Archive | May 2012

Taproots, a story of Rin & Girey for the May Giraffe Call

For [personal profile] clare_dragonfly‘s commissioned continuation of Roots.

Reiasson has a landing page here And a wiki here.

Girey wasn’t sure she’d heard him at first. She didn’t answer, at least, instead continuing to flip through the ancient book in front of her.

“The papers go back further,” she said, instead of answering, after a while. “Not much more, and most of it is incomprehensible. But it’s clear we came here, my people, yours, the Arrans, all of us.”

He was not yet used to her speaking heresy as if it were truth, and, more so, as if nobody would stop her. “That’s what…” He trailed off, frowning. Rin picked up the thread of the conversation.

“You said the heretical texts mentioned Tabersi. You’ve heard of those texts then, or read them?”

“It’s a crime against the throne to read the texts. The priests keep them locked up.”

“But you…” She paused, and looked around, and raised one black eyebrow in question.

Son of Tugia, she taunted in his memory. But she was asking the Prince of Bithrain this question.

“I did. And the Tabersi are mentioned, them, and the callentate of barbarians, the Ideztozhyuh.” The word was uncomfortable on his tongue, the consonants sounding harsh and alien.

“The Idez… the people of the old earth. Interesting.” She flipped through a few more pages of the book. “So my texts speak of the origins of your people, while yours -“

“Talk of visiting barbarians who decided to stay.” He frowned at her head. “Not about how they set up shop here, on this continent, though.” And not how they’d beaten his people at war.

“Interesting.” She flipped through the book. “This one’s too old, it doesn’t say where the wars started.”

“Didn’t it say your people rebelled?”

“The looks of that, however, was a bloodless rebellion. The cold season was hard, the passes were closed, and it was long into the hot season before anyone noticed anything had changed.”

Girey frowned, and didn’t say what he was thinking. That seemed wrong, somehow, but it had been many years ago that he’d read the proscribed texts. “The Bitrani don’t speak much of that era.”

“I think it has something to do with your priests.” She held up both hands, forestalling a complaint he hadn’t been intending on making. “I am not speaking ill of your people or your priests.”

“The Bitrani and the Callenians have the same faith.” It came out like the complaint he had been trying not to make, and he frowned in frustration. “We worship the same three gods, in the same temples, with the same words. You took me to a service,” he reminded her, “to show me that.”

“We do. I’ve been to Bitrani services, as well. In disguise, and with the headscarf some women wore covering her hair, but she had been. “We worship the same gods. I believe that. But your priests hide things by calling them heresy…”

He couldn’t help interrupting. “We don’t have priests anymore, remember? ‘We’ don’t have anything anymore.”

Her hand in his hair was surprisingly tender. “You still have a culture. We couldn’t wipe that out if we tried. And that’s the thing.”

“What’s the thing?” He was both lost and angry now, his confusion making both worse.

“We couldn’t erase your culture if we tried – but I’m beginning to wonder if somebody else tried. And from the inside, maybe it was easier.” She set a finger on the book. “Where did the Tabersi go? And the Ideztozhyuh? And why?”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

Being the Monster

For rix_scaedu‘s Commissioned continuation.

Addergoole has a landing pagehere.

After Cursed.

Barypos ended. Ended, in a way he had never imagined possible, Ended, Name and name and soul and memories. He ended in a twist of pain and a gut-punch, air lost, while the world burned around him.

He dreamt of death, of spears, of the lamentations and screams of women following him through the years. He dreamt of blood and pain, and of fire, and more fire, and more.

When he awoke, Barypos was gone. He woke to consciousness of a sort, remembering nothing but pain and fire.

Slowly, he stood, and brushed the sand off of his skin. White skin, skin like a dead thing, rippled with muscle and lined with scars that were, as he watched, vanishing into the whiteness. He looked around; sand, and the long-gone remains of buildings. To the north, sand, to the east, sand. To the south, sand, and to the west, sand and the sun.

That was a direction, at least. Not knowing what else to do, he walked into the sun.

A caravan found him, some endless time later, coated in dust and parched. “Where do you come from?” they asked, and he could not tell them. They gave him water, and asked his name.

“Buh-” was all he could remember, so Buh he became, for the few moments before the women brushed the sand off of him, before the men saw what he was.

