6 ~ Life After Death

Posted: August 23, 2015 in Entropis

“Are you kidding me? This is the best, man! I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited!”

“I’m just saying, it’s still dangerous.” Iris kept her voice down, ducking her head across the aisle of the train, “Even aside from falling out of the building, the other people in there… it could’ve gone bad. Really bad.”

“Yeah but it didn’t! You fixed it in time!” Euphie grinned, “Come on, you gotta admit! Saving the day, stopping Schisms, it’s a rush! You can’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it.”

Iris looked away, staring down the carriage of the tube train. It turned a corner, and the long snake of connecting carriages followed one by one. There were no doors between them, and the view all the way down gradually closed itself off.

“Just because we—”

“Aaahhh! I knew iiittt!” Euphie laughed, “You can change the subject to hide it, but ya don’t fool me! I saw your face after we got out! You were psyched, man!”

“Keep it down, would you?” Iris didn’t meet her eye, “Anyone might hear you…”

“Pfft! There’s hardly anyone here, and even then, so what? It’s like, nearly midnight, they’ll think we’re drunk or something! Chill, man! Just admit you really do like being a hero after all!”

Silver watched and listened, sitting silently next to them, the clacking of rails between stations giving a rhythm to it all. Little things sounded louder, the background noise that she normally wouldn’t even notice cutting into everything else. The rustling of a newspaper being opened, the hiss of the doors, the beeping alarms, and the underlying, constant chakachak, chakachak, chakachak of the train tracks dragged her attention away. She couldn’t focus on anything. The noises, the play of light through the windows, even the vibrations of the whole juddering train running through her, it was as if the world itself was saying Look. Look at me. Look at each detail, each precise, tiny bit that your senses tell you. At any moment that could collapse. It could be gone. It could all well up into some great big Schism and those little things you’re seeing, feeling, hearing, all that would never have existed.
Look, it was saying, while you still can.

“Right, Silver?”

“Huh? What? Sorry I was, uh, what did you say?”

“We were saying how great this whole powers schtick is!” Euphie grinned, “I mean, you especially must be loving it!”

“She was saying how great it is…” Iris chipped in, but Euphie ignored her.

“I mean, come on man! You can change stuff into other stuff! I’m jealous!”

“I don’t…” Silver shrugged, “Why?”

“Are you kidding!?” Euphie threw back her head in disbelief, “Why? Man, you can literally turn lead into gold! Like, not even lead, like, you could turn this whole train into gold! You could be rich as shit!

Even Iris made a face of agreement,

“She has a point.”

“You could turn shit into gold!” Euphie continued, “You could be rich from shit! You could poop gold!”

Iris’ face stopped looking agreeable,

“That’s disgusting.”

“But so cool!”

Silver ran her fingers over her necklace, the rings sliding against each other, “It’s not that easy. It’s easier in a Schism, but… I don’t know…”

“You don’t know? What’s not to know? I wish I could do that! With my powers my best bet is robbing a bank. I could, like, melt the vault doors and stuff. Man, can you imagine…”

“You’re not serious.” Iris glared at her, “You can’t go from ‘We’re all heroes isn’t it great’ to ‘Let’s rob a bank’ in less than five minutes!”

Euphie paused, her mouth slightly open for a moment as realisation seemed to dawn on her,

“Ohh man! Ohhh maaan! I’m the anti-hero! What a twist! Jeez, Iris, I thought for sure it’d be you!”

Silver couldn’t help but smile. Despite the danger, the destruction caused by these Schisms, without them she would never have met either of these strange girls. They sat opposite each other, their softly glowing dresses stark against the darkness through the windows behind them. They were so different, Euphie’s energy and force of personality almost contagious, her loud voice dwarfing everything else in the carriage, while Iris’ soft voice was penetrative in its calculation. She was gracefully smart, somehow, Silver thought. The kind of smart that’s too busy analyzing everything to care what you think. Yet it’d been her that worried most about the people in the Schism. She liked them both, in their own ways. Even here their body language was opposite, Euphie laying back into her seat with her arms spread apart across the backs, while Iris hunched forward, elbows on her knees, chin on her hands.

