Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 43

Heinrich is quick to learn English but feels that his mind is heavy and clumsy in its approach to everything else. He is one of the last to come through the machine and has not been told his purpose. He cannot imagine what it might be—nothing in the sciences speaks to him. Beneath the noisiness of his new world, he feels at his core a wide and terrifying silence.

“You might be political,” Niels tells him. “They’ll need that sort too, after all.”

Heinrich considers the possibility, imagining himself older, standing at a podium before a large crowd. But just picturing so many people watching him makes him feel dizzy. In the library, Heinrich finds no books that mention his name.

Some days he skips class with the other future kids. He professes loudly that school is stupid, hoping that the others will not realize that he lacks their cleverness. In their dereliction, Heinrich sees the agility of their minds at work. In his own, he sees only fear.

When Heinrich does go to school, he does so to be near Salomea, queen of dissent, more masterful in the execution of her spite than even Jonas the First. Salomea attends all her classes but does so as an act of artful defiance. In English, she whispers loudly to Heinrich in German. When she is called upon during lectures, she responds in Lithuanian. She fills out worksheets in Ruthenian. In geography, Salomea takes a black marker to the world map on the wall and redraws the borders of Poland so that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania looms imperial over Europe.

She tells Heinrich that he is sweet but that he cannot fall in love with her. She is already married.

One day during biology class, two men arrive with boxes stacked on a dolly. They unload colorful textbooks on the shelves at the back of the classroom. Heinrich retrieves one of these and runs his fingers over the glossy pages inside.

Jessica Rutland | 43