“Monster,” the youngest woman screamed. “Beast, corpse-eater!”

Those who had welcomed and rescued him drove him off again, screaming monster, beast, creature! and, confused, Buh ran off into the dessert.

Baram woke sweating and swearing and reached across the bed for the girl. There was a girl there. That was the deal; there was always a girl there.

The girl pressed against him in her sleep, stroking his back, her hands firm. Viatrix. Vi’s hands were the strongest. Like Etheldreda. Like Joan.

The memories were beginning to sneak back in, around the edges, when he was sleeping or nearly so, when one of the girls was holding him, and, sometimes and most painfully, when he was holding one of the children. Ethldreda, who had been able to stand him the longest of anyone before these girls, who had stayed with him when the torches lit, stayed with him until the very end. Joan… Joan who had gritted her teeth and tried.

That wasn’t him. That was some other guy, some monster in his nightmares.

He looked down at his body, at the slabs of muscle, at the pale, corpse-like skin. This didn’t change. He died and was born again, died and died and died again, and this returned, white and death-looking. Monstrous.

“I’m here,” Via whispered in his ear, and he clutched her closer. He had never understood what had brought them to show up on his doorstep, Jaelie and then Via and Alkyone, nor what, aside from his protection, drove them to stay, but he knew their warmth and their – he wouldn’t call it love. Nobody could love him. He’d never Kept anyone, that he could recall, to not force the imitation of affection – their friendship seemed to push back the dark.

He knew he would die again. But until that death came, he could be their monster.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

Addergoole Year Nine Character Profile: Timora

Addergoole Year Nine won the reader poll for “Next Year’s serial;” the story proper will begin the first full week of September.

In the meantime, please enjoy the second of twenty-something character profiles: Timora.

Timora is a shy, uncertain girl who reached her height (5 foot 7 inches) quickly and the rest of her growth more slowly, making her awkward and uncertain around her classmates. Added to a generally retiring nature – in a family full of loud and boisterous people, she has always been the quiet one – this generally led people to misunderstand her name as a pun for “timid.”

As a child, she was fond of books, animals, and farming, with a propensity for spending a good deal of time in the local dairy and goat farmers’ barns, helping out or getting in the way. She was not, perhaps surprisingly, much into horse fantasy, although she did love the Narnian centaurs, preferring the fauns, dryads, naiads, and such.

Her introversion, her choice of reading material, and her preference for outdoor life rather than playing games or going to the mall, all added up to her being a rather ignored, unpopular child in school. For many years, she hardly noticed, until boys started becoming interesting to her.

She spent her last two years of high school before Addergoole in a state of embarrassed frustration, uncertain how to deal with boys, what she was supposed to say, or why the romance-novel-inspired dresses and skirts she loved so much were suddenly giggle-worthy and inappropriate. A more attentive mother may have been able to put her on the right path, but Douglass Dark-Water is not known for being all that involved in her children’s lives.

Timora is a slender, willowy, coltish girl with long sandy brown hair that tends to wave and curl. She has a pointed chin and hazel eyes, and wouldn’t know what to do with make-up if somebody gave her step-by-step directions. She wears her hair loose, or with the front braided back.

Her brother, Smitty, tried to tell her about Addergoole. He was hampered by first the geas, second by the fact that his experiences at the school were some of the mildest around, and third by their six-year age gap and his long absence from home during Timora’s formative years. She is left understanding that there is a family legacy relating to the school, and that there are animals to spend time with there.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

Taking the Blindfold, a story of Fae Apoc

Erotic in tone, but with no sexual acts. Implied slavery of the consensual sort.

“You understand everything I’ve told you?” The docent’s voice was gentle, her expression neutral. Andrew nodded, gulped, and cleared his throat.

“I understand.” This wasn’t the sort of thing you could enter not understanding. They made sure of that. It might have been easier if he could have pretended, shut off some of his brain. It was a major commitment, after all. Five years. In five years, that would have been a fifth of his life.

“And you consent, as per the forms you have signed?”

That was the kicker. Other places took you unwilling. Other places didn’t always put time limits on it. The Museum only took those who walked in willingly, only took those who consented.

Andrew gulped. Saying the words was harder. “And I consent, yes.”

“Drop your Mask and strip your clothing off. Leave it here. You’ve put your affairs in order?”

