I land softly in the square. I'm close to the Mayberry shore again, where the adventure of the past few days first started. I turn down a few side streets, ears listening intently for signs of danger. I still have the backpack the Clockwork Angels gave me, with the map, the now-empty water thermos, and the cooking kit. My stomach rumbles; I ignore it.
I reach a small alleyway which ends in a dead end. However, I fly over the wall and find the small, closed-off box of stone and brick walls behind it. My black leather backpack, worn from four years of travel, sits inside. I land and set myself to organizing what to bring in what bag.
I decide on keeping the map and some of the cooking kit, but the thermos is too heavy. I eat some of the nonperishable food I stored in my black leather backpack and discard the Clockwork Angel backpack.
Once this is all done, I sit against the brick wall of a building.
"Do you know how painful that is, hearing, at seven years old, how your father, your own father, thought you weren't good enough for this world?"
I hated him. Seven years I knew, and I still know, that I hate him. That was why I ran away; that was why I stole money from him; that is why I never kill; that was why, when I finally went back to his house, I stayed crouched on the rooftop across the street and watched the fire. Watched the empty yard in front of it as no one ran outside, as no one survived. That was why, I knew, I felt a kind of cruel satisfaction inside me when it burned, even though the part of me that I never knew existed was telling me that I should be in there, helping him, no matter what he'd done to me.
Now I doubt all of it. I had been in control for four years, if you define "control" as unconsciously locking away every emotion you ever felt, but ever since that office. . .I feel different.
Do I really still love him?
(The Black Leaf and Earl, Barret District)
A table for two, in the corner of the restaurant. The waiters are used to these two customers, though they are a bit unsettled by them. Who goes out to lunch in a full suit? And the waiters can all sense a kind of darkness around them, a kind of don't-ask-questions air about them. Plus, they talk so quietly. No one ever hears their conversations, and that almost always ended up badly, in the waiters' memories. The restaurant had lost count of how many times they'd served private conversations at their tables, only for a new political movement or a new something-or-other to suddenly appear. This shouldn't have been any different, but the waiters never could get over their uneasiness around the two men that came every Tamarusday.
The two men sit down and sit in silence, as they always do, until their tea comes and they're waiting on their sandwich. Then they start to talk.
"She's real slippery, isn't she?" says one. He wears a dark, velvet black suit, sharply cut and adorned with a gold leaf pin. His eyes are a hard golden color, and the man opposite him has the same kind of hardness about him. However, the man opposite him is slightly softer, not as cruel. He spent his life inventing; he was never very good at social graces, or social interactions period. He made a great many inventions, but this one he is particularly interested in.
"Yes, but I happen to know how to catch her," the other says. The man in the suit glances sharply at him. Every other one of the men he had met had said the same thing, but this one was different. He seemed to. . . know things about her, that none of the others had.
"And how do you suppose that?" the man asks, now interested but trying not to show it. He leans back against the chair, regarding the man across from him curiously.
The man leans closer in, talking in an even quieter tone. "She has a certain. . . weakness, for me. I won't delve further; I require payment for my services, and that payment is not cheap."
"I can pay," says the first, leaning back in his chair. No information was to be gathered here; the man in the suit knew that people like the one across from him were the kind that would trust in your burning curiosity for their information than your skepticism on their reliability for their payment. He wouldn't push further; he had been prying at this man for weeks now, and he was hard as a stone. Yet, he still listens as the man continues on.
"She hates me, as does she all her captors and hunters, but me more than most. I played a prominent figure in her life; I still do, in her thoughts and actions. I know she remembers me, and that those memories of me haunt her. Tempt her with me, and she'll come. I can promise you that," the man says, smiling and sitting back, indicating he was done with his speech. The man in the suit gives the waitress a small smile as she serves their sandwiches.
"I'll pay for your services. How about next week, Tamarusday, here?"
I fly over Gearford, towards a certain point in the city. My thoughts are a jumbled mess; my emotions are no longer neatly organized and locked away. I don't like the feeling; I don't know what to think.
I find the street, and crouch on the rooftop of the apartment building across from the house in front of me. Smoke fills the air; I stare at the flames ahead of me, and most especially, at the door. No one comes out; only firefighters go in, and the fire rages and burns, consuming everything in its path.
A cold satisfaction fills me. My father deserves this; he deserves to have his life burn away, as he burned mine by implanting me with the wings. And yet, something tells me that I shouldn't be feeling satisfied at this, that he's not quite as bad as I make him out to be. I ignore that something, knowing that I shouldn't be.
