“…construed as superior in regards to establishing an undomesticated impression, due to the fact that it engenders the misconception that the narrative in question progresses from imperceptible circumstances before the commencement of said narration, emulating verisimilitude…”
Though she tried not to let it happen, Felix found her attention ripped from Violet’s wise words by the black device lying in the middle o’ the sidewalk.
I can’t just leave that litter lying round so someone can trip on it & break their arm & do terribly @ work & get fired & lose her home ’cause she can’t pay her rent & end up on the street & starve to death.
She stopped to pick it up, turning it round so she could see the other side. It showed a silver screen with a grid o’ rubber buttons below full o’ letters, #s, & words Felix didn’t recognize.
“¿Is something amiss?”
Felix looked up @ Violet, who had turned round & walked back through the distance she’d left ’tween her & Felix.
“O… No. I, uh, I found this thing someone left on the ground, & I didn’t want anyone to accidentally step on it or something”.
The pain o’ saying each word seemed to grow as she spoke, each word ’nother centimeter she revealed o’ the hole in her head. Though she knew ’twas herself being dumb ’gain, she was still wary o’ what Violet thought ’bout her lack o’ intelligence & when her patience might break.
@ the very least, it hadn’t happened today. ’Stead, Violet nodded & said, “It is superlatively lamentable that such magnitudes of our concomitant citizens would so callously adulterate our very own streets. ¿Would it inconvenience you if I inquired you for permission to scrutinize that object? My curiosity becomes ravenous yet again”.
“O. No. No problem”, Felix said as she held it out to her.
“Hmm…” Violet said as her face pointed down @ it, her hand turning it back & forth.
Though her other hand brushed her bangs in probably an attempt to get them out o’ the way o’ her sight, Felix still couldn’t see the way cleared before Violet’s eyes. In fact, to this year she’d still ne’er seen Violet’s eyes, ’cept for the tiny hint poking below, like an animal hiding ’hind tall grass that both made you fear the possibility o’ it finally jumping out, but also made you e’er curious to finally see what it looked like.
“¡Oh! ¡I believe I recognize this! ¿But how could this be?”
Violet held it out as if she were ’fraid ’twas contagious.
“¿What is it?” asked Felix.
“It is the Script Genie. Oh, ¿how could this have been abandoned in the midst of the street, where any individual could abscond with it and precipitate inconceivable damage?”
“¿What’s it do?”
“It possesses the capability of committing virtually any operation, including the transmogrification of any organism in any conceivable manner”.
“O…” said Felix, her mouth a wide circle.
“We must deliver this to the proper authorities”.
When Felix saw Violet stride forward, she burst ’head to quickly catch up. She was curious ’bout who these “proper authorities” were, but failed to ask Violet ’bout it.
It’s better to let her handle these things & not distract her with stupid questions.
“Augh. It has to be here somewhere. I remember we just passed these buildings round the time”.
Dawn held her palms tightly to the sides o’ her head, causing her bangs to splay in all directions.
“I’m sure we’ll find it ’ventually”, said Edgar.
& yet, Dawn could tell by Edgar’s bent-o’er posture & sunken voice that he wasn’t optimistic ’bout Autumn’s chances.
Then ’gain, he wasn’t when she was still ’live, either, the poor guy.
She glanced up out o’ habit when she saw 2 people walking toward them, only to stare longer when she saw ’twas Felix & Violet. Violet’s face met her eyes & Violet waved.
“Salutations, Madame Summers. Exquisite afternoon, ¿n’est-ce pas?”
Dawn sent mo’ attention to Felix, staying ’hind Violet with a flat smile & millimeter-spanning wave.
We can’t let her know what happened to Autumn, e’en if we try to ’splain that it’s only temporary.
She tried to hide her distress, but knew her bent brows probably gave her ’way — a’least she could tell by Felix’s smile’s plummet.
“You could not consider that what I anticipate to tell you is credible”, said Violet.
Dawn looked back @ Violet.
“I don’t mean to interrupt, but have you seen this plastic black device lying—”
“¿You witnessed it, too?” said Violet, though less as a curious question & mo’ as an excited exclamation, judging by Violet’s preparatory gasp & her extended index.
Dawn’s brows rose. “¿What? ¿Where?”
Dawn’s heart sputtered when she saw Violet hold out a familiar black plastic device. Dawn pointed up @ it.
“¿C-could I look @ that, please?” she asked.
Violet’s mouth twisted in 1 direction.
“You would not be devising any rascality with this, ¿would you, Madame Summers?” she said, only to follow quickly with, “I am only being facetious, of course. You have apperceived of the Script Genie before, ¿have you not?”
Both Dawn & Edgar gasped.
“Violet, you have to give that to us. We need it”, Dawn blurted.
Violet’s mouth flattened as she pulled the Genie close to her chest, as if protecting a baby mouse from a colony o’ cats.
“¿For what? Madame Summers, I do not desire to engender conflict, but I truly do not harbor the credence that us quotidian individuals ought to be tampering with this puissant of a contraption”.
“We just need it for 1 minute; just to fix something someone else did with that”, Dawn said all in 1 breath.
Dawn’s eyes jumped to Felix, & she was not assured by the concerned shine in those wide moonlight eyes.
She looked back @ Violet & tried to think o’ the best way to word her problem, only to feel pressure prick @ her the mo’ she stared @ Violet’s frowning expression.
Finally she said, “Autumn’s dead. We need that to revive her”.
Violet stared @ her for a few seconds. With how windy ’twas that day, Dawn half expected Violet’s overgrown bangs to blow side-to-side as was common in pauses like these; but they remained still, as everything else did.
“Well, I can construe of no perniciousness that could originate from utilizing this mechanism only once to recover the life of an innocent citizen”, said Violet. “¿Where is she located @ present?”
“Back @ my apartment”, Dawn said as she pointed a thumb ’hind them. “You wouldn’t mind coming with us now, ¿would you?”
“¡Claro que no!” said Violet.
Dawn turned & led them ’way, her eyes darting in all directions, expecting Chamsby or O’Beefe to show up any minute.
Her chest jerked in a silent laugh. Now I know how Autumn feels ’bout everyone, I guess. No wonder she’s crazy.
“Good. We need to hurry”, said Dawn. “¿What do you plan to do with that yourself, anyway?”
Violet said slowly & deliberately, “I was planning to deliver it over to the government so that it will not cascade into any jeopardous possession—”
“Then you can’t give it to the government”, said Dawn.
There was a short pause before Violet responded, “I am not myself enamored with our present mayor, but veritably partisanship would not be a reasonable rationale for committing such bellicose behavior…”
Dawn’s eyes twisted in anger, though she doubted Violet could see from ’hind her. Probably for the best, she thought.
“Mayor Lance Chamsby was the 1 who killed Autumn, & I can assure you that he’s not going to keep it safe from selfish hands, but plans to use it himself to… do whatever crazy maniacal plan we o’erheard him telling his vizier”.
There was ’nother pause. Dawn glanced ’hind her to see Violet’s face tilted downward, her bangs covering e’en more o’ her face than usual.
Finally, Violet said, “If I deliver this to another government, ¿would you harbor the same contrariety?”
