The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter XXII)

Posted by Matt on February 23, 2011

Previously

Pearl’s hiding spot wasn’t far away. Aia had found in her the first building she saw that still had a roof, cowering in the corner with her face buried in the wall and her back to the door. She whimpered when she heard Aia come in. Aia walked up to her, not saying a thing. Did she want to surprise her? She wasn’t sure why she decided to reveal herself in this way. Just another little mystery.

Her approach, it seemed, was to come up behind Pearl and whisper to her. It seemed to garner a good reaction, as she swiftly turned from hiding place, beaming as brightly as ever, and the two embraced. Despite wanting desperately to get out of her life, Aia was happy to see her, too.

As much as Aia wanted to continue living at her beloved beach, she was uneasy with the idea of bringing Pearl back to see the lifeless arms of the thing being pecked apart by the flying creatures. Did she really need to see that? On the other hand, maybe it would be good to finally show her life as it is. She would see something like this eventually, Aia concluded, so she might as well do it now, where her Big Sister could be there to comfort her and help her understand it.

Before they could get to that, though, Pearl was dying to know what happened. Aia was willing to divulge most of the important details of her encounter, withholding her suicidal intent, obviously. Pearl began to look up to her Big Sister in new ways. She was much more fawning than usual, and constantly praised her bravery. She said she wanted to be brave just like her. Aia wasn’t so sure of that.

“Was it really dying?” Pearl asked.

“I think so”

“Why?”

“I don’t know for sure. Maybe it was getting old. Maybe it was sick from all the stuff it told me it had found. But it was falling apart, and I could tell it probably won’t last much longer”

“That’s sad. It was scary, but that’s still sad”

When they reached the concrete platform, Pearl could easily look out and see the aftermath of the thing’s attack. Dozens of the white flying creatures had gathered around the immobile limbs, lying in heaps of their own liquid byproduct and glistening in the sun, greedily jabbing their faces into the oily mass, seeming to be completely unaware of everything else, each other included. At first, she reeled in horror at this sight. She asked what they were doing. Aia didn’t feel like softening it this time: she said they were eating it. Pearl asked why they did that. Aia told her that it was just something they had to do to survive. Pearl said she wished they didn’t have to.

At night, when most of the flying things had left, Aia moved what remained of the arms back into the water, leaving dark streaks in the sand, preserving history and giving them their room on the beach back. She felt that giving them back to the their place of origin was probably the right thing to do, too, a very Pearl-like observation, she thought. She much preferred it to her other observation, which was that she didn’t want any reminders of her failure to die when she wanted to.

After the clean-up, it was back to what was normal for them. Despite all that had happened, they made no plans to move from that beach, or to do anything much. Pearl wanted to stay because Aia wanted to stay, and Aia wanted to stay because she wanted to let things take their course, hoping she could die that way. It was a good thing, she thought, that all things go away on their own eventually, just as the thing apparently did; she couldn’t bear the thought of sticking around forever.

Things remained uneventful after that day, although the two began to find an alarming number of the flying things stone dead around the beach and beyond. Aia hadn’t seen any of their dead around before, with the exception of the ones she did in herself. They usually found them laying on their side, their typically dead-eyed glare now unblinking, unmoving, and somehow even more unsettling. Sometimes, they would see some strange substance dripping from their beaks, and Aia began to wonder if they were the ones taking apart the thing’s severed limbs, and whether something in it was toxic. She remembered how she had been coated by its melting flesh, and considered the possibility that she too had absorbed a dangerous level of its toxic substance. It would be convenient if it were true.

Aia had begun to notice that Pearl and her spoke to each other less and less over time, seeming to be able to intuit whatever the other needed. Even so, Aia began to wonder where Pearl’s inquisitiveness, a key part of her character in her mind, had gone. Did she finally have all the answers she could possibly want? Or was it being overshadowed by the silent, wordless world they inhabited? Aia had accepted her loss of speech when she was alone in the wilds, but she would be truly saddened if the art was being lost when she had someone else to talk to. It seemed wrong. Pearl should not be one to fall into the antisocial feelings of an uncivilized outsider. It was up to her to make sure it didn’t go away, not while she was still alive and had a reason to care, anyway. She was now the one to strike up a conversation:

“Pearl?”

“Yes?”

“How are you?”

“I’m okay”

“Do you like it here?”

“Yes, this place is really nice”

“I’m sorry you have to be here with me. I wish I could make things better for you”

“It’s okay, I like being here with you”

Small talk, like the kind they used to have, was good enough for Aia at first. They talked about the weather, about all the creatures they saw on the beach, how big they thought the water really was, whether there was anyone outside besides them and maybe the old man. Aia recounted her story of the thing, enjoying every retelling, and seeing Pearl react in the same excited fashion. Even as she could feel the pangs mount their comeback, she was able to overcome it as long as she had her little moments with her Little Sister.

But soon enough, she wanted to elevate it, and soon began asking the questions she knew would prepare Pearl for what was coming:

“Do you remember the conversation we had when I first told you about what happened to the thing in the water? And when we started to find the flying things?”

“Kind of. You said we shouldn’t be sad about them, because it was part of life”

“Do you believe that?”

“I guess. I wish it wasn’t true”

“You know that the same thing happens to us, right? We all die, maybe not like that, but it still happens”

“But it won’t happen soon, will it?”

“I don’t think anyone knows for sure. But remember how long the old man said he was around”

“Okay”

“I just want you to know that it happens, and there’s no reason to be scared of it, or to be sad all the time because of it. It’s just something that happens”

“Okay”

“I know that what you heard about the park was bad, but please don’t think the whole place is bad because of it. You and I both know that there are a lot of good people there”

“But what if they let them hurt all those new people?”

“They won’t. I’m sure of it”

“Pearl, I want you to promise that if anything happens to me, you will go and find a good home”

“What are you talking about?”

“I just want you to promise me this. I want you to be happy, even if I’m gone, but I need you to tell me you’ll go find it”

“Why are you talking like this?”

“I need to know”

“…okay, I promise”

“Thank you”

“You’re not going to go away soon, are you?”

“No, I don’t think so”

“That’s good”

It was moments like that where Aia was thankful of Pearl’s disposition apparently being dictated by sunlight. No matter how many times they had a conversation like that, it never seemed to faze her. She almost felt daring enough to tell her about what she done in the park. But what was the point of risking it, just to test something out? Even in her final days, she planned to play it safe.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: