The Tattle Tale

I like the tunnels. They’re long and you can see how they bend way way away, so that it looks like people are walking up out of ground like molemen in that holo mommy Cindy said I shouldn’t watch but I snuck out and a bunch of us watched until T’Til tattled on us which is why we call him T’Til Tattle Tale. I wish he had a tail because then he would be T’T Tattle Tale Tail. I think about it and put a hand over my mouth because I’m supposed to keep quiet.

Drilia gave me a mean look. She would probably wrinkle her nose at me if she had one, but I guess not everyone has noses. I can’t help but touch mine to make sure it’s still attached. “You need to be quiet,” she whispered sharply. “We’re gonna get caught and TT is always listening.”

I rolled my eyes but didn’t say anything. Freddie was on lookout and Drilia was supposed to keep the light so I could see. Even with the little red pocket torch, it’s hard to see where I’m supposed to put my hands. I feel them get caught on the wires inside the wall, but it’s the only way we can turn the kid sensors off and leave the residences.

I didn’t really want to leave but Drilia and Freddie said it’s really neat outside the tunnels. I thought everything was just rocks and cold and that didn’t sound like fun at all. I wanted to stay in and play with the holos or momma Debby’s models, even though I accidentally broke the last one. I know they only invited me because my hands are really small and I kind of know how things work, but potato batteries are not the same as sensors. I told them that but they just laughed and Drilia took me aside and said she would cook me up in a stew if I didn’t help.

Something inside the wall bit me, but then the stripe on the floor that said where kids couldn’t go turned off and Drilia smiled that creepy big smile that made me think she was a snake. She turned the torch off and didn’t help me up. Instead, she went to Freddie and kissed his cheek to let him know we could leave.

Drilia and Freddie had been dating now for at least two weeks which was forever. I just thought it was gross and I really didn’t want to know if she would lay an egg or eat him or what if they got married. Maybe she was more like a Mantis than a Snake. I was kind of glad she didn’t help me up.

Freddie and Dilia stood on the line but wouldn’t go through. I think they were scared and Freddie said, “You first, Lauren,” and I said, “No way,” but Dilia took his side which I guess made sense but my moms fight all the time so maybe Dilia and Freddie were in love and were going to make snake babies.

“You messed with it, you try it,” Freddie said and Dilia added a “Uh-hu,” and I guess that made perfect sense because I didn’t fight and just said, “Fine.”

I was just going to put my food through and see but Dilia pushed me from behind, so I fell on my face. It hurt and it was mean and unfair and I was going to say so, or cry, but then I realized the alarm didn’t go off and the force field stayed off which means I did it!

“Nice, Lauren,” Freddie said. He took Dilia’s scaly hand and they ran off down the tunnel. I wiped my face and stood. I could hear their footsteps as they kept running but I didn’t follow right away. I sat up on the line, wondering if I should follow them or go home. It was late and there was a curfew for kids so they didn’t get lost in the tunnels.

It was so quiet and spooky. After curfew, when all the kids were supposed to be home and in bed, the grownups turned the tunnel lights low. Sometimes my moms would take me to a friend’s home late and one time when I got scared, they brought me home because I wouldn’t stop crying. I kind of felt like that now; I wanted to go, because I wanted to see what Freddie and Dilia saw, even if they were mean. But I also wanted to go home at the same time.

I felt something beside me. I turned and T’Til was sitting next to me on the line. He was cross-legged and wearing one of those Vulcan robes his parents always made him wear. It was a little browner than his skin and he looked at me with in a weird way. Even though Dilia was really weird looking, T’Til was really weird . He always talked about logic and tried to hide his emotions, but I saw him crying in the play center a few times and his parents didn’t even hug him, just walked him out. I understood Dilia, even if I didn’t like her. I never knew why T’Til did anything and I especially didn’t know why he was sitting next to me in the tunnel.

“You are in conflict,” T’Til finally said in a really, really boring voice.

I squeaked—because it was the only thing I could think to do. T’Til just kept looking at me. “I observed Fredrick and Dilia’din pull you aside today in class,” he continued. “Since this was a deviation in their normal adversarial behavior, I concluded something nefarious was afoot.” I was happy he paused for a second because I wasn’t sure I knew what all those words meant. “I can see that my deduction proved correct; though, I am surprised you have not accompanied them beyond the threshold, nor have you retreated. Logic suggests you are in conflict.”

I think he was impatient because he I just sat there and tried to understand what he meant. I thought I knew, but wasn’t sure, and T’Til had a way of making me feel dumb even with stuff I thought I should know.

He sighed. “You did a bad thing,” he said simply. “But, you do not know if you want to keep being bad or do something good.”

I understood this. “Uh-hu,” I nodded. “I want to see the surface, though,” I said carefully. I was trying to sound smart like him, but I think it just came out slow. I felt my cheeks flushing and tears in my eyes, but I tried to do what T’Til was doing. I knew he didn’t like crying.

“They will not see the surface,” he said evenly. “They do not know where they are going, and they do not have you to disable the other sensors which await them.”

“More sensors?” I asked, surprised.

T’Til nodded. “Indeed. The residences are vast with many intersecting corridors. Ours tunnels are but one in hundreds.”

I knew there were lots of tunnels. I didn’t know there were hundreds . “What’s going to happen now?” I asked.

“You may choose,” T’Til said as he stood. “You may follow them and hope to see the surface or,” he offered his hand. “I will walk you back to your quarters.”

I didn’t hear Freddie or Dilia’s steps anymore. I looked up at T’Til and his hand. He wasn’t looking at me, but away, down the tunnel where we had come. When Freddie and Dilia talked about seeing the surface, they made it sound really easy and fun. When I thought about it, I really wanted to go home.

I took T’Til’s hand. It was warm and his grip was firm but gentle. I watched as his robe glided smoothly as he walked me down the tunnel to my door. I noticed how he kept his hood over his head. I thought maybe he was scared someone would know who he was. Then I remembered he was the only Vulcan kid in class. Everyone must know who he is. I asked.

He didn’t say anything.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. When we got to my door, he took his hand back and it disappeared into his robe. “Good evening, Miss Lauren,” he said and turned. He started to walk away.

“Wait!” I heard myself cry. He stopped and faced me. “I just wanted to say thank you and I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry I called you T’Til Tattle Tale.”

He bowed slightly. “Good evening, Miss Lauren,” he said again. This time I didn’t say anything as he glided away. I stood there for a while until he disappeared far down the corridor. I didn’t know what else to do, so I went inside and to bed.

A few days later, I found out that Freddie and Dilia got caught and grounded. I asked T’Til if he told on them. He only looked at me blankly and said nothing. Even though I’m pretty sure he told on them, he didn’t tell on me, so I stopped calling him a Tattle Tale and just T’Til until he moved away.