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.

Novel Website - https://www.crimsos.org/sempiternalsolo

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7. Chapter 7 - Hourglass Empress

 

 

“...They knew not of the titan’s origin, only that it rose leisurely above the east one autumn morning, and eventually, dipped under the western line, never turning back or retracing what footprinted path it laid behind in the soil...”

-Titan’s Concert-

...

Each additional word written in her log slipped out like sharp frozen dust from her mind and onto the paper. What had become of her life these past few weeks? The most unbearable part of her past had completely taken hold over her present life, the prelude which she wanted nothing more than to forever drift away from.

I can't focus.

I can’t think.

I can’t sleep.

The night hadn’t seen another hour in real time even though it had been much longer in retrospect. he feeling was like cognitive frostbite expanding in Lola’s head, wanting deep sleep to finally come so that her body would be rejuvenated out from this insomnia-like trance, yet, forced by an viral illness to stay awake. She was deprived, drained, and distant from her own body which was lost in a state far beyond impaired vitality. Her sore heavy eyes wanted nothing more than closure. Restless agitation kept her turning in the sheets, conscious for every minute that slowly ticked by.

What time is it?

Have I dozed off?

Morning came like a slow breathing aura through the curtains. Lola was unresponsive even as it touched her face. She sat off the bed staring blankly. Everything had lost dimension. It was all a flat muddled canvas with no focal point to grab on. Unclean, unrested, and likely fired from her only source of income - she second guessed if this reality was genuine.

My head hurts so much.

I just need to wait a bit longer.

Is this right?

...

Young Lola had a bedroom that was bare of wonder and colorful toys, save from the nursery rhyme books she read during those darkest nights teaming with boogymen and closet goblins. Her playground was the beach. Her only toy was music. The ocean waves never slept. They would stay and whisper calmly until she was fast asleep, happily dreaming of salt scented drafts and Yercy's cheer whenever a new sandcastle was built. The entire house echoed as if it were a seashell reminding her that times could be held in splendor, cherished, like holding a brittle sand dollar.

If only those times weren't so short-lived.

Lola's morning shower was cold this time, and and her hair held the water tight. The hour fresh out of bed one was shared in solitude, knelt down with a towel holding her body heat captive that much longer. There was unique comfort in this small pocket of time, as if the day was still in low tide when no one else had awoken yet. Once her playtime outside was over, it all became an electrical blur taking place within the house of dolls and faces sewn into smiles.

Her mother abruptly flew open the door. She was dressed for someone who wouldn't arrive for hours to come, and wearing perfume that sent stale airborne strawberries abound.

“Still naked and unsightly,” she said. “A full fledged attire is required for days scheduled for longer sessions. You know the tutor has an scornful eye against unprepped apparel.”

“Thanks for turning off my hot water, you meanie,” Lola whispered, watching her mother sift through the hangers, standing obediently like a bare doll ready to be fashioned at its owner's leisure, shivering.

“Now this is sure to impress,” she chirped, holding up a harsh lemon shaded sundress. “You’ll be wearing this alongside a pair of white flats for practice, understand?”

I hate yellow, Lola thought. “Yes mam. I understand.”

“That’s wonderful dear.” Her smile was a counterfeit gesture. “Make sure you return home an hour early in time for some pre-session rehearsal. Your high octave hymns should be in top shape before today’s round of training really starts.”

Although Lola remained at attention, those words brought chills. The planned meeting with her big self had just been broken off. “Actually,” she said in haste. “Is it possible to skip all that? I wanted to play by myself for that hour after Yercy leaves.”

“To dabble with your new imaginary friend? Don’t be childish, dear.”

“But I am a child.” Lola’s response was as if touching frigid steal, quick to withdraw. There interactions normally function by clockwork agreements and docile compliance. There was no such thing as contempt.

Her mother’s eyes glared their brash emerald hue. The girl’s body turned stiff, cold under her spotlight. It was a form of submission that she happily accepted, more so than any apology spoken out loud. Obeying was the only way to make everything painless.

“And I suggest distancing yourself from Yercy as well,” her mother added. “You’ll be moved up a tier once these last few lessons are complete. There will be less time to waist on futile activities.”

