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Spheres of the Aether

Earth

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a part of Spheres of the Aether, by DarwinianAssault.

None

DarwinianAssault holds sovereignty over Earth, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

564 readers have been here.

Setting

Default Location for Spheres of the Aether
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Earth

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Minimap

Earth is a part of Spheres of the Aether.

12 Characters Here

Bec Hemingway [2] "Quick, get down the luminous flux. It's glowing again!"
Rose Hathford [2] "Magic is the folly of those who don't want to believe in reason."
Estrella Amber Bellerose [2] "Haha, don't call me cute. I'll kill you."
Aeger Adams [1] I'm the monster of modern medical, chemical, and biological technology
Michael Horloge [1] Okay, really. Am I the only one that hears that ticking?!
Delilah Montgomery [1] "...Wait, wait..?"
Miles Alexandrovich [1] "Money is everything, there is nothing it cannot buy. However, no amount of it could change worthless rabble like you into something worthwhile."
Milan Horloge [0] First it was the sundials. Then from Homer to Polybius. Wechssler to Toynbee, and Huntington. Man has silently gazed upon this perennial circuit since time immemorial.

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Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miles Alexandrovich
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Silence. This was what Miles Alexandrovich preferred in his personal chambers. Bright red curtains overlooked the busy street from miles above the ground, hanging just above a perfectly polished hardwood floor. Three large chandeliers hang from the roof of the large room, bathing it in a soft, yellow light. The room itself was as much bigger than any of the common folk could afford of their whole houses but of course, that’s to be expected. One as great and powerful as Miles cannot be compared to those who live beneath him.

In the light bulb’s warm glow sits a rather large chair, perfectly fitted for the man inside it. Made out of the finest black silk, it was by far the comfiest chair in the world and is another of the many things that distinguish him from the rabble of the streets. A crackling fireplace adorns the wall, contributing the sound of crackling flames to the turning of pages and the swirling of wine.

““We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already…..what nonsense.” He exclaimed, sipping his wine. Paper clunked as he closed the book and placed the biography of J.K.Rowling on the table beside him. He had decided that if any of the rabble would know about magic, it might as well be this one. Of course, she too turned out to be no different from the rest, just like every other author and musician. A few hours ago, he had asked Critchton to pick up every book he could find on the subject of magic. Now, the only one left was barely a book at all, Just a bunch of yellow pages held together by bronze rings.

Without even having to call him, Crichton entered the room, a rather slim man who had gotten on in the years. Still, even at the age of 83, Crichton served him faithfully and, if asked, would gladly die for his master.
“Yes sir?” He asked politely, his eyes widening at the incredibly large pile of books beside the chair.
“Crichton, where did you find this?” Dust rose from the pages as he slapped the “book”.
“It was being held in the back of the Library of Congress under strict protection. It seemed to be under the world threat section sir.”
Miles waved his hand towards the door. “Thank you Crichton, you may leave now.” The butler nodded silently and left the room. Miles turned back to the book, the delicate pages crinkling under his touch. The cover was donned in a strange symbol. Twelve spheres created a circle around the page, each with a specific symbol inside. These were all connected with a twelve pointed star. A rainbow gem rested in the middle of the paper, seemingly staying on without glue or any adhesive.

‘This is it! This is the Tome of the Aether!’ Sanguik shouted, his raspy voice echoing inside the rich man’s head like nails on a chalkboard. Ever since Miles gained his powers, this old man had taken up residence inside his mind. Though he was extremely helpful in learning to use his abilities, his constant presence became rather annoying, especially when trying to relax.

“And this will tell me all I need to know?” Miles said impatiently, running his hand across the thin paper.
‘This will tell you everything about every Sphere. Where they come from, what they can do and even who currently holds them. This is your key to granting your wish!’ He could feel the old man smiling, it was one of the only things in this world that sent shivers down his spine. With utmost care, he opened the book, a smug grin spread upon his face. With this, he had already won the bat-

“What kind of game are you trying to pull here Sanguik, these pages are blank.” The old man snickered, sounding more like a sneeze than anything else.
‘Patience my young prodigy, It just needs proof of your worth.’ He snickered again and pointed to the adjacent wall. ‘Feast upon those who give their power to you and bath the book in their filth.’ With an air of calmness, Miles walked to the wall and pressed the cleverly hidden buttons hidden in the floor, bookcase and desk.
Silently, the wall retracted into the ceiling, revealing a stone tunnel lit with tube lights across the roof. At the end of this hallway sat a heavy metal door, nearly 1000 pounds in weight. In the center of the door was a handprint, a small hole visible in the palm.

As his hand was placed into the marking, a small tube punctured his hand. The doors sung open noiselessly into his torture chambers. Miles had no qualms calling them his torture chambers; it wasn’t like he did anything else there. In fact, just calling them the torture chambers brought him a sense of sick satisfaction, a reminder of the twisted things that took place in this hidden room.

The walls were made of cool stone laced with lead to stop life scans from picking up his victims. Verious devices lay neatly organized along the walls. Racks, wheels, bronze bulls and many others were his instruments of pain and though it was very rare for them all to be occupied, it offered him so much variety. Instead of being caked in blood, the floors were perfectly clean. While most of the prisoners resigned to their fate, there was one woman who had been particularly resilient to his methods.

The young woman screamed for help, rattling the chains holding her to the wall. If she didn’t have severe scars on her arms and face, she might have been quite beautiful. Her host had seen that changed. Miles sighed, holding a finger to his lips. The woman stopped; at least he’d trained her well. Silence gets a reward was the first thing he taught to all of his captives.

“Cassandra Harvey. Age 27. Blood type A+. Mother of two young, beautiful children named Alex and Peter. Would you like to see your kids again, Mrs. Harvey?” Cassandra nodded vigorously, her wrists raw from the manacles around them. Miles stood, watching gleefully as the flash of hope entered her eyes as he detached her restraints. Her legs wobbled, barely holding her up from the wounds covering them and her lack of strength. A malicious smile spread across his mouth.

“Then it’s a shame you never will.” Blood exploded from the cuts on her legs, turning them into jumbled messes of bone and flesh. A single scream was all she could manage before she passed out from the pain and crashed to the floor, music to his ears. Miles bent down, a crimson tendril extending from the pool of blood and plunging itself into her throat. The man leaned over, greedily drinking the blood pouring from the wound. When he had drunk his fill, he stood and raised his arms. Slowly, the red liquid began to rise from the ground into a large ball, hanging silently in the air above the tome.

Blood began to drip onto the book, creating a stark contrast to the yellow pages of age. A bright blue light began to fill the chamber as the tome began to glow, soaking up the blood and turning it into words on its pages.
Sanguik laughed triumphantly. ‘We’ve done it! This battle is ours!’

