The sun shone bright on the speculum’s crystalline lens and struck Acantha’s eye.
“There we go,” she said as she dropped her hands from the positioning knobs.
The atrium’s white walls immediately absorbed her words, falling back into its muted state. Acantha doubted the room had heard a voice before. You were to be silent when in the atrium, but Acantha supposed it wouldn’t hurt anything if she spoke when she was alone.
“Besides, “said Acantha, “you must get lonely.”
The room did not answer back, but Acantha liked to imagine she felt a small shift in the atmosphere, and was content with the thought that it was the room thanking her.
Grasping a silver knob positioned just under the lid of the counter, Acantha opened her eye to the sunbeam and began to scroll through her Lives.
As she examined her Lives, Acantha couldn’t help but feel disappointed. What had she done wrong? Martha, Edgar, even William – they all seemed so sad. She watched as Amber laid in her bed, staring out of her window at the storm outside. Acantha quickly removed the storm and made sure the sun was prominent, but Amber only rolled over and curled into a small ball.
Sighing, Acantha pushed the small white button just under the lip of the counter. In moments, she heard the automatic doors slide open and the soft padded footsteps of Cybele approach.
Cybele widened her eyes and shot her finger to her lips. Acantha rolled her eyes and let Cybele take her hand and lead her to the hall.
As soon as the automatic doors shut, Acantha began to speak.
“All of my Lives-“
“Acantha, you know-“
“They’re all acting really-“
“Acantha! What is the rule in the atrium?”
Acantha looked at her shoes. “You are to always be quiet in the atrium.”
“And you will abide by that rule, Acantha. I will not have you going against our ancestor’s laws. Now, why did you call on me?”
Acantha looked at Cybele and spoke quietly.
“My Lives all seem very under the weather. It’s worrying me.”
“All Lives have trying times, Acantha,” said Cybele softly.
“Yes, but all twenty of my Lives? What am I doing wrong?”
“Acantha,” said Cybele, “Lives become upset. We can help guide them through those times.”
“I already tried. I made the weather better for Amber!”
Cybele shook her head. “Listen, child. It takes time for lives to traverse through stormy waters. You must give them that if you expect them to move on.”
“They would never be unhappy if we didn’t have to give them obstacles.”
“We must present obstacles for Lives. It is a law of our ancestors.”
“But why can’t they just be happy? I could fix all of their problems in the blink of an eye!”
“Acantha! You cannot do that to Lives! Our ancestors have given us regulations for how we manage Lives, and we abide by them. Any other way would be rebellion.”
“But if the obstacles prove too much, couldn’t I just…get rid of them?”
“Acantha, I swear, sometimes you are a thorn in my side. Must you always be so difficult? It is forbidden to take away obstacles from your Lives. You cannot cure them of a disease or prevent a loved one’s death. Those are called miracles, and if they’re performed they’re sure to put silly ideas in your Lives’ heads. Talk of angels and higher powers guiding their existences. Soon they’re off track from their goals and studying into these ludacris ideals. Now we can’t have that, can we?”
Acantha shook her head. “But how is that ludacris? Aren’t we guiding their existences?”
“Be quiet now child! I will not hear anymore of this talk! We are only people! I advise you go back to your quarters and study your regulations this instant, lest you get any daring ideas!”
Cybele grasped Acantha’s elbow and lead her to her room, warning her that she would be reprimanded if she were to leave before dinner. Acantha sat at the edge of her bed, clutching the grey sheets in her hands.
Cybele was always praised as being a trying Mentor, and one of the best within the colony. But she could be so stubborn. Why were they all to follow the rules passed down from the ancestors? The laws had lost meaning or significance. Instead they seemed cruel to Acantha. There was no reason to let Lives suffer except that the ancestors had decided they needed to. If Acantha could take away their pain, why wouldn’t she? The simple excuse of miracles was nothing. There were others aiding them in their journeys. Acantha’s people had been managing Lives since the beginning of time, it seemed. Was it so bad for Lives to know that they were?
Acantha went to the door and let it slide open. Looking down the corridor, she saw no one. She listened closely, but there wasn’t a sound. It was as quiet as the atrium.
Making sure to keep silent, Acantha began to make her way back to the atrium. It would still be empty as long as Cybele had gone back to the Mentor’s Hall. Hurrying through the halls, Acantha felt excited. She was determined to change her Lives’ journeys for the better.
“Hi,” Acantha said to the atrium. The Speculum Vitae spun lazily in the middle of the room, throwing beams of light upon the walls. Its great lens held the power to see all Lives through it.
Acantha saw the vibrations her voice made shake its delicate surface before soaking into the walls. She walked around it to the far side of the room to where her counter was. Taking the positioning knobs and turning them quickly, Acantha brought a sunbeam down onto the table. Then, she began to wave her hands over it.
Acantha had never created a miracle, but she supposed they couldn’t be any different than making obstacles. Instead of thinking of something that could hurt her Lives, Acantha thought of how she could help them. She began to weave her hands faster around the sunbeam, letting her fingers flitter and move freely as her hands flew like a flag in the wind. Soon, she could hear the familiar hum that accompanied all creations. It grew and grew, and she felt her hands grow warm and begin to vibrate. Moving her hands faster still, she let the hum build and build until it filled the room and she felt the hum throughout her body. Then she stopped her hands in one last sharp movement, letting the hum fall flat.
Clink. On the counter sat a small glassy orb. It had a deep, amber color about it, and deep within it seemed that a light shown.
“I did it,” whispered Acantha to the atrium. It seemed to sigh in agreement.
