Queen City Jazz (Nanotech Quartet Series #1)

( 1 )

Overview

In Verity's world, nanotech plagues decimated the population after an initial renaissance of utopian nanotech cities. Growing up on an isolated farm, she finds her happy life changing course when Blaze, the only young man in the community and Verity's best friend, is shot. With Blaze's body wrapped in a nanotech cocoon, Verity sets off on a quest to the Enlivened City of Cincinnati. It is a place of legend, where huge bio-engineered bees carry information through the streets and enormous nanotech flowers burst ...

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Queen City Jazz

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Overview

In Verity's world, nanotech plagues decimated the population after an initial renaissance of utopian nanotech cities. Growing up on an isolated farm, she finds her happy life changing course when Blaze, the only young man in the community and Verity's best friend, is shot. With Blaze's body wrapped in a nanotech cocoon, Verity sets off on a quest to the Enlivened City of Cincinnati. It is a place of legend, where huge bio-engineered bees carry information through the streets and enormous nanotech flowers burst from the tops of strange buildings. It is the place where Blaze might be brought back from the brink of death. But Cincinnati is a city of dreams turned into nightmares, endlessly reliving the fantasies of its creator, a city that Verity must rule—or die.

"A first novelist of enormous talent and energy . . . she grounds her apocalyptic vision in a few short, finely detailed scenes that reveal how personal failings can become writ large in the great events of history."--The New York Times Book Review. A New York Times Notable Book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Unforgettable."

—William Gibson

"A dizzying novel that takes full advantage of the creative potential of nanotech."

The New York Times

"An unforgettable vision of America transfigured by a new and utterly apocalyptic technology. Greg Bear's Blood Music is perhaps the only other novel to have dealt so unflinchingly with the paradigm-shattering possibilities of a functioning nanotech. If a science fiction writer's job is to conceive the inconceivable, Goonan has arrived with an immaculate version of the traditional tool-kit—and the nerve to use it hard."

—William Gibson

"Goonan is one of the most imaginative authors in the literature of the imagination."

—David Brin

Praise for Queen City Jazz and Kathleen Ann Goonan

"Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan is a dizzying novel that takes full advantage of the creative potential of nanotech. ...For Ms. Goonan, the freedom to remake the world in one's own image poses a terrible temptation. ... a first novelist of enormous talent and energy ...In the end, what saves her novel from self-destructing through sheer exuberance is the way that she grounds her apocalyptic vision in a few short, finely detailed scenes that reveal how personal failings can become writ large in the great events of history."—The New York Times

"[In] this already-celebrated debut . . . Goonan has written one of the most original, thought provoking novels to emerge from American writing in some time."—Des Moines Register

"Richly imagined...Goonan displays a rare gift for grounding far-reaching ideas in beautifully crafted, almost magical prose."—Booklist.

"In the hands of Kathleen Ann Goonan, the science of science fiction becomes something lyrical and vividly human, and the intricately imagined future she presents is thus rendered completely plausible and poignant in the extreme. Queen City Jazz is hands down the best first novel I've read in the genre in the past ten years."

—Lucius Shepard

"Kathleen Goonan is one of the very few writers of science fiction, today, willing to work with the unfettered vistas of abject weirdness presented by the apocalyptic potential of really new technologies."—William Gibson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765307514
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Series: Nanotech Quartet Series , #1
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Ann Goonan lives in Lakeland, Florida.

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Read an Excerpt

One

True Simplicity

John was blue, steady as the blue light far down the abandoned maglev track; Verity and Cairo had walked down it one spring day when Verity was only ten though she was forbidden by Evangeline. Verity watched the light in wonder, thinking of John. It still received the hidden signal programmed into its chips, activated, John told her, by power stored in its solar battery.

Verity had flipped her straw hat back over her shoulders so that it hung by the string around her neck and watched the light for a long time before Cairo, her dog, grew restless and thrust the picture of home before her relentlessly, several times. It was a plain, white frame house on a low hill protruding from a glittering green sea of soy and corn, five miles from the Great Miami River. Solar power was allowed by the Scriptures, as long as it was not Enlivened, and they had several ancient panels on their roof which John had foraged from far-off Columbus.

