Bleak, black woods, less clinging as encrusted to the foot of these hills. The wordless whisper-hiss of the sea somewhere out on Holly's left, ominously comforting as a dragon's snores. The forest carved off-away into harsh cliffs along that edge, offering a great view of the blue(void where applicable) yonder if you were fool enough to test your footing. Holly wasn't.
Across, on occasion, when the mountain proved too steep for her ill-shod feet. They'd clack-shkreek unpleasantly on gravel (or dead wood embedded with the same) and she'd dig her other seven legs in wherever the ground might yield, compose herself, and set off again. She couldn't have told you why climbing to the top of this peak was important, just like she couldn't have told you why climbing-
Epi©tome Productions (nee Publishing)! Rising from Bacchaus like a neo-katana through the chest, the tower anchors a space elevator, up up up to the grim and ugly fist that was the Epi©tome Spacedocks. Paige and her Glits and her Graces weren't heading to the top of Epi©tome Tower to read, because the last of Epi©tome's physical stock was sixty feet under in the tower basement (a long storey, indeed). No, they had no business with the strato-buses, no housecalls at Cargo - not even a white tie function to crash at the observation deck. Nobody remembered who suggested it, but the mood gripped them and here they were, a squabble of finest Giltterati gliding up the expresscalator to the Top Of The Town® like a right regular troupe of cruise-shippers.
Someone must've said something, Paige didn't think, because introspection and shit could wait until she was alone and she-
-had plenty of time.
A good three hours, even, and no rush like some to return to the boat. Countess couldn't have explained it, but she'd never had to explain herself to anyone. Why start now, just when she belonged here for the first here in her worlds-spanning career?
Not that she realised it, could articulate the feeling. This was belonging she'd left on Bacchaus, something beyond a memoirful of names and places and sensations. It was a mockery of one’s relief at journey’s end, the very concept of end, of conclusion to concepts with perpetuity hard-baked in. Days and tides and death and birth and conservation of energy.
Poetic words, flowing like sand between her gears. Give me ugly-beautiful chunks of chorus, anthemic iconic and screamed in the small hours, Countess didn’t think. Too busy wondering how much the elf trusted her.
Countess waited on that hill, watching over the cove in abominable stillness. It was only the first tree hitting the water in the depths of the fog that prompted her turn her head, the contortion exposing sooted pine-bark.
A coal-vein, struck deep in gray stone.
Holly heard the splash as well, but she’d turned back a good hour ago. Her search had proven fruitless and mostly featureless, beyond a clearing she’d found forty minutes’ walk, maybe, no clock because whyever would you need a clock when you have to be back by a very certain time from the cove. Retracing her path was faster going than venturing out, and the damp forest floor eventually yielded to dead grass and familiar gravel.
A distant splash. She was at the clearing again. Rough little stones underfoot - possibly a path at one point, but a lack of maintenance had scattered them about. A single piece stabbed dully through the sole of Holly’s shoe. This place felt wrong, though Holly couldn’t have told you why. It was just as dull and splash and gray and lifeless as most everything else in this place, the only motion at the edges of the dismal scene the off-white coiling of
Holly closed her eyes, counting crosses in tree trunks. Splash. What had - at an emotional and literal distance - been the steady churn of disturbed water was scattered, syncopated noise when you were in the thick of it. Bodies (individuals) hitting the (sea) floor, too here for these individual tragedies to dissolve into a faceless crowd.
She might still make it. She’d have to sprint and pray she wouldn’t twist an ankle on a concealed root, or maybe cut through that boggy depression she’d circumnavigated on the way into the forest. Hope the fog was still thin, hadn’t advanced quicker up the creek which she’d crossed, to avoid the bog in the first place-
Algernon. “Four people.” He’d know what happened. As if she’d let it happen.
As if she had any choice in the matter.
Splash. “Two people.” Or, the worm would. Algernon would infer, at least, thought Holly, and couldn’t make up her mind whether that was a good thing.
Splash. Two people. Delphine and - well, it’d be Arnold this time, wouldn’t it? What was he even doing out here? Was he still tied up in all this bullshit, and if he wasn’t and Holly and Countess vanished into the mist-
-what comes next?
Splash. The sound was angled wrong, like she’d dropped a rock down a well and wandered off bored before it finally hit the water. The elf could see the treetops in loath motion, shedding pines as the ground beneath them fell away.
Holly walked over to the one picnic table in the clearing, and slumped upon a seat.
Fuck this, Holly thought.
You know what? Actually, fuck Countess as well. Fuck her total lack of situational awareness and the likely fact Holly’s death-by-lazy-misdirection wouldn’t even be satisfying, let alone amusing to her because Countess was a broken piece of shit even before she’d fallen out the other end of malevolent fog.
Holly manifested frustration as a handful of tangled-up rope, let it writhe amongst her fingers a moment, then hurled it into the trees. If it hit the ground (it didn’t), she couldn’t hear it over collapsing land and the splash of trees falling into water.
She tried pulling “buoyant” out of herself, and found only a sad few bubbles that felt like a tepid “inspired”. Fuck. Now Holly was surrounded, the forest around the clearing only a few trees thick before everything was fog.
The picnic table sunk like a heavy someone had sat down at it
didn’t stop sinking
and Holly tried putting a foot down and nothing not gravel or forest floor or anything pressed back
with one hand Holly grasped a sodden strut
and the other didn’t transmute her determination into chains to help her hang onto this thing - because fuck it and everything else her determination would serve her best where it was - instead raised in belligerent gesture to whoever the fuck might still be watching
and Holly fell yelling defiance
and Countess roused herself
in the lighthouse basement, tearing herself from a screaming Arnold’s side so she could say (not to him):
“You’vvvvvvvvvv finally jk-gk-gk-oined us.”
peace to the unsung peace to the martyrs | i'm johnny rotten appleseed
clouds is shaky love | broke as hell but i got a bunch of ringtones
eyes blood red bruise aubergine | Sue took something now Sue doesn't sleep | saint average, day in the life of
staying warm in arctic blizzard | that's my battle 'til I get inanimate | woke up in the noon smelling doom and death | out the house, great outdoors
Feeling homesick no matter where I is | Gonna beg steal and borrow 'til we live like kings