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From Here On Out; Born Burning
Topic Started: Apr 9 2017, 08:00 PM (433 Views)
Cicada Days
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The desolate summer sun beat down on her, but she wasn’t paying so much attention. She’d walked minutes, hours, between their home and Cochise, sweat visibly pasted the bodice of her shirt to her chest. Why the hell had she thought it would be a good idea to wear a black knit tee on a day this hot? Well. She’d done it. With an irate grunt she yanked the door of Diamondback half off it’s hinges. The only greeter they had on hand for her heat stroke ass was the friendly embrace of climate control.

Her body quickly cooled down from the dangerous levels of overheating, but honestly she failed to notice the difference. Every single block she’d walked on her way here had looked the same. Every droplet of sweat she had spilled like blood had felt the same. Felt like nothing.

She recklessly exhaled, then collapsed into the nearest chair. Her body briefly went ragdoll on her, and she only felt the impact of the seat rising up to meet her right in the hard of her tailbone.

Ben had been gone for almost four weeks now.

((Lana Fields continued from Losing Touch))

She tried to pay that fact no mind. They’d find him when they found him.

She inspected the veneer of her surroundings. Faux countertop, cheap plastic widgets, washed out bright lighting, termite-kissed wooden paneling, the framed photos from Sundae Challenge… um, fuck, it was all more or less exactly her childhood bottled up and sold at a reasonable price to her, pint by pint by plastic spoon. Lana remembered that when she’d been six her sole overriding ambition in life had been to see her picture up on that wall.

She’d gotten up on there, next to Ben. Actual recipient of the reward. He’d given her the certificate.

Dad and Mom had also been in the photos.

Dad’s hair had already been gone by then.

Lana anxiously glanced about, away from that slice of her own life pinned onto the wall. Marie was going to be late again, wasn’t she? Lana checked the text again real quick. Quarter past noon. Most important question was, who had decided going out at this hour of day when the sun was most threatening it’s red giant phase was a good idea? Second most important, Marie? Hellloooo? Went through the sweatshop of hell for you, so, show up?

Lana settled a bit, quietly. The store intercom was playing a news report, something innocuous about flash flood watches a few counties over. In one ear, out the other.
V7

V6 - Like you imagined when you... were young...
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"Nah, doesn't look right."

Marie looked at her face in the bathroom mirror. Falling asleep in class with her head resting on her hand had caused the faint imprints of pimples to sprout up on the right side of her face. Even with makeup - she dreaded to even think the word - she couldn't quite cover them up in a way that looked right. When it came time to head over to Diamondback, she made sure to show up early - last time she'd been late, and if there was anything that Arthur had taught her, it was that punctuality was of the utmost importance.

She smiled to herself. He spoke in a fake British accent sometimes to her, like a professor lecturing a student, self aware enough to know how he sounded yet wise enough to know that the knowledge he needed to impart was worth the awkwardness. "Don't be late" wouldn't suffice. He needed to tell her things in a way that she'd remember.

Her eyes were starting to droop. Marie shook her head side to side, waking herself up. The past few nights had been relatively sleepless as she looked for any news of her brother's return. He was a big dork, sure, and he was a bit intrusive, but he was her brother. She'd lost too many family members to lose him, too.

Nevertheless, she was sure he was okay. He always was.

With one last splash of cold water on her face to keep herself alert, she stepped out into the ice cream parlor. There, Marie saw Lana, walking in zig zag lines across the floor, looking down at her phone anxiously. Her heart hit the bottom of her stomach. Even if she hadn't actually been late, she'd kept Lana waiting, and that was bad enough. Worse still was the fact that she now had to find some way to explain her absence. Clouds of words and ideas floated through her mind as her feet started moving her automatically toward her friend.

"Sorry!" Marie blurted out in a stage whisper, all of her clouded thoughts slamming into the front of her head as she hit the brakes and suddenly stopped only a few inches from Lana, "I'm not actually late, I was in the bathroom, I swear!" Woozily, she took a step back, letting static cloud her vision and her sense of balance disappear for a few moments before it returned again as if nothing happened.. This sort of thing would occur when she was just getting up, or if she suddenly started moving after standing or sitting for a while. Her voice stayed clear, and her thoughts stayed where she left them, but her body lagged behind and froze up. She knew the layout of her own house well enough that she could find her way in her dizziness, but the air and shape and color of the ice cream place threw her for a loop.

