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Volume 3, Issue 3, October 31, 2008
distant city
The Quantiversal Coefficient of Fate
by Jason K. Chapman

        Yahneesh followed the hooting and thrashing of the lizard creatures to a small clearing. Three of them were gathered around the base of one of the large, knotty trees that reminded her of the oaks of her home world. She rubbed her horse's neck and whispered for him to be quiet as, still mounted, she watched from cover. Her caution was wasted. The hunting party made a tremendous amount of noise. The creatures waved their flint knives at the thick canopy above them, bellowing challenges in the tones of conch shell horns. She hadn't seen them behave that way over the tiny, screeching primates that flitted defiantly through the high branches. Their prey was something else-something not from their world-or hers. She raised her rifle and three quick shots dropped them into a pile.
        "Come, Kedah," she said, urging her horse forward with gentle pressure from her knees. Kedah trusted her. He strode into the clearing, leaving the task of wary defense to her. Yaneesh's mother would be proud of her, behaving so much in the Kah Leshee, "The Way of the People." She spat what saliva she could muster onto the ground. Chingalo! Her mother would never be proud of her. Never had been.
       As a child, Yaneesh had shown herself to be both bright and fearless. She consumed her academics the way a wildfire swept through a dry plain, rushing years ahead of the other children. There was no timidity in her will. No uncertainty in her declarations. What she knew, she defended with vehemence. What she didn't, she assaulted without mercy.
       By the age of eight, she had already begun tackling differential equations. That was the year she had refused to partake in one of her mother's favorite ceremonies. She declared, instead, that ancestor spirits were a mathematical improbability. Clearly the rate of increase, based on population expansion, would quickly outstrip whatever medium sustained them.
       "Faith sustains them," her mother had said.
        But Yaneesh calculated that each succeeding generation would have to provide more and more faith to keep the rapidly accumulating crowds of ancestors. It would go on and on until the entire life of every person was devoted to nothing but believing. And still it could not be enough.
       "Why," the young Yaneesh asked without guile, "can't they have enough faith in themselves to survive? Then they wouldn't need us."
        Unshaken, her mother smiled. "It is we who need them."
        "It doesn't sound that way to me," said Yaneesh.
       Now, almost thirty years later, that argument was still going on. For the most part, there was no heat in it. It had burned itself out, becoming a ritual, as formal and rigid as any in her mother's traditions. The exchanges were inevitable, inescapable, predictable. They had the weight of destiny, something Yaneesh had come to understand.
        A round, white face peered down at her from a break in the tree's lush cap. It was Juarez again. She had known it would be. The universe-all universes-operated with mathematical precision.

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