Flash: Toleration (Fence Post Part 2)

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

The crowd pulled back, like water from a stone, when Malik landed on the sand near the queue to enter the Primary’s sector. As he walked through the line toward Noor, the line parted then immediately reformed. No one wanted to be late or be noticed.

Silver-trim passed through the guard post without incident as the more attentive guards shifted their focus to backing up the Bird’s Eye Sentinel.

“Noor, Noor.” Malik tisked.

The street sweeper slowed to a halt, dropping his eyes to Malik’s mechanical legs. “Sir, I can explain.”

“Three times this month.” Malik shook his head. “Three times.”

“We have a new baby,” the man blurted out.

“Your second daughter had a baby, you did not. Your wife did not.” Malik kept his back to the line, noting blue-shoes had returned after a four-day absence. Today might be the day. Blue-shoes always carried herself with an aura of power under her burka. “Your son-in-law has not been late, your wife promptly checks through daily, your daughter has been attentive to her reduced obligations without issue. Only you cannot keep to a schedule.” Malik bent forward to speak beside Noor’s ear, “Why is that?”

He drew back to study Noor. Sweat dripped from the man’s ragged haircut, black eyes rose then dropped again to the hardened dirt path at their feet.

“One would think you might have a stop between your quarters and here. A distraction, maybe? An … intrigue?”

“No, no!” Noor raised his hands in protest.

Malik stepped back, dropping his hand to his weapon.

As soon as Noor realized his error, he fell to his knees, clasping his hands together as though in prayer, though he only faced Primary’s sector entrance number three, not Mecca. “Please, no. I just can’t sleep when the baby is crying. He cries so loud. We only have two rooms in our quarters. So little sleep, it is hard to get up in the morning. I slept past the alarm.” Noor groveled into the dirt. “Please, please. I am doing nothing wrong. Nothing. Please.”

“Three times, Noor.” Malik growled low and hard.

“I know. I know. I am sorry.”

“There cannot be a fourth.”

“There won’t. There won’t. I promise.”

“When shift change is over, I will be investigating.”

“I understand. Thank you.” Noor looked up, tears streamed through the dust on his face. “Thank you. I will call my daughter to let her know you will be visiting. Thank you. You are most generous. May Allah bless you.”

“Go.” Malik waved Noor to the end of the nearly cleared line.

He tapped a note into the cyber replacement lower half of his left arm, recording the incident. Maybe it wasn’t fair of him to pick out Noor for a distraction, but the man fit all the noticeable criteria Malik’s superiors wanted monitored. Beside Noor was a Rachk, and they weren’t ever trusted. At least that is what Malik’s grandfather taught his father and his father taught him.

Just a personal bonus. Something to make life a bit more tolerable.

(words 510; first published 9/26/2022 – Part of the experiment to expand the Facebook visuals to 500 words)

Fence Post Series

  1. Fence Post (3/28/2021)
  2. Toleration (5/2/2021)