is filthy and old." PurpleLava rolled her eyes. "It's a boring curiosity. It was invented how long ago? It doesn't matter at all." She scoffed. "What kind of a name is cheapot for a curiosity, anyway?" Helen tensed; she had to pick her words yet more carefully. "Yes, but nobody in the latest generation has looked at it yet. It's so old, it's almost a natural object, isn't it? So maybe you could see something in it that people couldn't before. And you can always rename it." PurpleLava considered this, her thumb in her mouth. Then she took it out and nodded. "That's not such a bad idea. Even if it is filthy and old, I guess I could look at it a bit before we vaporize it." Helen nearly collapsed with relief. It would be months before the question of the filthy old thing in the wall occurred to her daughter again. Until then, the teapot was safe. With shaking fingers, she pushed the button to close the receptacle. It slid shut with a pneumatic hiss. PurpleLava was already skipping off, headed for her home lab. She had already lost interest. Helen would have been a Scientist in her day - but there was a genetic weakness in her mother's side, and she came down with a disease when they were children. Helen had been quarantined for three years, and hadn't been able to attend the Development Centre at the right ages. She had stayed at home spending more time alone with her mother than was considered healthy for a modern progressive child. Her mother had been a foreigner, and she had had a number of filthy old things with her. One by one, Helen had had them vaporized - they weren't respectable in the slightest, and her visiting colleagues would have found them disgusting - but once she started staying at home, she did this less and less; and the last one, the teapot, was left until after her mother turned forty, and she couldn't bring herself to get rid of it. She hadn't always been called Helen. She had been GreenPony, and Starry, and SunsetButterfly, but had eventually changed her name to what her mother had always called her. No one knew what it meant, but Helen was sure it was old. PurpleLava didn't like people to know that it came from Helen's parent - a parent's parent, a thought vaguely nauseating in itself. It was a serious embarrassment to her. Helen was often punished for it when PurpleLava was in a bad mood, but parent names weren't that important anyway, so none of her colleagues ever found out, and Helen was allowed to keep it. Fingering the bruised skin around the electrode at the back of her neck, Helen wondered what PurpleLava would say if she knew that Helen still sometimes used the word mother in her head. She also wondered if Purple Lava knew what the teapot was made out of. Probably not - she had never even touched the teapot before, and she hadn't seen the stuff before either. Helen tasted on her tongue that foreign idea, the idea that she knew something her daughter didn't. It wasn't a new idea to her. After all, she knew because her mother had told her. What it was was something called tchina. Her mother had owned a lot of the stuff. If it broke, the pieces would be sharp.

Helen turned the idea over and under in her mind, considering.

Date: <2016-05-10 Tue> [2014-03-12 Wed]

Author: Sahiti Chedalavada

Created: 2020-12-14 Mon 02:14