Lola remained placid. I get it. Less play time. The usual.

Her mother left after making sure the yellow dress was cleaned raw of imperfections that never existed. Instantly, Lola sprung from her chilled state and headed outside wearing her favorite royal blue sundress and flip flops two sizes too big. The imaginary oxygen mask could be removed. There was no need for such constraints in a world free of pipe smoke and cheap fragrances. Finally, open air, open skies. A smooth birch boardwalk lead towards the waves where freedom dwelled soundly, saying hello with fine sands between her toes. However, Lola’s attention had already devoted itself to searching for her best friend, which, intriguingly enough, was like picking out a precious jewel among coal.

Indeed, Yercy’s appearance was a rarity in of itself, seamingly crafted from the shoreline’s desire for a stylized color palette. Her eyes were filled with fuschia, and her hair was a clean mixture of magenta and teal coming down in long streams. In the early sun rays, her skin momentarily exposed its true shade of seashell pink. Their conversations, no, their interactions all around were of peaceful mysticism, as if she was actually speaking to the morning surf itself, for they only met during that time when the tides were young, and seagulls still slept. Lola knew her friend was far from human with her web like feet and skin that mimicked pearly stained glass. She would look no different from anyone else if all that bright color were to be washed away.

“What do they call you?” she had asked during one late summer’s dawn. “A Ner...Naieda...Naeii…?”

“A Nereid silly!” Yercy replied, both of them laughing. “Or a Naiad, or even Sea Nymph. But I like Yercy more than any of those names because its my name and no one else’s.

Now, whenever their paths crossed they became princesses of sand built kingdoms that glistened wet against every young sunrise, sharing memories with starfish and hermit crabs who watched beneath the current’s ageless weight. In their small makeshift castles, cockles were windows, sticks were bridges, and imagination ran like warm streams that flowed out the inlet bays.

“If we built a really big wall around this one, you think it’ll last ‘till tomorrow?” Yercy patted down another spire. “The urchins could sleep in it all night long and even watch the moon rise.”

Lola leaned back and regarded their beachside acropolis carefully. “They’ll also need a doorway in case one wants to crawl out early, or if it gets hungry. What do urchins even eat?”

“Plants, mostly plants I think. And sometimes an unlucky foot.” She laughed again and pointed seaward. “Hey take a look out there! I see three sailboats all going in a row. That's means good luck is riding our way.”

“They give luck? Since when?”

“Well, I was searching for Lilyturf flowers in our favorite basin, you know, near that old lighthouse. None in sight. Not even one!” Her eyes glinted like candy cones. “But when they came pass, the sailboats I mean, a Lilyturf blew right on my nose. I almost fell back! Isn't that how luck starts? Lots of people talk about it. Good luck. Bad luck. Or just luck.” Hearing no response, Yercy turned back to find her friend’s jubilant mood dissolved. Lola’s eyes absently peered down at the sandy bed beneath them.

She sat carefully beside her. At times, saying nothing spoke more words than not. Instead of galvanizing Lola with cheer or more stories about lucky sailboats, the pastel Nereid wrapped an arm around her human counterpart, and watched the first Sandpiper bird scurry about in search of worms beneath the sediment. An ever-changing vista emerged as the water sparkled white with the sun rising even higher.

“Momma said come in an hour early for practice.” Lola hardly breached a whisper. “I don't know what to do. I promised my big self a meeting in just a little bit. But now we won't even have playtime.” She laid flat on the sandy bed. “And I’m so tired, so tired.”

Yercy laid beside her, both staring up at cotton clouds and seagull formations. “Our lighthouse is always a good hiding place. I won't tell anyone if you go, promise.”

“But I’ve never stayed there during a practice session.”

“What about that crawl space under the docks?”

“No.”

“My parent's house?”

Lola nodded again. “Ma would be too mad that I’ll never go outside ever again. Or worse, she would take the violin away during playtimes. Then I would never see my big self again.”

All Yercy could say was “I'm very sorry,” and give her best gentle smile. She didn't know what it was like having hands so fragile, like a piece of glass, fractured, but strategically kept just out of breaking condition.

