Author's note: I missed yesterday's posting because Dreamwidth didn't want to let me post anything. 24 hours later and they have apparently fixed whatever was keeping me from posting. So, here you go, just over 2000 words from two days. Enjoy.
I like this place. It is peaceful and serene.
Drop on the palm, rub into my inner ear, and a rush like lightning.
I think. Kind of. Not really in words. Colors. The ceiling is the sky, the crack in the paint is the contrail of an airplane. Are we humans incapable of leaving nature alone? Must we stain her with our machines?
I want to live in a world where bad things are foreign.
The tasp is on the nightstand.
Another drop on my hands, another rub on my ears, and I sink into the world more.
Someone knocks on my door. Am I in my room? A voice floats over past me, swipes at my attention but I ignore it. Light from the window…. Things have become fuzzy.
I didn’t know exactly what to make of Jamie. My memory said it was normal. He had been in Jamie’s room for I don’t know how long while I wallowed in self-pity in the bathroom, avoiding looking at my face in the mirror. I just knew there would be an ugly bruise above my right eye. I could feel it when I woke up, and I might have caught a glimpse of it when I rushed past the mirror to vomit in the general vicinity of the toilet. I spent the next five minutes cleaning, disinfecting, and practicing my aim, and trying to remember what stupid thing I had done last night to earn what was happening. When I did finally look, I realized two things: it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be when I was feeling it with my fingertips; and I had never gotten a black eye before. I had been in fights—other rich kids were as dirty as non-rich kids—but the boys I fought were stupidly reluctant to hit a girl, and the girls I fought never fought boys.
When I stepped into Jamie’s room, Tamlin looked up from beside the prone Jamie and said, “Don’t worry, it looks worse than it is. This is normal.”
Jamie lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, his mouth working slowly and no sound coming out. A wet washcloth lay across his forehead, and another across his wrists. More clothes were piled in a bowl with water next to Tamlin’s legs. Another bowl sat next to it, and it was into this that Tamlin put the wet cloths he removed from Jamie’s forehead. The fact that Jamie looked like a wolf—or, in this moment, like a large dog—somehow altered the scene, made him look even more pathetic.
“What’s happening to him?”
I stayed in the doorway, not comfortable being in the same room as whatever was happening. The window was wide open, sunlight doing the best it could to stream through when there was almost no direct line of sight to the sky anyway, and all we got was reflected off another building. It was still strong enough to stab right through my eyes into the back of my skull. I didn’t really need to ask the question; I had seen my fair share of tasp use when I lived with my parents. I remembered the vacant stares
“He’s on the tasp. Must have been a tough night.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
“Yeah,” Tamlin echoed me, “no shit.” I finally looked at him properly. He had a bandage on the right side of his neck, one of those wrap-around kinds for people with fur or feathers, and another wrap on his arm.
“What happened to you?”
“Probably the same thing that happened to your face.”
I winced. “That bad?”
“Nah.” He took the cloth from Jamie’s head and gingerly replaced it with another from the bowl. “And anyway, I think we were hit by different people. Mine was someone I’ve never met before. What about you?”
“I knew mine. He comes into work. Or I think that was him. Last night was… stupid.”
Tamlin grinned. “I’m glad you came.”
“Haha. Yeah. ’Cause I love getting punched in the face. Highlight of my day.”
“See? You had a good night.”
I took over when Tamlin left to get food. The dino was acting weird, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It didn’t fit his M.O. I would have thought he’d be doing his dominance thing, but the whole time he was there he was nothing but helpful, even conciliatory. When Jamie woke up, briefly, just long enough to mutter incoherently and stretch a pathetic hand over the floor, Tamlin shushed him and handed him his tasp. I watched Jamie apply it to the inside of his ear, then drop back to his mat. Tamlin gently took the dropper and set it back on the floor.
“Isn’t that bad for him?” I asked? He looked like he’d had enough, but Tamlin shook his head and assured me that he wasn’t in danger of dying, not yet.
So now I sat beside a prone Jamie, still staring at the ceiling, and wondered, not for the first time, if he would eventually get up to use the restroom, or if I would have to carry him. I wasn’t looking forward to that.
Luckily, he seemed to have the same thought. With a strangled yell he pushed himself up, and I, startled and thinking something was wrong, moved in to keep him from falling back on his head. His temperature, which I’d noticed while replacing bandages, was even more searing with my whole arm across his back. I knew Tamlin was bullshitting me about Jamie being safe with this much drug in his system. Stupid dino. And stupid girl. I should have known better than to take Tamlin’s word for it. “What’s wrong?” I asked, then repeated the question several times.
