J. J. W. Mezun ☆ Season 4 ☆ 2017 April 15


Despite the recent barrier that had been erected before her, for the 1st time in her life Felix was content. She had just caused a moral breakthrough that cleansed her o’ her uncountable deficiencies, & was so close to completing her 1 noble goal that she could feel it under her clawtips.

Yes, it felt just like a claw being turned in a metal lock, twisting her shackles unlocked.

But she knew she couldn’t leave just yet: the well-meaning but wrong-brained treasure hunters were still out there, devising methods for sabotaging her necessary mission. No, she had to devise her own method o’ ’scape without the nice treasure hunters seeing her, which would be hard, since her recent victory had cost her the one skill she had: avoiding notice.

But this setback didn’t flatten her spirits as would be common before. This time she had the 1st victory in her life, e’en if only serving half the mission, & she took it as a sign that she could complete the other half, somehow.

Just calm down, Felix. You got lots o’ time. Now, we just gotta take a lot o’ time to think o’ how we’re gonna do this. Take as much time as you need…


“¿Now what should we do?" Autumn whispered as she led Edgar out to the deck.

“Maybe we should call Dawn. She knows mo’ ’bout this stuff than us," Edgar said with a crumpled frown aimed @ the ground.

“I don’t know…" Autumn roughly brushed the top left edge o’ her hair as she stared off @ the blue mush that was the sky. “¿Should we be doing this?"

“¿What do you mean?" asked Edgar.

Autumn didn’t turn ’way from the empty space in the sky. “Locking her up gainst her will."

Edgar scratched his head. “I figured we did that to keep her from… from hurting herself…”

“Yeah, but… I dunno… ¿Who are we to say she can’t? ¿Isn’t that her business?”

Edgar squirmed. “¿You think…? I dunno… I don’t think I’d… ¿Could we truly just let her go knowing what she might do?”

Autumn harshly rubbed her hand down the side o’ her cheek, causing her eye to momentarily stretch zombielike. “I don’t know. I’m no expert on philosophy. If you want to call Dawn, go right ’head”.

“’K”. Edgar took out his cell phone & took a deep breath before dialing. After a second he put the phone to his face & said, “Hello, ¿Dawn? Yeah… Um, ¿Are you busy? You see, something… kinda weird happened today… No — no, she’s fine. It’s — ¿You remember that black cat we met @ that haunted mansion? No, not yet, but… she tried to — to herself”. Edgar’s wrist began shaking. “So, we were thinking that we know nothing ’bout any o’ that, but thought you might know a li’l mo’… OK, thank you”.

While Edgar was calling Dawn, Autumn had moved back toward the door & tilted her head so she could look inside. Felix only lay there still, blank eyes aimed @ the ceiling.

“She said she’s on her way”, said Edgar.


“¿How’s Felix doing?”

“She’s just sitting there quietly, doing nothing”, said Autumn.

“¿You think she’s calmed down & given it up?”, asked Edgar.

“I doubt it. No, she’s probably just realized that struggling would be futile & would only lengthen our encroachment. She’s probably trying to feign normality till we leave her be so she can continue whatever tin-bird ‘mission’ she was talking ’bout before”.

Edgar turned to her. “¿How do you know all that?”

Autumn shrugged. “It’s just an estimate. I could be utterly wrong. Anyway, I think we’ve procrastinated going back inside ’nough”.

She gently pushed the door open & crept inside as if she were ’fraid too loud a noise would trigger Felix.

“So, ¿uh… you hungry or thirsty for anything?”, asked Autumn.

“¿Huh?” Felix looked up @ Autumn with a distracted stare. When her mind finally registered what was said, she shook her head. “No thanks”.

“Uh… ¿Are you sure? Edgar would love to cook you something. He’d look for any ’scuse to make food”.

An idea bloomed in Felix’s brain, almost causing her to gasp. But she did her utmost to stifle any emotional aberration, knowing it’d give her ’way.

“¿When was the last time you ate?”, asked Autumn.

Felix looked ’way, guiltily.

“It doesn’t matter. You really shouldn’t waste your food”.

“Hmm… Well, Edgar’s going to make something anyway, & we’ll see if you’re hungry by then”. Autumn turned to Edgar. “¿Is that all right?”

Edgar nodded & replied, “I would love to”, before moving toward the kitchen.

Autumn turned back to Felix. “¿Is there anything else you need? Don’t be too shy to ask”.

Felix had to stifle a smile. Perfect.

But in the outside world, she paused, her eyes wide in feigned epiphany, before turning her head ’way guiltily.

“No. I don’t need anything”, she blurted. “Don’t waste your time with me”.

“Hmm…” Autumn’s eyebrows arched. She noticed emotional aberrations when she saw them, but had no idea how to interpret this — or any o’ this person’s responses. If humans were puzzles, Felix was a 2,000-piece puzzle with quite a few missing pieces.

“¿Are you absolutely sure ’bout that? It’ll be no hindrance @ all. We’re pretty much just waiting right now, anyway”.

Felix sighed. “If you really mean it… I left something in the bathroom when I was getting your clothes”.

“O, that won’t be any problem”, said Autumn. “¿What did you leave?”

“A pink heart locket. It’s nothing important, though”, Felix told the carpet down the side o’ the bed.

Autumn waved Felix’s ambivalences ’way. “K, I can go get that in a second. Just stay there & sit still, ¿K?”

Felix nodded silently & stared down @ the carpet shyly ’gain, only to keep Autumn in the corner o’ her eye & Edgar in the other. She couldn’t fail noticing Autumn watching her closely as she walked backward into the bathroom. As much as she wished she could still it, her heart was throbbing like a starving prisoner.

OK, Felix. Don’t mess this up… This is your only chance…

She counted 3 seconds after Autumn disappeared from ’hind the bathroom door, each harder to count than that before it, ’fore bolting up to her feet & charging for the door, throwing it back, & flinging herself o’er the railing o’ the deck down into the bushes below.

Autumn was already racing out the bathroom. Edgar turned to the hanging-open door, where the commotion was loudest, & then the bed, which he saw was now vacant.

Autumn was already out the door; but when she looked down & round the deck, she couldn’t find Felix anywhere.

“Fuck, ¿how’d she move that quickly?”

She walked o’er to the bed & noticed the 2 sets o’ handcuffs, 1 on the floor & the other on the bed.

“Well, shit. ¿How’d she get those off?”, said Autumn, holding a hand to her head. “Whoever sold me them’s a true cheapass”.