“¿Which government?” asked Dawn.
Violet halted ’gain.
“¿The Swiss government? It is my impression that they would not in all probability utilize it for any calamitous purposes”.
“Fine. Just so long as we hurry & revive Autumn 1st”. Dawn’s voice was puffy from all o’ this walking & stress — the latter o’ which she had li’l tolerance for.
She eyed Edgar still quietly ’side her & saw that though he was still staring down with sad-carved eyes, he did so with far mo’ energy than earlier. His hands were no longer sagging to his sides, but now squeezing each other.
Now ’stead o’ being dead sure she’s a goner for good, he’s just deathly worried that she’ll be.
@ 1st Dawn thought nothing o’ Violet’s shivering as they stood on the apartment deck while Dawn practically shattered her door’s lock trying to jab in her shakily-held key. The gray wind had picked up, causing Dawn’s own arms to grow goose flesh under her jacket.
However, ’pon turning back after finally opening the door, Dawn caught the crumpled frown on Violet’s face.
With a wavy voice aimed straight @ the floorboards, Violet said, “Um… I veritably am not desirous of being exorbitantly impertinent… but you would not feel vituperation toward me if I sustained my presence on the exterior of your exquisite residence, ¿would you?”
Dawn blinked @ her for a second ’fore saying, “O… No. Not @ all”.
Violet handed Dawn the device.
“Here. You comprehend how to utilize it, ¿n’est-ce pas? Because I can assure you that I possess nary an inkling…”
Dawn smiled. She hadn’t noticed till now how fast her blood was racing. In her mind it felt as if they were centimetering up a multikilometer moutain, only to jump up 800 meters in 1 second.
“I can figure that out. We — well, mostly she till her ‘accident’ — were researching it earlier this morn”.
Violet nodded slowly, & then turned to Felix, brushing the bangs from her face, probably out o’ habit.
“Do not feel compelled to be imprisoned by my tremulousness if that is not your desire, Felix”, she said. “It is solely… that which is in the interior that saturates mine eyes with anxiety”.
Felix nodded, her wide eyes cleansed o’ all emotion. Then she turned to Dawn &, with that same curious stare, asked, “You, uh… You don’t mind me coming in &… & seeing, ¿do you?” She flinched — presumably from the sight o’ Dawn’s head tilting back in surprise.
“No, not @ all”.
Dawn led them inside, only to feel bile rise in her throat from the sight & smell o’ Autumn still lying in the middle o’ the living room. Her head was a strange gradient, the face a dark purplish while the back o’ her head & neck were almost yellow, which Dawn didn’t remember from before.
She noticed Edgar react far worse, his neck held rigidly ’way from her as he walked in slow, weighty steps with his hands tightly grasping the air, appearing ready to collapse. He ’ventually sat in a solid thud in the middle o’ the floor, face bent down so close he was almost burying it into the carpet.
Felix, however, stared directly @ Autumn with wide eyes, breaths heavy, though with a frozen step, as if struggling in a paradoxical fear o’ both looking & not looking.
& yet, Dawn soon saw Felix slowly edge closer to Autumn, only to look back & forth ’tween Autumn & Dawn, brows bent backward in consternation.
Finally, she paused on Dawn just as Dawn sat in front o’ Autumn’s still-’wake laptop.
“You, uh… it wouldn’t…”
“¿What?” Dawn asked softly.
“It wouldn’t ruin anything if… if I touched her, ¿would it?”
Dawn’s left brow crashed down like half o’ a seemingly stable house caving in.
“Uh… No. No, go ’head if… if you feel you have to”.
Dawn turned back to the, thankfully, still-open page o’ codes with burdened breathing, only for her eyes to be latched ’gain by the sight o’ Felix bending down in front o’ Autumn & gently picking up her hand in 1 solid piece as, if frozen. Felix touched Autumn’s knuckles, only to pull her finger back with her hair standing up as if given an electric shock. She hesitantly touched Autumn’s hand ’gain, this time keeping her hand on Autumn’s. This gradually developed into Felix stroking Autumn’s hand.
All the while, Felix’s empty eyes stared down @ Autumn’s hand closely, as if examining her as a scientific experiment.
What I would pay to find out what’s going through that mind right now.
Dawn jumped when she remembered she had a job to complete. Suddenly the racing blood felt less like a water slide to the finish line & mo’ like a hundred hammers banging on her temple. She scrolled through the page, struggling to pay attention to any o’ it.
I don’t know nearly ’bout any o’ this as Autumn did.
That’s ’cause you’re thinking lazily, trying to do it in 1 jump. You have to think methodically. It’s like Autumn said: divide the complex mess into manageable steps, on/off-switch-by-on/off-switch.
Now, ¿what am I trying to do? I’m trying to find 1 code out o’ a gazillion… ¡So I should slowly shrink that # till I narrow it down to just 1!
Now, ¿how I should I start?
She tapped her fingers on the table 5 times per second, which developed into her thumping her palm gainst her forehead.
OK, ¿what am I looking for? A way to revive Autumn. ¿What would that be under? Think. ¿What did Autumn say before?
She scrolled through the page, only to stop when the word “character” caught her eye.
¡That’s it! ¡We’re characters! Now I remember: she was trying to find her character whatever so she could change her funds whatever & make it bigger.
Now I need to do that, but change her “’live” whatever to not dead.
¿Didn’t she say that was super complicated? After all, she hadn’t been able to do it yet.
& yet, Chamsby was able to. He must’ve.
& if he can do it, I should be able to, too.
She searched round for “characters”, only to see a bunch o’ divergent entries. She could clearly see no names, only a few #s.
¿How would I know what # Autumn is?
Then Dawn gasped, hands gripping the edge o’ the table tightly while her eyes sunk deep into the searing monitor under the searing yellow light. She hadn’t noticed till now how much darker it became so quickly.
¿What if… what if Autumn doesn’t have a code anymo’? ¿What if…? These codes just represent someone in the current scene’s memory, which can only hold so many people. Logically, once Autumn’s been… when she’s gone, ¿wouldn’t her memory be shifted to someone else? For all I know, her memory could’ve been given to Felix or Violet or still be empty.
¿How would I e’en find which is hers, anyway? Chamsby seemed to do it immediately. ¿What, is he a computer expert or something?
The most logical answer is that Autumn already left a note o’ what her code is somewhere & Chamsby simply used that. ¿But where?
She scanned the tabs & clicked on the 2nd to see a similar-looking page full o’ mo’ codes. She searched “characters” ’gain & stopped when she noticed Autumn’s name next to the code “01” in a long list o’ character names.
Wait… But if each o’ us has our own code here, ¿what’s the “Character #1” stuff from the other page? She switched back & forth ’tween the pages. ¿& why does 1 have a whole “bank” but some just have 2 #s?
She checked the 3rd tab, only to see what appeared to be instructions for the Script Genie, explaining what each button did.
Well, let’s see if Autumn left any codes that ’splain any o’ this.
She searched the left bar & clicked the white notepad icon. But as she scanned down the notes, her chest fell ’gain. There were few notes, & none seemed to say which character was what. She e’en checked the left bar a second time & held down the mouse o’er the notepad icon to see if there were any other documents, but confirmed that there was only 1.
