Solanus has difficulty moving in Lucian’s body, and Isla ends up having to do a lot of the work. Given Lucian’s weight, it’s not anywhere close to easy, but at least she’s not dead weight anymore.
“Do you know where Lucian’s stuff is?” Isla asks. “Did she drop her bag somewhere?” She glances around the room some more, and sees the canvas bag thrown under a desk. She picks it up as they shuffle past and slings it over Solanus’s shoulder. “Okay, let’s go.”
“Yeah,” Solanus says. “It’s been less than five minutes and I already feel like shit.”
The two of them get out of the house without too much incident, except for Solanus tripping and falling halfway down the stairs. Since she doesn’t seem hurt by it and nothing’s broken, Isla counts that as a success.
“I hate this body,” Solanus grumbles as Isla helps her back to her feet. “Thank fuck Lucy doesn’t feel pain, but moving sucks. And having to breathe to talk? Unbelievable.”
“What even happened? How did you get in?” Isla asks. “The door was locked.”
“I told you, I felt your memories while we were walking around, and we followed them here. I guess Lucy ended up following someone who came in here and didn’t lock the door behind them,” Solanus says. “Lucy hid out downstairs for a while until they left, and I don’t know what happened after that because I passed out.”
Isla grunts and pulls the door open. “How does a disembodied soul pass out?”
“The same way everyone else does. It’s not that hard of a concept.” Solanus stumbles her way down the front steps, nearly falling over again, and says, “Okay, we’re out of the house. Can I go now?”
Isla pulls Solanus along down the walkway. “You can’t just leave Lucian on the porch outside the creepy house. We have to at least get somewhere inside.”
“Right, fine,” Solanus says. “I guess I’ll keep possessing my friend’s body against her will, then.”
“I’m sorry. We need to get somewhere safe, though.”
“You keep saying stuff like that, but do you actually have a plan? Like, do we actually know any safe places in town?” Solanus asks.
That’s a fair question, not that Isla wants to admit it. She barely knows her way around, and it’s not like they can go all the way to the house on the other side of town. Em knows that place, and Isla doesn’t think she trusts Em at all now. She’s not sure what Em wants or is trying to hide, but she’s pretty sure that, if they have to, they’ll hurt her and Lucian for it.
“Yeah,” Isla says. “Yeah, I know somewhere safe. We’ll find it soon, definitely.”
Isla takes Solanus down into town, a long and uncomfortable journey for everyone involved. It’s like a ghost town with how few people there are in the streets, now that it’s nearing sunset and the Lighting is about to start. Isla can see a glow of torches from the town square.
“What’s going on?” Solanus asks. “All this cloth hanging everywhere. Is it laundry day or something?”
“Those are banners,” Isla says. “The colors and patters are symbolic somehow, but I don’t know how. They’re for the festival. Have you…never seen a festival before? You used to have a body, didn’t you?”
“The festivals where I came from weren’t like this. Not the weird clothes or fire hazards everywhere,” Solanus says. “Just lots of food and shouting. Those were good times. I went to some when I was younger, before…well, when I was a little kid.”
“You’re kind of a little kid now,” Isla says.
“Fuck you, I’m twenty-one.”
That strikes a cord in Isla. It’s older than Isla had expected from the way Solanus talked, but it’s too young, far too young for what’s happened to her. Isla opens her mouth to say something, but she has no words to say. She hadn’t even thought about Solanus’s age, or Lucian’s, but hearing the number makes it all too real–they’re people who’ve lost a lot, too quickly, and have more yet to lose.
Isla wonders how old she is. How old was she when this all started?
The two of them trudge down the streets in awkward silence. In the distance, they can hear drums.
“You’re usually more talkative,” Isla says after a while, when the silence becomes too much.
“Yeah, sorry, I’m also not usually stuck in Lucy’s body, when she definitely does not want me to be there. I’m also not usually super tired because I burned out my soul earlier in the day trying to unlock a door and you weren’t there to get me. I’m also not usually in a body where I have to actually breathe to talk,” Solanus says. “Sorry for not being as wonderful and exciting as I always am.”
Isla bites her lip. Solanus has got plenty of reasons to be cross. “Sorry. We’re pretty close now, so there’s that.”
