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literature

Serenades, chapter 7

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By YamaTheSpaceFish   |   
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seven: i love the snow when it’s falling

I flicked the light switch, but the room remained dark.
“Fucking hell.” The porch doors were wide open, patterns of light and darkness on the buildings and the night sky above visibile. A chill wind blew inside.
“What happened?” Ava asked.
“No clue. Cecilia? Is that you?”
The woman in the room crouched on the floor didn’t respond. She wore a sort of formfitting white and black body armor.
“Hello,” Ava said softly. “This isn’t right,” she whispered in my ear.
Cecilia pulled something off of her belt. A lance of green split the darkness in two.
“What the hell?” I shouted. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you remember us?”
“So you were the one who tipped off the Siguranta. Why did you do it?”
She said nothing, only stood up. Two men approached. Both of them of them wore black suits and mirrored shades. Light glinted off the cathode and anode of a hand-held arbalest.
“Get out,” she said to me. To them, “I want to see badges, identification, warrants, what have you. I know my rights.” She nodded to me. “There’s a flashlight out there. You know what to do. I’ll talk to this bitch.” And to her “So, my dear Cecilia, what did the Siguranta offer for your service? We promised to stick together, fuckhead. And now this.”
“What makes you think she had a choice?”
I shot one of the suited men.
Ava shined the flashlight at Cecilia’s face, lowering it. Both of her eyes were pale blue, and she was missing the scar. She immediately turned around, created a pale blue radiance around herself for what I thought was speed or protection and bolted out the window. Green light flooded the room as a skimmer positioned itself just off the porch.
“What makes you think anyone here has a choice?”
The other man fled; I made no move to stop him. The green light disappeared in geometric transformation, leaving only the dim white of city lights.
“Wait! Who are you? What’s going on? I have much to ask.” Ava said. “Forgive me. I was wrong to speak of her in that way.”
The door to the balcony was jammed open. Snow blew in through it, and landed on the piles of clothes strewn on the floor. I kneeled down over the dead man and searched his clothes. No identification. No papers. Nothing.
“There’s something you should try.”
I put on the shades. I toyed around with the buttons and dials on the side of them.
“What the fuck? High Selinian?”
“Don’t look at me. I only know Vulgata.”
“I know, I know. Do you know anyone who understands High Selinian?” I handed her the glasses.
“Of course not. They’re nothing alike. High Selinian is an undead language.”
“I can tell. You know, if the heterochromia was reversed, I wouldn’t have noticed.”
“Neither would I,” she said. “So what does this tell us?”

“Shall we stay the night and freeze to death?”
“Too risky. They know we’re here.”
“Where else?”
“I don’t know. We’ll leave before dawn. I’m going to take a bath and take a quick nap. How could I have been so damn stupid? The negotiations were a farce to draw us out and reveal ourselves to the Siguranta, and now they know who we are.” She unclipped her hair, shook it, took her shirt off, tossed it aside on the bed. I looked around at what they ransacked. Our bedroom was intact, at least.

“I think I heard noises,” I heard her say. “I’m sure that you’re not used to this, but, hey, come in. I need company. I’m pretty frightened. Do you want to get in with me? You know, we’ve never taken a bath together.”
“I’d rather not. The tub’s cramped, and I’m too nervous anyway.”
“It’s so cold out there and so warm in here.”
The small, dingy room was lit only by scented candles stuck to the rim of the claw-footed tub with their own wax. Most of her body was submerged in the warm water, scented with oils and flower petals. She sighed, and let herself sink in languid repose, her hair floating away like black and crimson kelp. Flower petals drifted idly around her.
“Did you hear that? It might just be the radiator, but I’m not taking any chances now that we’re on the Siguranta’s shit list.”
“They’re awfully noisy for Siguranta operatives.”
“Do you want me to put on some music?” I asked, massaging her back, and she purred in response.
“I kind of like the primordial silence with just the motion of water.”
The water felt tepid now. She groped around the base of the tub with her foot, looping the chain around her big toe and pulling. She lifted her foot out of the water and I took the plug.
“I’ll think of something in the morning. I’ve heard that the Equatorial Union is withdrawing its forces from Selinus. Nobody can really figure out why they’re doing it. Maybe there are more pressing concerns back home. Oh well. The Tarentian leaders might try to prolong it for as long as possible.” She climbed out of the tub, teeth chattering, petals stuck to her wet body, dried herself with a towel and hair dryer, and put torn jeans and her sea green sweater on, put her amber bead and dragon pendant, and a choker of spotted cowrie shells and rope, wrapped a thick off-white scarf obscuring them. “Oh, hide your weapons here while you’re at it,” she said, suppressing nervousness with laughter, putting on a knee-length black coat.
The assassin left her light pistol behind. Ava decided to leave it behind too. We went out via the porch and climbed off the ledge, using the gargoyles and cornices as footholds to reach a balcony with coiled pillars. She jumped down to a walkway over the alleyway, climbed down emergency stairs.