Suddenly, the blue light vanished, the tome landing on the table. Miles eagerly turned to the first page. Upon it were only four words, etched in crimson ink.

THE WAR HAS STARTED.

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Delilah Montgomery
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"That's strange.."

Delilah had yet to leave her bed for the day, with classes canceled and having a day off from work, she had decided to take a day to herself. She was actually still nestled into her covers, deep in her slumber before the symbol on her chest began to warm, even her palms tingled, startling her enough to cause her to rise in her bed from shock. Calm, she slouched forward, running her pale fingers through cobalt locks while trying to overcome this sense of dread settling on her chest. The symbol was hot now, almost to the touch, and throbbing, too fast to be her heartbeat. Sighing, she buried her face into her faces, willing her body to calm from the heat that began to spread. Heaving herself from bed, she made her way to her bathroom, usually a cool shower helped but just as she began to start up the shower, a heavy knock sounded loud enough to be heard over the running water.

"Oh come onnnn" She groaned, shutting the water back off as she drug herself out of her personal bathroom, stumbling over some items on her bedroom floor while making it to the living room. Delilah wasn't the tidiest person, it was evident all around her apartment: Her room had clothes scattered all over, a typical girls room with underwear, the occasional bras and even makeup littering the floor. When it was cleaned, though, it was actually pretty nice. Her room was an average size, the walls were a brown with accents of greens and darker browns to feel as if you had walked into a forest, even her carpet was a nice lush green. The only thing that stood apart from her nature-themed room was her bed, which had her favorite polka-dot comforter and stripped pillows.

The knocks came heavier, more urgent as Delilah picked up her speed, still slow from sleep. "I'm coming!" She called to the door, but the knocking kept coming, furthering annoying her as she at least tried to fix her appearance before reaching the door. Luckily, her reflexes hadn't completely failed her when the intruder shoved his way through the door just as she unlocked it. Shock has almost kept her rooted to the floor as this strange man charged at her, narrowly avoiding his fist while jumping out of his way at the last minute, causing him to crash and tip over her couch. This was the first someone had approached her at her home and needless to say, she was a bit frightened. This man was like the others, dressed strangely in mostly brown, as if stepping back from the past. He was a bigger man, grizzly facial hair with wild eyes as her lunged for her again, stepping over her couch to reach her. He was more aggressive than the others, they had been unsure that she was the holder of such abilities due to her timid nature, but this one knew what she was.

If only she could say the same.

"Give them to me! You're the one I've been searching for. I've been watching.." He trailed off, throwing himself towards her again, his big meaty fist reaching for her. Delilah screamed, rolling out of the way quickly enough to gather a flame in her hand and launch it at the mans bottom. He howled and bounced around, his solid body leaving heavy thuds in hopes that it would alert her neighbors about the events in her home. She usually kept quiet, so all the commotion had to worry someone to at least check. "You have one last chance to get out. I'm w-warning you.." She finished not quite as strong as she started. Delilah took a defensive stance, bringing her fist up to face like a boxers, opening her palms just slightly to reveal a peek of a scar covering majority of her palms, still a soft pink from healing.

The male wasn't intimidated. He charged, angrier than before with a strange burning smell filling her nose before slowly breaking out just as she swung out her right fist. It connected to his jaw, leaving him in a daze long enough to send another punch with her left, this fist engulfed in flames. The smell of burning skin caused Delilah's stomach to churn as the man let out a terrible yell, clutching at his jaw just as someone else came running into her now shuffled living room. The cops. Quickly, Delilah snuffed her fist just as familiar faces flooded the room to subdued the man. Like she mentioned, he hadn't been the first person to attack her, and from those incidents Delilah got to know the officers real well. And they reacted fast.

Her apartment was a show; surrounded with police and an ambulance loading a crazy man into the back with charred skin, people gathered to stare and point while Delilah stood off to the side, giving a statement to an officer while bracing a hand on her forehead to shield part of her face, embarrassed.

This was Delilah's new life and she was starting to wish she had stayed home.

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Estrella Amber Bellerose
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#, as written by Layla

"Your whispered 'I love you' made my blue tears fall,
And I sing 'thank you' in a song spun of red."






Screams tore through the night sky, their claws raking through the paper thin galaxy above. Their passion ignited the stars that warred with the artificial luminescence of the epileptic stage lights. The trembling bodies were pressed eyelash to eyelash, sweat melding and breath knitting yet their excitement wavered not.

"Amber! Amber! Amber!"

Their chants only grew in ferocity despite having waited hours for their idol to appear. Despite the frigid outdoors, the field radiated heat from the countless bodies and the seething spotlights.

Behind the backstage curtains, soft golden hair was primped and caressed by trained fingers. The international phenomenon laughed, her voice ringing like the bells of fairies, whilst she inwardly rolled her eyes. She revelled in her name chanted as if she were a deity herself.

"Ready, Amber?" she heard the purr of her manager's voice, his eyes searching the slither of skin between her skin and thigh high socks. Men were easy to manipulate, their buttons easily undone with a look and a flutter of her eyelashes. A turn of her wrist and they'd bend over backwards to have a touch of her knuckles.

'Amber' smiled demurely and nodded.

What a fool.

The small microphone taped to her dress buzzed to life; the curtains hummed as they were reeled up. The crowd roared and the music rumbled. Spotlights swerved to lit the candle that was Amber just as she arched her spine and tossed her head, beginning the dance that would accompany her song. The stars seemed to follow her every move as she twirled, her wrists twisting and tossing the world aside to make way for her.

….wish she would…. her skirt is too…. so…. hot…. will it rain… can't believe….

The snippets of minds engulfed her but she shook them off, accustomed to the myriad of irrelevant thoughts. Instead she sang the first notes of her song, the lyrics flowing from her throat like honey without gravity. Her voice was heavenly, betraying none of the many hells that resided within its owner. The crowd stood transfixed as she weaved the stories with her voice, each phrase unravelling their souls and bringing them to their knees. They felt the earth tremble from the heavy thuds of the drums or from her voice, moving the very planet they belonged to.

Her sapphire eyes hypnotised the stars and she thought how appropriate that she'd been named Estrella, a name that meant star. Perhaps her fifteen year old mother had foreseen her daughter taking the world a few billions at a time. Perhaps she'd done something right.

As her voice climbed the scales and a note like a shooting star soared across the distance between her and the bodies clinging to her stage, fireworks shot through the sky and shattered into streams of colour.

"Amber! Amber! Amber!"

One letter at a time, they fed their souls to the star.




"Your whispered 'I love you' is painted in black,
And my 'thank you' is washed away in a tide of white."

