3 ~ Two Forward, One Back

Posted: July 12, 2015 in Entropis

It’s always easier to leave than it is to go back. It’s easy to take something for granted when you’re not used to losing things. Kia had offered her a place to stay, somewhere she could sleep while she found a new flat. Somewhere she could practice. But right now, those weren’t what she needed.

She’d kept the key just in case, jingling unused on her key ring, a silent reminder that no matter what happened, she’d always be able to come back. It slid back inside the lock, the quiet click of metal teeth so much louder in the night. She had to be careful, it was almost 3:30am. If anyone inside heard her coming in they’d freak out, thinking they were being robbed or something. The last thing she wanted to do was make a fuss. She’d had enough fuss for one night.

 

“You have to understand, you’re kinda of two worlds now. You’ve never seen the other before because nobody can unless they’re a part of it. But now you are, you’re gonna have to get used to ignoring stuff. Seeing past stuff. To you and me, we’re wearing these fancy colourful dresses permanently. To everyone else, we’re wearing the clothes underneath. So make sure you wear stuff anyway, right? Don’t go ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ on people, yeah?”

“How am I supposed see through my own clothes?”

“Sounds weird but you can. You have to learn to look only at one side of things. Considering you’ve only been able to see one side all your life, it’s easier to pick up than you might expect. You have to start thinking like that though, two worlds in one. It won’t just be clothes, soon enough you’ll see plenty of stuff you’ve never seen before.”

 

Kia’s words still echoed in her mind, sorting the new information she’d been taught. Trying to process it. She hadn’t signed up for this. She didn’t ask for crazy magical outfits or vision or whatever. She’d always looked for the special and interesting in life, and Jacob and his love of fire certainly hadn’t been the first, but the things she’d seen tonight weren’t special, they were horrific. Normally, if she’d had a bad day she’d go to Jake, talk to him about it. Let it all out. Who could she talk to about this? She barely knew Kia, and she was so… dismissive. Like the teachers she’d hated back at school, who made it clear they thought she’d never amount to anything. Like the bosses at the places she’d worked for a month before getting fired the day before her trial period ended. Kia had that same tired look in her eyes, like it almost wasn’t worth her time.

The hallway was almost blindingly dark, but she knew her way by feel. Her fingers closed around the handle to the living room, turning it slowly, inching the door open. Did it still creak, like it used to? Would those old hinges give her away? Yes. The tiny creak sounded more like a shriek in the pitch blackness, and she froze, door half open, listening for any movement.

“That you Ben? Did I wake you?”

She bit her lip to contain her surprise. The voice hadn’t come from upstairs, it’d come from inside the living room. She peered hesitantly around the door.

“Mum?”

Through the darkness of the living room was the glow of a side table lamp, a smile-creased face lit up by a tablet propped on knees. Small, round reading glasses were reflected white by the tablet, framed by shoulder length brown hair, black in the darkness. They stared at each other through the gloom, and she watched her mother’s expression for how she’d react. Angry at her being away for so long? Barely calling or visiting or anything. Would she be cold, indifferent? Would she shout? She’d wondered about it the entire way over.

 

“Little Lion! You’re back!”

Somehow, being angry would’ve been better. Her mother set down the tablet, getting up to hug her. Why was she still using that damn nickname? When she’d been younger, four or something like that, she’d decided what she wanted to be when she grew up wasn’t a nurse, teacher, princess or any other imaginary future the little girls of her age had wanted to be. She wanted to be a lion. Any objections to the tune of ‘you can’t be a lion, lions are animals’ hadn’t deterred her. She had dressed up as a lion, she had acted like a lion, even roared like one. Her parents had decided it was the most adorable thing, and even though she’d grown out of it a year after, her place as her mother’s ‘Little Lion’ had stuck. The fact that her younger self had chosen to be a male lion was all the more embarrassing. In the much hated family photo album, she always thought she’d looked more like an over-zealous sunflower than a lion.

In her defence, she did feel she had chosen the animal well. It’s not like she’d chosen a tortoise or something. Lions were majestic and fierce. They were territorial and seen as the kings of beasts.  But after having lived with her boyfriend for a year, been a responsible (well, somewhat) adult with a job (briefly) the last thing she’d wanted was to come home straight back to ‘Little Lion’.

“Do you have to have to keep calling me that? I’m a little old now, don’t you think?”

Her mother’s arms encircled her, and despite her bristling response to her nickname, she felt her need for comfort and familiarity over-ride her, and she gently returned the hug.

“Oh you’ll always be my little lion!” She felt her squeeze, “I’m so glad you came back, we’ve all missed you.”