“Such as they are, yes.” He pointed to the safety deposit box. “All my cash, my only belongings.”

“We will hold them here for you until your term is up. We swear to is, as per the paperwork.” The docent’s voice didn’t change in inflection, nor did her eyes stray from his face as he peeled off his clothing. Not until he dropped his Mask to reveal his true form did she look down.

“Nice.” Her voice never changed its infliction. “You should have no trouble attracting an Owner. Here.” She brought forth a blindfold. “This remains on until your new Owner removes it. To try to remove it yourself violates your contract. Do you understand?”

There had been nothing about a blindfold in the briefing. Andrew considered panicking. He considered backing out. But he’d come this far. He could keep going. He nodded. “I understand.” He bowed his head so she could slide the blindfold over his hair, and set it in place over his eyes. The world went black, the so-carefully-neutral layout of the waiting room gone.

A finger touched his lips. “You will do no Workings until you are under the care of your new Owner. Now walk forward. I will be by your side. Continue walking forward unless you are told to stop.”

Completely unwillingly, he licked his lips and, once again, he nodded. “I understand.” Now it would begin.


“You begin walking now.”

Andrew had been to the Museum before; anyone who had any interest on the … obscure… eventually visited here, no matter how far they had to come. He had lived across the street for years, in a tiny walk-up, working up some cash and working up the nerve, visiting the outer sanctum every Friday, visiting the bar almost every night.

He put one foot in front of the other, steady, slow, regular. The floor was cold under his feet, and very smooth. In front of him had been a wall, before the docent blindfolded him. He kept walking anyway. He wasn’t going to fail, not before he even started.

For all the time he had spent at the Museum, he had never been back into the Archives. You had to be buying or selling to get back there – or a docent, and they went wherever they pleased. The Museum itself – its exhibits, its classes, its collections – spawned rumors and whispers across the world. But the Archives? Andrew had only heard of its existence three months ago, when they had sent him a request for proposal.
The air whooshed across his face, and he kept walking. The docent’s gloved hand was on his shoulder, neither directing nor urging him along, simply there. The air changed, growing several degrees cooler, cool enough to be uncomfortable for his bare skin. The floor changed – a grating of some sort, not painful to step on, but not pleasant, either. It swayed, ever so slightly, under his feet. There was no sound, except a faint mechanical noise, muffled, as if a long way away.

“In three steps you will turn left.” The docent’s voice was closer than he expected; Andrew fought not to jump, and, this time, won.

One, two, three steps. He turned left, feeling another whoosh of air. And then, just at the edge of his hearing at first, voices. Murmurs, conversation, all in polite whispers, as at a golf course or a museum opening.

Museum opening. Of course. And he was on display. He nearly hesitated, nearly stopped. But it was too late to back out now. It had been too late when he signed the papers. Too late, if he was being honest, when he received the request for proposal.

Though he kept walking, the docent saw or sensed his moment of weakness. “I can tie your hands,” she whispered in his ear. “Or leash you.”

He didn’t shake his head, but he knew he pursed his lips. Consciously, carefully, he put one foot in front of the other. The voices were getting closer. He felt as if he could feel their breath on him, their gaze on him. How many? Was anyone he knew here? Would they tell stories, and, if so, to whom?

And would any of that matter to him, in five years? Step, step. The grating seemed harder, sharper. The voices seemed louder, and no more clear; he thought he heard an upturn of Russian, off to his left. The hand on his shoulder seemed firmer. Step, step, step…

“Stop.” That was the docent’s voice, in his ear again. He stopped, and did not ask questions, hard as it was.

“Turn to the left.” He almost turned, before realizing it was not his handler speaking. The voice was somewhere near his navel, male, deep, and warm.

“Turn,” the docent repeated, and Andrew turned.

“Lovely body. Kneel.”

Again, Andrew waited, and again, the docent repeated the order.

He dropped carefully to his knees. He expected the grating to be uncomfortable, and it was, but the moment was more than the discomfort, almost more than his fear. There was a hand on his chin. He wanted to pull back, to complain, but he didn’t. If this was against the rules, the docent would tell him.

“Lovely. I’d like to see that mouth stretched around a gag.” The voice was chill, colder even than the hand on his chin. “I bet we could stretch him out and peg him from all ends, and he wouldn’t make a single complaint. What do you think, dear?”

