(excerpt from a novel in progress)
BY SARAH SCOTT
Wovoka’s Dance tells the story of three women in the not too distant future as they struggle to adapt to a world suffering from depleted environmental resources, a collapsing economic system, and rampant social instability. Hisako is the wild and maniacal wife of a wealthy government official. She is a prisoner in her life of abundance. Anne is a mother and is desperate to find stability and safety for her family. Lucy, the optimist, is alone in the world. Together these women witness the work of a madman set on destroying what little is left of western society in the hopes that with less people, the world can rebalance itself and avoid the complete destruction that seems to be where it is headed.
1 – LUCY
It isn’t always clear to her which parts she remembers from her childhood and which parts she imagines. Some of it she knows she has reconstructed from the conversations had by the grown-ups around her, their voices going silent when she entered the room. Whispers about something hanging in the barn, about a phone call that had been made first. Lucy remembers the woman in the brown skirt and yellow sweater who came to take her away. A suitcase had been carefully packed and left on the kitchen table with a note. The suitcase was for Lucy, the note was not. The woman talked softly to Lucy and took her from the house, leading her out through the formal front entrance so she wouldn’t have to walk through the kitchen door and go past those two mounds lying quietly on the grass — covered in sheets. Lucy thinks she remembers seeing that. She knows she remembers the hot chocolate in a paper cup that the lady in yellow had made for her before she was brought to Mr. and Mrs. Drake, who lived in a quiet neighborhood in Buffalo.
The Drakes kept her clean and fed and she had a comfortable bed in a room she shared with two other girls, though they weren’t always the same two girls. The other girls came and went, passing through her life and Lucy learned to keep a distance from them. Lucy wanted the Drake’s to love her, she learned quickly that if she always smiled and did exactly as she was told they were kind to her. Lucy always remembered to smile.
When the foster care program was shut down the Drake’s let her stay. She was 12 years old by then. They had two young children of their own, and Lucy had been such a help with the kids. She was so pleasant, so unassuming; they kept her despite the loss of the allowance provided through the foster parents program. By the time she turned 18 the kids were older and her help wasn’t needed. One morning they told her over cold cereal that she could take a week or two to figure out where she was going, but that they couldn’t cover her living expenses anymore. They reminded her that they had done well by her, and taken care of her longer than needed. Lucy smiled and agreed — ever the optimist, and that was how she first came to Canada and to the warehouses.
This time Lucy packed the suitcase herself. In between the layers of her clothing she tucked away her precious books. The tattered paperbacks she had collected over the years took up more space than her wardrobe, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave any behind.
Mrs. Drake drove Lucy to the bus station on a Sunday evening. The bus would drive all through the night and most of the next day to bring Lucy to Halifax, where she would meet her connection to the farming warehouse that would be her new home. They arrived early and sat silently watching other travelers come and go.
“You’ve got your ticket Lucy?”
“Yes I have it,” she held up her purse for Mrs. Drake to see. Together they had organized the contents and tucked them neatly inside in anticipation of the journey.
“Lucy I thought you should have this.” Mrs. Drake pulled a battered e-reader out of her coat pocket and passed it to Lucy.
“Are you sure?” Lucy ran her finger over the glass screen, cutting a path through the greasy finger prints that marred the smooth surface.
“I never read much anyway.” Mrs. Drake answered dismissively before reaching over and pressing the power button. “I loaded it up with some stuff too. I wasn’t sure what you liked to read so I mainly just grabbed the classics.”
“Thank you. This is so perfect.” As the screen began to glow Lucy looked up and beamed Mrs. Drake with a big eager smile. “Really, this is just the best.”
“It’s nothing Lucy.” Mrs. Drake turned away, she never seemed to like looking at Lucy’s smile. Lucy suspected that it was the way her eyes went all puffy and crinkly, or the way her mouth – big teeth stuffed between thin lips – cut awkwardly through her chubby cheeks, that made Mrs. Drake turn away. Lucy didn’t have a pretty smile. She had practiced in the mirror and had taught herself a pleasant grin, but when she was truly happy the gargoyle grimace distorted her features.
The two women sat silently for another few minutes, Mrs. Drake fiddled with her phone and Lucy scrolled through the book titles on her new e-reader.
“Well Lucy they will probably be boarding soon and I should get back to the kids.”
“Okay Mrs. Drake.” Lucy climbed from the vehicle and pulled her suitcase from the trunk. Mrs. Drake stood awkwardly beside the opened car door. She reached out and gently patted Lucy’s shoulder.
“You were always a good girl, just keep being good and you will do fine in the warehouse.”
“Thank you for everything. Really, thank you.” Mrs. Drake climbed into the car and drove away through the night. Lucy clutched her purse tight against her body, and with her suitcase in hand she entered the bus station. She was alone in the crowd, but she was used to that, she had always been alone in the world.
Still, Lucy thinks she remembers before – a field with tall golden grass and her mother laughing – she thinks she can recall someone chasing her while she giggled and then she was caught up in arms that loved her. Warm strong arms that held her and carried her through the field of sun soaked golden stalks. She thinks she remembers that, but it may have been only a dream..
Sarah Scott lives in Hamilton with her husband and two children. She is an editor and regular contributor at One for One Thousand, an online literature magazine where she reads, edits and writes 1000 word stories. Sarah is also a resident Curator at HitRECord.org a global collaborative production company. Recently her short story Keeping Count was published in A Time and Place Quarterly by Ninth Floor Press. Sarah is currently working on review and revisions of her first Novel Wovoka’s Dance.