Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Episode Thirty Six
Check Up
Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.
 -Kurt Vonnegut

    Lucas stared unfocused at the empty chair in front of him. He sipped the now tepid coffee. He glanced at his watch. 
    “Hey; sorry.” Marie came around from behind him and sat quickly in the chair opposite. 
    “I really hate staying here, Mar.”
    “Just another day or two and maybe I can sort something out.”
    “Like going back to Iota?”
    Marie ran a hand through her hair in frustration. “Uh, I don’t know. I just don’t have a good feeling about this.”
    “It was taking little kids. Of course you don’t.”
    “I just feel like there’s something else to it. I’ve looked into a few more investigations and there's more of the same. Evacuation orders, missing kids, sudden appearances of powerful Yokai.”
    “If there is a pattern, wouldn’t the mucky mucks see it too?” 

Lucas swirled the remains of his coffee in the Styrofoam cup. 
 
    “Maybe I’m just imagining it.” Marie took a breath.
    “It’s a stressful time. But if you want a few more days, I’m game.”
    “I’ll get someone to run by your apartment.”
    “Thanks. Was worried I’d have to wash my underpinnings in the sink.” He drained his cup. 
    “Luc, I want you to some some probing.”
    Lucas lifted an eyebrow but didn’t rise to the obvious. “Anything in particular?”
    “Everything. Layouts of the towns, eyewitnesses, anything and everything you can think of.”
   Marie lifted her thumb to her lips, biting the nail. “Even our reports.”
    “So you do think it's a upsurge.” 
    “I don’t know what to think. I want to see where the active pockets are cropping up.”

    “Alrighty. So. Going to do a little sightseeing while here?”
    Marie glared at him. “I thought about it.”
    “Mind if I tag along?”
    “Fine. Just keep your mouth in check.”
    They rose from the table and made their way from the cafeteria. 
    Marie pulled out her phone.
    “Newest version of Angry Birds is pretty fun,” Lucas quipped. 
    Marie ignored him, idly flipping through screens as they walked.

   “So how is Ber--Robert?” Lucas amended at her look. “I mean, really,” he added quickly. 
    Marie hesitated. “Not good.”
    “What exactly happened?”
    Marie’s gaze lifted from the screen. “I don’t know,” she said defeated. “He said he was fine. What?” She glared at Lucas as they reached an elevator.
    “Sorry.” Lucas quickly quelled the chuckle. The elevator’s doors opened. “You just have a tendency to take people at face value. Whatever they say is how it is. That is not always the case, you know?” He braced himself, but Marie just sighed and hit seven. Her gaze returned to her phone with more intensity. 
    “I know that. I mean I realize it; later. I just figured if he really couldn't go with me he’d say.” She gritted her teeth as Lucas snickered.  
    “Come on, Mar. Say he couldn’t go on a mission with you? Are you serious.” He shook his head. “You never ask anyway. It’s all orders. ‘We’re going. Open to blah blah blah. Stop whining.’”
“To be fair I only say that to you.” She shoved her phone in her back pocket as the elevator stopped.
“It’s not like you ever give us a chance...Marie?”
She’d turn her head, brown hair shielding her face. “I know that. Don’t you think I do? I’m not stupid, Luc. I pushed him too hard. It’s...” Her hand covered her mouth muffling, “It’s all my fault.”
“Well, I didn't say that.” Lucas scratched his head, awkwardly
gazing down the corridor as he stepped out. 
“You don’t have to,” Marie growled, anger bubbling up into her voice. “No one had to say it. It’s the way they look at me when I visit him. It’s the way they talk to me. Or avoid talking to me. But I really didn’t know!” She turned to Lucas, defiant.