Verity had gone with John, when she was little, urging the horse on with pictures of oats, though John thought it was the flick of his whip that moved the beast. The empty, deactivated City scolded them audibly for disconnecting the solar panels. It terrified and fascinated her. She begged to go back, but John had been more spooked than she, and it was several day's journey besides. One wagonload was all they got from Columbus. Cincinnati was closer, but it was still living, and the Scriptures absolutely forbade contact with an Enlivened City. John wasn't too comfortable about Dayton either, although it was only about ten miles away.

And if people were colors then Sare was yellow like warm golden cornmeal after it was ground at the mill on Bear Creek, or the sun just after it rose over the fields and forests of Western Ohio. Evangeline, Sare's twin sister, was hard and green like the emerald ring Verity wore on her right hand. They were both around forty.

Blaze, nineteen, was wild as an orange autumn sunset seen through the black branches of the bare orchard just before storm set in. That wild sound was in him too, of branches rattling furious in wind rushing from the flat plains to the west, crystallizing the sky with rapid frigidity. Verity loved weather, and weather's changes, and how people were like weather. She had once hooked into some old weathersats and eddied through years of the quickened flow of storm systems for several hours before John flung open the door of the evening-darkened library and rudely disconnected her, telling her roughly that she could read all she liked but to stay away from that and that she didn't need to know. That annoyed her. Weather, she told John, is very important to farmers and he said well that weather's a century old, a lot's happened since then.

But she often crept into that corner of the library afterwards and hooked herself in. Russ said it was all right, anyway. Anything in the library was for them all. John was not the boss. He only thought he was sometimes. The tiny bumps behind her ears where she hooked in hadn't been discovered till she'd been cleared, certified, and taken from Edgetown, just outside Cincinnati. At that time Verity was, by their best estimation, three years old.

Sare had told Verity how she had found the nubs, the second day Verity was with them. Sare was braiding Verity's hair when she felt the right nub with her little finger. "I trembled," she said. "Then I pulled back your hair for a better look. I'm not the fainting type, but I almost fainted then." Verity had been certified plague-free by a Certifier—an old man—in Edgetown. Verity didn't remember it, but apparently she was taken inside a small black building for a while and brought out with a nod. The Shakers had no idea what went on inside the building, just knew that they trusted the old man as he had been a friend of a long-dead Sister. Yet though she was plague-free, the nubs proclaimed her abnormal, and the source and effect of this anomaly was completely unknown to the Shakers and therefore to be feared.

They had called a Meeting immediately. Verity could imagine the arguments, but they loved her already and kept her of course, despite the unknown danger.

The Shakers had not dared venture back to Edgetown since they had added Verity to Shaker Hill, even though four Elders and two Elderesses had died and should have been replaced. They never really talked about it, but Verity knew it was because of her. The nubs behind her ears were proof of some sort of tampering; tampering which might infect the Shakers in some unknown way or even kill them. The Shakers took responsibility for her, but fear of the unknown kept them from returning to Edge-town for more children, and the community had dwindled. Twenty years ago, it had been thriving, with fifty Brethren, mostly very old people. The last of those old ones had died when Verity was a child.

But so far, in all the years of her growing up, Verity had posed no danger. She seemed quite normal. She knew she was lucky to be at Shaker Hill; they told her so, and she believed it. Her days and nights were part of a larger Shaker cycle bound to the land, exploiting nothing, using what they needed. They were all going to Heaven when they died, which was a lot like Ohio, all ordered and filled with the living light that Verity felt she saw everyone moving through fairly often, especially in the evening when they were preparing dinner, and sometimes when they all worked to get the hay in. Most of them did not like Cairo much. She had come wagging out of a thicket a few years earlier, and became Verity's dog. They were inseparable.

The rest of her family was a jumble of doors—the private rooms in which the Brothers and Sisters lived—and kind faces, arms that hugged, voices that scolded or more often gently corrected and instructed, a deep and wide community that held her in a hammock of relationships until she was sixteen, and taking in the triticale harvest by herself since Tai Tai was not feeling well that day.

Verity hadn't seen the Flowers since she was a child, but often longed for them with a shortening of breath, an ache in her chest, with a vision that spread out inside her mind like the growing light of day. And she had found it hard to believe that Bees were almost as large as humans (if they even existed at all, that is), but that day of harvest, when she was sixteen, she found that it was so.

