Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hope speaks or Hope CONT PT 2 & ETC

Hope is one of those powers that everyone instinctively likes. Beauty shines but Hope glows. Lights up a room. Hope is like Inspiration that can only be directed to good. If you meet someone who has charisma but doesn't seem to realize it, someone who leaves you feeling like anything is possible and it's just out there waiting for you, then you probably met one of the Hopes. They're the few of Dante's people who make an effort to spend time among your people.

Gandhi. Bradbury. Obama. Ok, I'm kidding about Obama. He knew he was damn charming.

Spot Hope and you want to chill and follow at a leisurely pace. Let them lead, because you believe wherever they're going is a better place than where you are. Even if you're in a pretty good place, Hope seems to know the way to your ideal local.

Neither Maria nor I have doubted for a moment that Dante should lead. We don't have any reason to believe he knows where he is or where he's going, but we're following all the same. Lots of problems with this, but my focus is how he isn't aware it's happening. Makes for dangerous traveling conditions. Good is when we're people directing powers. Bad is when we're powers wearing people suits. Even if it's a well-tailored Hope suit.

"You know," Maria is saying, "I always thought the vanished cities would be…I don't know. Exotic. You know? This place doesn't really look any different from Emerald."

"Vancouver was west coast," I say.

"Back in the days of Seattle," Dante adds.

She examines the glass dome before us. Glass and steel cleverly constructed. Gleaming like a mirror behind it, a tower rises into the sky. A smaller glass dome on steel columns waits like a dish over turned on straws by a soft white stone building. Golden tree emblem and words announce it to be some sort of hotel. Flags for countries that no longer exist sleep against their poles.

Ignoring them, Maria approaches the large glass dome. Wires of sleeping lights are twined in a tree beside it. Through the glass, I see another world. Not your world. Just the one created within the glass cage. Seats. Banners. Tiles. Trash bins. Tables. Maybe a coffee shop. If I squint and hold my head just so, I can see the hint of a corridor vanishing somewhere.

"Ohhhh." Maria's eyes widen. Her reflected smile shows all her teeth. "It's a mall!"

Before we can say anything else, she races around the edge of the glass. Dante looks at me. I shrug. We follow.

Maria's found the doors. It is indeed a shopping center. Metal letters affixed to mesh over a large pane confirms it.

I think she might squeal. Or make some other kind of excited high-pitched noise.

Girls, I've learned from my time among your kind, love clothes even more than they love Val. There was a time when I didn't think guys paid attention to that kind of thing unless they were like my brother. Then I met Avalon.

"It seems small," Dante says. "And sort of empty."

"This is just the entrance." Maria points. "There's probably another level underground."

He peers. Like he could possibly see under the cement. "Ohh. Right. That'd be clever."

I blink. Maria doesn't notice the slip, but she's probably too busy thinking of how to break into the mall.

Me, I'm not going near that much glass. It may not do the same damage it does in your world, but my people who spend time among your people learn to be wary of glass anyway. Dante doesn’t have the same survival conditioning. Like I told you, he doesn't get out much.

"This is good." He steps back from the glass. Nods.

Yeah, I bet he thinks it's made of wonderful. He can look for a new parka.

"I know where we are. Glass dome." He walks toward the intersection. "On Georgia. Avalon's told me about this place."

Something loud and petty crashes through my rhythm. Badly timed cymbals. Avalon hasn't told me about this place. I don't know where we are. I don't like being reminded there's a playlist for Avalon that I've never heard. It comes after we first met and before we met again. Dante knows it. Probably helped choose the tracks on it. All of them hits from Over There.

Friends are something I don't have a lot of. Makes me possessive of the ones I've got.

Dante announces the name of the shopping center. It's less impressive of a magic trick when we can see the words hanging over the entrance.

Maria tries the doors. They won't open.

"It opens at ten," she reads. "Any idea what time it is now?"

"We don't even know what day it is," I mutter.

Dante hears me on his way back from checking the street signs. Stops. Frowns.

"Go on then, Andy." I can feel the smile forming. It has a cruel angle. "Tell me that's not helpful."

"Shopping is something normal for her, Ethan. She's trying to pretend—would you take those off for a moment?" He gestures to his eyes. Guess he means the goggles.

