Chapter 3: When The Aforementioned Obnoxious Abductor Has The Nerve To Accuse His Abductee Of Emotional Reticence
The little girl was now a medium-sized girl. The space travel had aged her about eight years or so. It had not, however, left her with a new set of pants. Her little-girl pants had split in several places and now barely reached past her knees. Her dress had been plenty big, though, and was a comfortable enough shirt to this new body. If a little awkward.
The now-medium-sized girl noticed neither her body nor her clothes, however. At least, not at the very first moment of her waking. Though, I suppose we won’t go into her very first moment of waking, either. Because she woke up in a green meadow under a yellow sun and blue sky which, if you’ll recall, were completely new experiences for her. A completely new paradigm of experience, actually. Color, that is. And it took a moment for her. And that moment is hard to explain but easy to imagine. And so I’ll leave you to imagine it, for a moment.
It was her second moment of waking that commanded a majority of the now-medium-sized girl’s attention. Because that was the moment she realized she was not alone in the meadow. That she had woken up next to the creature from the wood. The creature who had disappeared her mother. Well, who she was pretty sure had disappeared her mother. And who had certainly caused her to wake up in this terrible place. With this terrible pain in her chest. And a headache to end all headaches. Which was a strange thought—up to having it, she had not even known what a headache was.
She stared at the creature, opened her mouth, and screamed. It seemed like the right thing to do.
“Whaa—“ it mumbled, struggling to open its mouth. It was long and lean and had scars where its eyes should have been. It had a strange look about it. Color, she would eventually realize. A pink sort of fleshy color. Black hair. That, she recognized. She used to have black hair. Now it was white. But it used to be black.
“Stop… screaming,” the creature muttered, barely managing to push itself up into a sitting position.
She did not stop screaming. Screaming felt really good, actually.
“Stop, please,” the creature said, holding its head in two big, scarred hands. “The Stream really did a number on me. I think I might’ve broke my head.”
The medium-sized girl stopped screaming, knuckling her own head. Maybe that’s what had happened to her, too. It felt broken enough. Only she didn’t know what a stream was.
“Thank you,” the creature said, turning its head to face her. Its head was quite large, too. The scars over its eyes were knotty and white.
“Don’t be scared. I promise I’m not going to hurt you.”
If the girl had had any memories of her own, she would have called the creature out on the irony of its words. At the very least, their impossibility. It had already hurt her. Her future was already in pain because of the creature’s past actions, regardless of its present promises.
“Where is my mother?” The medium-sized girl asked. The creature chewed on its knotty pink lip.
“Would it make you less upset if I said she was not your mother, and never had been. That she was not a mother at all, but the embodiment of a broader concept inhering in half of the world’s reality since just after creation? That she was half of Time, incarnate?”
“Where is my mother?” The girl repeated. The creature swallowed. It was a nervous swallow, though the medium-sized girl did not register it as such. She was unfamiliar with a majority of emotions. Nervousness was one of them.
“I mean, you’re also not a daughter. Certainly not hers, anyway. I don’t really know what you are, actually.” It swallowed again. “Wasn’t really expecting you to look like this, to be honest. Was kind of thinking you’d be inanimate objects. Like a pocket watch, maybe. That would have been nice. A little silver pocketwatch. That would fit in my pocket. And not look at me with sad, vacant eyes.” It swallowed again. “I don’t suppose you’d look away? Just for a moment, while I think. I’m a little disoriented.” In three days, the medium-sized girl would know enough of this world and its language to slap the creature across the face and hiss, “you’re disoriented??” But that was in three days. Now, she simply repeated.
“Where is my mother?”
“Your mother is gone,” the creature said simply. “You and her, the woods you were in, the space that enveloped you, it’s all gone. You’re in the world now. I don’t really know where you were previously. I mean, I knew how to get there. But I don’t know what “there” was, technically. You’ll have to ask Chimie, if you want it in smarter words. Anyway, it wasn’t here. Which is where you now are.”
“Why is ‘there’ gone?” The medium-sized girl asked.
“She destroyed it.”
“Your ‘mother.’ She destroyed it. Well, collapsed it, more like. It wasn’t real, anyway. Or, perhaps, wasn’t what it was.”
“It wasn’t what it was?”
“Well, all of it.” It swallowed again. “Her, you, everything.”
“I wasn’t what I was?”
“Maybe? Shoot, I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask Chimie. It looked like it looked, but how it looked wasn’t what it was. She looked like a woman. But she was not a woman. You understand?”
“And she collapsed it.”
“She collapsed herself, the wood, and me into myself?”
“She collapsed me into myself?”
“You know, your voice doesn’t match your body. It’s very off-putting. I wasn’t expecting a sad-looking little orphan girl with a sterile-sounding doctor voice. I mean, I did just stab your imaginary mother in the back. Could you maybe try to emote a little more?”
“Sorry that I am not a pocket watch.”
“Me too.” The creature sighed.
“Why did my mother destroy the wood?”
The creature pulled at its collar.
“Right, well… probably because she didn’t want me to take it.”
“Take what? The wood?”
“No. Well, maybe. Yes? I don’t know. She didn’t want me to take time.”
“Well, that’s what “it” all was. That place. It was half of all of time. I feel like I’ve already said this? You were—are— time. Or, perhaps, a timekeeper. I can’t tell if you are it or its guardian. Or both. I don’t know. Anyway.”
“And why did you take time?”
“Half of time.”
“Why did you take half of time?”
The creature smiled. It was not a pretty sight.
“Because we’re almost out of it, here on earth. Because we need more. Because an old man made a promise, long ago, and it’s apocalyptically important that that promise be kept.”
“There is an ‘and.’”
“And, we can’t find the old geyser. Not without you, anyway.”
“Why?” Why, why, why. She wished the creature would just let her into its mind. Which was a strange, intruding thought. She had certainly never had one like it before. She wondered where it had come from.
“Well, because he’s your father, I suppose. And blood runs deeper than water, where these old geysers are concerned.”