JazzTeeth

My Name is Eri- Ch. 6 "A Breaker of Promises"

Mar 29th, 2015
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  1. Fucking Finally Edition
  2.  
  3. -
  4.  
  5. Pock marks and cracks of warm concrete and glass panes flowed beneath her pads and palms. Each surface penetrated into never-before felt tactile dimension. She ran upwards, yearning for height. She wanted to see the sky and earth stretch out until they kissed.
  6.  
  7. She breathed deep, smelling sweet plants, sweaty people, bad food, asphalt, and the sting of car exhaust. The wind ruffled her fur and sent her buoyant white mane sailing and caught the colors of the afternoon sun. The rooftops of more buildings and towers sprouted in her ascent of some important looking skyscraper or other.
  8.  
  9. True, she could have flown and saved time, but her muscles cried for exercise. Her heart beat with exhilaration of watching her new limbs reach out and scale the structure in rampant defiance of gravity and traction.
  10.  
  11. Inside, computer screens flashed in wild striations. Printers beeped incomprehensible morse code while flinging out reams of ink-blotted paper. Phones wailed and fluorescent lights shimmered in waves as a shadow swept upwards past the windows. Office workers panicked.
  12.  
  13. Eris jumped over the rim of the building's rooftop and slid claw-over-paw up the building's antenna. The wind unwound the ribbons of her blue and purple wings. The length of her body curled over the precarious holding of the thin metal beam, but she had all the poise of a cheetah surveying her domain.
  14.  
  15. And what a domain she had. Sunlight glinted off the edges of skyscrapers imprinting the city's metroscape. Cranes poked their sleepy heads above the rise. Streams of cars composed the lifeblood of its highways, flowing in spurts and criss-crossing each other in half-deliberate knots. Heavy cargo ships drifted in the water channels of the port, surrounded by scores of smaller vessels.
  16.  
  17. Her eyes gazed further, noting the sprawling web of satellite towns and suburbs melting seamlessly into each other. She wished it was night -the city would open its electric eyes and the lights would shine into the air and let everyone know for miles around that this place was alive.
  18.  
  19. Outwards still, forestry and trees guarded fields of grass and edible things that grew from the dirt, teeming with who knows what. She watched a cow nose through an old log
  20.  
  21. Eris touched her face and felt a smile at the edges of her snout. The voices and beating hearts of millions of people shook the earth. The vibrations rumbled beneath the metal gripped with her mismatched hands and feet.
  22.  
  23. There were so many of them. Lines of possibilities and outcome stitched across her vision. Her forearms trembled at the thought of a world where anything was possible. But she was different now, and unlike before, even the impossible posed no limit. Unlike before.
  24.  
  25. Before.
  26.  
  27. Something in her chest hurt. A lion paw stroked the fur over her firm-muscled breast.
  28.  
  29. She spent a lot of Before on the sidelines, watching. Hoping for...something. An eagle claw ran through her silver curls. At last she was here, utterly and fully here. Eris. As she should be.
  30.  
  31. The rooftop felt quiet. She was on her own for the first time in several days, as Erica or Eris. Her shoulders grouped close. “Oh, Erica,” Eris said to something just beyond sight. “You wonderful girl.”
  32.  
  33. She leapt off the antenna and high into the air. Her wings flung wide and every square inch of feather and bat-skin caught the wind. The curves of her horns shined bright white in the sun. Her body soared along the current, red tail curling through the air. Laughter glided on the wind.
  34.  
  35. “Look at us now!” she whooped and let the wind take her wherever it wanted.
  36.  
  37. The dice of her body rolled end over end through the air, mouth wide and hands spread out. Anything was possible.
  38.  
  39. -
  40.  
  41. Eris wished to stay in the sky forever. Joy replaced the blood in her veins and her heart was all too eager to pump. But gravity coaxed her down just as the sun dipped to the other side of the world. Night lights turned on, but she was too low to see them all.
  42.  
  43. She drifted over one of the city's out-of-the-way roads. The kind that has a name, but no one could ever seem to recall it when asked. The kind no one paid attention to when driving across the way, if anyone drove down there at all, except for the occasional gray-faced worker walking into the gray-painted warehouses.
  44.  
