Runic - Sempiternal Solo

Young violinist Lola Pern is starting to realize how far one can go in order to perfect something, in every sense of the world. A song from the past haunts every corner of her life, one that has made for a dramatic turmoil as she gets thrown into a whimsical nightmare of violence and beauty. With only one way out, she revisits a point in time when every mistake was met with travesty in hopes of bringing closure. However, altering such forces is bound to be dangerous, and with a childhood as fragile as hers, the risks can cost dearly.

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4. Chatper 4 - Limpid Skies

 

 

"Once the deluge trances my talent, it chooses where to hang my hide."

-Book of Ire, verse 55-

...

In a microscopic interval of time, Lola had built castles from snow, foundationing each one by fear, only to have calming tides bring them down, leaving her to feel nothing but her own skin covered shell, a synthetic parody of a once talented musician. Now, walls of shelved jars and bottles rowed together in a perfectly square room, looking down with placid eyes as she sat in the patient's chair. In front, a man sat behind his frail walnut desk with one hand holding a quill feather, scribbling down notes at impossible speeds. It had taken two days to land a doctor's appointment without encountering unexpected delays, or hitting an already full roster. Only a few such offices existed within the cityscape surrounding Berenhame College. People were constantly turning up sick, one of the many drawbacks of living among a dense population.

Sitting there gave Lola many chances to rethink her circumstances. Perhaps a psychologist would have proved a better fit to remedy this exotic type of sickness, if one could even call it that. The only proof of what happened with the girl were a few claw marks running downstream across her arm, and a set of shallow teeth indentations keeping them company, both of which were tightly bandaged.

She resurfaced from her thoughts when the quill abruptly stopped its path of agile twirls. The man, who sported a grey bearded chin and bald scalp, looked up from his legal pads and documents wearing a complexion riddled with concern.

"And the child burst into stuffings?" he said, raising a thick caterpillar eyebrow.

Lola gripped her bright orange dress. "Even a liar couldn't make this up. You have to believe me."

"The issue I'm having has nothing to do with authenticity. It's your record." He raised one of the sheets of paper and flicked it. "Other than some drinking habits during your late adolescent years, it's a clean bill of health. No broken bones, no head injuries, and no previous mental instabilities - nothing. I'm aware that college exams are coming up in a few weeks before summer kicks in. This could be nothing but stress, in which case I can recommend some over-the-counter medication stocked in my own office. Keep in mind that students always tend to fee-"

"Stress? Stress!" Lola's clothes rippled violently as she rushed over and pushed her lacerated arm very close to the man's face. "Mr. Hane, you've been my go-to doctor for ever since I moved here. Finals have never caused anything like this!"

"Sit down, please!"

She sat, and both of them released a sigh.

"Now, we can either rush to conclusions, or take this step by step. I can prescribe some of these Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors to combat dips in cognitive function. In other words, they will help you focus." Mr. Hane rose off his compliant chair and scanned a few rows with his fingertips, touching over glass prisons and plastic cages until he stopped at a dark blue vial covered in white scripting.

Lola was handed the vial along with a paper slip taped to its lid, and upon reading its price, her maddened scowl snapped up, lips pursed.

"An issue, I presume?"

"This will tear a hole right out of my savings!" Surely there's a way to divvy up this price over time."

"Very well. I can draw it out over three months at the most. Just don't overdose, and always take it before bed." The man flipped open a drawer close by, then pushed the unfilled sheet across his desk. "All I need now are a few signatures. Believe me Miss Pern, I don't want to see you in any kind of sickness. It's best to work bottom up instead of jumping to conclusions. Give it a week. If this ends up being ineffective, let me know."

Lola walked out with a paper bag and a weekly debt to pay. The morning's light grey aura doused everything carefully, brought on by rain clouds that had yet to release their payload. She felt airy, as if the next breeze could sweep her up and carry the paper thin body a few blocks ahead, or perhaps a soft updraft would lift her towards the stratosphere. This newfound exhaustion hinted at insomnia, a punishment received after the recent episode a few days ago.

At Sandy's Diner, a nearby pot of boiling water dripped on the stove, sizzling, making her heart leap over a few beats. She had been waist deep in thought again, going about tasks in a superficial state of existence where everything happened somewhere far away. The steam cooker below fumed its soft vapor plumes across her face. It was soothing, a sauna for her cheeks. A light tap on her shoulder frayed the comfort before it could grow.

"We have a real looker up front. He's got broad shoulders and decent pythons to match." Iris didn't have a ponytail this time, so her lengthened hair went down in straight amber ribbons over the shoulders, a color that further exposed her surprising youth.

Lola decided to play along. Doing so would prove a welcomed distraction from distant thoughts that normally went nowhere. "Does he come here often?" she asked thinly. "Lots of new students always arrive this time of year to prepare for next semester."

"A new student? Not that I know of. The man looks just your age, and in my opinion, just your type. Oh, and he's human of course."

"Human, that's definitely a plus."

