Leah woke up, said the blessing upon waking, then turned on her overlay with a mental command. She hissed with displeasure — it was a _gevurah_ day, again. She was supposed to contemplate restriction, discipline, withdrawal. She was beginning to wonder if her teachers were doing this on purpose; the assignments were said to be random, but she no longer believed in randomness. Her soul root was in _chesed_, the diametric opposite of _gevurah_, and she found _gevurah_ days draining at best, excruciatingly painful at worst.
This Secular Technology
by Bogi Takács
Leah woke up, said the blessing upon waking, then turned on her overlay
with a mental command. She hissed with displeasure — it was a _gevurah_
day, again. She was supposed to contemplate restriction, discipline,
withdrawal. She was beginning to wonder if her teachers were doing this on
purpose; the assignments were said to be random, but she no longer
believed in randomness. Her soul root was in _chesed_, the diametric
opposite of _gevurah_, and she found _gevurah_ days draining at best,
excruciatingly painful at worst.
On the upper bunk, Ruthi was yawning and stretching. Leah grimaced —
Ruthi would be pleased about another _gevurah_ day. Couldn’t they just
swap their assignments?
Leah went through her morning routine. The prayers were highlighted in all
the wrong places. “Blessed are You, Hashem, our Lord, King of the World,
that you did not make me a slave” — just the general mention of slavery
was sufficient to make Leah feel uncomfortable. Yes, of course she was
grateful to Hashem that she was not made a slave, but still, she did not
want to be reminded of the concept. She knew she was supposed to
contemplate it, but after three straight days of _gevurah_, she really
needed a break. _How much more, Hashem?_ she thought.
She wondered if she should just quit the training program. Her abilities
were not as disruptive as Ruthi’s, and she felt that nothing she learned
helped her to function better in day-to-day life.
She was fed up with the overlays.
Ruthi stumbled through the room, on her way to the bathroom, without a
care in the world. Leah could’ve kicked her. _Chesed_ was supposed to be
full of mercy… She was feeling very far from her soul root.
“Mnargh, gmarh?” Ruthi said between two mouthfuls of Kellogg’s cornflakes,
the only kosher brand one could get ahold of on the station. Just as Leah
thought of this, her overlay offered a helpful popup. “Certified by the
Manchester Bet Din,” it said. Manchester was also very far — three jump
points from the station, halfway across the galaxy.
“So, mnom? What do you think?” Ruthi said.
Leah looked at Ruthi scathingly and decided not to offer commentary on her
eating habits. How could someone so untidy, unruly and nonconforming have
her soul root in _gevurah_, the epitome of restriction? “Yes?” she said as
coldly as she could manage.
“I was just,” Ruthi slurped, “asking if you’d already picked your phrase
for contemplation today.” She fixed her gaze on her bowl — Leah knew
she’d embarrassed her. She felt a spark of satisfaction, then immediately
felt bad about it. At least her overlay did not provide her with a popup
“No,” Leah said. “No.”
“I have something from Yeshayahu, there is the part where he says you are
my witnesses, _vechulei,_ and then it says _veavdi asher bacharti, lemaan
tedu vetaaminu li… vechulei…_ I like that a lot, but it’s a bit too
long, maybe we could split it up?” Leah automatically translated for
herself: _and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you would know and
believe me…_ She was irked by Ruthi’s every single habit — her Israeli
pronunciation, her heavy glottal stops, her constantly saying _vechulei_
instead of _etcetera_… and she prayed so loud, every single morning!
“Sure, we could split it up,” she said.
“I like _veavdi asher bacharti_ better, so I’m going to give that part to
you and focus on the rest I don’t like that much.” Ruthi beamed at her.
“Huh? How about that?”
_And my servant whom I have chosen._ Servant. Slave. The same word.
“Is there something wrong?” Ruthi blinked. “Did I say something wrong? I’m
“No, no,” Leah lied, “I’m just tired, is all.”
In the end, she did not have the heart to turn down Ruthi’s offer. This
phrase was as good as any.
She went out to the cavernous garden module for her proscribed morning
contemplation. Her overlay highlighted the strangest things — a fence,
she assumed because of its restrictive aspect. A birdseed dispenser —
that was especially counterintuitive. Dispensing something would be a
_chesed_ activity… Maybe it was highlighted because while it dispensed
birdseed, it also withheld some? But wouldn’t a balance between _chesed_
and _gevurah_ be associated with _tiferet_ instead? She was confused.