  45. A high fence rattled as she blew over and latched onto the corner of one nameless building. Dirtied orange fluorescent lights hissed at sparse intervals. Blocks of dust-covered concrete and sprawling pipes cut black shapes in the night. She sniffed and felt the itch of stale chemicals and rust.
  46.  
  47. “Out of all the places,” Eris thought, dropping the tips of her wings . Maybe she could find a forklift and drive it without a license. That could be fun. Hit a few paint cans. Do a few wheelies. Drag race.
  48.  
  49. Then Eris heard the sound of footsteps over gravel and her interest kindled.
  50.  
  51. Her eyes widened in the dark and saw someone skirt the edge of a dim lamp attached to the wall.
  52.  
  53. Claws moved over the walls with no more sound than what a normal breeze would allow. She kept her wolfish deer head close to the wall, stretching her arms and legs far out before her in quick succession. The person she trailed wore a heavy, faded coat. A ratty backpack covered in duct tape hung off their shoulders. The wind gasped and whistled through Eris's horns.
  54.  
  55. She slid up the wall like rain water and onto the roof. Her ear twitched, hearing the person below pause and turn, but saw nothing except a shuttered warehouse draped in a few strips of moonlight. Eris heard their breath pick up before moving again.
  56.  
  57. She peeked over the roof top and saw the night traveler hustle to a metal door. Arms reached out and worked with the handle before opening it with great effort. The hinges creaked and closed with the indignation.
  58.  
  59. Inside, the visitor moved with the slow deliberation of someone going through a familiar room in the dark. They moved through stacks of buckets and bands of metal beams, further and further away from openings that may allow the wind to sneak in, or passerbys to easily glimpse through.
  60.  
  61. They went to their knees, groaning on the way down, and slid the back pack off. The stubborn old zipper opened in jerks. A very used hand crank lantern emerged. The handle turned a few times and the person took care to light a very small portion of their space. Mitted hands dug into the pack again and pulled out a weathered sleeping bag. They dusted the worst of the dirt from the floor and unrolled it. The warehouse echoed with soft crinkling.
  62.  
  63. The visitor pulled her hood down and rubbed her head.
  64.  
  65. “Hello,” she heard from somewhere up in the rafters. Her heart thumped and arms flew to the light, unsure whether to turn it off or search for the speaker.
  66.  
  67. “Who's there?” she ventured through a sore throat.
  68.  
  69. “Just me,” came the reply. The voice wasn't angry, and sounded too young and feminine to be a usual night watchmen.
  70.  
  71. “I'll leave, alright? No need to get pushy, I'll leave, no trouble. Alright?” her voice shook. She bundled the sleeping bag in her arms.
  72.  
  73. “Don't panic on me, you're cool,” the voice assured. The criss-crossing beams beneath the ceiling rattled.
  74.  
  75. The visitor grabbed her lantern and aimed its soft beam upwards. The light glowed just strong enough to catch the outline of some long thing moving long limbs through the metal jungle gym. A tail dipped to the ground.
  76.  
  77. “Oh, God...” she gasped, hoarse.
  78.  
  79. The thing's eyes caught the weak light and reflected them back ten fold, a heart-freezing gold. Its head bent below the beams, and the rest of its body dripped down like candlewax made of fur and wings.
  80.  
  81. Huge swathes of hair brushed the floor, followed by a scaled yellow arm touching the ground, followed by a muscular furred one. Wings opened to balance as it stood on its arms. The head swung out, studying her. Its rear legs and tail twisted to the ground in near-weightlessness. A dark tail slithered in the air.
  82.  
  83. The thing stayed on the rim of the lantern's glow. She didn't know what to call it. A monster? But the thing was made up of too many familiar parts to be a proper monster. Her mind struggled to cram it into any kind of category, but the more she tried to understand it in the dim light, the more confused she became.
  84.  
  85. Large eyes blinked on a wolfish face. Or deer like, or, or, or-
  86.  
  87. “What's your name?” came a voice from the black-rimmed lips on its pointed snout. The reaction between seeing that, hearing that, and accepting that was delayed.
  88.  
  89. “My name?”
  90.  
  91. It nodded. She saw the milky-blue horns on its head and tried not to swallow.
  92.  
  93. “Bea. Bea.” She clutched the sleeping bag to her chest, ignoring the pain in her fingers. The door she came in from seemed a million miles away.
