Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quicksand, Part 31

They had started walking again. Sally didn't know where to, but she was too exhausted to ask. She realized that in nightmares it was nearly impossible to get to where you wanted to be and that the sluggishness she felt might be a reflection of that. Maybe if she didn't want to be anywhere, it would be easier to get there.

“Don't drag your feet,” Daisy Chain told her. He had his hands in his pockets and his head down as if trudging through a strong wind.

—but there was no wind. The sidewalk they were on had broken up and turned into rocks and stones and twigs and dirt and it was now a path through a forest with trickling stream.

“I can take you home,” Daisy Chain said, after a while.

Sally perked up. “You can?” She was about to hug him. Her arms were already stretched out. “Wait. What about the guys that are after me?”

“They'll still be after you. I'll try to find them here before you need to sleep again.”

“What if you can't?”

“Then you'll just have to try to remember – and run.”

Sally thought it over. “So... say I do go back. When I sleep I come back here?”

“To Nod. When you wake up, first thing, draw a picture. A place in Nod. Not the one we were attacked in. Somewhere where you felt safe.”

Sally wanted to say that she hadn't felt safe since seeing Daisy Chain beckoning her into a dark alley, but what she blurted out instead was, “I can't draw!”

Daisy Chain shrugged. “You're going to have to. And you're going to have to look at it every night before bed, until you fall asleep. And when the raiders figure out where you're going to wake up, you'll have to draw a new picture and erase the other one from memory.”

“And how long do I need to keep doing that?”

Daisy Chain shook his head, the way he did when he was trying to dislodge a particularly stupid or childish question from his brain. “What? Forever. As long as you're alive.”

“So you're saying, every time I sleep, for the rest of my life—”

Daisy Chain clapped his paws together twice, slowly. “Now she get's it.” He looked a little friendlier and added, “It's the best I can do, Sally.”

Sally walked on in silence.

“What if I stayed?” Sally asked after a long time. “I don't mean forever. But what would we have to do to make it safe for me to sleep?”

Daisy Chain pondered this. “Stick to the original plan. Find the raiders that are trying to kill you and kill them.”

“That's it?”

“Isn't that enough? When you're up close, Sally, it's not like watching some cartoon character get crushed by an anvil.” He stopped, grabbed her hand and pulled it to his chest. It was warm, soft, moving. She could feel his heartbeat, rapid, more rabbit than man. “We're real. We're alive. And when we die, we die. It isn't pretty.”

As delicately as she could, Sally pulled her hand away. “I know,” she told him. “I get that.”

“We'll need help,” Daisy Chain said.

“From where? I thought everyone here was—you're going to say Minty, aren't you?”

Daisy Chain looked taken aback. “Minty? No, that poor girl has enough of her own shit to deal with without getting involved in mine. We leave her out of this.”

Sally was relieved and tried not to let it show.

“We'll go see Charm-Charm.”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quicksand, Part 30

Sally walked along a tired concrete path. It was flanked on either side by evergreens, except they weren't green; they were black as if, even up close, they were silhouetted against the sunless pink and yellow sky. She felt like she had been walking for hours, but she kept speeding up. She wanted to put as much space as possible between herself and Daisy Chain – and his homicidal lingerie bunny. She couldn't get away from them fast enough. But she wasn't exactly comfortable on her own, either. Every sound made her heart jump and every crack in the pavement made her skin crawl. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched, followed, plotted against and she had no idea how to wake herself up.

Sally's mind went back to the hunter. That's what the slutty rabbit had called him – that had been her excuse. The guy's a hunter. The guy was a hunter. No one dressed like that who wasn't, or didn't want people to think that they were. And that had been enough of a reason for Daisy Chain to condone his murder, apparently. Sally wasn't fond of hunters, as a breed. She couldn't figure out how anyone derived enjoyment from killing animals, and as for the hunt itself, tracking an unarmed creature of lower intelligence with gun from a safe distance didn't seem very sporting to her – but she wouldn't want to see someone killed for it; and the way he had died. She could still remember it, every detail, every ruby drop that had sprayed through the air, his face contorted in pain and fear and the way that, at the end, his eyes just went blank, and when he fell, there wasn't even a thud. Even sound had stopped caring about him.
She was angry with Daisy Chain. Not just angry with him; disgusted by him. She couldn't believe that her fuzzy, friendly childhood hero was actually a monster, a calculating killer, devoid of compassion and able to witness a murder with apathy. But he had saved her, hadn't he? She had stopped moving in the park and he had stayed back to protect her. If they had all rushed at once, that group of figments could have killed him and God only knew what would have happened to Sally if they had. And now, thanks to Daisy Chain, they didn't have a leader, they were wandering around Nod with no purpose, no direction—I hope they're not wandering anywhere near here, said a small voice, unearthing itself from her subconscious. Actually, she realized, she could be quite close to them – them or people like them. Daisy Chain had said that Nod was full of raiders. They could be anywhere.

