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My Oath

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Amanda took her newly repaired iPad back, relieved. One of the perks of this whole non-speaking thing was that the Apple people were consistently willing to repair (and even sometimes replace!) her iPads for free. It came in handy, considering how clumsy she could be. She turned it on so she could thank him for fixing the screen yet again. That's when she noticed an extra icon. Everything that should be on her dock was still there, so she wasn't too worried, but it was weird. Still, she could worry about that at home. She tapped the icon for Proloquo2Go, then “Thank you.” The man smiled back at her as she put the cover back on the iPad and slid it into her backpack. She didn't need to “speak” to take the bus home, and her attempts to use it as an eReader on the bus had ended with a cracked screen one time too many. She carried paper books for public transit now, as obnoxious as it was to carry enough of them to satisfy a mind that read a thousand words per minute, because it meant slightly fewer trips to the Apple store to fix her iPad screen.

Pulling her iPad out of her bag at home, the first thing she noticed was a change in the apple on the back of the tablet. There characteristic bite was missing. (But this is the same iPad I brought in, and there was a bite out of it before! I'm fairly sure that's not possible.)But there it was, in all it's impossibility. (Does this have anything to do with the new icon?) She pulled the cover off her iPad and looked at the screen: the new icon was a picture of a closed book. The title of the app was “Manual Functions.” (If this craps out my iPad, this is going to suck. Two repairs in a day is a bit much to ask, even for an AAC device.)She tapped the icon for the new app. It opened to an ebook, twenty-seven pages in. The top of the page had what looked to be some sort of oath:

In Life’s name, and for Life’s sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so—until Universe’s end.

Below it, there was explanation. Taking the Oath would make you a wizard (Sure...) leading to an Ordeal. An Ordeal was what happened when there was a problem with the universe you were the answer to and you accepted the Oath. If there were no such problem, you wouldn't be offered the Oath.

Amanda hit the home button. This “manual” faded out, as it should. She opened Proloquo2Go. It worked normally. She closed it out and tried another app. All the apps seemed to be working normally. She went back to the manual to read the twenty-six pages before this Oath thing. It had stuff about creation and Powers that Be and one Power that created Death and set it loose in the world. The job of wizards was to slow entropy (Uh... I might be a language person more than a science person, but I'm fairly sure it doesn't work that way... wait. Magic. But there's no such thing as magic!) This tended to involve challenging the Lone Power and trying to make the world a better place.

(So, it's not like I have anything to lose by taking this Oath thing, as long as typing it actually works, and if this is real...) Of course, it couldn't be real. (But if it is...) Amanda opened a text document and started typing. She could, of course, remember the whole Oath perfectly. It was only 98 words long, after all.

Feeling slightly silly, she closed out the manual app and opened the internet to check what her homework was. English wanted her to read the next chapter of their current book, 1984, and be ready to talk about it for the next day. She noticed a parallel between the language restrictions in Newspeak and those from the people who'd tried to take words and phrases out of her iPad when she'd first gotten it. The main difference there was that she'd won, and having read 1984 before, she knew that Winston and Julia didn't win. The thoughts they could express stayed limited, and that wasn't fair. So she wrote a little bit about that. Then there were a few questions to get people thinking, so she programmed basic answers for those into a new page in her English folder. Then she thought about how her (mostly neurotypical) classmates would likely answer, and she prepared a few responses for those. She knew full well that she wouldn't use everything she prepared, or even most of it, but it was better to have the phrases there and not need them than it was to need them and not have them. She had a lot less room for error than her classmates in terms of preparedness: her inclusion in mainstream classes hung on continued performance to an extent that theirs never would.

For math, she had to do a page of practice problems, solving simultaneous equations by subtracting some number of copies of one equation from the other. It would have gone a bit faster if she were able to hand write, but she'd long since accepted that her handwriting would never be legible and gotten the right to type everything as an accommodation. Unfortunately, that made math much slower, needing to typeset her work in LaTeX, then fix any errors.

