20 juin 2015

Chapter 13

My genius revelation is met with indulgent and frankly condescending smiles.

         “‘Elves’ is a good enough name your people has invented for us,” Vladimir intimates, “although we’re not too crazy about the…”
Nirav simultaneously mimes a pointy ear, and allows another short-lived smile to cross his face. For some reason, I feel this doesn’t happen very often. His gleaming olive-green eyes have this averse, dangerous side to them, so something as simple as a smile coming from him looks out of place, yet reassuring.

         “So... how much of it is true?” I whisper cautiously. “Your superpowers… teleportation, freaky drawing skills… These just don’t seem… elf-like. I mean, do you also live incredibly long, in enchanted forests, controlling our minds, and all that?...”

         “Guilty for the forest,” Peter says, very humanly raising his hand.

         “I don’t understand…” I frown.
Strangely, I’m proud of myself at that moment. I think of Erik and everything he’s taught me, about not showing weakness, about stalling with questions, about keeping the other talking, and showing interest instead of fear… For here I am, surrounded by three eerily beautiful beings out of some twisted kidnapping dream – one of whom is the ‘man’ I’ve loved so far – discussing their nature, their powers, while I unyieldingly reject the fact that this nature and those powers might soon, by some supernatural trick, become mine. I throw a discreet look at Peter and almost choke on a tear. He must think I’m really curious about him, about his world, and even flattered by how he’d like me to turn into… whatever he is. When the truth of the matter is, a truth that I will be very careful to keep to myself: he’s never given me a choice!!! And if any of my reflexes is normal, I’m inevitably bound to RUN.
          “Vlad, show her…” Peter asks enthusiastically.

Vladimir pauses for a few seconds then seems to surrender. He stretches his long fingers towards me, and whatever I’m lying on suddenly starts sliding forward. It’s not unpleasant… The three turn and walk towards the center of the colossal hall, while my “mattress” follows, as if frictionlessly gliding on air. Peter paces as gracefully as the other two, and my heart sinks even further: It was all an act. I liked his shyness, his teenage posture, his once obvious innocence… but that’s not who he really is.   

Vladimir’s fingers break their invisible connection with me and point up towards the cupolas. At the same second, the slight, round shape of what looks like a framed mirror appears from thin air, and slowly descends towards us, shimmering as it flips round and round on its axis. Then it comes to an abrupt stop as it reaches our level. The outside is made of what looks like faded gold, with motifs I couldn’t identify, while the inside turns out to be a thin rope of water-like liquid vertically traversing the frame. What is this?

The liquid rope gradually unfolds and spreads throughout the inside of the frame, forming a sort of molten screen.

        “Vlad is kind of our ‘historian’ if you will,” Peter explains animatedly. “He keeps a trace of everything we’ve seen, done and can remember. All we need to do is touch the Chronophora, and our memories are sieved and kept there for eternity!” His childish enthusiasm is confusing. Is the innocence there after all?... I wear an awed face, which seems to satisfy him.

On the liquid screen, an ethereal image slowly appears; one of an emaciated silhouette standing in what seems to be a blank void. I don’t recognize the individual, but he’s a younger version of them.  He lifts his arms in that graceful manner they all do, and strange elements start appearing, out of nowhere. Stone-like shapes materialize, then are superposed to form an arcade-like portico, all in a few seconds. It looks like high-speed CGI-animation, with the geometrical constituents whirling around and assembling like a hypnotizing carousel. Woah

In a teacherly voice, Vlad offers what he believes is a very simple explanation.

       “We are like… architects of space and time. We each have a consecrated Space that we receive at birth, and we slowly fill it as we see fit. It becomes our home.  It’s not easy to create the elements, but we have a lifetime to train for it. And yes, our lifespan is considerably superior to yours… As for building, it is a common ability, but we also have a talent that is proper to each and every one of us. You’ve seen what Peter can do. That is his own, exclusive skill. And I am responsible for that little temporal stand-still you witnessed in your world. Whereas teleportation, as you call it, is Nirav’s specialty.” The silent Nirav nods once, looking grave again. “We just laid our hands on you so as to connect the group, while he transported us to this Space. Mine.”

I swallow hard. Interest, not fear. Interest…

         “So you… basically hitched a lift through me. Huh… And where is your… Space? Is it… on Earth?” I ask, feeling dumb.

         “Well, don’t think of our Spaces being on Earth, but of Earth being in our Spaces,” he throws matter-of-factly.

          “…I’m not sure I understand. Earth is… here?”

          “Not in my Space, no. It’s in someone else’s. It’s his… how can I say this in human terms? It’s his… Garden.”

Peter rolls his eyes at the apparently improper translation, and I let out an uncontrollable giggle. A Garden?!

           "And we Humans are… plants?” I drip with sarcasm. Explains why I was named after a flower.   

           “Oh, no, no,” Peter quickly interferes, “We have the utmost respect for Earth! We even used to visit as ourselves a few centuries ago, and share a lot of our knowledge, languages, and architecture… but that didn’t turn out so well. That’s also when the legends began, with Elves and Nymphs and all that… Since then, only one ambassador is allowed there at once – in this case, me. With Nirav’s teleporting help, I’m the only one who can occasionally go there, with the strict orders of anonymity and non-interference…” 

            “But you were all there to get me…”

            “Yes, this was… an extreme situation” he says uncomfortably.