Her back ached from bending over with the scythe. Her bike lay on its side a quarter mile away, at the top of the bank above the flood plain where she worked, its rust-flowered blue paint catching the sun. The Great Miami River glittered wide, deep, and olive-green, edged by a steep drop-off at the end of the field. It overflowed its banks each spring, making this fertile ground and worth the fifteen-minute bike ride. The remains of a small, old town, Miamisburg, lay across the river. The earthquake flood had swept much of it away. A few remaining sections of a fallen iron bridge lay tangled in the river below.

Verity's rhythmic swipes slowed as a foreign vibration entered her body even before she could hear it. Cairo, who had been lying in a cool thicket at the edge of the field, leaped up and whined.

Verity turned, shaded her eyes with her hand, and saw against the sun a small black dot which grew steadily larger.

It was following the path of the river.

And it was a Bee.

Sweat burned her eyes as she stared. She was twenty feet from the bluff overlooking the river, and wanted to run, take cover, but couldn't move. Her heart contracted in fear as she gradually realized how large it was.

Her entire body hummed as the Bee halted and hovered near her, over the middle of the river and about thirty feet above in the air. She was caught in the rush of air stirred by its wings, in the loud, lovely tone they gave forth in vibrating, almost as if the strength of the sound could lift her too.

Soft gold and brown bands circled its body and glowed in the sun. Its front was a black complication of shiny parts. The eyes that stared at her reminded her of the heart of a Black-eyed Susan. Pictures hummed in the air between them, and Cairo leaped up, stiff-legged, and began to bark.

A man's face was before her, half torn away and unrecognizable. Spurting blood and gray brains mixed with ivory splinters of bone. The remaining eye stared lifeless and she felt deep horror yet could not look away.

Vision segued insistently to a woman lying dead in a white room, her pale face washed by blinking green and blue lights. Deep anguish and inexplicable guilt seized Verity.

The next instant Verity stood on the edge of a high chasm surrounded by tall buildings. Far below flowed rivers of light. Across the chasm an impossibly huge iris moved in the night wind, filling her with deep happiness which switched suddenly to a darkness she fully believed would never, never end.

Her own anguished cry startled her. Her vision cleared. She saw the field, the river, the sky above.

And the Bee.

Faced with the hovering Bee, her hair blown back from her face by the wind from the vibrating wings, Verity knew with stunned and instant certainty that the pictures came from Cincinnati, yet did not know why she saw them, what they meant, or why they tore at her.

But she suddenly realized what would happen next.

"No!" she screamed, as the Bee pivoted, darted high into the blue sky, then plummeted full speed into the Great Miami River with a loud smack as it hit the water.

Verity ran to the bluff and plunged down the steep slope. Rough brush tore at her bare arms and clothing as she half ran, half slid down the hill, raising dust that made her cough.

She dove into the river and the current took her, frightening her: they usually swam upriver in a protected cove. Not here in the open river.

The Bee swirled fifty yards from her downstream, and slowly revolved so that its thin legs protruded upward, and Verity realized that it was dead, killed from impact or water—she did not know which but was saddened.

She trod water for a minute, struggling with the invasion of darkness and blood which filled her mind, feeling the cool, pure pull of the depths of the river, wondering what it would be like to dive deep and never come up, but flow along the bottom in long, powerful surges and never take of air again but breathe only lovely, cool green water.

The Bee's last thought eddied from her and she shivered.

Cairo's frantic barks brought her back. She was flotsam in the river, rushing toward Cincinnati.

With a powerful kick, she oriented herself and angled toward the base of the old maglev bridge, and scrambled ashore on slippery mud, gasping, while Cairo danced around her, licking her face, sending an icon at which she laughed: an empty bowl.

She hugged the dog, taking in the smell of her, the hot furry prickle of short black fur against her bare arms. Cairo closed her jaws gently on Verity's forearm and let go, leaving small white indentations where her teeth had been.

Verity got up. It was a long walk back to the field, and she still had a tenth of an acre to harvest before dark.

At that moment, when she was wringing water from her shirt, the second miraculous thing happened in the day she later called the day of miracles, though the miracles were dark and strange and troubling, but she felt from the Scriptures that that was what a miracle was: something which thrust itself on you that you did not understand, something which frightened you, something which gave direction, something which glowed in the dark of night like the radio stone.

She heard faint singing. It was a still day, near the very end of high summer, and hot, with no breeze, almost stifling. That's why she could hear them out there, the Rafters, not their words really, but their tune, rising and falling.

