“Children,” Justinian muttered, writing furiously in the notebook he seemed to always carry with him. “They’re canaries. Canaries in a mine.”
I looked over at him. “What do canaries have to do with anything?”
“Miners used to take canaries with them as a way of indicating the air quality in a mine shaft, if the canary stopped singing and died that’s how they’d know to get out.” Laila shrugged. “Don’t ask me how I know that. You accumulate a lot of random knowledge when you spend as much time online as I do.”
“So, what you’re saying is… shit hits the fan, the kids die first?”
“No, Siobhan, I’m not a monster. No matter what you’ve been taught to think about people like me. I’m saying that the kids would know first. Especially with something large-scale like this.” He pointed towards an empty lot across the street that had been repurposed as an impromptu play park by the neighborhood kids. “Notice anything odd about this picture?”
As one of the lost, he had grown up in a world that was strikingly different from the world I knew as a Daughter of Lightning. I grew up cloistered, surrounded only by my Guardians and instructors who knew how to guide the development of those like myself. Very rarely was I allowed to socialize with the other children in the facility-- very rarely did I even see them. My days were spent in training and study and contemplation, from the moment I was taken away until the moment I finally escaped my prison. 
So, no. I didn’t notice anything odd about the scene in front of me. I surveyed the lot and those who were currently occupying it. Kids of varying ages, almost all of them Lost, all of them running and laughing and playing. “They seem to be having a good time,” I guessed. “Like kids do when they don’t grow up in House of Lightning facilities. What are you trying to show me?”
“Pay attention to the ones with the sidewalk chalk,” he said, finally showing me what he had been doodling in his notebook-- a complex design of interlocking circles and jagged edges. A symbol that I had seen before. A symbol that was currently being drawn by about ten children, all working seemingly independently of each other, with different colored sidewalk chalk. “Patterns, princess. It’s all about patterns.” He was right. There was a pattern, and I was too oblivious to notice it until now.
It was the symbol tattooed between my shoulder blades. The symbol embroidered on every piece of clothing that I owned between the ages of four and seventeen. The symbol of the people who made me who and what I am.
It was the symbol of the House of Lightning.
A lady who had seen and done much in her life decided to travel the world in six weeks. She did not know if it was possible, and did not much care that those she knew said it was not. To her, all things were possible if one only gave them a bit of thought. So the lady set off on her journey.
In the first week, she met a battle-scarred warrior who had seen many things that haunted him. He shared his burden with the traveler and she shared hers with him, and they became close friends. When it was time for the traveler to leave, both of them felt like their burdens were a bit lighter.
In the second week, she met a very religious woman with many regrets. The religious woman was concerned that her god had not forgiven her. “My friend,” the traveler told her, “the only way that anybody in heaven or earth can forgive you is if you forgive yourself. From that, all else follows.”
In the third week, she met an artist whose art was inspired by their pain. The artist was capable of great things, but did not want to force their pain on the rest of the world. “Others are feeling the same things you are feeling,” said the traveler to the artist. “It would do them good to know they are not alone.” The artist and the traveler shared a friendly embrace and parted ways forever.
In the fourth week, the traveler met a caretaker who had been taken advantage of by those xe loved. Because of this, xe did not want help or guidance from the traveler. “It’s not my place to help somebody who doesn’t want to be helped,” the traveler told the caretaker. “But I hope that we can still be friends.” And so they were, for as long as they could be, before the traveler’s instincts told her to move forward.
In the fifth week, the traveler met a runaway. The runaway was without country, family, or friends, and was every bit as alone as the traveler. So the traveler and the runaway ran together across the land, having new adventures and making new memories to take the place of the old life that the runaway had left behind.
In the sixth week, the traveler walked alone, but she was not lonely. She was content, for she knew that she would be remembered fondly in the lands that she had visited, even if only by a few. And as her journey came to a close, and the familiar sight of her home came into view, she was happier than she had ever been– not because of the places she had been, but the people whose lives she had touched.


Panopticon Cooperative

September 2017

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