Written for day 5 of the A-to-Z Challenge. E is for ESPer – an old-fashioned SF term for someone with ESP abilities. Esperanto is a constructed language spoken by upwards of two million people worldwide, and the word itself means “one who hopes”.
Katida was fiercely proud of her model airplanes, even though nobody else seemed to be. There in her little room, on the fifth floor of the greengrocer’s building on Avenuo Novjorko, she would spend her evening hours beneath the sapphire-tinged light of her desk lamp. No one else built models anymore: she fabricated the model components, paints, and adhesives in her omnifab. Then, over the course of weeks, she would liberate the pieces from their plastic sprues, adhere them with superglue, then paint them with loving precision and apply their historically accurate decals.
At night, after her parents tucked her in, Katida climbed out of bed and tiptoed over to her door. With the lights still off, she pressed her ear against the door and listened to her parents in the next room.
“It’s not normal,” her mother said. “A girl her age should be long past this obsession with building things.”
“She’s a late-bloomer,” her father said dismissively. “Once she hits her mindspurt, she will lose interest.”
“For six years you’ve been saying that, Aleĉjo! Her sixteenth is soon coming, and no sign of any ESPer abilities.”
“Now, Venka, you know that some people don’t even begin to read other people’s minds until sixteen. Why, my grandfather…”
“Do you know what the neighbors are starting to call her? Fabrikistino! Maker!”
Though Katida could not see his father’s face, she could tell from his extended silence that the nickname had offended him. Children often played with building toys and studied history while in grade school. Once they hit puberty and the mindspurt came, however, they were expected to put away such childish things. Adults didn’t need television, telephones, and other juvenile technologies: not when they possessed telepathy, telekinesis, and clairvoyant capabilities.
“Who would dare say such a thing?!” he demanded. “Who would call my little Katida a mental deficient?!”
“Honestly, Aleĉjo… I’ve asked my own relatives not to visit, lest they glimpse inside her room and see all those… models.”
Guided by the glow of the city lights coming through her window, Katida crept back to bed, then looked around. All of her models were proudly displayed, arranged chronologically around the room. There above the closed door hung the cloth-winged flyer from Kitty Hawk. On her bookshelves, from bottom to top and left to right were the warbirds of the First, Second, and Third World Wars, interspersed with the commercial aircraft of the XXth and XXIst centuries. Above her bed, suspended from the gypsum ceiling tiles, hung the hypersonic suborbitals of the late XXIst century. She never built models from any century after the XXIst: they all looked the same.
Katida pulled the covers over her head and sniffled. Her neighbors’ gossip never bothered her, but it hurt that her parents were so worried about her favorite hobby. “If only Father knew that I bear the title of Fabrikistino with pride… but no.” In her heart, Katida knew that it would kill her father to know that.
At age thirteen, she realized that she was a throwback, a mental deficient. When all her other friends went through puberty, they gained the expected mental powers. She, on the other hand, found nothing to show for it but bigger breasts and monthly cramping. So she’d self-diagnosed her condition as a preteen. Doctors called it by the unimaginative name of anesperia — lack of ESPer powers. At the time, she’d been heartbroken, then angry, but as Katida studied the history of humankind, she came to understand something.
For all of the ESPer abilities that humankind had gained, XXXIst-century humanity had suffered an odd loss. No one built anything anymore: there were no architects, no inventors, no dreamers. When ESP powers replaced technology, Katida realized, they had also replaced human drive, and ambition, and ingenuity with mere ambivalence. Humanity had stagnated.
Wiping away the tear welling up in her eye, she made a vow to herself. She would bring back that drive, and that ingenuity. What she lacked in mental magic, she would replace with sufficiently advanced technology. In the process, she would show the world that lack of ESPer ability was not a mental deficiency. “Who knows,” she told herself. “Maybe I’m the kick in the pugo that humankind needs.”