Batresh buys a car
The next morning, Batresh wore a summer cotton blouse, made of a thin material. She enjoyed the way the cloth slid over her skin. She stepped into the skirt, made of an equally thin fabric. It reminded her of the linen shifts she wore at home. She remembered a hot day when she cooled herself by walking into the river with several other women. Amun stood nearby. His gaze was fixed on her as she walked out of the river, transparent fabric clinging to her body.
She slid on open toed heels, enjoying the coolness of synthetic materials on her feet. She took the elevator downstairs and approached the woman behind the counter in the lobby. It was the same middle aged woman. Again, she cast a suspicious eye. “Good morning, Miss McCombs,” the woman sneered.
Trying to be cheerful, Batresh responded, “Good morning.” She gave the woman the sweetest smile she could muster. “I am hoping to purchase some property around Tupelo. Do you know where I might find information about property that is up for sale?” Batresh was pleased at her use of colloquial grammar.
The woman regarded Batresh with new interest. She smiled, eager to help a woman of substance. She told Batresh about a couple of realtors nearby, writing the addresses on slips of paper. “Thank you so much,” Batresh offered, happy to have convinced the woman to be friendlier. “Might it be possible to take a cab?”
In the taxi, Batresh saw more of the town, brick buildings, large automobiles, narrow streets, stately trees, gloved women wearing small hats, men talking at corners. The cab took her past the Court House again, towards the spot where she had first seen Denny. At one address, a middle aged man managed to convince her to be interested in a small house, about half way between the town and the little family’s house. “Don’t you want to see it first?” he asked.
“No Sir,” she demurred. “Your descriptions and photos are enough. It looks perfect.” The agent was confused.
“You really don’t want to see the house before you buy it?” he asked again. She smiled, shaking her head. Trying not to show doubt, the agent assembled the paper work she would need to sign. He wondered to himself, what it must feel like to be a person of independent means, to have the disposable income to purchase a home on a whim. The house had a long, curving drive way. A group of trees between the house and the main road, hid the structure from passersby. “Will you live there by yourself?” he asked.
“My aunt will stay with me,” she lied. He continued by explaining to her that the house would not be ready for a couple of more weeks.
On the way to the real estate office, she noticed an automobile dealer specializing in used cars. She walked back towards the dealership. The day was hot and her cotton blouse uncomfortably warm. She wished she had taken a taxi. When she arrived, her forehead was wet from perspiration. She took a handkerchief from her purse and patted her face lightly. The salesman seemed to be surprised she did not bargain, but simply paid the price he quoted. She purchased a 1961, red, Ford Thunderbird convertible.
She drove the vehicle off the lot as if she had been driving large automobiles for years. The downloads implanted everything she needed to know. She enjoyed the way the steering wheel responded to her grip, the sound of the motor, the way the vehicle gently rocked when she stopped at an intersection. Now, she could learn the streets of the town, and the roads to her new house.
Since the time she learned of the differences between Tayamni and humans, she knew there was a method to download information directly to the cerebral cortex. Her Matriarch and other tutors taught her in traditional human methods of learning. She listened to lectures, read texts, and accessed data bases. The traditional methods were slow. Other young Tayamni at Sekhem were eager to reach the age when their physical bodies could withstand the downloading process. But, Batresh was afraid.
The year before, she had peeked into a small room where her sister, who matured earlier than she did, was seated. Namazu had a jeweled mechanism placed on her head, like a crown. Crouched behind a stack of reed mats, Batresh watched as her sister’s face went blank. She sat there, wearing the crown on her head. Her mouth hung open, and her eyes turned back in her head. The man applying the downloads wiped Namazu’s mouth with a cloth. The session didn’t last long, but Namazu seemed to be distressed by what she had learned. The process changed her. She became distant and aloof. Batresh was not eager to undergo this process.
It was two weeks before her arrival at Tupelo that Batresh sat on a low thatched chair in a servant’s chamber. The strange man sent to administer the procedure placed the mechanism on her head. In no time, the jewels emitted colors. The darkened room swirled with blue, red, and yellow lights. He told her to close her eyes and relax. She remembered hearing a low humming, a metallic instrument. She opened her eyes with surprise when she realized the sound was coming from inside her head. Suddenly, without warning she felt someone strike her forehead with a rod. A stream of images, words, and concepts rushed into her consciousness. She had the feeling that her brain was split apart by a surgical instrument. Music, body movements, feelings, and sights filled her mind. She felt that she was shaking, her arms, hands and fingers flailing around her. She saw herself lying on the floor convulsing. However, as she became more aware, she realized that she still sat in the chair, her hands placed calmly in her lap. Her mind wandered, her tongue twitched violently in her mouth. Her lips and chin moved uncontrollably as new feelings of language and speech entered her mind. Images of automobiles, her foot on a brake pedal, her hand turning an ignition key, both hands turning a steering wheel violently to the right to miss an oncoming car. But, she still sat in the chair. She was shouting angrily at a white-supremacist. She held a sign above her head, demonstrating against the Ku Klux Klan. She was attacked by a group of men, but struck out with arms, and legs, fighting them with strong invasive movements, Aikido, Judo, Karate, Krav Maga. She saw the men lying on the ground around her. The flow of images, movements, sounds, and lights continued surging into her. She tried to fight against it, to slow it down. But she was powerless. After a while, the metallic hum diminished, and the feeling of pressure on her forehead lessened. She remembered waking with a start, as if from a nightmare. The man still sat across from her. He simply nodded.
She drove around town the rest of the day, taking note of buildings and sights, a Carnation Milk plant, schools, temples, restaurants, a mansion converted to a library, stately homes. As evening approached, she drove back to the hotel. The ease with which she operated the vehicle was thrilling. No detail in the operation of the car was omitted. She braked softly, and turned into the parking lot. She knew to raise the windows part-way, to allow heated air to escape. This time, there were two Potacas in the lobby. They watched her as she walked towards the elevator. Stopping, she turned and walked back to them, holding the handle of the hand bag in her left hand, removing her gloves. They were both seated in leather chairs. “Good afternoon, gentlemen.”
The one with stubble on his chin looked at her with an expressionless face. “Good afternoon,” he responded. She looked at them questioningly, as if daring them to tell her what they wanted from her. The Potacas who spoke, looked up at her. She thought she saw something in his eyes, hostility, superiority. The other casually looked away from her towards the hotel restaurant on the right. She slid her hand into her bag and took the disk into her palm. They both rose in unison, and left the lobby.