I pull them off. "You were lamely saying?"

"I was lamely saying that she's in denial, and neither of us should be offering counseling. We aren't equipped—"

"To do what?" A headache tries to find room among the music to stay a while. "Talk about life-changing screw-ups? Help her adjust to permanent twilight?"

I can. I’ve had practice.

"Ethanael." His voice is low, cautious. Restraint mixing with concern. "You're acting like your brother."

"No, I'm not."

He doesn't sigh. Doesn't smirk. Doesn't exhibit any of those annoying tells people do when they want to call your bluff.

Instead, he asks: "Can you hear Avalon?"

I want to tell him not to be stupid, but I know what he's really wondering. Avalon's quiet like all of the people from Over There—but I've known him long enough to find his specific silence by listening to how it appears in other songs. His pattern of pauses isn’t where it should be.

"No." I frown. "I can't."

Dante and I don't spend a lot of time together. We really only started after he helped keep the Oliver stuff on the down-low. Val's been busy with his girlfriend and Avalon hasn't been around. It wasn’t like Chio and I would get along. Dante fills a quota. He’s mostly a mystery. A mystery who has been around long enough to get a read on me. Observant without obviously observing.

"He's here," Dante tells me. "In Vancouver. I can feel it."

The implied question hangs in the air between us, flashing like Royaltea's malfunctioning sign: why can't I hear it? I know why I'm so cranky, so resentful of everything he's done. Dante isn't the only one the change affected. Fortune isn't on lead vocals for me anymore. Creation stole the mic and the spotlight. Few powers are bigger divas.

Dante and I are magnetic opposites now—the same power, different polarity. We're lucky we haven't gotten violent. Younger people, ones with less experience and training would have. I struggle with family pride and the sense of entitlement partnered with it before I get the words out.

"You're right. I'm sorry."

It's a boon rarely offered by my family. Laying down all weapons and exposing my neck. We don't bow to others. Not even other monarchs.

"It's all right." He's benevolence and grace. What a prince should be. Only one of us is royalty and it's not him.

Judging by the look on his face, he wants to hug me. Like a brother or a cousin. The reassuring affection that's cool between family. I'm more of a mess than I realized. Instead, he punches me lightly in the shoulder. Manly affection. Maria's watching, after all, and she's already questioned our virility.

Yes, she has. If you missed it, it's because you don't understand girls.

"It'll pass," he tells me. "The important question is if we should involve Avalon."

Important? Maybe. Unnecessary? Definitely. This is us. Of course we're going to involve Avalon. He's our default stand in for a real adult. Plus, if Dante can feel Avalon is here, Avalon knows we’re here, too.

That's when the fact pushes its way through the muted music and my threatening headache. Avalon is in Vancouver. That means he isn't in your world. Angry pancakes just became the least of my problems.

"He's already involved," I tell Dante.

He arches his eyebrow in a very accurate impression.

"He'll know who Maria was," I say. "He'll want to know what's happened to her."

"Who will?" Maria asks.

I jerk. Nearly stumble into Dante. Messed up? I’m deaf. She was behind me. Even Not Right as she is, I still sound have seen the probability of her waiting around for us to have our little "whisperfest" was minuscule.

"We think we've got a friend in town." I warn Dante with a look not to correct me. "Someone who can help out."

"I thought we were worried about people seeing you," she says. "You know, the whole genius reason we were looking for a hat."

I think she adds and a clue under her breath.

"The mall's closed." I stuff my hands in my pockets. "Besides, I only sparkle in the sun. Not really a problem here."

She doesn't get it. Dante, however, turns a chuckle into a cough.

"Come on." He smiles. "We'll get breakfast while we wait."

"Lunch, Andy."

"No, we can do breakfast over," I say. "On one condition."

Dante's smile grows. It's like your sun edging out from a cloud. Sparkle sparkle. Glow.

"Let me guess," he says. "No one orders pancakes?"


KT said...

Made me laugh, and I'm intrigued again.

And you know I'm going to be yay about anything involving Avalon. :)

John Evans said...

I definitely liked "He's our default stand-in for a real adult". :D