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aeger Adams
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"Tell me where your boss is"

"I'll never tell you freak"


They always acted all tough when they were in danger. It always seemed like a criminals natural tendency was to be stupid.

Aeger was holding the man on a rooftop next to an alley. It was quite the drop, but the man didn't seem shaken. That might have been because he wasn't hanging over the mass space. Aeger was quick to change that.

"Still feeling disagreeable thug?" He stared at the grubby face of the man he was interrogating. Five 'o'clock shadow? Check. Yellowed teeth? Check. Stupid looking toque? Oh god it was horrible.

"Yes"

"Fine, I guess I'll cut it out of you." He removed his left arm from the man's collar, and grabbed his Light ring from off of his belt. Gripping it tightly, he activated the edge opposite of his fist, and shined the bright white light off of his mask, blinding the precariously hanging man with balls of steel.

"OH MY GOD YOU'RE INSANE!" The man screamed. "He's on Therrington Drive, house number 2206!" He started to hyperventilate. Aeger should have started off with the ring, would've saved him more time. "Are you going to let me go? Please, I just ended my first week here!"

"You dealt drugs to kids you fuck"

"It was either that or I couldn't buy food"

"What would you're gang do if they knew you sold them out"

"Murder me"

"Brutally?

"Yeah"

Think you'd be safer in a hospital?"

The man nodded, understanding what Aeger was offering.

"Yes"

"You sold drugs to kids. Try the morgue." Aeger slashed the mans head with the white hot ring. The head flew off into the alley. There was no blood, as the wound had been cauterized. A nice yet nasty side effect. Aeger dropped the body. The thump on crumbled concrete was discreet. He would probably be found two days from now, which would give Aeger enough time to prepare to infiltrate the compound, assassinate the leader, and blow up the place. He hopped from rooftop to rooftop, eventually getting to his means of transport, the light jet. While the fuselages were on the outside, as well as bright yellow, it was nearly silent, only audible in the dead of night. To add it sounded like a microwave while running.

He knew where Therrington drive was. It was a gated community that housed many, many rich people in his city. The mayor had a house there, and Aeger had been offered one as well, but he felt too out of place. A man who never left his house would draw even more attention. As he sailed outside of city limits, he approached his home on a cliff. It seemed cliché, but it was home nonetheless. He parked the light jet beside the house, and covered it with a tarp. He opened his door, and threw himself on his couch. His right arm fumbled for the remote, and he turned on the Discovery channel. It was his favourite channel to watch as he removed his costume.

Tomorrow he would ask the mayor if he could pay a visit to Therrington drive.

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Bec Hemingway Character Portrait: Rose Hathford
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Bec Hemingway [&] Rose Hathford



"Why is it that the most fascinating things in life never seem to be the beautiful little curses that play right into our waiting palms? It's like we're always watching, always waiting, for the one fluke of fate that'll never come."




"Bec, is there a reason you're sitting in a pile of clothes, or should I just leave you be and come back later?" 

It was the sort of question Rose had become all too used to asking over the course of the last few days as they hopped from one budget motel to the next. “Because if you’re telling me that you biggest revelation has something to do with plaid boxers and— and whatever all the rest of these things are,” she said, gesturing to the other, unidentifiable objects strewn among the various articles of clothing covering the floor underneath her friend, “I think I’ll have wasted the flight out here completely.”

Bec muttered something in French that Rose couldn’t quite catch. With a sigh, she knelt down, carefully balanced in a pair of expensive black heels, and laid a hand on Bec’s shoulder. “Alright. Let’s get you dressed, and we’ll discuss this over breakfast, alright? Where’d you put your clothes? Go take a shower, and I’ll clean up. Alright? I hear there’s a nice café down the street.” Bec nodded his assent and stood as Rose eyed the obscene mess of cloth and paper that seemed to cover the carpet.

“Il suffit de ne pas gâcher le papier sur la commode,” he mumbled as though he were drunk. “I need them pour plus tard.” He had a terrible accent when he mixed his languages— something caught between West African and Québécois with a slight hint of Rose's own cultured British thrown into the slurry. The Africanized syllables sounded strange on his tongue, as his voice was nowhere near as rich, deep, and guttural as the men it suited. For his height, Rose still found herself surprised how soft-spoken he was. It brought her back to the days when they'd both been thirteen. She'd been taller than him back then, and even now, she couldn't help thinking the arrangement had suited them better. She wasn't sure when he'd gotten so tall.

"Don't worry," she said, her own French more regal and practiced like her English— she'd taken it upon herself since the age of six to drop her native South African accent, picked up from the Afrikaans-laced babble of the nannies, for the more cultured British of her tutors. If she was going to speak a language, she might as well speak it well. "I'm not going to lay a hand on the papers on the dresser."

With that, she set to work tidying up the room. Her hands, somewhat unused to the thought of picking up, folding, and putting away. After an arrival an hour ago, she and Bec had each gone to their respective rooms. The places were a bit lacking in amenities, but she’d suspected that Bec had seen worse from the way almost started jumping up and down at the thought of a hot shower. Life without running water was almost unimaginable to Rose herself; here she was, now, picking up Bec’s clothes from where he’d dumped them in a pile on the floor, doing her best to remember how to fold a shirt. She’d found him there, reading, of all things, when she’d come in to check on why he’d left the door ajar. It was a strange sight, the pale man stripped down to a turtleneck and jeans reading some Hindi book in a pile of more turtlenecks and jeans.

Strange, yes, but oddly charming. Rose smiled to herself. Bec was a fascinating fellow. She couldn’t wait to hear what he’d asked her to fly all the way out to the United States to see.

***

Bec traced symbols on the shower door, lost in thought in the steam. The water was hot enough to scald his skin to some extent, but he didn’t mind— he was used to being hot, and the small pinpricks of pain felt only like a series of tiny fingers drumming across his back. He was still lost in thought after Rose had barged in and torn him from his book, saying something in English about cleaning up and cafés. Which was odd, seeing as Rose wasn’t much one to frequent either. He wasn’t sure if he’d heard her right. His English was always bad when he read in a language he wasn’t familiar with. New languages he translated back to his native French before he was fluent, so she’d caught him at a bad time. Thinking in three languages at once wasn’t exactly easy.

But even if she had said something about cafés, cleaning, or the both of them at once, she was in an oddly good mood— another oddity, knowing the pleasantly stuffy Rose of yore. He’d expected her to balk at the offer of a bargain motel, knowing she was used to the grounds of her father’s multi-million dollar estate and the too-elegant apartment she’d moved into in Australia. Until college, he himself had lived in similar circumstances. The first few months in the tsunami’s wake were torture, after all. No electricity. No computers. While Rose’s transition was hardly as extreme, he’d thought he’d know her pain.

