Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 2



When the Bough Breaks

Timothy Smith


Nadia gathered together all of her papers hurriedly. She wasn’t particularly in a rush, but she did want to be first at the conference location if that was possible. She carried a bag over her shoulder and pulled a small cart behind her as she rushed to her car. The drive to the conference center was unharried, but still she felt both rushed and anxious. Her phone rang mid ride, and she could see from glancing that it was her daughter calling her. Her daughter Chelsea was the only person with whom she had discussed her proposal, and Chelsea hadn’t taken too well to it. She’d speak with her later. She arrived at the conference center first, and thus, she breathed easy as she parked her car.


Once inside the conference center she set up all of her presentation materials, and then sat down as attendees began arriving in droves. Her hopes for a small attendance were dashed to pieces as the hall filled to capacity and beyond. The Supreme Tribunal judges arrived last. They took their positions at the table for eight at the front of the conference room, and called the room to order.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we call to order this meeting of the Halcian Consul. We have presenting today, Dr. Nadia Arkanus,” Chief Consul Harem Bokeet stated.

“Dr. Nadia, you have the floor,” the Consul relayed, referring to her by her title and first name, as was the Halcian tradition. Nadia adjusted the jacket over her blouse and stood up straight, facing the assembly.

“Thank you Chief Consul Harem. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here today to suggest an injunction if you will, to our planet’s global tradition of retiring people to the central computer at age sixty,” she proposed. A rather raucous but hushed murmur swept the room as people turned left and right in various stages of disbelief. All eight of the Consular judges conferred quietly for several seconds.


Finally, Chief Consul Harem spoke.

“Dr. Nadia, what you propose goes against Halcian natural law. No citizen has lived past the age of sixty for several millennia. You may recall from your primary school history lessons that our society voluntarily chose to retire its citizens at the age of sixty to prevent ailing members of society from being frail and forgotten by family, friends, and co-workers. It is a compassionate reduction in population that has been part of our jurisprudence for too long to challenge now,” he stated.

“But, your honor, I think I have found a way to prolong life. Don’t you think it’s at least worth considering, for the sake of our current and future generations?” She pleaded.

“Dr. Nadia, I’m Consul Leeta. I’m curious why you as a prominent member of Halcian society might not want to add your consciousness to the central computer. Tranference has always been a time-honored tradition. Why would you want to challenge it, and why now in particular?” Consul Leeta Pensky inquired.

“Consul Leeta, please do not think that I do this lightly. It’s just that I feel members of our society have so much more to offer than just sixty years of wisdom. And we are discovering ways to preserve health for much longer than we were able to do so in previous centuries,” Nadia countered, waving files of her research through the air.

“And because you yourself are approaching the age of sixty too. Is that not true?” Consul Jared Hawkes asked.

“Yes, consul Jared. That is true” This time, there was silence in the conference room. Chief Consul Harem looked both left and right and received nods from his fellow judges.

“Very well Dr. Nadia. We grant you three days to present your arguments to other arbiters. If you gather a majority request to challenge the Transference, we will consider it.” He knocked his gavel three times and the eight judges slowly rose and left the conference room. The room emptied out even slower with some people staying behind to further question her.

***

At home, Nadia found a quiet house instead of the usual loud music coming from Chelsea’s bedroom. As she prepared dinner, Chelsea stormed in.

“You made a complete mockery of me mother. People were teasing me all day on campus. Your mother’s an anarchist, Your mother challenges Halcian law. Your mother wants to see the end of Halcian society. It was endless,” Chelsea recounted loudly. Nadia stopped stirring her stew.

“I wish I could make you understand Chelsea. What we are doing is barbaric.”

“Where is this all coming from mother? You didn’t seem to have a problem with Transference when father ascended to it,” Chelsea challenged.

“I was never for it Chelsea. Never! I just realized at some point that I couldn’t talk your father out of it.” Chelsea sniffed as if it were stopping her from crying, and then turned and abruptly left the house.

***

Three days later, Nadia stood again in the conference room, packed to capacity as the Tribunal judges entered and took their places. Chief Consul Harem knocked his gavel.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Nadia has submitted to us more than two hundred challenges to Transference, far more than is needed to seek a vote on its continuance. However, in the interim, far more people have submitted statements in favor of retaining Transference. Therefore, in accordance with our laws, those who feel aggrieved may choose to leave the planet Halcan, but must never again return, if choosing to do so. Dr. Nadia, do you accept these judgements?” Nadia looked to Chelsea, whom this time chose to be present at the conference. She began quietly sobbing, and nodded her head.

“Yes Chief Consul Harem. I both understand and agree with your ruling. I will leave Halcan and never return.”

***

Days later, as her transport was preparing to leave the planet, Nadia sat in the assembly room of the spaceport, where several of her colleagues were saying goodbye to family and friends. Chelsea came and slowly approached her mother, carrying a large suitcase and crying quietly. Nadia thought for an itinerant moment, that her daughter was going to choose to leave Halcan with her.

“Mother, where will you go?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve been planning this for more than a year. We have several choices of planets nearby on which to re-settle.”

“So, your consciousness will never be joined to our central computer, with father? And when it comes my time of Transference, I will not be able to be joined with you?” Chelsea seemed to plead quietly. Nadia cried as well.

“Oh, my dearest daughter, life was never meant to be curtailed for any reason. Not even for sickness or adversity. I’m so sorry that you cannot see this. But I cannot in good conscious be part of this. I will love you all the days of my life and beyond,” Nadia expressed, gently fondling Chelsea’s hand.

“I love you too mother,” Chelsea began, obviously hesitating and slowly withdrawing her hand from her mother’s grasp.

“… But from this moment on, I do not know you. Nor do I ever wish to, again.” Chelsea slowly got up and left. Nadia opened the suitcase her daughter had brought her, and inside were all of the mementos she had left behind to remind her daughter of her. She sobbed now loudly as others from the transport came to collect her and her things.


Timothy Smith: "I am an adjunct instructor of college students in science and writing during the day, and a prolific writer after hours. I write fiction short stories, non-fiction essays, screenplays, novels, poetry, and recondition well-known, European fairy tales into those with an Afro-centric tint. The Write Launch accepted my fiction short story "Gangsters and Wiseguys" for publication in the January 2018 online edition, and I just recently had my modern day fairy tale, "Jackson and the Grapevine," accepted by Curating Alexandria for their winter issue."




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