“He’d just been slow; tired.” They took a left down a hall and moved to avoid a gurney. The hall was lined with numbers rooms, all with two windows with curtains drawn on the inside.
    Lucas sighed. “You don’t get pneumonia out of the blue, Mar. Especially not this bad.”
    Marie rubbed a hand over her eyes. “I’m an idiot. We were in the Delsol district, one of teams to help evacuate. He...He’d been coughing on the train so I let him sleep. He never once complained.” She stopped in front of one of the identical rooms. Her gaze dipped to the number to the side of the door. She opened it slowly.
    “You mean whine?” Lucas lowered his voice. A man with graying brown hair to his shoulders lay the hospital bed. His breathing wheezed and filled the oxygen mask over his mouth. An IV bag stood to his right, machines softly buzzing near by. 
    Marie shook her head, gazing down at him. “We found the Yokai; this huge Oni that took over a local brown bear. He was fine. We worked perfectly. But once the layline was secure he just...he…” She shut her eyes a moment. “He collapsed. His fever was so high, Luc. I’m such an idiot. Idiot!” Her fist shot out, hitting the wall by the door with a sickening thud. 
    Lucas grabbed her wrist before she could do it again. He yanked her forward, holding her tight. “It’s not your fault.”
    Marie pushed against him. “Don’t cuddle me, Alt! Don’t you--”
    “Shut up.”
    The firmness of his voice sucked the energy out of her. She bunched the back of his coat lapel in her fists. 
“Shh. He needs to sleep.” Lucas gently lead her from the room. “I know Bert. He’s just as dedicated and stubborn as you are. Hell, he hates that you had to take me. Hates it, Mar. Yeah you need to be more observant when it comes to your Key. But I understand. You’re a complete unit. These things just happen.” He quietly shut the door.
“But if I had known…” She leaned against the window.
“What? You’d abandoned the mission? Give it to someone else? It’s not ok for you; it's not ok for him. You gotta make it ok, Mar. You--”
A clatter in the room behind them and a light went on outside the door. Running echoed down the hall. Two nurses rushed passed them, tearing the door open. 
Marie struggled to follow but Lucas held her back. “Make it ok. It’ll really help.”
She nodded. 
Lucas followed, but kept just inside the door frame. Robert was on the floor, a horrible rasping cough wracking his body. One nurse was dealing with a dripping IV ripped from its bag. Machines buzzed angrily. The other nurse was desperately trying to get an oxygen mask over Robert’s face. 
“Marie!”He shoved the nurse, slapping the mask from her hand. “G-Get away from me!” Robert heaved between coughs. 

“Sir, please. You have to back…”She stopped as Marie knelt beside her, a hand on her shoulder. She picked up the mask. 
    “No! No m-more!” Robert yelled as best he could, a hand gripping his chest, unable to find the strength to even lift his head. “My part-ner’s out...She’s all...all…”
    “I’m right here.” Marie put her hand on his fevered cheek. 
    He started, staring up at her with disbelief in his grey eyes. She placed the mask over his mouth and pulled the strap over auburn hair. Her fingers brushed the silver strands by his face back from his sweat stained forehead. 
    “And it’s ok Robert. It’s ok.” She stared down at the tile, and even Lucas could see her blushing. “So please. Please get back in bed. Ok?”
“Pl-please?” Robert repeated, still in shock. “Marie?” His breath coated the mask in white. “Take me with y-you. I c-can…” His voice dissolved into coughing.

Marie slid her arm under his and pulled him to sit up. “I know I’m...don’t do this to yourself, Robert. Just rest now and get--” She gasped as his hands gripped her shoulders. 
“L-let you down.”
“No.” She shook her head. “Never.” She and a nurse helped him up. 
“Those two.” Lucas shook his head. “So lost without each other.”
“It’s pathetic.”
Lucas nearly jumped out of his skin at the small voice.
“Reimei! Good God you need a bell.” 
The girl stared, emotionless, at the scene in front of them. Lucas’ gaze went to the bright pink sling her right arm now rested in. “That really must have been a rough assignment.”
She gazed dully up at him with one eye, the left side of her head covered in a thick black patch. “If you really care, buy me dinner.”
“Dinner? Can you have--”
“I hate the food here. I need to get out but no one will take me.” 
“Uh. Ok.” Lucas glanced back at Robert’s room. Between Marie and the nurse they had gotten him back in bed and the other was inserting the IV. Marie held Robert’s hand. 
“Leave them alone Luc,” Reimei said, walking back up the hall, her little cane clicking on the tile. “We are lucky not to be so dependent.”
“Right…lucky.”
“I’m in room 112. Pick me up at six.”
Lucas sighed. “My lot in life to get bossed around by every woman I meet. Even the miniature  ones.”






