The box is light as always. But that means very little.
It’s what’s inside that counts.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
So many aphorisms spring to mind. All gouged from the voluminous spines that line the shelves of the communal library.
But this. This is a word that she can speak.
Silence is precious, or so her parents say. The outside world just does not understand; mouths spew sound without care until it melds into an unintelligible morass. But here, in Earth 3.0, a word may only be spoken if one is educated in its proper use. Language is powerful; not to be trifled with. Each year every member of the community is gifted one word. It is their word for the entire year; the only word they may speak. Lexy’s eyes do not move from the box as it rests beside her mother’s hand. Her mouth salivates as she twists and turns her thirteen-year-old tongue in preparation for her gift.
Was it a word to be savoured, to be rolled about the tongue, to be tested for every possible annunciation till it was just right?
Would her word be light and tasty? A word that could gurgle from her throat, ricochet across her palette and dance from the very tip of her tongue, worming its ways gently into the ears of her interlocutors, until they cannot help but smile.
Or heavy, and solid? A word on which she will gag, it’s sheer enormity too weighty for her tender years.
Or better yet, a naughty profanity, which she will whisper to herself over and over until she can control the rising tide at her cheeks and curse with wanton abandon.
But perhaps this year she will receive a sharp slap of a word, so she might hiss at her tiresome younger brothers as they endlessly prod her patience with sticks and stones.
Her mother passes her the little red box and she gently lifts the lid and casts it aside. Inside, a small piece of paper is tied with raffia.
Slowly, she pulls at the frayed ends and sighs.