There has to be some way to figure this out. If Chamsby could, I must be able to, too…
Her head jerked up when she heard the clank o’ metal, only to see Edgar in the kitchen putting a pot on the stove. In the corner o’ her eye she could still see Felix bent down next to Autumn with Autumn’s hand in hers.
The longer you wait, the worse it gets, she told herself. C’mon. You have to be able to do this. You’ve done far less realistic things.
OK… Let’s think… The #’d characters are probably those being used in the scene while these others are just every character in the world… So I need to take Autumn’s code & put it in 1 o’ these #’d characters.
¿But which 1?
She scanned through all #s, seeing that there were a whopping 256 character slots. ¿Who’d need that many characters for 1 scene?
Well, chances are that the last 1 hadn’t been used for anything…
I’d better check it 1st.
She looked down @ the Genie & surveyed its buttons, only to be unable to comprehend mo’ than half o’ them — & none o’ them said anything close to “check address”.
But then she remembered the instructions tab she saw & scanned through it, only to see that ’twas a multiparagraph behemoth.
I am way o’er my head with this.
¿How did Chamsby e’er figure this stuff out?
She tried querying “check”, only to get pieces that seemed to have no relevance to what she wanted to do.
Dawn sighed. I have no choice but to read this whole thing.
However, to her luck, it only took a few paragraphs ’fore she got to some part ’bout that ’splained “LDA” that apparently loaded data in some temporary spot. She looked back @ the Genie &, indeed, saw a button that said “LDA”, as well as “LDX” & “LDY”, which she didn’t dare touch.
¿But dare I touch this 1?
I couldn’t hurt by itself, ¿could it?
She pressed it & saw the words “Please input address”. She vacillated ’tween the monitor & the Genie, typing in the address for character #256 slowly & carefully.
Nothing bad will happen if you just check something.
I’m still not e’en sure if that’s all this does.
She pressed OK & saw 2 0s.
That must mean it’s empty.
She rubbed her fingers ’long the edge o’ the Genie, feeling its plastic become greasy under her sweat.
OK… ¿Now this thing said you could put stuff into it then with “STA”? Her eyes glided o’er the next paragraph quickly. Yes… Hopefully.
She pressed the STA button & saw the words “Please input 2-char code”.
Man, this is going to fuck up everything.
It’s not the 1st time the whole world’s crashed.
She typed in “01” & pressed OK.
Then she waited. She had been so bubble-wrapped in this tedious work that she hadn’t noticed till now the unsettling quiet filling the room. All she heard was the idle clacking o’ culinary instruments & the boiling o’ water.
But that changed quickly when she heard a screech from outside.
Then the door creaked open & Dawn felt her heart try to thrash her backward herself when she saw Autumn walk inside. Autumn surveyed the room, only for her eyes to lock on her corpse still on the floor. ( Dawn could also see that Felix had leapt ’way from said corpse, standing with an embarrassed frown. ) She walked o’er to it, still staring not with horror, but with curiosity, only to be interrupted by a hug from Edgar.
“¿How you feeling?” Dawn asked as she got up from the computer.
’Pon finishing Edgar’s kiss, Autumn replied, “Fine. ¿Did you revive me with the Script Genie?”
“Uh… Sorta”, said Dawn. “Mo’ like I created ’nother 1 o’ you, it seems”.
“¿What’d you do specifically?” asked Autumn.
She bent down & reached her hand into her corpse’s shirt, causing Dawn both to cringe & crack up laughing.
Autumn herself smiled when she pulled out a couple bills.
“You must be extremely greedy to feel round you own dead corpse to rob yourself”, said Dawn.
“There must be a bug in this world’s coding”, Autumn said as she pocketed it. She moved o’er to her corpse’s feet. “I have these same bills I’m stealing from myself with me”. She twisted her mouth as she dug her fingers into her corpse’s sock. “This corpse & I must’ve taken our on-hand funds from the same source without changing that source to indicate said funds’ loss, effectively copying them”.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to call it buggy when it happened due to our screwing round with this thing”, Dawn said as she held the Genie up.
“So, uh… this signifies that deceased cadaver is no longer present, ¿correct?”
Everyone turned to see Violet poking her head in, a hand o’er the bangs o’er her eyes.
“Uh… No”, Dawn said ’fore a laugh. “Though the Autumn you saw walking in is perfectly mortal, so you don’t have to be ’fraid o’ her”.
Violet paused to register what Dawn said.
“Forgive me if I query the possibility of such an outcome”, said Violet.
“You’re forgiven”, said Autumn.
Dawn had expected Violet to look confused, but e’en stranger, saw her nod calmly as if Autumn’s reply were serious.
“Thus your necessity for maintaining your possession of that Script Genie has expired, ¿am I correct?” asked Violet.
“Er, ¿what?” asked Autumn.
Dawn aimed an embarrassed smile @ Autumn as she walked o’er to Violet & hands her the Script Genie.
“Violet was the 1 who found the Script Genie after we lost it & let us use it to revive you”, said Dawn.
“To be consummately veritable, I must confess that it was ever-dutiful Felix who truly discovered it”, said Violet. “Nevertheless, this harbors no significance, since neither of us possess the right to maintain in our possession such a deleterious mechanism. It must be transported to trustworthy authorities”.
“You won’t find any here”, said Autumn.
Violet nodded ’gain. “Affirmative. Madame Summers elucidated to me our mayor’s abhorrent behavior, which is why I am selecting the Swiss government as a superiorly fitting candidate. It is a distressing world in which we dwell when we cannot even confide in our very own elected officials not to exploit their powers for self-serving purposes”.
“Well, while you consider the best ethical solution, ¿d’you mind if I use the Genie for 1 li’l moment just to check the effects o’ my revival?” asked Autumn.
“Um… it is my credence that it would be superlative if that were executed by a reputable organization. It was only because your very vitality was on condition — and because I know how trustworthy Madame Summers is — that I permitted Dawn’s actions. To be consummately veritable, I harbor apprehensions in regards to my own self possessing this, which is the rationale behind my extraction of these batteries”.
As Violet opened the Genie’s back & dropped its batteries in her palm, Dawn looked ’tween the 2, wary o’ conflict erupting.
But to her surprise, Autumn simply nodded.
“I’m wary ’nough to know it’d be hypocritical for me to doubt your trustworthiness compared to my own — ’specially with my record & the debt I may owe you”.
“I must elucidate my pleasure in regards to your lack of resentment. You have no conception of the dread I held that you would take offense to my actions. Believe me: there is nothing I abhor worse than needless conflict and only metaphorically put my foot down when I feel it is normatively necessary”.
“You wouldn’t find it suspicious if I asked you whether you’re taking it to Switzerland this very night, ¿would you? ’Cause as someone who is just as worried ’bout Lance & O’Beefe getting their dirty mitts on it, I would exercise care ’fore trying something like that”.
“¿You believe I ought to delay until tomorrow?” asked Violet.
Autumn nodded. “We should plan the stealthiest way to do so. Remember, these are government officials we’re talking ’bout; they can easily tell who goes on what airplane; & who knows if they might check your baggage for that Genie”.