With a downward stroke of finality, Bec drew the twelfth symbol onto the fogged glass and smiled to himself. Now, he carried a generator with him everywhere he went.

He was tempted to call forth a small field of heat around his body, to boil away the water before it touched his skin. He knew not to electrify it; after the first few experiments, also taking place as he thought in the shower, he’d been shocked enough times to have been trained like a dog not to do such things.

But still. Curiosity always got the better of him— and it was curiosity, that feeling of wonder as it laid untouched in the heart of the wonderer, that killed the cat. A little experimentation never hurt if it quelled a curious mind. As he rinsed the lather from his hair, Bec mentally pulled at the strange, invisible force. It felt like squinting into the distance, trying to focus the eyes on something blurred and unseen too far away to have a distinct form. He felt a tugging in his chest as the power came forth. He knew that imagining the feeling of falling let the power lift off his skin to create barriers and that if he pushed the barriers out fast enough he could create explosions. He knew, to some extent, how to create hot but not how to create cold. But, perhaps, if he felt as though he was falling backwards...

He felt a gust of air as the water falling onto him from above was shifted forward, suddenly, jetted forward onto the wall by what seemed to be raw kinetic energy. Fascinating. He’d have to write that one down. The ensuing seconds were a rush of washing the rest of the bubbly lather from his hair and making sure he’d washed off all the soap. It was a nightmare of Bec’s, finding a patch of soap still left on the skin and having to be out and about with the sticky feeling for the rest of the day. When he complained about it to Rose on his three-month trek through the jungle with those peculiar soap films, she just hadn’t understood his misery. He’d told her they should get out more, invited her to join him to go to Costa Rica to study the birds there for the self-aware navigation prototypes, and then he must have pissed her off because she stopped talking to him all of a sudden. She blamed the Internet connection, but he didn’t believe her. He’d set up that connection himself, and it didn’t fail. It just couldn’t. At least, as far as he knew. He wrapped himself up in a towel, kicking his old clothes into a corner to ignore later.

Speaking of Rose: there she was, cross-legged on the bed with his book like a cultivated lotus with her hand over her mouth. At first, due to the fact that he couldn’t actually see her because he wasn’t wearing his glasses, she thought she was shocked— but at what? He squinted around the room and gave her a quizzical look. What was so shocking she was making a dramatic gesture like that? Rose wasn’t a terribly expressive woman, and Bec, who’d known her for ten years, knew that all too well. He squinted harder at her. The action did nothing for him, and he was left in the dark until he picked up on the little noises she was making.

She was giggling. Rose, sitting there, thumbing through a book she couldn’t read on a bug-infested excuse for a mattress in a cheap hotel. Giggling. Was this Rose? She was acting weird around him, lately. He’d never understood the enigmatic Rose Hathford, and now the Lotus was even more confusing. Normally, he would have relished confusing, but when it came to Rose, erratic behavior just worried him. In Rose, erratic behavior was part of the erraticism in itself. She never slipped up with her routine. Never just took time off. Was there something she wasn’t telling him? Did she have a brain tumor?

Oh, God, it was a brain tumor, wasn’t it? Rose had a brain tumor, and she’d wanted to tell him in person. Was she still giggling? Or was she crying? He couldn’t tell. It’d been such a tiny noise. Was she choking on her own blood, then? Was she dying of a brain tumor, right there in front of him? He fumbled for the wire-framed things on the bedside table and put them on one-handed, the other kept full with the handful of towel he clutched to his chest.

Nope. She was still giggling. When her features at last came into focus, there was one of the few smiles he’d ever seen on her that extended fully to her eyes. He wasn’t sure whether or not it suited her. But it was certainly strange.

“What? What is it?” he asked in English this time. Rose didn’t laugh again, but she was still staring, incredulity splashed across her features. He spoke his father’s British underlaid with his mother’s lilting Arabic tones.

Rose’s smile cracked. “Bec, do you know how to use a blow-dryer?”

Bec put a hand to his hair, his fingers coming to a stop well before he reached his scalp. Each hair stood on end, gravitating away from his head to form something of a fuzzy ball. Static electricity, he thought. Definitely one for the books.

***

A few minutes after Rose had excused herself to let Bec back at his clothes knowing he had no qualms about nudity— another of the items on Rose’s long list of capital sins that she wouldn’t stand to see. He didn’t have qualms about many things, having lived alone on the island most of his life. Comparatively, Rose was nothing but qualms.

Rose stood outside the door on one foot, leaning against the wall and picking invisible specks of mud from her shoes as she waited for her friend to change. It had been embarrassing, how she’d let herself slip earlier and broken down giggling, but she had to admit that the ordeal had caught her off-guard. It was strange how they tempered each other out. She hated the unexpected, but somehow it wasn’t so bad. Though Bec had looked something a touch more than shocked when he caught her laughing. Worried? It was out of the ordinary, but she couldn’t wrap her head around his being worried, of all things.

She supposed that was what old friends were for.

Rose straightened her jacket out, smoothing the once-stiff creases that had deteriorated into nothing more than wrinkles in the Florida heat. The white blouse she wore underneath felt as though it was a layer of tissue paper glued to her skin. The ruffles had gone limp, and it was likely her hair would have, too, if it wasn’t pinned back in a bun.

At last, Bec was finished changing. She didn’t notice him until he was standing in front of her, eyes covered by the ubiquitous pair of dark sunglasses, face obscured by what could pass for a woman’s headwrap draped over the neck of his shirt. Save for his height, he could pass for female if he had a worthwhile falsetto. Rose peeled herself off the wall hoping she didn’t smell too badly of sweat. She could feel it, and the stickiness was nearing unbearable. While she stood still, she was able to ignore it, but now that her skin was moving again it felt like a sticky weight she couldn’t quite manage to escape.

“Did you say we were going somewhere?” Bec asked, “I wasn’t sure I heard you right the first time, so I don’t want to assume anything.”

Rose nodded. “There’s a café a few blocks down according to, well,” she paused, “Google. Sounded worth a try. I did come all the way here so you could show me something, after all. What is this that’s so important? I usually put in extra hours on the weekends, and I don’t like to be wasting valuable time with which I could be networking hanging around in a motel room.” She didn’t mention the couples that had drifted in and out of the room next door. She didn’t mention the dead-eyed women passing by her doorstep hanging on the arms of men who filled them with promise of life in the land of the free and the brave. She didn’t mention how she seemed to instinctively avoid the darker-skinned ones as they passed her by in the hallways wanting for nothing more than hope and forgiveness as though they’d dirty her clothing with their very presence.

“Well, then. Let’s get going,” Bec replied with a smile.

It was astonishing how blind he could be, sometimes.

