“Hurry up, Jessie, get into your clothes!” Grandma Peakes admonished her granddaughter, 9-year-old Jessica Peakes. “You don’t want to be late for the Choosing!”
Jessica wore on the newest dress she had (although it wasn’t very new, new clothes were hard to come by these days) and walked out of her room. “Is this okay, Grandmama?” she did a small pirouette.
Grandma Peakes cracked a weary smile. It was hard for her to feel happy; knowing her grand-daughter’s chance at a better life meant a life apart from her. She took out some blusher and patted it on Jessica’s cheeks. “We need you looking healthy and rosy! The Cyclopians aren’t going to choose a sickly, weak-looking child! When you go up on the platform, Jessica, you must be energetic and cheerful!”
“Okay, grandma!” she grinned widely as she continued to dance towards the kitchen to eat her breakfast.
Grandma Peakes sighed to herself. For Jessica, and those her age, this is all the life they have ever known. But Grandma Peakes remembered how it was back then, when she herself was a little girl, and humans ruled themselves. The Cyclopians, those one-eyed fiends, had just descended from the stars onto earth, and said they came to spread the gospel of Mon-Oc, their one-eyed deity who had created the Cyclopians in their image. Shocked by the double-eyed unholiness of human beings, they never did regard them as sentient equals, but animals; on their own planet, all the animals had two eyes as well. To be one-eyed was to have descended from Mon-Oc himself. All other creatures, with two eyes or more, were creations of Bi-Oc, a lesser god who was Mon-Oc’s cursed brother. They proceeded to ‘evangelise’ to the human heathen, giving them a chance to be saved, if they would remove one eye. A very small minority ‘converted’ – mostly crazies – but the majority of the human race declared war on the Cyclopians. The war was bitter and destructive – all the human cities were razed to the ground, and the Cyclopians lost three of their motherships, but the Cyclopians’ more advanced technology ultimately overwhelmed the humans. At the end of the six-year Human-Cyclopian War, the leaders of Earth signed a peace treaty with the Cyclopians, for which the latter had ‘benevolently’ set the terms as indefinite servitude to the Cyclopian race.
Grandma Peakes walked into the kitchen where Jessica was slurping up her cereal. “I’ll be done soon, Grandmama!” she said as she continued to scoop the oats into her mouth.
“Don’t eat too fast! I don’t want you to choke before the Choosing!” Grandma Peakes laughed.
“Done.” She put down her spoon and carried the bowl to the sink.
Grandma Peakes watched her as she washed her bowl and spoon. She’s a good girl, she thought. I will miss her! But she will have a better life as a servant with a Cyclopian family. She may even get a chance to attend those Cyclopian-sponsored schools for humans. Or maybe even go on a Cyclopian ship! And maybe she will get to see her parents again.
Jessica tugged on her grandmother’s sleeve. “Grandma, let’s go.” They put on their coats and walked out of their modest abode in the ghetto. It was snowing lightly outside, winter having just begun.
“Grandmama?” Jessica’s voice quavered, “I don’t want to leave you. Who will take care of you when you’re gone?”
Grandma Peakes stroked her granddaughter’s hair. “I will be fine, I’ve lived long enough to know how to take care of myself. Besides,” she reminded Jessica,”if you are chosen, you might get a chance to see Mummy and Daddy! I got their letters from Ilos last week, and they are doing quite well! The families they are working for also happen to be quite nice.”
“Oh yes!” Jessica smiled wistfully. “That’s if I can get chosen by a family that lives in Ilos.”
“Shouldn’t be too difficult, Jessie. The last two Choosings were for families in Ilos. A lot of human servants are wanted there.”
“That’ll be lovely, Grandmama!”
That’ll be lovely indeed, thought Grandma Peakes. She smiled back at her granddaughter, but inside her heart ached.