“I comprehend. ¿Could you imbue me with consultation in regards to the superior manner in which I might secure this overnight? Perhaps it is overtly paranoid to predict either of them predicting that I possess this so soon; but it is better safe than sorry, as they say, in jeopardous situations as these”.
“Let me think”, Autumn said as she stared down @ the carpet.
“Violet, ¿are you staying for dinner?”
Violet turned to see Edgar walk out o’ the kitchen with a pot full o’ spaghetti in-hand.
“Oh, I am not of the inclination toward intrusion…”
“Violet, ¿would you mind if I examined your windows to see how secure they are?” asked Autumn.
“Your larcenous activity must have imbued you with knowledge regarding residential security, ¿correct?” But then Violet looked down & said, “Oh, I do apologize if that was imprudent for me to assume”.
“Not @ all”, said Autumn.
Autumn rubbed her chin as she walked toward Violet’s window. A portion o’ her attention was occupied by Violet standing off to the side, staring curiously @ her.
“I think I know where I can get you a stronger window than this”, said Autumn, tapping a finger on the glass.
Violet practically jumped. “¿Are you implying that my current window is vulnerable?”
Autumn nodded solemnly. “’Fraid so”.
“¿And accommodating a substitution would not be of any vexation?”
“It’d be worth it to keep Count Moneybags from doing worse to me”, Autumn said as she walked back to Violet’s front door.
Just before reaching said door, she turned back to them all. “You can stay here for now, if you want; I shouldn’t be long”.
“¿You sure you don’t need any help?” asked Edgar.
“I don’t need it; but if you want to, that’d be no burden”.
Dawn nudged Edgar. “Yeah, you should go in case Moneybags tries going after he ’gain. Strength in #s & all that. I’ll stick ’hind & protect Felix & Violet”.
Edgar looked back @ Autumn.
“That sounds wise”, said Autumn.
Autumn couldn’t help noticing Violet’s shivering.
Violet said quietly, “I had not realized the sheer depth of danger present in this situation”. She turned to Dawn. “I could not forgive myself if anything happened to you due to my own selfish requirements…”
Dawn laughed as she put a hand on Violet’s shoulder. “Don’t be zany. ’Twas our fault for finding the dumb thing in the 1st place”. She looked up @ Autumn. “¿Right, Autumn?”
Autumn jerked herself out o’ her thoughts & forced herself to nod.
That was when she noticed Dawn’s smile widen.
She knows. Hmm…
Well, that’ll just be ’nother screwdriver out o’ a dozen in the cogs. It’s my fault if I get my hopes up.
She turned to Edgar standing quietly next to her in his o’ersized jacket, its sleeves going far past the end o’ his hands.
She frowned. ¿Why didn’t you think to ask him to accompany you ’fore Prozac did? You can’t blame this on mere self-consciousness; we both know you just straight-up forgot ’bout him.
Then she considered how her frown would appear to everyone else & softened her expression.
“Uh… ¿You ready?” she asked.
Edgar nodded excitedly. “Uh huh”.
She turned & led him out.
“¿You curious ’bout what death was like for me?” asked Autumn, wavering ’tween being proud o’ coming up with such a perfect conversation-starter & being ashamed @ the fact that she should be proud o’ such minimal success in socialization.
Maybe Prozac’s right ’bout my anal retention: I’m sure if I didn’t have this flaw with Edgar I’d just find something else to fill that e’er-present slot.
“Uh, sure”, said Edgar, the same way he replied @ virtually anything else she e’er said.
She smirked. “Your lack o’ authentic curiosity is fitting: the answer is that I have no conscious memory o’ it @ all. What is curious, though, is that I also have no memory o’ being killed @ all: the last memory I have is going to sleep this morn”.
“I take it you won’t be sleepy tonight, either”.
“No. I prefer night, anyway”.
There are less eyes on you.
“I know”, Edgar said to the black air ’head o’ him.
¿Have I already told him this? ¿Does he know mo’ than I expect?
Perhaps it’s just I who know li’l ’bout him…
Edgar turned to her. “If you don’t remember Lance coming in to attack you, ¿how did you know ’twas him in the 1st place?”
“Estimation. ¿Who else would it be?”
They climbed up the steps to Dawn’s door & Autumn twisted the key in its lock.
Watch us walk in on Lance digging through our shit…
But to her surprise, the apartment was as dark & destitute as they’d left it. She clicked on the light & headed straight for 1 o’ her packs under the table — the 1 for stuff she didn’t take with her routinely.
After a minute or so o’ searching, she began to fear she’d lost it somehow. Wouldn’t that be my luck — the 1 time I need it.
However, she checked her regular pack & found it there.
Don’t know why I put it there, she thought as she pulled it out, gazing @ it as one might gaze @ one’s own painting. ’Twas a flat plate o’ hard metal with fatter edges that attached to the edge o’ a regular window door & frame — a’least it fit Dawn’s, she knew.
There are still so many variables that could go wrong…
¿Isn’t that always? Quick, let’s return so we can hurry through this.
Already she could feel her nerves buzz @ the anticipation o’ what she could only call a “project” — the time when all o’ the tedious, helpless ordeal o’ sitting round planning would be tested in action, in the sudden creation that could ne’er be replicated precisely.
She laughed in her head. I keep forgetting that I don’t create; I take others’ creations.
Autumn couldn’t stop herself from exclaiming a whispered “¡Yes!” as she connected the plate to Violet’s window & saw that it fit perfectly.
When she had it tightly secured, she turned back to the others & said, “This way e’en if they try chucking a rock through it to break it, it won’t work”.
Violet began clapping her hands rapidly. “I cannot emphasize enough my gratitude for your assistance”.
Though the urge returned, this time Autumn stifled the incoming frown.
This was why I remained ’lone in the 1st place: it makes the inevitable back-slashing less emotionally burdening
She imagined herself doing the same to Dawn & shivered as she considered the possible reaction. ’Twas only ’cause Edgar ne’er had anything worth stealing that this problem ne’er emerged ’tween them.
& now look @ me, being hooked to all o’ Prozac’s buddies — every 1 o’ which a possible victim o’ my actions.
This was only worsened as the 3 walked home, when Dawn turned to her & said, “That was very nice o’ you to do so much to help Violet. I have to admit that I’d expected you’d be absolutely bitter ’bout losing the Script Genie”.
Yes, she knows. She definitely knows.
“Hey, uh, ¿Dawn? I’m making myself some coffee; ¿do you want any?” Autumn asked with her head leaning into the living room.
Dawn paused to think for a second — which felt like a damn hour to Autumn; however, she ’ventually nodded & said yes.
Though she 1st felt the internal gasp o’ a risky flip landing heads, by the time Autumn reached the coffee pot, this melted into churned feelings.
If she does know, ¿then does she know the full extent o’ my plan? & if so, ¿is she taking pity on me? ’Cause this seems extreme, e’en for someone as much a pusho’er as she is.
Most likely she doesn’t know, & I’m just being paranoid. She did always say she was too trusting o’ people.
“¿You want me to do that?” Edgar asked as he walked o’er to her.
“Thank you, but I’m not so ignorant o’ culinary matters that I can’t make a simple cup o’ coffee”, said Autumn, trying to balance indignance with delicacy as much as possible.