She stood dripping on the bank, breathing hard, and they swept around the bend that hid Dayton—a good City for foraging things like jars for preserving, and safe too as it had never been Enlivened. Though John was as frightened of it as if it had been.

She counted ten of them, all standing, all staring forward: Norleaners. They must have gotten split off the Old Ohio up toward Steubenville, on the West Virginia line. About sixty years ago during the earthquake the old riverbed of the Ohio, which once flowed crosswise past the south end of the Glacier at the end of the last ice age, had opened. Part of the river filled its old bed again and swelled the Great Miami River. At least that's what Blaze told her, that the ancient sideways Ohio River still flowed close to the surface under the farm, that's why their well pipe only had to go down ten feet, and that's why the gravel of Bear Creek was smooth round moraine stones, because it had been glacier scoured.

John just said that the earthquake, which happened before he was born, had been one of the Signs.

Rafters rarely came this way, though—at least not the informed ones. It was much more hazardous, with raw new cliffs dropping into the river, and islands everywhere. Mostly they ran aground way upriver before they got too far down this new branch.

Verity gazed upriver as the raft approached. There was a wigwam in the middle—all of the rafts had one or more, depending on the size, for shelter.

A woman stood at the till, tall and straight and then leaning hard against it. Maybe she was the one shouting and sobbing.

Verity watched without moving, knowing that something important and vital was unfolding before her. She'd never seen Rafters by herself before, and only twice earlier when she was with Blaze and he grabbed her away roughly saying that was something she oughtn't see and that they had to stay far away from the plaguers.

One of them slumped onto the raft. The steerswoman let go of the stick and shook the person—a woman, Verity thought—but the ghostly singing of the rest continued. The first woman screamed and kicked the second overboard with short, hard kicks, rolling her closer to the edge until she slipped off and was swallowed by the river. The raft swirled in an eddy and Verity watched it all happen again, the distant, dull splash of the second body into the river, the harsh scream of the woman, and the cheerful song of the others who were still aboard.

Cairo flattened her ears and bolted upriver as if she'd caught sight of a fox.

The sun stood bold overhead like a great ball of brilliant silent sound, beating into Verity, as, down by the bridge, she saw a third body shoved into the river.

• • •

"You didn't wear your hat today," scolded Evangeline, as Verity wearily pushed open the screen door to the house and let it slam behind her. Evangeline put the back of her hand to Verity's cheek and pulled it away, saying, "It's a burn and you can only survive so many with your fair skin. You've had at least three and you're still only sixteen. Be more careful, girl!" She shook her head and went back to breaking eggs into a bowl on the counter. A cake, Verity hoped.

Verity had hooked into an old pharmacological volume one time and had seen how skin cancer had grown exponentially during the last century, after the brief solar flare that disrupted radio communications. She also knew there had been cures—something to do with genes—that Shakers were forbidden by Scripture to use. Anyway, Evangeline was just being overprotective.

"Sorry," she mumbled, saying nothing about the Bee or the Rafters, her own miracles, though it might be selfish. They would figure out some way to make them vanish, or not miracles, or perhaps they would believe her and become alarmed or angry.

Evening sun filled the western windows, and the curtains Blaze had woven, intricate with tiny turquoise triangles and rose-pink stripes, flared into the large dining hall with each puff of wind, lazy as a turtle's swimmy breath.

Evangeline stirred the pot of triticale, which boiled in great slow spits of filmy liquid, and Verity glanced in and saw orange bits of carrot and wrinkled her nose at the pot of turnips, which she actively disliked. No meat tonight. That was all right with her. She never ate it, though she would hunt for rabbits if they insisted.

Ev raised one black eyebrow at her so that it slanted on her white face like a crow's wing, and Verity sighed and crossed into the dining hall and began to take the chairs down off the wall. Eight, slid in around the generous oak table, and then eight of Blaze's napkins, the splotched ones dyed in beet juice and then striped green, despite John who invariably complained that stripes were expressly forbidden by the Millennial Laws, and maybe the lamp to light because night was coming sooner now.

Verity heard the tramp of feet on the porch. The kitchen door opened and Sare danced in, her face flushed, twirling so her skirt stood out and John followed, much bluer in Verity's opinion than usual, more full of whatever made him so blue though it could not be sex since Shakers were celibate but maybe, she thought, love, which was allowed. A rare smile lit John's face as he stood very still, and watched Sare.

For a moment it was as if no one else was in the room. John took a step toward Sare, holding the basket of apples they had picked as if they were an offering.