She tried not to venture outside on _gevurah_ days — not after that
incident with the airlock –, so this was mostly new to her despite today
being the — she had to look it up — twenty-third _gevurah_ day since
she’d enrolled in the program, a bit more than three months ago. An entire
year focusing on these mystical Kabbalistic correspondences, and that’s
just the beginning. She thought her brain would melt.
She reminded herself to get back to the topic. She never felt particularly
coerced by her regular observance and she definitely never felt like an
_eved Hashem_. A servant of Hashem — a slave. The closest she came to
appreciating the concept was when she was doing these annoying exercises
that started the first thing in the morning when she opened her eyes–
She stopped in her tracks. Why would people say the morning blessing for
not having been created a slave, if Jews were all slaves of Hashem? Hashem
himself said so, in the words of His prophet Yeshayahu.
This seemed like such a basic contradiction, and yet she had no idea of
the answer. She shook her head and wondered if she should just message her
“I was looking all over for you!” Ruthi said. “Why did you hide your loc?”
“I didn’t–” Leah protested, then she realized she had indeed done just
that. Why? When? She did not even remember doing it. According to her
“What_ever_, I’ve found you,” Ruthi said and smiled at her, all of her
large, chippy teeth showing. “Look, I really have to show you this!”
Leah winced. On a _gevurah_ day, this had to be a _gevurah_ thing. Why did
Ruthi have to be her roommate, of all people? At least Ruthi was usually
busy being too cheerful to pay attention to Leah’s thoughts. Leah wished
to hide all her thoughts in a dark corner of her mind, behind a thick
“It’s not an air leak, right? Like last time?”
“No, no, it’s not, I promise. _Bli neder,_” she added, the caveat that she
was not making a formal oath.
“_Bli neder_?!” Leah wanted to kick Ruthi.
“Look, it’s going to be totally awesome,” Ruthi said as she ran along the
corridor, the metallic floor panels clanging under the soles of her shoes.
“You just wait!”
Then the alarms went off.
Ruthi swore loudly. The large gash on her knee was already closing, her
systems running the self-repair process, but there was a lot of blood. Her
long flowing skirt was tainted with large splotches, dark on the cheerful
sky blue. She looked faint.
“Can you stand? We really need to go,” Leah said. “That was an evac
signal.” _Why can’t you watch where you’re going?_
“The alarm surprised me,” Ruthi responded to her thoughts. She grimaced
and stood. “Why are these– plates just jutting out from the walls–
ngh!” She took a few unsteady steps.
“This is an access tunnel, not a playground,” Leah snapped. “Come on,
“Oh.” She called up a map. Her overlays with the mystical correspondences
covered the escape routes. It was her turn to swear.
“What?” Ruthi looked puzzled.
“I can’t turn this thing off. I can’t see the escape routes on the map
because the correspondences are getting in the way!”
“Eh? They are not supposed to obscure anything. Take it easy,” Ruthi
advised, standing in a pool of her own blood. “You’re just nervous.”
Leah wanted to throw up. Then she made up her mind, spun around on her
heels and started marching down the corridor.
She could feel Ruthi’s hesitation like eyes on her back, but then her
roommate fell in step, still stumbling. It would take at least ten,
fifteen minutes for the wound to heal.
“It’s no good,” Leah said, close to tears of frustration. “We can’t get
through to the docks, all the utility tunnels have been sealed… Can’t
you just blow this open?” She gestured at the large bulkhead.
“Like the last time, with the airlock?” Ruthi was bitter. “_That_ went well.”
Leah shrugged. “What is the emergency, anyway?”
“How should I know? For all I know, it’s yet another fire drill!” Ruthi
blinked, accessing her interface. “_Sheidim_.”
“What, you mean–”
“Look at the reports if you don’t believe me!” Ruthi yelled. “Inbound from
planetside, a whole bunch of them!”
Leah did not know how to respond. _Sheidim_ were reasonably common in this
solar system, but the station was supposed to be highly shielded, and
there were active defenses further out. “They should not have gotten this
close,” she finally said.
“I know! We have to tell the others we cannot get through, maybe they can
still lift the gates–”
The two of them began to send out a flurry of messages, only to get error
messages in return.
