The conclusion to a New Year story about an ancient ceremony and the struggles of a modern politician.
Thank you to anyone who’s been reading this story! Feel free to leave feedback in the comments – this story was mainly meant as a practice to work on my skills (although I enjoyed writing it a lot), so it’ll be useful to hear what you thought.
I’ve got a few other pieces I’ve been working on so I might try to keep up this one-story-part-a-month approach. Make sure you subscribe if you want to read more. And make sure you have a nice day even if you don’t.
Ishkisa, Kylan, 1st Pluvos 998.
The rest blurs together. There’s a hissing sound, and Losyrki is engulfed with warm air, erasing every speck of water and leaving her with a sense of stillness and purification. Her mind is at once clearer than ever and dazed beyond recognition. She collects her clothes and belongings from the locker and takes a moment to watch the stream fade as she gets herself together. The liquid floods through the inner workings of the temple so it can freeze back into the glacier.
As she returns to the central atrium, she comes face-to-face with someone who had barely passed through her mind since she left the capital.
“Senator Devig. I hope you took my advice on doing some thinking while on your spiritual journey.”
“Oh- happy new year, Osi. I- It’s just- what are you doing here?”
“They put out an order to find you ASAP, and I think I’m the only one who knows for sure where you went. I’m going to take it you haven’t heard the news.”
Losyrki rolls her eyes, hiding her concern. “I’ve been in an ancient temple with no phone and no signal. What’s ‘the news’?”
“The government security vote was a tie. They couldn’t decide, Syrkk. And then, you know how there’s an old, weird law for everything just so some special case works? Since it’s technically the year after the vote took place, and since they haven’t taken any action based on it, everyone gets to vote again if they haven’t already. I guess it made more sense for whatever it was added for, but, okay, the point is – I’m here to get you back home to decide whether or not to make the government security bill into a law.”
Losyrki doesn’t freeze. She says a quick thanks to Gorel, then pulls her coat around herself and follows Osi outside, back down through the village and onwards to the airport.
The two chat while they wait for the plane – exceptional circumstances still can’t afford private transport. They avoid talking about the decision itself, but Losyrki has an idea of how she’ll vote, and becomes increasingly sure of it as the hour goes on.
“How’s everything going at home?” she asks Osi.
“Oh – well – there were big new year parties, lots of singing in the street, you know the thing. Esfas took down your fairy lights.”
“I meant- wait, he did? Fine, I’ll dig out the backup. But I meant your home, Osi. I know you’ve been finding it tough with your family.”
“You do? I thought you weren’t listening when I went on about that.”
Losyrki smiles, making Osi frown even more. “Of course I listen. I just don’t have much to say.”
Osi calms, then tenses again. “Well, it’s really my sister who’s in trouble. She’s been working for the family business ever since she left school, and now they’re getting divorced, it’s… well, she has to be around them all day, and she doesn’t have anywhere else to go, and- and-”
Losyrki rests her hand on Osi’s shoulder, feeling her relax, restoring the stillness she relied on. “If she needs a place to stay, I could do with a new roommate anyway. There must be a tonne of jobs in Kylantil. Somebody has to clean those cafés, right?”
“What happened to you in that temple?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I should have brought you along.”
“You couldn’t do that! Somebody has to clean your mess back at Tower Hall.”
Losyrki laughs for the first time this year, and it’s a warm, fond, meaningful laugh. Afraid she’s having too much fun in her decisionmaking, she picks up the briefing notes she read through last time she was waiting for a flight. She sees the last entry and wonders if she has a way to help Gorel, or at least people in his position.
The jingle rings once more, and the two head towards the gate. They grasp each other’s hands, but neither is sure whether it’s for guidance or comfort.
Snow has a remarkable ability to merge the world together. From the plane, the cavernous parks of Kylantil look just the same as the stalagmite-like skyscrapers that surround. There’s something soothing about seeing somewhere you’re used to being the same all the time suddenly look so different, and so beautiful.
A swarm of reporters and government workers spring upon Losyrki as soon as she hits Skiriq Street, the government building leaning over her from the end of the track. In the 20 hours she’s been gone, the story seems to have become a national hit, warming people with anticipation in the midst of winter boredom. She doesn’t need the extra pressure, but she’s known worse.
The two battle their way to the frozen front doors, the long-broken glass on the right still covered in temporary boards. Even the reception staff are excited to see her. Tower Hall must have come to a standstill while she was up north.
Silence hits in the elevator up to the fourteenth floor. Losyrki and Osi glance at each other for reassurance as the doors open to reveal a crowd of senators anxious for a resolution. Osi pushes through, beckoning Losyrki into the meeting room, the crowd following, but Losyrki decides to make a stop in her office first, despite the pressure to hurry.
