About the Author
Kameron Hurley is a Clarion West 2000 graduate and obtained her Bachelor's Degree in History from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 2001. She will be pursuing her Masters in History at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa in February of 2002. Much thanks to Patrick Weekes, Julian Brown, Miriam Hurst and Bill Mingin for wading through the first drafts of all her violent feministic stories. Including this one.
If Women Do Fall They Lie
by Kameron Hurley
They told me the vessel could dream. I told them that was no concern of mine because vessels are of the dirt and of the desert and live only to sweat and breed and die, and I am a teacher of men and androgynies and Kell progeny. I am a man of wisdom and reason and worth. Vessels are no longer my concern.
"But Kadru," they said, "she can dream."
I told them it was foolish to utilize me this way; I questioned their purpose.
It was not my place to question them, they said.
And they sent me to the desert.
If you have never been to the desert, you must know that the sun casts an orange shadow across the craggy red hills and sunken pits and gullies of this part of the world. The vessel's world. The red desert looks endless here, and touches the gray-blue of the sky in all directions. The agricultural compounds are here, stained the same color as the desert, and it is here the vessels grow the starches that feed the cities. Here the vessels labor until they are old enough to breed. When I stepped out of the transport vehicle and onto the red sand I thought of blood and remembered the fluids of the vessels, remembered their filth, their stink, and I hated the vessel that dreamed. I hated her because she had brought me back to this dirty terrestrial place. The dormitory mothers led me inside the compound. I traveled alone, and they did not understand this. They talked of the arrival of "the others." They expected the Kell. A man, they believed, was not sufficient to understand their vessel's complication. I was not angry with them. The mothers are vessels; cleaner, stronger, perhaps, than the younger ones, but still they exist only to work and sweat and die. They will never leave the desert.
The vessel was housed inside the cell of one of the dormitory mothers.
"She cannot sleep with the others," they told me. "She cries out at night and wakes them. It is because of the dreams." Their desert sculpted faces tilted up to look at me, and I pretended not to see the red dust crusted in the wrinkles of their dark faces.
There was no door to the cell. I saw the vessel squeezed up into one corner of the room, one sun-browned arm flung across her face; her skinny, scabby legs pulled up close to her chest. The brown sheet was rumpled. Her hair was black, straight, unwashed. I wondered if they had deloused her before I arrived.
"Leave me with the vessel," I said, and the dormitory mothers nodded and scurried back out to attend the vessels working in the starch fields and irrigation ditches.
The dormitory floor was hard and smooth. I stepped into the cell, stood only a few inches from the bed. A base creature, I thought. But she can dream, they told me.
"Vessel?" I said. "What do they call you?"
She lifted her skinny head. I wondered if the dormitory mothers were feeding her. She looked close to breeding age. The Kell would come for her soon.
"Daeva Four," she said, and her voice was soft, afraid, childish. "I am told that you dream."
Her eyes were not brown; they were black, black like the bottom of a deep well. Tears flowed out from the edges of her black eyes, made lazy lines in the fine coat of red dust on her brown face.
"What do you dream?" I said.
More tears. More wet. More base emotion.
"I dream of the ocean," she said.
Of course you do, I thought. That is where all your kind will end. But this vessel had never seen the ocean. The ocean was on the other side of the world, and none but the Kell and androgynies had ever seen the ocean. I had only read of it.
"And what does the ocean look like?" I said.
"It's all water," she said, "ditch water that's blue, not red, not brown, not muddy. All blue. And things live there, inside it."
"If you can dream, Daeva Four, then you can lie." The ocean was not so impossible a thing for her to believe she had seen. The Kell could have discussed it among themselves the last time they came to pick out the breeders from the ripened vessels.
But a vessel that could dream could do more than just dream. She could tell her own stories. She could lie.
I told her to tell me a story that wasn't true.
Her big black eyes stared up at me, and the tears ceased, and I watched as the watery trails began to dry on her cheeks. I wondered again if she had been deloused.
"You want me to lie?" she said, and there was awe in her voice.
"If you can," I said.
"Any lie?" she said.
Her gaze met mine, that wet, onyx black gaze that was so repulsive, so other, and she said, "I'm a woman."
Some part of me recoiled at that word. "Who told you that word?" I said, and my voice came out loud, far louder than I expected, and I was overwhelmed by a feeling of apprehension. I did not allow myself to recognize why, not then. This was not just a vessel that could lie. She was a vessel who remembered a dead past.
"It's a word I dreamed," she said, and she pushed herself up against the wall, clasped her arms around her knees, hugged them closer to her chest. I saw the tears begin to return to her eyes. Not again, I thought. No more wet weakness.
"Fine," I said, and talked in a soft, even voice now, as I would talk to any other fearful creature. "Fine, it is a word you dreamed."
She dreams of oceans and -- I could not even think the other word without shuddering. Daeva Four could dream. Daeva Four could remember, and she could probably lie as well.
I knew I had to take her to the Kell.