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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Episode Thirty Five
Cleanse
I'm sorry cause I'm to late
Oh maybe need some sleep
I'm not attending because
I lose my mind
I lose my sense of control
- Lady Gaga


Esther ran, fueled by panic, through the hall; chased but tiny wings and tinny voices. Disoriented, pain forgotten for the moment, she darted right at a crossroads and stopped dead. Panting she glanced at the walls, the doors to the classrooms. A tremor went through the hallway. The walls vibrated and buzzed with iridescent wings. Her breath caught in her throat and she felt her knees grow weak as reality slipped from her grasp. The school elongated, blurred, the sound of chattering multiplying.
Something grabbed her arm; preventing her from slumping to her knees. Esther gasped. Holon stood next to her, holding her in a firm grip.
"This way." He pulled her forward, releasing her from the panic. The walls jolted back and order sliced through the chaos.
They traveled quickly down the hall, turned right then Holon stopped. He opened a door to their left and pulled Esther inside. Esther blinked.
"Where...?"
"Music wing." Holon said, gesturing to the baby grand piano in front of a large bank of curved windows. An office with closed doors was in front of them, a door beside it. Holon headed for the door and pushed it open. His hand left her arm as he turned and bolted the door. Esther tried not to stare at the urinal. She went to the sink, looked up at the mirror and gasped.
“Turn.”
“Holon, what’s going on? What’s wrong with me?”
Holon took her shoulders, turning her from the sink. He stared into her eyes. He pulled her close.
“What are…”
“How do you feel?” 
Esther took a breath, remembering the sudden intensity of the anger. “Heavy...and...angry…”
“Influence.”
Holon set his hand over her eyes.A blue light trailed from his fingers. It felt warm on her face and seemed to wipe away something she hadn’t realized been there. It was as if the light had pushed away a thin gauze. Her face tingled. What felt almost like tears dripped from her eyes but they were thick, oily. The fluttery sounds faded. She her breath hitched as she rubbed her face. Holon’s hand lowered. Esther looked down at her fingers. They glistened for a moment with something unctuous but the color melted away before her eyes. 
“I don’t...Ugh…” The pain in her hand returned and she cringed, holding it close. 
“You need to get to Ro,” Holon said, unlocking the door. “Get her to see to that. The lunchroom.”
Esther frowned down at the quickly bruising fingers. “Ok but--”
The door shut.