Edgar turned back to Autumn with a concerned expression. “¿What do we do now?”

Autumn shrugged. “She could’ve run off anywhere”.


Felix emerged from the short spruce next to Autumn’s apartment in the heart o’ Boskeopolis. Unfortunately, Felix knew that would be the 1st organ they would search, so she scampered ’long the streets toward the spleen, which nobody e’er notices.

@ 1st, she went in the same breathless, horror-stricken run she’d done out the apartment, the prospect o’ the treasure hunters — or anyone — stopping her @ any moment still ripe on her mind. Then she noticed the other people in the streets aiming bemused stares @ her & she gradually slowed into a stealthy quick walk.

They’re on to your mission. You have to carry it out as fast as possible.

Which brought Felix to the question she hadn’t bothered to ask herself till now, having been so preoccupied: ¿how should she carry it out? She looked round the city for inspiration, but e’en after a half hour she still couldn’t think o’ anything. The world was looking a bit too much like Wario Land II & not ’nough like I Wanna Be the Guy.

Let’s see… Well, I obviously can’t just hold my breath till I suffocate or punch myself in the face till my HP runs out.

That was when she heard whispers to her right & turned to see in a nearby alley a group o’ men. Stepping closer for a better look, she saw that they wore cow-patterned vests & matching black cowboy boots & hats & had long black mustaches. 1 had a brown paper bag in his hand & the others had wads o’ cash.

Felix almost gasped, she was so excited. ¡Drug dealers! ¡Perfect!

Without hesitation, she rushed in & interrupted their quiet conversation by saying loudly, “¡Ooo! ¿Are you dealing drugs & stuff? ¡I’m going to have to alert the cops!”

The 1 with the paper bag turned to her with a menacing glare. Up close she could see that he was the largest o’ the group with the rough, sandy chin o’ a recently deceased beard.

“O, you think that, ¿do you?”, he whispered. Suddenly, Felix saw a bronze 6-bullet revolver pop out from the man’s pockets, its movement completely lost on Felix’s eyes. “¿& how’re you gonna do that when you’re 2 meters under?”

Felix shrugged. “Gee, I don’t know. I guess that would be the only way I couldn’t…”

She closed her eyes, waiting for the hail o’ bullets. A second after, having felt not e’en a pinch on her, she reopened her eyes & ’stead saw the man’s eyes twisted in confusion.

“¿What kind o’ game are you playing, Madame?”

“¿W-what do you mean?”, asked Felix, her eyes widening @ the horror that he might not actually go ’long with it.

His eyebrows arched. “I mean, most people don’t just walk up to someone who’s holding a gun up to their head & says, ‘Well, golly, I guess the only smart thing to do is kill me.’ This sounds like a setup. You’re wearing a bulletproof vest, ¿aren’t you? In fact, I bet you’re wearing a bulletproof mask under that ridiculous cat mask, too”.

Felix shook her head. “No, I swear it. I can’t e’en take off the cat mask. I’ve been trying for years”. She winced. “Sorry ’bout bugging you with its ugliness, by the way”.

The man paused, rubbing his chin in thought, only to zip past her the second after. Right ’hind him chased the other 3.

Felix chased after them out the alley, waving her arms out & shouting, “¡Wait! ¡You can’t leave! ¡You have to shoot me! ¡I know ’bout your drug dealing! You have to shoot me or I might tell & you’ll ne’er be able to get… a… job… @… McCheesy’s…”

Felix stopped & stared down @ her feet, sighing. The 4 men had ’scaped her sight.

But she was throttled out o’ her despondency when she heard someone whisper just next to her, “So, you’re looking for an easy way to end it all, ¿are you?”

She turned & saw that it came from a figure in the alley she was just in before, mostly shrouded in shadows. She could see from the other part that he was covered in a dirt-brown cloak, revealing nothing but piercing white eyes & a shining white smile ’hind the darkness under his hood.

“¿W-who… who are you?”, asked Felix.

“O, I’m just an average doctor — an average doctor that is working on an invention that will revolutionize science as we know it, & double as a peaceful way to end it all for you. Come with me, please, Madame”.

Before Felix had time to become suspicious o’ this spontaneous luck, the figure grabbed her by the arm & escorted her deeper into the alley.

“Well, if you say so”, Felix said as she looked round & saw everything dissolve into darkness.

“¡O! I’m sorry for being so rude, Mr. Dr. Sir”, she added. “I ne’er asked your name, ¿did I?”

The doctor laughed lightly. “You can just call me Dysmas”.


Dawn stared @ Autumn & Edgar with large eyes. All she could so much as mutter was, “Holy shit”.

“We don’t have much time to marvel”, said Autumn. “If stopping her is the goal, then we have to do it before she actually succeeds — & finding her when she expects us to hunt her won’t be easy”.

“The good news is that she should stick out well”, said Dawn.

“That’s if she doesn’t put on a disguise”, said Autumn.

Autumn paced the living room a few steps.

“The next question, though, is what we should do should we capture her”, continued Autumn.

“Well, obviously we need to get her some counseling to see what’s wrong”, said Dawn.

With her back to Dawn, Autumn said, “Hmm, ¿is that the solution?”

“Well, ’cept professional counselors & psychiatrists have all been patched out by the Programmers”, said Dawn. “Said they needed psychologically-impaired people to create entertaining conflict”.

“The sadists”, said Autumn.

Dawn adjusted her glasses. “But maybe I could talk her out o’ it”.

“¿What if she refuses to cooperate?”, asked Autumn. “We can’t tie her down & force her to believe what we tell her”.

“Uh… Well… I didn’t truly think ’bout that…” said Dawn, gazing down @ the carpet. After a short pause, she looked up & added, “She didn’t seem like the type who would adamantly refuse; she seemed pretty malleable to other’s wishes”.

“Yes, but she’s on an urgent… ‘mission’ now, as she said”, said Autumn; “& I don’t think she’ll be so malleable as to allow her mission to be interrupted by something as degrading as happy talk time”.

“¿‘Mission’? ¿What mission?”, asked Dawn.

“Well, offing herself, obviously”, Autumn said as she restarted her pacing, Dawn’s eyes sliding right & left with her. “Obviously, she’s bonkers, but that does’nt mean the passion o’ her conquest is any less fervent — & she must do it quickly or else her sacrifice or whatever will be wasted. Obviously, I don’t understand it; but that is the nature o’ craziness, after all: only the afflicted can comprehend”.