Ruthi tsked. “It’s no good, they are interfering with comms.”
“Can they do that?” Leah was not sure.
“They can pass through walls! They can do pretty much ev–” Ruthi
shuddered and fell on her knees, then toppled forward and barely managed
to hold her arms out in time to land on all fours.
_What’s wrong_ this _time?_ “Ruthi!”
“Inter-ference,” she said, gasping. Her arms buckled and she fell
facefirst on the floor.
“But I’m not feeling anything!” Leah tried to drag Ruthi upright. Her body
was unexpectedly heavy.
“Custom work. My systems. They haven’t been fine-tuned yet. It’s for the
psychokinetic–” Her muscles went limp.
“Ruthi!” _Don’t die on me, don’t you_ dare! “Ruthi!” Leah held her with
one arm, straining against the weight — what was her body made of? –,
and slapped her face with the other. To no avail.
The tears of frustration finally began to flow.
Ruthi was unconscious, lying on the floor with her head in Leah’s lap.
Leah could feel the _sheidim_ were getting close even if she could no
longer access the station’s status reports. _Such evil creatures…_
The two of them should at least get someplace safe. She would not be able
to carry Ruthi. She could drag her, at most. And they could not exit the
She opened her map again, tried to strain her mind’s eye to make out the
details. It was hopeless. All she could see were the markings indicating
features of the map important for _gevurah_. Why were there so many of
them, anyway? They were down in a sub-basement, what was down here?
She choked on her breath. The armory! They were right next to the armory!
Hashem’s left hand that metes out strict justice, a flaming sword– all
_gevurah_ correspondences. Why was she so busy trying to ignore the signs?
The armory could save them!
She would only need to drag Ruthi a few steps. Or maybe more than a few…
It hurt her soul to see her friend like this, but there was no use crying
over that. She had to muster all her strength to pull Ruthi by the arms,
and Ruthi’s heels kept on getting stuck in the gaps between floor panels.
Ruthi’s ankles twisted. No time. Her systems could do all that repair once
they got to the armory. _Gevurah_ was all about doing what had to be done,
_Unfeelingly,_ Leah thought.
Just a few more steps.
She stepped to a featureless gray weapons cabinet and was surprised to see
it open in response to her mental command.
Behind her, Ruthi coughed. She was coming to. _High time._ Leah grimaced.
The cabinet was filled with canisters, all alike and indistinguishable
upon visual inspection. She looked at the readouts. Again her Kabbalistic
overlay obscured the important information — she wanted to stomp her
feet, but she felt too weary to do even that.
One of the aspects of _gevurah_ was _din_, judgment. She decided to treat
the noise as signal and grabbed the most judgmental-looking canister,
broke the seal.
“With extreme prejudice,” she muttered to herself.
“What?” Ruthi was trying to stand. She almost toppled and had to grab a
neighboring cabinet to steady herself. “Do you want to use that?”
“Am I psychokinetic? I want _you_ to use it!”
Ruthi closed her eyes and put her forehead to the locker’s cool front.
“Like last time?” She gasped for breath. “You ruined my ankles.”
“Look, if you’re not going to use this, we’ll just die anyway.” Leah
surprised even herself. Where was this ferocity coming from? Her
frustration and annoyance were all gone, transformed into a slow-burning
“We’ll die either way,” Ruthi said wearily. “That thing is symbiotic and
it takes half an hour to bond.”
“Is there anything else?”
“I doubt you’ll be able to use a rocket launcher against the _sheidim_.”
Ruthi pushed herself away from the locker. “Give that to me.” She took the
canister gingerly. “Okay, now you need to tie me up.”
“Do you want me to injure myself? I will thrash! What do you think?!”
Leah looked around in desperation. Restraint — such a _gevurah_ concept.
Normally, her eyes would’ve slid off the bright red markings in
unconscious, instinctive rejection, but now she needed to seek them out.
There was a bag full of large straps on the bottom shelf of the locker.
She grabbed it, tore it open. Looked around again. A large fold-down
panel, for repairs — she stepped to the wall, pulled down the panel.
Various pieces of equipment popped out from the wall and onto the panel,
leaving her with a well-equipped workshop. She swept everything off the
flat surface, various pieces of hardware clattering to the ground, losing
their shape as their programming realized they were unneeded.