Then he turned his head, saw Verity and Evangeline and blinked, as if they had appeared quite suddenly. His smile vanished, and his eyes were tinged with sadness.

"Just about the last of the apples," John said abruptly, and hoisted the heavy basket up on the kitchen counter. Transparent, they were called, one of the genetic patents as was every squirrel, fox or deer. The animal's copyright stamp generally grew in fur patterns behind the right ear, though sometimes Verity found one between the legs as pigmented skin. She only knew about the apples because Blaze had told her. Not that she believed everything he said.

"Send that dog right back outside," commanded Sare, and Verity tried not to be annoyed. She was lucky to be able to keep Cairo, since it said there right in the Millennial Laws, Section VII: "No Believer is allowed to play with cats or dogs, nor to make unnecessary freedom with any of the beasts of the field, or with any kind of fowl or bird," and also, "No dogs may be kept in any family gathered into order." And also that they may not be called by any Christian name, so Cairo was a place, but Verity didn't see why they bothered with that rule at all seeing as how dogs were forbidden to begin with. Cairo had been the subject of many a Meeting, but they were also forbidden to hurt any animal (as if killing for meat wasn't hurting, and Shakers had always eaten meat) and she refused to leave, so they finally accepted her. Verity had never told anyone that they shared pictures in their minds—that would have been it. If they believed her.

She yanked open a drawer to get out the silverware, but pulled it too hard, so that the whole drawer crashed onto the floor, because an odd feeling surged in her seeing John and Sare so happy together.

She stood looking at the mess on the floor and without thinking said, "I saw a Bee today."

Everyone in the kitchen—John, Sare, Evangeline, and now Blaze, just coming in the door—said, "Where?"

• • •

Ev asked the Blessing—"We give thanks, O Lord, for this gift of life pure, untainted and human," and after they all held hands and listened to the curtains flap during the Moment of Silence they all started in on Verity again.

"I could not have fished it out, I didn't even touch it" said Verity for what seemed like the hundredth time, wondering why she was supposed to avoid such things and why at the same time there was this devouring curiosity. She resolved for sure not to tell them about the Rafters, and most especially not the way some of them had been pushed off the raft.

Blaze was hurt and angry that she had not told him immediately. John was concerned and asked careful, precise questions about what it looked like and how high it had flown and things she couldn't really remember or report to his satisfaction though he asked again and again.

Verity could see that Sare was itching for dinner to be over so that she could run to her room and put something down in her Book, full of neat words and numbers, where she measured flower petals, counted how many carrots you could expect from a single seed after four generations, and wrote down the results of her plague screens, which she got from a little machine which hummed and sat away from the main buildings in its own little house, the only thing allowed here from the Years of the Flowers. Because otherwise they might all die, or worse, be made so strange that they couldn't get to Heaven.

Tai Tai looked severe, as usual, thin and tough as a bramble vine and most concerned about purity and the Olden Ways. She knew the most about the Years of Flowers, and she also said the least. "It's best forgotten," she would say.

Ev had told Verity that Tai Tai's entire family had been trapped and eaten right near the Eastern Seam of Cincinnati, when the Conversion had surged out of control, and how when they had found her as a girl, those old Shakers who had passed over, she wouldn't speak. They observed her for a week before they made their decision: a thin girl of ten who each morning took a stick of incense to the Seam, which was a rather rough part of Edgetown and not fit for little girls. While the morning light brushed the smooth wall, high as the skyscrapers within because of course it was the half-formed embryo of new ones, she burned the incense, glared at the wall, then left to do her scavenging. She kept herself neat and clean and her hair braided, and the Shakers were impressed and rescued her. Since childhood she had kept a journal of numbers and symbols which Verity had once peeked at, wondered at: brackets, dots, numbers, letters, all jumbled together crazy and tight.

It was she who had admitted to Verity when Verity was young and waking up from nightmares and jumping trembling and crying into her bed each night that the Flowers on tops of the buildings—Verity's nightmares—were real. Real, and living, as alive as the hydrangea bushes which crowded around the house. "Ah, those evil Flowers—why do you ask me such things?" She had hugged Verity tight, her nightgown crisp white in the moonlight that poured through the window and brushed the green and yelow quilt with dim color. "They are genetically engineered. Huge. When they raised their heads from the buildings, when they bloomed, we were all so frightened, we ran…horrible that such huge Flowers could be alive…nan is evil, a sin against God and humanity." Verity remembered nothing after that except crying, and that Tai Tai had refused to talk about them ever again, but strangely enough Verity could sleep after that, and her dreams of the Flowers were happier. Yes, Tai Tai said nothing at this news about the Bee, but she didn't eat much, and stared out the window. Her thin ebony face was drawn and her lips were tight.