Nothing is there. Grass attempts to grow from the charred ashes; the city hasn't done anything about the blank space yet. I try to sort out my emotions, but that simply leads to further questions that I don't know the answers to and that I don't know how to get the answers to. I don't know why I came here; maybe I expected my feelings to suddenly sort themselves out by bringing up my painful past again.
I wrap my wings around myself; they don't provide any warmth like I know feathered wings probably would, but they're still comforting. Pedestrians walk everywhere on the streets, and I turn away from the fire and ash. I know that no one's coming out; I've been here for an hour and the fire's still raging, scorching red and gold, burning away everything in its path, like the fire of my father burned away my love for him years ago.
I blink and the world returns again. The memories are coming more often now; vivid, dreamlike universes laid over my own. They used to be playing in my head, like a video, but now I can see them in front of me, as if I was there again. It goes with my emotions; I don't know what's happening. Everything is set free; I don't have control over my own emotions or thoughts or memories anymore. It's getting harder and harder to force the real world back into view during the memories, and I can't single out any one emotion to deal with; it's this one big knot of feelings, and thoughts, and general chaos.
I feel like I'm going insane.
"You know, I might just believe you," the man in the suit says. He turns to the man next to him, pulling down the binoculars as Maia flies off.
"I told you, Beldan. The memories haunt her. Why else would she return to her father's pile of ashes for a house?" says the man next to him. Beldan had taken some convincing; not everyone believed his relation to Maia, not after that house fire.
Beldan starts walking down the street, and the man follows. They didn't want to act too soon, but they couldn't wait for her to make a plan of action and her vulnerability to disappear. Maia is recovering from the Clockwork Angels incident, which Beldan had been one of the guards at--he has a big bruise on his side that is throbbing painfully at the moment, but he ignores it--and the man he is employing seemed to know that she was in inner turmoil. Beldan knows that they have a small window of opportunity, and they have an even smaller window of perfection within that opportunity. They have to judge the time and the plan just right, or else they would end up like every other person who'd tried to get Maia.
Beldan and the man turn into an alleyway and Beldan leans against the wall, just a couple feet away from the street. The man paces back and forth, back and forth, making Beldan anxious, but he ignores the feeling and tries to ignore the constant, quick pacing.
"Will you stop?" he finally snaps, and the man shoots him a glare before standing beside him.
"So, how are we going to go about this?" the man asks. "I think we need something that's powerful against her. Something that will lure her out, make her stay. No one else before us has had that; they have wanted her, but they've given her absolutely no reason to stay with them, or to not hurt them. We need something that will ensure our safety and her cooperation."
Beldan turns his head towards the man. "Aren't you powerful against her?"
The man shakes his head. "No, not at all. She won't stay for me. She'll want to get away faster, if anything. I'm. . .not exactly her favorite person in the world," he says. Beldan nods, understanding, and turns his attention back towards the brick wall in front of them.
"Actually, I might know who will," the man continues. Beldan's head instantly snaps towards him. At last, they were getting somewhere.
"How reliable?" he asks. The man turns to meet his eyes, a small smirk playing on his lips.
"I can promise you an absolute guarantee."
I focus on the slip of paper in my hands. The address is written in small, cramped writing, and most of the letters are half-blurred together with the ink from the pen. I ignore my thoughts, focusing only on the address. I soar over the city, the map that the Clockwork Angels had given me in one hand and the slip of paper with the address in another.
I figure out where I am going and fold up the map, buttoning the leather case closed and silently flying over the city. I try to focus on my emotions now, trying to sort them out from each other in the chaos within me. It's difficult; I never realized how conflicted I felt over Alan.
Anger. Well, that makes sense. He did implant me with mechanical wings, forcing me to be an outcast from life because of my differences. But something else comes with it--forgiveness? A small part of me wants to forgive him, if only to have a parent and not feel so lonely. But, that can't be right. I had been alone for nine years; by now, I would think I had gotten used to it. And, I know I still have my mother, wherever she is.
I abandon the attempt, feeling a multitude of other emotions rising up to accompany the anger and forgiveness, and know that trying to sort out one would only lead to an endless tangent of others. I leave them in a tangle in my chest, and land in a side street, putting them out of mind for now.
I walk to the end of the alleyway, where it meets the street, and check the sign. Confirming that it's correct, I choose the right door and walk in.