She got Ruthi to lie down on the panel, and she pulled up the corners into
bars, commanded them to solidify in position, then used the straps to tie
Ruthi down. _Act. Do not think._ She knew if she were to pause for a
second, she would break down and cry.
“My head too,” Ruthi said. “I’d rather not bang it into the panel.”
She drew in a sharp breath, but proceeded to jury-rig a solution
regardless, her hands working swiftly. Ruthi was completely immobilized.
“Okay, now get a knife and make a vertical cut along my chest.”
Her mind would not even process the order at first. She blurted out,
completely inconsequentially, “Won’t you bite your tongue off?”
“I can lock my jaw. Quick, make the cut! That thing senses the blood, that
starts the bonding process.”
Ruthi’s clothing split open in response to her command. Leah only had to
cut the flesh. She unclipped her small polyval from her belt and flicked
it into a knife configuration. She leaned over Ruthi, who’d closed her
eyes and waited in silence.
Leah’s hands trembled and she grappled with her systems to find the
command to suppress the tremor. So much fear…
Another of _gevurah_’s aspects — _pachad_, fear. _Deal with it,_ she told
herself, then, _use it_.
“How deep should I cut?” Even her voice shook.
“Just a surface wound. It just needs the scent of blood.”
_And this is what we need to fight the_ sheidim? _This secular
technology?_ “How long?”
“A good, long cut, whatever, just do it!”
“Okay… you might want to lock your jaw…”
She touched the tip of the blade to Ruthi’s sternum. She gagged. Use the
fear. The blade glowed with the burning red overlay of _gevurah_. She
pressed down — only slightly — then pulled the knife along a straight
line. A very clean cut, the wound knitting itself together as she
_Pull it apart,_ Ruthi thought at her. She dropped the knife and obeyed.
Then she lifted the canister, unscrewed the lid and held it above the
wound before it closed.
Something half fell, half jumped out of the canister — it was larger than
she’d imagined it to be. It set upon the flesh, burrowed in with a ripping
Its mental imprint was so strong Leah could not help being drawn in. The
creature was full of desire, of need. Pure hunger. It grabbed ahold of the
solar plexus, ran up and down the nerves, made its way to the spinal
column, up into the brain with an animal kind of single-minded
“I thought you’d lock your jaw,” Leah muttered with sudden annoyance. How
like Ruthi… Then she looked closer and through the haze of _gevurah_ she
realized Ruthi’s muscles were tensed so much her bones would’ve snapped
had they not been specially reinforced. Was she here to train for _this_?
All the nonchalance, all the messiness just a façade? Who was Leah to
How much pain can a person take? Leah felt like she was about to get to
know the answer. She did not want to do this to her roommate, to her…
The _sheidim_ swarmed closer, attracted to human suffering. They wanted to
feed. Time was running out.
She tried to tune into the process, to estimate the remaining time until
the successful bonding. _Is this even reversible?_ The bright arcs of pain
had faded and the symbiote was worming its tiniest tendrils into the
flesh, spreading out in a fractal pattern like the branches of a tree.
She saw a shadow from the corner of her left eye. She spun around. The
_sheidim_ were approaching. They weren’t strong enough yet, they were
barely visible and they would shy away from direct observation. She stared
at them, tried to will them away, but she could sense them crowding around
The walls began to glow with invisible lines, automatically highlighted
for her. Restriction again. Wards keeping out the intruders? In any case,
they weren’t strong enough — or, rather, there were too many of the
_sheidim_, for even though the wards proceeded to suck up their energy,
there was still plenty left.
Ruthi groaned; Leah probed gently and saw she was not conscious. Less than
ten minutes had passed. All of this was in vain?
She needed to accelerate the process, even despite the risk — being
permanently damaged was still better than being dead, she thought with
some part of her mind, while another part recoiled from the cold
calculation in horror. If she had to surrender to the pain herself, accept
the sacrifice like Yitzchak at the _Akeida_, she would’ve gladly done it
to save Ruthi. But to offer up another… _She_ wanted to be there, tied
down and torn apart. But she did not have the capability, she was not
psychokinetic, she was–
_Hashem, I’m just a girl who’s aware of other people’s minds, how did I
get into this mess?!_
She frantically scrolled through an inventory list. Something, anything…
On her skin she could feel the air temperature dropping.