Sally couldn't help imagining Thrib, leaking black ink, dragging his half-dead body after her, calling out her name. She smiled, just a little, when she realized that he would be calling out Thally, Thally, but when she thought of him using the lobster thing as his henchman, her smile faded. He could be out there, right now, looking for her.
A heavy hand landed on Sally's back.

There you are,” Daisy Chain said, as Sally's heart slid down out of her throat. “What the Hell are you doing?”

“Let go of me!” Sally shouted. She tried to spring forward, but Daisy Chain tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Let me go!” It came out as a high-pitched shriek. Despite Sally's insistence, her struggles were in vain.  “You let her kill that guy,” Sally hissed, still trying to pull free. “I saw you.”

“Yeah, I did. So what?”

Sally felt that she could have coped with almost any answer, have graciously accepted any offers of regret, but the callousness of his response made her sick. “I hate you,” she told him – and suddenly she could remember telling him the same thing all those years ago, when he'd told her she was never going to see him again. Sitting in the plastic yellow chair by her tea party table, too mad to get up and give him a hug goodbye.

Daisy Chain released Sally as she surged forward again and she fell onto her face. He did not offer to help her up. “This is the way life is here, now,” he told her. “That guy came here to hunt—to kill figments and steal our Dust. To get high. And I'm supposed to do what? Let it happen? Tell Charm-Charm, Sorry, I know hunters killed your whole family and they've been invading our world and murdering our children for centuries, but would you mind not killing this one; Sally's lurking in the bushes over there and it might upset her delicate stomach? I don't think so. Life is hard. It's ugly. Deal with it.”

Sally tried to pick herself up.

“I thought I was doing you a favour by bringing you here. I thought I could keep you safer if I kept you with me.”

Daisy Chain looked exhausted. He gave Sally his hand and hauled her upright. Once she was standing, he stepped back awkwardly, looked down and shoved his hand-paws into the pockets of his jeans. “I didn't mean for any of this, you know.”

“I know,” Sally heard herself say it before she was aware of having thought it – but it was true, it was written clearly on Daisy Chain's face. “But, the blood...”
Daisy Chain looked up at her, confused. “It wasn't blood, Sally. It was Dust.”

“I thought Dust was blue.”

“Some of it is. It depends who it comes from. She drained his Dust—”

“It looked like blood,” Sally muttered under her breath. “If it was Dust, why was it red?”

“Because blood is red.”

“I thought blood was red because of iron.”

“Maybe his Dust had iron in it. Stop trying to make sense of everything; you're wasting your time.”

“And the way he died—”

“He's not dead. I've tried to explain this to you. She drained his Dust, which means on Earth, he's a vegetable. Which is worse. And I hate to say it, Sally, but the same thing will happen to you.” He sighed a long, sad sigh and looked back at his feet. “It's my fault,” he told her. “They're only after you because of me.”

Sally was having trouble getting used to the speed of the place. Everything, including her own thoughts and emotions changed so quickly, without warning. Now she wanted to forgive Daisy Chain, hug him, to make him feel better. He looked so wounded, so vulnerable, so—“Are you wearing a thong?”

The question snapped Daisy Chain out of whatever revelry he had been lost to. He looked up at Sally. “Yeah. So?”

Sally glanced at the two red strips of fabric strung across Daisy Chain's boney hips and realized that they had always been there. Somewhat uncomfortably, she also realized that there was something decidedly close-minded about commenting on anyone's choice of underthings, most especially if that person was a giant talking rabbit. She tried not to let her eyes linger. The only appropriate answer was a non-committal one. “Ah,” she said.