History just wanted her to be ready for the next day's test. She'd have to take it on a school tabled that wasn't connected to the internet and didn't have her textbook loaded on it, like for all her tests, but she was ready. She didn't have French tomorrow. Science wanted a chapter read and ten multiple choice questions answered on the contents. The first draft of the dialogue-focused piece for Creative Writing was also due, but that was story-telling. That had been done the day it was assigned.

Homework done, she went downstairs to offer help making dinner. It would be refused, as always, considering her infinite ability to screw up anything that involved gross motor skills, but she felt she should ask. The offer out of the way, she returned to her room to read until dinner. After dinner, her mother would help her shower and brush her hair, like she always did, and then she would read until she was tired enough for sleep.

The next day passed quickly, though not as quickly as Amanda would have liked. She was one of the first people done with the history test, which was typical. Her reading speed gave her a major advantage in every class except math, where typing in LaTeX for exams meant she got extra time (and had to take her tests after school, ugh.)

At home, she found that the “Manual Functions” app had been replaced with a “Manual Functions” palette, much like the “Reading” one she made for her (many) ereading apps. She opened the palette, finding “Read Manual,” “Search Manual,” “Messaging,” “Language Lessons,” “Directory,” “Custom Spell Design,” and “Help.” (Ooookaaaay, I'm pretty sure that's not how apps are supposed to work.) Unsure of what to make of this, she tapped “Help.”

“Please state your query,” her iPad chirped.

(Well, that's no good, being all verbal.) “Text version of help” she typed.

At the top of her screen, words appeared. “Text version of help. Please state your query.”

“Show all articles.” The list seemed to be endless, and most of the titles seemed to be in a different language. “Name of non-English language.”

“The non-English language is the wizardly Speech in one of its written forms. You can query the help function as if you were speaking normally.”

(Really?) “Like Siri?”

“The language recognition is more advanced than that of Siri, and was used as a basis for Siri's development by one of the wizards on that project.”

“There are wizards at Apple?”

“Yes. Most large companies employ several wizards, though they are generally unaware of this fact.”

“What is wizardry, anyways?”

“That is a complicated question. Wizardry is a creation of the Powers that allows some people, regardless of species, to modify the world around them in ways that others can not. This ability is used to slow entropy, the heat death of the universe. What you can do with wizardry varies with what things you would think to try and with how deeply embedded a natural law is. Gravity, for example, is one of the easier laws to temporarily rewrite. The straight passage of time from past to future is not particularly complicated to change, but it is energy-consuming for species who normally experience time in this fashion.”

That created more questions than it answered. Amanda elected to ignore them for the time being. “And the Ordeal?” she asked.

“The Ordeal is a problem that is solved best (or only solvable by) a particular wizard. This problem is the reason the Oath was offered. Technically, a wizard's Ordeal begins as soon as the Oath is taken, though the time between taking the Oath and the wizard knowing what problem they are supposed to solve varies from minutes to months. For homo sapiens, it is usually between two hours and two weeks.”

“How will I know what the problem is?”

“Unknown, but you will know once it is solved, at the latest. If you turn to the Directory, you will see that your current status is “On Ordeal.” This status changes once your Ordeal is over.”

“Do people ever fail Ordeals?”

“Yes. Assuming the wizard survives the failed Ordeal, they lose their wizardry and the memory of having had it.”

(Assuming the wizard survives... what have I gotten myself into?!) “Is there anything I can do to prepare for my Ordeal?”

“Study the Speech and read the Manual as you have time. Practice using the Speech. Get in contact with your local wizards and see if they have any information about recent issues.”

Amanda checked the directory application. If there was anyone in her area on Ordeal, they weren't showing up (would they show up?) and she was apparently under the jurisdiction of an Advisory living in South Boston. (Yeah, that's not happening unless there's an emergency. Talk about sensory overload!) She sent them a message instead.


Hi?

I'm a sophomore at Canton high school and I just took the Oath. What do I do now?

