Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chapter Two of "Beyond the Seven Seas"

Without dogging this too much before it has had a chance..I'm going to announce that this was a considerably more difficult task than the first chapter and there's less to show for. I'm going to leave it at that. : repeats mantra: I can edit later. I can edit later. (c:

Random side note: I had to change's not cheating if the rest of the story wouldn't have gone anywhere really without it being changed does it?

Chapter Two

Ilse’s head bounced against the window as she twitched violently upright in her seat. The train had stopped. She lurched herself from her seat and tottered to the door. She was shaking from head to toe with adrenaline and the rush of being awakened from an unexpected nap. She shoved her hands in her pockets and made her way to catch her transfer. The overground to Piccadilly Circus was waiting and she chose an aisle seat. Her head pounded with her pulse. The sunlight was out of place.

She hadn’t thought of Mr. Watkins for years. A man walked past her and his cologne hung thick in her nostrils. She reached back and tugged down her tank top and readjusted her jacket—the flesh-like texture of the worn leather seat was going to make her sick—everything felt and tasted and smelled like him.

She had been twelve when it began. He was fifty-seven. Three years was a long time for a soul to weep. The insides of her thighs twitched uncomfortably. She ran her sweaty hands along the tops of her jeans. Get a grip. They passed a building and a shadow slid across her face. Then the sun was beating down on her, over bright. Painful. Hot. His breath was on her neck. Her chipped blue nail polish was flaking onto his tweed jacket the color of wet tobacco. He’s not here. There’s nothing here. Take a breath.

A man lit up a cigarette behind her and she gagged. They weren’t allowed to do that. Why did he do that. She tried to turn around, to force a smile on her face, to ask him to put it out. She didn’t move. In her mind she moved but physically she stayed rooted to the seat. The bus driver turned a bored eye to the back of the bus and said nothing. Laws were not enforced when it came to the small things. The echoes of those small things rang clear in her head. The bus jerked as it came to a stop. Her mother had, in typical fashion, ignored her. The smell of oil and city were boarding the bus, clogging the air. She had left the house then, left the dying interior of a house that had never been home. She dug her nails into the leather seat and shoved her toes against the insides of her boots hard enough to make her feet cramp. Take a breath.

She had nowhere to go. Cars were sinking into the familiar grooves of traffic jams past on all sides of the intersection. She went to him. People were getting out of their cars. The walls in his house were white. People were getting out their cars with cell phones stuck to their ears like barnacles on a sunken ship. He played music. People were getting out of their cars. There was no cussing. No loud horns honking. There was always music. People were getting out of their cars. When autumn begin to seep into the air she had left him too. A surreal haze was rising from the streets with the heat of the exhaust. People were pointing. She left her childhood on his doorstep and found herself in London. The cars were emptying. Her father had expected his little girl. He had gotten her ghost. People were pointing. Ghosts are uncomfortable houseguests. She had no more tolerance for betrayal. The crowd was growing outside the windows of the bus. There were leagues between her and the girl in the memory. It might not have been her after all.

Ilse forced her eyes into focus. What the hell. Her lips were dry and her head hurt. She ran a hand through her hair. The bus driver was muttering and attempting to see over the top of the throng collecting in front of the bus. Ilse slid stiffly over to the window. Hurt her thumbs as cracked it open and pushed it down as far as it would go. The top of the butterfly winged Eros was barely visible. Her thoughts were jumbled acid as she clumsily stood up. She hit her head on the top of the bus and cursed loudly. An elderly woman scowled and Ilse flipped her off. She had no mind for tact. I shouldn’t have answered the door this morning she thought to herself. Did half of bloody London have to pick today to stand around a gawk in the middle of the damn streets? As fast as she could condemn, however, she found herself edging through the narrow aisle and pushing towards the door. Curiosity is a virus and she ducked her head and stepped out of the bus.

She squeezed past a burly man who was speaking rapidly into a cell phone.

His shoes were untied.

