Lux in terra
Kyo swore blind he was telling the truth but Mollie didn’t believe him. None of them did. He hadn’t even got half way through his report to the class on the history of the settlement, when Mr Grable stopped him in the middle of something about the first hydroponic crops to ask him where he had got his information. Had Kyo, Mr Grable wanted to know, read what he was saying in a book at the library?
“No,” said Kyo, genuinely surprised, “I talked to my grandpa.”
There were snickers around the room. Kyo’s grandpa Marvin, also known as Crazy Marv, was an embarrassment to his children, his ramblings and rants barely tolerated by the council. Mollie couldn’t help but feel bad as she saw Kyo’s cheeks flush. She could tell- as could her classmates- that he was trying hard not to cry. Unlike her peers, however, Mollie chose not to point the fact out, chose not to goad him into tears until he ran from the room.
Mr Grable told the other children off, of course. It was his job. Tolerance and respect. These were ostensibly rules to live by. Everyone in the settlement knew, though, who you were and weren’t supposed to tolerate and respect. It didn’t extend to Crazy Marv, or to kids who believed a word he said- let alone used it in a school report.
On her way home, Mollie was walking through the town square when she saw Kyo sitting on a bench, hands folded in front of him. Next to him, wrapped in a battered overcoat with a red plaid lumberjack hat, was Crazy Marv. They were staring at the collection of lights in the middle of the square. Mollie walked up and sat down quietly next to them.
“They laughed at me, grandpa,” said Kyo, voice faltering.
“Of course they did, son,” said Crazy Marv, “but don’t feel badly for them. They’re ignorant because their parents were ignorant. Mr Grable too. I been up there. I found a hazmat suit in one of the old corridors. I read about them, so I went up. Just to see. They didn’t believe me. They ain’t ready to believe you. But I saw what I saw.”
“And it really looked like that?” asked Kyo.
“Sort of. They don’t light up, o’course. But the one I saw, it was real pretty. Made a sound in the wind, too. I reckon whoever put them lights there knew what a tree was s’posed to look like. I reckon they longed to see one again. And I reckon,” he put his arm around the boy, “that when you’re old enough, you’ll be able to make them listen.”
The next day, in art class, both Kyo and Mollie got into trouble for drawing men in big rubber-looking suits, walking under a blue sky on green grass. And that was when things really started to change.