It only takes a couple of rapidly open-and-shut drawers before she drags out a replacement set of festive lights. With all eyes – including Esfas’ – watching, she drapes the lights across her doorframe and switches them on.
Satisfied, she at last heads after Osi, and steps up to the central platform as the assortment of politicians and journalists file into the pews. With the whole parliament suddenly held in rapture by Losyrki Devig, she decides it’s her chance to make an address.
“Senators, assistants, and people of parliament of any kind. I could say that I hope this is the last time our government is interrupted like this, but this is Kylan. Anything can happen, and anything will happen. So, instead, we’ll be better off enjoying it while it lasts. And why can’t it last longer? We-”
“For Byri’s sake, Devig, shut your mouth and cast the vote.”
She frowns at the interruption, but is secretly glad to stop before anyone notices her speech doesn’t mean much. An official points her towards the makeshift voting booth that’s been set up for her, a poorly-thought out way of shielding her vote from a room of people who are about to find out what it is regardless.
Losyrki breathes carefully, clouded by the mixed scent of aged wooden benches and freshly-printed paper. She instinctively puts her head down and takes the marker offered to her. She gives herself one moment more, then scores a cross on the form.
The crowd surrounding her stadium is more glad it’s over than anything else, relieved that the entire democratic system managed not to break down today. A solitary whoop is shortly followed by the mass shuffling of feet. Before they know it, Osi and Losyrki are left alone, the chamber feeling suddenly vast and silent.
“Do you think we should get a drink?” Osi asks her.
Losyrki closes her eyes, at long last defeated. “I’m not going to say no.”
The spark that was driving Losyrki since the year began has dropped, replaced by the sludge of exhaustion. The temperature remains harsh, but sunlight is starting to filter through the snow.
Their chosen pub, the Fond Memory, is an old favourite of her party. The opposition have their own preferred brewhouse, and occasionally there are invasions by those who wish to stir up trouble under the guise of making some sort of point. Now it seems like everyone’s more determined to leave her alone.
Losyrki keeps her head down as footage of her speech pops up on the television behind the bar. Underneath, a banner declares the result: “GOVERNMENT TO RECEIVE NEW SECURITY MEASURES”.
“It didn’t really matter, did it?” she muses, “All the country’s fuss and nonsense brought together for a law that’s not going to change much at all.”
“I’m sure it’ll go down as some sort of notable circumstance,” Osi remarks, “Congratulations, Syrkk, you’ll be a trivia question.”
“Well, it’s something to drink to.”
As the two clink glasses, Osi thinks back to the itinerary she prepared for Losyrki as she rushed out the door a couple of days ago.
“So, are you coming to the party for the new police chief?”
“Yeah… It’s a tough gig, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. You have to deal with all the worst of humanity, but with all the pressure of keeping the best safe. I’m not gonna envy him.”
“And ours. Sometimes I think- sometimes I’m not sure if we’re the worst or the best. Maybe we shouldn’t let the police protect us if that’s not what the people want. We all serve them, don’t we? They don’t serve us. But sometimes it seems backward. All those rebel groups popping up… If they don’t want our authority, maybe they shouldn’t have it.”
Osi’s sharp blue eyes enlarge in alarm. “It’s too late to change your mind now!”
“I know. I just have to hope I got it right. Sure, you know what, I’ll go to Ryril’s party. It’s too late to change him now. We’ll just have to hope he’s right.”
Inevitable disappointment seeps into Losyrki now that the excitement is all over. Her hasty farewell to Gorel feels like it wasn’t enough. She’ll just have to go to the ceremony again at the end of this year, and hope she can find him again. That’s an issue with Seluam types, she thinks – they’re the kind that stay off-grid, can’t be tracked down. The details she was sent when she applied for the ceremony didn’t even name him, only mentioning that she’d be met by a guide.
“Any plans for your year, Osi?”
“Well, I guess I’m going to be with my family a lot. Really, I just want to see what happens and… enjoy it while it lasts.”
“I see where this is going. Don’t you dare quote one more word of my speech.”
Osi points out a repeat of it on the TV and Losyrki covers her face again in disgust.
“How about you, Syrki?”
“I don’t know. I guess- I reckon I’ll support that Seluam project.”
Osi’s eyes grow bigger than she thought possible.
“The foreign aid idea? Didn’t I hear you ranting about how stupid that was like, last week?”
“It’s not fair that we, I don’t know, we get to have drinks and not worry about our family getting murdered.”
Losyrki tenses her arms with an icy determination normally only seen on election night. ”We can improve people’s lives. Why wouldn’t we take that chance? Maybe I’ll even go with her. Be part of that first party that helps the Seluam.”
“Anything can happen,” Osi sighs.