  94.  
  95. “Nice meeting you, Bea.” Its head swayed along the light's edge. “I'm Eris.”
  96.  
  97. “E-Er...” she blinked. Her eyes hurt from trying to adjust to the poor light and focusing on this...whatever this freak was. “Are you a demon?”
  98.  
  99. It laughed. Maybe howled. Somewhere in between the two. Bea's legged kicked out and pushed her backwards. The thing -Eris, raised a birdlike hand tipped with black curving claws.
  100.  
  101. “Sorry, sorry, please don't be scared. It's just,” Bea thought it smiled. “Just a really funny thing to hear.”
  102.  
  103. “Are you an angel then? An alien? Or something else? What the hell are you?”
  104.  
  105. Eris turned her head and studied the floor and the darkness. Her mouth moved and said “Let's settle on a 'something else,' for now.”
  106.  
  107. Bea half-coughed and half-laughed. “Never seen one of you at the zoo.”
  108.  
  109. The not-animal settled on its forelegs. Thick white hair spilled across the floor. “It'd take one hell of a zoo to hold me.”
  110.  
  111. “Not gonna eat me, then?” asked Bea, bobbing somewhere between terrified and curious.
  112.  
  113. Eris studied her face. It was...somewhat clean. Deep-set lines were drawn around her eyes and mouth. She may have been pretty, once. She may even be pretty now, in an earthy sort of way. If she smiled, maybe. If life gave her enough to smile about, at least.
  114.  
  115. Her tail swept over the dusty ground. “Nah. Not gonna eat you.”
  116.  
  117. Dragons sometimes eat people, Eris thought in the back of her mind. Good thing I don't think I'm one of those.
  118.  
  119. “What if I eat you?”
  120.  
  121. Eris raised an eyebrow. “Uhh...”
  122.  
  123. “No,” Bea shook her head, studying the lines of Eris's body. “ Too stringy.”
  124.  
  125. Eris laughed.
  126.  
  127. Bea continued. “Odds are you're just a sickness in my head. Brain playing tricks on me.” She prodded her temples with two fingers. “It's done that before, but normally I can tell,”
  128.  
  129. “I'm not that kind of trick,” Eris rapped a knuckle on the floor. “I exist plenty outside of your head.”
  130.  
  131. “Seems you do,” Bea admitted, still wary. “You look too solid for a figment.”
  132.  
  133. “This isn't a bad place to camp out,” Eris quipped, not eager to dwell on imaginary things.
  134.  
  135. Bea shrugged. “Hardly no one ever checks at night. Even in the day.” She still held the lantern between them. “Still best not to stay more 'n one or two nights at a time. No one's ever happy to find you...”
  136.  
  137. “Yeah,” Eris said, “I know what you mean.”
  138.  
  139. “I'm not surprised, lookin' at you,” Bea observed.
  140.  
  141. “Well, I've had my share of camp-outs,” Eris replied, looking at her paws. “I know different odds and ends.”
  142.  
  143. “Do you know how to make the pains in bones go away?”
  144.  
  145. Eris looked at Beat from the top of her eyes. Her chapped lips were tight and her hands squeezed each other along the joints
  146.  
  147. “Pain's always there,” Bea explained. “Mama was bad arthritic, not surprising I caught it too.”
  148.  
  149. “I'm sorry.”
  150.  
  151. “Do you know how to make the cramp inside the stomach go away? That doesn't always hurt, but when it does...” Bea grimaced.
  152.  
  153. Eris remained silent.
  154.  
  155. “One hell of a useful figment you are,” Bea half-heartedly snorted and closed her eyes. “Swing down into peoples' sleeping spots and scare 'em to Heaven's gate. Ain't you something. Ain't you something. What are you for, even? Asides from creeping over folks like me? What do you want, already?”
  156.  
  157. “Honestly, I wanted someone to talk to.”
  158.  
  159. Bea's eyebrows narrowed and lips drew down. “Hmph. Presuming, then, that I just wanted a chat, huh? You want to talk to someone, go to the park or get a phone. Don't come troubling me, who's got enough troubles as is, and who's tired on top of it all.”
  160.  
  161. “Tired of what,” the thing questioned, her voice taking a sharp interest, “specifically?”
  162.  
