Chapter 7: There Was Too Much Sun And Too Much Rain, And All At The Same Time
Colors were the stupidest things. Well, almost the stupidest things. Obnoxious traveling companions were the stupidest things. As was rain, and sleeping, and being lost. But colors—they were a close second.
“I’ve told you a thousand times,” Obnoxious Traveling Companion said, “my name is Tristan. Say it with me now. Tr-iiii-stan.” The medium-sized girl did no such thing. Instead, she stared at Obnoxious Traveling Companion and willed him to spontaneously combust.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he said. The medium-sized girl stopped blinking. “Sto—“
“Your voice is too high,” she said, interrupting him. “When you get upset, your voice is too high. I need you to stop.”
“Stop . . . stop what? Getting upset?”
“Speaking. And another thing, Obnoxious Traveling Co—“
“mpanion,” she went on, not caring to listen, “The thing called ‘sun’ is not going to work. It’s stupid, and bright, and I hate it. I need it to go away.”
The creature stared at her, mouth slightly open. He picked at a loose thread on his left sleeve.
“I mean . . . I literally can’t do anything about that.”
“I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘can’t’s from you. ‘Can’t’ take me back to the wood, ‘can’t’ sing the butterfly’s song, ‘can’t’ not sleep. And now you ‘can’t’ disappear the sun. Is there anything you can do?”
“I’m quite capable of gagging people,’ he said. His teeth were a little clenchy when he said it. The words came out tight.
“I’m sure you are,” the medium-sized girl said, trying to hide her eyes from the sky. It was too bright. Everything was too bright.
Her mood was helped not at all by the throbbing in her chest. She poked at the wrecked skin, wondering if it would ever go back to the way it had been. She didn’t much care for the scars. They were funny, and they danced around in a way that suggested some deeper, mysterious meaning. Which was another stupid thing. Surely it would have been just as easy for them to spell out their matter, and be done with it. But no, they had to fall into some ridiculous, enigmatic, painful pattern, taking up the entire right side of her chest. It was the same pattern as the bauble her mother had worn. The one that had flecked away and knit itself into her skin. She thought that the two were probably connected in some way. She wasn’t exactly sure how, though. Her brain had only just developed the capacity for understanding object permanence.
A raindrop hit her nose. The medium-sized girl looked up at the sky. The bruised, twisting sky. It sagged under its own weight, sighing, exhausted. She wondered why it even bothered anymore. Everything would be much more pleasant if it just gave up. If it just collapsed into the world and was done with it all. Then she could be free of this place. Free of the sun, free of the rain. Free of Obnoxious Traveling Companion.
A raindrop hit her eye, making her blink. Another one splattered in, and she looked away.
“Eyes, oh eyes,” she sang, something only just occurring to her, “they see a sky, a sky of painted blue.” She stopped, frowning.
“How strange, OTC,” she said, thinking the abbreviation would make for quicker communication, “but I guess I never knew what ‘blue’ was. I never thought to know what it was.”
“What?” OTC was busy rummaging around in a half-destroyed backpack.
“The song. The Butterfly’s Song. The sky is blue in the song.”
“Skies are blue in a lot of songs.”
She stared at him again. It was a flat, unblinking stare. She made quick work of him. He was uncomfortable and backpedalling almost immediately.
“But . . . but, okay, and? I mean, that is interesting, yes. Mmhmm.” He was staring at a point just above her head, too spineless to make eye contact. Though, she supposed he didn’t technically have eyes. She supposed he couldn’t actually make eye contact. Strange. She was going to have to think about it some more.
“If the sky is blue in the song, then the song must have known a place outside of the wood. Once, anyway.”
“Huh.” He actually thought about it. He stood there, hand in backpack, and actually mulled over her words. It was the first time he hadn’t been defensive or unsettled since they had emerged, three days prior, into that momentarily clear meadow.
“Your mother sang it to you?”
“While she worked.”
“Worked? What did she do?”
“She pulled the weeds out of the pond.”
OTC found what he was looking for. Another crackledy hunk of stink. It was a thing he called “Beef Jerky.” He slung his pack back over his back and set off walking again.
“How often did she have to do that?”
The medium-sized girl shrugged.
“She pulled weeds.”
“Yes, but how often?”
The medium-sized girl tried to understand the question. But “often” was not a concept she quite knew, yet. Just like “time” and “past” and “future” were not fully locked in. She was getting better at “change.” Not in the sense that she was getting better at it. Just, at understanding that it was a thing that was possible. The medium-sized girl had never experienced change in the woods. She disliked it the very most. Change was worse than the rain, the sun, and the world combined.
“Mother pulled weeds. That was what she did.”
“But like . . . always?”
“Obviously not, OTC. You stabbed her in the back and destroyed the pond. She can’t pull weeds always.” And he was right back to being unsettled and uncomfortable.
They walked through a soaking world. OTC had said something about them being on a mountain, but the medium-sized girl couldn’t be bothered to understand what he meant by that. The ground was muddy and slick, though. There were no trees to be seen, which made her feel very small. She kept thinking she would just float away, if she wasn’t careful. But then, the earth was sodden and sucking, and kept good hold of her feet. She supposed it was grounding enough.
They had been walking down. Towards what, she didn’t know. OTC barely even seemed to know. Ahead, all she could see was a watery earth and a saturated sky. They swirled together at the edges, pooling, twisting about, dark and blue and heavy. They had forgotten their boundaries.
“We can stop here for the night,” OTC said. The medium-sized girl looked away from the world to stare at her abductor.
“I don’t want to,” she said. The thing he called “sleep” was just about the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard of.
“We have to. We can’t walk in the dark. We’ll trip.”
“You might. I think I’ll be fine.”
“We can’t have this fight every night. I’m going to win. You know I’m going to win. Just give in.” He took a rolled-up sheet of plastic out of his backpack, unfurled it, and laid it out across the ground. He sat down and stretched out his legs. She shrugged, over it. She kept walking. She could find a “somewhere” without him.
There were some squelches, curses, and a little bit of a crash as he tripped over a rock. And then his hand was on her shoulder, holding her back.
“Kid, please. Don’t make me tie you up. It’s not safe to walk through the mountains at night. I’m not trying to ruin your life with silly rules. I’m just trying to keep us safe.”
She wasn’t too familiar with irony, in an intellectual sense, but the feeling was still there. She couldn’t come up with the words, though. To call OTC out on the irony, that is. So she simply screamed in his face. She stopped after a moment, considering. But no, she wasn’t quite done. She screamed again, willing his ears to bleed, willing the sun to burst, willing her mother to come and take her back to the woods. She screamed until she ran out of breath, then inhaled, then screamed some more. She trudged back to the tarp, her screeches accompanying her, slowing a little as they passed through the soaked air and glanced off the soggy rocks.
OTC followed her, muttering something under his breath. She couldn’t hear what he said. He sat down beside her, unsettled and defensive, as per usual. “Wary” came to her mind. From where, she didn’t know.
“Feeling better?” He asked, once she was good and done. She stared up at him, making sure not to blink. She reached up and slapped him across the face.
“You’re disoriented?” She hissed. And she did feel better.