"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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just a picture of a cloud
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She nodded her goodbyes, keeping her eyes on Fiyori as the older girl strode away. Even her walk was like a praying mantis, all long legs and jutting head. Georgia Lee felt a faint revulsion. She liked mantises on the whole. They kept to themselves, they didn't bother her, they ate flies. She was much less fond of flies so on the whole it seemed like her and the mantis species had a good dynamic. Perhaps this one was the exception.

No, she decided, Fiyori was a mosquito, not a mantis. A giant, ungainly mosquito that would keep coming back, again and again, to make noise in her ear and feed on little pieces of her. Sooner or later she would need to be swatted.

Georgia Lee's next class was nearby, leaving the last few minutes of lunch hers, to do with as she wished. It wasn't enough time to do any serious study, but it was a nice opportunity to read.

She fished a book out of the front pocket of her bag: a thick, battered volume with yellowed pages and an ugly, pea green cover. A mustard yellow copperplate proclaimed the title to be Monsters of the Dark Continent: The Fauna of Africa, and added that it was complete with original illustrations! According to the title page, it was first published in 1889.

Georgia Lee had leafed through the book, after getting it out, looking for those original illustrations. Most of them had been ripped out. She flicked to one of the few that remained, an antelope or deer of some sort, surrounded by dark silhouettes. The text above it continued midsentence from a page that one of the book's previous borrowers had seen fit to remove.

...and the priest there told me the negroes could track them for the better part of a day, without once setting eyes on them. I asked if they could follow a man in such a way, but he told me it would be quite impossible.

"The beasts of the earth" he explained "are just such: of the earth. Their destinies are writ in clay. If you kick a dog, it will always howl. If you chase a gazelle, it will always run, and if it is thirsty it will always stop to drink. Men are not such creatures. It is only our flesh that is of the earth, while that which steers us is of heaven. Our destinies are not in clay, but writ in jasper, or perhaps they are not yet writ at all and falls upon us to enscribe them."

"That is a great responsibility," I replied, "to be the master of one's own fate."

"Of course. We are the subjects of the heavens, and so are not bound by the laws of the earth. This world is as an egg, and one day you will will hatch from it to your eternal reward, God willing. Until then you are free, absolutely, to do whatever you will, but know you this: if everything you do is your choice and your choice alone, then no one but you can be held accountable for how you act, or what fate befalls you, and know you too that there most assuredly will be an accounting."


The line, she thought, was particularly profound.

[Georgia Lee Day continued in Pitches]
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