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I did not sit down to do this.

I swear, I didn't. But I think I'm converting something else I'm considering doing into fic because it's less direct, and gives me more time to think.

But, yeah, it's Subreality fic. Very meta. Potentially huge. Should stop now while there's still time. ;)



The Mists were very still.

It was actually the stillness she found disturbing - at least disappointing, because in her current, admittedly fairly impressionist frame of mind, it seemed as if she had done nothing but this for at least a year; stood here, staring, straining, searching the shifting patterns of the Mists for some sign of life.

No, that wasn't quite right. But she was hoping, had been hoping, if not expecting, to see *something* - a figure, a shaft of sunlight, a shape rising slowly from the ground. Anything.

She knew that she was tired. She made a sixth slow turn, hardly lifting her feet, one hundred and eighty degrees, then the other one hundred and eighty. There was nothing but haze. Even the City, in the distance, shimmered on the edge of resolution, rippling like an optical resolution, which she knew to be due to the heat and the sun and something else. Loneliness, maybe. It wasn't warm here, and the sight of her own footprints receding into the distance only emphasised the emptiness of the place.

She felt Tris coming, so the soft-edged puddle of light passing over her and the wash of air as her Muse landed, first with a firm plant of her boots and then a bit of a stumble, didn't surprise her. She shaded her eyes as the young plum-skinned woman folded and vanished the wings growing from her shoulders, then greeted Tris with a brief and restrained smile. It wasn't that she wasn't glad to see her Muse, it was just that engaging her in conversation seemed to come perilously close to socialising, something which right now, seemed even more tiresome than usual.

Tris must have been following her surface thoughts, because she flicked a lock of white hair out of her eyes and said, with a concerned half-smile and an obvious attempt at reining it in, "I'm not exactly expecting you to be chatty." She adjusted the strap on her satchel. "I was getting worried, that's all."

Chandri made a dismissive gesture with one hand. "Don't fret, Tris," she said, turning back toward the wall of Mist. "I'm just trying to work something out."

Tris, apparently unconvinced, fidgeted. "You can't blame me," she pointed out. "Considering why most Writers venture out this far."

Chandri turned, saw the anxious look, and shook her head. "I came out here to create the North," she reminded her Muse.

"You didn't come alone, when you created the North."

This time, the tone was faintly irritated in a way it hadn't quite been since the Burnout epidemic, and Chandri immediately felt a little guilty. "I'm sorry," she said, and sat down heavily in the smooth black sand. "I wasn't really trying to pull something big and emo and melodramatic. I just... couldn't get it to work, without an example."

Tris sat down next to her, with a little less force. "Get what to work?"

"I don't know, exactly," Chandri admitted. "A manifestation, I guess. Anyway, it doesn't."

"Doesn't...?"

"Work."

"Ah." Tris looked out across the Mists, then at her Writer.

"Kielle?"

There was a pause before Chandri answered. "I keep seeing her here. Or expecting to. But I can't... get it down on paper. I have it in my head, I can think it, I can draw it, even, but I can't Write it."

Tris nodded. Chandri had described a tenuous distinction that would only have made sense to Muse or Writer. A creative threshold more subtle than others might imagine, even in Subreality.

"I delayed coming," Chandri went on. "I kept... thinking I saw her. That I'd see her. With that jolt, you know? When you think you see something you can't be seeing. I wasn't, seeing her, of course I couldn't, but sort of... images I have of her. Like the one I kept, even after we met. Reflected, or at a distance, but I don't see her, not really." She threw up her hands. "It's stupid. I hardly even knew her, really. She isn't here."

Tris narrowed a somewhat exasperrated look on her Writer. "That's a really impressively stupid thing to say."

Chandri looked at her, shook her head. "Well, obviously, she's here. But you know what I mean." She thrust her hands into the loose black sand and closed her fingers. "She's not *here.*"

There was another pause, longer than the first. Then Tris admitted, softly, "No," and Chandri slowly pulled her fingers from the ground and dusted off her hands. The sand came away easily, leaving not even a film of dust.

"No," she agreed. She folded her hands in her lap. "I don't know if it scares me so much as it makes me angry."

"I think a little of both," Tris suggested.

"Yeah." Chandri looked down at her hands. "I feel like it's just me. I know that's selfish, especially now, but I've felt that way for a long time."

Tris eyed her meditatively, said, sounding almost convinced, "There's always California."

Chandri nodded, slowly. California. Which was about to happen and beginning to happen and was weeks ago and was happening right now. She imagined looking out a frost-blossomed, double-paned window as the mountains of Los Angeles rose up to meet her. She imagined the smog and the food and going dancing, and feeling cold as the others talked well into the night and not saying anything herself, and singing in an empty movie theatre, and imagining standing on the beach as the tide came in and their feet got wet. Some of it would happen and some of it she would invent, for the sake of aesthetics and explanation and symmetry.

And she would use it. She used everything.

But right now, there was sand in her shoes, and underneath her fingernails, and the Mists were frustratingly still, and she had to get up early tomorrow.

"That, and your Muse wants you to go home and eat a proper meal and proofread your Environmental History paper." Tris had switched to the impatient and softly chiding tone that Chandri only rarely let her get away with using.

The Writer raised one eyebrow. "Since when do you so conscientiously monitor my study habits?"

"When I know you'll blame me for it later, if I don't. Come on." She caught up Chandri's hand and pulled her to her feet.

"All right," Chandri agreed. "Let's go."

A white-painted, windowless door materialised, without ceremony, a few feet away. Chandri produced a bright little glass key on a chain from beneath her shirt, unlocked the door, and pulled it open. On the other side was revealed not the view of the faraway City, but a corridor at the end of which was a cluttered and untidy apartment in late afternoon, overlooking a quiet, tree-lined street. Tris gestured her through.

"You know," she observed, "it wouldn't kill you to tidy up a bit."

Chandri sighed, and then the door swung shut behind them with a decisive click, and then vanished as thought it had never been. It left behind only a cloud of dust and footprints, and the former settled quickly, leaving the Mists still, once again, and the City an unconcerned shimmer in the distance.


In other news, I closed tonight and I'm opening tomorrow. And I'm working all the useful hours on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I think next week I'm going to ask him if he can make sure my days off are two-together... because working five days of eight hours straight is a lot easier when there's two days of veg-worthy nothingness and the end of it, or at least two days in which I can reformat my computer. Which I really need to do.

I really should go to bed now. Have to get up in seven hours. :(

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