“O. OK”, Edgar said as he went out into the living room.
She sat on the kitchen table with her back to them so that they couldn’t watch her expression, while using the ’scuse that she was merely staring @ the pot churn.
Though they spoke quietly, she could still hear them talk ’bout her:
“I can’t tell if she’s being so helpful ’cause she’s feeling truly happy with us or feeling truly depressed”, whispered Dawn.
“Probably the latter”, Edgar said with a pinched voice o’ melancholy. “She probably feels like she owes us a lot for having us revive her”.
Autumn was unsure if she should be proud or ashamed o’ her manipulative success.
The pot slowed to a trickle. Autumn leapt for her feet ’fore nosy Edgar could try stealing her job & queried the mugs on the rack till she found the 1 with that stupid yellow rat cartoon that Dawn was obsessed with wearing some ranger suit.
Hopefully she won’t ask to switch mugs this way.
When she finished pouring both mugs, she poured a li’l chocolate powder in each. Before stirring Dawn’s, she unscrewed the bottle she held secretly under her sleeve, & let some pour into Dawn’s mug as she stirred it.
Then she walked into the living room, Dawn’s mug held out for her.
“Thank you”, Dawn said emphatically as she took it just ’fore blowing on it & taking a sip.
She doesn’t expect a thing. ¿& why should she? ¿How many times would someone want to spi…?
Autumn paused staring down @ her mug still clutched o’er her lap, feeling the pall o’ mo’ dark thoughts added to the already hefty list.
She remembered what Violet had said: “Your larcenous activity must have imbued you with knowledge regarding residential security”. ’Twas the least she could do to make her ugly mind beneficial for once & use it to a’least better protect them from other ugly minds.
Suddenly, a memory came to her head, causing her to smile. After this ordeal is safely finished, I ought to tell Felix ’bout the other neurosis we share.
Dawn laughed. “¿What’s so funny?”
Autumn scowled. Shit. ¿What’s wrong with you? You were better than this when you were 12.
This only worsened the situation: Dawn’s own merriment transformed into bafflement. “¿What’s wrong? ¿Did I ruin something?”
“No. It’s just that my lazy mind’s wandering ’gain”. She rubbed her forehead roughly ’fore pulling out her laptop.
Well, a’least I remembered this time-trued trick: when acting different from reality, always act in a manner still consistent with one’s personality as much as possible.
Dawn yawned as she said, “That’s nothing to be ashamed o’”. She let her yawn finish while she set her mug down. “You wouldn’t believe how much time I’ve wasted on mental tangents”.
“I’ve already wasted ’nough time”, said Autumn.
Dawn yawned ’gain, this time with her arms stretched out to their fullest.
When she’d finished, she said slowly, with the deepness o’ her yawn still in her voice, “I’m too tired to argue with your constant barbs gainst yourself. We’ll finish this tomorrow, ¿’K?”
& with that she lay down & closed her eyes, not e’en bothering to turn off the game she was playing, which irked the cheap part o’ Autumn’s mind.
¿How can she just leave that on when, despite her polite bullshit, she has such financial problems?
I s’pose if this venture succeeds, it won’t matter much anymo’.
Then ’gain, I shouldn’t o’erestimate the gains I’ll make. Must take the inflation caused by extra money being programmed in into consideration.
She smiled wryly. That must be the true reason Lance went after me so vociferously: he knew I’d ruin his precious goal that he utterly failed @ achieving, anyway. It’s too bad that gold standard idea o’ his didn’t pan out or I could prove that the Programmers truly hate him & show a way to cause inflation e’en under the gold standard.
“Dawn sure fell asleep fast”, said Edgar.
“¿Huh?” Autumn looked up from her laptop for a second to register Dawn. “O yeah”.
“I guess you’ll probably do the opposite, ¿right?”
“Well, be safe”, Edgar said as he slid into their own sleeping bag.
“I doubt I’ll be out long”, mumbled Autumn.
“I hope not”.
Autumn’s brows fell. “¿Why?”
“O, I didn’t mean it like that”, said Edgar. “I mean… I wouldn’t want you to get hurt by Lance & O’Beefe or something”.
Mmm… Should’ve known his toady would be involved, too.
“I doubt he’ll find me randomly in the midst o’ the city — ’specially with how much I try to avoid any human contact.
Edgar paused, as if in thought, ’fore turning on his side & saying, “Well… still”.
Autumn kept her eye on Edgar for a minute mo’, but saw nothing in his expression.
¿Does he know, too?
¿Would he care?
Actually, she was surprised he hadn’t asked her if he could go with her. Then ’gain, he probably wouldn’t want to be caught stealing from people he actually liked — the few friends she hadn’t turned off from both o’ them. Perhaps e’en he thought such a betrayal went too far.
She doesn’t e’en benefit from the piece o’ shit, anyway. It’s her own neuroses that force me to do this.
Then ’gain, she’d remembered that she’d left to wander the city @ night many times without asking Edgar if he wanted to join — mainly ’cause he was always asleep by then; but he’d indicated clearly a few times that he knew she went out. Maybe he was offended.
Doubt it — e’en if he should.
Autumn stood & clicked off the light for their sakes. She didn’t turn off the TV, though; she quite liked its dim glow. It reminded her o’ those nights long ago when her mother fell asleep in the dining area while infomercials whispered in her ears, telling her that she — ¡yes she! — could get salvation from our holy lord & savior Jesus Christ for only 1,499₧.
Autumn released a heavy exhale.
Tonight’s not the night to lapse into such a depression.
Shit. They’re already here.
She had her neck craned upward, watching the tiny golden helicopter quickly grow, its sputtering rising into loud smacks.
Then she dashed the rest o’ the stretch ’tween where she stood & Violet’s apartment, remaining as close to other objects as possible, in case Lance’s helicopter dropped a spotlight on her.
I also have to hurry, in case that copter lands on me or its blades manage to decapitate me — accidentally or intentionally.
It didn’t, & she made it to the side o’ Violet’s apartment before Lance’s copter landed.
From there she hopped onto the front railing & climbed up the side to the 2nd floor, thinking how thankful she was that Violet’s room was so low. From there she extracted her screwdriver from her pocket & leaned o’er the side.
I can’t believe I’m actually getting a chance to get use out o’ this thing.
Hmm… If I were suspicious, I’d worry ’bout thinking that just yet.
She slowly turned the screwdriver into all 4 corner screws, & then grabbed the top edge & moved it down just ’nough to glimpse inside.
She exhaled when she saw nothing but darkness inside.
Having confirmed that, she pulled it down all the way, gently lowering it down to the bushes below, & then climbed inside.
Standing by the window, she pulled out her small flashlight & thought.
OK, let’s see… They were sleeping o’er—
Her thoughts were interrupted when she saw the light click on. She turned to the area she was point toward to see Violet & Felix sitting up from their sleeping bags, blank stares aimed @ her.
Violet raised a brow. “¿Madame Summers? ¿What could be the purpose for this unexpected intrusion?”
Autumn merely blinked @ Violet cooly.
¿Do I dare wager a ’scuse, or should I just run while I still have the chance?
The possible reward is far greater than the risk — ’specially when such a great ’scuse has fallen into our palms already.
