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Authors: Martina Devlin

Tags: #Women's Fiction, #Literary Fiction, #Fantasy

About Sisterland

BOOK: About Sisterland
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This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, 
characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the 
author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, 
living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Published 2015

by Poolbeg Press Ltd

123 Grange Hill, Baldoyle

Dublin 13, Ireland

© Martina Devlin 2015

Copyright for typesetting, layout, design, ebook

© Poolbeg Press Ltd

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 9781781991886

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photography, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.


Sincere thanks to all those who read drafts of this novel at different stages of its genesis. Each one made helpful suggestions, particularly the people who came from the future (just checking who’s still reading).

They are Justin Blanchard, Tonia Blanchard, Lia Mills, Betty Murphy, Jerry Murphy, David Murphy, Mary Pearson and Sarah Webb. I recruited them as unofficial members of Team Sisterland, and they all deserve medals. 

Thanks to the unsung heroes at Ward River Press who made a valuable contribution to the book. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Gaye Shortland, a generous and tireless editor, as well as publisher Paula Campbell for her unwavering support. 

Finally, thanks to my agent Lucy Luck of Aitken Alexander Associates, who keeps on keeping on for all of us scribblers.   

For Mary Carr, with thanks

It will be like a nunnery under an abbess – a peaceful, harmonious sisterhood.

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Chapter 1

Constance 500 pushed through the air-swamp, following a tree-of-life etched on the pavement. She had a faint recollection from babyhood of air tickling her body – a reminder that, once upon a time, it came in different consistencies. But gloopy air was normal now in Harmony. She had learned as a girl about different climates throughout their great state, but she hadn’t yet been awarded a permit to visit anywhere else in Sisterland. The pavement pattern led Constance past Beloved Park, with its giant statue of Sisterland’s founder. A good Sisterlander would detour in, and pay her respects to Beloved, but Constance was on a mission. It led her to Moe Express.

Outside, she paused to watch the hologram sign change colour, as it did every twenty seconds to follow the palette of the rainbow. Just now, it was shading from indigo to violet, and she took a moment to admire the transition. Fearless use of colour was a celebration of nature: that’s what Sisterlanders learned in girlplace, and practised in their dress code. Except they all wore uniforms at work, and working hours were long, so platforms to showcase personal preferences were rare. Still, the uniforms were tasteful.

The shop door split horizontally across the middle, one half lifting and the other lowering, at Constance’s approach. A perfume of roses wafted out. At least, it was the fragrance which represented roses, because flowers no longer produced their own scent. Sometimes, Constance wondered if the smell of pink roses had differed from white back in the Pre-Sisterland Era – the PS days. Once, she had put the question to a memory-keeper, who had stared at her before admitting that she didn’t know.

So, the true memory of rose scent was lost. What Sisterlanders smelled now was an approximation. And if that was the case with roses, perhaps it applied to other flowers. Such doubts overtook Constance occasionally, even though nobody was supposed to feel sceptical any more. It was counter-productive. Its moe
certification had been withdrawn.

Inside Moe Express, a flicker waited behind the counter. At Constance’s approach, she smiled brightly through her glossy skin – the mask moulded precisely to the contours of her face. Constance could tell this was a cheap skin: the smile quality didn’t convince. It took an expensive skin to pull off a smile.

“How may I help you, sister?”

“A U, please, sister.”

“Excellent choice.”

The flicker pulled on a pair of elbow-high gloves and approached a tall unit, from which a background hum flowed. Like all who practised the flicker trade, her movements were nimble and economical. Her fingertips pecked at a keypad on the left side of the unit, and its front changed from ice-white to smoky. A diamond-shaped cavity appeared at eye level, with a corresponding holder an arm’s length below. A whoosh was followed by a thud. Into the padded holder was deposited a jar, also diamond-shaped, and glowing.

The flicker set it on the counter, and took up a close-woven
silk net attached to a length of bamboo. An air of
concentration transfigured her. She pressed the lid of the container, which flew open, and out floated one of the tiny clouds causing the jar to shine. It shut tight again at once. With a fast-forward jump, the flicker gave a spin of the wrist and trapped the cloud, dropping a flap over the top of the net. Still holding the net, which had taken on a luminous primrose tint, she replaced the jar in the holder, tapped another code into the keypad, and the moes were whisked back into the unit.

“One portion of U, sister. Such a pretty moe.”

Simply looking at the U almost made Constance feel its Upbeat lift – impossible, of course. Moe spontaneity had withered away. Moes were reined in and managed.

“I’d be worried about letting them float away if I did your job.” Constance nodded towards the net.

“I’m careful. A friend of mine let her attention wander, and an entire jar of Exes flew into the street. They caused mayhem. Some kids on an educational trip inhaled them, and their teachers couldn’t control them. They wouldn’t sing their obedience song, or march in step, or stay in pairs. They wouldn’t do anything they were told.”

“I suppose the moes wore off after a couple of hours.”

“Took longer than usual – the kids were underage. My friend was re-assigned. They sent her to Brown Convolution.”


“At least it’s a middle belt. She was landed with boyplace duties. Doubt if I’ll ever see her again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she’s proud to do it for Sisterland. But I don’t envy her spending all day surrounded by boy-men!”

Another twist, and the U was transferred from net to bag, and sealed airtight. Constance admired the dexterity.

“Remember to use this within four hours for best results. Can I interest you in anything else? An N, maybe? A new batch was just delivered.”

“Better not.”

“Of course. Unchecked moes held us back for centuries. They’re an indulgence – we can enjoy them best in moderation.” The flicker parroted a lesson from
Beloved’s Pearls
, the small, circular book with a pearlised cover given to every newborn Sisterlander. “I see from your sig you’re a shaper. What an honour to be chosen.”

Constance glanced down at the signifier embedded onto the outer wrist of her right hand: Constance 500
– the
stood for thought-shaper, and had been added last year. She read the flicker’s wrist: Fidelity 81026 ⇔ .

“I dreamed of going forward for shaping but I wasn’t selected,” continued the flicker.

BOOK: About Sisterland
11.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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