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Aug 13, 2020 4:29 AM
Turquoises in All Night Laundry.
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She glances over at the two people on the couch and - yep, that sure is the owner of the laundromat and some random woman. 

She looks back at whoever-he-is, and makes an evocative little motion, pantomiming someone zipping up their lips.

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“... um... you can’t talk?”

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She nods.

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“That... makes this whole thing a little less convenient, but not prohibitively so! Um. I suppose I should tell you my name - I’m Caden -“

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She doesn’t hear the rest of what he says. 

 

There’s something very, very pretty, and very, very green, behind her. It’s a little like the woman, but - more. Like the woman is a shadow, and this is the sun.

Pretty, pretty sun. Pretty, pretty light. Little tendrils of it, everywhere. She tries to touch one...

Oh, isn’t that strange. It’s going through her arm.

Is that bad?

She doesn’t think that anything can be bad. Everything is fine. Everything is beautiful.

A tendril approaches her eye. It’s so pretty...

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As far as Caden can tell, Amaris spontaneously zoned out, began staring into empty space, and then started bleeding profusely from one arm.

That seems... bad.

He tries to pull her back -

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The tendril worms it’s way out of her arm - and she can’t feel that arm, now, can she, how strange - and the tendril reaching for her eye pulls short, like she’s just barely too far away.

She sees teeth, now, in addition to beauty. Like walking in a forest, and only afterwards, noticing that every branch was a venemous snake and every leaf was a viper -

She closes her eyes, and grabs onto Caden, and tackles him, away from the pretty pretty pretty -

And then she can feel her arm.

It hurts it hurts it hurts so fucking -

She falls unconscious.

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Caden, head having abruptly jolted against concrete, joins her for the ride.

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Amaris Baker’s Dream, Age 6

 

Her grandmother is in France. Amaris is, too. She’s visiting

She’s always liked her grandmother. She’s so, so smart, and so, so brave, and she never took anything from anyone. She has a cane, and these cool little cigarettes, and always seems to have a glass of wine nearby. And she never mentioned it, when Amaris started shivering or walking funny or had her arms flap around, and she never seemed to notice, that Amaris never spoke.

Amaris has a little paint set, with big, big brushes, and little, itsy bitsy wells of paint. She’s painting something special. It wants to be known, and it wants to be looked at, and it wants people to pay attention, but it has to stay a secret. 

All her itsy, bitsy wells of paint are green. She has plenty of paint to finish it.

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“Can I see?” asks Caden, peering curiously.

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She glances, cautiously, at their surroundings, and then lets him take a peek.

It looks like empty canvas, to him. He doesn’t have a shadow; he doesn’t count.

Her grandmother comes into the room. They’ll go on a neat adventure, tomorrow, with cotton candy and clowns and men in funny hats, but today they’re going to do something different.

They’re going to talk about monsters.

“My darling,” says her grandmother, looking down at her seriously. “Your mother has told me of your nightmares? Can you show me what they’re of?”

She adds one last little dab of paint, and presents her with the painting.

Her grandmother doesn’t see nothing at all, at all. She sees something dark, and green, and bright, and mean, and oh so terribly beautiful.

“... monsters,” says the grandmother, quietly. “Monsters... you have good taste in fears, my darling. Has your mother been telling you that monsters aren’t real?”

Amaris nods. It’s a funny little nod; she does it twice more, for good measure.

“What a horrible thing to say, to a child. For monsters are real, my darling, very, very real. You must watch for them, but they do not live under beds, or in stories. Watch for them in factories, and in mansions, and in offices, and at the heads of countries, and know what they have done. That is how you catch them, my darling, by the watching, and that is how they catch you.”

Little Amaris nods, again. It seems like the thing to do.

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Caden nods, too, solemnly. 

(He didn’t watch for monsters, in factories and mansions and offices and heads of countries. He didn’t even watch for them in laundromats.)

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Her grandmother will be in such terrible trouble, later, with her mother, and they will argue, and they will fight, and her grandmother will brandish her cane like a sword, but she isn’t quite in trouble, yet.

Caden and Amaris are. Amaris scrunches up her eyebrows, contemplating this.

Her grandmother pats her on the head.

”You already know one monster, my darling, and you cannot watch it, quite - yet that which you cannot watch, you must still perceive. I cannot help you; I am dead. Your friend cannot help you; he is dead. You are alive, and you will win, if you are smart and clever and lucky and well prepared, and if you are perceptive.”

She unwraps her scarf, then - red, bright red, with little flowers poking out their heads onto its pattern - and wraps it snug around her grandchild’s neck. She kisses her, once, on the forehead, and then leans down and does the same to Caden.

”Be safe,” she says.

 

And then they wake up.

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“Mmmmlrgh,” says Caden, from underneath Amaris. “Absolute worst afterlife. Worst afterlife ever. Zero stars.”

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Amaris quietly agrees with that sentiment. She tries to push herself off of him -

OW.

 

She collapses back down. Pushing maneuvers aren’t happening, apparently. And she’s already lost so much blood...

She closes her eyes, rolls over, sits up, flops out her injured hand in Caden’s general direction, unwinds her grandmother’s scarf from around her neck, and presents it to him.

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“You want me to use the scarf as makeshift gauze? - after tearing it in half, presumably, since there are two separate, um, holes?”

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She nods.

(Flicker, flicker, flicker, flicker - something that would be seen, should she open her eyes, wants her attention, and it can fuck right off - flicker, flicker, flicker, flicker - but it was so pretty, and so deadly - but she is still going to ignore it -)

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He sits up, tears the scarf in half, and gingerly sets to wrapping her wounds.

(There is so much blood, and he always gets pale at the sight of even a droplet, but he is absolutely not going to faint, this would be a terrible time to faint -)

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She winces, occasionally, but otherwise remains stoic.

When he finishes, she... attempts to stand, turning around so that her back is facing the whatever-it-is. This involves a great deal of leaning on Caden, but they manage to make it work.

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“- wait, where the fuck am I,” says the laundromat’s owner, suddenly perking to attention. “Caden? Random bitch with bangs? I was... I don’t know where I was. I don’t know where I am. What the fuck.”

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“... did I die and go to heaven?” says the woman next to him, similarly coming to alertness - Wendy, presumably, staring at the sky. “Mother, mother, is that you? Can I hear the toll of bells? Are those the pearly gates?”

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Amaris quietly notes that they’re standing directly between the people on the couch, and the - thing. She doesn’t say anything.

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“Sandy? - I, I’ve been here with you for days, and I would shake you and hug you and cry and you never responded and - I tried to get away, that’s how - but I was yours and you -“

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“Calm down. You are still mine, and don’t you forget it - and I’m here now, even if I was in some sort of weird coma. Man, I am going to kill Zeke - you die because he convinces you of some hairbrained scheme, and then while I’m still - he suckerpunches me, drags me down to the basement - and kills me? I think he killed me. I don’t remember. What a ripoff, I died and I don’t even get to remember it.”

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“He didn’t kill me,” says Wendy, absently, still looking at the sky. “He showed me the pretty, pretty light, and it gobbled me up like green lights should, and now I’m in heaven. I always thought that it was a white light, that killed you.”

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