But ’fore she could reply, Violet looked lower, pointed ’hind Autumn, & said, “You deactivated your own window shield. ¿How? Unless…” She looked up @ Autumn.
Shit. Shouldn’t have hesitated. Could’ve avoided this & the suspicion I’d already earned myself if I hadn’t.
“Oh, assure me of my falsity. It could not be that you were attempting to abscond with the Genie so you could utilize it for selfish purposes… that that window shield was all a charade to facilitate breaking into my abode”.
Autumn kept the same steely stare, which was difficult with the steam that broiled in her forehead.
O, don’t play betrayed with me, you pretentious twat — not when you’ve done your utmost to block me from a 1-in-a-million chance for ultimate success.
However, she turned ’way from them when she heard the door slam open, followed by Lance’s cape-swinging entrance, followed by 4 henchmen in their familiar gold tuxedos & drama masks.
“¡Aha!” he exclaimed with an index raised. “¡I figured the seemingly random citizens who’d defy me so would mix with the vile looter herself!”
Violet turned to Lance with the same expression o’ sternness & surprise mixed — though with a bit mo’ stammering.
“¿Sh-shall I take that as an affirmation that you, Mayor Chamsby, Sir, did, indeed, attempt to — and to some extent succeed in regards to — murder Madame Springer?”
“Hmmph”. The corner o’ Lance’s eye leered @ Autumn. “That didn’t stop her voodoo slave from resurrecting her”.
Violet turned to Autumn with bent brows. “¿What is this regarding voodoo?”
’Fore Autumn had a chance to respond, they heard ’nother voice from ’side them:
“Odorific party, smarties. ¿We ready to bring out the kegs & babes yet?”
They all swiveled toward the door to see the grinning plump face o’ Thursday O’Beefe. He walked in, his feet taking giant slides forward 1 @ a time; left, right, left, right.
Lance strode toward him, raising a cape-lifting fist.
“¿You dare show your face in my presence after your indefensible betrayal? Why, if I were not so busy, I’d have had you court alfreded for your crimes”.
O’Beefe winked & gave Lance a slow, harmless box to the shoulder.
“O, come on, bro”.
This only reddened Lance’s cheeks.
“¿Do you truly think a simple colloquialism shall sate my wrath?”
Autumn turned halfway to Violet, glad to see Violet’s eyes catch the subtle movement.
Autumn began to mouth, “If you don’t want them to get that—” only for Lance to turn toward her & storm o’er to her.
“Don’t think you can sneak your communistic shibboleths past me”. He put a hand up to his face with the index & middle fingers pointing out, aimed @ his eyes. “¿See this?” He then flipped them back & forth, ’tween pointing @ his & her eyes. “I’ve got my eyes right on you like a hawk”.
Autumn rubbed her glasses with her sleeve.
“I’d thank you not to fog up my glasses”.
“W… W… ¡Why I ne’er!” Lance said as he backed ’way.
“¡Woo! ¡Woo! ¡Fight! ¡Fight!” O’Beefe said as he punched his hand repeatedly.
“I must insist you cease harassing Madame Springer and that all three of you vacate immediately”.
Autumn looked @ Violet with surprise @ the force — e’en if shaky — in her voice. Her furrowed frown & stuff, upright stance matched it.
“¿You dare make demands o’ the mayor?” said Lance. “¿When you hold illegal contraband on your person as we speak?”
“O yeah. That reminds me”, O’Beefe said as he walked toward Violet & Felix.
Felix clutched tightly to Violet, yellow eyes wide in fear, while Violet pulled the Genie out & clutched it to her chest.
“¡S-s-stay b-back!” said Violet. “I will not tolerate this. ¡I have rights and you both shall be impeached for this travesty!”
Autumn wanted to roll her eyes.
Yes, tell them not to do what you don’t want them to do. They can’t get through the impassable walls o’ words.
Sure ’nough, O’Beefe didn’t stop, but continued forward till he clasped Violet’s arms round the Genie. His toothy smile shined @ Violet.
“You’re not gonna make me frisk you, ¿are you?” he said.
But just then Lance shouted, “¡Stop, in the name o’ the law!” ’fore tackling O’Beefe to the ground.
“You won’t beat me, Batman”, O’Beefe said with his grin still intact, & then rolled o’er onto Lance.
While they fought, Autumn walked toward Violet, only to stop when she saw Violet turn to her & say, “Not you, too”.
“Looks like Sir Springer’s trying to sneak out with the gold”, O’Beefe said as he jumped to his feet & headed toward her. Autumn’s eyes locked on him as she slowly backed ’way, hands dug into er pockets.
“I know I’m fetching in this suit; but now’s not the time to be drumming your stick, mate”, O’Beefe said as he waggled a fist.
Autumn smirked. How ironic. Now I know where I recognize his temperament. I s’pose he took the saying, “If you can’t beat them…” to heart.
“¡If you do not vacate this precise period I shall call the police!” shouted Violet.
Lance stepped toward her. “Ha. If those spineless bureaucratic clowns could do anything to me they’d have already locked you criminals & melted down the key to sell as gold”.
O’Beefe turned round ’gain & waggled a finger @ Lance.
“You’re not trying to sneak my Genie ’way while I play with Sir Springer, ¿are you?”
Lance pressed his fists to his hips. “¿You have the gall to not only hold no remorse for your treason, but to e’en feign superiority o’er me?”
Recognizing the opportunity, Autumn sidestepped round Violet. Unluckily, this caused the dope to turn her head back to her, which attracted Lance & O’Beefe’s attention.
“¡Stop, looter!” Lance shouted with a finger held out while both he & O’Beefe charged o’er to her.
Autumn remained standing, but her her legs stretched tight, ready to fling her to the side @ any second. Rather than tackling her, they stopped a foot before her.
“There are no mo’ tricks for you to pull, thief”, said Lance.
“This game we keep playing sure rocks my socks, broseph”, said O’Beefe; “but let’s say we 2 tie her up or something so we can settle this ’tween ourselves”. He turned a smile @ Lance. “¿Eh, Chamsby ol’ chap?”
Lance drummed his fingers together for a second or so.
But ’fore he could answer, they heard yet ’nother voice ’side them & saw climb in through the window a short woman in a white robe, pink slippers, & red-orange avian mask.
Violet stepped backward. “¿A-another one? ¿Wh-who are you?”
“Moussie, I do so apologize for intruding. You need not fear me. The pumpkin patch tells me that you were kind ’nough to hold onto the Script Genie I made for safety”.
Autumn’s eyes widened. She’s lying. As if that ol’ crone could create a device so complicated, so powerful…
“Madame, I shall reply to you the same manner that I have to these 3: no mere individual has the right to hold onto this, and thus the only organization that has the right to keep this is a trustworthy government, such as that of Switzerland, which is where I plan to deliver this…”
“¡You’d dare commit treason gainst your government & hand it ’way to those Marxists!” shouted Lance.
Heloise held her sleeve-covered hands together as if in prayer. “Such a noble gesture, child. Most would rather use such a device for selfish purposes, I’m ’fraid”. Her mask budged upward & side-to-side, clearly surveying Autumn, Lance, & O’Beefe. Then her face returned to Violet. “But you need not worry anymo’: I don’t plan to take it ’way with me; I plan to destroy it”.
