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So I am ALMOST done writing this story, and I figured I would let you all see it here first, but if you want a chance to critique individual parts I also have it up on BetaBooks. Link to story


 

The curtains blew in the breeze in the early morning light. This is the kind of thing that authors like to use to indicate that someone just bedded someone else. Or they did, in the ye olde days of censors and many-eyed auntswho looked down at you from windows. This particular window was five stories up so it was the kind of window that your Tía would have told you not to lean out of lest you fall and dash your head. Ah, but where are las Tías de Ojos?

Perhaps their voices can be heard on the wind, for the curtains in the morning light were not blowing in a gentle breeze, but in the sort of breeze that becomes a gale if you decide to exaggerate slightly. The papers scattered around the room flew about and around two women, one short and substantial and fair of face, one tall and thin, with an eye that gleamed gold, with limbs the color of cast bronze, though softer by far, as the fair maiden had discovered.

“Why didn’t you close the window when I told you to last night?” yelled the fair lady in the morning gale. Her hair was whipped around by the howling wind.

“I wanted to let the gentle breeze waft over our skins through the night,” yelled the bronze lady, as she tried to catch papers out of the air. She had no hair upon her head to be caught by the wind, but the flight of papers about her obscured her sight as much as long hair in the wind would have .

“The windows have to be closed all night if anyone wants to take anyone to bed!” yelled the fair lady. “Is this your first time doing this?”

“This is literally my first time doing anything,” yelled the bronze lady. “I think last night I was still a literary device or something. A flashback. A memory. Fair maiden, I do not think I existed until this moment.”

There is a certain kind of stare known to soldiers as the “thousand yard stare,” whereby someone is so shellshocked that they are looking forward but clearly not looking at anything. The apartment in which the fair maiden stood sat in a land that had not known war for a hundred years, and so the fair maiden would have had no direct frame of reference with which to compare herself with a soldier, and not likely even an indirect reference, save out of storybooks. Yet if there had been no wall to stare at, she would have been staring a thousand yards and more.

“Fair maiden?” yelled the bronze lady. “My apologies, I think I may have confused you. I do not even know your name.”

The fair maiden shook her head. “Never mind,” she yelled, “never mind! Let’s just get out of this apartment. Put some clothing on, assuming it hasn’t disintegrated yet, and we’ll make our sincere apologies to the superintendent. Perhaps he will forgive us.”

“I’d say I got lucky,” said the bronze lady. “There was a nice peach floral print sundress. Perfect for the morning sun, don’t you think?”

The bronze lady and the fair maiden stood outside the tall apartment building, gazing up at a crater where a corner apartment had once stood. There was but a gentle breeze on the morning air, just enough to lift the gulls high in their search for fish and scraps, just enough to make the waves kiss the shore with a gentle rushing sound, to rock the boats up and down without rolling them.

The fair maiden huffed. “I’d say I got unlucky. Who wears a nightclub dress at 7 AM? I’ll tell you who, someone walking home after a wild night spent in bed with someone, who has nothing to wear but what they brought. I should be surprised that El Viento de las Tías hasn’t disintegrated me already, but then again it’s not like they would put two-and-two together like that. Assuming they even still have minds? Assuming they even still exist somewhere? I don’t know. We call them las Tía de Ojos and maybe we don’t actually know who or what we’re referring to. Nobody has ever found them. Seems kind of silly, really.” She looked out at the waves. “And yet, there was a whole wharf district down there – ” She pointed out along the bay, close to where the apartment rows became a mess of trees – “where the prostitutes used to sleep with the windows open. Disintegrated about the same time that the pool halls did. The pool halls, I guess the mayor managed to get rid of them by preventing them from getting their windows repaired in time. I don’t know what got into the prostitutes though. Oh well. There’s nightclubs for everything now. Not that you offered to pay me or anything, last night when we met.”

“Did I?” said the bronze lady. “Or is that just a created memory?”

