Dreams on Fire

She doesn't look impressed.

I cup the mug in my hands, smiling absently at the warmth seeping between my fingers. Dysnomia leans her elbows on the table and watches me.

"I'll need answers before I'll even consider agreeing to this," she says.

I nod. I smile in what I hope is a comforting and confident way.

"First," one finger up, "what do you have in exchange? Information isn't free, sweety."

I roll my head to the side.

"Being coy, eh? Fine. I don't need to know that bit. Second," another finger up, "Contacts. Whom and how many?"

I bite my lip, thinking. I flash a number of fingers. Dysnomia nods, if reluctantly. Her eyes widen at the complexity of the following symbols.

"Laika?"

Oh, no. She's gone and gotten worried. I try smiling at her again. The ethereal arcs around her eyes seem to increase the power of her stare, as if the lines of blue fire were the sparks behind her eyes. I devote myself to meeting that gaze full frontal.

~

It's snowing in the city. Layers of white curl from window ledges and pocked awnings, pale and dark mingle together in gutter maelstroms, and my footprints show in steps of cement. The people scurry along like monks in plastic habits. A rectangle of yellow across the walk, a pressure of warm air and words, and another person takes shelter inside.

Dysnomia packed my pockets with hand-warmer packets before I left, and now I tug one out and press it to my frigid nose. It reeks of chemicals and sour things, but deep in its brittle core wafts the smell of tea leaves and wooden cupboards. It makes me smile and my heart jitters with an influx of confidence.

I toss the wasted packet into the blackened door of a building. The sound of it skittering across the fire-scarred floor fades in the hush of another snowfall. This is the building, I think, the one I was at before. The memory shifts itself and I wonder who would want to blow the poor thing up as I leave.

It's a long walk, but time moves in the passing of cars and the numb shuffling of feet. I recognize only glimpses of the city, here. And even then, only the bits at eye level and below. I haven't looked up in ages. The sky is mottled in grey and white, swirling in a murky depth like the soul working behind a white glass eye. Clouds cling to antennas, tear, and spill swathes of white over the street and down the back of my jacket. I realize I forgot to put my hood up. It must have gotten caught in the space under my pack. I wonder how I managed to go this long without realizing it wasn't up.

Only one is standing guard outside the Vermilion. This is fine with me.

The End

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