Iris laughed and pointed over the steaming griddles. "We still have a couple of waitress's uniforms on the rack, you know, if you want to give it a shot."

Lola glanced where they were, and dared to not imagine how she would look wearing one, a classic black and white dress with many pieces that could easily be misplaced. "Alright, but managers have the final word."

Promptly, Iris assumed the over dramatic stature of a drill sargent and snapped a finger onwards, grinning. "Then here's my word! Miss Pern, I hereby order you to go and take that guy's order, and for extra credit, make make him bow down with a ring."

The girl partially winced at the display, yet could not help but to grin in harmony regardless, not only from her friend's eager glow of playfulness, but from the very fact that she herself had taken up an offer to go up front and commune with customers. A sojourn from watery cookers and knives sounded refreshing.

Oddly enough, gathering a few bold nerves took longer than changing. She walked idly into the open rows of booths and tried mimicking the rhapsody other waitresses wore on their faces, only to come up short. So, she settled on a slight smile as a cheaply forged mockup, sweeping tight gazes until one landed on a man seated before a vacant table. Flirting wasn't a foreign concept. High School had made sure of that, but she had never engaged in such affairs wearing a costume, especially one that already made this type of bantering look like part of the job.

Oh well, all I have to do is not fall flat on my face.

"Alright, so what can I get for you today?" Lola flipped out a small notepad and pen. Sure, the man was quite handsome, but she was too caught up in writing his order down to weave anything extra when he paused, not a tease, nothing. It was quickly becoming a socially inept exchange. Then, as if recalling a joke, he looked from the menu, eyes dilated with something amidst surprise and amusement.

"Oh come on," she said, smile stretching a bit more. "These outfits can't look that ridiculous. Adding a bit of style is always fun."

"You, you're the one arent you? The one who left Mr. Krayble's class the other day."

The pen died midway between words. Lola tried shaking her hand to stop its newfound numbness, only to realize her entire body was undergoing a similar crisis. "You have me mixed up with someone else," she replied, almost at a whisper. "There's many who look like me."

"That must be a joke. I'm not seeing pointed ears. You're human."

Lola's yearn to object was smothered by doubt that dropped below zero. There was nothing she could say to push away the blatant truth. So there she stood, left with lungs filled with an answer unspoken.

"Sir, your order is still incomplete."

But the man's stare didn't cooperate. "People are saying you had a panic attack. Was it the song you were playing? It sure wasn't from our handouts. Was it some kind of extra credit?"

Some of her anger slipped. "You don't stop, do you?"

"What?"

"Listen, I don't want a reminder of what happened, and it's clear you're done ordering. The food will be here shortly." A few spotlights turned to spew their strident beams as she hurried back. Inside, she leaned against the back wall and respired, watching clouds of steam rise from the grills that spoke their subtle, vibrating tongue. Her ears drew in these sounds and endeavored to make a song from them, a tranquil rhythm that would allocate what just happened as a mere misfortune. It seemed to work, because so far, there wasn't a doll in sight.

Iris came over and the song scattered into its premature pieces.

"I just overreacted a little. My order was easy, though he was a little too prying from the start. It's not working out with this one." Lola's composer had reformed now. She stuck her note paper on the vegetable cooker. "But it's not fair leaving this incomplete. I'll prepare and serve the order myself after I change clothes."

"Oh, I see."

"No, It's my fault really. I'll be back in a minute."

Her muscles were finally allowed to unravel when the bathroom door clicked shut. Everything from outside seeped in as a soft rumble that was easy to push aside. Exchanging the fragmented dress for cooking attire went by with less trouble than if the process was reversed. After embracing a moment's calm serenity, she strode back into the kitchen with a straight lined mouth. Plastering on another smile would only serve as a distraction. The meal itself was simple to prepare, and she was carrying out a filled tray within minutes. Some turned their heads briefly with bewildered stares while others remained unfazed, but the only attention she wanted was the man's. His attention quickly snapped up when the she laid the tray down and began setting its contents in their proper places.

"No dress?

Lola's sight merely brushed his own. "I made your order myself. I had to change."

"Oh."

"Listen, what happened last time was just a stupid overreaction."

He leaned back. "Honestly, I don't blame you. I was in Krayble's class last year. His methods can be a little much."

"Well, it's good that you don't blame me, because I wanted to ask you something." She didn't wait for a response and lowered her voice just out of whisper range. "How many people know? I mean, about what happened to me."

"How would you react if I said, the whole music portion of Gerenham?"

Lola didn't react, for her skin had been touched over by a chilled draft, a warning that more spotlights had swiveled their ocular beams. This was a mistake, a social gesture that would likely stir another episode of fabricated delusions.

"Great. That's just great." Her reply was wispy, as if the words had no incentive of traveling far. It would be best to simply turn around and walk away, and maybe pass on a kind nod so no one would ask anymore questions. The girl did exactly that. A few dolls laid sprawled across the floor with jointless limbs all twisted and gnarled, yet their faces were all bent to look at her. Carefully, she stepped over them, for each one would grab on and crawl up her leg if trifled on. A sharp pain needled through her bandaged forearm where the girl's teeth had plunged in. It was a pain that had been rising and fading over the past few days, but right now there was nothing she could do except shove it aside.Unyielding eyes burned their penetrating glares from behind, but through the heat, a voice reached.

