Helda opened each day like a gift. I left the morning there for her outside her room before she awoke. It was there waiting for her when she opened her eyes.
At first, she would stand there by her window watching the morning unfold in front of her as though it was some new wonder she had never seen before.
Which, in a way, was true.
Helda did not know why she was here, or what had happened to the world she once knew.
I watched her trying to make sense of it. She could not connect the view from that window with the world she had left behind.
Initially, there was grief, followed by denial and anger at all she had lost.
I could understand that.
After all, I had stolen everything she had known from her. Her entire world, her family, her friends, her tribe had all gone, and she could find no way back to them.
She had expected something, though, when she was chosen.
I was watching when the wise woman, Jefna, as she found Helda one morning, over by the fruit bushes. The bushes were almost bare that season. What berries there were, were small and sour.
The tribe felt my displeasure in the world around them.
All the young girls knew what would come next. They all waited for the wise woman with fear, with dread. All of them knew it was supposed to be an honour to become the Chosen One, but all of them knew what they would leave behind.
I gave the wise woman the name in her dream.
The next morning the young child, Helda got to her feet as she stood in front of the almost bare bush to await the arrival of the wise woman. I could see the tremble in her body, and the readouts on her monitor flashed into the red.
But I knew she would be the one.
Soon Helda would be met by her sister, Lana. Lana had been the Chosen One the year before. She was now heavy with child, of course, but I would send her to meet her sister when she left the quarantine room. It would be some comfort.
Maybe, one day, when the time comes, probably many generations now according to the computer’s calculations, they will understand why this happened. Maybe, by then, the tribe will be less than a memory. Maybe the descendants of the tribe will still all live in that one valley, the only humans on this planet we orbit. Maybe they will have taken over all of it and have civilisations on every continent by then.
I do not know.
All I know is that this year Helda is the chosen one. The computer gave me her name, and I set the rest in motion, giving the wise woman Helda’s name in the old woman’s dreams.
The ceremony of the Chosen One is their own invention, a way to make sense of the altar and the Cold Fire as they call it.
The first hours as they recover is always the worst, but the computer insists that the white quarantine room is the only way to make the transition from the only world they’ve ever known to this place they believe is their version of heaven.
But now, while she waits for her quarantine to end, the best I can do is offer Helda the best mornings of her life before that life changes forever.