He was dressed in a business suit, expensive looking cufflinks gleaming in the pathetic sunlight and his shoes were untied. It begins to get messy here: She really hated people sometimes. There was just no end to their stupidity. She pushed past a few more morons standing around. The tourists were out in full force. Naturally. Why wouldn’t they be? They were like the second coming of the plague. Her eardrums hurt with the pressure. She was underwater and sinking fast. She pushed her way through the seaweed and hoped for daylight.

She came face to face with a camera being pointed into the crowd and ducked under it violently. Vultures. This had become the kill and they were all swarming around trying to get their fill. Of what she couldn’t imagine. A large group of people standing around was not exactly what she would want to remember ten years from now. London at it’s finest. Glimpses of what she hoped was the front of the crowd peeked in and out from between the throng of people like a view through a jail cell door. A lady on her right was unwrapping a sandwich and the smell of grilled onions and grease mixed with the smell of city. I bet I could steal it—just grab it and run—though it’s a little crowded to make a clean escape.

And here: Contemplating her skills at sandwich thievery did not last long however. Her bag caught on something and she wheeled around. Green eyes locked with brown eyes.

“What the fuck! Get back here!” She elbowed past some people and took off into a halting jog them. There were too many people. The kid was faster than she could maneuver. People were cursing on all sides of her as she pushed and prodded and fought to get past them. She was losing ground. Her hand was thinking for itself as it rummaged without the gift of sight around in her bag, searching for what was missing. Pieces of paper were falling like leaves and her hand twisted and pushed against the corners. Something clattered to the ground unnoticed in the noise. She could not get a clean line on him.

“That little bastard…” She was pointing vaguely in the direction she had been heading. She couldn’t even see him anymore. No one made any indication that she had said anything. Classic. She saw him briefly before he ducked around a corner into a less crowded alleyway and she aggressively hurled herself around the brick wall. The noise pollution dropped a few decimals and her brain began to catch up with her body. It came reluctantly. Her hand slowed its desperate search and the soles of her boots slapped pathetically on the concrete. The set of grubby fingers had disappeared from sight. Her tempo slowed and she slapped the rough brick with her open hand. It should have been his face she thought as she brushed he grit off of her stinging palms.

She slammed her back up against the wall and slid down angrily. There was something about being awoken by Jack that ensured a lousy day. She yanked her bag out from under her thigh. The stitching was torn along the side and the strap was hanging like a broken limb from the exposed threads. Fuck. She wanted to cry. Because that’ll help she thought sarcastically. She picked up the change that had leaked out the sides and threw it into the inside pocket. The piece of paper with her record deal on it was missing. Well, whatever. I didn’t want to go there anyway. The bar was called Blue something. She pulled her wallet out the bottom of the bag with a degree of surprise. A tiny voice inside her let out a breath it had been holding. What the hell. He didn’t take my money. She begin to get really worried. Nothing was missing. Why. This doesn’t make sense. Something should be gone. What else would he have wanted. Her stomach knotted. Her history couldn’t be repeating itself. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out her cell phone.

“ ‘ello? You’re actually awa..”
“I was just mugged”

“What? By who? Are ya a’right?”
“Yeah—yeah. No. I don’t know.”

“ Where are you? There’s fuck all for background noise.” She stood up slowly. Her voice wouldn’t work. He couldn’t have had anything to do with this.

“ ‘ello? ‘ello? Ilse?” She was touched by the concern in his voice. He sounded sluggish.

“ I’m here James. Did I wake you up?”

“ Nevermindthat.” He made it one word. “Where are you?”

“ The Circus. I was on the overground and I was thinking about…well…shit this is stupid…well, I was thinking about him again and we got stuck in a crowd of people staring at god knows what and I got out of the bus and was trying to get through the mess when this stupid asshole grabbed a hold of my bag and I tried to catch him but I lost him in the crowd and…and…dammit. I’m freaking out.” Her voice broke.

“Christ Ilse. Al’ight. Take a minute and slow down. You’re fine.”

She let James listen to the noise of too many voices coming from the streets around her.