"How've you been?" she said with a smile, leaning on Lana's shoulder slightly, slowly regaining her sense of self in space.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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Cicada Days
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Lana paced a full PE class mile in maybe fifteen seconds of restlessness. She glanced here, there; here was her phone's green plastic blob shell and there was the cashier on duty. A face Lana had known since she'd been ten, Mr. Gasset was kindly widower wrinkles and smiles. Mom had invited him to the house for dinner twice before. He was looking at her like the abyss liked to stare back. Lana felt that smile of his was heavy somehow, overburdened despite the lively energy he kept on tap to put his daughter through college with... three jobs, it was three jobs total.

She felt like she needed to say something, greet him somehow, but the words weren't coming to mind. Their eyes just remained ships passing in the night until there was someone else murmuring Lana's way.

Lana turned, right into Marie's face almost. They had stolen chunks of each other's personal space but the energy to step back wasn't forthcoming for Lana.

"Yeah, I believe you." Lana's voice was simple, less syllables than she needed in a mute monotone. She forced a bit more color into the next few words. "Even when school's already over you find a way to disrupt schedules with bathroom breaks, huh."

Marie jaggedly swerved, her eyes temporarily seemed AWOL. Lana was aware of Marie's vertigo-like tendencies, of course... she wasn't so aware it was contagious. Lana herself felt woozy, like she could have hurled chunks worth of her she hadn't even been in the mood to eat the last day, there was jackshit in that stomach of hers. But the moment passed, both girls recovered and then Lana was gently hugging Marie a bit closer with one arm around her shoulder.

"Fine. Just fine, you know. The usual, right?" Lana glanced around both ways like she was streetside, looking at nothing in particular despite having an objective in mind. "Order? Sorry if I'm a bit moist. It's hotter out here than jet fuel on steel beams."
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"Oh, sure, no worries, yeah," Marie said, stumbling over her own words. She leaned in closer to Lana, cherishing each moment of the hug. She needed it, after all the stressing she'd been doing. The joke about 9/11 was a little on the nose, sure, but by this point Marie was used to Lana's references and rambles and rants. She'd even ask questions, when she understood well enough to be able to keep up.

"Can I just give you my money, tell you what I want, and find a place for us to sit?" she asked, leaning out of the hug, "I think this dizzy spell's lasting a bit long, I need to get off my feet."

Was it the heat? Quite possibly, but Marie had been inside for a good deal of time by now. Maybe there was a storm on the horizon, something that would cause the air pressure to change. When those happened, and especially when they happened badly, she'd get nosebleeds. Real bad ones, too. Blood all over her ice cream was not a topping she was in the mood for today, or ever.

Another wave of static came over her, and she gently pulled away from Lana. She pulled three dollars out of her wallet and handed them to her before she started to stumble away. Move naturally. Don't fall. Do not, under any circumstances, fall. Floor looks dirty, no sir.

"Min' choco-chip, yeah," said Marie, as she made her way over to the nearest table in as straight a line as she could manage, her head held high so that she could see above the lines and waves in front of her.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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Yeah she'd probably reached a bit with that one?

The faux pas was lost to time.

Marie on the other hand stayed rooted in time and space. To an extent. She seemed tense, she was eating more of her own words than normal. Lana took note of those facts, but they somehow seemed distant within her own head. She hadn't even realized it but at some point in the last four weeks she'd slowly drifted away from herself, becoming an observer to her own body.

Even time wasn't so distinct in it's slippery, sinewy passage. It was Monday... something. June... something.

Maybe.

"Sounds shitty, sorry Marie. Yeah, you should go sit. I got this." Who was that girl saying those things coming out of her mouth?

Eh. Lana only had half a brain for the pretentiously worded. Ben had probably stolen the other half from her just before she'd been born. Lana watched Marie bumble and stumble and crumble away, Lana's pitying frown on her friend's behalf was lost, dead on arrival to the heavy and sagging inertia of her own lips. The order however, was not lost. Lana relayed it to Mr. Gasset, and he smiled that eerily heavy smile at her once more, all while she ordered and stood stock still and received her order and returned to sitting by Marie's side, or somewhere close enough to Marie's side that they could probably look each other in the eye without complications.

"So, uh..."

Lana's eyes were hollow as she stared, she seemed to look without actually seeing. Green with black freckles in a cup was gently placed before Marie. And the moment passed, and another few silent ones for good measure.

