Chapter Ten: And then Quito Was Completely Underwater and Obnoxious Traveling Companion Didn’t Know What To Do
“I don’t like it,” the medium-sized girl said.
“Wow. Really? There is absolutely no way I could have seen that coming. Please, tell me more. Please, please, please.”
The medium-sized girl did not have to change anything in her demeanor to begin ignoring OTC. She had been altogether discounting his existence for the past four days.
“I don’t like it,” she said again. OTC sighed loudly. He looked over at her, bothering to try and figure out what “it” was.
“What don’t you like?” He asked, giving up after two seconds of uncertainty.
“I don’t like it—“
“Yes I know,” OCT barked. The medium-sized girl jumped a little, turning, only just then noticing OTC’s presence.
“Where did you come from?” She asked, confused. OTC began muttering to himself. He muttered for a long while, and then a little longer after that. He muttered quietly, but not too quietly. Not too loud, either. He still felt like the girl was a child, even if her toneless voice made her sound like a middle-aged sociopath. Yes, he still felt like the girl was a child, and so he muttered not too loud, not wanting her to be overly exposed to the various naughty words he just couldn’t quite keep in.
The medium-sized girl went back to what she had been doing before being snuck up on by OTC, She stared at her arm. She stared at it with wide eyes. She stared at it while squinting. She poked at it and squeezed at it. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see it.
‘It’s not mine,” she said, “it’s not my arm. What did you do with my arms?”
“My arms. What did you do with my arms.”
“What are you even saying.“
“I had good arms, OTC. They looked right and felt right. And now I have these. And they are not right.” She held up her arm, face flat, voice flat. OTC barely managed to keep from making the “yes, because one’s left” joke. Barely.
OTC thought he understood what she meant, though. Most of the time he didn’t. But this time, her confusion overlapped with a confusion of his own. The girl he had seen in the pool had been no more than four or five. This one was probably twelve or so. He hadn’t likewise aged, he was pretty sure. Everything still felt the same, at least. He had just been planning on asking Chemie.
“You grew,” OTC said. “Really fast. Those are still your arms, kid. They just got stretched by time. Super condensed time, apparently.”
The medium-sized girl didn’t understand. The words were silly and vague and, she rather thought, didn’t mean much of anything. She just went back to staring at her splinter of an arm. Her wrist was nothing. Her fingers were sharp and awkward. Her elbows jutted. They jutted. She pinched at her skin, trying not to wince. There wasn’t barely any skin to pinch.
“I don’t like it,” she said again. She missed her other body. Her round, comfortable body. Her pinchable, pick-up-able body. Falling didn’t hurt in that body. That body was so short, it barely even fell. That body—
The medium-sized girl looked up at OTC, not quite recognizing the exclamation. OTC, for his part, was completely distracted, having just stubbed his toe.
“What?” She asked.
“&%$@,” OTC said, scratching his head. “Though I guess you probably shouldn’t be repeating that… I don’t suppose you know how old you are?”
“Never mind,” OTC said, scratching at his head and trying to remember the last time he had shampooed. “Can’t see who would actually give a &^%$, if the manifestation of a metaphysical concept began spouting off a few bad words in the middle of an apocalypse. Even if it does look like a tween.”
The medium-sized girl understood almost nothing of what he said, though she found his constant referencing of her as a “manifestation” increasingly tedious.
“Ya,” OTC was still saying, nodding to himself, “censorship probably requires a centralized state, or something, right? Like, are words even bad if there’s nobody around to tell you they’re bad? If big brother—“
The medium-sized girl stopped listening, and OTC stopped talking. They had crested another soggy hill—the last soggy hill, it turned out—and could finally see what lay beyond the rolling greens and sodden grays. The medium-sized girl realized that they had, at last, gotten somewhere. The medium-sized girl didn’t know what that somewhere was, per se, but this place definitely felt like an arrival. It felt different. Not like all the other places she had passed through, since leaving the woods.
The medium-sized girl looked up, curious as to why OTC sounded like this arrival wasn’t a good thing. It seemed no worse than all the other hellscapes he had subjected her to.
Liquid gold fanned out before them, glittering and twisting underneath the burning-red sky. The medium-sized girl hadn’t seen the sky that color in a while. It only set like that when the rain stopped, which, in this place, was almost never.
“What’s wrong?” The medium-sized girl asked, staring at the sun. It had fallen into the golden folds. They blazed, fiery and brilliant. It was too bright. The medium-sized girl looked up and away, cooling her eyes in the deep purples of the settling night.
“Well,” OTC said, voice far too even and calm. His voice had only ever been that even once before, when something called a “snake” had bitten her, three days ago. Nothing had happened, but he seemed to have thought it was “super deadly poisonous.” His words, not hers.
“You see, Manny, that… well, that was supposed to be a city.” The medium-sized girl frowned. They had passed through a few things OTC had called “cities.” They did not look like this. She looked back over the shimmering gold, trying to pick out buildings and benches.
“Huh,” she said, staring, thinking that maybe those small, colorful interruptions jutting out above the gleaming surface were the tops of buildings. Maybe.
“That was supposed to be a city. We were supposed to go into that city. We were supposed to be retrieved from that city. Chemie told me that city was what I was supposed to do. That city, there, that is now completely underwater.”
OTC sat down. Just, down, on the soaked ground. Didn’t get his tarp out, didn’t try and find a rock or a log. Just put his butt straight into the muddy ground. He exhaled for a while.
“Not completely,” the medium-sized girl said, only just realizing that the dancing gold was just more water, reflecting the sky above it. But now that the sun had sunk a little more, now that the blasted glare had receded a little more, the tops of buildings were a little easier to make out. Bright blues and greens cut through the water in a winding sort of way, offering variety to the drowned, golden city. And, further out, whole buildings rose up and out. The city must not have been flat.
“You disappeared my mother for this?” The medium-sized girl asked, staring. OTC sighed some more.
“My mother wouldn’t have abandoned you to this city. She is a very steady mother, my mother. Not like this “Chemie,” of yours,” the medium-sized girl said. She was beginning to doubt “Chemie” was even a real person. She was beginning to doubt the reality of OTC’s reality, if we’re being honest.
“It’ll be fine,” OTC mumbled in a not-at-all convincing way. “We can just find a nice roof and… and wait, I guess. They’ll come. Somebody will come. It’ll be fine.”
The medium-sized girl said nothing to the contrary. OTC seemed like he really needed this one.