            “And you do interfere!” I object, “You help in finding suspects, which, don’t get me wrong, is noble. But isn’t that interfering?”

            Vlad decides to cut in, not missing an occasion to poke at Peter.

            “Yes, our friend here has grown… attached to the Humans,” he says with suddenly piercing eyes, “especially now. This is a new peak for him… He’s not allowed to, of course, but he does it anyway.”
            Peter’s eyes zero in on me, like that first time outside the train window, with a look that shows absolutely no regret. 

            “So, you each have a Space of your own…” I say, changing the subject, “and you need Nirav’s help every time you go from one to the other?”

            “No, we only need him to go to the Gardens.” …There are others?! “But to travel from one Space to the other, we… politely ask permission from the landlord in question,” Vlad winks. 

            I take a very deep breath. This is too much information at once, and I don’t believe any of it. My brain feels like a pan of scrambled eggs, and Peter seems to notice that.

            “Maybe we should address the other major issue…” he suggests tentatively. “Whether or not Lily is going through… a metamorphosis, we have no way of knowing for sure, or of stopping it for that matter…”

            “Why not?!” I ask with the seams of my self-control starting to break. “It’s your supernatural ‘ability’!!! How can you know it so little?... How do you normally undo that detail you add to your drawings?!” My voice is bordering on impolite-loud.

            “It depends on the detail!” Peter argues, with a voice barely lower than mine. I don’t know if it’s my tone angering him more, or his own guilt in this matter. “If I add a tattoo, then it’s relatively permanent. But if I draw a rash, then it’s eventually bound to disappear. You know, like a rash! And even though you don’t believe me, I swear, by everything that’s dear to me, that whatever I might have done to you, it was not intentional! It was only… wishful thinking,” he confesses, with his tone falling towards the end. “If nothing was supposed to happen to you in the first place, how am I supposed to know how to stop it?”

            I grasp at straws, “Any cross-dimensional doctors around here by any chance?”

            “Absolutely not,” Vlad interjects, sounding positively offended. “Sickness is part of life. We don’t study it, we don’t change it. We just experience it as part of our existence. Nirav doesn’t have the gift of speaking, and yet he lives with it, it’s who he is!” Throughout the speech, Nirav remains neutral, although a very quick look my way clearly shows some unnamed emotion… But Vlad continues with his moralizing, unaware. “Your so-called Garden scientists are constantly a few steps away from playing Creators, it’s abject!” he sneers. 

Woah, where did all that come from?

            “This is going nowhere,” Peter huffs, with his arms crossed against his chest and his teeth clenched.

            In the meantime, I see slight movement to my right, and turn just in time to see Nirav walk up to me with a determined frown, and lay his fingers on the cast around my arm. The others barely have the time to register this fact before a neat, chilling ‘crack’ is heard, and I scream from the searing pain. 

            With what looked like the slight pressure of three fingers, Nirav has split the cast in two.

            “Are you crazy?!” Peter screams, and once more, his shoulders seem to change shape for what feels like a second, making him look much more like the other two. With a light tap on the shoulder, Vladimir holds him back.

            “Wait, he’s right! If she is indeed morphing, those white moulds would shape her wrong! The wise thing would be to take them all off and let the change take its course, studying it closely in the process…”

            “Don’t you sound like a Garden scientist!” I lash at him. 

            Peter observes me for a few seconds, before surprisingly choosing to give me the ultimate say, for once. 

           “Lily, does this make sense to you? We won’t do it unless you agree,” he declares very decisively, as if holding the others in check.

            This is so surreal! In a world that literally rejects medicine, I’m being asked if I’d prefer to “develop wrong” because of the casts, or to have them taken off at the risk of putting a stop to my entire recovery… I finally decide to choose the lesser of two evils.
            “I don’t want to be the weird-looking Elf any more than I was the weird-looking human,” I decide, despite my fear of all the pain I’ll be experiencing in consequence. Besides, I’d do anything to be out of the casts and bandages right now…

            “Okay then, if you’re sure…” Peter says. “Would you rather I did it?”
            I nod insecurely, and look towards Nirav. I’m startled by the deeply remorseful look he offers me, as if hurting me had never been his intention. But I’m comforted all the same when I see him give up his place for Peter. 
            I then sense the three pairs of eyes ogling at me, which considerably adds to the pressure. Are they going to just stare at me while I scream? And most of all, am I really doing this?!

            Peter’s face relaxes as he seems to notice my mood. “Er… Vlad, you think we could have a brooding bubble for her? It’s after all the same process…”

            “A what now?” I ask. Peter leans closer and very lightly lays his fingers on my cheek, taking me by jolting surprise. Tingles, tingles all over.
            “Don’t worry, it’s just like an incubator. We use it for our babies here, and honestly, this is sort of the same thing, isn’t it?”
            I nod, hopelessly distracted by his fingers continuously brushing against my sore skin. He looks back at Vlad, who raises his arms and elegantly produces what looks like a giant, glimmering, whipped-cream peak, encircling Peter and me in. 

           …Did they just give us some privacy?!

            The temperature rises noticeably, and a sort of light, perfumed air seems to circulate inside the bubble.

             God help me… 


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