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Sometime Called Parchment

Rehula was pouncing the vellum when the bamboo doorbell clacked. She walked out to the counter of the shop and saw a young man carrying a bundle. Leaving the pounce stone by the hearse, she walked to the front of the shop.
"But there's, there's paper--" Jehack was saying. "They make books! Out of paper, the Sternies do, I've seen them. We could be--"
"So they do, and paper crumbles in fifty years. The machines of the Ancestors failed, and we must write down what we want the Descendants to know. Vellum lasts two thousand years, more if we're lucky. And so the airkeepers and waterkeepers want it for laws, for science books, and I have business. Go scrape, and make no holes." She spoke quietly to the young man, put a consoling hand on his arm. "It must be. Else we would eat all, and starve."
"We want a breeding-ticket," he said.
"I will pray with you, if you like," she said, and quietly they chanted a prayer that he and his wife receive it. He turned over the sad bundle, and she opened the cashbox, paid him two hundred and eleven tradecoin, bade him farewell.
"But when paper crumbles, it can be copied--" Jehack went on.
"And errors accumulate. Vellum lasts. Till the Destination!" She unwrapped the small bundle. Healthy, five kilos, she thought. A shame it had been born without a breeding ticket.
"The Destination is a myth, I heard."
"Don't believe all that you hear, prentice. And get me a lime bath for this one." Jehack took lime and began to fill a tub.
This one had shit herself. Rehula cleaned it with a sponge. She whetted a knife and began to skin the baby.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 6th, 2021
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