Just here, in this moment, the horrors of the day seemed to dissolve. It all started to feel like a dream again, some terrible nightmare that had felt all too real. She clung to her mother, feeling her warmth. This was safety. This was comfort. Who cared about the stupid nickname? She needed this. After everything that had happened, after everything she’d lost, it felt so good to be reunited. To know she really was alive.

“Hey, hey are you alright baby? You’re— oh, no, come on don’t cry, what’s all this huh? What’s happened? I should’ve known something had happened, now come on, sit down…”

 

“Don’t tell anybody. It’ll be tempting, hell it’ll be hard not to, but trust me, you don’t want to. It’s a really quick way of alienating yourself. People don’t like what they don’t understand. And we barely understand ourselves, so nobody else is gonna get it.”

“But there’s physical proof, I can change stuff, you can crush stuff… they’ll believe us if we—”

“If you start turning lead into gold all it’s gonna bring you is trouble. How long is that secret gonna stay secret? How long are they gonna keep looking at you as a daughter or friend and not as someone who might turn them to gold, if they crossed you? Or, worse still, as neo-Jesus or something.”        

“But how can you explain what you’re doing? You said those Schism things, there’d be more of them, what if one happens when, like, you’re at work?”

“You lie.”

 

“We… we had a fight. I can’t go back, too much has…” She swallowed a sob, “Too much has changed.”

They were sat on the sofa together, her mother’s hand resting on her back. The blank screen of the television reflected them in the lamp’s glow. She looked beaten, even in her fancy invisible dress. It didn’t hide the haunted look in her eyes.

“Well weren’t you renting somewhere? Can’t you just go back there?”

She shook her head,

“It was his place. I lived there with him.”

“Oh, I didn’t realise… you, you lived with a boyfriend all this time?”

Certain tones had their way of insinuating. They got under the skin.

“What do you mean by that? You knew Jake, you met him the year before last. I brought him to the barbeque.”

“I don’t think so, I don’t remember that…” her mother shook her head, “I thought you’d been living alone all this time!”

“No, how could I—” She turned to face her mother, “No, I told you I was moving in with him! You were so mad about it!”

“Well yes, I would’ve been. It’s one thing moving out but moving in with some boyfriend, that’s…”

“That’s what?”

They eyed each other, familiar tension in the air. That gunpowder moment when the wrong word in the wrong place would ignite yet another row. Spit and barbed words would fly, meanings twisted, feelings burnt. Mother knows best. Minutes into being back and she was already reminded why she left.

“Oh, come on,” Her mother patted her back, looking away, “Let’s not fight already, eh?” she smiled, “I’m glad you’re back, you don’t need to worry about finding another place for now, stay and catch your breath.”

Just like that, it was diffused. That was new. Did leaving really make her mother finally realise that she wasn’t a kid anymore? She’d believe it when she saw it.

“You don’t mind? I don’t have—”

“Of course not! There’s some stuff in your room so we’ll have to move it out, but it shouldn’t take long. We’ll have to wait until morning, though, don’t want to wake the boys up.” She paused, and reached out to take her hand, “I’m just glad you’re back… sometimes I’d think of you out there and wonder what I’d do if anything happened to you… I got so worried. Your dad would tell me, ‘She’ll be alright, she’s our little lion’, but it’s, it’s not that simple… anything can happen out there, and I know he worried too, it’s just…”

“Aw, come on mum, don’t cry, I’m alright! I was always alright!”

Her mother blinked away the tears, forcing a smile through them, avoiding her eyes and squinting in the gloom, “I just kept wondering, you’re only eighteen, and I know that seems old to you but, I kept thinking one day I’d get some call from the police… only for, for them to tell me about some accident, a house fire or, oh I don’t know…”

 

“Why you? You think you were picked or something? Like you’re some hero picked by magical entities to save the world or something?”

“Well, well no, I mean—”

“I wish! I got no idea why we’re picked, not really. Maddy, she had this theory that it was emotion. I mean, Schisms too. That emotion is powerful stuff, you know, the Power Of Love and all that crap in kids cartoons? She figured it was real, because Schisms all pop up in places where there’s loads of really strong emotions. Prisons, night clubs, hospitals, places that people feel really intense stuff, right? And, there’s always a Schism when there’s a new one of us, and it makes sense, you know? I mean, when you died, I bet it was really damn horrible, right? I bet you were terrified, yeah?”

“I… I haven’t really thought about it, I…”

“Yeah, I bet you don’t want to. Point is, when survival comes into play, you’re gonna feel a hell of a lot more than normal, maybe than ever before, because your body kicks into overdrive to try to survive, right?”

