04.19 – Nighttime Conversation

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With difficulty, Lucian pushes herself up into a sitting position. She rubs her eyes. “Sort of,” she says. “I feel like shit. What’s going on?”

“What happened to you?” Isla asks. “I tried finding you for hours after you left and you were in that creepy house at the east side of town. What happened?”

Lucian groans. “I…I don’t know. Sol felt your memories and we followed some kid there, and…I don’t know. I went upstairs, I think, but I don’t…I don’t remember anything after that. Isla, what happened to my shirt? What were you doing just now?”

“I, uh,” Isla says. “I took your shirt off.”

“What? Why?”

“You…you wanted me to burn the artifice marks off of you,” Isla says. “So I was going to…”

Lucian looks at her, then back down at the glowing marks pulsing on her chest. She seems to think about it for a little bit, then says, “Can I have my shirt back?”

“Wait, but I haven’t–”

“Isla,” Lucian cuts in, “I have no idea where we are, it’s dark, and you look like shit. More importantly, I feel like shit. As much as I’d love to get blasted by magic bullshit, now is not the time.


Lucian gestures impatiently. “Isla. My shirt.”

Isla nods and hands over Lucian’s shirt. Lucian puts it back on, slowly, stiffly, and not sounding too happy about it.

“Urgh,” she says. “I ache like hell. That shouldn’t be allowed–I don’t feel pain, why should I ache? I–” She cuts herself off and rubs her temples. “Where are we?”

“In the dress shop,” Isla says. “You know, Rebecca’s? You remember her?”

“Sure. That’s halfway across town. So how the hell did I get here? Because I didn’t walk that distance.”

“I, uh, brought you here. With Solanus’s help.”

Lucian’s eyes narrow. “With Sol’s help? You…” Her voice drops. “You had her possess me, didn’t you?”

Isla nods.

Lucian looks up at the ceiling. “Well. That explains why I feel like shit.”

“I’m sorry,” Isla says. “She didn’t want to do it, but you were too heavy to carry and I couldn’t wait in the house, and I know you don’t like it, but–”

“Don’t like it?” Lucian asks. “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t I like it? It’s not like one of the two people I trust made my only other friend possess me to lug my useless shitty cursed body around. Who cares that I just got out of being a literal slave to some fucked-up automaton for an entire month and had who knows how many souls wear me around like I’m the newest, most fashionable length of silk in the continent. Go ahead! Cut me up, stitch me back together, turn me any way you like. Why in the world would I be upset?”

“I had to get you out of the house before anyone came back,” Isla says. “I didn’t know when you’d wake up, and I’m sorry, I know you’ve been through a lot, but–”

“Stop. Just stop,” Lucian says. She doesn’t sound angry so much as extremely tired. “There’s literally no reason you can give that’s going to make me feel better right now, and a lot that will make me feel worse. I don’t want to hear it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s good for you. I’d like to go one day without having to deal with bullshit, but apparently that’s too much to ask.”

“We had to get out of there,” Solanus says quietly. “I don’t know what happened, but it really did a number on you.”

“Yeah, I know. I was there,” Lucian says. She rubs her hand over her face. “And I feel like garbage.”

Lucian sits there like that for a long while, and Isla clears her throat. “Uh, are you okay?”

“No,” Lucian says. “I feel like my head’s exploding. Give me a few minutes.”

Isla gives her a few minutes. A heavy silence settles in the darkness. Even with Solanus’s light, the shop is dim, the unfinished dresses on mannequins casting long shadows up the whitewashed walls, their bright fabrics muted by the dark. In the far distance, Isla can hear drums and shouting.

Lucian takes a deep breath. “What time is it?”

“I don’t know,” Isla says. “After sunset. The festival probably started a while ago.”

Lucian hisses through her teeth. “The last I remember was around three in the afternoon. What the hell happened?”

“Don’t look at me,” Solanus says. “I was passed out the whole time. Sorry, Lucy.”

Lucian sighs. “No, it’s fine. I just…can’t remember anything. That’s never a good sign.” She glances up. “Sol, was there a witch? I swear I saw a witch, but–”

“A witch? No, there weren’t any witches.”

