Saturday, March 20, 2010



Shira was watching crops grow.

It sounded like some kind of Zen exercise in patience, but she really was watching her plants grow. The world had gotten more than a little surreal Post-Formula in the newly expanded Israel.

Today, her morning had started like any other...

Shira groaned and covered her head with her pillow when the siren in the center of town began to blare at 4:00 AM. Their neighborhood was assigned to their Quarter's corn sector today, one of the furthest from town. At least corn was better than rice. ANYTHING was better than rice. (Mama argued potatoes were worse, but Shira and here friends unanimously hated rice the most.)

As she stumbled out of her room and pulled on her clothing (no point in taking a shower yet) Mama, huge heavy bags under her eyes, had breakfast nearly finished. They got little enough sleep the way it was, Mama was killing herself trying to keep the rest of the family going. Father wasn't required to do Crop duty, since he had been drafted into Transport, and was stuck on a ship for the next month until he rotated back to being a Driver. Shira wondered if he was happy to get away, Mama had gotten so pale Post-Formula...

At least she was holding up so far. Yosef's mother had recently been hospitalized, but thankfully the paperwork went through for her before she succumbed to exhaustion, unlike poor Mrs. Cohen. Maya hadn't been the same since it had happened to her mother.

Shira staggered outside just as the Drivers pulled up and the townspeople piled into the trucks like so many sardines. Most of them dropped back off to sleep. Mama and David - Shira's kid brother - curled up in a space meant for one person, snoring within seconds.

Over an hour later the trucks finally stopped, and Shira jerked upright from where she'd been dozing. As everyone piled out Shira was glad to see that the seed truck had already arrived. She would have to work fast, she and Mama both had to plant twice the assigned amount. Many of the other townspeople did as well. They were a poor rural town, and couldn't afford to pay anyone more desperate than they were to do their 'civic duty' for them. The extra money from their patrons helped, though, even if it meant twice the work. That was why David had come. He was below the Age of Assignment, but had come to help Shira and Mama so they could make it to their real jobs on time.


After the trucks had dropped everybody back at the Drivers' stop, Shira walked home and took a quick shower before dressing and going to work. Eight hours later it was late afternoon and shira found herself nodding off at her job as a barista in the unusually quiet shop. The coffeeshops were one of the few establishments whose business had actually boomed among the lower classes Post-Formula. Business from the upper castes remained about the same, of course, not that there were many in their little town.

The moment the sun began to set Shira closed up shop, along with nearly every other business in nown, and trudged to the Drivers' stop. In less than ten minutes the Drivers arrived and the able-bodied in their town once again piled into the extremely uncomfortable trucks, and then fell asleep anyway.

David had been left home with his schoolwork. Harvest every evening went much faster than planting in the morning, at least when they were working in the corn sector. Shira, along with pretty much every other non-rich person in Israel, prayed that next week their assignment would be some kind of fruit, where the groves were already planted and the trees mature, so they only needed to pick the ripe fruit every day after sunset.

The trucks arrived alongside a few massive trailers that would haul away the day's crop. Sunset was still twenty minutes away, so the townsfolk got a short reprieve and stretched out for another nap. Shira sat down and watched the crops grow.

They were exhausted. Theywere virtually enslaved by Israel. But maybe they were lucky.

Their country paid its people barely a pittance for their work on the former-desert farms and on transport, and Israel's citizens had become cheaper than machines. This made vegetables, grains, fruit, and nuts obscenely cheap to export, so Israel became equally obscenely rich, and had bankrupted virtually every farmer in every other country in the world.

If a few people died of exhaustion before their medical/disability paperwork went through... well, that was just collateral.