“Silver’s right, though. It isn’t easy outside of Schisms. I don’t know if it’s raw power or what, but something in there makes it easier to affect things.” Iris glanced at Silver, “At least you both have more visible powers. Mine seems to be subtle. Fixing broken things and stuff. Not something I can practice so easily…”

“What’re you talking about? Kia said it was like, solid and stuff, right?” Euphie’s blonde curls flopped into her face as the train juddered, “So you could freeze water, and like, anything I blow apart you can put back together!” she laughed, brushing her hair back, “So I don’t even need to worry about what I break! Perfect!”

“It’s not that simple. It’s about more than just solidifying things. I learnt that tonight, in the police station. It’s about bringing whatever it is to the best it can be. In the case of raw material that could well be more solid, but with anything else, it’s just… well, refining it. Refining it until it can’t get any better.”

Euphie shrugged, “That’s not what Kia said.”

“Well maybe Kia isn’t right about everything.”

They’d gone back to Kia’s apartment after the Schism, the luxurious flat seeming scarcely lived in, with much of the space turned into some sort of training area. She taught the others what she’d taught Silver the night before. Three nights ago to the rest of the world, she reminded herself. She’d listened to the same explanations over again, trying to glean more understanding this time, but it had been Iris who had understood the most. Yet, it had also been Iris who’d questioned the most.

“So much of this just doesn’t mesh, it doesn’t apply to the world.” Iris frowned, “I mean, these don’t even seem like forces of nature. They’re at once both too vague and too specific. I can’t work out how it all fits together.”

“It seemed to make sense to me.” Silver watched a station flash by through the window, “I mean, if you think about it, everything does go through that cycle.”

“To an extent yes, but the things you can do, Silver… you especially, they don’t make sense with… with everything we know! I mean, you turned wood into metal. That’s not just rearranging molecules! That’s fundamentally changing molecules from one type into another! That’s not just transmutation, that’s outright transformation!”

“Hey, heey, come on!” Euphie grinned from across the aisle, “You’re thinking too hard! This isn’t science, man! This is magic! Crazy awesome magic! You need to stop trying to explain it and start learning to use it!”

“If these forces are behind everything, if they really are the elements that make up the world like Kia claims them to be, then science is fundamentally wrong about a lot of things… you can’t expect me to just believe that on her say so.”

“I’m a bit confused as to how giant horrible Schisms of collapsing reality aren’t like, serious evidence.” Euphie sat up, “I mean, if that don’t convince you I don’t see what will.”

Silver nodded, “Even if it’s hard to believe from everything you’ve been taught, which, I mean, sounds like it’s a lot… well, we still have to fight them. We still need to stop them. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise there won’t be much left for science to analyse!” Euphie finished. She grinned like it was a joke.

Iris glared at the ground.

“Whatever.” She muttered, “Magic is science for the ignorant.”

“Well, whatever yourself!” Euphie stood up, swishing her purple, magical dress at Iris, “While you’re off with goggles and test tubes, me and Silver are gonna be changing poop into gold and living the high life! Kia didn’t get that posh flat by working as a barmaid man, she went and magicked herself some cash! I dunno about you, but with this kinda power I don’t see you going out and getting a real job!”

Iris’ head jerked up at her, her face twisted into a grimace, spitting her words,

“Maybe I want to! Why are you so damn keen to throw your life away? I’m in university, trying to do a degree and now Kia tells us these Schisms take away days every time you go into one! Do you know how hard I worked to get all the As I needed? And I did better, I got two A stars! I had a plan, I had a life, and now… and now…” she gestured at her magical dress, “This! This happens and I’m supposed to just drop everything?”

she ducked her head, hands clawing the air around it, as if trying to slowly tear away a migraine,

“How much is all this going to take from me? My mum’s back in Reading, calling me every day to find out why I’m not taking her calls, and I don’t know what to tell her! ‘Oh, sorry mum, I’m suddenly imbued with magical powers and this stupid dress only I can see but can’t take off! Oh, and yeah, I’m missing classes because I’m having to fix parts of reality that’re collapsing and I’ve nearly… I’ve nearly died in them!”

her face started to crumple and she looked away,

“But don’t worry mum! I’m fine!

She swallowed and took a deep breath, clenching her jaw tight.
There was a moment of silence as Silver sat there, stunned. Euphie looked shocked too, but quickly hid it, looking out the window as she searched for a reply.

