Book 7, Part II: Beasts wearing the pelts of humans

Artwork By: Shintaro Kago from Super Conductive Brains: Parataxix

An excerpt from Memory Alchemycal
By: Sean Duffield

Anabeila’s footsteps were heavy padded cotton as she slumped through the fabrics of New Maltazaer. Each step floating behind the next, each one soft under foot. Each without being deliberate, instead they were simple and habitual. She was simple and habitual. A child is. 

The light that waded through the thick atmospheric tempering agent was vastly absorbed by the city buildings and little was reflected down to the street, through the algae trees and into Anabeila’s eyes. But still she squinted as she walked, placing distracted hands over twitching brows. 

She tried not to pay too much attention to Olafur as they walked, but his barrage of questions and half assumed answers were difficult to ignore. They weren’t meant to harass or belittle, the only reason she stayed friends with him was because she knew better. She knew that Olafur’s consistent conversation was simple anxiety and today’s… complications in the temple class, had made him very anxious. 

They were friends. Olafur not shutting up was just him expressing his compassion and concern. 

“Everyone is talking about it. Like, no one is not talking about it.” Said Olafur.

“I’m aware.” Spoke Anabeila.

“They’re always talking about you. I think they’re jealous.”

“Jealous of what, my lack of control?”

“Probably. Although they might tease you a bit, kids think that sort of thing is cool. You know, against the grain.”

Aren’t the both of us ‘kids?’ she thought.

“I certainly don’t find the whole process… cool, Olafur. It’s pretty infuriating… And difficult… an—” Anabeila raised her finger to identify the most crucial of points when her vocal constitutor wavered, sending static to leak from her mouth, no words came out, just antenna radiation.

Anabeila flicked at the corresponding ‘minor-chip’ in her throat where normal vocal cords would go. It buzzed but would not re-engage.

Great! She thought. Another thing to make me cool. 

Olafur continued on as if nothing new was happening, as nothing new was happening. This was standard. Every step is uphill, thought Anabeila. She flicked the constituter again and again, a couple more times and it finally kicked back in.

“Olafur!” Her sudden outburst cut the chattering friend off, dismissing in entirety his rant concerning TENGEE radiation.

His expression was slack-jawed and yokalling. He looked to Anabeila. “You have a spiser-bug in your hair.” She yelled.

“What?!” Shivers shimmied up Olafur’s body and sent hair on ends. His cheeks grew flushed, throat hot, chest filled with air. After a moment on tip toes and held breath that had Anabeila leaning into weaponized mouths, Olafur screamed with unbridled passion. 

He jumped, threw the bag from his shoulder and started bouncing while tearing at his dark hair with frantic fingers. Thoughtless behaviours spelled out stuttered letters of panic in the coordinated attack of his head. A sizable madness in the street.

In his distraction, Anabeila began to run. And laugh. As Olafur’s characterized outburst slipped away behind her.

Before he had caught on to the backstabbing trickery, Anabeila had already made it halfway down the street. 

Her deceit was an unwelcome regularity in their friendship and it had Olafur more blushed than the imaginary spiser-bug before. “Hey! Not fair Anabeila! You’re cheating!” Olafur screamed as he recovered the bag that had been thrown down, stumbling over his own feet to gain ground.

They ran as children do through New Maltazaer’s streets. Without care. With little concern for the future and only holding what they could carry. Leaving any weight that grasped at them far behind. 

The pair ran past the Neon Cup, and its patrons smoking silver tips. They passed the terraced views of Bodhi tree forests that stretched through acres of unclaimed nature. Beyond the medium people who never cared to study the faith. Away from the church they ran. 

She ran.

Anabeila ran as far from the church as possible. She placed eons of time between its requirements of her young soul and fragile ego, dropping hints of its tastes in the timeline that streamed behind her. 

Soon, she would be vanilla as she ran and those specks of flavour would pepper someone else’s plans. 

This is where Anabeila felt most herself. In the moment of now. Where she would run past the metaphorical guards and soldiers and drive directly into the future from the present, leaving the slips of the past behind. The only constants that followed her here were the white robes that trailed a childish sunshine, its escapade splashing neighboring windows with gentle bohemia as she ran. 

And the sound of her footsteps bouncing along the thin metals of walkways and polished smiles of passersby.

… and Olafur, of course, yelping like a mad frog in the background of her almost perfect surrealism. 

“Ana! Wait up. At least arrive with me. The kiss is yours! You know it!” He yelled through laboured breaths that clawed angry at his throat. 

But she knew better. That kiss was only hers should she arrive before him at the place amongst the forest, behind the withered sign. 

They rolled back round the city scape and found a thin pathway marked with brittle stones and flattened out soils. It weaved its way amongst the tall sun gathering buildings at each side, behind. But in front, it tethered itself to the forest network. 

Like a fairy leading the way. Anabeilas pace picked up as she dove left onto the scattered trail, maybe one hundred feet long. Her eyes were wide and chest was hard as she bent forward, entering the natural world to which she truly belonged with fervour. 

Olafur’s slipped footsteps scraping the ground as he teetered sideways rounding the corner could be heard in Anabeila’s peripheral ear as she entered the woods. Now at the end of the trail, she knew she had all the time in the world.

She followed the trail through the forest, covered with auburn hands grasping emerald umbrellas above her head. Anabeila puffed along its winding surface lined with roots and cuts and rocks covered in bat fur moss. She huffed through its hugged curvatures that swindled the skirts of great Bodhi trees into lifting their ankles and making room for beings of lesser ages and shorter thoughts. 

She trudged on. The physical conditioning of the martial arts they were forced to learn daily kept her muscles lean and her heart beat strong. She was a machine as she ran the forest green. Olafur disappeared further behind her, his physical training lagging way behind her own. 

At the critical juncture where the trail line split in twain, where the path could not choose its way and attempted to find the shortcuts both left and right ways, she continued straight into the woods, jumping first a couple meters over the leafy ground plants to ensure the path that they had made stayed hid amongst the brush. She landed and continued on. Through shadows and muck, under logs, over bugs and guts, to where, in the centre of her path it stood. It’s hard fused wooden signage wearing in the weather of its woods. 

A pole, or post and simple rectangular sign stood amongst the forest in her view. It was withered, it’s letters hardly understood. Its uses long abandoned. A city name, maybe. Camorre. It didn’t matter. It was simply the marker to their hidden fort.

Anabeila slowed and stopped beside the sign. The entrance to their fort just to the right. An empty cave with nothing inside.

They had checked its inner reaches the first time they arrived and found no animals were nesting in it, so the children did themselves. Now this was their home away from home. 

Anabeila caught her breath at its entrance and waited for Olafur. His footsteps finally tumbling down the trail as her breath smoothed into laminar flow. She stood up as he entered the final clearing.

“Last again Olafur.” She sneered.

“As usual, you cheated to win.” Olafur replied.

“I don’t think there are any ground rules. Even if it induces sore losers.”

“Not sore. Just don’t know when I’ll have my own first kiss at this rate.” 

It was a childish thing and Anabeila knew it. Of course she would let poor Olafur have his first kisses with whoever he desired. She would never keep them from him for herself, but it was fun to tease him. To remind him that even though they were only friends and always partners, he still belonged to her in a special way. Somewhere in each other’s hearts. Besides, she didn’t want the thousand kisses he now owed at this point, anyway. When it came up, she would claim she was too young to remember how many there were anyhow.

“You’ll never get it for yourself, it seems.” Anabeila looked away sly while she spoke it. “Come. I want to sit and wash away the stink of church.”

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