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“I don’t want to!” Five year old Essimaturi screamed from under the nourishment dispenser sink.
She had been transfered during her last radon cycle when her father became associate chef on Cloud Colony Hnvepaa. At bed time, her parents had explained about a ‘new adventure’ on a new colony.
Essi thought about her friends at the Hnvapaa Elementary Child Collective she only just started to attend.
Her mother opened the door under the sink. Essi dove into the metal box where her mother scooped all the broccoli and whatever else Essi refused to eat.
“Essi! No!” Mother screamed and reached into the first compact chamber.
Essi squeezed into the second darker chamber. No body could get her there. No body was going to make her move to another colony. Maggimaturi would still share her lunches and Terramaturi would share her antigravity ball and everything would keep going just like it always had since she started the collective.
“Essi, you come out right now.” Mother put on her threatening voice.
“Essi, dear, I have cookies.” Mother put on her bribing voice.
“Essi …?” Mother wept.
Essi waited the silence out. This was worth more than cookies and tears.
“Frabble,” Mother’s tearful voice called out Father’s name. “She’s in the trash compactor!”
Essi heard Father through the walls of the metal box. He wasn’t with Mother. They were speaking on the ‘phone' thing. “How did she get in there? When is the next cycle due?”
Mother gasped and her voice came nearer. “I haven't cleaned up breakfast. It's still sterile from last night." Mother gasped. "It says the next cycle is in fifteen minutes. Oh Frabble!”
“Calm down. You’re going to have to shut it down. I’ll work from this end.”
“But Frabble! If I push the wrong button, I’ll initiate the cycle early. Our little baby will be jettisoned,” Mother wailed.
Jettisoned. Essi's friends had told her that’s what happened to bad children at the collective. They shot out a tube in the colony exhaust and floated away.
Mother’s sobs continued while Father tried to sound calm. “You have a choice. Shut down the unit or secure Essi. Secure her by getting her out the way she got in, or tie a rope around her. When the cycle engages …”
“Essi! Please!” Mother pleaded.
Essi trembled. She pushed on the flap she had come through. “Mommy!” She cried when the flap only rattled. Her high pitched wail echoed within the cramped metal box.
“Come out, honey! Just push …”
“I can’t! I’m stuck!”
Mother breathed in and out. Her voice warbled. “Ok, Essi.”
A crack of light reached the little girl in the depths of the metal box and Mother’s hand touched the top of her head.
“I’m pushing the door you went through. Can you squeeze out?”
The flap pushed Essi further into the box.
Mother’s hand disappeared.
“Mommy!” Essi pounded her fists against the flap.
The flap pushed back.
“Essi, dear. Mommy needs her hand back in again. Can you back up a little?”
“Mommy, I’m scared!”
“Yes, I know. Daddy is coming and we’ll get you out. But first we need to tie a rope around you. There are going to be some scary noises and whooshing air, but if we get the rope around you, you can hold my hand and wait for the noises to stop and daddy will come and we’ll get you out.”
While she talked, Mother pushed against the flap and Essi backed up.
“I don’t want to.” Essi pouted.
Mother’s hand disappeared.
Mother’s hand reappeared. “Here’s a cookie, baby. Now listen to Mommy. Sit still while I wrap the rope …”
The back wall of the second chamber trembled. Noises started far away. Mother whimpered and her hand shook as she felt around Essi’s middle. Essi held her arms up and snugged the rope around her chest.
The noises grew louder. The roped tightened.
The back of the box opened like a Dardicle Planet-eating worm. It sucked Essi’s hair and dress toward its mouth.
“Hold tight, baby!” Mother yelled over the noise. Her hand gripped Essi’s upper arm. “I tied the rope tight around me too. You’re not going anywhere. The noises will go away in a moment. Don’t cry, baby! Don’t cry!” Mother wept.
Water sprayed all over Essi, soaking her cookie. Her hair stuck to her face. Her seat slid on the metal floor. She cried louder than ever but water got in her mouth.
The rope pulled so tight around her chest she could hardly breathe. Her feet slid into the opening.
“Essi! Essi!” Father called. His hand joined Mother’s gripping her arm.
For a long time the air sucked and the water squirted. Essi stopped screaming. She shivered uncontrollably.
The water stopped squirting. The air stopped whooshing. Essi tugged her feet back as the mouth in the back wall closed.
Banging and screeching on metal jolted her deeper into silence. Light cracked and then rippled over a jagged edge in her prison. Mother’s arm pulled.
“Careful,” Father warned. “Easy over the cut edges.”
Essi emerged dripping, her lower lip quivering into her parents’ embrace. They held onto each other tighter than the rope.
“I don’t want to.” Essi declared later. “I don’t want to live here anymore.”
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