“Yeah, yeah that… that makes sense…”

“If you feel so damn much that you cause a Schism all on your own… well, I dunno, Maddy was pretty nuts, so she can’t have been right about everything. Personally, I don’t want to believe we’re born from Schisms.”

“But, we can’t be, I mean, we destroy them! How can we be part of something we destroy?”

“Hey I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know that we’re supposed to destroy them. But I do know that I don’t want bits of London disappearing out of reality, so I don’t really feel like I’ve got a choice. If I were you, I’d get used to that.”

 

 

“Mum why are you up at this time of night? It’s like, four a.m. now. You’re hiding down here in the dark like you’re worried someone might find you.”

Her mother ran a hand through her hair, tilting her head back to follow it, a long sigh trailing after her. “I don’t sleep so well these days, I don’t know why. But tossing and turning all night wakes Malcom up so I come down here and read. Or,” she gestured at the tablet, “Mess about on the internet. I’ve normally fallen asleep on the sofa by now, but I guess it was lucky I didn’t, hm!”

“Yeah, I, I guess so.”

“Ben’ll be glad you’re back.”

“Ben? Pft, I doubt it.” The comment earned her a light slap on the arm.

“Don’t be mean! He’s missed you! You should’ve seen him the first few weeks after you left!”

“What, he stopped leaving his room even for meals? I’d be surprised if he even noticed I was gone.”

Her mother rolled her eyes and flopped back onto the sofa. She looked tired. Ground down.

“You don’t mean that.”

No, she supposed she didn’t. Ben was three years younger, shy and nerdy. She’d never tried to get along with him, and he’d kept mostly to himself, but they’d had a good time together when they’d been small. He’d always been quiet, but it was only after he’d entered secondary school that he’d retreated to his room and computer. She used to take jabs at him when she saw him, little jibes about how much of a loner he’d become, how he may as well marry his damn computer for all the time he spends with it, and so on. She’d thought he’d come back at her, get angry, something, anything, but he just became more reclusive. For some reason, that only made her want to tease him more.

It was funny how you could grow apart from someone without realising. She hadn’t cared much about him when she left, but she hadn’t cared much about her parents either. Yet here she was, still feeling guilty that her mother had been as worried as she had been. At the time, she hadn’t even considered them, or their feelings. She’d just wanted to get out. Maybe Ben had missed her? Maybe she just hadn’t cared enough at the time to notice.

 

“It’s simpler than you think, it all boils down to three things. Change, Consolidation, and Decay. If you think about it, everything works off these principles, in that order. Something has to come to be, right? That’s change, a seed grows, or a baby or anything living changes from one state to another. Then it reaches its peak, grows into a tree or an adult or whatever, it’s consolidated. Solid, see that in the middle? It’s the purest form. The strongest, best it can be. Then comes decay, where it breaks down from that form again. But, like, a tree makes seeds, then when it’s dead it becomes food for animals and stuff. Then they poop, it fertilises the ground, and the next tree grows from it.”

“The circle of life, you’re seriously telling me our powers are based on the Lion King?”

“No, no it’s not just natural stuff. It’s everything! Once you notice you see it everywhere. Like uh, like say the tree is made into a table! No, better, let’s say you’re making a metal table. The metal is in the ground, gets dug up by us and in order to make it into something new we need to put it through the cycle! We melt it down, right, that’s decay from the previous solid state it was in. Then, once melted, it’s in a state of change, and we mould it into the parts for the table. Each part becomes consolidated, fully formed, but even then it’s not a table! On top of that cycle, there’s the cycle of each part going from multiple bits into one solid form, the table itself. As the metal parts rust or weaken over time, both the parts and the form of the table itself have decayed.”

“So, you’re saying these three elements create a cycle of everything?”

“Right. You’re change. I’m decay. Maddy was solid. Heh, I mean that as like, the element, but she was a pretty solid girl, too.”

“What uh… what happened to—”

“Each of the elements has a special name. Like, I can’t explain it, it just feels correct. Sticks in your head, gels well with it.”

“You mentioned your one… it was uh… En… Encrop—”

“Entropis. En-Trop-Piss. Like that.”

“And the others?”

“The solid one is Immallea. Yours is Metasis.”

“I thought you said it was simple?”

 

The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Turning it over while her mother talked let her put it in perspective. Hadn’t her relationship with her family gone the exact same way? Grown together, then she’d hit her teens, become more of the person she was supposed to become, and then they’d fallen out as time went on. It eventually decayed to the point where she’d left. Now, she’d come back, and things had changed, a little at least. Her mother was treating her a little more like an adult, maybe she could mend things with Ben, maybe she’d get along with her family again. For something stronger to grow, it had to collapse. Metasis, Immallea, Entropis. A triangular cycle.