***

Bec sunk his teeth into his croissant, tearing into the thing with no mercy after the long flight from Denver. Starving, he’d coated it with artificial sugar, first, claiming he liked the taste, then slathered it in tart jam to take the edge off the sweetness. Rose, on the other hand, picked at a more polite helping of a strawberry tart. She’d been given a salad fork and a butter knife, and neither of the two had proved useful in anything other than crumbling the sweet. She was hesitant to pick up the crumbs, not wanting to risk ruining the already sweat-drenched blouse with the sticky red filling clinging to the plate.

“So,” Bec said through a mouthful of crumbs— how could he do that without looking like a complete pig?— “About the, ah, thing I brought you here to see.”

Rose leaned closer, folding her arms on the table in front of her.

Bec fumbled for some sugar and ended up squinting hard at the salt shaker for a few seconds before reaching into his bag and pulling out a stack of papers. He seemed to be at a loss for words. “You see,” he said, holding up a pair of x-rays. He spread them out on the table. Rose sipped casually at her tea before peering up over at the images. But it was only the calm before the storm.

She couldn’t help dropping the tea. It covered her blouse, shattering on the floor, drawing stares. Drawing pain from her skin. But her body had shut down. Gone numb.

“Bec,” she breathed. “You’re dying.”




[Rose Hathford]

Please don't stand so close to me
I'm having trouble breathing
I'm afraid of what you'll see right now.
[Bec Hemingway]

Send us a blindfold, send us a blade
Tell the survivors help is on the way
I was a blindfold, never complained.

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Norjin TallusWorth-Mister Marvelous Character Portrait: Estrella Amber Bellerose
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Amber....Amber....Amber....Amber” called out a union of voices that were shouting yet nulled in volume by external forces.The weight was still beaming from the praise that emanated from the name chorus like repetition from the unseen fanatics. Crowds, tens, hundreds maybe even a few thousands seemed to sending it across the air but despite the numerous amount of people that appeared to be chanting it all a series of other voices that didn't even seem nearly as potent in the unity of those behind or the force delivered competed with them, in fact most of opposing forces sounded casual or even unconcerned; all the while bumps and thumps of uncertain rough weights patted against different types of floors along with drips of sound from various different materials that raged from beeping items, other music playing that timidly tried to shove its way into the airwaves between the resounding crowds and voice of Amber and finally grinding chairs.



A pair of rounded ears sprang up a little in a subtle flare of interest when the voices let marched into them each which in turn made the a set of chocolate colored eyes peel the lids around them a little, covering the top and bottom in a narrowed stare into the glass of water whom were currently bubbling a series of lights within its belly. It was just a little mixture of oil like waves that churned within its gullet whole but none the less had captivated the unidentified persons gaze until a casual but unmistakably masculine tone called forth nearby towards its direction “Hey...buddy...you've been staring at that drink for ten minutes...” bumped the stranger.


A mass of poorly but simply dressed flesh had his behind currently surrounding one of the many stalls that lined the side of the bar in uniform, most of them currently full with people that hardly caught the attention of chubby patron whom had now settled his eyes away from his drink to the barman “Uh..” the fellow first blurted out more like a timid choke as he stammered for his words before finally turning his eyes away from the bar tender into the nestles of his own vineyard like black hair “Yeah. I was just. Caught in thought...” he let off in a big of a hurry, the same kind of quick pace you get in a tone when you are constantly the verge of being breathless for some reason or another let could retain some sense of a composure.


Well. Hurry up. This isn't a hotel...” said the owner as he wandered away to another customer who had currently had his arm up halfway through the vocal exchange. The sizable fellow himself was Mister Marvelous or at least that what the marker on his shirt said, despite being in a rather tame bar...well, it wasn't a thug or gangsters den but it sure carried a few types who looked like they done a few fights in their time; Marvelous or Mister seem to be strangely out of place, he lacked the masculine build, the rough look in the eye that most of the girls had and even the lax posture of a person who was comfortable with the scenery was totally distant to him. Mister was simply slumped over with his spine a bit more bent than usual and his head a little lower, making him look even more like a sphere than usual.


You know...the heroes always goes to a tavern or the people in need always finds them...but now that I look at it. I don't think I find information in here...nor do I think I want whatever sort of.....adventure this place could offer me...” The over sized wanderer thought to himself, finally lifting his drink and letting its fluids slide down his throat in a single gulp, it was settled he was wasting time here or rather he was scared of the company to be closer to the truth. A jingle of changed hit the bar when paying as he lifted himself off the seat and started to lumber his frame around the various rabble that made up the atmosphere of the establishment.


The bar: the meeting grounds for the local drinking populaces was small and rather comfy really as it was straight in its format by only having one direction for people to head which was deeper into it by moving forward or out of it by moving backward as it was a horizontal lay out; it reached far enough down to give someone a decent couple minutes of walking before simply stopping at a pair of toilets and some stairs into the staff area. Tables littered the other side of the wall opposite the bar and eventually a small dance floor resided at the space where the bar ended, finally the front was nothing but a big window where the advertisement of a electronic era rained through, The TVs that where held up in the establishment at various points all had Amber on doing some sort of gig which made him stop for a moment to observe it all.


Pretty good, right?...” Chirped a voice near him, it was a little higher than normal and even slightly slurred although the answer to why was revealed when he inspected the speaker to be a girl in a white shirt holding a bear. Her face was half grinning but her eyes showed no real sign of being as happy as her expression.

Amber. Yeah. She is great. I'm surprised she hasn't got her own movie yet with how popular she is...” Mister Marvelous rang back with a slight smile of his own which easily betrayed his true nervous disposition in this place.


Want to buy me a drink?” She quickly let off with that smiled still plastered on her brow, making the near borderline bum of a good Sumatran flinch a little and lift his eyes brows before wiggling his fingers into his hair to give the scalp behind it all a scratch.

You see...I'd really love to. But I kinda gotta go...so..uh...see-” It was his escape attempt, not from the girl but from this bar. Frankly the girl actually taking the time to talk to him had been one of the few things that really kicked his head in gear and gave his eyes a bit of spark of interest outside of all the people he had been trying to help since the day he started the trek. The two cheeks blushed a little...well intensely...kind of to the point that he appeared to have smothered ketch up on his face before getting his runner halted by her next action.



You know. I kind of like your hair...” She started off playfully begging but quickly transformed her voice into a upbeat compliment when she moved her body a little closer to his, there inches from them barely being kept by the protruding belly of his, the mysterious woman own eyes now a little wider, her posture a little perked and her chest a little pushed out.












And that is how “Mister Marvelous” found himself outside as it was about to rain at night with no money and no company.

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Horloge
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Black. I wish I could say I saw my life flash before my eyes, or that there was some bright white light, or something... anything, but only darkness was there, smiling back at me. All I could feel was cold, and then...

