Short Story Excerpt: River Woman by Chantel DaCosta

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Water Years

Dry
years tormented us ― 2013, ‘14 and ‘15 ― parched, cracked open, blistering,
lean years, left us thirsty; then the waters returned. Now, three cycles of
seven, the years of wetness, should have heralded the return of the River
Women. But no one has seen them. Blessings of wetness over poured until a stark
sick greenness covered the island. The over moist earth stewed and teemed. At
first the emerald fields and flourishing fertile soils made all the inhabitants
laugh and dance, drunk with the jubilation of strong large harvests. But now
the wetness is too much. Daily flash floods warnings replaced forecasts of azure
skies. Monthly monsoon filled, refilled, then busted open the rivers. We the
older ones, longed for the return of the scorching days of 33°C. We missed
having our brown legs darkened under the bites of the fiercely loving sun.

The display revealed the temperature had fallen by nine degrees.
The readings flashed 11°C and the light drizzle was steadily building to a
shower. This generation only knows wetness. The woman defrosted her screen as
she came close to the parameters of the Dome. The Dome loomed before her. Her 1st
generation DenV sputtered and swayed along the waterway, as the woman listened
her favourite oldies from the 2010s. She glided into one of the secured spot.
The Dome, the mammoth an impenetrable mountain of slate grey rose out of the
emerald mountain, built into the Blue Mountain, the Government central
administration building and human resource development system.  Three years after successfully fulfilling its
2030 development goals, the GoJ crumbled, international development partners
created its replacement the Jamaican Authority, a combined team from BRICS monitored the island at all times.

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“Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane…” the
woman sang to herself loud and off key to distract her from the fact that the
day had come. Exchange Day. She increased the volume and erased the weather
notifications from her screen, she already knew it would rain, the constant
reminders of temperature movements and wind directions did very little to
help.   The DenV was capable of getting
her home, the last operating system updates had slowed machine down some but
the woman refused to get a new model biannual. She palmed her head, scratching
at the temple, a nervous tick that she was generally unaware of. She sported a
buzz cut, she shaved her head twice weekly.

“Human Family Month” she muttered to herself as she stared at
the Dome. In exactly 6:23:17 and dropping, her children would be released for
Human Family Re-Interconnectedness.

She had very little interest in children and thought it strange
to see parents reconfigure their whole lives to facilitate the interaction with
their biological dependents. For her the matter was simple, she did her duty at
21 before leaving the Dome, she was partnered with the best genetic and phenome
match that the system had generated, they wed in the mass ceremony in their 20th
year and were committed to each other and the duty to produce two children for
the human continuity. The first child was to be delivered at 21 then the second
at 23, luckily for her the matrilineal genome replicated twice and she was
free from all obligations, reproductive and matrimonial by her 21st
birthday. Now she was forced to reconnect with the children she had for the
Authority. She sat quieted, the song a low buzz in the background, hearing and
feeling the pulsing of her whole being as the time ticked away.  She tried and she could not imagine what these
beings would look like.  Although she had
read all the authority literature on how to create a comfortable home
environment for dependents and reconnecting the human family she did not know
what to say beyond her introduction. Months before she had written, rewritten,
revised and memorised her opening lines.

“Good afternoon children. I am your primary biological kin, I am
called Jade. I am a level four engineer at Rio Grande. I hope our month
together will be harmonious and beneficial to our progression as individuals. I
live in the lower middle quadrant of the second human residential core.” She
smiled and settled, waiting for a response. 

They were tall children, at least 5
feet 9 inches and suited in maroon jumpsuits. She could not recover from the
fact that they towered over her.  She
noted their slanted chink eyes like their father.  Their father, his face had begun to fade from her memory. A Chinese expat, not one of the
original families from the 1860s but from the early 2010s, his entire
family had moved from Gangu, China to the island in the last hot year.  

Copyright © 2015, Chantel DaCosta

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