Dawn frowned. “I don’t think it’s fair to necessarily call her ‘crazy.’ She just has a low self-esteem…”

“I didn’t mean it as derision, but as a simple statement o’ fact”, said Autumn, turning round. “Anyway, I think I have an idea o’ how we might deal with her”.


“We’ll take the gray: manipulation. We won’t physically force her to get help; we’ll only assault her mind with such logic that her mind will force herself to willingly get help”.

“Um… ¿Are you sure you’re up to that challenge?”, asked Dawn, her frown as ambivalent as sea waves.

Autumn turned ’way from Dawn & gazed down @ her shoulder, hid by the sleeve o’ her T-shirt.

“I think so”.


Felix saw light grow before her & turned her head all round to see them enter an enormous brick cavern covered in dust & cobwebs, lit by a li’l lamp loosely hanging from the ceiling. Standing gainst the walls were various metal & plastic objects, some shaped in bulky boxes & some molded in twisty oblong tubes. Staring closely @ the objects, she could see some o’ the metal boxes blink with bright primary colors, while the tubes infinitely poured pastel liquid like a fountain. All o’ this was orchestrated with low beeps & bubbling sounds.

“¿Are any o’ these things gonna help you, uh… help me?”, she asked, turning back to Dysmas.

“Some”, Dysmas answered. “Now, sit here for a while, please. This won’t take long”.

She nodded as Dysmas gently held her down into a chair. A second later she felt plastic snap gainst her fur & looked down to see her arms & legs locked to chair arms & legs by thick black plastic clasps.

“Sorry ’bout that, but you’ll need to be restrained for this part o’ the operation”, Dysmas said with his back turned to her, his face turned to a massive monitor full o’ white console text on inky black. “I can promise you this won’t hurt a bit”.

¿How stupid can you be? Felix wailed in her head. This nice scientist tricked you just like the nice treasure hunters. ¿How could you not see the obvious connection ’tween them?

OK, no need to panic… Panicking won’t help you finish your mission; it’ll only be an undeserved extravagance. You have to think o’ a clever way out o’ here.

While Felix devised, Dysmas fiddled with the controls.

Then he remembered he had a job to do & typed in the command “sudo zaptrans start” & then typed in his password.

A flat helmet with 3 claws hanging out dropped from the ceiling by a thin pole, landing on & closing its claws round Felix’s head.

Felix stared up @ it in confusion.

“¿What’s this?”

“Why, Madame, that is the device I will use to put you out o’ your misery”, Dysmas said as he tilted his head with a cheerful smile, his hands clasped in front o’ him as if he were a praying monk.

“You really mean i—”

Felix was interrupted by a shock, shaking her from her head to the rest o’ her body, causing her eyes to bulge & her mouth to hang open. ’Twas also s’posed to cause her heart to stop beating, too; but ’stead it beat with extra speed, her open mouth gasping for air.

“Wow, that was painful…” Felix said breathlessly. “My heart feels like it’s gonna burst. You should try that ’gain & maybe it will”.

But Dysmas hadn’t heard a single word she said; ’stead he drilled his eyes @ the device ’bove her head.

He turned back to his computer & entered the command ’gain, causing the head piece to supply Felix with ’nother electric shock — 1 so great that it caused her to squeak & her whiskers to become stiff.

Dysmas looked to Felix once ’gain. Still breathing heavily.

He returned to the monitor & put in the command “sudo zaptrans pow”. The computer replied with a few mo’ lines o’ text; but the string he focused on was the one that said “Current levels: 1,426 gHz”.

Dysmas scratched the side o’ his nose as he winced to get a better look o’ the monitor, wondering if his eyes or memory were failing him.

“That’s impossible”, he muttered.

He tried “zaptrans” once mo’, & once mo’ Felix was electrocuted without death. But he spent li’l time looking @ her, & ’stead immediately typed in “sudo zaptrans pow” & watched as the text progressively appeared down the screen.

“Current levels: 1,554 gHz”.

Dysmas put his hands up to his head. “¡That’s impossible! ¿How do you keep giving me energy without dying?”

Felix stared down in shame & said softly, “Sorry. I tend to make everything break. I should’ve warned you before. I knew I shouldn’t have bothered you with my stupid problems”.

But Dysmas still didn’t acknowledge her speech, his mind preoccupied by other thoughts while he rubbed his chin. When he finally abandoned his caesura, he strode o’er to a drawer & dug through it till he pulled out a li’l harpoon gun. He turned & aimed it @ Felix’s chest with one eye closed.

“This won’t hurt a bit”, he lied just ’fore pulling the trigger.

The harpoon shot out, stabbing right through Felix’s chest. But she thought the worst part was when she felt the huge metal spike pull out, ripping a hole right through her chest, the pain so harsh she couldn’t e’en keep her eyes open. When ’twas o’er she winked her eyes open & saw her still-beating heart caught on the edge o’ the harpoon, not back in its gun, dripping blood all o’er the floor.

Dysmas looked @ the heart, & then Felix, & then the heart ’gain, & then Felix ’gain, his expression growing mo’ enthralled each turn.

“¿H-h-how-how-how — What are you?”

Felix cringed, not from the pain o’ her chest literally being ripped open, but now the metaphorical version from the fear o’ what unhappiness her failures kept causing.

“I’m sorry, Sir. I can leave anytime you want me to. Please don’t waste your effort on me anymo’”, she said quietly to her feet.

Yet ’gain, Dysmas ignored her words, his mind still crashed from sheer excitement. His mouth began to almost water under the thoughts o’ what he could learn from 1 o’ nature’s million outliers.

But these thoughts were interrupted by the sound o’ a crash outside.

“O, ¿What was that?”, Dysmas said as he went outside.

There he saw some cool purple liquid spread from the side o’ the building. I wonder if this is the cause… He followed it into a dark alley, only to be grabbed tightly & feel a thousand hands press down on his arms & lock them in some handcuffs.

He sighed. I knew this experiment was too good to be true. ’Twas inevitable that the science-haters would try to stop me, like they always do… ¿But why?


Felix stared down & sighed. He clearly made a smart decision to get ’way from me as far as possible.

“Hello, Felix”.

Felix looked up @ the nice voice, ’fraid o’ who else’s life she would ruin, when she saw that ’twas the nice treasure hunter from before standing in the doorway jingling a chain o’ keys. The treasure hunter then stepped toward her till she was ’hind her.

“I take it you’re too shy to ask me how I found you so quickly”, said Autumn.