"What have you been up to lately? It's been a while since we've spoken I guess. I should've called but I...

uh..."
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Marie couldn't help herself from scooping up more ice cream than she could handle. She had neglected food recently, besides the occasional toaster waffles or quick protein bar, and to finally have the excuse to eat something that wasn't one of those two things was like a godsend to her. The initial few spoonfuls didn't get to her too badly, but after just a short while she felt the telltale aching of brain freeze creep along the roof of her mouth. She began sucking on her thumb, pressing her fingertip against where it felt the most cold, when Lana asked her question.

"Wahl, ah've nawt bin sleaypin, ryecentlee," Marie said, her thumb still in her mouth, "Guss ayh've bin ah bit pahrahnoyd, wike, abowt fings witt Arshur."

Lana had a somewhat confused expression on her face.

Marie's eyes widened, and she pulled her thumb out of her mouth, her cheeks turning pink. In her state of mild embarrassment, she remembered to take a napkin from the dispenser on the side of the table and clean off her thumb thoroughly, all the while fighting off the retreating brain freeze in her skull. "Sorry, sorry," she mumbled, "Ice cream just does that thing, like, with the coldness, and I thought I could make it stop with my thumb, see, but I forgot it was in there." Hastily, she crumbled the napkin up into a ball and rolled it along the table towards the wall, where it stopped just out of view of Lana's sight.

"I was, um, just saying that I've been fine," Marie explained, regaining her composure, "A little bit of worry here and there, but for the most part, I have faith. Not much sleep, as you can probably, aha, as you can probably tell."

A beat of silence passed.

"I mean, I could say the same, that I should've called you too. Don't worry about it. All's well, yeah?"
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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Lana felt the briefest of growling stomach complaints as she watched Marie vacuum up her food.

Promptly she told herself to shut up. She probably should have also clued herself in while she was at it, don't stare at people with her mouth slightly gaping like a lardy fish on the chopping block while those people were awkwardly diffusing their own brainfreeze. Thumb in the mouth. Lana swore she'd seen that particular trick before, somewhere besides as a mainstay of the young and barely toilet ready demographic.

'... Not been sleeping... bit paranoid...'

Lana was able to process some of it at a thoroughly inadequate speed. But her brain stayed like a slug, slow and probably slimy. Her expression thus stubbornly stayed, slack jaw, wide eye.

"Hell, I would have lent you my thumb if you'd asked." ... Er. Not sure where that doof of a line had come from, except maybe some loser screenwriters porno scropt. "You know what I mean." She made an idle swipe at the napkin as it skidded by, way too far for her to have bothered making the attempt if she'd been thinking at anything above a paperclip's worth of wattage. She missed, of course, and the wad of paper merrily skipped on by.

Marie said...

"Yeah. We just have to keep believing. Eventually the authorities will..." The authorities the Lana two months younger had never trusted, had derided. Lana's attempt trailed off, syllables becoming an awkwardly shoehorned breath becoming silence. She tried again.

"Sorry you haven't been getting much sleep. Don't worry about not calling. Like...

We're both just kind of forgetful, I guess."

She couldn't put any sort of value or remembrance to the number of weeks that had dredged through her living memory. She couldn't put a name to the faces, not when she hadn't seen them in forever.

"But that's always been our MO, right?" And the tone wasn't a question more than it was a particularly flabby statement.
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Marie cringed openly at Lana's comment about thumbs. She loved her, in a sister/friend kind of way, but she wasn't going to be putting her thumbs in her mouth. That'd just be too weird(ly sexual) for them both. Still, she cringed with a smile, letting Lana know that the attempt was recognized. "A rather ladylike way of conducting oneself," Arthur's disembodied voice commented, falling back into his fake British accent.

All Marie could do, as Lana stumbled through words of halfhearted hope and hamstrung prayers, was nod along in agreement. Solidarity was the most important to show. She went on, telling Marie not to worry, something something, and then some comments about the nature of their friendship and forgetting things.

Lana was clearly out of it. She'd only made one conspiracy theory joke.

"Hey," Marie asked, putting aside her ice cream, "What's wrong? You seem kind of...

"Distracted."
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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Yep, no way Lana would have been allowed to get away with that foot-in-mouth-on-head-up-ass comment. Lana would have cringed herself, if she'd been the observer to her own epic failure. Without the smile, probably. Could have just been that Lana had little ability to imagine herself with a smile, period. Not as of late.

It was a bit odd. Lana was normally something of an arrogant smile-er. She hadn't even been dropping the clever hashtag bars someone like that weirdo Tessa Mabel might have been proud of.

"It's because I forgot my tinfoil."