And she was change. She was transformation. She’d felt it in that Schism Heart, the boundless anything, infinite potential. Wasn’t that what she’d always wanted? Hadn’t she always felt that potential inside herself? She’d always dreamt of doing art, never quite knowing exactly how she might do the art, but it had been that act of creation, of changing one thing into another that had excited her. Jake had understood, and she’d been envious that he’d found his way of expressing it, regardless of how dangerous a way it was. Each way she’d tried – drawing or painting or, hell she even tried pottery – all failed to quite inspire her as a medium of art. She couldn’t ever settle on what she wanted to make, or how to make it, and soon found herself sitting amongst other directionless peers while those who knew their calling streamed ahead. Made something of themselves. She did to them what she’d done to her parents, who’d kept asking exactly what she wanted to do. She left them all to their neat little planned out lives.

“Mm, well, I think we should both get some sleep, don’t you?” Her mother stretched, arching her back and twisting her neck, “At the very least, we should lie down. You’re probably shattered, after all this today, huh?”

“I am a bit, yeah…”

“Well, I’ll let you get some sleep.” Her mother stood, and smiled down at her. She paused for a moment, losing the smile, but it quickly returned. “I’m so glad you’ve come back, I promise, we’ll sort your room out tomorrow.”

“It’s fine, really.” She smiled back, “I’ll be fine. Just get some sleep, mum, yeah? I’ll see you in a few hours.

Her mother nodded, moving to the door, but didn’t quite leave. She hesitated, biting her lip for a moment before saying,

“Listen I, I don’t want this to end up in a row, baby but… If you’ve come home, does that mean you might think about going to university, too?”

“I don’t know yet. I, I haven’t had time to think about it, you know? Mum I only just got back tonight.”

“Oh you’re right…” She shook her head, “I just thought I’d ask, that’s all.”

She lay back on the sofa as she listened to her mother pad quietly up the creaking stairs. Why would she go to university just to get told what to do and how to create, when now she had the power to create anything? The world was her canvas, she could change anything to be just how she wanted it. She’d have to think of a cover story soon, but like hell she would go to university. She needed time to practice with these powers, like Kia said, and then she’d be able to take on anything.

 

“You’ll wanna practice pretty soon, you never know when another one might pop up.”

“Can’t you teach me?”

“No. I’ve already taught you what I can, actually using your powers is way outta my ability to teach. Your element is completely different to mine, for a start. It’s not a question of teaching, you gotta find your own way of working it. Practice makes perfect, right?”

“But I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Yeah you do. You do what you already did. Change one thing into another. When that gets easy start thinking of more ways you might be able to change things. Generally, it seems like it’s down to focus.”

“How can I focus? Like, with meditation and stuff? My mum does that, sometimes.”

“I dunno! If you want, I guess. I’ve not done it. But, you’re not going to wanna meditate every time you want to use your powers though. Better practice without it so you can use it when things get dangerous. Think of it like a martial art, right? The more you do it, the more likely you can use it when you really need to.”

 

~☆~

The salt shaker refused to change properly. Transmuting one thing into another took a lot more concentration than she’d realised, and picturing it as something entirely different was hard. Focus, Kia had said, was the key, but focus was the hardest part of all. Her mind jumped from one thing to another, refusing to clearly picture this china salt shaker as anything other than what it was.

Her mind told her she was tired, and she had to agree, but when she had laid down on the sofa images of the Schism came flooding in. Pictures of the man in the fridge, gradually absorbed while still alive. The TV, composed of… she didn’t even know. She didn’t want to know. Jake, encased in burning ice. It was so easy for all this to feel fantastic when it was surrounded by reality, but the Schism stuck in her mind as a reminder of how close to chaos it really was. She’d been imbued with the power to break the rules, and for the first time in her life, it’d given her an appreciation of how important the rules really were. Such a sobering thought had driven her back up, and into practice.

“If powerful emotion causes Schisms, then wouldn’t most people who’ve died in accidents have become magical too?”

The shaker became patchy, her attempts to mould it into steel only taking root in parts, the white china washing seamlessly into metal and back to china again. She tried to force her mind back on track, to envisage a fully metal shaker, sleek and shiny and cold to the touch.

“There just aren’t that many people who feel emotion quite as powerfully as they’d need to. Not to mention, we all keep it under wraps…”

The damn thing turned half into copper as her mind wandered, and she forced it back to steel, but the copper was weak, and bent slightly as she held it. Even as her powers turned it back to steel, an easier feat than china, the kink where it had bent remained. Damn it, why couldn’t it just work!