“We’re not all as gifted and talented as you.” she said, her voice dry, “So you’ve got some great life, some great future. That’s great man. Sorry if these magical powers just, like, get in your way.”

Euphie turned her back, grabbing the bar over her head and staring out at the black night outside, or her reflection,

“Guess you’ve just got that much less shit to transform then, huh? Must be real nice to have that leg up, but we don’t all get that, you know?”

“You don’t get it.” Iris murmured, “You’re not even listening.”

“Aw, or maybe you don’t get it!” Euphie wheeled around again, “Maybe you forgot the part where we would’ve died if we didn’t get these powers! Maybe you might wanna remember how the alternative is your mum burying you in the fucking ground, and somebody else gettin’ your damn uni course!”

Euphie curled her lip,

“This is our second chance. Who gets that, huh? Some of us get to make mistakes right again, but shit, it sounds like you never made any! Well soh-ry! Nobody’s making you come with us when we go to beat Schisms! In future, just ignore ‘em! Do your uni course! Have your perfect little life! Who cares!”

“I can’t do that…” Iris muttered.

“Yeah ya can! You just learn to ignore the dress for the rest of your life, see past it, whatever. Then you can just be Iris McNormal and forget about Schisms completely!”

Iris shook her head, her voice quiet,

“No, I can’t.”

Euphie put her hands on her hips, glaring down at her like a furious teacher,

“Why not? We don’t need you! We don’t need some downer whining about everything she’s lost all the time!”

Iris sneered back,

“It’s not about you. Not everything is, you know that? It’s about everyone else. Everyone back in that Schism, in the police station, they were real people, with families and children and lives and dreams, just like me. I can’t leave them.” she shook her head, “I’m studying to become a doctor. A surgeon, hopefully. Do you know how few women there are in surgery?”

she sighed, raking a hand through her thick black hair,

“It’s stupid because I’m the one who wanted to save people. Now I’ve got magical powers and the job of saving people from being sucked out of reality, and I can’t take it.” She looked up at Euphie, “I can’t take the… the hopelessness of it all. Kia said there’s no way to get people out of Schisms once they’re in. We shut that one down, and even the people who were left in the room with us when it ended, they were gone.” She looked away again, taking in a long, stuttering breath, “How can you just… just accept that? If I don’t fight… if I just give up, try to ignore it, then those Schisms are just going to keep growing, sucking in more people, destroying more places. I can’t just… let them die…”

Silver stared at them both. She wished she had something to say, something to add, a eureka moment that’d inspire both of them. She’d always had this curse, where in the moment she needed it most her mind would go blank, and only hours later would she think of the right thing to say. Now she was paralysed, her brain too busy processing everything to be able to think of what to do. Neither of them were wrong, exactly, but at the same time she didn’t want to take a side even if they were. It was like watching her parents argue. She was just forced to watch, tongue-bound and helpless but to wait for it to end.
Euphie sat down, one leg up on the seat with an arm resting on her knee. Both of them looked exhausted. The train clattered into a station and the doors opened, bringing a momentary silence between them as they waited for it to move off. Silver watched the doors, but nobody got on. She glanced down the aisle, but couldn’t see anyone except down the very ends of the carriage. They probably couldn’t hear what they were saying at that distance, but even if they could, they probably wouldn’t have any clue what they were arguing about.

“Well, fine,” Euphie broke the silence as the train pulled away, “We agree on something at least.”

Iris ignored her, but Silver spoke up.

“I… I don’t know what to say about all this. I mean, I wish I could but… I didn’t always want to save people. Well, uh, that sounds bad, but, I mean that I never really knew what I wanted! Even now, since I got these powers, I still don’t know what I want to do with them. But…”

she took a deep breath. It was difficult to force the memory back up, after she’d spent hours trying to forget it,

“Tonight… or, well, however long it’s been in that Schism, I… I killed people.” She stuttered over her words, “I mean, I, I didn’t mean to! It was an accident, I was scared, they were, were grabbing me and I, I just kinda lashed out and… and one turned to some kinda sand…”

Silver shook her head, trying to clear it, trying to make the images less clear in her mind. The thick, oozing red sand spilling from the opened stomach, the hole shaped like her hand print. There’d been no stain, no blood that touched her, but she felt it burning into her palm. The burn of power, raw and uncontrolled. The burn of a life. The heat of it made her feel sick, and she grasped it, as if to hide it,

“I don’t want to do that ever again, I can’t, I, I need to know how to control it. I just wanted to get them away and, and…”

She stared through her own hand to the guilty one, hidden beneath.