Nothing.

His vision blurred, eyes stinging. He tried to take a breath, but was only met with ache as frigid liquid rushed to fill the vacuity in his chest. He struggled meekly for a few moments, legs flailing, one hand clamped around Andrew's wrist, the other sloshing around uselessly as he fought for upward momentum and the surface. The sunlight. The air.

His life.

But it seemed like the more he twisted and tangled and struggled, the further from the light he grew. It became apparent that Andrew, bleeding and unconcious, was weighing him down. His mind screamed at him to release to kid—to leave his friend to a most gruesome fate at the bottom of the lake—but for some reason... he didn't. He couldn't. Instead, he redoubled his efforts, his vision tunneling, his sinuses becoming saturated, his gag reflex wreaking havoc in the back of his throat.

Darkness invaded the totality of his vision like a plague, the last vestiges of the effervescent and breathable escaping from his mouth and nose as blood from a mortal wound.

His struggling ebbed as he lost feeling in his extremities, the seconds ticking by like hours. With his final ounce of lucidity, he reached his hand up towards the filtered sunlight, the surface, and the promise of life. He reached and reached with all his might, but, despite everything, he couldn't touch it. He wasn't even close.

And then he drowned.



...



"MIKE!"

Michael Horloge snapped back to reality, as if he'd just awoken from a daydream.

"Hey! Did you hear what I said?"

Michael turned his head to look at the speaker. It was his friend. "Andrew?" Michael sounded genuinely confused.

Andrew, in turn, raised an eyebrow. "Spacing out again, are we?" He grinned. "You know, sometimes I think you ignore me on purpose." He said jokingly, clearing his throat afterwards. The two were walking down the street towards the end of the road. Where the cement ended, the beach began—a brilliant tan micro-desert locked in mortal combat with the stark gray-black asphalt of civilization.

Looking down at himself, Michael noted that he had on shorts, sandals, and a white T. Right. Beach. He reminded himself. Under his arm was a rolled up towel, though it didn't belong to him—he doesn't swim. He was holding it for another. He and Andrew were on their way there to meet their other friend, Matt, somewhere on the sand.

Andrew and Matt were what normal people would call swim-a-holics. They loved the beach, pools, lakes, boats... really, anything having to do with water in general. Michael, on the other hand, abhorred large bodies of water—anything bigger than a large puddle, honestly. He's even been known to refuse to leave the house if it's raining too hard. Oh, and you couldn't force him onto a boat to save his life.

As great friends usually do, Matt and Andrew lorded his phobia over him. Mercilessly.

Michael, still somewhat dazed, noticed his friend staring at him. Something felt... weird. Perhaps he'd missed a verbal prompt. "What?" He asked, tone inflected.

Andrew smirked. "Oh, nothing. You just have that... look again."
"What look?"
The other boy's smirk widened. He waited a moment before responding. "Don't worry Mike, I won't splash you this time. Promise." He said, holding up two crossed fingers as if he were giving an oath. Very convincing.

Michael couldn't help but grin back. "Not unless you want to hold your own towel." He challenged.
"Nah, you got it," he chuckled. "Besides, I wanna show you guys this new spot I found!"
"New spot?"
Andrew beamed. "Yep! My little sister showed it to me. I guess she found it first or whatever, but who cares. It's by the rocks at the eastern edge of the beach," he pointed over Michael's shoulder, "away from that nosy lifeguard lady." He clapped his hands together. "They're really high, too. Wouldn't it be awesome to jump offa them?"

Andrew gave his friend a dismissive look. "Don't worry, you don't have to jump with us into the scary water," he said mockingly, making jazz hands at the mention of "scary water". "You can just watch. It'll be fun."

Michael stopped dead in his tracks, but Andrew continued on for a few more steps before noticing. He turned back towards his friend, waving him on. "Oh, come on, Mike. I won't splash you, I'm serious." He offered a genuine smile, taking a step back towards his friend before laughing softly. "Who knows," he shrugged, "maybe you'll have to jump in and save us with your leet skills."

Michael was totally deadlocked, attempting to wrap his head around entirety of the past five minutes. That "weird" feeling of trepidation and anxiety exploded into realization as he connected his "daydream"—his nightmare—with his current reality. He never told anyone for fear of being labelled crazy, but there were times where what he would experience in his loftiest dreams or worst nightmares would eventually come to pass in real life. When he was ten, he saw himself break his arm in a dream one night. The next day, it happened. At twelve, he witnessed a car crash outside of his home—it happened a few hours after he got home from practice. These acts of... clairvoyance? have occurred again and again, gaining frequency in proportion to his age.

And now it happened again.

... he reached his hand up towards the filtered sunlight, the surface, and the promise of life...

He'd never dreamt of his own death before. Not even once. Did this mean the demons were finally coming for him, like they had his parents? Were they going to take his best friend, too? No. He wouldn't allow it.

"Mike?" Andrew looked worried. "You look kinda sick. You okay?"
Michael shook his head laterally in response, buying himself more time to think up an explanation. He couldn't let his friend step onto the beach. This would not happen.

Setting

1 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natalia Casmirre
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The view was breath-taking; there could be no doubt about it. Even though she’d travelled much of the world and seen many of its hidden wonders and sights, returning here still make her skin shiver. Her home these last few years and in many ways her own private kingdom of a sort, even if no one else knew the truth of it. What did it matter to them anyways? It was for her and her alone… not by choice for that one she thought to herself. Her mood darkened for a moment as her hand absent-mindedly reached up and lightly toyed with the cord on which hung a single animals tooth, dangling down below her neckline. Even after spending months away to clear her mind and soul, as always when she returned her thoughts returned to where she’d left off. Sighing to herself she turned and swung her leg back over her motorbike, slowly gunning the engine into life. Chuckling softly at the thought of her description of the ignition but as she turned the bike round to ride into the valley she could feel the faint purr of what was not life yet wasn’t it absence stir within the breast of her sweet girl. Her fingers ran softly across the engine for a moment before reaching up and gripping the handles tightly.

Just over an hour later after flying past several dozen vineyards scattered throughout the valley she turned into a track which lead round to the side of a home build to watch the nearest vineyard, one which backed onto the nearby mountain which was raised high in this valley. At last she stopped just inside the courtyard of what could called a country house but was verging on a château, hopping off the bike and wheeling it slowly off to one side. On one of the walls, clearly visible upon entry was the iconography of the vineyard and its wine, her wine; a single large conical pot with a male figure resting back against it, The Nordic god Ægir. She always found it a source of some amusement that she used the gods love of ale as her sign of wine, though she was never entirely sure why.