  163. “The hell you imagine, 'specifically'? Pains. All of 'em everywhere, throat, knees, head, and none of them goin' away,” Bea rasped. “Tired of walking around all day with nowhere t'go, and everyone pretending they can't see me. Most of all I'm tired that don't bother me anymore. Exhausted that tomorrow's gonna be more of the same. Specific enough, huh? And what's it matter to you.?”
  164.  
  165. Eris pulled her hind legs in and lowered her head, unable to find her voice.
  166.  
  167. Bea rubbed her heavy lids and grimaced, wanting to swear. “Just fly off, if you don't mind. I'm tired. May yet get a full night's sleep so's I can wake up tomorrow, tired still, 'n go through it all over again. Fly off. Git.” She slid into the tattered sleeping bag. By the careful way Bea moved, Eris could see where the sprains failed to heal, where blood strained to flow, and where the cancer started to eat away.
  168.  
  169. The lantern switched off soundlessly. The ground clacked with the idle movements of bird and lion claws scratching the concrete. Eris chewed her lip and Bea wrapped her arms around herself and hoped everything outside her sleeping bag would disappear.
  170.  
  171. “What if,” asked the not-demon, the not-angel, “tomorrow wasn't the same?”
  172.  
  173. Bea's scoff escalated into a bitter laugh. “Wouldn't that be a damned miracle.”
  174.  
  175. Eris slid a black claw over the rings of her eagle arm.
  176.  
  177. “Maybe I could do something,” Eris's voice tread on uncertain flooring “Besides talking. I don't know about pains or bones, but I can do something about tomorrow. The rest is up to you.”
  178.  
  179. “And look at what a great job I've done.” The sleeping rag crinkled. “No point in wasting good help. Look here, you're probably not a bad girl, even if you're imaginary, but just leave me alone. Your well-meaning's just gonna bother my dreaming. Unless you're a genie-”
  180.  
  181. “I'm not,” Eris shook her head. “I'm...definitely not...”
  182.  
  183. “More's the shame, but I probably would've wasted three wishes anyhow. Don't go teasing people with hope, alright?”
  184.  
  185. “I'm not talking about hope. That's...that's inside, and I can't change the inside,” Eris put a paw over her gray-furred chest and thumped it. “But the other things,” her black lips lifted, “I can change the cards on the table. Shuffle the game around. No guarantees, but maybe you'd get a better hand,” Eris leaned towards the woman laying in the bag.
  186.  
  187. “Hm. Maybe.”
  188.  
  189. “Maybe,” Eris said and smiled, showing the front row of pointed teeth. “Sometimes all you need is a bit of maybe.”
  190.  
  191. “Maybes are dangerous,” Bea replied, not facing her.
  192.  
  193. Eris's pupils stretched and studied the lines of Bea's Maybes, Possiblies, Probablies, Might-have-beens, and If-Onlies. She wanted to snip them, tie them around in wild, rubbery knots. She needed to stretch, yank, and pluck until the avenues of her life were unrecognizable. “Risks and rewards. A Maybe could be anything. Anything. Good or bad, or something wild.” Her snout crept to the edge of the sleeping bag and her claws spread over the floor. Her breath drifted over the insulated fabric.
  194.  
  195. “Say the word,” Eris whispered, “and I can trash your tomorrow. Trash it. Instead of your tomorrow, you could get anything. You could end up someplace nice, wonderful even, with things in your pocket you've never dreamed of having. Or not. At no cost to you, hold onto your soul and all, don't worry, I'm not after that. But you have to accept the chances of Maybe, for better or worse.”
  196.  
  197. Bea's hands shook, “And why would I take that risk?”
  198.  
  199. Eris slid back and swung her arms around the warehouse. The lights stuttered on long enough for anyone to wish they'd turn off. Bea could see the dirt on the floor, cobwebs colonizing ceiling corners, weathered edges of lumber, oily pieces of machinery, and grime-thickened windows that hated the sun. Worst of all she could see Eris, fully lit and looking wicked in the trick she played. The sight and heavy air choked her throat.
  200.  
  201. “Why wouldn't you?” Eris insisted.
  202.  
  203. “You're a cruel thing, know that?”
  204.  
  205. Eris cocked her head and stilled. The woman intrigued and aggravated her. Doesn't she get it, Eris thought. “The world is up for grabs and I'm giving you a boost to run off with everything that could be carried.”
