From the Recollections of Thomas the Bleak:

Some days time seems to rush by, tossed like the last leaves of fall when the river sweeps them away down the rapids. Some days time seems to crawl by, a feeble beggar dragging himself through Bazaar because his legs no longer carry him. Today is one of those later times, when everything seems too slow and still.

Today I was reborn. Today I came of age, and celebrated the renewal of my spirit and the time of my growing. Before the whole of my Clan I was made clean, and the past was washed away. It was a lovely thing -- my mother wept to see it. Everyone told me that they knew life had not been easy for me, everyone said that they knew the past was hard. So everyone held their breath while I came out of my shell and was reborn -- clean.

I was clean. Eva herself was there, and Eva herself pronounced the words. Food and feasting followed, and everyone smiled and laughed and clapped me on the back till I staggered. It was a day of joy, it was a day of hope, it was a day when no one looked me fully in the eye. The laughter was too loud, the smiles like the stretched skin masks that some of the Yagans wear.

Clean. I sometimes wonder what that word means. I sometimes wonder if any of us remember, or if we're all laughing so hard and filling our bellies so full that we've forgotten. Eva herself said I was clean today, but I know I am not. The rank stink of me fills my nose and chokes me, the lying laughter and evading eyes of my own family gags me. I wonder if they know we aren't clean. I wonder if they play and work so hard so they don't have to look.

The sun is setting, and the sky is red and thick as river mud from the rust and ash in the air, carried by the west wind. That red grit settles down round all of us, turning everything into a gritty, begrimed nightmare-scape. None of us are clean. We're all down in it deep, and it all stinks. We've lost the Forgiver, and now we're all damned to this rancid world.

Maybe tomorrow when the sun rises they will wake up. Maybe when they come to my room and find my ankles thumping against the strut that holds up the ceiling they will open their eyes. Or maybe when they cut the rope and lift me down they will all shake their heads and say, "Now he's clean. Now he is clean...."

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