The second voice was a level alto, genderless to Andrew’s ear. “He’s pretty. He’s very pretty.” The speaker made it sound like a bad thing. “I’m in the mood for something more rugged.”

“I think this one is tougher than he looks.”

Andrew fought against an urge to lick his lips. These two were frightening him. There were rules, oaths one had to swear if one was going to buy a slave from the Archive. He had seen the contracts as part of his orientation. Nothing they were describing was against those rules – and he still wasn’t certain he could handle it.

This could have been a very, very bad idea. This could have been just a slow form of suicide. He gulped despite himself.

“Not this one,” the man decided. “Move on.”

“Stand,” the docent murmured, as she put a hand under Andrew’s armpit to help him to his feet.

Not this one was echoing in Andrew’s ears as he was steered along the path. Kneel, bend, turn around, stand, pose, open your mouth; he obeyed every command without flinching, withstood every touch without shying away, and was rejected, time and time again.

“Stop.” The voice made the docent stumble, and that, more than the chill in the order, made Andrew halt. He felt as if he was becoming numb, lost. They had not told him what happened to slaves who weren’t sold. He was thinking, now, that it would have been a good question to ask. “Kneel.”

He dropped to his knees, wondering if voices had always been this genderless, or if this was a feature of the blindfold, stripping away cues, or a feature of the audience, as fae as he was and more so in many cases (or so he’d been told. Only Fae could be so bound to their promises, after all).

“They see your fear.” A hand touched his cheek, and Andrew was suddenly, completely, bone-shakingly terrified. “And they think they could break you, until they see the set of your chin. Or they fear you will shatter, which is not the same thing at all.”

He couldn’t be the only one who was afraid? He licked his lips and did not speak, but the voice answered anyway.

“They’re all afraid. We’re all afraid. This place requires commitment, which is anathema to our souls. No, pretty one, it is the particular flavor of your fear they find problematic.”

He knew what words were coming next, but Andrew still held his breath, waiting to hear them.

“And it is that fear that I will take home with me. Bend your neck down here for my leash, boy.”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

First Nesting

For fflox‘s commissioned continuation of First Wind.

Yilly was falling, dropping like a rock, every attempt of his to fly, to find the air, falling, failing, freaking out. He had always been going to learn the feel, going to try the short drops with his high-level classmates, but there’d always been something more interesting, something more fun. Now there wasn’t any more time, and he was dropping from the high levels, right down to the flood zone and the river.

And then, there were his friends, his crawling-in-the-catacombs and splashing-in-the-river and staying-up-dancing friends, and there they were, just below him. Yilly cupped air and tried to slow himself. He didn’t want to hurt them, didn’t want to bring them down with them. But they were getting closer, closer. Mirro and Tanny swooped under Yilly and came up under him, grabbing his hands, pulling him up into a wind with them, while Lonoll did something complicated so she was standing up, looking Yilly in the face.

“Feel the air, Yill-ne-yill, find it in your face and your vents. Right there, right… there.”

As always, Lonoll could make sense when nobody else could, and Yilly found, for the first time, the way the air whispered across his vents and pushed up against his glides. “Oh…” It was more a prayer than an exclamation, as he suddenly understood what his parents had been speaking of. “Oh… I’m flying!”

He deserved the chittering Mirro and Tanny gave him, teasing him mercilessly for that one. “You’re flying me,” he allows. They were flying him. “You saved my life.”

“We need you.” Lonoll’s smile was broad, and her vents were tinged with red. Was she…

“Oh.” Another prayer. “But we don’t have a nest.”

“We do.” Mirro’s vents were turning red, too. “We found one. While you were in your high-classes.”

Yilly twitched his vents guiltily. “No more of those for me, not after today. You…” He could feel the wind, now, and shifted his glides and his vents to allow for the warmth of the updraft.

Lonoll took the opportunity to talk over him. “You brought us books, and those worksheets.”

“You went swimming with us, and showed us the secret caves.” Mirro picked up the thread. “And we didn’t mind your high-classes. You brought all that fun stuff back with you.”

“Besides.” Tanny was always more pragmatic. “We need a fourth to be a proper nest-group, so we couldn’t let you fall.”

Yilly laughed, dropped a body-length, and managed to restore his balance. “Good to know you’re thinking of me.”