The tutor knew exactly how much strain a little girl’s bones could take before succumbing to overuse. A perfect recital was worth any pain inflicted. If her fingers could still retain their function and play music, there was no need to fix them.

Once dawn grew old the princesses departed from their kingdom, one heading towards a cottage farther down shore, the other towards a house where sewn bodies waited. But first Lola played Hummingbird’s verse to call upon her likeness. The notes surfaced forward through history’s otherwise frozen path.

And into the present.

Like a wintry breeze Lola felt crisp chilled delirium take hold. The dream filled ocean grasped her feet, and that all too intangible scape of yonder materialized before her eyes. Along with the old withered home and rusted lighthouse, a sandbar stretched on somewhere between them, yet another addition to this momonic convergence. This distorted realm bridging their timelines had always been a mystery. She wondered if her younger self had ever stepped foot here, or if this abstracted area was unique to her mind alone.

As expected, static tumult spilled in when her feet touched the sediment, signaling the transition from present to past. When it lifted, the small patch of beach had opened up into a broad spanning shoreline speckled with shells. Sea waves whispered their velvet aira, and in the distance a small royal blue wisp was growing near, fast. Before confusion settled the girl had embraced Lola’s waist. Unspoken questions formed like icebergs, but Lola returned the gesture anyway.

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t understand. What happened?”

The girl peered up. “Mamma called me in an hour early for practice. We can’t talk now.” She stepped back. “Yercy said that I could hide and she wouldn't tell, but I don't want to hide even if no one tells. The tutor will punish me.”

Lola knelt while warning off sleep's burdened weight, for retaining what little energy remained was a constant affair. She looked over at the distant house which had sourced all means of early life affliction, then at the ocean, where affliction could flow out and disappear.

“You look very very tired. Please say something.”

“Have you ever just pushed back?”

“What do you mean? Of course not. You should know that.”

“But that's exactly the problem.” Lola clasped her shoulders. “I do know. I know exactly what’s waiting if nothing changes. Years and Years more of torture! They’ll keep making you go hungry! They’ll keep the sunlight away from you for weeks at a time! And, the electrocution will continue! You must understand that this isn’t normal. No one should be treated and abused this way, especially from their own parents.”

“Never thought about that, I guess. What if Mamma and Pappa stop loving me?”

Lola couldn’t help but to laugh a little, hollowly. “This is not a house with love. It’s a prison. And as for me being tired, well, that's a new one, and unfortunately it's getting worse every day. Sleep doesn't come regardless of how much time goes by.”

A stale call echoed from the house’s porch, a cold vibrating net. Wilma’s bustling chirp enveloped everything. The women's lavish attire flopping around in the breeze.

“Oh, I have to go.” The girl's voice was a dead note strung flat, her face fallen back in worry. Wordlessly, she gave a blanketed smile and headed off slowly with a stride lost between acceptance and unsureness.

Lola watched. Their distance apart stretched the imaginary tether that bonded them. Afar, her mother's eyes were spotlights that scathed hard biting beams that cared little for empathy or magic sandcastles ruled over by two princesses who dreamed too often.

After gathering enough poise she shortened the teather and matched the little girl’s stride, walking close so their hands could touch.

“What are you doing?”

“It’ll be a little longer until my body gets whisked away again. I'm not letting you in that house alone. For as long as I can change this past, I can help you.”

“That's crazy.”

“I know. Maybe it's the lack of sleep.”

The girl laughed. “Well if that's so, please stay tired all the time!”

Their hearts grew still upon entering. Breathing was troubled when submerged under cheap fumes and anxiety. The house was a wooden shell that would soon turn into an hourglass where grains poured down half as fast. Wilma went about like a fancy dressed peafowl gone aimless, setting up every precious tea cup and flower vase even though the shelves were already crowded.

Beyond the front window a wagon had just parked outside, a discrete chariot pulled by two grey colored unicorns, the kind that could blend in with any ocean backdrop. Something triggered. Instantly, Lola’s brain turned over a glass shard memory previously hidden. She whispered in the girl’s ear. “Here, repeat what I say.”

“Good idea, but you don't have to whisper, remember?”