Thanks,

Amanda


 

She switched to the “Read Manual” app and started reading. The first chapter was about wizardly transportation. Playing around with the controls, she saved the basic spell diagram for a beam-me-up short transit into her “Custom Spell Design.” Apparently it needed information like who she was, where she was coming from, and where she was going plugged in before it could work. She searched for the coordinates of her home, her school, and the local Apple store to save as well, then turned back to the manual. Then there was a chapter about how to balance spells so that they would actually work. It was very mathematical. She flipped back to “Help” and typed “Is there a way around doing all this math?”

“Computer and tablet versions of the manual can set up many spells for you and balance them automatically. In the event that a spell needs to be designed by you, digital versions can still check if a spell is balanced and tell you how large any imbalances are. However, you will need to fix the errors yourself.”

“So if it's been designed and balanced by someone else before, you can stick my inputs in and make it work, but if I'm making it up myself, you can only check my work?”

“Essentially.”

Then a notification came that she had a new message. She tapped the notification. Sure enough, it brought her to the message.


If possible, get to Grand Central Station and lend a hand to the wizards holding a worldgate closed. They're going to need the extra power of a wizard on Ordeal if I'm not mistaken.

They will also have advice for how to prepare, assuming that your Ordeal isn't over by the time the chaos there is. It might be.


 

(The what? Huh?)

She replied.

I probably can't get there tonight without my parents freaking (I get to go places alone way more than most kids like me, but I don't think even a neurotypical kid could get away with that!) but I was planning to go into the city with a friend tomorrow.

She didn't need to wait long for a response.


Kids like you?

Tomorrow the needs will probably be different, but you should be able to check it in the manual. There will probably still be something going on.


(Oh, please tell me they aren't going to be all “but you can't talk that's so sad...”)


Autistic. Non-speaking. I got lucky- my parents were good about the whole making sure I have a way to communicate thing, and they trust me to know what I can and can't do. School gets interesting, since not all the teachers think a kid who can't talk can be smart, but it's mostly been fine.


The wait for a response was longer this time. Amanda stared at the messaging page, too nervous to do anything but watch and flap and rock. Disclosing was always scary, especially to people who have some amount of power over you. Advisories were definitely a step up in the hierarchy.


You could probably figure out a way to fix that.


(NonononoNO! Um. Calm. Oath. Using people's own beliefs to explain why they Can't. Do. That. usually helps-ish. Please, let it help... “I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened.” Nothing threatening, just different way of being. Disabled not same as threatened...)

She didn't get much more reading done that afternoon before dinner or between dinner and sleep, but she finished her response.


I think I would be violating my own Oath if I were to do so. “I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened.” Plenty of systems I'm in are threatened, sure, but my existence isn't what's doing it, so I don't think that clause works. That brings me to my growth and life. There are a lot of threats to my growth and life, but none of them are autism and none of them are the fact that I need to type instead of speaking. Being on Ordeal is about to be a threat to my life, if it isn't already. People trying to keep me from growing because they think the way I am makes me a forever-child is a threat to my growth. Those who think disabled lives are not worth living have the potential to create threats to my life. But the way that I am isn't a threat. If someone viewed their autism as some external damaging thing, you could argue that rewiring them to be neurotypical is not a violation of the Oath, but for someone who views their autism as a descriptive label for the way they are? I think it would be a violation of the Oath.

Finding better ways to handle the things that are harder for me, though- that is guarding growth and easing pain. If wizardry can help me design a better AAC device or help protect me from sensory overload, that would be wonderful. It's different from changing who I am, which would be a risky proposition right now even without the question of Oath violations. My manual says we get offered wizardry when we are the solution to a problem. What if fundamentally changing myself meant that I was no longer the answer to the problem? The Oath was offered to me as a non-speaking Autistic person. Something about who I am is important. When everything about who I am is colored by autism, pulling it out and hoping the critical traits are all still there unchanged looks like a bad idea from where I'm standing.


 

She could have sworn sending that would make her too nervous to sleep, but apparently writing it had tired her. She barely remembered her head hitting the pillow.