Acantha sat the miracle in a small satin pouch and began to make more. She would need twenty for all of her Lives.
“I’m really getting the hang of this,” she spoke to the room. “It isn’t so hard, really. I’ve already made seven now. All of my Lives will be so happy. I can’t wait to see Amber smiling again. Oh, imagine the look on Cybele’s face if she’d find me here right now-“
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Acantha froze. As quickly as she could, she threw the satin bag into one of her drawers and spun around to see Cybele standing in the doorway.
“Cybele, you know there’s no talking in the atri-“
“Oh, shut up! You’ve broken that rule before I have. And besides, I have to stop you! You’ve gone against another much more important rule, haven’t you? Hm?”
Cybele began to walk towards Acantha. “I went back to your room to check on you, make sure you were minding me. But once I got there, you were gone. I thought that surely you wouldn’t be here, no, not dear Acantha. But here you are. What are you doing in here Acantha?”
Acantha held her breath. Cybele was inches from her now, and leaned in close to her face.
“You weren’t making miracles were you?”
Cybele shot out her hand and grabbed Acantha’s wrist. Frightened, Acantha opened her hand and let the miracle she had been making drop to the floor.
“Oh. Is that what I think it is?” Cybele bent and picked up the small ball, pinching it between two fingers.
“Well, wait till I tell the Council about this.”
“SHUT UP! Do you think I would go against the colony, do you think I would let this pass unnoticed? This will have repercussions. You are done! You’ve damned yourself, you stupid child! I’ll make sure you’ll never touch another Life again!”
“No!” shouted Acantha as Cybele threw her to the ground.
Arcantha kicked at her, but it was no use. Cybele picked up Acantha’s speculum and smashed its lens onto the counter.
“There. It’s done. Now let me take this to the Council and –wait.” Cybele looked down at Acantha. “There’s more, aren’t there?”
Acantha sobbed as Cybele threw open her drawers.
“Ah, here they are,” Cybele said as she raised the satin bag out of the drawer. “Now, I’ll be going to the Council.”
Acantha watched Cybele as she walked out of the room, and then pulled herself off of the floor. Slowly, she made her way back to her counter, placing her hand on her speculum lens and choking back a sob.
Acantha traced the crack that was running through her speculum. The thin line shot diagonally across the lens, ending in a dizzying mess of distributaries near the bottom right. Everything was over. She would not grow to be a Mentor. She would have no occupation. There would be no use for her in the colony. She would be an outcast, working in the farming industry or becoming a laborer until she died.
No. Acantha wouldn’t go down without making a difference. More than ever now she had to make a change. She would be remembered before she was cast out.
Knowing it would take Cybele almost a half-day to travel to the Council’s Hall, Acantha spent hours in the atrium spinning together miracles. She used an outdated speculum that she had found in the storage room down the hall. She kept the miracles in a large disposal bag they used in the bathrooms where there were no shoots to the incinerator. The work was hard, but the room kept her company, and she spoke to it until the light was barely a sliver shining through the roof.
“It must be almost time for the Dream Catchers to start class,” Acantha told the room. “I’ll be back as soon as I can be.”
With that, she pulled at the bag and managed to haul it over her shoulder. Down the hall, she already heard the excited voices of the Dream Catchers, eager to spin the coming moonlight into some wondrous story.
Acantha hid in the storage room until the class passed, and then she made her way to her room. There she shoved the bag beneath her bed and laid down for some sleep. It was quite amazing that she even fell asleep. She was very excited to make her difference.
Acantha awoke to loud footsteps echoing down the hall. Hundreds of them it seemed.
“I’ve got quite an audience,” she said, smirking, and then fished the bag out from beneath the bed.
Looking out into the hallway, she saw a crowd of people walking towards her, Cybele guiding the wave. Acantha stepped out of her room and began to run the opposite way down the hall towards the atrium. Behind her, she heard Cybele as she yelled, for her to stop or for the crowd to pick up, she did not know.
Acantha tried to run fast, but the bag slowed her down more than she had intended. Cybele was gaining on her. She was only twenty yards back or so.
Racing around the corner, Acantha saw the atrium so close to her. She pumped her legs faster and raced through the doors, barely missing them as they pulled apart.
“I’ve brought some friends,” Acantha said to the atrium between breaths.
She started to walk towards the Speculum Vitae when she heard a loud rip.
“Get back here!” she heard Cybele scream.
The sound of miracles bouncing off of the marble floor echoed through the atrium. Acantha did not look back at Cybele. She did not look back to see how large the hole was or how much of the miracles she was losing. She only scurried forward, racing to reach the Speculum Vitae.
Suddenly, she heard a loud crash and turned to see Cybele sprawling over a large bench that was in her path, her body blocking the way for anyone else to get through.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
She began climbing up onto the base of the Speculum Vitae. She could hear Cybele already standing back up. Hurrying, she took the bag and threw it over the lip of the Speculum Vitae, turning back to smile at Cybele before pushing the hundreds of miracles into the lens. They all plopped in and disappeared underneath its surface. She watched the bag fall in along with them as a hand grabbed onto her ankle and pulled her down. It didn’t matter now. She’d won.
“I hope I’ve made you happy,” she yelled at the Speculum Vitae. She knew the Lives couldn’t hear her; she didn’t care. She only wanted to help them.
“Do you know what you’ve done?” yelled Cybele as she dragged Acantha to the door, but Acantha didn’t listen. She wondered where they would take her, what would be done with her now that she had gone against the ancestor’s laws.
Just as she was leaving the atrium, she swore she felt it relax in thanks.