Wilma looked over, confused, but the door knocked before questions came about.

And the person who entered had hair dampened between grey and dull placid pink, an elf, yet one which shared a face that mimicked human complexion, save for her pair of slightly pointed ears. Lola watched this washed out palette walk in with eyes steely gray, clothes adorned in diluted silk rags, and an ash colored suitcase.

It appeared, despite her not breaching thirty years, that she had embodied some ominous spirit caught in clouded mystique. If all these muted hues were different, the woman might have been beautiful.

“Please do come in and relax Miss Valery,” Wilma chirped, like some bird tweeting for its owner. “Perhaps tea will suffice while you unload?”

“I can do so without tea, perhaps later thank you.” Valery spoke as if words were meant to be misconstrued, for hers had always been tinted by ulterior intentions. She unbuckled the coffin and rummaged through with fine tuned hands. Abruptly, her fogged spotlights veered up. “It appears you wish to say something.”

The girl inched back but Lola’s hand instantly provided relief.

“Don’t be bashful. Speak up.”

“Oh, well, I-I waded in the ocean too long. My fingers won’t hold the strings very good if they all look like raisins.” She held them up, smiling frankly “See? Lots of crinkles.”

After a moment in hidden bother, Valery knelt eye level to inspect these supposedly damaged tools, these intricate appliances that had softened thin. She observed her with impersonal scrutiny.

“We can settle for piano this time,” Lola said.

“We can settle for piano this time, “ the girl said.

Valery consumed Wilma in a dence misty glare. “Such is why I suggested that play dates be cut short. Why wasn't my advice heeded?”

Wilma’s demeanor seeped away. She uttered a soft slavish-like apology, then left quietly.

“No matter the delay. Let’s not have our valuable time together be reduced to a piano lesson. That’s not what I’m paid for.” She slipped off her thin taffeta gloves, two raven weaved sets of fingers, and tossed them over. “You’ll be wearing these until instructed otherwise, understand?”

The girl peered down at them, waiting for these black widow spiders to move. “A little big for me, right?”

“Challenges are leadways to improvement.” Valery took her spot with both arms arched over the piano keys. “Every missed pitch yields one shock to the collar after practice, as always. Now let’s begin. Start with the second nursery song you learned from last time, and go from there. A tempo of around forty eight is good for now.”

“But Miss Valery, look, the gloves hang from my fingers.”

No response passed her lips, just an unbreakable, unrelenting barrier where remorse would never crack through. Playing alongside an unsympathetic machine was impossible when impaired by someone else's hand shadows stitched to her skin. Uncertainty crept in like cold woven threads up her spine.

Then, just as wintry twines formed, a layer of assuage slipped over her hands and made the shadows cast away towards somewhere warm. Lola was close as her fingers splayed across hers like an affable blanket, ready to steer them clear from mistakes.

“Just relax, but not too much,” she said. “I’ll move the violin while you act in unison. Remember, I’m not here.”

The girl felt Lola's white linen dress kiss her backside like a cloak of alabaster. She could lean into it enough to feel relief. Sitting down during these sessions was not permitted, nor was using a bathroom, or leaving the room at all, except when told differently.

So now, instead of these threatening rhymes being played with disfigured quality, they were diamond clear. It was a delight not to beckon at the whim of every note, not to cope with just the thought of getting through, curglaff and all.

When the rhyme's last stanza concluded, Valery haltingly swiveled around and released a muddled, undistinguished glare.

“I practiced up in that light house yesterday,” said Lola. “Works like a charm.”

“I practiced up in that light house yesterday,” said the girl. “Works like a charm.”

The misted tutor remained still. “So it appears that way, although miracles do occur, no matter what.”

Perfect isn't good enough for you? Why don't you just play this violin until your hands loose feeling!” Lola’s nerves shivered tight. “Well go on! The suspense is killing me!”

The girl glanced up at her older self’s bloodshot eyes. “I-I just won’t say that part,” she whispered.

