Ever since talking to Jason, she’d taken more interest in classical English literature and performance. It was all beautiful. But that was a problem. Plays and theater and poetry all tell you the same lie: true love will triumph. There might be some chaos along the way, but ultimately everyone ends up happy. If you define “happy” as “in a relationship with someone”. And it’s a problem because people are bad at mixing up what’s beautiful with what’s true.
She knows this in science as well. Elegant, appealing hypotheses can turn out to be wrong. In physics, the Standard Model is messy, and known to be incomplete, but it’s still more true than earlier and more aesthetic alternatives. Chemistry is explosive chaos. Maybe that’s why we refer to people as having chemistry with each other.
The dance was better than she had feared it would be. Everyone was happy, everyone had fun. But that was a moment in time, a brief window into the lives of a bunch of troubled teenagers. That happiness is transmuted into a memory by time.
She doesn’t want to go home tonight. She doesn’t need to, either. Alycia has a key, and the address. She finds a tree, and leans back against it, and closes her eyes.
Summer wakes up to the feeling of dewy grass against her cheek. She’s laying on her side, on the ground. She blinks, twice, and pushes herself up to a sitting position. She remembers last night, and remembers waking up during the night, but also remembers what was obviously a dream, or set of dreams. But which was which?
She had some kind of big safe, like what’s in the office at Blintzkrieg - where you store papers and money and stuff. It was on wheels, and she was pushing it through a magical portal at the back of an elevator, taking it to some other location. The elevator was somehow inside a hotel room, and when she got back into the room, a group of people were waiting for her.
One of the housekeepers at the hotel had a father who had lost something, and they all thought it might be in the room. Summer volunteered to help look for it, or buy a replacement, and everyone seemed appropriately grateful. She remembers the feeling of obligations weighing her down, and feeling stressed about it.
She saw seeing lights in the trees of a forest - maybe the base, maybe somewhere else - and got up to follow them. Though they looked like they were flying away, she realized they were actually approaching. When they got close, she saw that they were butterflies made of a soft bluish light. She reached out, and one landed on her fingertip, making her skin glow from the reflected light.
She had found a clearing in the trees and seen a shadowy shape there. She got close, and realized it was a Phoenix. Was it the one Leo had built? No. In her mind, they have names. There’s Father Phoenix, the original. But this was Orphan Phoenix, the one who had awoke to a world with no Newmans and flown about in confusion and growing desperation.
“How did you get here?” she remembers whispering to it. She’d approached the enormous head, which shied away at first, and reached up for it. “How did you get in here?” she repeated, but of course there would be no answer. The beaked head dipped down warily, and she stroked it with a comforting hand. She’d petted it, and eventually curled up with it, as the frightened god-bird had relaxed and returned to sleep.
She was in a hallway. She picked up a handkerchief lying on the carpet. It had writing on it, which she could either not read, or could not now recall. It was a set of instructions, or a recipe, she remembers. She started knocking on doors, but there was no answer. Someone had to know this, or was missing this. Where was everyone?
She was underwater. She had on a mask, to help correct the distortion of vision underwater, and had a snorkel in her mouth, though she wasn’t using it and in fact it couldn’t work because she was diving deep under the surface. Fish darted about her in their schools, and strange and iridescent undersea life swam past her. It was all blue, and beautiful, and magical. She reached down to touch the scaly surface of the sea bed, only to discover that – but she forgets what it really was.
Standing in a bedroom, she found herself surrounded by toys. Dolls, action figures, vehicles, but they were the animate objects - the people - and she was the prop. They were playing with her, she realized, and now she had to be put away in the closet. But they can’t, because they’re tiny and she’s not. The smartest of the toys are having a conference to discuss the problem. Summer wants to help, but she can’t move herself, because she’s a toy. Maybe she can make suggestions, though.
The butterflies are there, a cloud of them. She stares at them out through the glass of an elevator affixed to the outside of a tall office building. It’s nighttime, and the city lights of Halycon are arrayed beneath her, and the elevator is gliding up the side of this tower. The butterflies want her to break through the glass, dive, fall–
Summer doesn’t remember the rest of the dream. But she remembers the night before.
All the couples are together that ought to be.
She’s by herself. But she isn’t alone.
I helped some of them get together. I was part of it.
The Sun can be so bright and warm to everyone because it’s so distant.
This was your choice, you dumb goddamn matchmaking Pollyanna.
The thoughts tumble through her mind. She’s put on a brave front for her friends, but she feels terror and heartache and regret. She wants to just cry and cry, to wash the sorrow out of her body and into the soil, until flowers grow from it. She wants time to transmute sadness into memory.
She doesn’t feel inspired, or reawakened, or anything of the sort. She just feels empty.
She wants to see if the Twilight Glade has butterflies.
She stands up, and starts walking.
author: Bill G.