Autumn leaned o’er next to Violet & whispered, “I know you don’t trust me; but you shouldn’t trust her, either”.
Heloise stepped toward them, causing Autumn to stiffen ’gain — but this time in preparation gainst Heloise ’stead.
Heloise stopped just before Violet & held a hand on Autumn’s shoulder, infecting her with goose flesh that she tried to hide.
“That’s nice o’ you to help your friend with such advice, Madame Springer — ¿or would you mind me calling you Autumn?”
Autumn remained silent.
Heloise looked back @ Violet, who was still shaking with Felix.
“You needn’t worry ’bout that, though, since I’ll do it right before your eyes”.
Autumn eyed Lance & O’Beefe.
¿Dare I cooperate with them to stop Heloise?
Lance spoke up: “’Scuse me, Madame, but that is government property, & I have not given you permission to so much as touch that device. Heaven forbid what chaos someone like you might cause”.
Heloise looked up @ him & said, “That is most kind o’ you to hold such care for the safety o’ your citizens, Mayor”.
Autumn watched his expression for signs o’ recognition o’ Heloise’s jab. His relaxed frown indicated not.
“But ’cause I know you value property rights so dearly, I must remind you that I was the 1 who made this device — you can check the label on the bottom if you don’t believe me — &, under the rules o’ property that you surely are wary o’, this property is truly mine; & with a fellow as nice as you, I couldn’t dare allow you to break your own sacred philosophical views”.
Lance scowled, but said nothing. Though it didn’t help her, Autumn couldn’t keep from smiling.
Heloise put a hand on Violet’s shoulder. “I’m sorry ’gain for getting you tossed up in all o’ this. I don’t think much is the problem. It’s why I try to stay ’way from people”.
Now was Autumn’s turn to scowl. How pathetic. ¿Is she truly trying pity? As if anyone should care.
“But if you don’t trust me, you can have your friend Autumn stand by the window so I can’t try running off with it”.
“¿& why should I do that?” asked Autumn.
Heloise looked up @ her. “’Cause it’ll benefit both o’ us in the end, my friend”.
Autumn’s brows fell. “Don’t try buttering my toast, crone; it won’t work”.
“All right: I’ll take you on your offer, ol’ witch”.
They all looked @ the window to see Lance standing there with his arms akimbo.
“If you’re not lying ’bout breaking that thing, then go right ’head”, he continued.
Autumn gazed @ him with dilated pupils. Lance’s caught hers.
“Though a socialistic scoundrel like you might not recognize it, there’s an opportunity in every event: this is truth reminding me that power comes not from tools, but the men who use those tools. If — no, ’cause — I am an able man, I don’t need any tool to enact justice”.
They heard a snore & swung their heads like switches to see O’Beefe sitting back gainst a wall with his eyes closed.
“O, come on. That speech wasn’t e’en 5 minutes”. said Lance.
Autumn, meanwhile, steamed as she glared @ Lance.
Still a child. This has been nothing but a game for him this whole time.
¿Wait… How could he? He’s got nothing to lose… He’s got everything… The bastard’s flipped the switch on me.
Violet looked back @ Heloise & said with a heavy sigh, “This is liable to be the most secure route. I fear if I do not bequeath this device to you, I shall be forced to submit to someone else. I only appeal to the humanity to appear to hold in your bosom that you have a thought for your fellow people and keep your word”.
What a fucking tool, thought Autumn.
Violet held her arms open, leaving the Genie open for Heloise to take. However, Heloise stalled to dig into her robe pocket.
I could swipe it now & maybe sneak round ’fore Lance has a chance to grab me — ’specially with that clown O’Beefe down.
¿But should I? I’ve been asshole ’nough already to probably ashame Felix, & probably Edgar & Prozac once word gets to them through Violet. This would require some physical force, which I try to minimize e’en when dealing with utter strangers — e’en those I know are assholes.
Before she could decide, Heloise already unscrewed the bottom half o’ the plastic case & pulled out its green microchips. Though her mind told her, Act. Act, Autumn knew she didn’t have it in her. She merely cringed when she saw & heard Heloise snap the 1st chip — as if she felt the same snap in 1 o’ her ribs.
She made the mistake o’ looking up @ Lance, just out o’ curiosity, & flushed when she saw him smile.
He can see my pained expression. That bloody bastard’s getting his rocks off to my success being obliterated before my eyes.
When Heloise had finished, she swept the pieces into a plastic bag, tossing the cannibalized case to the side. Autumn’s watched it land to an empty side, but then flicked her eyes ’way quickly, deepening her frown & staring down @ the ground. She was mildly surprised to find this not difficult @ all — in fact, it’d be her natural temperament without trying.
But Autumn’s heart stopped when she heard Lance say, “Not so fast”.
He snapped a finger & continued, “Agent Atomic Tangerine: come stomp on this bag”.
Autumn looked up & watched as 1 o’ the tuxedoed men near the front door jerked his head up & stumbled o’er to Heloise. She set the bag down, stepped back, & watched the minion carry out Lance’s orders.
Heloise appeared to bow in Lance’s direction & said, “If it may please you, Mayor, I would recommend you take a few pieces in the bag, just to ensure neither o’ us have ’nough to fix the puzzle”. She turned to Autumn. “You too, Autumn”.
“That’s OK”, Autumn said sullenly.
“I’ll take you on your offer, Madame”, Lance said as he strode forward & scooped a few pieces from the bag into his cloak. Autumn leaned o’er with her head tilted, trying to see inside the bag to see if Lance was taking everything; however, when he stopped & walked ’way, she saw Heloise lift the bag & heard pieces still clatter gainst each other inside.
Lance stopped before his henchmen & pointed @ O’Beefe ’hind him.
“Carry our loyal vizier to the copter”.
While they left, Heloise bowed toward Violet & Felix & said, “Thank you all for your peaceful assistance”. She sighed. “What a sad world we live in, in which such a darling activity as creation can risk creating destruction as well”.
Autumn’s chest tightened. It’s almost as if she had read my mind from earlier — as if she were saying, “A’least some o’ us can create…”
The case still lying on the floor was a heavy pack attached to her mind; she still had to decide whether ’twas good for her or bad.
Autumn slowly revolved till she was facing Violet.
After a second under Autumn’s silence, Violet continued, “Um… I wanted to ask if you were here to protect me from Mayor Chamsby and Vizier O’Beefe, and that if so… um… I wanted to apologize for my hasty judgment”.
’Twas as if a torch had gone off ’hind the bridge o’ Autumn’s nose.
Shit. Don’t react now.
Autumn looked round herself & saw that everyone else was gone.
“¿Autumn? Is everything copacet — ¿What are you doing? Oh… Sorry, ¿are you merely cleansing that? ¿Autumn?”
Autumn leapt out the window & charged down the street @ full speed.
Autumn hobbled through the cobalt city that early morn as if in a hangover, shivering in her unzipped jacket after the warm high o’ her ’scape & trade had evaporated — as every sad ’scuse for a “high” so quickly did.