“I’m sorry. I’m so stupid I didn’t e’en think to—”

Autumn waved a hand. ”Ne’er mind. Anyway, you’re not busy right now, ¿are you?”, asked Autumn. “’Cause I have something that’ll truly fix you — so much that you wouldn’t e’en have to kill yourself anymo’”.

Felix paused to consider how she should answer. Obviously she’s just lying to sabotage your mission — as if anything could be so great as to make up for all the bad I’d do if I kept ’live. You’d better keep on your claws.

¿But what should she say? ’Course, she was busy trying to fulfill her mission, though she was already quite certain ’twas doomed to failure; ¿but was she truly ’bout to squander what minimal goodwill she might still have by rudely refusing this nice person’s request?

Felix heard a click & then realized she could move her limbs, move her whole body.

“You can stand if you want”, said Autumn. “Come. Let’s walk as we talk. Follow me — & please don’t try ’scaping”. Autumn raised a small black device. “To answer a question you ne’er asked, I have a tracker on you that I can use to find you if you do give me the slip, which is doubtful a 2nd time”.

Felix looked down in shame, but followed Autumn outside & down the streets all the same. By this point, the sun was already dipping below the horizon, the sky drenched in deep red. It cast a long shadow below Felix, which she might have thought was an excellent metaphor for how she was feeling if she were not so preoccupied staring glumly @ the trash-covered ground.

“You have yet to answer my question”, said Autumn.

Without changing her expression or looking ’way from the ground, Felix said, “Sorry. I’m… my mind’s lazy”.

“That’s fine. ¿But will you help me & my friend? It’d be truly good”.

“If you really want me to do something, I can”, said Felix. “But I wouldn’t if I were you. I’m not really capable o’ doing stuff”.

“Nonsense. This task will be simple. You just need to try doing something & it will be good ’nough”, said Autumn. “You literally cannot fail”.

“Trust me; I’ll find a way”, said Felix.

“I just need you to talk to someone for me”, said Autumn.


“A friend o’ mine”, said Autumn.

“¿Why do you need me to speak to this person?”, asked Felix, scratching her ear.

“She needs to experiment talking to an anthropomorphic cat. It’s for college”, Autumn said promptly, having already planned the answers to expected queries.

“O… You know I’m not a true cat, ¿right?”, said Felix. “This is just a costume I can’t get off, no matter how hard I try. I think it’s some sort o’ just punishment”.

Shit. Forgot ’bout that misconception on her part, thought Autumn. Hmm… Let’s try challenging that claim.

“You know you’re not a human in a costume, ¿right?”, asked Autumn. “I’m quite certain the reason you can ne’er get that ‘costume’ off is ’cause it’s not a costume @ all”.

Felix’s eyes widened.

“¿Are you sure? ’Cause when I was much younger I was told by some other nice kids to take my costume off. They e’en put a lot o’ effort into doing it themselves, which means they must’ve thought ’twas a costume very much”.

She reached back & pulled the scraggly tuft o’ her tail round to the front. “Look, they were e’en able to take off my tail, which means that part, @ least, must’ve been costume”.

Autumn cringed, but said nothing ’bout it. Finally, she decided to let it go & simply said, “Well, you’re ’nough o’ an anthropomorphic cat to pass this test”.

Felix thought that didn’t seem to make sense, but then realized it’d be rude to contradict her. ¿Is this all part o’ her plan to stop my mission? O, if only I were smart ’nough to understand these tricky people.

She decided to go ’long with the nice treasure hunter’s deed, anyway. If she truly wanted to lock Felix up, Felix knew she could just do so with brute force, anyway. That’s proof that this must be a real thing, Felix thought excitedly.

“Well… if you insist on having me help you, I can do whatever you need”, Felix mumbled to the ground.

“Great. I’ll lead the way”, Autumn said with a nod & then turned & walked. As she went, she glanced ’hind her to make sure Felix was coming ’long; she saw that Felix wasted no time scampering after her.

@ 1st they went silently, Felix keeping her hands stuffed deep in her sweater as if she were afraid o’ that she might wilt @ her mere touch. Autumn strode with her hands in the pockets o’ her sweat pants pockets as well, though with glazed lids aimed straight @ the orange sun.

Sitting ’lone in the back corner o’ her mind with just a glass o’ water, her mind was alert to every possible problem that might occur in her plans — which was difficult, since her mind truly wanted to focus on what logic would allow it to exist within itself, e’en metaphorically.

“Felix, ¿d’you mind if I ask you a few questions? Just out o’ curiosity”, Autumn asked nonchalantly — though, in her mind within her mind, she was, in fact, quite chalant.

“I don’t think you’ll want to waste your precious time on pointless information ’bout me, but OK”, said Felix.

“¿How long have you hated yourself?”, Autumn asked casually.

“Um… ¿you truly want to know something as unimportant as that?”, asked Felix, her skin heating up from stress.

“That is why I asked you, yes”, said Autumn.

She’s testing me to see what an arrogant waste I am… thought Felix. O, please don’t let me mess up as much as I always do.

“I don’t remember a time when I e’er didn’t”, said Felix, & then added quickly, “Though my memory’s pretty bad, so you ne’er know. I, uh… Everyone round me knew what a rude pest I am since as long as I can remember. E’en someone as dumb as me would know”.

“Hmm… Interesting”, Autumn said without looking back @ Felix, her eyes still staring down @ the ground before her as if they were just having a casual conversation. “I would say I started hating myself when I began kindergarten & 1st learned o’ the societal implications o’ poverty. Self-hatred is oft portrayed as an always-negative characteristic, but so long as it is targeted toward certain amenable characteristics, it can actually be a useful motivator for self-improvement — that is, so long as it is not taken to the extent o’ literal self-destruction.

“Which brings me to my next question, if you don’t mind me asking: ¿how long have you merely entertained the prospect o’ suicide & how long have you actually planned it, actually made physical attempts? Just out o’ curiosity, ’gain”.

“I’m really sorry”, said Felix, clutching her regrown heart in terror @ what sins she was now being properly judged for committing. “I knew ’twas a selfish waste o’ energy, but I couldn’t help — No, there’s no ’scuse…” She trailed off with a sigh.

“¿Would you mind answering my questions, regardless, please?”, asked Autumn.

“I… Well, I’ve been wasting my time with these thoughts since I was li’l. With my wastefulness, it seemed an obvious idea, though I thankfully learned ’twas itself wasteful before ’twas too late. However, the decision to actual do this only came recently, now that I have redeemed myself by saving you. I would like to thank you for that, by the way”.