“Flutter-brain.” Lonoll rubbed against him in a very pointed manner. Yilly swallowed an egg-sized lump of panic; he wasn’t up to that sort of flying yet, even if everyone was getting very red in the vents. “we’re always thinking of you.”

“And our nest.” Mirro rescued him, more or less, tugging him towards the cliff-face. “And our nest-group.”

“Come on.” Tanny fluttered and chattered in amusement. “Let us show you.”

Yilly managed to roll onto his back, catching the drafts as his friends – as his nest-group – tugged him towards the cliff face. Far above, he could see his parents’ nest, up in the highest levels.

He turned back to his nest-group, watching the girls’ vents flutter redder and redder. This was home now.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

Addergoole Year Nine Character Profile: Wylie

Addergoole Year Nine won the reader poll for “Next Year’s serial;” the story proper will begin the first full week of September.

In the meantime, please enjoy the first of twenty-something character profiles: Wylie.

b. August 10, 1988

Wylie is a middling-heighted boy (5’9”) with middling-brown hair and a middling build, with average grades and an average athletic ability. On paper, he is an entirely ordinary fifteen-year-old boy.

His blue eyes set him apart when one is looking at him; his propensity for puzzles and science set him apart in classes; his utter inability to pay attention to anything for more than five minutes set him apart (or, rather, push him aside) for most of his teachers. He doesn’t like reading but soaks up information when he does, for whatever brief period he can remain interested; he watches TV voraciously and soaks up information, generally while getting half-way through some other project.

His foster-mother, who he believes to be his real mother, and her husband, who he believes to be his father, have long since despaired of his finishing anything; mom Page keeps Legos around by the cubic yard to keep Wylie’s hands occupied (She packed a box of them in his luggage for Addergoole). Father Cedric has found that putting a notepad and pencil in reach of their son’s hands will sometimes generate fascinating things and other times generate complete crap; the rare nightmare-monster drawing is burned before Wylie notices what he’s done.

His best subjects are math and science; he’s rubbish at history and can’t sit through more than five minutes of English without getting distracted, although he likes old historical fantasy (Beowulf, for example, the worse the monster the better).

Physically, he’s pale-skinned and freckles, with pouty lips (not that he pouts much), still out-growing his baby fat in face and stomach, and tends towards plain t-shirts and loose-fitting jeans, or, when Page has been fussing, plain button-down shirts and loose-fitting khakis. If he has to engage in a sport, he prefers lacrosse.

His parents have told him that Addergoole is a school for “gifted” children, by which he believes they mean “screwed up.”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.


For [personal profile] avia‘s request. Kendra’s Change is mouse-girl; Sylvanus’s is primatey.

“Lay down,” Kendra suggested, her hands on Sylvanus’s shoulders urging him towards the bed. “It doesn’t hurt, does it?”

“Hurt? No.” His voice had Changed with the rest of him, getting a bit higher-pitched [something something] and, right now, a bit panicked. Kendra liked it, though. He was nice and soft. “But, Kennie, I look funny.”

“You look wonderful.” She sat down next to him on the bed and stroked the light fur of his chest.

“I look like a monkey.”

“And I look like a mouse. That’s the norm, for Addergoole.” She let her hands drift to his ears, tracing the enlarged lobes. Cautiously, he returned the favor, brushing his hand against the outside of her ears.

“But you look adorable. Cute. I look…”

“I wonder how prehensile your tail is? Mine doesn’t do much, but yours, given the Change…” She pushed on his shoulder, urging him to roll over. “Your hands and feet are a bit bigger, too.”

“That’s not all that’s bigger.” His smile was both lewd and uncertain. Kendra responded by kissing him, learning the feel of his new lips. Only then did he roll over, with a reluctant sound. “Kennie…?”

“I like the tail.” She flipped hers into his hand and began stroking the new lines of his tail, brown-furred and soft. “I like this look on you.”

“Well… good?” His hand on her tail was cautious, almost tickling. “I mean, considering.”

She kept up the slow stroking of his new Changed parts. She knew it helped, to feel the touch on things that hadn’t existed before. “Good,” she agreed. “Considering.”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

House-Schooling, a story of Addergoole-Apoc for the April Giraffe Call (@Rix_Scaedu)

This story contains magic and references to Addergoole but no slavery, sex, or violence.