Jamie stared straight ahead, eyes half closed, and I was just beginning to worry that he had done some permanent damage to himself when he muttered, “Bthn.” Then he tried again: “Bathroom. And water. Not dying stupid.” In his head I’m sure that made sense. At least I understood the gist of the first two parts. I helped him up—he was heavy—and to the bathroom. I let him have his privacy while I poured some cold water from the tap and dropped in a couple of cubes from the freezer, glad that the icemaker was one of the appliances in the apartment that still functioned as it was designed to. Then I sat in his room and waited for him to come in. He did, fifteen minutes or so later, looking a tiny bit more awake and a little less haggard. He stared at me for a moment, and I just looked up at him. Finally he said, “We. I mean I. I should talk. To you.”
Imagine my surprise when he chose a bar for our “talk.” I had not pictured bars as anyplace Jamie would go on purpose, especially when there was a nice, dark, somewhat messy, totally out-of-the-way apartment available. But then, I reasoned, I had also not pictured him as a crazy dancing person, nor a person who got into fights, nor as a person who won those fights.
I was beginning to realize that I still really didn’t know anything about him.
The bar was one of those bars that caters to a particular crowd. They eschewed the jeans and t-shirts in favor of more dapper apparel, and I felt strangely out-of-place without a tophat as we sat in the back corner of the Golden Beagle. I ordered whatever the waiter recommended, and Jamie got an IPA seasonal that he could name without looking at the menu. Yep. Didn’t really know a thing.
We sat in awkward silence for a while. At least, I felt awkward, but I wasn’t at all sure that Jamie did. He just stared at the table with no expression, no movement except for the occasional flick of his ears. He didn’t look up when our drinks came, though he thanked the waiter. When we were alone again and I had tried the whatever beer I had asked for—it was bitter, which I know means hoppy, which means ick—he finally spoke. He didn’t look up from his hands wrapped around his pint glass.
“Corey… I don’t like myself sometimes.”
I waited. It seemed like the thing to do.
“Sometimes I wish I could say things and do things. I don’t do these things because they scare me. Like talk to people.” He paused, and I expected him to give me a significant look, or make some kind of joke, or even just continue talking. Instead, he just kept staring at the pint glass.
So I cleared my throat. “You’re doing a not-terrible job of talking to someone right now.”
“Well.” He took a delicate sip. I caught a brief flash of his elongated canines, distorted by the light beer and the glass, a long tongue. “You’re different.”
“How am I different?” I pressed. I don’t know why I did that, except, maybe, I wanted to hear him say something specific. Or maybe just something general. Or maybe just anything at all.
I took a bigger pull of my drink, operating on the logic that if I drank it quickly, I wouldn’t have to drink it for as long. “What did you want to talk to me about? Let’s start there.”
“I’m sorry you got hit.”
My turn to shrug. “I’ve been hit before. Was that it?”
“No.” Another long pause. I nearly managed to finish my beer before he resumed. “I don’t like lots of things about myself. When I was little, I hurt myself. I also didn’t like myself being hurt.”
“I broke my finger. Bad. It was bad.” He showed me a perfectly healthy finger. When I told him it looked good, he said, “The tasp fixed it.” I nodded to show that I understood. He shook his head. “You don’t understand. The tasp fixed me. There was something wrong with me and the tasp fixed that thing.”
“I know it alters you. That’s why people use it, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “But if there was something else wrong with me. Something about myself that I didn’t like. Something broken.” Yet another pause. “You know how sometimes I act… different?”
“Yeah.” That one was easy.
“I think that’s the tasp.”
We sat for long enough for him to polish off his beer before I felt compelled to ask, “What?”
“It fixes things that are wrong. So when I thought something was wrong with me, it fixed that something. Made me act different than myself.”
I thought about this. “Are you telling me you were high last night?”
“No. I was, but that is not what I am telling you.” He finally looked at me, and I gave myself a mental kick. This was obviously taxing him. Maybe I should just shut up and let him talk. “I mean that because of the tasp, I act different. I… think different. I feel like a different person.”
The waiter took our empty glasses and our order for another round with aloof disapproval, a gentle, almost fatherly reminder that a short girl and her giant wolf boy probably really didn’t belong in that bar, especially not dressed as we were. “Are you telling me that you got into a fight because the tasp makes you think you’re a different person?”
“I mean that I think I sometimes am a different person, with or without the tasp.”
The waiter brought our next drinks, and I resigned myself to a long, very circular conversation.
It took a while, but with great patience I was finally able to coax a coherent explanation out of him. When I finally got it, I coughed to cover the laugh that bubbled up from my chest. It was an absurd concept. So, half joking, I asked him to show me what he meant.