Another song ensued, this one a scale bouncing off an A-minor ascension. It was played with a clarity crystallized with foolproof design, a pure glass gemstone bearing no cracks or nicks where conflict could form. Even with weary vision and diluted energy, every note was played with rote accuracy. Surely, the tutor would react to this instantaneous surge in talent. Miracles don’t happen twice.

And yet, Valery remained a stoic cloud, hovering there, with eyes that never saw light permeating within them.

More hymns and ballads came with each one’s completion having a near flawless balance between pitch and rhythm. The instructed tempo of forty eight never stepped out of bounds, nor did the sound breach an unnecessary volume. Scales went by performed free of missed keys or strangled tones. The strings heated as the bow slid across them. Normally, flowing pass this much material within such a short span was unheard of.

Lola’s expression dipped, as if to let several gallons of anger pour out. “I don’t understand,” she said quietly, seeing Valery’s demenior unchanged, frozen to a mold. “Still nothing? Why? Please tell me the point of playing all these sheets. You, you won’t even mention how good they sound. You don't even bat an eye.”

Stillness echoed back her soundless voice. She would soon be left to meander through this mantra of exercises bearing no final verdict. It was just like before, unknowingly reined into a state where playing through every instructor’s command was the only way through.

I don’t understand,” the girl said quietly, seeing Valery’s demenior unchanged, frosted to a pose. “Still nothing? Why? Please tell me the point of playing all these sheets. You won’t even mention how much better they sound. You don’t even blink.”

Lola glanced down, surprised that her plea was repeated, then expectant of how it would come across.

Steadily, Valery turned back, shaded eyes enclosing the living room in a storm front. With feet like dust powder she closed the distance, slowly, then knelt down. “Then perhaps you need a better look. Am I blinking now?”

The little sandcastle princess said nothing.

“A fragile tongue? Very well, then I’ll ask you this. Why would you want someone like me, to care for someone like you?”

“Everyone should care. Do you care that I hurt a lot, all the time? Each time with that shock doll makes me feel worse. Sometimes I can still feel it during the night. I wake up sometimes and can’t move, and it hurts. Everything does.”

“Your answer, while honest, doesn’t reach far.” Valery made distance by sitting on the piano bench and looked on, as if her next words needed this space for momentum. “Perhaps there's need for clarification. Even if I were to end any punishment and actually care for you, do you think the situation would change?”

“You are just a speck in this industry of millions, understand?. What prodigy would want to go about their days knowing that? So many people practice music, child, yet only a handful have achieved your talent.” Her pause was defining, sucking in every drop of noise. “When you train with me, I’m actively changing all of that. I can make you known to entire arenas holding thousands of eager eyes. You will become known among the realm of Yevital. Loneliness and pain will just be notions long since forgotten. It matters not how much it hurts, or how how much you suffer for the cause.”

It came in swells, slowly, gradually filling Lola’s body with enmity that steadily dropped in temperature. The girl had replied saying “Yes mam”, as if being undone by sullied lies was fair enough. They kept playing, because voicing against the instructor’s contaminated idealism would only lead to more trauma. Valery’s depraved perspective was truly embedding itself. If Lola was being cynically honest now, bringing about change in such a tightly woven past was one step away from absurd. She could ease the pain, not the outcome. If there were actions left to espouse, they had all been evaporated.

The little princess felt her clasping hands rattle like brittle chimes. She stole a glance up. Her older self’s demeanour had drained its dismal unease for something frantic, someone who had nothing left to say except the dolesome truth.

“Please, you have to stop shaking,” the girl whispered. “Things like that aren’t allowed. If you do it, I’ll likely follow.”

“Then follow!” Lola’s cry rang out in tides. “Neither of us will change anything if we don’t show the heartache she’s causing!” She hurried around in front and knelt down. Valery’s clouded form was obstructed by her reddened sleep rung eyes. “Listen, I’ll be fading away again any second now. You have to say something to change her, anything, or else it’ll be years until this finally stops.” Her body began to flicker, her face, her hands. Having no words left and a few more seconds to spare, Lola embraced her, gently, taking in that faint seashore scent.

The girl watched her older self dissipate like static ripples fading from reality, leaving nothing to remain except a sudden quiet absence. She felt exposed, left in the tutor’s cold front. What could dispel it? Emotions were useless, so were pleas, and every form of contempt had been laid bare. A threat?