-O-

    Esther held her hand against her neck; the pain shooting down to her elbow. She hurried down from the music wing to the cafeteria. Ro stood across from the soda machines, looking at her phone. 
    “R-Ro…”
    “Hey. What’s wrong?” Her phone vanished inside her backpack. 
    “My...My fingers…” Esther glanced down, opening her hand. “Rebeca and Sadie caught them in a stall door.”
“Damn!” Ro went to take her hand but Esther instinctively pulled back. “Ok, Let's get something for that. Hold on.”
Esther waited out of the way of the students as Ro went into the cafeteria. She returned quickly with a cup and a Styrofoam bowl.
“Ok, come on.” Ro started to lead the way from the crowded hall, but paused; glancing down the hall Esther had come from.
“Oi! Si! This way.”
The boy heading towards the cafeteria looked up, confused, but followed.
They went up a small incline to outside steps. Rain pattered beyond the roof’s awning. Ro sat, pulling Esther down with her. Simon set his pack down on the top step, frowning over Ro’s shoulder as she poured ice from the cup into the little bowl. 
“Some girls smashed her fingers in a stall door,” Ro explained. “Let me see.”
Esther bit her lip and lifted her hand. Simon’s breath hissed between his teeth.
“Oh man,” Ro shook her head. “You’re going to lose those nails, Es.” She turned Esther’s hand over and frowned. “What is this?”
Esther glanced down. The thin scratches could be seen on her wrist. “The door scratched me.”
“Huh…” Ro glanced up at her incredulously. “Put them in this.” 
Esther hesitated, but did as she was told. Ro shook more ice over her fingers. 
“Ah, ah.” Ro’s hand set on hers, keeping it in place. 
Esther stared down at her swollen fingers, tipped with red above the bruising. Three fingers were already turning purple, the middle bruised to the first joint. Her nails were badly scoffed and reddening.
“They’re going to fall off?” 
Ro glanced at Simon. “Yeah…I’m sorry.”
Fresh tears filled Esther’s eyes.  
“Shhh,” Ro put her arm around Esther’s shoulders. “It’s ok.”
“No! No...it’s not. It’s not ok! Why’d I even come back here? I hate it here. I h-hate…” Esther bent into her stomach, forehead pillowed on her uninjured arm. She shuddered, her hand slipping to her mouth to try to quell the sob. 
Ro turned to her backpack. “Easy. I have some Tylenol.”
Esther yanked her hand from the bowl, ice spilling. She glared at her injured hand. 
“Esther,” Ro groaned in exasperation. “Put your fingers back.”
“If the nails will fall off anyway what’s the point?”
Simon slowly sat next to her. He carefully righted the bowl in her lap. “Ro can you get the ice?” 
Ro plucked the cubes from Esther’s skirt and plopped them back in the bowl. Simon leaned closer to Esther. She glanced sidelong at him. He reached out for her hand, still holding her gaze. Esther let him take her wrist and guide her hand back to the bowl. He pressed the top of her wrist down to fully submerge her fingers.
“It will help with the swelling and pain.”
Esther sniffed, focusing on the freckled hand over hers.
“Better?” Ro asked. She had a small bottle of Tylenol in her hand.  
Esther took a shuddering breath, but nodded. 
Simon turned, a hand going to his back pocket. He pulled out a neatly folded handkerchief then handed it to her. “It’s clean,” he added.
“Thank you,” Esther said softly. 
Simon stood, but bent to his backpack. “And to take the pills.” He handed her a half full water bottle.
Ro took it for her. 
“Going to get some food. Want me to bring something back?”
“Esther?”
She shook her head. 
“I think we are good.” Ro smiled up at him. 
Esther saw his fingers clench in her peripheral. 
“Esther. I…” His fist fell open. “See you later.”
Esther nodded vaguely.  Simon picked up his backpack and climbed the steps.
Ro thoughtfully watched him through the door window. “Nice kid.”
Esther swiped the handkerchief over her cheek wiping away a strand of hair caught in the tracks of her tears.
          “God that slag,” Ro muttered, gazing down at the bowl. 
          “I think it was because I shoved Molly…”
          “You shoved her?” Ro opened the tylenol bottle. 
          Esther sighed, taking two pills. “I felt so angry, Ro.”

          Ro handed her the bottle. “I think that’s natural honestly.”
         “It doesn’t feel like it. It was so sudden…” Esther popped the pills under her tongue and took a drink.
        “Put some ice in that handkerchief and keep it on your hand, ok?” Ro watched her a moment. “I know you’re still adjusting. I know it must be hard, especially with those wastes of space. But you have to keep going, ok? I really do believe that coming back was best for you. Give it time.” 
         “I should just ignore it, right? I mean that’s what they say to do.”
         “I could always just break their pretty little fingers.”
         Esther shook her head. “I think I heard the bell.”
         “Yeah.” Ro stood, stretching. “Do you want to go to the nurse?”
        The ice rattled from the bowl into the handkerchief. “I don’t think he could do anything.”
“Probably not. Want to head inside?" 
 Esther stared out into the rainy parking lot. “Yeah.”
“Come on. And this weekend will be fun and food and games, and kittens ok?”
Esther tried to smile. “Ok.”







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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Episode Thirty Four
Mischievous Echoes
Fairy roses
Fairy Rings
Turn out sometimes
Troublesome Thing
-Will Makepace Thankey