The fair maiden put her face in her hands. “Please, don’t go there again. Let’s just…say it happened and move on, alright?”

“But I – ”

“Why don’t you pretend for half a second that your past life was real? Please? Do that for me? And we can talk about it while we have some shaved ice.”

The two women strolled down Le Boulevard with a Shaved Ice in each hand.

The dark lady looked as blithe as ever. The fair maiden looked increasingly frustrated.

“I am trying to tell you the truth as I understand it,” said the bronze lady. “I do believe for a fact that I did not exist until this morning, in the midst of your apartment room. I believe that everything up until that point was a constructed memory, designed to explain why the window was open, why I was without clothing, why papers were flying around the room, et cetera. What about this concept troubles you?”

The fair maiden said nothing, only scowled and gnawed at her shaved ice.

“You didn’t put any flavoring on your shaved ice,” said the bronze lady with the gleaming eyes. “Is that what you intended?”

“I’m very sorry,” snarled the fair maiden, “I just got distracted by the fact that you’re sticking to a notion that’s absurd and insane. How the hell did I invite you to my place if you didn’t exist until this morning? Was I seeing a figment of my imagination last night? Are you trying to say that I’m also a construct? That none of my past life is true? Did I also come into existence this morning, with my apartment, my city, my entire world? No! I’ve existed since I was a little girl kicking rocks and climbing trees. You’ve existed since whenever you were born – ”

“Which was this morning – ”

“Shut up! Just stop it, alright? I asked you to pretend that your past life was real. Can you at least pretend that you HAVE one? Make something up! I don’t care! Access your stupid Constructed Memories if you have to but please pretend that you’re not a fictional character at the whim of an author! Give me that shred of comfort!”

The bronze lady sighed. “My dear, I am sorry to have scared you. It is possible that I am wrong. Here.” She gestured to a bench in the shade of a tall Live Oak, accidentally tossing one of her Shaved Ices onto the seat. “Let us sit, and begin again.”

Two women sat upon a bench in the shade, in the morning in a harbor city. One woman was tall and bronze and thin and gleaming of eye, the other was short and substantial and fair of face. One had two flavorless Shaved Ices in hand, the other had one Shaved Ice flavored with cherry and one mess of ice lying on the seat next to her. The slowly spreading puddle of water was beginning to soak the bronze lady’s sun dress but she welcomed it, for the day promised to be humid and hot.

Past them drove the occasional lorry, rode the occasional bicyclist, patrolled the occasional police car emblazoned with the phrase “Tías de Ojos”. In this sector of la ciudád the people tend to wake early early in the morning, get their work done by 8, and then wait out the hot part of the day until evening, when they will set to work again. So there was considerable bustle around the two women on the bench, and the occasional confused glance at the fair maiden still in her Nightclub Best, yet everyone who passed by was too busy to speak.

“Let us begin again,” said the bronze lady. “What is your name?”

“Alejandra,” said the fair maiden. “Alejandra d’Uberville.”

“And where are you from?”

“Here. Esta ciudád. This is where my family has lived in for generations.”

“Fine. What neighborhood?”

“Proscenium.”

“Go on.”

“You don’t know what Proscenium’s about?”

The bronze lady just stared at Alejandra with that frustrating blithe smile.

“Daughter of a – fine. It’s where Trujillo is from. Does that ring any bells? Of course it doesn’t ring any bells. Trujillo is what people talk about when you tell them there’s been no war here for a hundred years. He grew up in Proscenium as a spoiled child of a banker, got a government job, became the mayor and suddenly everyone was disappearing left and right. Proscenium’s the kind of neighborhood that produced a man like that – you know, the sort of people who’d look the other way when people are getting disappeared off the streets because it’s only the Troublemakers, of course, never mind. I say “would” because they did. They looked the other way. Mother never forgave grandmother for that.”

“Would you look the other way?”

