Nagini was tending five lights today. That number was a bit high, but one was dimming. It wouldn’t be long now — probably tonight. She picked up the transfer kit, trying to recall if she’d refilled it already. The barrel was cool on her fingertips and vibrated slightly. It was fully loaded.
Behind her in his own quadrant, Rafsan spoke softly to one of his charges. The open air policy was new. It was supposed to encourage camaraderie and idea sharing, but she tried not to hear. The conversations were too personal.
On the bench where she was sitting, one of the lights stretched. She attended it, murmuring, “Yes?”
“Grass,” it said, “in the backyard… cool on my feet. I left my shoes…”
“That sounds very soothing,” Nagini said. “Why don’t you take a little stroll and enjoy it?”
The light pulsed for a few minutes, then shone steadily.
“How was your walk?” Nagini asked.
After a pause, the light said, “It’s too cold to go outside. I’m staying by the fire.”
“Ah,” she said. “The grass is gone?”
“There is a deep snow cover. It gets dark early. My grandmother made me an afghan…”
“Take your time,” Nagini said.
Beside her on the bench, the other light pulsed weakly.
“My mother sings to me,” it said.
“She wants you to sleep and grow,” she replied. “Can you see her?”
“No,” the light said. “It’s dark. I feel her around me. She laughs when I kick my legs.”
Nagini smiled at the light. It was very dim now. She put her hand under it and coaxed it onto the transfer platform on her lap. “She loves you.”
“Yes,” said the light.
“Do you remember anything else about your life? You said you had a brother. You liked to go swimming with him?”
“No,” said the light. “I am empty.” With one last pulse, it went out.
The fragile skeleton of a globe remained where the light had been. Nagini aimed the nozzle of the transfer cartridge at it and pressed the release mechanism. A stream of sparkling blue smoke filled the globe, which began to spin slowly, then sped up until it lifted off the pad.
This moment was crucial. She’d never lost one, but her heartbeat quickened every time. She set down the cartridge and stood, holding the transfer pad in both hands. Using the pad to repel the spinning globe, she guided it towards the giant gold tangle suspended in the center of the room. Rafsan looked up, made the sign of the united sphere with his hands and bowed his head in brief prayer.
Holding her breath, she pushed the spinning blue globe toward one of the swaths of the tangle. It hovered for a moment, then attached to the strip and swept along its spiraling path. Its dizzying journey ended at the center of the tangle where the globe slowed its rotation to a stop. With a bright flash it disappeared, leaving a puff of smoke.
Ragini made the sign of the sphere and touched her forehead. She looked at Rafsan.
“I liked that one,” she said. Her eyes were shining.
A new life always moved her.