“O, having my life saved is no burden @ all, don’t e’en think ’bout it”, Autumn said with the same clinical voice; “though I hate to say it, I doubt you truly redeemed yourself by saving me. You know I’m a thief, ¿right? I believe most would consider my actions to be antisocial”.

“O, but you’re such a nice person…” said Felix. “You e’en tried saving my life for my useless sake, though you accidentally almost ruined the world by doing so”.

“Right…” said Autumn. “¿May I ask, who would you consider to be not nice? — Not including yourself, ’course. We already know that answer”.

“Well, gee, everyone’s pretty nice”, said Felix.

“Well then, I s’pose ‘niceness’ is not a significant feature if everyone has it. ¿Would you consider a genocidal dictator nice? No offense meant, ’course”.

¡O, grapes; I messed up already! thought Felix.

“I, uh, I actually don’t know. See, I’m not very smart & I guess you can see that I don’t really have that good a morality if I can’t e’en tell if a dictator’s nice or not”, Felix mumbled quickly.

“But you know for sure that you aren’t ‘nice,’” said Autumn. “¿May I ask — & no offense meant by this — but what exactly have you actually done that is worth all o’ this self-hatred? I mean, I have done far worse — though certainly not as bad as a genocidal dictator — but e’en I only stabbed my own palm with pencils or mused on the subject o’ suicide. You yourself say you’re a mere waste o’ oxygen, but there are far worse creatures than those who are merely useless; ¿what ’bout those who actively harm society? Considering that, I would put you @ neutral @ worst”.

Felix blinked in bewilderment. She actually wasn’t sure how she was a menace to the world; it just seemed so obvious.

“Um… I’m actually not sure…” mumbled Felix. “I mean, I’m not very smart, remember. I forgot, I guess”.

“¿Would you say that I am mentally superior to you?”, asked Autumn.

“Well, ’course. Anyone would be”.

“¿Would you say that my opinion is superior to yours in every subject?”, asked Autumn.


“¿Definitely in a subject you yourself admit that you have completely forgotten?”

“Obviously”, Felix said with a nod.

“Great. Well, my superior expertise on the subject o’ your effect on society is that your effect is not merely as bad as you think. In fact, I think you exaggerate your negative effect immensely. I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that you’re amazing — since I will also somewhat hypocritically point out that I have seen much mo’ ignorant people than you — but being merely an OK person is hardly worth the trouble you treat yourself. Now, since you just earlier said that my opinion is always superior to yours, you must accept my argument, or else argue that your opinion is superior to mine in @ least 1 subject”. Autumn smiled @ the logical nuclear weapon she was ’bout to unleash. “¿So which is it? ¿Do you have some value in what I claimed or do you have some value in what you argue gainst me? Either way, you must have some value. ¿Which?”

Felix waited a full minute as she churned the confusing string o’ ideas round in her head, trying to untangle them into something that made sense.

“Take your time to consider. I don’t actually need to know which the true answer is — I have my own opinion, anyway”, said Autumn. “I just wanted to show you that 1 must be true”.

Felix looked down @ the ground, her eyes vacant as if lost in ’nother universe.

“I’m sorry”, she said in monotone. “I’m not smart ’nough to understand what you said, or truly anything. I’m totally confused”.

“Then it’s good that minds are not static, but can change ’tween stupid & smart, ignorant & knowledgeable, based on one’s efforts”, said Autumn.

“I don’t think that’ll work for me”, said Felix.

“& yet, as you have said before, your knowledge is so low that what you think will work for you is not on par with the truth”, said Autumn.

Felix decided to let the conversation end on that string. There was nothing she could say to it, anyway. She was still so confused, she didn’t e’en know what to think. She doubted the nice treasure hunter’s logic worked out as tightly as she claimed — as much as Felix wished ’twere the case. Salvation without the proper punishment was just too much honey to fit.

Ne’ertheless, she couldn’t withdraw the bleating in her heart @ the possibility — no matter how distant — o’ her becoming a good person once & for all.

After a drawn-out pause asked Felix, “Hey, nice treasure lady…”

“You may call me Autumn to save on syllables”.

“That’s a nice name”.

“You may blame my hippie mother for it”.

“O… ¿Do you not like it? ’Cause I’m pretty stupid when it comes to—”

“That’s unimportant”, Autumn said with a wave o’ her hand, the 1st gesture she’d made in a while. “Commence with your question, please”.

“O… I just wanted to ask, uh… & you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, though you certainly don’t need me to tell you that, since you’re much smarter than me, but…”

“But…” Autumn repeated.

“But, uh… I just wanted to know if you still, you know, still stabbed yourself with pencils or thought ’bout, uh… you know…”

Autumn turned ’way & stared @ her arm, covered in a jacket sleeve in the cool breeze. She took a deep breath.

“I haven’t done or considered doing either for a’least a year”, said Autumn. “Those characteristics are amenable as well”.


By the time Autumn & Felix returned to Autumn’s apartment, the sun had vanished below the horizon, leaving the sky soaked with deep blue & speckled with vanilla stars.

Edgar & Dawn were sitting on the 2nd floor with their legs hanging out the holes o’ the deck fence, staring down @ the 2 as they came up the stairs.

“Hey, Felix. ¿How’s it going?”, Dawn asked with a vigorous wave.

Felix’s eyes widened when she saw her.

“O, it’s the woman in the jacket-dress. I hope I’m not getting in the way o’ anything”.

“She’s the college students I told you ’bout”, said Autumn.

Dawn leaned out o’er the deck fence. “You’re gonna be my experiment. ¿Won’t it be fun?”

“I hope not. The last thing I should get is fun”, said Felix.

Frowning, Dawn turned to Autumn. “The problem is, this’ll take longer than 1 night”.

Autumn nodded.

Then she turned to Felix & mumbled, “¿You have a home?”

Felix blinked a few times in her attempt to understand what Autumn was asking before finally turning her head up & nodding.


After a pause Felix spent fidgeting, & then fidgeting e’en mo’ from the nervous recognition o’ her fidgeting, she lied, “An apartment down a couple blocks down that way”, as she pointed a finger out eastward.

“¿Then would you mind us escorting you there tonight?”, asked Autumn. “It would be the least Edgar & I could do for the help you’ve given us”.

The fidgeting only worsened.

“Uh… That’s OK. You don’t need to waste your time—”

Autumn shrugged. “We have nothing better to do. Honestly, it’d be a recreational opportunity to take a quick walk”.

“Uh…” Felix’s eyes darted left & right as her brain broiled to devise a convincing lie that would stifle Autumn’s request. After a minute she found this venture to be a failure.