“Iris was right, they’re still people. What if I did that outside of a Schism? What if I did it to my family!”

The thought filled her with terror, and she stared at them, her mouth opening and shutting as she tried to find a way to put it into words. She clearly didn’t need to, their expressions alone told her they understood her fears, but they both paused for a moment as they searched for an answer.

“You just… ah,” Euphie floundered for words, looking away “well, be careful I guess?”

“Don’t blame yourself for what happened, Silver.” Iris said carefully, “You were being attacked, it was self defence…”

“Yeah! Anyone would’ve done the same! It was survival, you or them! Couldn’t be helped!”

Silver shook her head,

“No, no I… melting someone else isn’t self defence! I’m not in control! What if something happens outside of a Schism? I don’t want to die, I have to protect myself, but… but not like that…”

The two other girls stared at her, uncomfortable. Iris reached over and put a hand on Silver’s.

“Really, neither of us are in control either. You’d be better off talking to Kia rather than us, but, ideally all of us should be more in control than we are.”

“We just need to train together!”

Euphie’s eyes lit up, her usual wide grin stretching back across her face,

“These elements form a cycle, right? We can work together and progress something through the cycle and back again! Oh man, we could do something’s entire life cycle in minutes!”

“That’s cruel. Can you imagine being forced through your entire life in minutes?” Iris glared, “The more I think about it the worse that is! How could you even think about doing that to an animal?”

“What? Nobody said anything about animals!” Euphie shook her head, “No man I meant a tree or something, jeez! We could take an acorn, grow it up, I’ll wither it down, then make another with the acorns it dropped along the way!”

Silver smiled,

“Yeah… yeah that’d be so cool! We could grow loads of trees!”

“Christ…” Iris put a hand to her forehead, closing her eyes, “Every scientific law of energy–”

“Fuck science!” Euphie shouted with a grin, “We can do what we want! We’re part of the system now, Iris, which means we can break it!”

“That’s called corruption.”

“It’s called awesome! Seriously though, if you don’t get your head around this, man, you’re gonna have a hard time using your powers! You gotta start thinking less like a normal person and more like a bad ass magical girl!”

Silver realised the speech wasn’t just for Iris. It was important for her, too. She needed to start opening her mind up to the possibilities these powers could bring her. Euphie was doing it already, that was for sure. No doubt in a few weeks she’d be living in some uptown flat with everything she could want, It didn’t seem like something that’d fit Entropis, an element of decay and destruction. Wouldn’t that sort of person be brooding and moody like in the movies? How could Euphie – blonde, bouncy, loud Euphie – possibly be joined with an element of degradation?
She looked to Iris, leaning back in her seat, eyes closed, hand in her hair, how did she fit Immallea? To be fair to herself, she knew precious little of Immallea. She hadn’t even seen it in action. And herself? Did she fit Metasis? This chaotic force of change and transformation and growth? She was an insecure runaway that’d never amounted to anything, in class or outside of it. She relied on everyone around her to get anything done, her parents, then Jacob, then Kia, now these two. Euphie was more adaptable than she was, Iris was more self assured. How could she turn reality into something new when she didn’t know what to do with herself?

“Hey, why the glum look?” Euphie rounded on her, “It’s Iris’ day of moodiness! If you join in I won’t be able to breathe for brooding!”

“Nothing,” Silver said quickly, “Nothing, it’s fine. I was just wondering what I’m going to do, too. You know, with these powers.” She stretched, “I mean, I guess I always thought I’d know if I won the lottery or something what I’d do with it, but… well, I guess they say money isn’t everything…”

“Yeah but it’s a great place to start!”

Euphie looked like she expected Silver to laugh, so she forced a smile.

I know what you mean, Silver.” Iris looked up again, “Euphie may be right when she says I can’t treat our ‘second chance’” She did air quotes with her fingers, “like it’s purely a negative, but it can’t replace your life. What were you going to do before this happened?”

