Jati, we were so young, when you were taken by the corporations I didn't understand. I didn't get why the adults cried. As I see you now, I'm the one who wants to cry. I can see the likeness to the girl I knew, in the color of your eyes and the shape of your face. But the spirit that would sing to wildflowers and stand on a log to conduct symphonies of bullfrogs and birdsong... I can't see that in your gaze.
I see fear.
My name is Taza, do you remember me? We ran through meadows together and made daisy chains. We were friends, Jati. Do you remember what having a friend is like?
I don't know what they did to you. Losing you, it fueled my resolve for so many years. To fight the corporations. To fight their Shining Era, metallic and bloodstained. To liberate the stolen children, like you. Did their families and friends look at you like I am now? With despair?
Time passes and despair turns to resignation. I will get to know you again, from the beginning as a new person. The girl I knew is gone. Or so I thought.
That sound. It was… what was it? Her steely eyes flickered closed against her command and her head tilted up. The howling in her chest lifted and spun in streamers of red and violet and yellow. That storm eased into a breeze that shuddered through her core, filling it with late afternoon sunlight. That sound was…
“What is it?” Jati breathed her fingers flexing on the verge of reaching out to catch the sound resonating in the still air of the forest.
“It’s called music.” The voice next to her said with something like amusement, but when Jati turned his eyes were pained. Taza's thin lips were pulled into a grimace his deep-brown eyes looking darker than ever.
“Understood.” Jati said shortly “But that doesn’t answer what is making that sound… what is it?”
Lines began to form at the corners of his eyes, though from agitation or amusement it was difficult to tell which, “People. People are making that music. What you hear is an instrument called the fiddle that Sonya is playing.”
Jati stared at Taza and said with slow disbelief “People create this music.”
Taza shot her an unreadable look “It was outlawed by the Corporations one by one centuries ago… “ His voice roughened as he admitted “You used to sing, before you were taken away.”
Jati felt her heart in her throat as something flickered and swelled in her soul. The whisper was almost too quiet and choked to be heard. "I remember."
Jati's expression flickered between terror and hope before her lips parted in the soft words that accompanied the fiddle music. The notes were rusty from disuse but the voice bitter-sweet in a way that went deep. It wasn't the best song Jati ever sang, but perhaps it was the most powerful.
Just thinking about that time I feel tears in my eyes. She would never be who she was, of course, but I am so glad that some fraction of that girl survived.