Welcome back to Wednesday Briefs, in which writers post a 1000 word flash story—or episode, in my case—based on the weekly prompts.
I’ve opted to stay with my science fiction M/M story, “Useful Things.” The prompt I chose this week is "But you said..."
Want to start at the beginning of Useful Things? [Chapter One]
You’ll find links to the other Wednesday Briefs bloggers at the end of this post.
Useful Things #17
Rasvim blinked up at the grid of the hut framework against a silver-blue dawn sky. A deep breath helped banish the strange dream, tatters of images the only remnants to remain in memory. He remembered so much, so many things, but seldom his dreams, which remained ghostly footprints through the otherwise neatly partitioned corridors and soundly locked doors. He had awakened in Aeth custody, same as always. His nakedness reminded him of what he was.
Seeing Majak seated on the other bed, hands sometimes moving in the n-space of Aeth communications, Rasvim was reminded of other things. Taking care not to disturb his pre-occupied master, he slipped off the bed and went to the hygiene closet to tend to his needs and appearance. He did not take long. Alaksu had treated his hair so at least it stood up as elegantly as ever. When he returned to the bed, he sat upon it and looked to Majak, wondering what he would want of him.
Not sex. Even in full arousal and dominance display, the alien had not used him for that. The refusal still jarred Rasvim, but not as much as that Majak had called him by his human name.
Jesse. Only Enir had ever asked for it, so only Enir could have told Majak. The other Aeth—his captors and the slave dealer, even Osvith—had not cared to learn it. They had named him Rasvim and he had clung to the sound of it. Enir had said correctly that the Aeth did not name their food.
Majak ceased his silent communication and tucked the disc into his shield suit. He looked rested and had probably slept. Not all Aeth slept, but there were some who did. The higher the rank, the more sleep an Aeth needed. Rasvim did not yet understand the reason, but knew it had something to do with whether an Aeth was genetically engineered.
“Tell me what you are thinking,” Majak said. He sat across from Rasvim now, leaning forward, eyes assessing him. His attention no longer unnerved Rasvim the way it once had. There was no threat in it.
“That you sleep more than the soldiers—and Osvith said only those who are truebred sleep or dream.” For once, the truthful answer came easily. He waited to see how Majak would react.
Majak held his gaze. “That is what we Var’Sareem are. Born, not cloned. Unaltered, at least for the last thousand years. Weaker than soldiers, smarter, longer lived. And we sleep as the native race did that left our home world so long ago. Our dreams are shared. Do humans dream?”
He nodded, but said, to clarify, “We don’t share them.”
“But you do share information in complex ways.” Majak lifted something from the bed. Rasvim was surprised to see the Oz book. “This book holds many concepts and the information in it appears false. That doesn’t make sense that your people would go to such effort to create a document filled with falsehoods.”
Should he explain it? Could he? There were no flying monkeys, never had been. There were no wizards or witches. Just farmers and Kansas, and even those were vanished now. His father had explained about stories. “Just because something doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean it’s not true. The book has ideas, and the ideas are true.”
“Ideas?” Majak looked at the cover, so faded now. “The place in this book is an idea?”
“I think so. My father—” he caught Majak’s look of encouragement and continued, “—he said stories reveal things that are true. Like how the lion thinks he’s a coward but he’s really brave.”
“So it is a lie.”
“But you said—”
“It’s a false belief. A lie is something else.”
Majak appeared thoughtful, then asked, “What do you consider a lie?”
Rasvim held his gaze and said, “I think you’re ugly.”
For a moment, they simply stared at each other. Then Majak smiled. “A lie?”
Rasvim’s heart eased out of his throat. “A lie. Because that’s not what I think.”
“And so what the lion thinks is not a lie because he believes the falsehood?” Majak’s smile remained, along with a light in his eyes that said he understood.
“Yes. And the book doesn’t think he is, either, because it knows he’s brave. That’s the idea. Like how everyone thinks the wizard is so powerful, but—”
“But he is really powerless except for what their belief makes possible.”
“This is a fascinating book,” Majak said. His smile became something new and vastly intelligent. “Are other human books like this one?”
“I don’t know. Story books are.” History books probably weren’t. Or books of science.
“And these truths…these ideas…are important to humans?”
Why did he want to know? Majak’s curiosity about humans was familiar now, but… new warnings ripped at the seams of Rasvim's trust. Maybe he was being used in a different way. What if the Aeth had gotten as far as they could fighting the remaining humans with weapons, and now they needed something more? A way to trick them? His cold lips ceased speaking and he averted his eyes, fearing what they might reveal.
“Rasvim?” The sound of his own breathing didn’t quite block Majak’s voice, or the order that followed. “Look at me.”
He did so and saw Majak kneeling on the floor again, just as he had the night before, except this time he was grasping his hands, holding them, and looking deep into his eyes, delivering the same promise as before.
“I will not hurt you, Jesse—”
“Don’t call me that!”
Majak pulled back, but did not release his hands. “I won’t. Only what you wish. It is a beautiful name, and I will not speak it if my doing so hurts you. I am not like the ones who had you before. Just listen to me now…”
Of course, they’re not finished talking by a long shot. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll also visit the other Wednesday Briefs bloggers below to find out what wonderful stories they have to offer.