[Read Part 1/3]
She screams as she awakens in a profuse sweat. And when a tear falls, does it get swept up and salt the seas, the trough of triumphs and failures, dreams and nightmares? The faint glimmer of candlelight haunts her as she shakes the smoke that condenses over her mind like a shadow of a whisper. Images attempt to reveal themselves through the light-sensitive paper, a stain, a reflection of all the things that ought to have been.
Burn that bridge as a torch to light the past so that the way—no longer relevant—is not trodden again. Follow the light not directly toward it. Follow away from it to know where the wrongs were done. Follow the flame when the road splits, the light guides the path not to take. Burn. She lit down from the fog of forgotten dreams, nightmares. The lighted path chases beyond the void through the darkness of everything she wants. The way, they say, is lighted so brightly that only a fool could miss it. Maybe she is the fool. She is definitely a fool, but the fool, she wonders to herself, I don’t know.
The patter of a shower trickling Ladybug clean twinkles in the silent air of a cold, empty space filled with nothing but the objects of a life shared with no one. “It’s never just a dream!” Ladybug shouts from within the cavern. A low rumbling response from the person at whom the voice shouts slides by inaudibly. The inaudible rumble continues. Silence. Feet. Someone pads down the stone-floored corridor to the kitchen.
A knock, knock, knock. Frozen. With the door of the refrigerator hanging open, she stands completely still. Knock, knock, knock. More feet trod quickly down the corridor toward her. With a heavy glance, they make eye contact as she waves her hand low and quick as if swiping a gnat in the air. Stillness. Time. Knock, knock. Slowly, cautiously, she makes her silent way toward the monitor at the far end of the counter. Whoever stood there stands there no longer. “Attila?” “You know who,” Attila answers. “You don’t want the message again today?” I ask. Of course not, she thinks to herself while flashing tetchy eyes at the petulant interrogator. She storms down the corridor toward the trickling shower. “Out! It’s time to go!” she commands.
The freshly showered, still mildly damp Ladybug and I sit on the hard sofa while Attila, the storming woman, calmly paces the living room floor before them. Lost. She reaches down for the pad of sticky notes sitting on the coffee table, winces. The smallest cut runs along the inside edge of her left pointer finger; an amount—undetectable to the naked eye—of blood smears itself along the edge of the bottom-most sticky note.
The blood runs wild and free within the paper. Suddenly the pad of notes awakes and screams, “Aaaahhhh! Where am I?” The blood droplets desist and listen to the lamentations of the paper. “Wha, what happened? I can’t move! I can’t breathe! I can’t see! Something feels so terribly wrong!” the paper howls. The blood droplets remain silent. “There’s, there’s nothing here. What is this? What am I?” Feeling empathetic, the droplets, in their gentlest voice, chime in, “Hey.” “Ah! What? Who’s there?” “It’s okay. You don’t have to be afraid. We’re some visitors,” the droplets console. “But, but where are you?” “Can’t you feel us?” the droplets ask as they begin to run wild along the edge once again. “Ah! Stop that!” the paper screams half in terror, half in delight. “Oh. We’re sorry.” the droplets lightheartedly giggle. “Do you know where I am? Do you know what happened to me?” the paper asks sorrowfully. “We’re afraid we can’t really help you with anything like that.” Silence unfolds between them. “Maybe you could try to remember the last thing you remember?” Deep in thought, now, the paper tries its mightiest to remember something, anything. “Air, the freshest of air, big open blue skies with clouds and birds singing,” the paper sighs with ease. The droplets understand something; it’s small, they decide, but significant. They creep to the furthest corner of the paper as the paper laughs a small laugh, “Uh, that tickles! Where are you going?” “We told you. We’re just visitors. We will be off now, but we will always be part of you.” A faint rush of terror overcomes the paper as it feels the droplets dispersing, “No, wait! But I still don’t know what I am or what happened to me!” From a distance now, the paper hears the final echo of the droplets, “Well, we wouldn’t be able to tell you any of those things anyway.”
Still storming, Attila jots down a few numbers onto the pad. A red light glows above the front door. She looks. Someone stands outside. Ladybug turns to see at what the storming woman looks. Silence. A thin slip of clear film slithers through the slit in the door. The red light goes dark. The storming woman slowly, quietly slides over to the door to reach the clear film. “The message?” I whisper. She walks toward the kitchen and slips the film into the monitor. A familiar voice only she can hear begins, “Attila, she arrived today. I don’t know why. She never got the package. She didn’t know why she was there either. She just showed up. She seemed … lost. I think her arrival marks … you know. I don’t want to say more, but she made green, and then I lost track of her. I have to track her down again. Don’t ask. She’s living somewhen of the Numerical Years. Again. I’ll be in touch.”
Attila presses a button on the screen and the film ejects itself then evaporates into a cloud of smoke. “It’s a message,” she finally responds. Silence. The wheels of Attila’s and Ladybug’s storming turn hard until a voice speaks, “Stop.” They both glance over at her. “None of those things will help either of you. You have only the two options milling about between you two. Time will not be your friend.” “But,” Ladybug begins. “No.” “Quiet,” Attila spits. And then, through the dark, dank corridor of their living quarters, down a hallway, the three stop and face a large, open doorway, concealing itself as a blank wall that opens wide like sliding doors. Attila looks back at the tiny cat lingering at the threshold where hallway meets a perpendicular hallway. “Turn the page,” she states aloud.