Sunday, October 18, 2009

Robson and Bute

Robson is shops, neon, steel and glass. Cuts through the visible heart of Vancouver. A Known street, a street that burns brightest in the fading memories of the people here. Like Stanley Park. Which isn't a street, but you know what I mean. If you don't, just smile and nod. We've got places to go. Avalons to find.

Before the city vanished, before it was dream field property, film crews and location scouts dressed Vancouver up as other places. Had it play a game of make-believe. Stay still and be Kansas. Boston. An undisclosed American future. Beneath it all, Vancouver remained Vancouver. We have a lot in common, this city and I. We're both gamers.

When you get gamers together, you get a game. I don't know yet which one Vancouver is playing with me.

Downtown is soaring modern among solid stone history. Reminds me of the Lost District in Emerald. Maybe Maria's thinking the same thing. Maybe not. She doesn't seem the type to spend time there. Have spent.

Dante's right: I think about her like she's a temporary visitor.

Didn't have that problem with Avalon. Soon as he went silent, I knew he wasn't going anywhere. Except Over There. Which he did. For a while. Until he came back to us. When he did, we made him sleep. He's not sleeping anymore. He's here. Well, not with me. Not yet. But he is somewhere in the city. Dante's sure of it, and Dante's someone you can trust. He doesn't game. Doesn't frame his words to suit what he wants you to see. Or he just doesn't do it as deliberately as I do.

So he leads. We follow.

I can't see the glass cage of the shopping center anymore. I can't even see the grey stone building of columns and steps that obscured the way we came. It was some kind of art museum. We're blocks past it and the other illusions of open space. Shops crowd us. They line the street expectantly. Waiting. Like they know something we don't.

I can guess they know we shouldn't be here. Not now in the slumbering quiet. The kind not so easily broken. This isn't your world’s city quiet. Not fragile like snowflake and spun glass. This silence dreams. Shapeless ones that press against me as they pass. I itch. The part of me that's Creation longs to form things. Give substance to thought. Ideas. Nightmares.

Creation is restless. It paces. It doesn't like being caged. Wants to run. So do I. Instead I play follow the leader. Ignore the urge to provide a reason for Dante to move his feet faster.

"We're close." He searches the street. "Anything, Ethan?"

I shake my head. It's pointless trying. The music's almost gone—smothered by my Creation side. Headphones hanging around my neck, I'm hearing all sorts of other things I don't usually. Our shoes against the sidewalk. Maria sucking air in through her teeth. The restless pounding of my pulse.

I always wondered what I'd be like without the music. No harmonies or auditory cues. If I'd learn humility and kindness and all those things your people sing the praises of. I don't think so. With the music quiet, with Creation in control, I'm just as self-absorbed. Maybe the likes of me isn't meant for kindness.

All I know is if I don't get the music back soon, I'll lose my mind to this silence. I'd ask you how you function surrounded by it, but you probably wonder how I function exposed to constant sound. It's easy: I read lips. When I can't see mouths, I just listen for what is most probable response.

Another street called Bute slices across Robson. Everything is divided into neat little blocks. Bites for easy consumption.

This used to be a High Street, as Avalon would call it. Lots of shopping for tourists. Vancouver doesn't get many tourists anymore. There are still shops. Some of them cater to the designated wealthy. Some are specialty. All of them are currently closed. It must be early.

Odd that we haven't seen a chronograph yet. From what I can remember, this place was strangled by them. You couldn't get more than a few blocks without seeing one. They were like those green coffee places. You know. Where the people were always wearing green. The coffee wasn’t.

"Do we know where we're going?" Maria asks.

This knowing is a very big deal for her. It's how I know she doesn't know anything at all. I'm not being fair to her. Not being kind. Not even attempting to make it sound like she's someone who deserves kindness. I'm not good at sympathy. Better at empathy. Usually. Dante is more the sympathetic one. I guess he's suffered more of the little sufferings that make pity an easier reaction.

"Yeah." He runs a hand through his hair. "We're close."

"So you said." She picks at the ribbons around her ankles. "But that doesn't answer my question."

He doesn't scowl at her like he'd scowl at me if I'd said it. He just looks apologetic.

"Wherever we need to go is close," he says.

She shakes her head.

"You don't have any shoes." I point to her feet. "That doesn't seem hygienic at all."

If you want to stop people from arguing when they're arguing to avoid admitting they want to make kissy faces with one another, you should change the subject. Say something that makes them think about something else. Like that one of them doesn't have any shoes.

"One of you finally noticed." Maria sticks her hands on her hips. "That's right, Ethan, I don't have shoes. Are you offering to carry me?"

"No, I'm offering an observation. Maybe if you were a little nicer to me I'd offer a solution."

Maybe you think saying that makes me sound like my brother. You'd be wrong. Matt would have vocalized his disdain for her as soon as they met.

"If I was nicer to you?" Her voice rises. Those city dreams scatter. Dispersed by the pitch.

"One of us has to be the adult." I shrug. "Thought girls matured faster than boys."

Her eyes go wide then narrow. Her lips press together. I can't hear her anger, but I know her expression's striking those chords.

"Enough." Dante says it in that perfectly crisp way Avalon would. It means Dante's annoyed. To the point where he's forgetting to hide his accent.

Maria and I aren't enough to push him into that territory. He must be having trouble finding Avalon. I guess asking me if I could sense anything wasn't just for conversation's sake.

"You are so self-involved, Ethan," Maria says. "We're lost in some forgotten utopia and you're just noticing that I don't have any shoes."

Nowhere in the Twilight Lands is a utopia. It's all just places. Good. Bad. Missing. I don't tell her this. Just like I don't tell her that her telling me I'm self-involved wasn't necessary. Instead, I dig in my pocket. Pull out the compass. Offer it to Dante. It's not doing me any good.

"Ta." He takes it. Lowers his voice. "Do you reckon it can pinpoint Avalon?"

"Figure out how to make it find him," I reply. "I'll be working on shoes for her."

"That'd be rather kind of you." He swings the compass this way and that. Watches the needle respond. "Oh, I see. It moves."

With that taken care of, it's my turn to mollify Maria. Only she isn't there.

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