Alejandra took a bite of her shaved ice. “If it was my life on the line, maybe. I can handle myself well enough when it comes to a scrap, but I’m not stupid enough to attack a police officer.”

“Would you look the other way if I got disappeared?”

Alejandra looked at the bronze lady with that sort of look you get when someone desperately wants to maintain the good graces of someone else without having to own up to their own weakness.

“It’s not that I myself would mind getting disappeared," said Maggie. "I would simply be taken somewhere else, somewhere interesting. Who knows if I would survive. Perhaps not!” The bronze lady tipped her other shaved ice onto the bench. “Perhaps they would melt me, or something. And then I would become a memory going forward as well as backward. But ah, that is me. What I accept may not be what others accept. My dear Alejandra – ”

“I’ve known you for all of 12 hours, mujer.”

“My dear stranger who may yet be a friend. How much are YOU willing to accept, before you lay your life on the line?”

Alejandra sighed. “The question is academic. I was born long after the fact, and there is peace in this city once more. Let us change the subject. Who are you?”

I am me.”

Alejandra clenched her fist, crushing the paper holder for her shaved ice. The shaved ice fell to the ground with a wet splat.

“Alright, alright,” said the bronze lady. “My name…is…uh…Maggie Noyr.”

Who gave you a name like that?”, said Alejandra, before her eyes grew wide. She shook her head. “No! No. Never mind. Maggie Noyr. Your name is Maggie Noyr. Hello, Maggie. I’m sorry I forgot to ask your name last night. Perhaps I was too turned on.” She blushed. “Mierda. I mean – ”

“Well you’d have to be,” said Maggie, “if you were going to invite someone into your bed. That’s how it works, right? Do people bed those that they don’t fancy?”

“It’s complicated,” said Alejandra. “Sometimes the answer is yes. But that’s besides the point! Where are you from, Maggie Noyr? Your name doesn’t sound like it’s from around here.”

“Perhaps it got changed,” said Maggie. She waved at a scruffy, swarthy man who was standing across the street, who waved back like he knew her. “Perhaps when my parents came to this land, someone looked at their name and said “Noi-r” instead of “nwar” and the name stuck? Ah, but let us say my parents, strong and proud, grew up in the Hijo De Dios district, among the grime, the disease, and the downtrodden grumpy sinners and saints.” The scruffy swarthy man began to cross the street without looking where he was going. “Let us say that the man coming to greet us has known me since a child, and always had my back as I had his. Let us say that I know what it is like to have wings, and what it is like to lose them, and what it is like to regain them, only to lose them again, in an endless round. Let us say that the scruffy man now standing before us has found his again.” Maggie stood and clasped the man’s hand in hers. “Rafael. How soon will the next storm come?”

The man in question had far more wrinkles around his eyes than Maggie, and his hands had as many calluses. They both stood with the sort of bearing one can only have after surviving countless storms both physical and mental.

           “The forecasters say there’s clear skies for the next week,” said Rafael.

           “But what do you know about two weeks?”

Rafael closed his eyes. “Two weeks there’s going to be a mighty gale,” he said. “Lot of windows will be blown in. We might lose Los Imperios club to las Tías de Ojos.”

“Oh, Los Imperios,” said Maggie. “They should have moved underground like the rest of the clubs. Hopefully they survive the ordeal.”

Alejandra stared open-mouthed at Rafael. “You – but – she – I thought – ”

“Some things are hard to explain,” said Rafael.

Alejandra threw up her hands. “Honestly! One of these days, Maggie, you will tell me the truth about yourself instead of playing around. I can’t stand your presence right now. You make me feel like I could become nothing as soon as I leave your sight. Well you know what? Maybe I’ll leave your sight and not return to this – this – I dare not call it a story.”

“Do as you will,” said Maggie. “You are always welcome in my presence.”

Alejandra stalked off towards the Proscenium district, leaving Maggie and Rafael in the shade of the Live Oak.

Next Chapter

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