“You don’t truly have a proper home, ¿do you?”, asked Autumn.

“I really don’t want to intrude…” Felix said guiltily to her feet, her mumble quieting as she went on till ’twas inaudible.

“You can pay us back by doing some chores for us”, Autumn said as she turned to the door.

Dawn & Edgar both looked @ Autumn with confusion.

“I have to warn you, I’m not really good @ anything”, Felix mumbled.

“Surely you’re not expecting her to do chores for just 1 night’s stay… ¿After she saved your life?”, asked Dawn.

Autumn ignored Dawn’s question & turned back to Felix to say, “Don’t worry; I’ll make sure you’ll be able to do them correctly”, before turning back to the door.

“Well, if you say so…” said Felix. “I, uh, I’ll try as hard as I can… Uh, thank you, by the way”.

Autumn stopped before the door, mid-opening.

“No problem”.

Then she led them in.


“You have some plan developing in that elusive mind o’ yours, ¿don’t you?”, Dawn whispered as they sat on the bed — the only furniture she & Edgar had. Her eyes were not on Autumn, but in front o’ her as if she were just looking round the room aimlessly. Her absentminded tapping o’ her hands on her knees added to the distracted façade. In reality, she was watching Edgar help Felix help him in the kitchen.

“Nothing in-depth”, Autumn replied. Her eyes were also focused on Felix, though they tilted down to her twiddling fingers. “Only a few techniques”.

“I mean having her do work for you: that’s your way o’ keeping your headlights on her, ¿right?”

“No. Actually, that one’s rationale is simple: she constantly complains ’bout being useless. Well, sitting round having other people give her commodities for free is a wonderful way to increase that feeling”.

“¿You know psychology?”

“No, & I could be completely wrong, since I know nothing ’bout this person”, Autumn answered; “however, it’s the strongest interpretation I have, & I must choose a risky option, regardless”.

Dawn nodded. “Otherwise you’d just pick the safe option”.

They let the secret conversation taper off when they saw Felix walk o’er to them with 2 mugs with wafts o’ steam willowing ’bove them like chimneys.

“Here’s some hot cocoa I made”, Felix said with a frown. “The nice skeleton showed me how to do it, but I doubt I did it right, since I’ve always been bad @ instructions; but he told me I should still come o’er & bring these to you, & I didn’t want to be rude to him, so let me just warn you & say that you probably shouldn’t drink these”.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine. It’s not like you could’ve poisoned them or anything”, Dawn said as she reached for one o’ the mugs.

“I wouldn’t be so sure…” said Felix.

“As the guest, you should take the larger mug, Madame Summers”, Autumn said as she watched Dawn’s hand move for the smaller one.

Dawn smiled. “If you say so, Madame Springer.

While Autumn reached out for her mug, she replied to Felix, “’Sides, e’en if it were garbage, that would still be mo’ nourishing than nothing”.

“I wouldn’t be so sure…” Felix repeated.

Autumn looked up @ her. “¿You think this cocoa might make us lose nourishment — that it might be full o’ some sort o’ anticalories? Well, if it is, then I would advise you to recall whatever you did & patent it, ’cause such a concoction would be worth billions”.

Dawn nudged her. “Stop picking on her”.

“It’s all right, Felix; I can confirm a’least 1 way in which you could be much worse”, said Autumn.

“¿What?”, asked Felix.

“You could love yourself”, Autumn said ’fore taking a sip o’ her cocoa. When she finished she continued, “Those people are dreadful. No way to improve one’s self if one can’t find something ’bout oneself that needs improvement”.

Felix nodded politely — Autumn doubted she put much stake into Autumn’s li’l postulate — & then said, “Well… if you need anything else, I can try to do it…”

“¿Could you please return to helping Edgar?”, asked Autumn.

Felix nodded brightly with an “Uh huh” ’fore turning & heading off into the kitchen with the speedy determination o’ someone ’bout to defuse a hoard o’ explosive sheep.

When she went far ’nough ’way, Dawn resumed her & Autumn’s conversation with a whisper:

“Sometimes I can’t tell whether you’re just picking on her or carrying out some subtly mind game”.

“Good”, Autumn said ’fore taking ’nother sip. “If you don’t notice anything, Felix likely won’t either”.

“¿Doesn’t that undermine the whole point?”

Autumn shook her head. “No, the opposite. ¿Haven’t you heard her? She constantly complains ’bout how us ‘nice’ people keep stupidly pretending all her ‘sins’ or whatever don’t exist to make her feel better. So being forthright with our self-esteem boosting will oil no rusted levers. ¿’Cause how would that prove that she’s valuable if we’re intentionally doing it? Anyone can say good things ’bout someone, whether they truly deserve it or not. But if someone indifferent to her praises her, ¿then what would the logical outcome be? ¿What is the 1 reason someone who cares nothing ’bout the other would praise that other?”

Dawn nodded in understanding, her eyes drooping & her shoulders slumping back.

“¿Is my prattle this boring?”, asked Autumn.

“No”, Dawn said ’fore yawning. “I don’t know why; but I’m just starting to feel exhausted. I did wake up early today, I guess. Please continue with your cute theorem”.

“Theorems are for mathematics; this is mere hypothesis. Anyway, what Felix wants is scientific proof o’ her value; so I will indeed go ’bout this in a scientific manner: indifferent & impartial. This is where Felix’s work will serve ’nother purpose. If she comes back & asks how I liked her cocoa, I’m going to tell her ’twas pretty good, but could use some improvements. If I say ’twas wonderful, well, that’d obviously be bullshit: nobody becomes an excellent cook in a day, e’en @ something as simple as hot cocoa. So long as praise is tempered by some criticism, the praise will actually mean something. After all, praise is only useful if based on legitimate standards. Nobody benefits from winning an ‘everybody wins’ trophy.

“See, my original” — Autumn was interrupted by a yawn — “Sorry. My original idea was to hand Felix off to you, since you are better @ handling that kind o’ sensitive bullshit; but then I realized that there was actually a boon to my social ineptness, & that—” Autumn was stopped by yet ’nother yawn.

“I understand”, Dawn said slowly, her head slumping to her shoulder. After a yawn o’ her own, she added, “¿What time is it?”

“Let me see…” Autumn reached into her pocket & pulled out her phone. After a 4th yawn, she said, “Huh. It’s only 8:30”.

She turned back to Dawn, only to see her lying down, eyes closed.

Autumn shook her head & muttered, “Lightweight”.