“Close to what? I don’t see shit.”
Isla looks around. They’re in the market district, and she recognizes a few of the buildings, but she’s not sure whether any of them can really be considered safe. “Uh,” she says. “There’s the dress shop. Rebecca’s dress shop from earlier. She’s part of the Lighting, so she can’t be there, so how about we go in and hide out for now?”
“Anything to get me out of this thing as soon as possible,” Solanus grumbles.
They go to the dress shop. The door is latched, but Solanus kicks it open, making the latch a non-issue. Isla tries not to feel too guilty about it; it’ll be fixed again when time resets anyways. She closes the door and sets a chair against it to keep anyone from coming in, though she doubts anyone will, considering the festival.
She takes Solanus over to the back room and Solanus sits down on the floor. “Can I get out now?”
“Yeah,” Isla says. “We should be good for now.”
“Thank fuck for that,” Solanus says. She takes the lantern off of her belt and stares at it for a bit, then slumps over, unconscious.
“Solanus?” Isla asks.
“Ugh, never ask me to do that again,” Solanus says from the lantern. “I hate being in Lucy’s body. It’s even worse than all the weird machines.”
There’s a story there, but Isla opts not to ask about it. She’s pretty sure she doesn’t want to know. She sets the lantern on the floor, then looks at Lucian.
Lucian…doesn’t look good. She’s not moving and she’s still completely limp. Her eyes, wide-open, are dim with pale green light.
“Lucian?” she asks. “Can you hear me?”
If Lucian can, she makes no indication of it.
“Still out, huh?” Solanus asks. “That’s not great. Lucy doesn’t, y’know, sleep. I don’t know what would knock her out except for, uh, magic bullshit.”
“You’re not helping, Solanus.”
“I’m just saying!”
Isla takes a few moments to breathe and gather her thoughts. Lucian’s out, and she doesn’t know how or why. They’ve broken into a dress shop to hide out because the place they were staying in before has some…person who nobody can remember, and only she and Lucian can see, and it’s her and a rude lantern in the dark, trying to come up with some kind of plan.
She can’t think of anything.
“I’m sorry,” Isla tells Lucian’s unconscious body. “I should have realized you would have wanted help getting the marks off. I didn’t even think about it. And then you left, and something happened to you, and now you’re like this. Maybe if we’d figured something out you’d still be okay right now.”
“She can’t hear you.”
Isla sighs. “I know.”
She stands and paces back and forth, trying to fill the time. It’s past sunset now, and the festival’s definitely started. There’s no way she can go when Lucian’s like this, though. All she can do is bide her time and hope Lucian’s okay.
Solanus makes a cough sound. “Lucy will probably be fine. You know, eventually. She’s pretty tough, having no soul and all. Not being able to die helps with not getting killed, and all that. Until that stuff with the automaton I didn’t even know she could get knocked out, so this is all pretty new to me.”
“The automaton knocked her out?”
“Uh, kind of. Lucy told you about how, uh, he put a bunch of different souls in here and have her do things around the palace, right? Which is super fucked-up, but that’s what happened. Usually after all that happened, she’d get brought back to the cells and she, um, wouldn’t talk. Or move around or do anything. And I’m guessing she was passed out, it’s kind of hard to tell when I can’t see. Or maybe she was like, frozen. The automaton would do that sometimes, too, to work on her–he didn’t like working on things that moved, so he’d…do something so she wouldn’t, or couldn’t.”
A sick feeling settles in Isla’s stomach. She hates it. She hates learning about all these things that happened to Lucian, and the fact she didn’t already know and that it all happened right under her nose. She can’t even imagine what Lucian went through–she’s seen the marks inscribed on Lucian’s skin, the holes drilled into the sides of her face and wrists, the cold blue glow in her eyes, but…there’s more. There’s so much more she doesn’t know, and it sickens her.
“Will she be okay?”
“In the long run? Fucked if I know,” Solanus says. “But if you mean will she wake up? Yeah, probably. She got better after all that stuff the automaton did to her, mostly. If you give her some time, she’ll probably…probably be okay.”
Isla takes a deep breath. “Okay. I can do that. I can wait.”