        Esther ran water over her charcoal covered fingers. Black swirled down into the drain. She hesitated, then pulled up her sleeve. She winced as the cool water washed over the long cuts.
        “Hurry up,” Molly groaned. “We all have to get cleaned up, ya know.”
    Esther wrung out her hands then pushed the faucet closed. She flicked the water from her hands. The droplets hung in the air, an odd whisper emerged as the drops slowly moved through the air.
    “Ugh. Come on!” Molly elbowed her.
    The water hit the sink, and angry ignited, Esther whirled and shoved Molly backwards.
    Molly stumbled into the line of students waiting for the sink.
    “What the hell!”
    Esther blinked and felt terror replace the anger. “Oh my God...Oh my God. I…”
    “What is wrong with you?”
        The bell screeched. Slinging her bag over her shoulder she bolted for the art room door. A hand clamped over her wrist as she passed, nearly snagging her fingers. Pain spiked. Esther yelped and yanked away. Clasping her hand to her chest, she fled; but could hear steps quicken behind her.
    Desperate, Esther ran passed several students, and headed to the closest bathroom. She skidded around the corner and gasped. Gus, Rebeca and Sadie stood at the lockers outside the bathroom.
    Refusing to slow momentum, Esther charged past them; hearing Gus shout, and burst into the bathroom. She panted against the door a moment, straining to hear the conversation outside.
    “Hey Molly; what’s with the freak?” Gus asked.
    Oh you totally missed it.”
“Missed what?” Rebeca said.
Holon tried to hold that freak girl’s hand in Art.”
Rebeca’s voice went  ridged. “What?”
Yeah,” Molly said. “She totally spazzed out, after shoving me, and ran for the bathroom.”
What are you gonna do?” Gus asked, excited.
Gonna teach that little slut her place.”
Esther backed away from the door and went to the sinks. Panting, she stared at herself in the mirror. The memory of her hair pulling back, the strange buzzing; Esther shut her eyes and tried to calm her breathing.
“It’s all in your head...It’s all in your head…” Her fists pushed against her forehead, eyes shut tight. “It’s all…”
In your head….your head...head...head…
Esther gasped and spun around. Her gaze darted around empty stalls. The voices had been close, high pitched, teasing. She thought she felt something flutter by her cheek.  
The door burst open. Rebeca, Sadie in tow and Esther caught a glimpse of Molly and Gus in the hall.
This is gonna be good,” Gus hissed as the door swung shut.
“I’ll get her. Just watch.” Rebeca grinned.
Esther stared at the girls standing in front of the bathroom door. Rebeca put a hand on her hip, a smile snaking across her lips.
I’ll get her...Ill get her...Watch...You. Watch.
The world stretched and echoed in a multitonal hiss that pricked the eardrum. Esther's eyes darted to the ceiling, the walls, the line of sinks. The tiles, the glass and porcelain rang with tiny voices.
Watch us...Watch. Watch us.We'll get her. We'll get her.
Esther shook her head, trying to clear the noise; and the growing angry.
“God, you’re such a freak.” Rebeca laughed.
“No escape!”
Esther backed towards the wall, heart racing, Her clammy fingers slid towards the tile. She hesitated, glancing up at the window on the far wall up by the pipes. One good leap and...Shadows pulsed across her vision. A soft tinkle of chain. A flash of gold.
No...Escape...no, no, no. The voices grew bright and clear. Watch us. No escape. Esther. Yes. Watch us!
“Hey!”
Esther glanced from Rebeca to Sadie, the immediate danger coming back into focus. “Uhmm…” She pushed away from the wall and through open the door to the nearest stall; trying to get in and lock the door.
The girls ran forward.
“No you don’t” Rebeca grabbed the top of the door. “Get the bottom!”
Sadie’s fingers snapped around the bottom of the door.
Esther braced a foot against stall. Her fingers slipped on the lock and she grabbed at the edge of the door. Rebeca yanked forward. Esther's fingers scraped the frame, the door forced the wrong way. She gasped at the sudden pain as her hand was trapped between door and frame.
Rebeca released the door and it swung back, racking Esther's fingers and re-doubling the pain as the metal clinched her fingers. Her breath sped, tears burning and blurring her eyes, turning the stall door a haze of color.
“It's always worse if you struggle, loser." Rebeca sneered. She shoved the door. The hinges creaked as they righted and Esther yanked free. Her fingers slid out with such force she reeled;. heel hitting the edge of the toilet and she tripped, falling hard into the open lid.
The girls giggled. Rebeca leaned into the stall as the door swung in.
    A flutter of dragonfly wings, a waft of air by her face. Esther rammed the door aside and burst into the hall, bounced off of something, spun backwards and felt someone grasp her arms.
"...couldn't hide forever!" Gus leered, moving together in darkness, his grip on her shoulders deepening. Esther's head shot up. Gus gasped. Her foot slammed against his knee. Rebeca grabbed his arm before he hit the ground, staring as Esther pelted up the hall and vanished around the corner.
"She should join the track team..." she said idly.
"What the hell was that?" Jacob gripped. "She kicked you?"
"Dude..." Gus hissed. "Did you..."
"Did I what? See her almost take out your knee?"
"Her eyes...Her eyes!" Gus lifted his head. His face was ashen. "They were black..."




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