There was some uncomfortable shifting on both sides.

“Look, I know you didn't mean for any of this,” Sally told him after a moment. “And I know you've been doing everything you've been doing to try to help me. But this place... I can't stay here. It's weird here. It's wrong.” She paused before adding, “Um, no offence.”

Daisy Chain shook his head. “None taken. Nod used to be beautiful. Parts of it still are. But between the raiders and the humans, it's a nightmare.”

It took a second for what he'd said to sink in and part of it caught in Sally's brain. 

Humans caused this?”

Daisy Chain shrugged. “Yeah. No offence.”

If you are enjoying Quicksand, please come back soon for the next chapter.  In the meantime, you may like my novel Aigaion Girl.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quicksand, Part 29

Pink and purple light filtered through the needles of a row of giant evergreen trees and shone off the few unbroken windows of a distant factory.

“It's morning?” Sally asked tiredly. “Did we walk all night?”

Daisy Chain gave her a meaningful look. “No. It doesn't work like that here.”

“I don't get what you mean,” she told him.

“I mean that it's always morning here, and at the factory there, it's always just before 

dusk. Some places the time changes, some it doesn't.”

Sally sighed. “So... what time is it?”

“It isn't any time,” Daisy Chain growled. He took a deep breath. “Look, just don't worry about it, OK?”

“So, what are we doing here?”

“Looking for someone,” Daisy Chain said over his shoulder. “I have a feeling she's around here somewhere.”

Sally was about to ask who she was, but she was interrupted by a horrible scream. 

“What the Hell was that?” she asked, but Daisy Chain was already running.

“The factory,” he said over his shoulder. “Come on.”

Sally couldn't help feeling that it was some sort of trap and as she struggled harder and harder to keep up and fell farther and farther behind, she became convinced of the idea. Soon, she was completely alone, jogging among the large, orange needles that covered the concrete path. She pushed herself to run faster, hoping that she was wrong about it being a trap, praying that soon, Daisy Chain would come back into sight.

When she reached the factory, she saw someone, but it wasn't Daisy Chain. She immediately ducked behind a tree, then crouched down in the bushes that were growing next to it. She looked back at the parking lot that surrounded the factory. There were two—people was generous. There was one person, a man in cargo pants, a puffy vest and an orange baseball hat and there was a figment, another rabbit-woman, but definitely not Minty. This one had eyes, for one thing. She seemed to lean a little more to the rabbit side of things than Minty and Daisy Chain, and was dressed in lingerie. She was standing behind the human, holding a large curved knife at his throat.

The man screamed again. “Please! I'll give you anything you want. Please, I just want to wake up,” he whimpered.

The rabbit-woman's face didn't betray any emotion. “Too late.”

Sally closed her eyes. She heard the man scream no, but it went on longer than she expected and was followed by heavy panting. She risked opening an eye.

Daisy Chain was standing behind the rabbit-woman, holding the wrist of the hand that held the knife. The woman was struggling, though seemingly not very hard, to get her hand free.

“What the Hell, Daisy?”

“Come on, Charm-Charm,” Daisy Chain said with a sigh. He looked exhausted. “What are you doing?”

The woman, Charm-Charm, narrowed her eyes. “The guy's a hunter, Daisy.”

Daisy Chain peered around her at the man, who looked like he was considering his chances if he ran. “Are you sure?”

“Am I usually wrong?”

Daisy-Chain let go of her wrist. “Can I have some of the Dust?”

Charm-Charm sneered. “You know how I feel about that,” she told him – and then, without ceremony, dragged her knife across the hunter's neck.

Sally's scream caught in her throat, as the air around the rabbits turned red. The two rabbits stood looking at each other as the man fell to the ground, the hedge cutting him off from Sally's field of vision.

Charm-Charm said, “Been a while, Daisy.”

Sally crouched down below the level of the hedge. As she crept away, she heard Daisy Chain's voice. “Come on,” he said, “there's someone I want you to meet.”

Sorry it's been a while.  With December and the Christmas season coming to an end, we're back to plugs of Aigaion girl, instead of creepy holiday art.