Ruthi coughed, coming to.
“Cabinet Five,” she said, “on the top shelf.” Then her consciousness
winked out again. _Too late, too late._
Leah jumped to the cabinet. The top shelf was filled with ampoules. “Which
one?” No answer. “Ruthi!” She grabbed one of the ampoules highlighted for
her. _I hope it won’t give her a heart attack,_ she thought.
“What do I do with this?!”
The crest of another wave. Ruthi spoke. “The elbow… I have a port.”
“Which elbow?!” Again too late. She tore at her clothing, ripped off her
sleeve. It was either the right one or she had induction ports on the
insides of both elbows. She popped open the latch — one end of the
ampoule fit right in. She pressed it in, turned it until she heard the
click. Whatever was inside was sucked into the bloodstream.
She had indeed picked the right ampoule. Whatever it was, the substance
cranked up the growth process so much she could feel it herself. She
shuddered. Another large burst, another arc of pain. She realized with
horror that Ruthi was conscious again, the ebb and flow hitting another
high point just when the growth surge launched.
Ruthi keened like a dog. At the door, _sheidim_ were massing for an assault.
_Cut me loose._ At first Leah did not even realize Ruthi wanted something
from her; she looked in no shape to form a coherent thought, and yet she
She cut the straps, fumbling and coming close to dropping the knife twice.
Her whole body was shaking and her vision swam in tears and the red-hot
fire of _gevurah_. As soon as Leah was done, Ruthi tried to get off the
panel, but she could not maintain her balance and she fell with her full
weight on Leah. Leah grabbed her, staggered back, then sat down heavily.
The floor was icy cold. Ruthi shuddered in her entire body and Leah could
feel the process had not yet run its course. She held Ruthi close to
herself, tried to whisper words of comfort. There was no time.
Ruthi tried to extricate herself, fell forward on all fours, then lost her
balance altogether. She lay on the ground, panting. Leah could sense she
came perilously close to fading into unconsciousness again.
_Pull me up,_ Ruthi thought.
Leah scampered to her fallen body, tried to pull her upright, supporting
her weight with her entire body.
The _sheidim_ lured them with words of darkness. So close…
Her mind was jumping in utterly incongruous directions. _This is surely
not how the ancients defended themselves…_
“_Nitkatnu hadorot,_” Ruthi whispered. _The generations have become
smaller._ The Talmudic expression for people becoming less and less
observant, less and less wise.
Then, only the earth-shattering and yet inaudible sound of the wards
breaking down, the howls of the _sheidim_ streaming inward, entering the
bubble of silence.
Ruthi strained against Leah’s arms and shouted something in Hebrew, but
Leah could no longer make out the words. Pure melting-hot force ran along
Ruthi’s spine, an axis of murderous light connecting above to below —
Leah knew she needed to let go but couldn’t, they would both burn, all
would be for naught–
Ruthi pushed her away, teetering on her legs, then she lifted her arms —
still unsteady — and with an outstretched hand, brought justice down from
the higher realms.
Her silhouette was burned into Leah’s mind like the outlines of people
burned into walls after a nuclear explosion. Leah fell, fell, and would
not rise for a long time.
A coughing, retching sound pulled her back.
Ruthi — or whatever was left of her — was lying on her back, gargling
She crawled to her and pushed her to the side so that she would not
suffocate in her own vomit. _What was that about the recovery position?_
She was blacking out herself, struggling to recall the first aid lessons
back when they’d arrived at the station. _If her neck’s broken — Hashem
— I might’ve just killed her–_
Then darkness claimed her once again.
She was being tied to a stretcher. She struggled to sit up, but a large
hand pushed her down. She turned her head — there were several people in
bright red coveralls striped with glowing neon yellow, crowded around the
place where Ruthi’s body had lain. She was there, but Leah could not see
her from the paramedics. She could not feel her mind.
She started to wail, but then there was a small hiss and even her vocal
cords would not obey her any longer. She fell, this time into pure soft
Her mind returned before her sense of her body, leaving her thoughts to
spin around faster and faster, spinning in place. She struggled to open
her mouth. She could feel she was not alone in the room. She had to speak!
“Is she dead?” she finally managed to gasp.
“No,” the man sitting in the back of the small room said, but with a
strange undertone she could not interpret.