For rix_scaedu‘s Commissioned Prompt.

Faerie Apocalypse has a landing page here here (and on LJ).

After These Walls Can Talk, Housewarming, and As Safe as Houses

Dodger is from When the Gods Attacked..

Bethseda hadn’t meant to eavesdrop; it was just that the eaves and everything under them were her, and, like anyone, when her name came up, she paid attention.

So when Clare and Tobias started talking about her, and about houses that might bite (She would have been offended, but that grandmother who had become a castle? She’d heard some disturbing rumors about Grandma), and, more than that, when they had started hinting at what they thought they might be, she had devoted a little attention their way.

When they had mentioned Dodger, she knew she had to pay true attention. He had stopped by her place a time or two, the itinerant Crime Dog, and she always welcomed him with open doors and a warm bed. He had, learning what she was, tried to Mentor her – only to be pleasantly surprised to find out she was already an Adult, with her own Name and her own responsibilities.

(He had suggested she Keep someone to handle the sweeping and the errands. She was still considering it, but, unlike some of her classmates, she couldn’t very well go out to the bars looking).

If these two were “Students” of Dodger’s, they were going to need help. He did a good enough job at slapping down the basics, but basics was all he handled. And with a war going on… no wonder these kids were a little lost.

“I believe I can be of assistance,” she suggested. She thought probably Sana could as well, but it wasn’t her job to out people.

Tobias answered the door, uncertainly and very cautiously. “There’s no-one out here.”

“It seemed rude not to knock.” As a shrugging would be very disorienting for everyone, she settled for a sound like a chuckle. “I’m sorry. I know it can be disorienting to not have a face to talk to.”

“Do you have a face?” Clare glared at Tobias when he tch’d her. “It’s not a rude question. I don’t think it is…”

“I had one, once; this is my Change, after all. But now… not that you would find comfortable to look at, I’m afraid.”

“I knew it. You eat people.”

“No, I really don’t. I generally take in sustenance from the rain and the ground, more like a plant than a mammal. It was strange to get used to.” It had hurt, and she’d been sick over and over again. But she’d gotten used to it. “But I adjusted.”

“When you put it that way…” Tobias was clearly thinking of something. “It makes our Changes really not seem all that bad.”

“To!” Clare was half on her feet. “You can’t tell her that!”

“I think she already knows. And she did say she could help.”

“We don’t need any help.”

“We need something. We know how to not die. Barely. I think we can do better than that. Think about the fight we saw, when we were leaving Philly… if the monsters and the angels are the same sort of thing…”

Now they were beginning to understand. Bethseda made a noise of agreement. “Then you can learn to be an angel, yes. And I can help you learn.”

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Icon Flash: The Shooting Star Problem

Continuing flash series! I’m going to write one flash for every Icon I have, over 4 LJ accounts, 1 DW, and a whole bunch of not-currently-in-use, until I get bored or run out of icons.

Today’s icon:

Shooting Star

Icon by [personal profile] later_tuesday

Yeah, the first one of the Asteroid-hits took us by surprise. I mean, shooting stars didn’t hit the earth that hard very frequently, and when they did – crater, some rock, that was it.

Nobody expected there to be sentient life, not in that first one. And, because the government did a quick and thorough job of covering it up (I know, I was there), the rest of the world wasn’t expecting the second one, either, or the third.

By the thirty-seventh of these Shooting Stars, everybody knew. Hobos who lived in shacks in the desert knew (and I’m not counting that guy who got superpowers because the asteroid almost landed on him). People with no TV knew. Everyone knew about the Star People, the Asteroid Aliens, the Palondeze refugees.

I knew, of course. I’d been working with them since the beginning, since we first hid the skinny-furry-strange thing that, I swear, looked like an anthropomorphized anorexic platypus. I knew when they learned ASL (English was beyond their beak), and I knew when our linguists figured out their language.

I knew the first thing that one of them said to us, too:

We are here to help.

And what an older one, weaker and smaller, said in counter:

We are here for help.

By the time we’d worked out what they’d really meant, there had been fifty-three Shooting Stars in the course of a year and a half, and we started watching the sky, nervously, for the long blue contrails across the twilight.

Their definition of help, we were beginning to understand, was not quite the same as ours.

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