Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What we did after that

Maria's stomach makes one of those noises like the things crawling through the dream fields that used to keep me awake. Next thing I know, my stomach's growling back at hers. Nice of her to remind it that I haven't actually eaten anything in… a while. I would have had some pancakes, but you all know how Not Well At All that went.

"I guess you didn't have breakfast," Dante says to me.

See, I've noticed you humans do this thing where you state an obvious observation in order to being a conversation or just fill up the silence. We did not learn this from you. You did not learn this from us. It’s a coincidence. Sometimes they happen.

"Matt made eggs," I reply. "But I didn't feel like eating. Loses its appeal after breakfast tries to bite you first."

Maria watches me like I might take a chunk out of her.

You'd think someone here so long they can't go back to the other side of the glass would be used to the sight of us. Not so much. Old Ones aligned to Beauty aren't necessarily better looking than the rest of us, but there's something about them that keeps your kind from being able to look away. Your brains are too busy being overpowered by Shiny!Pretty! to realize that it's not what you normally recognize as Shiny!Pretty!.

The rest of us don't have that cheat. You look at us and it's up to you to decide whether or not we're the kind of sparkly you find attractive. All your screaming gives me the impression we aren't.

"We should have lunch," Dante says.

"How do you know it's lunchtime?" Maria asks.

He points to the sky. "See those pink stars clustered around the orange one?"

She nods.

"They move in a repeating pattern," he tells her.

It's not a direction or another kind of linear progression. Not like your sun. The star cluster disappears and reappears. In increments. We don't know which increments. No one I know has bothered to find out. But we can use the increments to create the illusion of something like a "day" here. Makes about as much sense as obeying the commands of the chronograph. At least the stars don't yell at you. They aren't as demanding.

"Oh," she says like she wants to understand. "So it's lunchtime."

"Well." Dante scratches his fingers through his hair. "It is for me."

It's a very Avalon gesture. They did spend a lot of time together while Avalon was learning mirror magic. Every once in a while you see it reflected in how Dante behaves.

You were supposed to laugh. It was like a pun or something. Puns are funny. It may have been the something, then, that isn't so funny.

"But I have no idea what we're closed to," Dante continues. "Any of the neutral territories?"

We're close to the Beauty encampment that Maria spilled out from in her taffeta and giddy glamour. Doubt she wants to go back there. Don't need to listen to know I'm right.

"You want to take her into a city." I say it in that slightly slow way Avalon says things when he's questioning my brilliance. Doubtful. Armed with a pointed stick and seeking a hole to poke.

"Why not?" Dante shrugs. "She's one of you."


"I'm not!" Maria finishes for me, her face flushed with indignation.

She's insulted? Dante just implied the Old Ones are the same as this Not Going Home fragment. Not usually a stumble his brain makes. His tongue must have slipped on the way to whatever his actual reasoning is.

"I'm nothing like you," Maria says through clenched fists.

"Part of you is something like part of me." I shrug. "Otherwise you wouldn't be here."

It doesn't answer why she was here in the first place. Not many fragments come into our world any more. Someone had to have brought her. A large fragment can enter our lands, but smaller ones like Maria or Girl Val have to be helped across.

Maria was helped. Although helped is not the word she would have used.

She jabs a finger into my chest. "I was kidnapped."

Something about her assertion echoes through the harmonies in my head. It finds a shared string of chords in my melody, but the verse is a long way back. It's hard to hear the past because the present never stops playing. I've almost got the notes. Almost matched them to memories.

"We could always go to Vancouver," Dante says. "None of the Old Ones will bother her there."

Sometimes I wonder if he can hear possibilities. If he listens for when I'm about to reach a conclusion then interrupts me. Or he could just be trying to make it less awkward considering Maria doesn't know us. She doesn't know that I'm not staring at her. I'm not even seeing her. Or I wasn't. Not until Dante interrupted me.

He can't hear possibilities. That's not how he interprets what my grandmother would call "the talent." No, Dante is like his father and his uncle and his cousin. Touchy-feely. I know. You wouldn't think it if you spent any time at all with him. But I don't mean sentimental. I mean tactile.

"We'll have to cut through the dream fields," I remind him.

"Should be fine," he says. "The Inspiration Storm is over."

I think I hear thunder in the distance. Or it could just be the Chronograph going off.

"You don't care," Maria says. "Neither of you care about what happened to me."

"Oh, we care," Dante says.

Doesn't mean our lives stop to discuss it.

He gives me a look. Like he knows what I just thought. Maybe I said it out loud.

"We do." He elbows me. "Don't we?"

I punch him in the shoulder. "Of course."

"Forget it." Maria pushes at her tangled hair. "I'm not wasting my breath telling my story to two idiots who don't want to hear it."

In her pond green eyes, Dante and I are the same. I think I see the offense flash in his mismatched ones before he pulls his goggles over them.

"Lunch then. Vancouver it is," he says. "Lead on, Ethan."


Sarah K said...

I am enjoying Ethan's story a great deal. I'm sorry it took me so l,ong to get to it.

stormywriting said...

*G* I like her. She's sassy. And occasionally dense.

Plue, hello, epic name. :P

And my failure to count days aside, I really like Ethans story... good to see more of him in over-140-characters form. :)