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We had company last night; once they headed to bed I sat down to write and fell asleep instead; as a result, I got a slow start in this Muse Fusion. Then, of course, the first idea that really grabbed me will take a little while to complete. But the first scene works well as flash fiction, I think. I look forward to your comments.

A number of people have asked, "What happened to Osatha?" in response to last week's story, Marli Knows. Then this month, one of Ellen's prompts was babies, childbirth, and related topics. Those two things blended in my mind, and I got an image of a central problem, and I started writing.

This story (or the start of it, anyway) is set the day before Marli Knows. Additional installments can be sponsored at $10/1000 words.

Feeding the Hungry
A Torn World Story
by Deirdre M. Murphy

After work, Osatha lifted the box of food that was too old, even using time crystal technology, to retain for the next day’s business. Then she headed out to the edge of the city. She had a license to distribute leftovers to the poor and homeless, and people came up to her as she walked. Her regulars got a handout with no fanfare; new people, however, had to show a license—a begging license, or at least a personal license. She was studying for a license to work with purists, to try to bring them into the Empire, though she really didn’t care about that. She cared about people, and hated to see them hungry or suffering.

One of her regulars, Fleigil, a runaway barely old enough to be in third form if he’d stayed in school, came up to her, a strange girl in tow. She looked younger, but she also looked half-starved. If she’d been on the street long, hunger could have stunted her growth. She handed a fold made from a roll and leftover sand-pig to the boy and asked to see the girl’s license.

The girl blanched.

Fleigil gripped her hand tightly, not letting her retreat. “Gliya, here, well, she’s ashamed to show her license pouch. Her parents’ dogs, well…”

Osatha gently set the box down on the street, noticing how the girl’s eyes followed the food. Osatha reached into a deep pocket. She had several basic pouches there, which she had bought as cheaply as possible while still getting a sturdy product. “I remember, when I was a girl, I had a beautiful white pouch that got berry stains all over it; I couldn’t bear to show it either. My mother wouldn’t buy me a pretty new one, she bought a plain one and I had to learn decorative stitches to make it pretty myself. ” She laughed. “I’m not very good, but I found I enjoyed it. Well, I make far more than I can use, and I’ve already gifted all of my friends—would you do me the honor of accepting one?”

The girl nodded cautiously, and Osatha pulled out one that had bright red and yellow butterflies on it. “Butterflies for luck and prosperity—do you like it?”

The girl’s eyes lit up as she took the pouch—it was heavier than one would expect, because there were tokens inside.

“Her license is at home, Miss Osatha. But I can vouch for her.”

Osatha shook her head. “I’m studying to work with Purists, Fleigil. If you’re wrong, and a monitor caught me giving food to someone unlicensed, I’ll never be able to do that work.”

She turned to the girl, whose sleeve had slipped down as she inspected her new pouch, showing smeared ink where her licensing tattoo should be. “Gliya, you make sure to get that license from wherever you stashed it, and keep it on you at all times.” She hoped the tokens in the pouch would cover what was needed—if the girl needed a tattoo—well, there was no way to add to what she’d given without it being obvious. Leaving tokens in the pouch was already a risk. “When you can show me your license, I’ll be happy to give you some of the restaurant’s leftovers.” She looked at Fleigil, who also wore a pouch she had stitched. “You help her find it, you hear me?”

He nodded.

“Thank you.” It was the first time Osatha had heard Gliya’s voice, which was soft and musical.

“You should think about returning to school—I bet your singing voice is beautiful. You could join the Music Guild, or the Theatre Guild, once you graduate second form.” The girl blanched again, and Osatha wondered what she’d suffered, to be so afraid. Was she born unlicensed? Or was she obscuring her tattoo with ink dots because she was afraid of being caught and returned to her family? Gently, she added, “Some of the beggars sing or play music. It’s not a great job, but a beggar’s license might be easier to get than one to return to school.”

The girl fingered the tokens through the new pouch. “Thank you, miss.”

They turned to go, and Osatha reached into her box. “Fleigil—you look taller than last week. I remember how hungry my brothers got when they hit a growth spurt. Wouldn’t you like a second meat fold?” He brightened, and took a big bite of what remained of his first one, reaching his other hand for the second. Osatha added a fruit fold as well, so his long fingers had to stretch to hold it all. “I’ll be back this way after work tomorrow.”

“Thank you, miss!” Fleigil folded the food up against his dirty shirt, careful not to let a single crumb drop to the street.

“Th—the pouch is beautiful, miss.” Gliya lifted the long cord over her head, settling the pouch against her side, but her eyes followed the food.

“Good day, citizens.” Quickly, Osatha picked up her box and continued on her way. She hoped the two would reach a more private place before Fleigil shared the food with Gliya, but just in case, she was careful not to look back. She grinned—once the food left her hands and her sight, even the meanest monitor could no longer hold her accountable for what happened to it.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 25th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
There's a city ordinance in Orlando, FL that limits and requires a permit to feed large groups. A humanitarian group has been fighting in court what they see as an unjust law. Some members have been arrested for defying the law and feeding the hungry/homeless in a downtown park.
Jun. 25th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
The "unjust law" thing is more likely to work here than in the Empire, where you need a license for just about everything. The rationalization here is that the Empire wants people trained to make such contact so it's done right.

Thanks for stopping by!

Edited at 2011-06-25 11:49 pm (UTC)
Jun. 26th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
Aw, that's a sweet story. I haven't read some of the Torn World in awhile. I know I need to go back and do some reading.
Jun. 26th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC)
Thank you. You're welcome to stop by the website any time.
Jun. 26th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
I like how the licensing plays into the world. It creates a dark gritty feel.
Jun. 27th, 2011 01:50 am (UTC)
Thank you. I can't take the blame for the Empire licensing everything, but it is a fascinating part of the world, and as a writer, a challenge too.
Jun. 29th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
Sad yet sweet
That is quite a touching story in what appears to be a very cruel world. At least Osatha is doing what she can working within the limits of what she can get away with. Love the atmosphere cast here, and your names are wonderful. Nice stuff.
Jun. 29th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
Re: Sad yet sweet
Thank you.

I expect every world has good points and bad ones. The Empire's licensing laws are ubiquitous; they serve many of the same purposes as taxes, but also provide a structure for an orderly life and a prosperous nation. With every story that deals with them, they're an interesting challenge for me as a speculative fiction writer.
Jun. 30th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
Wonderful work Deidre!
Deidre, I love everything about this, but especially the dialogue and the way you clearly show us their emotions. Fantastic work!
Jun. 30th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Wonderful work Deidre!
Thank you!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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