January 20th, 2010


A rather short story

by Tristan A. Arts

      The Mariott Hotel had been taken over that weekend by a steampunk convention, but Ipsita and her father Sarasvat had booked their room early. They were there at the convention as sellers, since they'd been a little short on cash lately and had decided some of their old posessions not valuable enough to be auctioned off would interest the steampunk crowd. Having no interest in wearing the restrictive Victorian clothing themselves, they went with their Indian heritage and dressed in traditional Hindu clothing, hoping it fit with the spirit of the event.
      "Ugh," Ipsita wrinkled her nose slightly as a woman in a tight corset walked by. "I'm so glad I never had to wear those things," she said in Hindi, indicating her 10-year old body. "The things I had to wear back then were bad enough without being squeezed into one of those Gods-awful garments. The Victorian Era was almost as bad as the witch hunts. I'm not sure which I prefer. Let's see, which is worse, swimsuits that would make you drown or The Black Death? Hmmm... decisions, decisions."
      Sarasvat merely smiled and shook his head.
      "Corsets were just fancy shackles anyway. I always thought the Victorians were masochists to wear those things, why would they become popular again?"
      "Perhaps for the same reason," Sarasvat mused, also in Hindi.
      Ipsita rested her head on her hands. "I don't understand these people. Why is this neo-Victorian movement so popular?"
      Sarasvat said simply, "What's old is new again. You should know as well as I do that there's really nothing new under the sun."
      "It just seems to me like glorifying the Good Old Days. But the Good Old Days were far from good. As terrifying as the world can be these days, it's mostly abstract. Most people eat well and don't have to worry about invading Mongol hordes."
      "Politicians. Corporations."
      Ipsita laughed, a beautiful throaty sound. "Yes," she agreed, "give me Mongol hordes to corporations, bankers, and politicians any day."
      A customer interrupted their talk for several minutes, and they answered questions pleasantly in English, even making a sale. But instead of continuing their talk right away, they sat in silence. They'd been together so long that silence was common between them; it was good they didn't mind the silence. Ipsita passed the time by examining a beautiful gold antique pocketwatch her father had given her back in the late 1800s; it was special to her, so it wasn't for sale. Instead, it was on a gold chain attached to a pocket she'd sewn into her garment.
      Later in the day, a young girl who would have been Ipsita's age if she were really as young as her body appeared to be started talking with Ipsita as she looked at the items they had for sale. The girl asked about Ipsita and her father, and after getting polite responses to those questions, said, "What does your mom do?"
      Sarasvat looked in mild concern at his daughter, wondering how she would respond. Over 4000 years they'd lived and traveled with one another, and she was still sometimes unpredictable to him. He thought she might snap at the girl today, but instead she just stared, her eyes unfocused, into nowhere for a moment, lost in thought.
      Saravat didn't know, but Ipsita was trying hard to remember her mother. It was hopeless, though; it had been over 4000 years since her mother had died. Even Sarasvat couldn't remember anymore.
      Her eyes refocused and she said sadly, "She died a long time ago. I don't even remember her."
      "I'm sorry," said the girl.
      "It's okay, you couldn't have known."
      "Well at least you've got photos of her to remember her by."
      Ipsita shook her head sadly. "Nope. No photos." She resisted the urge to add "she died before photography was invented" and instead said, "Fire."
      The girl looked horrified. "She died in a fire? Oh how awful!"
      "Oh no," Ipsita corrected kindly, "she didn't die in the fire. She died..." Ipsita couldn't remember how her mother had died. She looked at Sarasvat. He shook his head almost imperceptibly; he didn't remember either. "...she died giving birth to me," Ipsita lied. Though given the era it had been, it was very possibly true.
      The girl left a few minutes later without buying anything. Ipsita remained silent the rest of the day, but for once it was an awkward silence. When the day finished, they packed their things for the night and went to their hotel room. Once inside, the door locked, Sarasvat held his daughter close to him. They said nothing, nor did she cry. They just held each other, the hardness of the gold pocketwatch reminding them of its presence, its soft ticking the only sound in the room.