Saturday, June 3, 2017

Serial Saturday: "Suggestion Box" Vol. 4--A to Z Short Story Challenge: Letter A

The List:
Names: Archimedes, Ashuria
Places: Athens, Acropolis
Time: Afternoon
Objects: Arches, Apricots, Almonds

The Result:

"Answers in the Arches"

The bright afternoon sun glinted off the white walls of the Acropolis crowning the highest point in Athens. Blue stenciling along the edges provided a pleasing visual for the eyes, while absorbing some of the glare that would otherwise blind its citizens.

Under an arch at the edge of an apricot grove, a young girl munched on a handful of almonds as she stared out over the Aegean Sea. So intent was her focus, that she almost missed the approach of an elderly man in a grey toga.

“A pretty aster clings to the wall, growing taller and more beautiful every day!” he mused.

The young girl glanced up and smiled. “Oh, hello, Master Archimedes.”

The old man stroked his bushy white beard. “Ashuria, my dear, what’s the problem?”

Ashuria sighed and tapped the heels of her sandals against the wall. “I have a dilemma that I am not sure how to answer,” she confessed.

Archimedes took a seat next to the girl. He gave a low chuckle. “So you would seek out a Sicilian astronomer for advice, as if I could read the answers you seek, hidden among the stars?” He shook his head. “Why not turn to your mother instead?”

Ashuria rubbed the hem of her mauve-colored dress. “My mother and father are in accord.”

Archimedes frowned. “And this does not satisfy you, to see your parents agree on a matter?”

Ashuria shook her head. “Not if the thing they agree on is wrong!”

The old man leaned out to pluck a ripe fruit from a low-hanging branch. “How is it wrong? Does your father intend to break the law?”

“Not the law of the land,” Ashuria admitted, “but is there not also a moral law that people must follow?”

Archimedes nodded. “So the philosophers would say—and each would have a different theory about the parameters and implication of this moral law.”

Ashuria moaned and covered her head. “Then I am afraid the moral law of my parents is different than the one I hold—so what am I to do?”

“Tell me, child,” Archimedes offered her an apricot, “would great harm come to anyone if you simply laid aside your misgivings and followed your parents in whatever they have asked you to do?”

Ashuria’s lips twitched. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I am very afraid because no one else has ever done this thing before, so I do not know what harm will come of it.”

Archimedes wiped his hand on the loose fold of his toga. “It could be that no harm may come at all... yet you are still too much afraid of it. Why can you not find peace in minding your elders like so many others?”

Ashuria drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs, hugging them to her chest. “Something still stops me, Master Archimedes. What they want to do is wrong, and nothing I can think of can change that sentiment in me.”

Archimedes shrugged. “Well then, my dear Ashuria, if nothing can change that, then there won’t be any need to worry. Your conscience is clear enough to prevent you from violating this moral law of yours.”

Ashuria tilted her head, letting her pale hair drape across her face. “What does that mean?” she asked.

Archimedes patted her on the shoulder. “It means, dear child, that you only need to go as far as you feel you may safely do so. Your own spirit will guide you in doing what you think is right.”

He squinted up at the sun, noting the angle of the shadows cutting under the arches. “I must meet with the Assembly,” he explained. “Is there anything else you wished to discuss?”

Ashuria shook her head. “No,” she said. “Thank you for your wise words.”

Archimedes shrugged. “It is only in application that we discover how vital the advice of another really is.” He trudged further up the road, while Ashuria scurried back home.

“Ashuria!” her mother met her at the door, her head wrapped in a large cloth that hid all of her hair. “Come quickly! Preparations are underway. Where have you been?” The tall woman’s firm hand swept the young girl into the room.

Ashuria stopped short when she saw her father in his white tunic and purple sash. “Father!” she cried. “Your hair! What happened?”

The entire top of his head matched the color of his sash. Ashuria’s father smiled at her, beckoning her forward. “It’s going to be the new fashion when we get to Natalys!”

Ashuria frowned. “But… why?”

Her mother entered, pulling the cloth off her head. Her hair tumbled down over her shoulders and back in luxurious waves—that same unnatural violet color. How many pounds of dye had been wasted on this frivolous fashion statement? “Because we are going to lead the new colony, Ashuria, dear! As its leaders, we needed some way to stand out—and purple being the herald of royalty, we decided that purple hair would signify our rank among the citadel!” She stroked Ashuria’s pale golden curls. “Your hair would look so lovely—“

“No!” Ashuria felt the tightness in her stomach, the ache that spread through her whole body at the overwhelming wrongness of the whole situation. “I will not be going with you!”

Her mother’s face fell. “But Ashuria,” she pressed, “you must come with us!”

Her father nodded. “Yes, the Assembly has decided that everyone who has drunk of the Fountain must return to Natalys and live there permanently.”

Ashuria felt her back press against the wall behind her. She was still within reach of her mother’s long arms. “But that was one drink!” She said, the tears climbing into her eyes. “I didn’t know!”

Her mother smiled, gliding ever closer. “One drink is all it takes.”

Ashuria clapped her hands to her mouth. What would happen to her now? Her whole body trembled. “No! I don’t want it!” she cried.

“Oh, darling!” Her mother pulled her close into a tight embrace. “Come, relax with me. You’re just tired, and the thought of such a long journey frightens you. It will be all right, I promise.”

Ashuria wanted it to be all right. She prayed for it harder than she had ever prayed for anything else in her life. One drink is all it takes. She had drunk once, and would serve that punishment forever.

“One drink, one forfeit,” she whispered. It was a fitting consequence, and that made it just.

Ashuria looked up at her mother. “For my trespass of drinking from the Fountain, I will allow the servants to dye my hair.” She cringed inwardly at the way her mother sat up with wide, hungering eyes. “But,” she forced herself to finish, “I will never drink of that fountain again!”

Her mother huffed. “Oh, Ashuria, how can you say that? Why, in Natalys, the very ground is saturated by water from the Fountain of Youth! Crops are irrigated by it, food and clothing is washed in it, the wines are made with it, and it is the only thing to drink there!” She patted Ashuria’s head. “I understand how you would like to keep your principles, but the fact is, dear, you won’t be able to resist for long.”

Sitting at the edge of the pool, watching her reflection as the servant spread the heinous purple paste over her wet locks, Ashuria felt her conscience harden within her. They think I will eventually approve of what they have done, she thought. They have no idea how strong I really am. Someday, I will find the chance to stand up for what I believe in. I will show them what I am made of, she promised herself. Someday.

To find out what happens in Natalys, and Ashuria's ultimate choice, Click >HERE<

Also in the A-to-Z Challenge Series: ( * Continuations of Suggestion Box installments)

-Letter A* ]     [-Letter K* ]          [-Letter T*
-Letter B* ]     [-Letter L* ]          [-Letter U
-Letter C   ]     [-Letter M  ]         [-Letter V
-Letter D   ]     [-Letter N* ]         [-Letter W
-Letter E   ]     [-Letter O   ]         [-Letter X
-Letter F   ]     [-Letter P   ]         [-Letter Y
-Letter G  ]     [-Letter Q* ]         [-Letter Z 
-Letter H  ]     [-Letter R
-Letter I* ]     [-Letter S*