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Fear
Terry McGarry
Onascension day , Bridget was the last to struggle through the bent
andscarred opening into the world. Her eyes could not resolve the blur of gray
andbrown at first, and when she looked up she nearly fell, her eyes watering;
thesky was not blue with a golden sun but flat and gray and so vast she felt it
mustcrush her. She sat down and then lay flat, pressing into the floor--the
ground, she must remember to call it, the Irish soil--which was soft and made of
grainsof earth and woven strands of growing things. She heard the shouts of the
others, some afraid to move away from the hatch, some running wildly about with
Mr. Fitzhugh ordering them to stop; but they all sounded as if muffled through
thewall hangings that decorated the nuclear-war survival capsule she and the
othermembers of the textiles group had just emerged from, and she began to
understandwhat distance was.
"Oh, God," her mother was crying, softly, repeatedly. She had fallen
toher knees and drawn handfuls of the green growth to her damp, red face.
Bridget moved closer to peer at the short-stemmed, delicate plants." Mam?"
"The clover, Bridget.It should only have three leaves, but four was
consideredlucky, and Bridget, even after the blast and a century's time, it's
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 stillhere...."
Bridget grew uncomfortable with the unexpected emotion and turned her
eyesto a row of black stumps surrounded by tufts of baby trees, recognizable
thoughnone exactly fit the videos she had seen. The air was thick with odors ,
sweetand acrid, and she opened her mouth to breathe as if she could unravel its
componentswith her tongue.
After her seven years in the caps below, the last seven wakes were
clearestin her mind. She clutched the leperchaun embroidery in her
pocket--leprechaun, Mrs. Simmons the schoolteacher had corrected her, telling
hergently that they were not real--and remembered the day in class when they
haddiscussed the coming ascension in real terms for the first time, because the
communicationcap had announced that it was really going to happen. In
preparationshe had rehearsed to herself the forbidden words for rain and sun
andsky-- báisteach, grian , spéir --and counted in her mind the colors in the tiny
rainbowthrown on the all by her brother David's bit of angled glass, so that
shewould recognize the big ones when she saw them.
"My father says we don't know if it isn't all water above and no floor
atall anymore, that the heat melted the ice at the top of the world and flooded
ourislands," David had said.
"My father said that was a bomb the IRA could understand," Jimmy
Hanlon had put in, not to be bested in father- quoting.
The words had blurred into meaningless babble to Bridget, although she
wastrained to memorize instead of using limited paper and disks; when Mrs.
Simmons wasn't looking, she had slipped out a book of fairy stories and let the
stuffyworkroom fade away.
The next thing she had known, David was yanking the book from her
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 hands. "Lesson's over and Jesus will you come out of that dreamworld of yours."
"Leave her," Glenn Fitzhugh had said softly. "She's just a wee wane,
andyou're a bully, Dai."
Bridget had followed the altercation absently, her eyes still on the
yellowpage. She appreciated Glenn's kindness and had been sorry when David hit
him, because Glenn couldn't fight back without hurting. David had cursed her,
whichstung because it meant that Father did it. He had said she was unwanted,
shewas the third child, Mother broke the rules, Mother was a Catholic and they
werebad and stupid but nobody wanted any more trouble so they pretended that
Great-great-grandfather hadn't smuggled Great-great-grandmother down here,
takingthe Compact in bad faith, and Father pretended he wasn't sorry because
everyonehad to marry according to genetics and lots of times it didn't work out
andno one else complained, and he worked extra hard as if it could make up for
theextra mouth to feed, and the one good thing about ascension was being rid of
Them....
"You're half one if what you say is true," Glenn had said with bovine,
implacablelogic from the pile of cloth into which David had pushed him. David
hadhad a tantrum then and Mrs. Simmons had come in and scolded them for not
beingat tea and Bridget had squeezed her leprechaun tightly and looked up from
thesewing benches and fiber recyclers to the smooth gray walls and lighting
tubesabove, above, where there wouldn't be any fighting anymore.
***
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 "It's not that they're bad and we're good, Bridget," Mother had
whisperedlater, fastening the hangings over the alcove opening and switching on
thewhite-noise generator. Bridget associated the fuzzy hiss with the rows it
wasturned up loud to drown out--rows about her. "It's just that we're
different; we're the ones they were trying to keep out when the capsules were
made, and although most of these people are good people, and our friends, there
aresome who still resent us even after all this time. Hate dies hard, love."
She had smoothed Bridget's hair back and braided it, deftly, gently. "Now say a
Hail Mary for me."
"I'd rather say a poem. I read it in a book about the fairies. 'Up the
airymountain, down the rushy glen, we daren't go a-hunting, for fear of
little--'"
"You and the fairies.You're as bad as my mother was. Still, it's our
tradition, and if we don't preserve it no one will."
"We're the last, aren't we, Mam ?" Bridget had said quietly, the poem
forgotten.
"Ah, now, Bridget, I don't know that. We're the last in this cap,
anyway."
"And David and Anne?Glenn said..."
"Glenn's a good lad but he doesn't know everything. No, I was young
whenDavid and Anne were born, I let the Compact have them. I was afraid they'd
doto me what they did to your grandmother when they found out she was teaching
methe old ways. You're our last chance, Bridget. That's why I had you and
that'swhy you must remember the words and prayers."
"I'm afraid, Mam ."
Her mother had made a clucking sound. "What can they do, with
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 ascensionso soon? The whole cap knows about us anyway, and there's bad feeling
aboutwhat was done to your grandmother." She had paused, and swallowed.
"Do you think...above..." Bridget had wanted to ask about the fairies,
buther mother had misunderstood her.
"No oneknows, mo chroí . But I'll tell you what I think. Our people
wereleft up there to die by those with the money and the industry to build the
caps. But our people are survivors, Bridget, and I believe they're still there.
I believe they took back the land that was theirs when all the Orangemen hid
underit, and that they--"
"You'd best lower your voice before the whole cap hears and lynches
youafter all." Father's voice had preceded him through the heavy cloth over the
alcovedoor. Bridget had glanced at her mother's tight face and scurried past
himto the outer chamber, where David and Anne were breathing softly in their
dreams. The thirdsleep tape of a thunderstorm had looped just audibly between
theircots. Bridget had crawled in next to Anne and thought how learning that
waterdidn't always come from synthtanks but fell from above in little drops
thatmade the sound on the tape was not quite the same as learning that Mother
andFather hated each other. But she had learned them at the same time, and they
wereboth just things to know. It was all right. She knew about leprechauns,
too.
Bridget remembered how long the next six wakes had seemed to stretch
beforeher. And now, miraculously, here they were....
Then she saw the leprechaun. At first she thought it was one of the
otherchildren who had wandered off, but it was an odd shape and didn't walk
properly. It seemed to sense her stare and, with a wild look, disappeared.
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