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The Cages

Hilary Rose Berwick has a PhD in Cultural Studies and writes code for a state child welfare system for a living. She believes firmly in ecosystems: community is the only way we survive, and that includes planting trees and permacultural garden ecologies. She is always, always down to talk about dogs and plants. She writes a speculative fiction advice column for Speculative City. You can reach her on Twitter @quefaistu and IG at @hilaryroseup.
The cages had always been in the back of the classroom, but Katie A. still didn't like thinking about them.
She did her best learning when the back-of-the-classroom cages were a sort of buzzy blur at the corner of her eyesight. Otherwise her tummy hurt. Focus on the whiteboard, not on the cages or the kids in them.
The whiteboard. This module was multiplication tables, and they spun across the whiteboard as Miss Pierson chanted them with a cadence that got stuck in Katie A.'s head, especially when they got to the bigger numbers: five times five is twenty five. Six times six is thirty six. Not magic, the numbers showing up as Miss Pierson chanted, just tech. The white board was tuned to the timbre of Miss Pierson's voice. Peter K. reprogrammed it once, and then he got put in the empty cage in the corner and now he was quiet and the white board just wrote on itself when Miss Pierson spoke.
When Katie A. told her mom about Peter K. and what happened, her mom told her third grade was hard.
The cages had always been in the back of the classroom, but Katie A. guessed they weren't always in all classrooms, because when Becky C. moved down into town from Sierraville, her face got really white when she saw them and the next day her mom marched into the classroom and her face was really red. And Miss Pierson had to talk to her really quietly but like she didn't want to be talking to her really quietly and Katie A. heard her hoarse-whisper, "Now, they deserve an education, too," and Becky C.'s mom said, "Them?" but it was more like a shriek, like a whisper-shriek, and Miss Pierson shushed her and said yes, yes, and Becky C. stayed in the class so Katie A. figured she got used to it.
Besides, the cages had always been in the back of the classroom.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
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