Oh, do we have messed-up ideas about work. Erica Satifka shows us exactly how messed up some of them are.
“The bird wasn’t unhappy to be owned. She knew that her shining eggs, though worthless to her, brought great joy to the prince of the kingdom. The bird’s power made her unusual, she knew, and she was quite willing to forego the garden outside the barred window of her cage to bring delight to the prince and his kingdom. All was well for many years.”
The storyteller takes a swig of water from the mason jar at his side. He smacks his lips.
“Then came a day when the prince brought in the royal scientists to study the bird. They made copies of her DNA and inserted them into other birds. The bird that laid golden eggs was no larger than a wren, you see, and even ten of her eggs could make only one small crown, even when melted down. They started with a chicken, then an eagle, then finally worked their way up to an ostrich. For a while, the little bird was even happier! She was no longer alone, and though the aviary was now crowded with many different species of gold-laying birds, not all of whom got along, her life was much less dull than it was before. She was so grateful to the prince.”
Chase makes eye contact with a young woman illuminated by the soft moonlight. Her jacket is shredded on one side and her hair is lank and dirty, but she smiles at him warmly. He smiles back.
“For a few years,” the storyteller says, “things remained as they were. The little bird, and all the other gold-laying birds, got along as well as they could. The eagle still sometimes pestered the little bird, but even the eagle knew that they all had a job to do. Then, one day, the royal scientists unveiled their greatest creation ever! They handed a jewel-encrusted box to the prince.
“ ‘What is this contraption?’ said the prince.
“ ‘It’s a replicator, a grand replicator. With this box, you can produce all the gold you could ever want. You don’t need the birds anymore. You can set them free.’
“The prince paused. He looked at the aviary. The birds had never known life outside their cage. Could they be trusted to be free? Would they even want that? He thought for seven days and seven nights, as the grand replicator passed out brick after brick of solid gold, forged from nothing at all.”
Chase inches closer to the woman, drawn like a magnet to her, though he doesn’t know why. His breath catches in his throat. On a night like this he feels so lonely he can’t even think straight.
“At the end of a week of intense deliberation, the prince threw the key to the birdcage from the top of the tallest tower in the kingdom. There was no need to tell the birds about the grand replicator. They were only birds, after all.”