A threat? The girl instantly withdrew from the idea. Yet, there was nothing else to do.

Time flowed onward. Lola’s spirit was pulled from the past and deposited once again in the present.

Waiting for Hummingbird’s Verse this time had her wrapped in a slow crawling lacuna, enclosed in a waking reverie. This tension had breached a point where going back was beyond comprehension. She was emotionally splattered, each different feeling scattered about her apartment. Resentment laid limp near the corner, with melancholy stuck somewhere on the ceiling, and over there, hanging over the bedpost, was loathing. Perhaps an eviction notice was tacked outside the door. Perhaps Gerenham College had one less student in its roster. Perhaps Sandy’s Diner had already replaced its absent worker. Lola had abandoned every bit of success for this. A dream that no one else could even see, nothing but a feeble attempt to hold onto history.

Then, finally it came, that familiar static flowing once again, taking her back to that strange amorphic land which bordered two timelines. Immediately, something seemed amidst. The ocean was silent, stagnant, and drained of even the wave’s whisper in her ears. The current had lost its tongue.

A sharp glimmer fluttered in her eyes, from the lighthouse, from someone within its clear windowed head. This halo spooled her through the soundless water. But something tugged softly back, the realm’s last warning before it could no longer reach its tired wanderer. Worried and wearied, she followed her feet towards the only light left to see. There was a shadow cast by uncertainty stitched to her heels which pulled against every step through the endless ocean. Had her provocations altered time beyond repair? Had her words finally gone too far to reel them back in?

But this was the only way now, like a lone trail in the snow. All else had been laid beneath the arctic tides.

The old lighthouse steps flickered away when she reached the summit. Velvet peach light doused in around two figures, not one. Yercy was near a window flashing limelight off a broken mirror piece. Nearby, her younger counterpart sat idly like a flower clinched in calloused misery, not meeting gazes, hands buried in her royal blue dress.

Lola stepped onward, uttering a greeting, as if speaking louder would break tension building. She uttered again.

The girl hardly moved. “You can stop making signals Yercy. I see her. She’s here.”

Yercy stopped immediately and looked forward, though her sight phased blankly through the woman approaching every so slightly. “Where is she? How close?” The Nereid’s` unpolished face and penitent eyes were that of post-traumatic grief, unlike her signature jubilant smile. “Are you going to tell her everything?...This is scary.”

Little Lola nodded straight. “She’s right there.”

Lola knelt down, leaning in, but the girl winced and jerked away. Had simple eye contact caused that much pain? “You’re really hurting, I can tell...what happened?”

“What’s going on?” Yercy went closer at seeing her friend retract, then backed away, not knowing which was best.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” the girl replied, not looking away, blinking away tears. “Maybe showing what I’ve done isn’t such a good idea. What’s the point? It’s over now. No more sessions. No more teacher.”

“Show me what? Are you holding something? This is…” Lola’s voice suddenly broke apart. Spreading from where her younger self’s dress folded to hide her hands was a red spreading stain, crawling slowly out like water permeating through a rag.

She gradually looked back up with eyes like shivering blue orbs. “What...what happened?’

The girl choked on a breath, and revealed them.

If there was a sight that could turn someone numb with horror, this was it. Her hands, lacerated with bleeding cuts running down fingers and palms, were, as realized by the crimson glass shard lying nearby, not inflicted by another. Both hands were gnarled, blistered, and ulcerated underneath. They had been damaged beyond repair, rendered useless as red trickled down them. They had been voluntarily maimed by dragging that shard across them without stopping, no matter how much it hurt.

“I-I couldn’t think of anything to say, except a threat.” The girl’s brittle voice cracked. “But threats to the teacher don’t do anything, so, I threatened to hurt myself instead.”

Lola’s body recoiled, utterly mortified.

Only when several long seconds passed did the girl’s thin tears show, though not likely crying from her older self’s expression, but from the festering sores running through her hands like a plague, spreading through her torn skin, wrapped in wounds.