The matinal city was dark and silent. The downtown area was poorly lit by sickly green lunar light in the tall buildings and pedestrian walkways over the streets, reflecting off of snow. It seemed unreal and haunting, wandering the city with only artificial lights on yet not a single human around.
“You know, sometimes, I love the snow when it’s still falling and the world is unraveling its beauty. Before all of that filth and dirt gets into it and it turns all gray and mushy,” she said to me, still smelling of soap and citrus. She laughed, and twirled with her arms outstretched, letting snowflakes land in her hair and catching them in her hands, joyous to be alive, in beautiful unreality.
We went down to the subway, unraveling the scarf around my face, and were the only people waiting for a train. When one arrived, we sat down together, and watched the vapor lamps on the wall go by and merge into one and dissolve back into many. I drifted into a reverie in her arms, lost in her hyacinth and lilac, lime and honeydew soap scent, not caring about anything else in the world.

She woke me up when we arrived. The station was bare concrete, brick, and cream-colored hexagonal tile, every bit as empty. We went down and switched to blue. I went through the gate and gave my card to Ava to swipe. The attendant didn’t bother to ask any questions this early in the morning, and Ava didn’t have to answer any of his questions with obscene hand gestures. We could get there from red, but we’d have to walk further.
The stop for blue looked slightly less dingy, the white tiles covering the walls almost complete. One stop later, we got off again. Once again, I was amazed at the contrast.

Ava knocked on Juliana’s door.
“Get the fuck out of here! I know my rights!”
“Huh? You’re awake?”
“Oh. Hi there, Ava. I thought you were Siguranta or assassins.” She opened the door, clothed in a pale pink silk slip and robe. A heartsease was tattooed on her leg, surrounded by nineteen symbols, with the sickle, rainbow, and what may or may not be a peacock in blue and the rest of them black. “Did you hear? Kansate and Toyika are dead. Nobody’s claimed responsibility yet, but I suspect that someone tipped off some Knights of the Cross to their whereabouts.” She shivered, went back in her room and grabbed a coat off of the hanger.
“Yeah, we’ve had our problems with them too. They raided our apartment.”
“I see. I’ve had a few near-misses with snipers. Nothing as extreme as the black ops hanging out in here. Why do they think they’re above the law, anyway?”
“I don’t know, but I’m getting the fuck out of Tarentum as soon as possible. Can I use the Network?” She tied a bandana over her hair.
“Yeah, sure.”

