SORRY TO BE SO LATE WITH THIS. It’s been a bit of a week. I didn’t really have time to pre-prepare this post before today, and I’ve been infected with the napattacks. Dozing off in my desk chair leads me to believe that napping with the kitties is a better way to spend my day. I dare you to gainsay me on that point.
I also discovered that I mislabeled last week’s snippet. Instead of three scenes, there was only the one, called Not Same Place, Not Same Time. For which mislabeling, I apologize. However, since Not… Not is 1800 words, I won’t apologize for that. Also but however anyway… The next two scenes, while not exactly new (if you’ve never seen it, it’s new to you, right?), haven’t appeared before. And it’s the placing these scenes in this order which I hope helps the pacing of the story.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you, Dolly’s sister, the Xena Dolly, better known as Xe Doll.
The Xena Doll
She was naked. She could not have said how she knew she was naked. That part was hazy. But the air on the skin of her body was the first clue that she was bereft of that covering called clothing. She was also able to move with greater grace than she could remember, although the memory was — again — hazy. She sat up and swung her legs to the side. She did it more-or-less automatically, without thought or planning. And, as she did so, a great deal snapped into sudden focus and she remembered — things. She sat there for a few moments, her legs dangling over the side of…
What was this thing she sat on? It was about as long as she was or a bit longer, and about half as tall.
How did she know that?
She leaned forward and looked under herself and found that the thing on which she sat was mostly nothing underneath. It was not a solid platform. Why would she have expected it would be? There were criss-crossed tubes of something she could identify as metal without knowing how. The thing rolled on wheels, but she couldn’t say how she knew what a wheel was. She sat on a platform supported by the tubes and wheels and covered by a white cloth — a sheet — another object and substance which she could identify without knowing how she knew.
And another level of comprehension snapped into focus. She perceived the space she occupied — room — and holes in the walls, covered in glass, which were called (she knew) windows.
She remembered who she was.
She began to know fear.
She pushed down with her hands, thrust out with her hips, landed on her feet, and walked to the door. A surprisingly brief fight with the doorknob and she got the thing open and stepped outside.
She paused for a moment on a concrete platform. It stretched away to her left to front a long row of overhead doors. She reasoned she must have encountered such before, in what she was fast coming to realize was her other life. The one that came before.
A half-step forward and a handrail was there, within easy grasp. A half-visual, half-imaginary overlay to her vision showed her handrail as an entirely different concept — far, far taller: rising above her to several times her own height: made of tubular steel of a diameter slightly more than her body’s. Her vision snapped into focus and she realized that earlier memory was from the perspective of someone much, much smaller than she presently was.
Behind her, a bell began to sound. Not a tolling bell, as in a church’s carillon, but a rattling-clattering bell, as in an alarm. She’d never been to school, but somehow knew that was the kind of bell she heard.
She grabbed the handrail and plunged down the steps it bounded. The surface was harsh under her feet, but bearable. Then she reached the bottom and her tender feet were assailed by small, jagged pebbles. The lot beyond was surfaced with a mix of asphalt and concrete and the gravel from the asphalt shed stones. Under shod feet, they would be unnoticeable — mere crunching underfoot. Under bare feet, they were torture.
Behind her, she heard a male voice shouting, “Hey! She got away!”
Heedless of the pain inflicted by the gravel, she ran.
She stopped the big Harley at the top of the rise, just by the grade crossing. She toed the shifter into neutral and revved the big V Twin once before letting it drop down to a burbling idle. She balanced the Softail’s 600-odd pounds with an assurance born of experience and propped it and herself on an out-stretched leg. Feeling overheated, she shed her helmet and shook out her shoulder-length black curls. As she did so, she looked around, her breath fogging the pre-dawn air.
She loved this time of morning, especially in the cold months. She’d grown up on the windswept plains of Saskatchewan. February in Ohio held nothing she feared. The combination of low-angle sunlight, clear air, and the lack of vegetation gave a perspective on the world that you just couldn’t get in the summer. A lot of her poetry had been inspired in moments like this — including a lot of what had been published in pay publications.
Some people found the unrelieved gray of winter depressing— even with the hint of oncoming spring in the air. The scene before, her, for instance. The rail line curved just here. Small industrial buildings butted up close to the right-of-way atop a raw earthen embankment with tufts of grass sticking out like a bad haircut. On the opposite side of the tracks, a sparse new-growth wood faced down the businesses. Vines and kudzu draped the utility lines and the branches of the trees. At first glance it was the prototypical gray and gloomy day.
Without leaves, the wood looked like the rigging of some eldritch clipper, scudding through the mist of early morning. Sappho carried in her mind several paintings by the German artist, Sulamith Wülfing, whose work had enjoyed some popularity when Sappho was a girl. The scene reminded her of those.
She found it … mysterious. The fog seemed somehow romantic to her, hinting of magical possibilities, reminding her of the joy of discovery in fantasy books from her childhood.
But there were flashes of color, glimpses of life. Birds flying tree-to-tree. Squirrels stirring about, looking for breakfast. Deer cautiously peering out under the eaves of the wood, looking across the clearing of the tracks, wondering if it was safe to cross.
There! Up at the bend. A flash of a pale body clambering down the bank, footsteps grinding softly in the gravel ballast. Sappho imagined she could almost hear hooves clattering on the rails. She looked more intently, staring into the mist, trying to discern the shape more clearly. Something about it…
She gasped. That was no deer! It was a girl! A human girl! And naked, to boot!
Settling her helmet on the gas tank between her thighs she reached out to the handlebars of her bike. She squeezed the clutch and toed the transmission into second. Then she eased the clutch out and urged the big bike into a slow roll. She steered down the grade and onto the vehicle track that ran beside the rails. Once on the flat, she gunned the engine and rode slowly down the gravel path to where she thought she’d seen the girl. Once there, she found no sign of the other’s passage. But on the right bank, there was a thicket of Osage orange that ran up into the yard between two small shops. The road beyond, she knew, would be unused at this hour, though it would be jammed in an hour with workers arriving for the day shift. She’d strapped her helmet to the hook under the bitch seat and was turning her bike around to head back to the road when her department radio squawked to life.