She lifted her cocoa up to her mouth, only to stop suddenly. Then she looked down @ her cocoa & muttered, “O, you clever asshole…” ’fore collapsing onto the bed.


Felix’s heart buzzed like a wild wasp as she prepared the final steps.

You shouldn’t be doing this. It’d be rude to throw ’way all the nice things those nice people did for you.

It’d be ruder to waste e’en mo’ o’ their nice gifts by expecting mo’ without giving anything back in return.

She tiptoed into the bathroom just to be careful, e’en though she guessed the tranquilizer she put in their drinks would keep them asleep through an explosion. Inside, she picked up a bag full o’ equipment she hid till now.

Then she returned to the living room & crouched near the outlet nearest the front door. She softly sifted through her bag’s contents, watching the others the while, till she found a thick orange extension cord.

She plugged it in & dragged the rest out the front door, with her bag hanging o’er her arm. ’Fore she exited, she spared one last glance @ the other 3 to see that they were still as still as pillows.

She carried the rest o’ the cord up the sloping stairs, all the way to the roof, & then let the other end fall. Once mo’ she dropped the bag & dug through it for the rest o’ the objects she needed to set up her final operation.

As she connected boxes to other boxes, wires to wires, screwed screws, & twisted bolts, the clouds’ still-going deluge piled upon Felix, as well as the rest o’ the city. But this didn’t bother her; in fact, she thought the frothing storm would make a key ingredient in her self-salvation stew.

’Sides, she found the sounds, smells, & sensations soothing: akin to energy drinks, filling her lungs with oxygen & her veins with blood. In a world o’ stale filler scenes with her playing time-hogging extra #12, tonight o’ all nights she felt as if she were truly the protagonist o’ an epic, & she would play her part with zest.

But she knew her climax hadn’t happened yet, & was e’er chary o’ what might stand in her way ’fore her pieces were fully put together. Despite the wailing monsoon & the heavy clacking o’ metal gainst metal, her ears perked, swearing that they could hear the clang o’ feet gainst metal steps below her.

Don’t heart-attack yourself ’fore your mission’s complete, Felix. Just hurry & get it o’er with.

Ne’ertheless, as she worked, she kept glancing leftward @ the top o’ the steps for signs o’ an intrusion.

A few minutes after, she finally completed the set up & ended up with the cord strapped round her left hand & a long metal pole held in the other.

But while she waited for the sound o’ thunder, she heard the pounding below increase, causing her hair to stand up in ways e’en the storms couldn’t produce.

& then she saw a shadow rise from the stairs with a light shining down from it in a thin beam, causing her to jump back almost a whole meter. ’Twas the 1st time in her entire life she’d e’er felt like screaming, e’er felt fearful truly.

She didn’t, however, making due with simply staring with eyes wide like dinner plates.

The beam rose up to Felix’s frightened face.

“So, this is the way you planned to do it”, a voice Felix recognized said.

Felix stepped back ’nother foot & held the pole e’en higher.

“It’s too late to stop me. All I have to do is wait for the lightning to come & everything will be finished forever”. Felix’s mouth crept up into a smile.

“I can see that”, the voice said.

“¿H-how are you not s-still asleep? I saw you s-sleeping like a s-stump when I left”, asked Felix, her voice quaking a bit — from excitement, fear, or some other emotion, she was unsure.

“Didn’t expect good ol’ Edgar to contrive to ruin you plot, e’en though he was right there, ¿did you?”, asked Autumn. “Rhetorical question: ¿do you know why we’ve had what success we’ve gained, despite our appearances, which should inspire opposite expectations?”

Felix paused to make sure she understood what Autumn said.

“No”, she said as she shook her head.

“It’s ’cause our appearances inspire opposite expectations. You can’t be fully on guard, so it’s best to make people as less likely to attack your guard as possible. It’s common in politics. That’s why the smart people who want power don’t run for office; they form think tanks or corporations or other alternative sources o’ power”.

Felix’s pole hand wavered. To Autumn’s surprise, the face was no longer scared or blank, but appeared angry, though she could sense vacillation in her shaking.

“Well, that just proves my point ’bout my infinite failings — but not any longer”. Felix’s smile returned.

Not a friendly smile, Autumn thought.

“O, come now. You don’t actually expect me to praise you up to my level. Let me tell you: the time I praise anyone as greater than me will be a sunny day in the underworld. If it were true, I would want you to do yourself in, to eliminate the competition.

“That said, you don’t give yourself ’nough credit. You did, after all, fool Dawn — & you don’t think she’s a stupid failure, ¿do you? No, I would say you did rather well for a beginner. I’d say with ’nough practice you could become a good thief in a few years”.

“I’m ’fraid there won’t be a few mo’ years”, Felix said as she lifted her pole higher.

The sky crackled, & then a flash o’ white light glowed from the folded mess o’ gray clouds ’bove.

Autumn gave a deep sigh. “¿Is there truly nothing I can say to dissuade you from what, I must say in full honesty, is a completely futile & wasteful endeavor?”


Autumn began stepping forward. Her eyes darkened. “’Cause let me tell you something as someone who knows what you’re doing: you’re not right for the job”.

Felix’s eyes darkened, too. “I am”.

Autumn was pacing round Felix. Felix held the pole tightly, revolving so that her face matched Autumn’s position.

“No”, said Autumn. “You’re too innocent. You know that. You yourself know you’re too naive to be corrupt. You’re still moldable. That’s what’s truly so heartening & yet so fearful… but so intriguing… It must be done, you know”.

Felix shook her head. “No. You’re wrong”.

“¿Could you a’least explain to me why you chose something so elaborate?”

“Well… the idea just came to me from a few pieces I picked up in that nice scientist Dysmas’s lab, as well as—”

“I can assure you that if Dysmas is who I recognize, he is not a nice scientist @ all”, Autumn cut in. “Sorry for that. Please continue”.

“—&… & other stuff I found on the way to your house & stuff I found in your house. Anyway, I just thought this might help give you some extra electricity from my death — ¡an added benefit!” Felix raised her pole hand with fervor.

“See, a lot o’ suicide methods waste resources”, said Felix, her mouth stumbling o’er her words. “Drowning wastes water, shooting myself in the head wastes bullets, you know. That, that goes gainst my goal. This seemed the best idea @ the time. It’s probably much stupider than other options; but it’s the best my mind can come up with. Anyway, it’ll have to do”.