And Russ, the old man, whom Verity loved, joked a lot, his round bald head glowing gently after they lit the lantern. He said, "Well, Verity, there was your chance to get away from us old folks. Why didn't you just jump on its back and ride away?"

Tai Tai glared at him.

Russ turned to Tai Tai and said, "I guess you want her to be just like you, old woman. You've never had a man in your bed and all these years I've been so willing," with a wink round the table while Tai Tai's mouth tightened even more. She threw down her napkin and huffed off.

"You shouldn't tease her like that, Russ," said John, but it wouldn't make any difference. This was Russ's house, and he'd grown up in it as a boy, before his parents had turned it into a Shaker Community. He made no secret of the fact that he'd had sex and thought it wonderful.

"It doesn't have to involve reproduction," he'd told Verity once, when she was little and standing next to him while he pruned the apple trees. Her job was to run off with the fallen sticks and pile them for kindling. "But these lily-livered souls are afraid it might, and I don't blame them. There are dangers—I don't deny it. Maybe I was just lucky. And you never know what might come out, nosiree—ha! Might be a clutch of dragons, or a woman so all-fired smart that she puts the sun to shame, like Tai Tai. Not that that's bad, but Tai Tai seems to think it is. Poor thing. Or people who see things different than they do. That's the problem, now that the genes are all mixed so strange, people are just afraid of what might happen, that's all—at least these people." He sighed, and clipped, then said, "Well, they definitely got the population under control," as if he was talking to himself, but then said, "Verity, when you get older, keep in mind that you don't have to stay here forever. These are the best folks on the earth, but they ain't the whole of it, and you strike me as a girl who might want to know more."

Verity had wondered about the dragons for a long time, and when she finally asked Ev about them, she snorted and said, "Don't listen to everything that silly old man says." So when Russ told her about the Bees, even though the Shakers all seemed to agree that such Bees really existed, Verity took it as just one more story. One of Russ's grand and casual exaggerations, like the dragons.

Until now.

Evening was the time of day which most seemed as if it might be like Heaven, when they cleaned up. They all moved around the farm kitchen in motion harmonious as dance. Blaze sat down at his hammered dulcimer ("Trying to slither out of work again?" asked Russ) and picked out some tune that he made up as he went along, then did a little Bach, and started in on a Rafter song. He could slip them past Sare if he didn't sing the words—she hated them.

• • •

I've got a mule and her name is Sal

Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

She's a good old worker and a good old pal

Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.

• • •

Only, of course, since they were all around listening he just played the tune, and Verity thought the words as he winked at her, thinking about the other horrible thing she had seen today and wondering why she didn't tell them about it too.

Blaze had taken Verity over near Miamisburg one spring day when she was thirteen, and showed her the old canal bed. "Two hundred years old," he said. "Look." He knelt and picked up some sticky crumbly black stuff. "Asphalt. There was a little airport here too—you know the Wright brothers lived over in Dayton, don't you? Russ's great great great—well, something like that—some far-back grandfather used to be one of their customers. They had a bike shop. I believe this railroad line was in use at the same time. Four means of transportation running side by side."

"How do you know all that?" she asked, staring at the shallow indentation. "It just looks like a ditch. I can barely see it. It's not very deep."

Didn't have to be," he said. "Couldn't be. It was a lot of work to dig the things. They hardly had any machines then. It was a lot like now. The bottoms of the boats were flat. Mules pulled them. Read it in a history book in the library."

He claimed an old steam railroad had run right through the southeast corner of the yard by the house, too, and that he could see the ghost train, but that it never stopped even when he tried to flag it down. Verity had poked around trying to find a trace of tracks, but never had. Blaze was crazy about trains. After the cities had become allergic to each other, the maglev tunnels that crisscrossed North America had all been blown up, to keep the contagion from spreading, but Blaze was constantly trying to find out if they'd ever surfaced in Dayton, and if so, where.