“You saved both of your lives,” the man said. He was clean-shaven — an
outsider? Someone _frei_ altogether, or maybe Modern Orthodox? “Such
resolve. You did what had to be done. Most people would’ve hesitated.”
It took Leah a moment to realize he was praising her. How was she supposed
to respond? “It was a _gevurah_ day,” she said, not having anything better
He did not understand. _Definitely an outsider,_ Leah concluded.
“In similar situations, people often shy away from helping.” She could
feel he’d seen a lot. She tried to gain a measure of him. Some kind of —
specialist? Called in to–
“Who are you?”
He coughed. “Oh. I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself. Jacob Klein.”
_Jewish or German?_ Leah wondered. “Bioweapons expert for the Allied
military. My department engineers symbiotic lifeforms for psychokinetic
operatives.” _Such a well-practiced turn of phrase._ He did these
introductions often, she realized with a small startle.
“Are you here to–”
“Yes, I’m here to assist with your friend’s reconstruction. She’s been
through a lot. No, no–” he raised his hands placatingly, “don’t worry,
everything is going according to schedule. She’s going to be all right. As
much as possible given the circumstances. A full recovery might take
years, but so far she’s on track.”
She eyed him skeptically, but as far as she could tell, he was telling the
“Look, half an hour is the absolute minimum for the merge. It’s not meant
to be accelerated. It can be accelerated, yes, but it’s not meant to be
accelerated.” He sounded apologetic.
She sat up with difficulty, pulled up her pillow and put her back against
it. She did not know what to say; she was stalling for time.
“The two of you did it in just under eighteen minutes,” he said. “It’s a
miracle there was enough… functioning to mount an attack.” He looked
away. “But that’s not what I’m here to discuss. I’m here to tell you
“We have a lot of reports from battlefield situations,” he went on,
ignoring the question. “This type of weaponry is extremely effective,
but…” He cleared his throat. “The other soldiers are the ones not taking
it well. Not even as far as to assist. Installation usually happens away
from the front, but there is still an amount of field maintenance
necessary, and then there are the possible injuries…” He stood up and
started to pace; he had trouble keeping his eyes on her. “This will sound
heartless, but these days the military often tries to assign them
assistants or… buddies… with a psychopathic streak. The kind that
usually keeps you out of the army. Simply because other people, people
with a measure of empathy, do not have the resolve…”
_But I’m not psychopathic — right? Right?_ Panic rushed through her,
clearing out her stuffy head.
“From what I see, you are not only a gentle young woman, you are also
telepathic… Yet you’ve gone ahead and done it.” He shook his head in
disbelief. “I need you to understand this.” He turned to her. “Don’t feel
bad about your actions. You’ve made the right choice. All the right
“The _Akeida,_” she whispered. He did not even know the word. “Hashem told
Avraham to offer up Yitzchak as a sacrifice… and Avraham _avinu_ went
ahead with it.” He still drew a blank. “In the Torah. Avraham. Yitzchak.”
She felt a familiar annoyance.
“Ah,” he said. “Abraham and Isaac. I see.” He scratched his head. It was
uncovered. _For his sake I hope he’s German, not Jewish._ “I definitely
see the analogy. But even still, there was hardly a voice from God on
high, in your case…”
“It was a _gevurah_ day,” she stubbornly repeated. “I just did what my
overlay told me to do.” She paused, realizing that some explanation was in
order. “I’m here to learn all these correspondences.”
“Kabbalistic correspondences. Like, the attribute of Yitzchak is
_gevurah_, strictness, restriction… discipline, that’s a better word.
“Ah. And you’re studying these correspondences.”
“Yes, my interface highlights them in…” she waved a hand around, “my
environment, and this way it’s supposedly faster.”
“But…” He frowned. “If we take the analogy one step further, you’re
not… Isaac. You are Abraham. You offered up someone else.”
Her breath stuck in her chest. He did not notice as he went on — for him,
this was a fascinating but ultimately alien topic. A chat with someone
from a foreign culture. They were as far apart as two people could be
while still speaking the same language. “What corresponds to Abraham?” he
asked in all innocence.
“_Chesed,_” she muttered. “Mercy. Lovingkindness.”
“And what corresponds to you?”
For a long while she could not answer, she just sat there in the infirmary
bed, tears rolling down her cheeks.