“I… I don’t know, really. I always liked art, but nothing ever really worked for me… they kept saying in college, ‘find your medium, find your medium!’ but, I dunno… nothing ever really stuck.”

“Well then work on that. You can use this magic stuff to make it so you don’t need to worry about rent or food or working a job, so you’ve got plenty of time to figure it out.” Iris shrugged, “I’ll be going to my uni classes, still. Whether or not you’re magical, knowing what you want to do with your life is still important. Only now we’ve got to find some way to balance it…”

“Silver, ignore that bullshit, man! You wanna do art? You wanna find your medium?”

Euphie grinned a wide, toothy grin, enjoying the moment of dramatic silence as they both waited for her to finish,

“You’ve been given a medium no-one else can do!”

“Well don’t string it out, Euphie, get on with it.” Iris folded her arms.

“You don’t need clay or pencils or, I dunno, glitter! You’ve got the world, Silver! You can morph stuff, anything into anything! Reality is your medium!”

Silver stared. Was that true? She looked at her reflection in the window across from her, the inky black of the night creating a mirror. The rich green of her dress flowed down her body, her trainers an odd contrast to the innate elegance of it. It was almost a shame nobody else could see it. No-one else could see how well it suited her.

“Except that doesn’t really help, does it.” Iris’ tone was flat, almost mocking, “Giving someone a bigger palette doesn’t help them work out what to paint. Apparently, restriction can be more conducive to creativity than complete freedom.”

Silver looked to her,

“Really?”

“Well, I read it in a book. I don’t know much about art personally. I can’t say it’s ever interested me.” She hesitated, “But, uh, I’m sure you’ll come up with something!”

~☆~

The train pulled out of the station, sliding away behind Silver and down the tracks. Bright orange letters flashed up on the sign overhead, informing her that there’d be no more until morning. As the train’s chakachak echoed away into silence, the rear red lights dwindling into the distance, she slipped through the open barriers and out onto the street.

Euphie and Iris were an interesting pair to end up with. She’d never really had much of a choice in friendships, if it wasn’t teachers pairing and grouping people, it was colleagues she was forced to work with in part time jobs. Now fate or whatever had stuck her with these two, and she wondered if she’d met them in other circumstances whether she’d have made the effort to get to know them. Or, even then, would they have bothered with her? Was it similar personalities or circumstances that ultimately made people your friends? Iris with her goals and smarts, and Euphie with her boundless energy and enthusiasm; chances were they’d both look past Silver as someone with little in common with either of them. She’d never made any truly lasting friendships, each group of people around her changing with her circumstances, classmates and workmates drifting off their own ways after leaving.

But these circumstances couldn’t change. All three of them were bound together by a common thread, a thread nobody else could see, or understand even if they told them. They needed each other, no matter their personalities or backgrounds, their attitudes or ideals. They needed each other, because without each other, they’d all have died in their first Schism, and at the rate they were going, any other could be their last. Was anything faster at forming friendships than survival? She doubted it.
Would it also help her find herself? Everything seemed to be forcing her to, as if everyone was scared she wouldn’t. As if she didn’t work it out quickly, something bad would happen. On and on, ‘Find your goal, find your purpose, find your medium.’ Why did it have to be so important now? Everyone seemed to act like it was the deadline to some assignment. ‘Please specify what you will be doing for the rest of your life. Don’t get it in by your twentieth year and you’ve failed. No resubmissions allowed. Sign in triplicate on the dotted line.’
Why did that have to apply to her still, after she gained magical powers? Why did she have to act like everyone else when she’d become so much more? Reality was her medium. She could do whatever she wanted. Iris was right, it didn’t help her figure out what to do, but as soon as she thought of something she’d be able to do it. That freedom alone was reassuring.
Euphie was right, she decided. These powers really had been her second chance. She’d gained a new outlook, a new direction, and most of all, new friends. So she had to fight a few Schisms, well whatever, they’d get easier as she got better. And she’d get better as they all learnt together. She grinned up at the moon, its alabaster eye of light bright enough to penetrate the city glow, and winked back at it. She was Silver, now. Just like a new moon, everything before was forgotten, washed away, and reborn. Now she had everything she needed to make her life how she wanted. It was only up from here. Right?

END OF CHAPTER SIX

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Read Chapter 7 – In The Moment – (Coming September 6th)

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