“You were passed out, weren’t you?” Lucian asks.

“Not passed out that hard. Witches make me feel prickly all over–it would wake me up, believe me.”

“Fine. Okay. Then I’m going crazy,” Lucian says. “That’s great. There’s some weird festival about killing a demon that never ends because time keeps resetting, I followed some kid who may have had your memories to a creepy abandoned house and can’t remember anything after that, I got possessed by Sol and feel like absolute ass…”

“Sorry,” Solanus says.

“…and you didn’t want to burn these marks off me, but now you do. As if that all wasn’t enough, I’m imagining witches because I just don’t have enough of them in my life already. Am I missing anything?”

Isla shakes her head. “I think that’s…pretty much everything.”

“Great,” Lucian says. “Please tell me you’ve learned something useful today, Isla. I’ve been in this nightmare town for one day and I already hate it.”

“Uh,” Isla says. “I found out where they get the plants for the demon’s elixir. It’s up north, by the river. One of the other performers, this kid with brown hair, was picking them so they could make the elixir fresh for the ceremony. The first batch wasn’t strong enough or something. They helped me look for you for a little while.”

Lucian hums. “A kid with brown hair who’s performing? Were they, by any chance, about five and a half feet and scrawny? Round face, green jacket? Spectacles?”

Isla thinks for a second. “Maybe. They weren’t wearing spectacles when I saw them, but everything else sounds right. Do you know them?”

“That’s the kid I followed back to the creepy house,” Lucian says. “You know, the one who might have had your memories.”

“What? Why would they have my memories? I talked to them–I walked around town with them for a while! Wouldn’t I have noticed if they had my memories?”

“Maybe they didn’t have them anymore,” Solanus says. “Or maybe you’re just bad at finding your memories. That would explain why we suck so–“

“I don’t know why they would have your memories,” Lucian cuts in. “I’m telling you what we found, that’s all. That kid lives in the abandoned house, and they’re in the middle of all this, I’m sure of it.”

Isla’s struck by a thought. “Em told me to stay away from the kid,” she says slowly, parsing the memory. “And the kid couldn’t see Em. I don’t think anyone else could see them.”

Lucian makes a face. “Who’s Em?”

Isla sighs. She didn’t miss this. “They’re some person who’s cursed so everyone keeps forgetting them, except me–but that’s not important right now. The important thing is they tried to stop us from going into the abandoned house earlier, and now they’re trying to make us stay away from the kid, and maybe we’re the only people in this town who can see them.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Lucian says.

“Em’s the only person here besides us who knows the town’s trapped in the same day,” Isla adds. “I’m not making this up, I swear.”

“Considering all the other bullshit you’ve done today, it’d be pretty ballsy to be lying about something like this now,” Lucian says. “Fine, so there’s some person Em who doesn’t want us to investigate the kid or that house.”

“So obviously we should investigate the kid and that house!” Solanus shouts. “We’ll probably get our shit kicked in again, but getting your shit kicked in gets results! Unless you get knocked out again and have no idea what the hell just–“

“Thanks, Sol. I really appreciate you,” Lucian says. “Especially the way you talk way too much and say nothing useful.” She closes her eyes and exhales. “Looking into the house and the kid seems like the best lead we’ve got. One or both of them are connected to your memories, and with any luck, we’ll learn where they are sooner rather than later.” She rubs her temples. “It would help if I could remember what happened after I got to the house, but I’m not having a lot of luck. I think there was a lot of shouting. And a…a fire.”

“There wasn’t a fire,” Isla says. “At least, if there was, it wasn’t in the house. I didn’t smell smoke or anything like that.”

“Right. I think you’re right–there wasn’t a fire, but I remember seeing a fire,” Lucian insists. “And a witch. I can’t remember anything more than that.”

“But neither of those things happened.”

Lucian presses her lips together and nods. “None of that happened. So why do I remember it?”

Isla looks from Lucian to Solanus and back, but there’s no answers from any of them. It’s yet another mystery to add to the pile.

Isla wonders if they’ll ever reach the end of these tangled threads.

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