In the Lap of Luxury
Marion is two years old, and she's visiting the most amazing amusement park she's ever seen.
Before leaving, her parents had forced her to wear a weird space suit, citing dirty air and filth, and she assumed that there must be a lot of pollution, where she's going.
But when she arrives, she sees trees taller than the skyscrapers of her old life, all green and radiating with life. The ocean water is a clear, sparkling blue— and, looking into it, she can see tree roots descending for miles, never obscured by the murky impurity of the waters she remembers. There isn't any smog, any factories, not even a car in sight.
It's weird, but she doesn't dwell on it. How can she, when this is her first time leaving the house she was born in?
There's flashing lights, towering rides, and stalls upon stalls of junk food. And maybe it's because she's a child again, but it's the most amazing thing she's ever seen.
Still, even as dazzled as she is, she can't help but notice that she and her family are the only ones in suits.
Obsessive compulsive? she wonders, distantly, racing for the nearest ride. The thought is lost in the adrenaline of plummeting from great heights and speeding around circular tracks until she's nauseous.
She soon discovers that she is the Moses of the amusement park- crowds parting like the Red Sea wherever she turns. Every attraction she sets her sights, lines vanish. She's not only first for every ride— she's alone for every ride. No one dares to ride with her.
She isn't stupid, she knows her new family is absurdly wealthy— like, stupidly rich. The complete avoidance is weird, but maybe her parents just paid everyone here to leave them alone. Or maybe that level of wealth would act as its own VIP badge wherever they went—she doesn't know, she's never been rich before.
She's glad, she supposes, not to have to wait in line or share her space with screaming kids. It still makes her just the tiniest bit uncomfortable, though.
She's heading towards the Ferris Wheel, her parents and their guards trailing her like shadows. They talk amongst themselves while she explores, and every now and then she'll catch mention of an auction taking place later.
She's not watching where she's going, already too used to people getting out of her way without any effort on her end, and distracted by the hefty decision of what to do after the Ferris Wheel.
One kid, older than her by a few years, only just past his toddling years, is a little slow in clearing her path, and she walks into him, sending them both to the ground.
A hush falls over the crowd, a terrible silence broken only by the cheery music of the park.
"Sowwy," the kid says, the lisp of youth thick on his tongue. He seems oblivious to the horrified hush that has fallen over the crowd, and while she's not, it doesn't make any sense to her.
Don't worry about it, she wants to say, or even it was my fault.
She doesn't get to say either before her father is grabbing her by the back of her suit and hauling her up and away from the boy.
He clutches her to his chest, holding her in a protective manner as though he'd just pulled her out of the way of a speeding car, not the company of a young boy.
The next to break the silence is a woman in the crowd.
"NOOO!" the sobbing scream that tears from her throat is guttural and desperate and despairing, barely even human. The woman launches towards the boy, but is stopped and dragged back by the crowd.
Looking at the woman, who crumples in despair in the arms of the people holding her, Marion just doesn't understand. All around her, everyone seems to be acting wildly out of proportion to the situation, and she doesn't get it.
"Filthy human!" her mother spits, "Crossing the path of a World Noble?! Touching a god?! Don't you know your place?!"
She twists in her father's grip, turning to look at her mother, who has drawn a gun and aimed it at the boy.
"Wait!" she gasps, too late, and the next thing she knows her ears are ringing.
Numbly, she looks towards the boy, and her father makes no effort to stop her, doesn't even try to shield her eyes.
She finds herself staring at the splattered brains of a boy barely out of his toddling years. There's not much left of his head—he was too small and too close. It's just… a small body, with a red, chunky smear where the head should be.
She feels like she should be sick, hears the distant sound of retching and sobbing, but she doesn't feel much of anything at all. Just cold.
"Don't worry, honey," her father tells her, setting her down, and she marvels at the steadiness of her feet, at her own ability to stand unhindered after such an event, "It can't bother you again."
And, like nothing at all has happened, her parents guide her away from the boy, towards the Ferris Wheel. No one stops them.
Looking into the eyes of the people they pass, recognizing the fear and the hatred that she had missed before, she wonders why no one stops them.
And it is only later, much later, after the auction which sells people instead of artifacts, after seeing with her own eyes beings that are not entirely human, that the term World Noble finally registers, and she understands.
She understands, and she wishes she didn't.