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QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: SHORTLISTED, OPEN CATEGORY
They immediately began calling her by her name, Eyla, though she was conceived and born in a false year. It is customary to keep infants unnamed until the shroud is lifted. Some districts do not even register births during false years. Yet the couple named her, and called her by her name proudly. In their hearts, despite the possibility of losing Eyla, despite the stigma, despite the threat of war, their first child was going to survive.
"The false year's eve is upon us dearly beloved. Let us open our hearts not only to our Lord's blessings, but also to His judgements." The choir sings a hymn. The bishop gazes beamingly unto his flock. Among those at the front are Eyla and her mother. Eyla is sleeping. That baby is too adorned to be unnamed. The bishop observes. Surely they already named it. The way the mother holds it, the laces on its sackcloth, how neatly its hair is parted. They have loved this child in foolishness.
Eyla is wearing a small white sack. In reverence to God's impending decision, unnamed children are to wear nothing more than a white sackcloth; with holes for small arms and legs to poke out of. The mother, in contrast, is wearing a black veil over a black dress. The veil signifies her loss because Eyla's father, a lieutenant in the Army, is recently lost in the war.
"We are gathered tonight as one, but in our minds we are broken." The bishop says. His amplified voice echoing, repeating itself inside the century cathedral. "Some of you want time to proceed as merrily as it passes today. While some of you want time to step back. Perhaps you want to undo damages that you inflicted on yourself and on others. But beloved, we do not know the mind of God. We are but ants in His magnificent kingdom." His voice slightly tensing. "Driven by ignorance, we build towers that may or may not collapse. Driven by rage, we rush to wars that we may or may not lose. Driven by love, we hold on to temporary things that in the end, could only remain as faint memory. Let us pray for God's forgiveness. Let us accept His path." The choir sings another hymn.
It is also customary to light a candle on the cathedral's front steps to indicate one's wishes; a black candle if one wished God to erase the false year, or a white candle if one wished for events to remain the same. The mother is a devout follower of the holy church. People in her predicament are said to be 'lighting two candles'.
He is dead now. She says to herself. The nights we spent arguing about whose love is greater, and whose God is true, they are worth nothing now. I would give up my own life for him to be here, but I would not give up Eyla. Eyla has to live. Please God, I choose Eyla.
The father was not a follower of the holy church. As men from the south tend to be, he swayed towards radicalism, the belief of many worlds branching. The country's history books, voluminous as they are, are nothing if not a retelling of the wars between the holy church and the radicals.
The new enemy, however, has made allies out of the north and south. No one talks about the old wars anymore. Previously unthinkable inside any holy cathedral, even more so inside the century cathedral, a digital display counts down the remaining seconds of the false year.It is almost over now. God, please let it be Eyla. The mother pleads.
The century tower begins to chime. The sound of the old bells, the bells that have rung for more than a hundred true years. They are clear and questionless.
Come now thee, Time the bride of God,
Hereunder show one's self in light.
All scars and pain, but with the slightest trace,
By grace, return to yesterday, or not.
The mother stands inside the century cathedral. She had dragged her unbelieving husband to church tonight, to welcome the new year. She is confused. She seems to have dropped something important from her arms, yet she could not remember what it was. She looks at her husband. Tears are already streaming from his eyes. Their legs become weak and powerless. They both collapse from the weight of the sudden deluge of memories from the year that never was.
In another place, the crowd's joyous applause rouses Eyla. She opens her eyes widely and begins to yawn.