Sage sat there, very still except for the light tapping of her hands, waiting to hear the knock on the door. She had already echolocated everything in the room – the chair, the table, even the small statue in the corner – so many times that she had memorized their locations without meaning to. Not for the first time, she felt the starchy material of her shirt and wished she could blend into the smooth, cool hardness of the walls like a cold, dead goddess.
Soon enough, there were three delicate, precise knocks on the door. Clearly, this was someone who had mastered echolocation more than most in their society of people with blind, useless eyes.
“Sage, they’re ready for you,” the organizer called. “Are you prepared for the concert?”
“Yes,” Sage replied simply. She stood up, trying to calm herself by breathing deeply. After all, she should be the one feeling the most confident about her upcoming performance.
As the two walked down the long hallway that led to the acoustically perfect hall, Sage could feel her heart beating rapidly. What comforted her was the steadiness of her clicks and the organizer’s as they walked. Click. It was such a simple sound, but it was soothing. Click. The organizer slightly adjusted his path toward the door. Click. Click. Click.
As they neared the door, Sage could feel her heartbeats relaxing into a comfortable rhythm. What more was there to do? She had rehearsed the haunting melody until it sang itself in her sleep. And, nowadays, the only mistakes that she made were imperceptible to the average ear. She was almost perfect.
* * *
After the concert, Sage was surrounded by her adoring fans, who flowed around her as if she were a leaf floating in the middle of their stream. Listening to their chatter, she almost felt as if she were stuck in a slightly alternate dimension, one in which she was not meant to truly fit in as one of their own.
One elderly couple stepped forward to express their love and admiration. “We’ve listened to all of your concerts since you were five years old,” they breathed almost in unison. “That was a truly excellent performance. You made us cry. In a good way, of course.”
As the couple clasped her hands in theirs, Sage couldn’t help but marvel at the ever-surprising wonder of human touch. Sound could convey the emotions, but hands told the truth. She could feel every line, every wrinkle, every scar, and she desperately hoped that, one day, her hands could be like theirs.
A loud throat-clearing erupted behind Sage. It was her voice teacher, who was waiting with warmth and pride. “Well done, Sage. Truly, well done. I see your dedication and your improvement. I just want you to know how proud I am of you.”
Sage smiled and blushed from the acknowledgement and the warmth of having been able to leave an emotional impact on her world. Feeling the need to be alone, she did her best to excuse herself from the crowd. Walking out of the room, she directed herself toward a window near The Edge, where she could feel a slight breeze. Somehow, Sage had always felt calmer whenever she got close to The Edge and its characteristic soft caress of wind. No one knew what was past the free, open air of The Edge, but she couldn’t help but feel that it was full of possibilities.
* * *
The scientist sat and stared at the screen, lab coat wrinkling under her weight. She stared at Sage and at the giant metal cage around her society, too fine for them to detect with their echolocation.
Her colleague peered over. “Oh, you’re watching the Songbird again. Do I need to remind you that we have a problem with Experiment 58C again? Ever since we gave them eyes, it’s been amazing how many rebellions we’ve had to put down.”
She chuckled wryly under her breath. “Don’t you mean Experiment 99B? You’re the only one around here who regularly talks about that girl as a songbird. I could also mention what a disaster Experiment 36A was. Perfect species? More like perfect annihilation.”
They watched as Sage held the last note of the song, obvious joy emanating from her very posture. He shrugged. “I don’t understand why 58Cs are so rebellious. The only difference between them and 99Bs is the number of functioning eyes. But they seem happier, somehow. More free,” he shrugged again, gesturing toward the screen.
She sighed. “I suppose you’re right about our little songbird. Now let’s get back to work.”
ASHLEY LAW is currently a senior in the wintry state of Minnesota, where the four seasons are pre-winter, winter, post-winter and construction. Despite having a long history with the STEM fields, especially math, maybe this time she’ll be a convert to the land of the humanities. This is Ashley‘s first publication.