Juliana’s window overlooked the city and the sun shining through clouds. Dawn brought an apocalyptic yellow and mauve sky, with the smoke gray clouds of imminent snow for an ominous touch. We sat on a couch, while Juliana sat in a chair, resting her feet on a low table. The room was furnished in brown, gold, and blue floor tiles, pale blue walls, a pastel blue, green, and lilac carpet with geometric floral patterns. The balcony was lit with red neon in tubes, and blue-lit glass crystals. There was a drained pool thirty stories below.
“Well, we want to leave as soon as possible.”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t go to Axiopolis or Phaselis. Nicopolis or Lauriacum might accept you, but who knows what could happen if Lepidus tries to introduce martial law there? Plus, Nicopolis and Lauriacum are further away, and you’d have to go through hostile territory to get there.”
“Yeah. If it’s anything like our journey after deserting, we’d have to stop in somewhere like Taurunum. Well, there’s Mediolanum. That one’s a bit late, though. Vendelicorum might work.”
“I want to go back home.”
“We’re probably better off going to Mediolanum, then. We can’t get there directly.”
“Where are you from, anyway?”
“Ain Sifna. I’ve only lived there a few years, but it’s more home than this place, and my first home was destroyed.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. The city itself isn’t that bad, but those damned provincials bring us down with their xenophobia, and that bastard Archon from the National Corporatist League wing of National lets them get on to the council and screw this place up from within. And everyone knows the only reason he made it in is due to clever redistricting in the city and a huge population imbalance between the city and the provincials. As far as the House of Commons is concerned, Sapphire Fantasy is in the same district as Palatine and Central. It’s like when the Nicopolitans complain. It’s always the people from outside the city proper’s fault when you have to stand up and move, or when you can’t travel to another part. It’s one of the disadvantage of lacking the resources for them to just get in a huge car and drive from suburb to suburb without having to interact with anyone who looks, acts, dresses, or thinks differently from them. So I’m just trying to remain optimistic. Do you need to wash up?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Rather spacious. Do you live here alone?”
“Yes. I didn’t always, though. I was here with my girlfriend, but then we had a nasty breakup and I’m thinking about moving back with my family, but I don’t really want to. They’re supportive. They’ve always been supportive. It’s just that I’d have to live outside the city, and I don’t like that at all. Things went bad, and these things happen to everyone, nobody gives a shit about it unless it’s a same-sex relationship because we still have to deal with unreasonably high standards. So, the view at night is wonderful, with the Spire all lit up, don’t you think? But I wouldn’t go out there right now.”
Her shower room was in white, with tiny white and black tiles, and decorated with roses and lilacs in a colorfully painted vase, a tub on the opposite end as the door, a plaster ceiling and a hanging lamp. I stepped in and turned the water on.
Ava wandered in. I put my hands and the washcloth over my genitals.
“Just freshening up,” she said, looking up at me with a dewy-eyed innocent look, licking her finger and pulling it out of her mouth. “You don’t need to hide like that. I’ve seen you like that and Juliana doesn’t care. I don’t think she does, anyway.”
“Uh, I guess.”
“You guess?” She picked up some soap and rubbed her face with it, sprayed something in her hair.
“I thought I locked it.”
“Juliana said the lock was broken, and that she never bothered to get it fixed since she’s the only one here most of the time.”
“Do you need to shower?”
“I took that bath last night.”
“I’m almost done.” She walked out of the room.
I got dressed and followed.
Juliana changed too, now in tight black jeans, silver shoes, and a black and white horizontal striped shirt. An amethyst heart hung from a silver chain, below it, an onyx pendant. She had a silver-studded choker and a plain black one.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to record a guitar, clarinet, and vocal song with you. I left my guitar in Ain Sifna.”
“It’s fine. Would you like a marzipan fruit?”
We took an elevator overlooking the street down. Juliana put on a floppy black hat, a purple vinyl jacket, and indigo-tinted glasses with square lenses.
© 2008 - 2020 YamaTheSpaceFish
Recommended Listening: music from Ghost in the Shell.

The symbols on Juliana's ankle surrounding the heartsease are of the asteroids (Sol, not Dharani's star). This isn't specified. Someone made one up for Irene, as its symbol is described but not drawn, and Psyche needed a symbol, perhaps a butterfly. By the way, does anyone know what the hell Victoria's symbol is? It looks like a star with a plant growing out of it. They got pretty intricate, starting with abstractions like communism (Ceres) and a very stylized peacock (Juno) and ending with an incense burner and a Jesus fish that fused itself with a woman.
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