Guilt threatened to completely overwhelm Lola. She snapped out of her horrified trance and scrambled for words, actions, begging for forgiveness, for everything. But each plea seamed to dehydrate instantly. They passed absently through the girl who was already feeling her adrenaline recede, the pain seeping in.

“No one believed me when I threatened to do this!” she was screaming. “And now I’m here! And I did it! I showed them! Now they can’t use my hands.” Her body contracted as another painful wave struck down. “But now, even I can’t use my hands.”

“You need help!” Petrified, Yercy scampered over, trying to hold her friend still, offering calmness, as if to soak in the agony with her hands. The Nereid’s composure fell out of balance, however, seeing little Lola being moved by some ghastly force, by a phantom’s hand. “Who is that? Is it the big you? She was shivering now, noticing that with every attempt to bring harmony left her own clothes stained more and more with someone else’s blood. There was so much of it, more than she had ever seen in one place.

“Hey, big Lola!” Yercy’s cry rang in desperation. “If you’re out there, please help her. Help us! Anything!”

But Lola had already lost every sense of cohesion. The lighthouse chamber had become a cacophony of cries filling her head and body. Her sense of control had been emptied, but still she tried to quell the bleeding that threatened to leave little Lola unconscious on the hard metal floor, or worse. She earnestly ripped ivory tendrils from her dress and knotted them tight around the crippled hands, once again seizing another fleeting chance to route this timeline in a better direction, even though all her prior attempts had frayed it further into calamity.

Footsteps clamoured from the rungs below, echoing like broken bells all through the metal mirador. Hectic voices churned in unshapely songs spelling an end to all things secret. The lighthouse had been discovered by outsiders, the fabled shelter where only seashore princesses were allowed among its presence.

Wilma appeared from the staircase, heels clacking, face plastered in appaulment. Calvin followed close behind, his own expression stilled and vacant. Then a third figure parted their shoulders and stepped in front. Valery’s gaze was heavy as it coaxed over the two children sheathed in her eyes, but little Lola was already feeling distant, her vision fuzzing up from suddenly weak limbs.

“Don’t look at her like that!” Yercy piped up, taking a stand close to her friend. “You did this!” Her eyes darted wide. “You all did this! Just go away! This is our lighthouse!”

“Go home Yercy!” Wilma’s rebut gashed right through her. She pushed forward with each sharp pace sending high pitched pings that scraped harshly on the floor. The Nereid tried fending off this intruder only to be held aside by Calvin’s rigid grasp. Wilma was about to demoralize a six year old who only needed help, not another senseless scolding.

“Stay away!” Lola shoved her mother hard, enough for it to hurt, to scare her, to make her believe that an angry ghost wanted her far away from this storybook haven made from metal and glass.

But then, everything unweaved. The action, the motion of her body stopped short of completion by a force beyond reality when her hand made contact with Wilma’s clothes. Every air molecule paused in unbridled tension, each one threatening to pop under immeasurable strain. When Lola tried to compose what was happening, a loud rift cracked space like a violin string broken out of tune. It pierced her ears as static tumult distorted every color and shape so harshly it blinded her. Everything was a noisy distorted image hardly resembling the scene before. The lighthouse was ripping apart. There was an irresistible force pulling her forwards in time, towards the present, compulsorily and without compromise.

Then there was nothing. Nothing but an unconscious void filling her eyes. Lola’s body was motionless in the dark. She was awake now, in her living room, in her apartment, cloaked in the same ivory dress now sullied in wet blood stains. Her pulse was near its limit as it pounded through every vein, a constant hammer that folded her on the floor, sweating, heart palpitating through every harsh beat. She stammered up and called out for anyone within the building complex only to find every word flattened by lungs starved of oxygen. Nothing in the medicine cabinet held any answers either, now just a broken mirror with Mr. Hane’s pills strewn about. She sat prostrate on the wall and stared up, wading through cold spells that hadn't a pattern to speak of.

Steadily, the pounding softened as it went along a downward slope towards equilibrium. Even when the tumult settled, a gelid realization seeped into every crevice of her brain, a notion made clear by her drained limbs and red blotches dress.

The only absolute was that, through this entire odyssey, she had unknowingly caused far more harm than good. 

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