Lola turned halfway around, unable to push her sight directly through the bright beams. Sure enough, it was the man who called.

"I said my name's Axel, by the way."

Instead of an audible response, she nodded modestly and offered a slight smile, before resuming a delicate stride back. At her station again, a billion warm particles of misty water drops all hugged her pores and soothed them. She was going about the motions as a bionic set of preprogrammed instructions, trying to set a layer of time over the memories of what he said, those words that spelled an oncoming crisis. Everyone at campus knew what happened, that was a stamped fact now. The infection would spread, and more dolls would form for the sole purpose of forcefully bestowing their plastic glares.

After pressing through work's final hours, she decided to return home by foot rather by carriage. It would create a lapse of time vulnerable to distractions, anything to get lost, even for a few minutes. The girl came along a casino blaring its piano and saxophone combo. She thought about having a try at some dumb fun, however, keeping a three year streak free of alcohol was much more impressive than being passed out on the counter. Ultimately there was nothing to gain from it, and much to lose.

The apartment door clicked shut, and strangely, Lola expected her living room floor to be layered by a snowfall of stuffings. Yet, her shadow stretched across nothing more than blank carpet. This silence only promoted memories of what had happened, so she flipped through the shelves and tugged a vinyl disk from its narrow slot, one whose symphonies housed many layers of sound and rhythm. The music left sparse room for such thoughts, and thankfully, sleep was only a short ways off. Walking home had sapped out most of the early night's hours, an exercise that had left every bone feel that much softer, like welcoming a pleasant release of tension. It was time to ingest Mr. Hane's remedy for nightmares.

In the bathroom, her frantic hands were controlled by eagerness. Brown shrivels fell as the bag's skin tore, revealing what would hopefully be an answer to this whimsical illness. In one anxious breath, she spun off the bottle cap, rolled out a pill, and swallowed it dry. Her face hung towards the sink drain, letting a few streams of hair roll down like a silked curtain of ravens, veiling what light poured from the sides. If there was even a spec of relief to be had now, she wanted to readily embrace it. Maybe it would come in waves, or in a continuous flow of serenity, or even in a single wash of overwhelming joy. She waited there patiently, motionlessly, vehemently.

Nothing came. After all, this was just medicine.

A sharp prick of metallic red bled into her vision's bottom corner. Lola grabbed the pepper spray but didn't allow for a second look, for the bitter stigma it carried was only going to make things worse. She tossed the canister under the bed and climbed on, allowing the mattress to absorb her payload of weary limbs. Hummingbird's Verse was absent from the scene this time, for the ink ridden papers were still locked away where no one could find them. By now, the coffin which trapped them had surely acquired a thin coat of dust, a sign of her regretful yet purposeful reluctance to interact with their negative stigma. On normal occasions, she would be practicing outside, on the hill with a bold moon watching down from its starry throne. She would feel her royal blue sundress kindly react with every shift in air flow, every slight breeze that brushed its polished surface. Every blade of grass would sway to her effortless twirls, going around in wide pivots as her flats caressed the naturally smooth dance floor. Then, when all seemed delightful, the tremolo would come along and abruptly lend everything to a standstill. It was like a predetermined truth that always sneaked up close, no matter how much effort was put into playing it perfectly. It wasn't even the most difficult part in terms of technical complexity. In fact, the technique existed within other musical works that she had rattled off free of error. It was just this one, single part of Hummingbird's Verse that had spawned this turmoil.

The music is cursed by a ghost, her brain whispered in a distant, teasing remark. I'm going to tell Mr. Hane that my problems were caused by a poltergeist.

Music from the living room continued filling every bit of space, narrowing her mind to float across each intricate note, separating each plethora of sounds to their fundamental roots. For a while the girl was lost in this intrinsic oasis, and eventually, her thoughts wandered together into an image that was blurred at first, but sharpened after a moment's passing. The man from the diner had worn a suit, although it didn't appear opulent in the slightest. It was made of silk, and subtlety colorful, with even a flower stitched to its chest pocket. A dancer's uniform? Perhaps, perhaps not. His eyes were saturated with a grey hazel blend of exoteric proportions, a pair of clouds filled with nimbus contours.

"Oh, and that ridiculous top hat," she whispered with a light chuckle. "Oh dear."

Showering would have to wait when morning came, because doing so now would expand her growing swell of drowsiness, and she would fall asleep on a bed of hard fiberglass. That is, until the cold water would have startled her awake. She trailed a sigh and rolled over, sprawling out with arms stretched across the ocean of silken sheets, looking up with a glare of glossed over cobalt. The ceiling looked back, and both of them had a staring contest to see which would blink first.

"Fine, you win." Her eyelids finally gave out. The pill's added dose of melatonin was too heavy.

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