“He didn’t even take anything.” She said stupidly.

“No. I can’t find the stupid piece of paper that what’s his face gave me the other night but I could have dropped it. I was sort of slamming into people trying to chase him.”

“Who’s what’s his face?”

“The guy from the bar.”
“Forget that. You’re not missing anything?”

“I don’t think so.” The phone was shaking against her ear.

“You’re damn lucky then.”

“Am I? What if he had something to do with this?”
“You’re not making sense. Who?”
“Who the fuck do you think?”

“That’s ridiculous Ilse.”

“yeah. It’s stupid I know. Look. I’m sorry I called. I didn’t mean to wake you up. Go back to sleep. I’ll be fine.” She cleared her throat.

“You want me to meet you somewhere? We can talk this over?”

“No. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

The cell phone clapped shut and she shoved it back into her pocket. She needed a cup of coffee. Why did she always have to drag other people into her mess. She took a deep breath and carefully slid her bag over her head. Maybe she had just been lucky. The kid hadn’t taken anything. She should be happy. James was right. She was being an idiot and she knew it. It was crowded. She was in London. What the hell did she expect.

“There are more fools in the world than there are people” she said to oblivion. Thank you Heinrich. Which category I fall into on any given day, however, is a mystery. She dug around the inside of her purse gingerly and came out with a safety pin for her efforts. It will have to do. Ilse sutured her miserable strap and took a definitive step back towards the insanity. A red phone booth stood against the wall just ahead of where Ilse was headed. A man was inside having a completely ineffective phone conversation judging by the color of his face and the frantic waving of hands.

Two of us who haven’t gotten what we wanted today Ilse thought with a sour note of satisfaction as she walked past.

I will get to my café today if it kills me. There was little debate to be had over which option she would prefer at the moment. She crossed back towards the main intersection area and shimmied alongside the crowd. Piccadilly Circus opened before her with the grace of arthritic joints being stretched. It was choking on people.



There was a pig standing directly under the statue of Eros atop his stair-stepped perch. A pig—in the middle of the intersection—At least, it might be a pig. Or was it a hedgehog? How big could pig/hedgehogs get anyway? The absurdity echoed in her brain for a few moments. It stood medium in size with what looked like coarse fur all over its body and the ears stuck out at a funny angle. They were distinctly red on the ends and they twitched back and forth with the breeze. The intense white body shone in what remained of the daylight. It was not acting like a pig should act. Not that Ilse really knew how pigs acted normally but she didn’t think that sitting there placidly looking at a crowd of people was within normal pig behavior.

The pig/hedgehog (she had never considered that they could look anything alike but today she was not surprised by much) then did something that was definitely not within standard pig nature. It changed size. Ilse blinked hard. That was impossible. And then it did it again. It was like someone had inflated a balloon to its fullest potential and then let the air out slowly. There was no mistaking that it was several heads smaller and thinner than it had been a moment ago. And it wasn’t stopping. The animal was shrinking.

Piccadilly Circus had never been so pregnant with whispers. Her teeth had begun to hurt with the tepid air and Ilse closed her mouth. The thing stood there for a moment, contemplating what to do next. It sniffed the air and turned its head a quarter of a degree to the right and with a twitch of movement disappeared. The Londoners didn’t budge. There were standing, most paused mid sentence, eyes fixed, staring as if someone had stopped time. And the breeze stirred and the people stared and Eros looked down on all and didn’t say a word.


Lisa said...

Wow, this is really good. You have a fascinating style. I really liked the flashes back and forth between the past and the present in the beginning and my favorite line in the piece was, "Ghosts are uncomfortable houseguests." I can tell this is going to be a very interesting story. Can't wait for the next installment.

Riss said...

thanks! That totally made my week. I have been fixated on fixing ('s pun day darnit) it since i posted but i have stayed away...trying to let things sink in a bit since I'm totally pantsing. :D

chapter 3 will be up...might be late...i'm going to Italy on Thursday but I'm going to try and get it mostly done...:D