In case you’re wondering, there’s no way to turn the lamps off. They’re powered by thermal coils, and my best guess is they tap into the same heat source as the hot water (wherever that is). It never bothered me – there’s so much dark outside and it’s not like they’re especially bright – but Sanna used to bury her head right under the pillow to get to sleep.
They don’t break often but very occasionally the metal wire will warp or snap. There’s a coil in the workshop which should be enough for two lamps, but after that you’ll need to barter for more. There’s plenty of that kind of thing in the European settlements still. When you’ve got it, lift the lamp cover off – it comes easy, it’s not secured to anything – and use the tiny screwdriver to release the old wire from the two clamps. Change it out for the new stuff, and replace the cover. Easy. The wire will heat up pretty quick though, so you can’t
hang mess around.
The left-hand lamp in the bathroom needs fixing. I couldn’t. I’m sorry.
When you go into markets to barter, you need to not be too clean. It’s an easy thing to forget. There’s enough hot water for a shower every day, more than one if you want. But being clean’s a sure way to mark you out as different. Privileged. At best, they’ll make you pay way over the odds. At worst, they’ll kill you. You know being clean’s reason enough in some places.
Also, don’t go alone if you can help it. There’s not many places are friendly to strangers. The last few times, when Sanna wouldn’t leave The Collection, I went with Rohini. He doesn’t like it, all the people and the noise, but he’ll come if you take a treat with you. Rabbit’s a favourite, and not too rare.
Sanna saw Yellow Hat at the market. It’s why she wouldn’t go out. Every market, anywhere we went, she said she saw him. Just out of the corner of her eye or disappearing round a corner. I never caught a glimpse but she swore he was always watching. I didn’t push, figured it was just a reaction to Mum going and she’d get over it eventually. But it got worse. After a couple of months she started seeing him inside The Collection. I knew that wasn’t true – Rohini would have growled – but she refused to leave the workshop, where her bed was. Is. Still is.
I came back from helping design a waste drainage system for a small settlement, and heard her screaming. I thought she’d had an accident, broken a bone or burned herself. Broken bones don’t necessarily mean death in The Collection but shock can still kill you. I dropped everything and ran to the workshop. She was curled up on her bed, pushed right up into the corner, with both hands pulling at her hair. I shouted at her, slapped her, wrapped myself around her – nothing worked. In the end I used some of the morphine from the medicine cupboard. It’s valuable but I didn’t know what else to do. Finally she went limp. I tucked her up and brought my own blankets to sleep on the floor next to her. I didn’t want her waking up alone.
It took me ages to drift off, and I felt like I’d only been out for a few hours before Rohini woke me up by headbutting my stomach. Sanna’s bed was empty. She didn’t answer when I called. Rohini was whining by the door, shifting from foot to foot. I followed him to the lift and he took me down to the basement. When he stands on his back legs he’s tall enough to punch the buttons with his nose.
She was in the bathroom. The noose had broken the lamp. The metal in it was as cold as her.
I couldn’t bear to fix it. I’m sorry.
Sanna, I’m sorry.