Good. Let me freeze, she thought, e’en cognizant o’ the counterintuitive reaction her psyche had to discomfort. Still, no ’mount o’ self-inflicted injury could distract her from the implications o’ the past events still haunting her mind; & now she just wanted to hurry home ’fore someone robbed her.
Wouldn’t that be funny. That ol’ hag practically gives me this victory on a pewter fucking platter & my dumbass loses it, anyway. Can imagine the reaction then: “No one to blame but your shabby self, shithead”.
The words continued to swarm her head like fleas: “’Cause it’ll benefit both o’ us in the end, my friend”. ¿Did she know it’d spite me? I can’t see why she’d want to help me.
& then, “I wanted to apologize for my hasty judgment”. That 1 she couldn’t blame on insidious intent: such facades were her eggs & bacon.
A paradox: one obviously wants to be good — & being good means being good to others. Now, ¿what is being good to others? Not only being good to others, but e’en being good to them when they’re bad to you — being better than them. But as noted earlier, one’s goal is to be as good as possible; therefore, one’s being good to others is a disutility to those others, as it robs them o’ their primary goal: being the best.
This ’splains the seemingly incongruity o’ me despising Heloise & Violet mo’ when they acted nicely toward me. In particular, by helping me win, Heloise robbed me o’ the very reason for winning in the 1st place — proving one’s own skills. Violet, meanwhile, robbed me o’ a’least the semblance o’ sacrifice from social punishment, further weakening my “victory” till it’s become the equivalent o’ me hollering for a bottle o’ milk & them handing it to me with a curt, “There, ¿you happy you li’l shit?”
& yet I’m clearly not happy. All that inconvenience for nothing.
“Inconvenience for nothing”… That’s an apt delineation o’ my true mission statement if there e’er was 1.
She stopped halfway up the steps to Dawn’s floor, hand sticking to the railing.
I don’t belong here. I’m not any o’ these people’s friend. For god’s sake, I cringe whenever I hear the word, whenever any o’ them are near me. I belong down in the storm drain — down in the dirt, where one need not worry ’bout how dirty one is, where the grayest o’ the harmless mold fester ’way out o’ everyone’s way.
I belong dead. But my weasel ass won’t muster the guts to do it, & when such luck does strike me, these shitheads drag me back just to whip me e’en mo’.
I should a’least drop off the money. It wouldn’t be safe to keep it with me out here.
She turned the key in the lock & opened it as quietly as possible, only to scowl when she saw Dawn already up, laptop on-table & notebook in-lap.
It’s my own fault: I made her sleep so damn early, ¿remember?
Dawn looked up from her computer & said, “O. Good morn, Autumn”.
Autumn walked past her into the bathroom so she could extract her money from her various hiding spots, & then walked back to the table & dropped it onto it.
“Here. Take this. But make sure you give some o’ it to Violet & Felix”.
“¿For the trip to Switzerland?”
Then Autumn turned & headed for the door.
“¿Where you going?”
Autumn stopped @ the doorknob.
Shit. Hesitation ’gain. You’re getting worse. Should’ve planned mo’.
If I do this, it’ll create the same inconvenience problem, ¿won’t it?
OK. Let’s consider all o’ the consequences completely.
She turned blank-eyed & walked o’er to the couch.
“I need to think ’bout something for a few minutes, & then I can answer you”, said Autumn.
Dawn blinked @ Autumn. “Um… OK. ¿Is something wrong?”
Autumn sat, gazing @ a wall ’way from Dawn.
I must decide. I can rebuild myself with either bricks or twigs.
The question is which is which.
Autumn turned to Dawn. “¿Think I should quit thieving?”
“¿Is that where you got the money?”
“Yes. I sold the Genie case, tricking the clerk into thinking it’s real”. When she saw Dawn’s astonishment, she added, “It’s a long story. Summary: I’m an asshole”.
“¿You broke into Violet’s?” asked Dawn, turning & leaning into Autumn as if watching her talk were a snuff film.
“¿Do either o’ them know?” asked Dawn.
“Yes. It’d be hard to sleep through such an ordeal”.
Dawn kept pestering Autumn ’bout it, & it wasn’t as if Autumn wasn’t already wasting time; so Autumn described the event.
“¿Then why should Violet care? The Genie’s safely destroyed”. Dawn laughed. “I’d think you’d be mo’ mad ’bout only getting this paltry stack” — she pointed her hand @ the ₧ still lying on the table — “when you could’ve gotten mo’ than Chamsby holds”.
I am mad. Thanks for reminding me.
¿Why am I bothering to talk to this ditz?
“¿So is that the true reason you wanted to give some o’ this to Violet?” asked Dawn. “¿To make up for disturbing them last night?”
Dawn laughed ’gain. “No wonder you want to give up thieving: you’ve gotten bad @ it. You’re s’posed to take stuff from people; not give it to them”.
Thank you for scribbling it in my face ’gain.
“So you agree that I should stop”, said Autumn. Though she tried to say it in her usual flat tone, she was sure e’en Dawn had noticed how much Autumn’s eyes had darkened.
“If you want to”, Dawn said with a shrug.
What a stupid fucking answer. That’s what everyone does: the very definition o’ what one should choose is what one wants; elsewise one didn’t truly want it. But unlike you, who apparently just walks round in walls with a dumb smile, I want my wants to be contingent on logic.
She didn’t say that, however. ’Stead she said, “You’ve been easygoing ’bout it, e’en when I robbed the government”.
Dawn laughed ’gain. “I’ve ne’er been the most responsible person in the world. Ask my parents. Hell, ask yourself if you’re constant nagging ’bout my funds as if you were my spouse is any indication”.
You feign irresponsibility to mask your dissatisfaction with doing the chemist’s equivalent o’ Dali painting the same smiley face repeatedly for bird seed.
“I should be glad I kept out o’ those bad crowds that drown kittens in bags & wear too much hair gel”, said Dawn.
“You can’t just base your actions & views on others”, said Autumn.
“¿Why not? You have. Look @ what a softy Edgar & I have made you. & now you’re asking me to tell you if you should quit thieving”.
That’s only ’cause you t… Shit.
Dawn must’ve noticed Autumn’s thousand-kilometer stare, for she laughed & said, “¿What’s wrong? You were the one who told me once that the only difference ’tween you & Lance were that you were born poor & Lance rich”.
“That was meant offensively. It shouldn’t be that way”.
“Well, I’m sorry”.
¿You’re sorry? ¿’Bout reality? ¿What does that accomplish?
“No matter”, Autumn said as she looked ’way. Then she forced herself to say, “Thank you”.
“¿For what? ¿Did I somehow help you figure out whether to quit or not?”
“You helped me figure out that I don’t have to figure it out yet”.
Autumn rose & trudged o’er to he sleeping bag. Then she sat down & carefully slid in, her eyes focused on Edgar for signs o’ disturbance.
“¿You sure you want me to give all o’ this to Violet?” asked Dawn. Autumn looked up to see Dawn counting the stack o’ ₧.
“Give maybe 500 & keep the rest”.
She could already predict the response:
“O, Autumn, I don’t need — ”
“Just as much as I don’t need your help”. Autumn lay down & turn ’way from her. “Let’s see if you’re less hypocritical than I am”.