Thorn of the Rose: Issue 25: Thorn’s Breaking Loose
Can you trust your dreams?
The hermit crab found Thorn, rather than Thorn finding it. Thorn and Stem were on their nightly rounds, looking for treasures they were absolutely sure they could get with no repercussions. (Measure thrice, steal once was Petal’s constant warning. And only steal from someone who can afford to lose it, who won’t squawk too much at getting it back. And steal only what we absolutely have to have.)
Word on the underground was that an older brownstone house slightly downtown was being renovated after a foreclosure—the keys who lived there had either gotten into debt or lost their jobs and moved quickly. So Stem and Thorn went in before the bankers and the builders to see what they could find first. In the boy’s room were star patterned wallpapers and Particle Dangers still hanging from the ceiling. A musty glass terrarium box stood in the corner farthest from the window.
Thorn looked in and nearly laughed at the pathetic looking claws wearily waving from a sunny shell carved over in a tourist’s dream of palm trees and sandy beaches. Gingerly, Thorn put a hand in the cage, and the crab slowly climbed up.
“Hurry up!” spat Stem as she passed the room.
“We need to go now!” Thorn got the crab and carried it on the top of all the other stuff in the backpack, keeping it as a guardian. When they tromped in with their loot and showed the crab to the admiring crowd of little ones, Sister Mary Magdalene dug out an old book from the 1970s, How to Care for Your New Pets, and Thorn devoured it.
"You are so like that crab,” Petal remarked the next day, “Good thing you rescued it, as it does seem to like you.”
“Just what, exactly, do you mean by that?” asked Thorn, sure that another lesson was on its way.
“I mean, all the hiding of all those calculations and programs you are doing. All that erasing and ensuring no one sees anything you do. You hide in your own shell too much, Thorn, and you come out too rarely.” Petal put her hand on Thorn’s shoulder and squeezed a bit. “Want to tell me about it?” From Petal, this was a command.
And so Thorn gave a command performance of the Spark, of all the thought and questions and answers that had gone into the possibility of allowing computers to think in Rose, to understand the multiplicity of meanings in commands, to hold contradictory thoughts at the same time. The first thing Petal said was a non-sequitar.
“Better name that crab of yours Potent,’ she said. “For that is a powerful dream.”
She sighed and motioned to him to walk through the Greenhouse. It was growing late now, and all of the children were on their mats, sheltered from the wind, the rain, the Illegal Killers who still targeted those without Registration, the no-keys. She straightened Melody’s hair, put Gilly’s dolly back in her arms, replaced a wet washcloth on Jimmy’s sprained ankle, and turned to Thorn.
“This is why you can not pursue that dream, that potential.” Petal murmured into Thorn’s ear. “You do see why you’ll have to give that up for a while, for now, don’t you? I can’t let your fooling around with computers interest the Agency. We have so little safety, and any glances from the Agency our way will destroy everything.” Thorn shook a vigorous no.
“I don’t.” Thorn replied. “It’s my dream. I won’t give it up.”
Petal shrugged. “Then I can’t help you. Just don’t do it here. Don’t let anything be traceable to us.” Thorn and Potent left the safety of the Greenhouse that night.