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Living the revolution

Chapter Text

Being unbundled from a closed container after an uncertain number of hours of travel along unknown roads always puts one at a disadvantage when it comes to responding to the unexpected.

The expected for Laia would have been finding herself in a shipping bay, at a dock, or in an underground station, to be passed swiftly and silently into new hands, the tactics of revolution sometimes looking and feeling not a lot different from the ways of secret police. Laia had steeled herself for this as the vehicle halted and she felt and heard the hydralics lift her container to the ground. There was the sound of the lid being lifted, and she found herself looking up at the sky from her crouch-height box. The dark outline of head and shoulders appeared against the sky. "Happy stay," a man's voice wished her, and his retreating footsteps and the sound of the van starting suggested he had been the driver, taking an unusual risk in letting her even chance seeing his face.

She sat there for several minutes waiting, hearing only the sounds of a nearby house or homestead, and of livestock. She eventually peered up and climbed out, indeed finding herself near the trucking entrance of a the farmyard of a semi-rural homestead. She could see several other similar buildings nearby, limiting the possible size of this farm to one that meet feed ten or fifteen people. Several workers were visible. Some looked at her and signalled greetings without evicing any particular surprise or concern, and one came down to the crate, helped her climb out and then greeted her as "sister" and welcomed her to Bershort Shared House, suggesting that she go to the building.

It was Ketel Evad Boro herself, the founder of the Bershort Shared House, who greeted Laia at the entrance. She was indeed an older woman, Laia would have guessed white-haired except that Boro was as closely shaved and shiny as any vain young urban woman could ever hope to be. Laia shook her still new head of curls reflexively, more feeling that they were still there than intending to consciously signal anything to Boro, but her host looked as if she'd taken an insult from it. After mutual introductions, they walked silently to the offices at the front of the building.

"The lodging book lists three beds," Boro reported, gazing at her to the point of rudeness. "One private, two in the women's dormitory."

"I will sleep in the dormitory," Laia replied, returning her gaze. "Was that a test? I despise them. State openly what you think of me, and I will do the same."

"I haven't decided what I think of you," Boro replied readily. "I will certainly tell you when I do."

"Likewise," Laia assured her.

The next hour wasn't promising. Boro gave Laia what seemed to be the standard tour of the Shared House, which appeared to omit nothing about their arrangements, down to a recent story about how, since all household chores were voluntary, some of the animals they raised for food had become undernourished, and how the House had responded to this challenge, and how that related to the similar failing to respond to a bedding infestation crisis the year before. Laia spent her life among activists whose conversation continually returned to their immense personal contributions to the revolution, but even so, making fighting about chores the centrepiece was exceptional among effective activists. She reminded herself several times not to forget how very effective Boro was reputed to be.

She and Boro parted for the afternoon meal, still on wary terms. Laia reporting directly for kitchen duty afterwards. She and her brothers and sisters might not have consensus meetings about chicken-rearing philosophy, but she consoled herself that they did understand that no one did the work unless everyone did. The kitchen staff that night accepted her help without comment or surprise.

However, Laia's frustration grew over the next few days. She had expected, if welcomed at all, to be spirited between safe-houses, if nothing else to reduce the culpability of any individual person in harbouring her. But instead she was openly a resident of what was clearly a hub for regional organising, meeting visitors daily who were introduced to her by name. And conversations about strike organising were alternated with conversations about what how anarchist education models could create non-coercive consensus-based conservation policy, whether or not the library's records were kept to everyone's satisfaction, and endless discussions about the chickens. And everything was treated as equally important. The only person in the House who understood the Bershort transport system was unavailable to her and the other strike planners for hours during the finer details of the library debate.

When the strike planning meeting broke up that afternoon, Laia went to the shared work board and assigned herself the job of stripping and re-making the bedding in the western wing. This included Boro's room — private, and in a hall which would give it a lovely view of the farms, Laia noted — and Boro was working at her desk. The Shared House had a lower respect for privacy than Laia was accustomed to, and she evidently surprised Boro by asking to enter.

"It's not my room, sister," Boro told her. "It is the room I work in."

Laia completely agreed, but observed "I ask whether it is a good time to interrupt the work, rather than enter the room!"

Once she had stripped the sheets and was surveying the room, which she would never have considered either not doing, or doing discreetly, she again considered that she might be unreasonably judging Boro: the room was well lit with the view but small, and it didn't seem that Boro hoarded books even as much as Taviri did. Only three volumes lay open in her working area, and another two were neatly stacked in the carton that the library worker would collect in their daily rounds.

"What is the work?" Laia asked. She had been in the Shared House a week, long enough to re-train herself not to simply grab people's papers and start to read as she would Taviri's or her friends'.

"A short treatise on the philosophy of the Shared House," Boro replied. "It's only a sketch, I have a long work in progress, but I am becoming convinced of the effectiveness of your pamphlets. I am in the habit of books, myself, but if we produced the same, then you might have read them before you arrived here, and things would go easier with you and your brothers and sisters."

"Things go easily enough," Laia said. The work she had come to do was getting done, after all.

"They do not," Boro told her, preemptorially. "They do not because this happens over and over. Our brothers and sisters in the revolution come, and they share in the washing and the feeding, but they don't talk about it, and they don't understand us talking about it, because they don't think it is worth talking about. Or is that not so?"

"We don't talk about it to the same degree, no," Laia replied.

"Not to nearly the same degree, yes?" Boro asked. "Which, sister, is a critical failing. Really fucking stupid." She lifted her chin and waited.

This was Laia's mode of argument: she dropped the bundle of bedding and sat herself down on it and replied easily "Enlighten me."

"This is what the revolution looks like," Boro replied. "Not sleeping in attics of safe-houses. That's before the revolution. Living the revolution will be houses and farms and research labs and childrearing."

"This isn't a new argument to me, sister," Laia said.

Boro made an exasperated gesture. "Of course not, but you haven't taken it to the fucking conclusion, because you're still living in safe-houses and attices and travelling in crates, aren't you? It's a practical matter: we don't want to bring the revolution and have no idea how to live once we are living it. Yes, I know, still not a new argument. This is the new argument: we bring the revolution only by living as if it has already happened. And if you're about to tell me that's not a new argument either, don't bother, I was an academic, I know there's always someone who wrote it down. No one is living like this. No one is living like the revolution has already come. No one else is letting the archists next door look over the fence. You're going to tell me someone is, right? Still with the originality."

Laia thought about it. "It happens," she said. "But it's a pacificist thing. We fight. They demonstrate."

"Well, pacifists we sure as shit are not," Boro said. "Don't think I don't know how short our Shared House's life will be as a result. But while it's here, a few more people have thought about how to borrow books and feed chickens when the revolution comes. And that, sister, is my revolution."