“…We force our feelings down so we don’t show them to the wrong people, so we can keep calm under pressure…”

She tried turning it back to copper. Maybe she could bend it back into shape. Why would the thickness change? She’d been focussing on keeping it the same shape as it had been when it was china, why would the copper be thinner than the other parts? Surely it’d just transform into thicker copper?

“…Ain’t nothin’ more pressuring than dying. Not everybody runs off emotional fuel in an emergency.”

If she could only keep her mind on track… the copper bent back, but the crease was still visible. She’d fixed her leg, damn it! She’d fixed flesh and bone like it was nothing and now she couldn’t turn a damn salt shaker from one material to another! What the hell was wrong with her?

“But even if they did, you’re not going to be overcome with feelings of love and happiness while you’re dying, are you? I wasn’t! God I was… I was, oh God I was fucking terrified I…”

Why was this so difficult!? It had been so much easier in the Schism!

“Everything always goes on about the power of love, but nobody ever considers the power of fear…”

The shaker crumpled under her attempts to force it back to its original shape, a tiny hole tearing in the side.

“…Of hate…”

She tried to patch it back together, to flow two materials into one, but they became garbled, her focus on the hole rather than the material making them fluctuate into random substances.

“…Of desperation…”

She lashed out at it in frustration, her desire for it to be something, or anything, gone in an instant. Why would the damn thing not do what it was supposed to!? She crushed it under her fist, feeling the metal, porcelain, and copper fragments dissolve, crumbling down as she forced it.

“…Who’s to say those aren’t as powerful as love?”

She breathed slowly for a moment, closing her eyes. She was tired. She was so damn tired. She couldn’t do this now. She’d been stupid to try. Under her hand was just dust, a small pile like she’d swept it up, tiny fragments of shining metal and white chips all that remained of what had once been there. Urgh, how was she going to explain this?

 

She leant back in her chair and stared out of the windows looking out into the street. Wasn’t this the time, in the stories, where she looks up at the moon and gains hope? Wasn’t it meant to shine down, bathe her in ghostly light while she ponders her new life? Reflecting the sun while she reflects on herself? The sky was overcast, the moon vanished along with the sun. There was no light to see the way ahead. She had to rely on herself now. Even when she’d left home, left the guiding hand of her parents and the Accepted Way of university and a steady job, she’d still relied on the older, more experienced Jake to pave the way for her. Now there was Kia, but Kia didn’t seem all that interested in the job. She’d have to work much of this out for herself. Of all the reality warping madness, of all the new worlds and super powers and murderous televisions, it was independence which scared her most. And now, for the first time, it didn’t look like she could just leave it behind.

She wished she could see the moon. Not just for its light, but because, when you really looked at it, it was truly beautiful. The way it shifted through its cycle, a little more each day blackened by the Earth’s shadow. But it always came out again. It changed, it adapted, and it emerged once more. A new moon.

That was what she needed to become. A new person. Someone who could deal with all of this, who could change and adapt no matter how dark it got, and come out the other side again. Maybe, eventually, just like the moon, she would be beautiful too. She’d be someone who really was worthy of these incredible abilities. But how did you create a new self? How do you become a new person? What’s the first step?

She needed a name. That was what all those super heroes in the movies did, right? They put on a mask and gave themselves a new name and suddenly mild mannered Norma Normalson was a fearless crusader for justice. She’d never liked those movies much, but maybe a name might help her start feeling a little more like someone who could do the things she was supposed to do? Maybe she’d be able to become something better than herself, if she stopped thinking of her as herself. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?

‘Well moon, you’re some fine inspiration’ She thought, ‘But I can hardly go around as Moon Girl.’

Or could she? What did it matter, nobody was going to know it. It could be an awful name, so long as it did the job. She didn’t need to tell anyone, and Kia sure wasn’t going to ask. What name could she have that might really capture the essence of the moon? And, maybe add something powerful, like a soldier or, or maybe navy would suit it better, given how fluid reality seemed to be. Yeah, that’d be cool. So, maybe… Sailor… Sailor… Luna? Sailor Luna? No that didn’t sound quite right…

‘Forget it, I need something more descriptive than that anyway…’

It was at 5:44a.m. that she finally thought of it. A name that, in her tired, near delirious state, she decided fit perfectly.

‘The Silver Beam of Luna Light!’

‘I am ever changing, of myself and of all I touch!’    

‘I am unstoppable! I reflect the light of the most powerful elements known to the universe!’

She smiled as she drifted off to sleep. God it was cheesy. Good thing nobody was ever going to know it. She’d be chaos moon crusader to her, and her alone.

END OF CHAPTER THREE

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Read Chapter 4 – Heroic Expectations

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