The Adjoa Gambit
by Rick Novy
Shannon pressed the door firmly closed before embarking on the long walk to the
rationing station. Today marked the sixth anniversary of her arrival at ARIP, the
Antarctic Reservation for Indigenous Population, but she still couldn't get used to
the bitter cold. Shannon's mind drifted to the memories of a warm Phoenix
evening from somewhere in her childhood, then shook it off to concentrate on the
task at hand -- collecting the family's food ration for the week.
As she approached the rationing station, Shannon saw the line snaking around the
corner of the two-story corrugated aluminum building. The wait would be at least
an hour today. She adjusted the empty bag slung over her shoulder and hastened
to the end of the line, settling in behind a woman with three children. The woman
was struggling to keep her children from complaining about the cold.
"Most of us leave the children back in the domes," Shannon said.
When the woman turned around, Shannon could see that her face was very dark.
She said something in a language Shannon never heard before, maybe an African
language. Life at ARIP was rougher on some people than others. English was the
default common-tongue, and the newcomers who didn't speak English really
struggled until they could learn.
The tallest of the woman's children said something in their language, then they
conversed for several seconds before the little girl, no more than ten years old,
turned to Shannon and said, "We don't have a dome."
No dome? Everyone had a dome. The little girl had to be lying.
The line edged forward three steps. The girl helped her mother to chase the two
younger children back into the line before they moved.
The girl had a look on her face. It was the look of a person numbed by trauma, as
if Shannon could disembowel someone and the girl wouldn't blink. It was the
look of acceptance that death was inevitable, and soon in coming, and the look
that the good times were gone forever, if they ever existed at all for this little girl.
Shannon felt pity for the girl and her family, even though her own situation was
not much better. "Where are you staying until you get a dome?"
The girl conversed again with her mother, but this time, the woman grabbed her
shoulder and turned her away from Shannon. A few moments passed and the line
shuffled forward another few steps. As the girl moved, she turned her head and
mouthed, "Nowhere." The mother placed a gloved hand on the girl's head and
turned her around.