"Show me the exact book—the exact page—where it tells about the canal," she told him. It was best to check his references. She jumped down into what he was calling a canal bed, landed on her feet in tall dry grass, and thrashed around some to scare possible snakes. She caught him out, sometimes—he made a lot of stuff up, and she'd believed all of it when she was little and felt silly about it now. He was always talking about going to the train station in Cincinnati too, which was clearly impossible.

"Maybe I will, Demon," he said, and grabbed her by her thin shoulders and squeezed hard, stared into her eyes with wide green eyes that didn't blink, then jumped away. "Race you home," he said, his voice catching in a funny way, and of course he won. Blaze's Gifts were baseball, music, caring for the three plow horses and the five sleek swift riding horses, and running very fast. A lot of Gifts, really, when the only one she had was Dance.

Verity wiped dishes and looked out the window over the sink, at the night sky sprinkled with new-evening stars delicate like they were at this time and not blazing and strong like on a winter midnight. Everyone else had finished and was getting the other room ready for Evening Meditation. Russ said that all this drudgery stuff was taken care of by nan in Cincinnati, because of Enlivenment. "But you never know what them things might be up to next," he'd said with a smile and a wink, just as if the biggest fear of everyone else was another jolly joke to him, who once went all the way to Denver on the maglev in the golden days of the end of the Years of the Flowers. Blaze's Book was full of Russ's stories, scribbled in a wild hand she could barely read.

And her own Book?

She wiped the last dish and put it on the shelf, wiped down the counter, and put the drain board away under the sink. Everything was clean. She turned the lamp down and stood in the dark for a moment, listening to night sounds through the open window—the orchard soughing in the light breeze, and dying crickets singing. She thought of what she had to add to her Book now.

The Bee hovering above her, of course, but how would she show how it had measured her with those strange and wondrous eyes?

Her Book was full of pictures, which made it hard to show some things—but easier, maybe, to show others. That was what always came out. Just pictures. Sometimes she wondered why. Why didn't she use words, like Blaze, or numbers, like Sare and Tai Tai?

She heard Blaze play a few chords on the pump organ, then they began:

• • •

Of the Mother's love begotten,

Ere the worlds began to be,

She is Alpha and Omega,

She the source, the ending She

Of the things that are, that have been

And that future years shall see

Evermore and evermore.

• • •

Verity hung up her towel and went in to join them at the second verse.

They sat still on their benches in the Meeting Hall, quiet after the hymn.

Verity felt the Great Blessing echo through her body, unfolding like a flower of light which drew brilliance from the air around her straight into her body, and then it gathered into the center of her bones, concentrated, bright, and rushed upward through her spine until it flowered somewhere above the top of her head.

She began to jerk, but paid little attention to it—the way her head snapped forward on the end of her spine, so that her hair brushed her cheeks. She jerked like this about five minutes, and the light within her grew more bold and warm, and if she opened her eyes she knew that all would be bathed in the light, and when she looked at the faces of those around her it would be as if this had all happened a million times before.

The light pulled her from her seat, and she walked to the middle of the floor, straight, yet fluid, as she felt the Dance form and then propel her.

She whirled, as if on ice skates on Bear Creek. She spun, then stopped suddenly, held out her hands, palms upraised, and began a complicated, repetitive step.

She heard Blaze begin to play once more, as if from far away, a melody which hummed like a swarm of bees, then burst like bright flowers within her vision, and she heard the shuffling steps of others as, one by one, they joined her. She opened her eyes and watched as she and they scattered, re-formed, swirled, and finally stopped, all in the same moment, as if they had practiced but they had not: this Dance, this manifestation of her Gift, was new.

Later that night, she wrote the Dance into her book, in her usual way, with circles, x's, and arrows. This Dance was done in five parts, easily remembered, but this way she could pass it out to the others and they could add it to their collection. Not that it seemed really necessary. She just liked to do it.

They had found that they were of one mind about her Dances. Sometimes, during Meeting, one of them would rise, and dance a few steps, and the others, remembering exactly, would join in, and for a time they would be part of something larger. Dancing had been a big part of what the Old Shakers had done, and until Verity, the New Shakers had just imitated old pictures and descriptions.

She closed her Book. It had been a very good day. First the miracles, and then her Gift had visited her. How could she want anything more?

She put on her nightclothes and turned down the lamp. She lay down, with the window open, then reached under her pillow and touched on the radio stone.

Tonight, it worked.

Copyright © 1994 by Kathleen Ann Goonan

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