She turned away from the sign and her bike, walking up the second set of curved stairs leading upto the main doors into the building, pushing them open slowly. Within moments she was greeted by a young girl who seemed to be dressed professionally enough and situated to be the receptionist, given her questions about who Natalia was and why she was here.

”I live here girl, but I’ve been away for a while so I can understand why you wouldn’t know me.”

She smiled softly before running her fingers through her long white hair, head tilted to one side as she walked past the stuttering girl.

”There do appear to be some others coming behind me however, most likely a group here for a wine tasting I’d reckon.”

Nodding towards the doors she’d just came through the continued onwards and walked towards a smaller door leading out to the back of the building, a figure in the wings laughed as she appeared.

“You didn’t have to be mean to her, she’s new.”

”I gathered she was Marcus, but I don’t like being questioned about the comings and goings in my own home.”

“Understandable, well this year’s yield has been above predictions. Again. I swear you have some luck that none of the others have girl.”

”I just know the land, that’s all. Never take more than you need nor more than it can give and you’ll receive what you will.”

She smiled and laughed before winking towards him before vanishing through the doorway into the back gardens which stretched to the base of the mountain, and her private rooms. A simple structure build against the mountainside that was for her only, even though she slept in the main building she had this for her personal affects. As she entered the room she breathed a sigh of relief, letting her fingers caress the walls and oak bookcases as she truly returned home. Walking over towards the back of her personal library she entered a simple tunnel that lead into a well lit workshop. Where she kept all of her jewels and designs, organised and ordered by complexity and profit margins, as well as many of her completed and half-finished projects.

The chamber was expansive, spreading deep into the earth as well as towering high within the heart of the mountain, and littered with forges and tools of all manner and means. And despite her month’s long absence the chamber was filled with sound and song, hammer and tongs and soaring heat and blistering cold. It was a place of opposites and conflicting ideals. Water flowed in rushing tides from several springs within the rock, almost ice cold from some of them causing chilling mists to collect above them. Though some of the craftsmanship here required more than just the heat of the furnace, and the smooth flow of water sometimes allowed them to shape things which was harder using traditional means.

She smiled as she saw of the thirty figures working hard within these halls there were three who still guided their hands as well as the day she’d first given them life and brought their souls into this world, each a reflection of her. Each lowered their head in greeting and difference to her, though only one broke from overseeing the others to come speak with her.

”Welcome back Mother, I hope your journey proved fruitful?”

”As well as it could, but such is the way of things.”

”Indeed, but we both know that’s never been enough of an answer for you.”

She turned from him and smiled to herself as she reached over to lift up her tools from the bench, stretching slightly as she readied herself to return to her element, standing between the aspects of the world and wielding them into forms of beauty and function. Her hand drifted up to where a simple chain dangled above her anvil, silver with a single stone set into its locket. Closing her eyes she whispered softly, almost to herself;

”My Éowyn”

Setting

2 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Bec Hemingway Character Portrait: Rose Hathford
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Bec Hemingway [&] Rose Hathford



”The lotus flower is fragile and finicky; once rid of its protective tuber, its petals as well as its roots become too delicate to travel far.”




People were staring, but Bec Hemingway was hardly the type of person to notice.

What he did notice, however, was that Rose was staring. Rose, her face stonier than he’d ever seen it— though, admittedly, he hadn’t spoken to her much face-to-face, as he’d spent half his time halfway around the world from her— Rose, eyes like a pair of emeralds turned sharp as diamonds, was staring him down, not even bothering to to clean up the tea she’d spilled over the table, the floor, and most shockingly, her blouse.

Bec squinted at the blurs that dotted the table and seized the nearest thing that even vaguely resembled a napkin, then leaned over the café table to dab at her shirt because she’d frozen still as stone. He spent a few moments silently patting her with a napkin before realizing it was one of the more worn pieces of paper from the folder he’d brought with him to the café. He made a face and tried wiping it off on his own shirt, but from what he could make out, all he’d managed to do was smudge the ink even more. Oh well. Hopefully, it wasn’t the one he’d bought in Morocco. Just to be sure, he raised it to his faced and inhaled through his nose. Sure enough, all it smelled of was tea and what he presumed was Rose’s shampoo— or whatever else it was that women wore to make themselves smell nice. He was slightly disappointed that she smelled like lilacs and sweat instead of roses.

Bec peered up at Rose again over the paper, about to comment on his latest scent-related findings, when he remembered that she was staring at him. While he couldn’t make out her face, he could make out her eyes, and they were trained right on him. Her lips were formed into a pencil-straight line. Was that an improvement over the slight, disapproving frown she always seemed to carry with her? He wasn’t sure. It was odd, the way her face-blob seemed to change shape when the corners of her mouth-blob weren’t turned down in her strange little Rose expression. It wasn’t exactly a frown; in fact, he’d grown to know Rose as just having that that face all the time. It was hard to imagine what she looked like without it.

His fingers searched for his glasses on the table. Had he even brought them? Hopefully, he wasn’t sitting on them. He’d bought a shatter-proof pair before he’d left for the Middle East, and the things could probably survive the nuclear apocalypse, but at the first whisper of the wind they were ready to bend themselves into a pretzel he’d spend the next half hour trying to straighten out. It didn’t help that he needed his glasses just to tell whether or not his frames were straight.

The sugar tin toppled, and Bec moved to clean it up, but Rose stopped him, resting her own hand on his. Her skin was cold and oddly smooth, unlike Bec’s own, which, though small and feminine, was covered in scars, scabs, and the odd callous he’d managed to rub into his forefinger by rubbing a coin against the inside of his hand for a week and a half straight as he walked. As Bec moved to take it away, Rose’s grip tightened enough to make him wince a bit. With that, it loosened, but not by much.

“Bec,” she started, the words coming slowly, as though she was searching for them through murky waters, “Bec. Please tell me what that is a picture of.” Her voice was all ice, but something about it was off. He could have sworn it sounded as though her throat had gone tight. Was she having an allergic reaction to the strawberries? No, it couldn’t be. Rose loved strawberries. Then again, he had no reason to believe she wasn’t allergic. Bec moved his other hand to continue searching for his glasses so he could take a glance down her throat. Perhaps she didn’t know— Rose wasn’t stupid, after all. She wouldn’t eat strawberries if she knew she had an allergy. Rose’s voice, however, cut him off again. “Bec!”

“Mm?” Bec’s eyes found hers as they found purchase in reality once again. “Yes. Ah. What picture?”

“The scans of your chest. The ones you just showed me. Would you care to tell me what those are supposed to mean?” She was over-enunciating her words, now, and Bec, for the life of him, couldn’t tell why. She sounded so funny with that accent of hers. He’d liked her old one much better.

