The Melendez in Mai's Shed (part 1)
for Karina Melendez from Rochita
It was the crash that woke her up.
Mai sat up in and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. It was still dark out, but across from her she could just make out the shadow that was her sister.
There it was again.
“Sssst,” she said. “Aya, wake up.”
“Huh?” Aya said. “What? What dream? Go back to bed.”“I thought I heard a crash,” Mai whispered.
Aya didn’t reply, and after a while, Mail realized her sister had gone right back to sleep.
She stepped out of bed and padded to the window. Nothing moved in the darkness.
“Who’s there?” she said.But all was silent in the back yard and no matter how much she strained her ears, she could hear nothing out of the ordinary.
After a while, Mail went back to bed. She willed herself to go back to sleep, but a part of her brain kept puzzling over the crash that she’d heard.
Mai stood up again and went to the window. From her vantage point, she could look down the long length of the garden to where the shed was.
There was someone out there, she was sure of it now.
“Aya,” she whispered. “There’s someone out there. I know there is.”
With a huff, Aya came awake.
“I swear,” Aya said.
But she came out of bed anyway and joined Mai by the window.
They could see a blue glow emanating from the garden shed.
“Do you think it’s an alien?” Mai asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s certainly not a thief. Papa set safeguards just the other day.”
Mai looked at her elder sister and Aya snorted. She pulled on her robe and slipped her feet into fluffy yellow slippers.
“All right,” Aya said. “Let’s go have a look.”
They slipped out into the garden as quietly as they could. Miraculously, the screen door didn’t squeak as it normally did during the day. It was a good thing too, Mai thought. Papa and Mama would be displeased if they caught Aya and Mai out of bed at such an hour.
She shivered inside her dressing gown. It was made of quilted green cloth. Dwarves and butterflies frolicked along the border of it. Whenever she wore it, Mai imagined that this must have been how the queen felt.
“If it’s one of Papa’s minions, I’m going to yell its head off,” Aya muttered.
She yawned and stretched like a cat.
They were up to the door of the shed now, and whoever was inside was totally oblivious to their approach.
Papa kept the doors to the shed well-oiled. The latch moved smoothly out of its berth and the door swung open without a sound. Blue spilled out of the shed and there in the middle of the blue was the strangest little creature Mai had ever seen.
It was just about the height of Mai’s knee. A smooth silver carapace covered its back, its upper arms and its legs. From the elbow on she could see twisted black cables with marks written on them in florescent green ink. The being was muttering to itself as clawed fingers moved in spiderlike motion across the virtual screen.
“It’s a Melendez,” Aya said.
There was awe in her voice and Mai stared at her elder sister.
She’d never heard of a Melendez before, but she supposed Aya must know better because while Mai loved to delve into the arts and the music, Aya had her nose forever buried in one of Papa’s scientific modules.
“What’s a Melendez?” Mai asked.
“It’s very gifted,” Aya said. “It reaches into hyperspace and couples and connects lines of code. It can break or make a net depending on the order given by its master.”
Mai was so busy paying attention to Aya that she didn’t notice the silence inside the shed.
“Pardon me,” a tiny voice spoke up. “But what are you two girls doing up at this hour?”
They turned to look towards the Melendez.
One of its hands rested in mid-air and it had one on what could have been hips if Melendezes had one.
“You . . . I. . .,” Mai began. ‘
“We’re sorry for interrupting your work,” Aya interrupted her. “Please do continue with whatever you were engaged in.”
The Melendez huffed.
“I can’t,” she replied. “Your presence has disturbed my line of processing. I’ll have to go back and start all over again.”
“I. . . we’re sorry,” Mai offered.
“No, no. Not your fault,” the Melendez said. “It’s not like I was making a major breakthrough or anything. I actually needed a break.”
“We have some energy bars in the kitchen,” Mai offered tentatively.
The Melendez smiled and Mai glimpsed small even teeth between her mandibles.
“I love energy bars,” the Melendez replied.
There was a slightly surreal feeling to sitting at the table with a creature who, as far as Mai was concerned, existed only in books.
“Of course, they wouldn’t tell you we’re real,” the Melendez said as it munched away on a spiced chocolate bar. “How do you think the world would feel if they realized the amount of work we do while everyone is fast asleep? Panic, that’s what.”
Mai turned to look at her sister. Aya was staring at the Melendez with an intent look in her eyes. Mai knew that look too well, it meant her elder sister was intrigued by the Melendez.
A feeling of dread settled in Mai’s stomach—maybe she shouldn’t have woken up Aya.
“I want to know more,” Aya said. “Don’t all Melendezes have real names? What’s yours?”
“It’s Karina 3PH,” the Melendez said. “You won’t tell your Papa you caught me in the act, will you?”
Mai shook her head.
“I won’t tell, if you show me how you do what you do,” Aya said.
“I knew it,” she said. “I should never have woken you up.”( to be continued. . .)