display | more...

previous

Maggie Noyr sat under a light in the otherwise darkness of a dank room. One of her eyes still gleamed. The other was swollen shut. She was tied to a chair.

A tall, broad-shouldered man in a green uniform stood before her.

“Witnesses describe a relatively young man with you,” said the man in the green uniform. “They say he was your accomplice in the assault on Diego San Obispo.”

“All this for a market dustup?” said Maggie.

“Market dustup?” said the green-uniformed man. “You broke the man’s jaw, cracked his skull, fractured his collarbone, gave him a concussion, and sprained his ankle. If Señor San Obispo wasn’t pressing charges for assault and battery against you and Alvarez, we would. Now, why don’t you tell me where Alvarez is?”

“You are mistaken,” said Maggie Noyr. “There is no Luis Alvarez.”

The man in the green uniform was tall enough that his eyes were out of the light, and Maggie could not see his face. Still, she imagined his eyes full of confusion as certain memories were stolen from him.

“Wait,” said Maggie, as she realized her mistake. “Luis Alvarez does exist.”

“Luis who?”

“Oh no,” said Maggie Noyr. “Oh no no no no no no. God dammit. I’m not a day old and my life is already a nightmare. That does it.” She took a deep breath.

“What are you – ”

 “This city does not exist.”

In that instant, where there had been a dank room, there was nothing, nothing, nothing at all.

She turned around. Into her sight came one single frame of reference, one point of comparison admidst nothingness: a lump of black marble veined with gold.

She took a few steps towards the marble, and with a thud that made her jump, the dank room came back, with the man in the green uniform precisely in the place where he had been. A slightly different stance, though, more appropriate for someone who had seen his prisoner disappear right out of their ropes. He gathered himself and lunged at her.

Yet before he could touch her, Maggie shouted again, “This city does not exist!”

Once again La Ciudád disappeared to be replaced by nothing.

She took a few steps backward and the world re-asserted itself with a thud once more, with a thud that shook her very bones. She was in a different room, now, an office with a barf-orange wall-to-wall carpet and a desk that looked like it was out of an office supply catalog, a couple flickering fluorescent bulbs and a couple green-uniformed men at a couple desks, one of whom had fallen backward in his chair, the other of whom was currently leaping over his desk.

“This city does not exist!”

For an instant Maggie was in a vast nothingness. She was closer, much closer to the marble now, and in the instant that the world was just her and the marble, she could see what she had not seen on the stone before: two eyes, painted with skill and care, so that they almost looked like they were alive.

The eyes moved to stare at her.

Then the collective scream of ten thousand souls rang in Maggie’s ears, and the world re-asserted itself once more. Maggie was still in the room with the barf orange carpet, and the green-uniformed man was just a bound away from her.

“The far wall does not exist,” said Maggie, and in an instant it disappeared, revealing a room where stood a short woman in a white floral-print dress, a lady substantial and fair of face, whose mascara ran down her eyes, whose hair was a right mess, who had probably been sitting under the gaze of a man in a green uniform, but the stool was knocked over and so was the man, a perfect tableau of equal and opposite reactions.

Maggie ducked under the arms of the man reaching for her and dashed for the wall, which re-asserted itself just in time for her to smack into it. She reeled, dizzy in pain, into strong arms that bound her tightly.

“Your arms are slippery,” said Maggie, and suddenly the man’s arms were slick with sweat, and Maggie slid out from them. “This wall does not exist,” said Maggie, and the wall disappeared once more, giving Maggie just enough time to jump through it, before it re-appeared with a snap.

The scene now laid out before Maggie was of Alejandra in a fighting stance. The woman’s face was streaked with tears. The chair lay back upon the ground and a man in a green uniform lay sprawled before Maggie. The door was just opening.

 “There is a concrete wall blocking the door,” said Maggie, and in an instant the room was totally sealed.

Time enough, perhaps, to breathe.

“Maggie Noyr,” said Alejandra. “You have caught me at an embarrassing moment.”

“Seems like the police caught you first,” said Maggie.

“All I did was ask them about Las Tías de Ojos,” said Alejandra. “All I did was ask them for information! And this is what I get? I’m a good person, Maggie! I don’t deserve this!”

“Oh, and the people who are Bad Persons deserve this?”

Alejandra looked at Maggie like she was an ignorant child. “That is why we have police, Maggie.”

“And yet, you laid one out on the ground. I would have expected you to wait for your mother to bail you out or something.”

“I waited,” said Alejandra. “I waited for twenty minutes.”

Maggie raised an eyebrow.

“That’s got to be long enough!” said Alejandra.

“Maybe you’re not familiar with police stations,” said Maggie. “Or maybe I’m not familiar with the way your social class works? I think we can get you out of here faster than waiting for your mother. Erm…were you feeling a little non-existent a few minutes ago?”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed.”

“Something to explore later then, perhaps. In the meantime, I think destroying things for good is beyond my capacity. I wonder, though…one moment. Ahem. ‘I can dig through walls.’

A pair of gloves appeared on Maggie’s hands, whose fingers ended in sharp claws.

In the same moment she heard the sound of a jackhammer on the far side of the wall she had created. So much for breathing time. “Let’s test these out,” she said, and took a swipe at the wall opposite the former door. The concrete came away like she was digging through soil. The jackhammer grew louder. Maggie dug furiously at the wall, inching her way forward. The jackhammer grew louder still. She turned, and said, “There’s a tall slab of granite in front of the door.”

From the other side of the former door she heard a distant thud, and the jackhammer sounded no more.

For the next thirty seconds, it was just Maggie digging a tunnel forward, forward, forward, with Alejandra gingerly stepping over the chunks of concrete that Maggie had left behind. The concrete itself was amazingly thick, as if to stop the depredations of the nastiest acid-spitting worms and metal-clawed moles, not that Maggie knew if either of those things existed. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to say it out loud.

Maggie hit living stone, against which her claws bounced off. “Oh for crying out loud – ”

There was a mighty boom. Maggie whipped her head around. Far down the tunnel she could see a cloud of dust where the room had been.

“There’s a granite block in front of the tunnel entrance,” said Maggie, and the light in the tunnel vanished with a thud.

“Thanks a bunch,” said Alejandra. “Unless you can dig through stone we’re stuck here until THEY can dig through stone.”

“Tell you what,” said Maggie. “I’m fairly well tired. YOU can dig through stone while I relax with this…Piña Colada.” She felt a cool wet glass appear in her hand.

Alejandra scoffed with the kind of scoff that occurs when one has been made to work after not expecting it at all. “I have to do your dirty work while you kick back with a silly tourist-trap drink?”

“Think of it as being a dock worker,” said Maggie. “Once we hit dirt we’ll switch and you can be the manager.”