Chapter Twenty-Six: when the medium-sized girl wasn’t paying too much attention to Calle’s monologuing, busy as she was trying to not get cosmically dead
There was nothing. The medium-sized girl closed her eyes, and there was nothing. There had to be nothing. She couldn’t cope with anything more than nothing. She certainly could’t cope with the more than nothing on the other side of her eyelids. She squeezed her eyes tighter, tried to disappear everything outside of her body. There was only nothing. Her, and nothing.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. She couldn’t disappear the world outside of her—something which she had actually tried, and with the desperation and dedication of a person with a functioning attention span. It wasn’t working, and she was still somewhere. And the horribly annoying, terribly loud, monstrously bright creatures were still in that somewhere, with her. And it was still raining. And it was still night. And she was still very, very angry.
And here’s the thing. The medium-sized girl wasn’t entirely present for what was about to happen, and only bothered to remember it after Rain grilled her for details. And then, she was only able to piece everything together by staring backwards down the various lifelines of the ex-stars. Well, the ex-stars who hadn’t managed to flee, anyway. Only then were she and Rain able to piece together what had transpired, after Calle had cut her with the knife and thrown Rain into the cottage. Because, as far as she could tell, the door had slammed, the world had rushed in. Calle’s thousand faces had converged into just the one, towering above her, blocking out the rain. He’d told her he needed the heart. He flashed that knife of his once again, pierced her chest, just above the scars. She didn’t scream, didn’t fight. She just focused, harder than she ever had. Focused like Hadal had told her to, back when the medium-sized girl had complained that the colors were too loud, under the sea. Focused like her mother had taught her, when it was just them and the wood, back when her body had been right, back when she had been able to fly. She focused on Calle, held him in her mind. She fell into the Butterfly’s Song. She zeroed in on the line running through him. She reached forward—not with her hands, as those were still being held by Visao and Marie—but with something like her hands. She took hold of Calle with her not-hands. Calle began to cut down, and she pulled, hard. Pulled him forward, along his life’s line. She pulled, and Calle screamed.
The skin on his face loosened, then sagged. He let go of the knife, left it stuck in the medium-sized girl’s chest. He pushed against her, tried to back away, but she didn’t let go. His back began to bend and his hair grew out, whiter and wilder.
“What—what is this—“ He managed a single step backwards. “Make—make it stop—“ his voice dried out, raspy and hoarse. A tooth fell from his gums. There was more shouting—Visao and Marie didn’t seem to be holding her anymore—but she couldn’t make out the words. She continued to pull Calle forward.
His knees bowed and he stumbled forward. His skin thinned and his face hollowed out. The scars over his eyes blended into the wrinkles creasing his face.
She didn’t. She gripped him tighter, pulled him harder, wondered if he would actually turn to dust. That’s what was at the end of everyone’s line, she’d seen. She wondered if he would be any different.
“Please, stop. Don’t do this. He can’t hurt you, anymore.” It wasn’t Calle’s voice. The medium-sized girl wavered, glancing to the side. A woman stood beside her, tall and familiar. The medium-sized girl was struck with the same feeling she’d had when she first saw Rain, back on the rooftops. With the feeling that this woman meant something to her. She just couldn’t remember what.
“Let go, Asina.”
The medium-sized girl stumbled backward, every thought and feeling fleeing her mind. She fell out of the Song and Calle collapsed to the ground, wheezing and spent. The medium-sized girl stared at him, at a loss, only just processing his changed appearance.
“Did…I do that?” She asked the woman.
“Yes, Asina.” The medium-sized girl’s vision began to blur. She looked up, thinking it was raining again, but was met with a very dry, very red sky. She wiped her eyes, anyway.
“Is that… is that my name?” The medium-sized girl’s voice was quiet and small. The woman frowned at her, her dark eyes wide and, at the moment, deeply sad. She reached out and took hold of the medium-sized girl, pulled her into a hug. The woman began to shake. The medium-sized girl wanted to push away—she wasn’t a fan of the shakes, if we’re being completely honest—but didn’t. She couldn’t help but feel that she had done this before. She didn’t know when, or why. But she had. The woman cried and the medium-sized girl held tight, glad that there was something to think about other than the man she’d almost reduced to dust.
She peeked around the woman, thinking she should probably go make sure Rain was okay, but was distracted by what she saw. The cottage had blown itself to bits, for starters, and the tree was nowhere to be seen. Four ex-stars remained, but they seemed to be sleeping. They layed strewn across the ground, their breathing slow, their eyes closed. The three who had been with Calle were nowhere to be found.
The medium-sized girl—Asina, she supposed, though she wasn’t entirely sold on the name. It was a little long and slightly clunky, she rather thought—gently stepped out of the woman’s arms. She made her way towards the remains of the cottage and watched the shadows as they danced across the earth. She recognized Calle’s, and Marie’s, and Saul’s. Some of the ex-stars also seemed familiar, though she had never really paid much attention to their faces. Their lines criss-crossed the earth and their shadows criss-crossed their lines, less distinct by the second. But she wasn’t looking for a line.
“Where is Rain?” She asked, not seeing him in the cottage. She turned around, about to ask again, but stopped. The woman was nowhere to be seen. The formerly medium-sized girl sighed, turning back towards the cottage.
Rain wasn’t in the cottage. He was in the garden, staring at the flowers.
“Was that the Mother?” Asina asked. Rain nodded. Asina reached him, stopping just short of taking his hand.
“What… what is that?” She asked, staring at his hands and arms. He shrugged, glancing down. Black scars laced his skin and ran down his arms like so many delicate vines. The lines converged in his palms, where they knit themselves into the same pattern as what was on Asina’s chest.
“I don’t know. But I ate a nut from the garden and I’m sure it has something to do with this.”
“Makes sense to me.”
“I got a name.”
“Me, too. But, before that?”
Asina didn’t answer, busy as she was staring from one strange flower to the next. The stems seemed solid enough. They were a little tall, but that was not the most remarkable thing about them. Blooms of light and shadow blossomed from their tops. The blooms swirled about each other, whispering, warping the spaces they occupied. They looked a little bit like butterflies, all fluttery and ethereal. They even sounded a little like butterflies. She reached forward, wanting to touch one, but stopped a few inches short of the shifting petals. Her mother had told her to never touch a butterfly. Unless it touched you first, anyway.
“What are they?” She asked.
“I think these are the flowers the color of may,” Rain said. He turned to face her, black eyes serious and a little bit pained. “Please, tell me. What happened?”
Asina frowned, thinking. She wasn’t quite sure she was able to answer the question. As he wanted it answered, anyway. But no, it was there. It was all there, somewhere. She just needed to look a little more. And she was so very, very tired of not knowing what was going on. Yes, she just needed to look a little harder. That was it.