“Ahm, the x-rays? Yes. If’ you’d care to hand me a—“

Before he could even finish his sentence, there was a napkin in his face, which was a good thing, as he couldn’t even begin to remember the English word for the thing with all the languages that had begun racing around inside his head. He began wiping the x-rays off. What had the nurses said? Of the few languages he had absolutely no proficiency in, Japanese was the least decipherable. Something about a solid yet energy-absorbent mass. Or maybe he was just making that up. That was what he’d seen when he’d looked at them. Bec repeated that to Rose, but doing so only earned him an even more confusing stare.

After a short moment of silence, she shook her head and said, “I believe it would benefit us both if you just spoke in English for the meantime.”

Now, he was just getting annoyed. How many times did he have to repeat himself? He’d already gone through the words once in his head and once orally. Again? “It’s an energy-attractive mass, presumably impermeable and nonporous, possibly crystalline, that’s formed within the past few years in the center of a cyst. Presumably, it’s a near-perfect sphere or an ovoid. There’s neither swelling nor any fibrous tissue outside the cystic formations.”

Rose’s gripped loosened a bit, and Bec was able to start drumming his fingers on the tabletop. It was something of a nervous habit of his, and clearly it annoyed Rose because within moments she’d clamped her hand back town harder than before.

“That. Does not. Explain. Anything,” she practically snarled. This time, Bec caught something of a crack in her voice. Her reaction was irritating. Certainly, it explained enough. He’d just described the thing to the best of his ability. What more did she want?

“Well, then what do you want to know? I’m doing the best I can, and I don’t know why you’re acting the way you are,” he snapped. Immediately, he wished he could take it back. At exactly that moment, a small, perky waitress clutching a mop popped up only to retreat back a few steps like a tiny rabbit in the face of an oncoming lawnmower at the sound of Bec’s words.

“Excuse me, you don’t mind if I—“

The waitress was cut short by the sudden grating of Rose’s chair followed by the sound of her heels clattering away over the patio and then out the door. Bec shot an apologetic glance toward the waitress and slipped a few Euros from his pocket onto the table. He had no idea how much a cup was supposed to cost, and he hated just letting his money go, but what else was he supposed to do? His hands finally found the glasses case Rose’s hand had prevented him from finding, and he was on his feet in a second, suddenly towering over the petite woman with the mop. He tried to smile, but the expression he made came out more of a grimace than something friendly enough to pass for a smile. In a moment’s time, however, he was past the poor woman and heading for the door. His hands had just enough time to reach out automatically for the things he’d know he’d need: his coat, his scarf, and his sunglasses. He stood for a second outside the door throwing the three on, which garnered him a couple stares from the passerby dressed more appropriately for approaching midday heat.

And then he was off. With his sight restored, he had to resist the impulse to start staring things down to make up for whatever beauty he might have lost while he was sitting in the café. There were too many fascinating things around him, and if he let his mind drift off onto one, he’d be finding more in an instant. Instead, he looked to the masses of heads milling about the sidewalks and streets, sifting through the hairstyles for one resembling Rose’s. Surprisingly, most were wearing no more than shorts, tank tops, and flip flops, which was something of an odd sight after having spent two months trying to figure out who was who in which burqa. He hoped they’d all put on sunscreen.

There. He saw it. In an ocean of artificial curls gone limp in the heat and humidity, Rose’s smooth bun was visible in an instant. He set off after her.

***

Rose was on the verge of doing the unthinkable: losing her composure in public. Tears stung at the corners of her eyes, and she was nearly stumbling in her in her heels. She knew she’d start to blister if she ran too much in peep-toes, so she slowed down— though not by much. She just wanted to get away from Bec for a moment. She couldn’t handle this. She wasn’t sure why he’d had to tell her about this in person when she was a girl who fit so much better behind the curtains of a computer screen and an ocean. If they’d done that, left her at home behind her monitor, she didn’t have to keep her face up. She could just disappear. She could get away from Bec and sort out her thoughts on her own.

As if thinking of the Devil could call him to her side, Bec’s hand was on her shoulder in an instant. She brushed it off and kept walking, but she slowed her pace to a totter. She wouldn’t stop, but if he wanted to follow her, that was fine.

“Rose,” Bec started, “Rose, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

No. She wasn’t okay at all. She wanted Bec to go away, but she wasn’t going to be rude and just tell him. Even if she’d wanted to, she knew she wouldn’t be able to tell him to just... leave. To just let her be.

Before she knew it, he’d caught up, the cloudlicker’s legs giving him no trouble in keeping up her pace. Rose resisted the urge to swat him away like the oversized fly he was.

“Rose!”

Rose turned sharply at the next corner, then turned again onto the nearest off-street. The colors in the shops had all morphed into one chaotic hue, a waltz of tumbling shades and shapeless forms drowning out her thoughts and her vision. She turned, then turned again as though she could lose the man beside her. Bec was saying things again, but she wouldn’t give him her attention. She’d become petty like that. Every little victory gave her mood a boost even though no amount of wins or tiny flutters of the heart could pull her out of the pit she’d retreated into.

Suddenly, Bec was in front of her, hands on her shoulders, stopping her where she stood. It didn’t work as intended; she’d noticed too late, and they collided. Rose wobbled slightly in her shoes, but she stayed where she was, frozen, before Bec took a step back and opened his goddamned mouth again. He wasn’t letting go this time. He knew she’d run away.

“Rose, you’re acting really stra—“

The resounding crack of her slap left an echo and a very shocked Bec frozen in her dust as she stormed back into the main street, disappearing into the roiling crowd that had formed just outside where they stood. She was done with him. She was done with meeting people in person. She was done with all of this. She was taking the next flight out of here and leaving before her emotions got the better of her.

And to think she’d actually cleaned earlier.

She huffed and pushed her way through the crowd. She couldn’t have cared less about the feet she stepped on. She just needed to sit down. Her body meshed with the sea of others and her mind melded with the noise. Vaguely, she registered clicking shutters. It smelled of sweat and desperation. Home sweet home. But it was too hot to contemplate, and in a moment’s time, she’d found herself a seat on a bench outside a revolving door. Wherever she was, it looked like a hotel. She felt somewhat out of place— though the reason surprised even Rose. It wasn’t because she was on the verge of tears or because she was the only one dressed like a proper human being; no, it was because she was the only one in the crowd not toting a camera.

In a half-hearted effort to blend in, Rose took out her cell phone and pretended to do something.

OOC: Bec’s just going to be left standing there in the hotel’s back alley all alone :( and he can’t see too much, either, seeing as he’s wearing sunglasses in the dark.





[Rose Hathford]

Please don't stand so close to me
I'm having trouble breathing
I'm afraid of what you'll see right now.
[Bec Hemingway]

Send us a blindfold, send us a blade
Tell the survivors help is on the way
I was a blindfold, never complained.