Flaccid, dead on arrival. She'd at least tried to maintain the quota, like Coolidge.

"I dunno." Lana's eyes scanned infinity, that faraway place lying somewhere outside Diamondback's blind-draped windows. "I've been doing a lot of the housework as of late, like. Mom's super busy at work and all." And of course, it was normally Ben who did most of that. "I'll try to not fall asleep on you, Marie." She spared her friend a glance, in the singular. Looked away again, toward nothing in particular. "Have I ever, like... taken you to see Mom's work?"

Or had Marie studied in that particular school and had Lana already forgotten, her washcloth of a brain wrung out?
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The tinfoil joke gave Marie a good, hearty chuckle. That concept was near universal, funny even if you weren't into politics. Lana was totally the type to spend hours hunched over a computer, wrapped in a woolen blanket, only the light of a computer screen illuminating her face, and it should follow that tinfoil hats would be involved too.

"My dad's been busy, too," she replied, "So I've had to double down on keeping the house in order. 'Course, I really only keep my room really nice looking, but I freshen up the downstairs every so often. And Arthur's room, for when he gets back."

She stared out the window for a little while, following Lana's vacant gaze to the nothing spot in the middle of the blinds. If she didn't know better, she'd have started taking Lana's comments about tinfoil more seriously.

"I don't think you've taken me over there, but doesn't she teach kindergarten or something?"

Marie felt like she was way off the mark, but waited to see if Lana would correct her or not.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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Okay, cool. They could still share a laugh. Lana wasn't even consciously sure why they hadn't been able to yet. Lana smirk-laughed a bit, a bubbly noise that was reportedly far too adorable in tone for a cool-cat like Lana to pack in her larynx. Went right through lips sealed in a kiss mashed up against a finger of her own folded palms.

"Yep. We're growing up, I guess... Shit, too soon."

...

"Yeah, good idea. I guess I should be doing Ben's room too, that'd only be... uh. Fair."

And. Silence followed. Lana didn't mean for it to but her vocal cords gave out a bit, her brain put out a vague kinda static on all airwaves. Only lasted a second but it had somehow been a memorably heavy lapse in the awkward robot-dancing that was their convo.

"Second grade. ... Have you ever thought about teaching? Like, as a job, or just in general."

...

"I mean, like, I like kids. But I bet it'd be a hard job, just in the... a lot of things out of your control sort of sense."
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"With how much attention Arthur makes me give my schoolwork," Marie said with a laugh, "You'd think that he was grooming me to be a schoolteacher. I don't really like littler kids too much, though, they kinda get on my nerves."

She wasn't all too far off with the age level, at least. That was a relief.

"I haven't been all too sure what I want to do...when I grow up, or whatever."

She gazed out the window.

"There's such a big world out there, waiting to be explored. I'm not sure if I want to get tied down with a job or nothing. Even if Arthur really wants me to turn out well...I don't think what's well for him is what's well for me, maybe."

"What about you? You probably want some way to get deeper into the truth, or something, right?"
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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"Guess I hear you there, yeah. At least in my case it's one of those things where the responsibility to handle kids is lacking."

...

"I guess it's like, uh... We're both really young anyways. Ben and Arthur are both older, they see things different from us." And that was normally the exact syllable on which Lana inserted a pivot to a 'fuck older brothers' sort of diss.

...

The moment passed.

"They think what they think I guess. And we think what we think too."

Lana buried her eyes in between the finger spaces of one hand, because Mr. Gasset was roaming around shifting the blinds, stabbing Lana's eyes with stray sunrays bouncing off tabletops at strange angles.

"Dunno what I'd do either. But I'm betting neither of us want that same old same old."
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"Yeah..."

Marie looked around as she finished up her ice cream.

"How are your grades doing?"

She didn't really know what else to ask. In all honesty, she was bored out of her mind.

A lump began to form in her throat.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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...

Lana didn't even know what either of them were looking at. This place was too familiar.

"I mean, yeah. Webber handed me all my grades out the door, your last period did that for you too right?"

Mrs. Webber. The bane of Ben's existence somehow. She was alright. Lana figured they'd all be laughing about it someday over an email, or doing the digital lol equivalent of laughing, or something like...

"All A's except a solid ass B plus in Precalc. Because, you know..."

Trailing off, puttering out like a car run out of gas soon to be stranded in a desert.

"... Precalc."

...

"... I, uh..."

She was ignoring the warning tone of her own phone, screeching like that still-stranded car composing it's last will in dying mechanical creaks.
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