“I can’t say it wasn’t well thought out”, said Autumn. “It’s quite brilliant, actually, the way you used such limited tools for something so grand. You know, the actual method o’ suicide always intrigued me; it’s always easy to just say, ‘I’m gonna do myself in’, but actually implementing it is always much harder, ’specially in the dramatic way you’re doing here”.

“Well then, hopefully my mission will be a success”, said Felix.

Autumn frowned & shivered, feeling each crackle o’ lightning as a scraping on chalk board. She was running out o’ time, & had already run out o’ things to say.

“I don’t mean to guilt spree you or anything, ¿but you have thought ’bout how I might react to having my life saved & then failing to protect the life o’ said savior? I think you could boost your goodwill by preventing that”.

Felix paused for a second, uncertainty flickering across her face.

But then she said, “You’re lying to be nice to me. The idea that someone would be sad ’bout my death is impossible to believe”.

Thunder strummed & lightning struck meters ’way, splashing white light on the sides o’ both Felix & Autumn’s faces.

“¡This is it! ¡My work finally come to fruit!”, Felix shouted with an upward thrust o’ her pole-holding fist, followed by a maniacal laugh.

Autumn leapt forward & snatched the pole just ’bove Felix’s hands.

“¡Stop! ¿What are you doing?”, shouted Felix.

Autumn tried yanking it ’way from Felix, but was surprised to find her grip solider than expected.

“¿Are you mad? ¡You’ll kill yourself!”, shouted Felix.

Autumn leaned her face closer with a wicked smile.

“I’m always willing to put my life on the tightrope in order to win”.

Felix pulled gainst Autumn’s clutch, only to find it solider than she expected.

“¡No! ¡You can’t! ¡You’ll ruin all my good work!”, shouted Felix.

“You forget: our goals are mutually exclusive”, said Autumn; “& you’ve probably noticed by now how much I love forcing all options in my favor. Let go or hold on; either way, you lose”.

Felix stared @ Autumn with frightened eyes, which only cheered Autumn mo’. Then her hand suddenly felt a sharp pain…

“You can try clawing my hands all you want, Whiskers; I’m still not letting g — ¡augh!”

Autumn suddenly felt a heavy force shove her backward in the stomach.

“Nor will kicking me”, Autumn continued in a pained voice.

Their eyes met, each set depicting determination. But then Felix’s eyes suddenly widened.


Autumn didn’t have a chance to finish ’fore she felt a smack gainst the top o’ her face, feeling an unusual nakedness round her eyes. When she turned back to Felix she blinked repeatedly, her vision now blurry.

But then she said, “Though I am pleased to see your true craftiness, I’m ’fraid it still won’t wo — Hey, ¿where’d you go?”

She turned her head & flashlight round, searching for the gray blur that was Felix, which was difficult with a weather seemingly trying to obscure her vision as much as possible.

After a few seconds, she finally found what she thought was probably Felix, only to stare @ her in confusion.

“So you’ve given up on the…” She looked closely @ the object in her hand. “This isn’t the pole, ¿is it?”

Thunder cannoned ’gain.

“¡Shit!”, Autumn shouted as she searched round frantically for Felix ’gain.

’Fore she found her she heard Felix’s vibrating voice shout, “¡Y-y-y-y-e-s-s-s-s!”, in an agonizing scream. Now she had no trouble finding Felix: she was clearly visible by the giant white glow right in front o’ Autumn.

She only received a glimpse, however, ’fore it disappeared, & she heard a thump before her.

“¿Felix?”, Autumn asked bent down, searching for her glasses so she could see ’gain.

But all she could hear was rain & gales.

“¿Felix? ¿You’re not dead are you?”, Autumn asked ’gain, her voice rising in anxiety.

But then, just below the climatic noise, she heard wheezing grow louder.

Suddenly, ’twas interrupted by an exasperated voice shouted, “¡What the hell? ¿Why didn’t it work?”

By this time, Autumn had finally found her glasses. As she put them on, she asked, “¿Felix? ¿Is that you?” However, she didn’t wait for an answer ’fore turning round, which was when she saw Felix glaring @ the ground on her hands & knees, her chest rising & lowering in loud breaths.

Then Felix’s eyes turned from anger to despair, & she asked in a much softer voice, “I don’t get it… 3 times & I’m still ’live. I’ve stabbed myself in the neck, had my heart ripped out, had a lightning shoot through me… ¿What cruel god would still keep me alive?”

Autumn rubbed her chin in thought: she had to admit she was puzzled, too. Granted, she was not surprised by the previous 2: Boskeopoleons were usually born with 3 lives ’fore they got a game o’er & were sent to underworld.

¿But mo’ than 3? ¿How could that b—?

Autumn’s eyes shot open in epiphany.

When I have the chance, I must ask that masked hermit in the Mustard Mountains ’bout any legends ’bout cats & 13 lives…

Autumn wasn’t superstitious, ’course; but you didn’t need to be superstitious to believe superstitions in Boskeopolis, for many were scientifically proven to be correct.

Anyway, she elected not to tell Felix ’bout her li’l discovery, as it might give Felix improper ideas.

’Stead, she shrugged & said, “You know how fate works in this stupid world: it’s a dick. I should be as lucky as you: I find it difficult to end a story ’live.

“Now, I’m not superstitious or anything, but maybe you could take all o’ these suicide failures as a positive sign rather than a negative taunt: perhaps fate is trying to tell you that you deserve to live. Indeed, if anything, fate’s telling you that you don’t deserve death”.

Felix continued staring silently @ the ground just below her. As Autumn stared @ Felix’s staring she felt a stinging lurch in her chest, not ’cause Felix was so distraught, but ’cause she was so distraught o’er something she clearly should not be distraught o’er.

She bent down next to Felix & put a hand on her shoulder as one a fragile vase, unsure if the gesture would better protect it or only do further harm.

’Ventually, Felix looked up @ Autumn, shaking — from the cold, sadness, timidity; Autumn couldn’t tell.

In a low voice, asked Felix, “¿Do you… do you still think I could change into someone not useless?”

Autumn nodded. “’Course. They call that ‘character development.’”

Felix leapt up to her feet, with eyes wide in wonder.

“¿‘Character development’?”

“Uh huh. Characters go through it all the time. Keeps sto — their lives from getting boring”, said Autumn. “Some bit characters e’en become mo’ prominent characters”.

Felix stared down @ the ground, visibly distraught ’gain.

“I guess I’ll try… If suicide won’t work, I guess I’ll have to become useful. I can’t have the alternative”.

Autumn put an arm round Felix ’gain & lead her toward the stairs.

“That’s my ideology”, said Autumn.