  206.  
  207. She looked around. “This place is terrible, and worst of all, a sure-thing as far as you're concerned.” Her neck shivered. “Down to the foundation, it's stale and holds nothing, nothing, worth sticking around for. All it offers is stagnation and artificial indifference,” her lips riled, the words tasted foul in her mouth. “Now that's cruelty,” Eris let her disgust spit free. “I want to howl and pull this entire building down.” She squeezed her claws. “This is complete inertia, and it is disgusting.”
  208.  
  209. “You think I don't know that?” Bea countered, sitting up. “Do I wish tomorrow could be better? Every day, God, every day, but don't you act like some blessed savior.”
  210.  
  211. Eris coiled. “Fine. Fair enough, I'm not a savior, but I'm giving you a chance to save yourself.”
  212.  
  213. “I never asked for it.”
  214.  
  215. “No,” Eris said, stiff. “You did not.”
  216.  
  217. The two remained quiet. Bea seethed with confusion and anger. Confusion at this thing who barged into her life and asked to turn it all around into who-knows-what, and anger that she hoped her life could be better, despite knowing better. Eris, meanwhile, seethed with confusion and uncertainty, even though she was in love with uncertainties.
  218.  
  219. “Why are you doing this,” Bea asked. Her spine told her to run for the door or break through the wall. The thing had long, powerful looking legs. She'd easily snatch her and rip her to shreds more easily than that. But her bright yellow eyes had a different kind of hunger, one that humans never knew.
  220.  
  221. The beast thought for a moment and came across a thought she liked. “Call me a breaker of promises. Disruption's baby girl. Your life, as it is, has a promise, and I'll tell you what that is. You can believe me or don't.”
  222.  
  223. Eris studied something invisible floating over Bea's head. “You will be miserable tomorrow,” she stated. Her head moved to the left and her pupils darted as if studying the flight path of mosquitoes. “And the day after, and the day after that." Her eyes flashed and focused on Bea. "Would you like an exact number?”
  224.  
  225. “Stop talking.”
  226.  
  227. “It's not a big number, exactly.”
  228.  
  229. “I said be quiet.”
  230.  
  231. “Whatever leads to an informed decision.”
  232.  
  233. “Shut up,” Bea spat. Her sharp voice bounced around the metal support struts. “Shut the hell up, I don't want to hear any sick numbers or predictions. The hell is wrong with you, telling me what I already know and try every day to forget? Shut up, shut up, shut up!”
  234.  
  235. “I can read your palm, if you'd like.”
  236.  
  237. Bea grabbed the lantern and hurled it at the intruder.
  238.  
  239. Eris caught the light in midair and let it rattle to the ground. Bea's chest swelled underneath her clothing. She wiped her eyes.
  240.  
  241. “Damn you,” Bea hissed in the dark. “Damn you, I only wanted a place to sleep.”
  242.  
  243. “Don't blame me, blame the wind that brought me here.”
  244.  
  245. “Then damn the wind, damn you, and damn me being fool enough to say yes. Get me out of this place, for God's sake, if only to get away from you.”
  246.  
  247. Eris grinned and her teeth seemed coated in the false-glow of black light. “Of course.”
  248.  
  249. “Wait 'til I'm asleep,” Bea said in a dead-even voice. “Then do whatever you're gonna do.”
  250.  
  251. Eris nodded once. The woman turned her back to the thing and found the sleeping bag couldn't hide her as deep as she wished.
  252.  
  253. It took a long time until Bea's breathing deepened and steadied. Eris traced the rotten life lines surrounding the woman. She'd reshape them without mercy until she could not reliably say what would happen to Bea. Eris placed her paw on Bea's sleeping shoulder and whispered into her ear, “Best of luck to you.”
  254.  
  255. The air rushed and kicked up a dust whirl, leaving Eris alone in the warehouse. She slipped outside without screaming or tearing down the support beams. Eris wanted nothing more to do with the place that stood as an insult to forward momentum. Stale dirt clung to her fur and something else clung to her conscience and Eris feared she may never be rid of either.
  256.  
  257. She hopped the clinking fence and stood on the side of the road. For some errant reason she wondered when the next bus would arrive. Eris's laughter fell off like a leaf.
  258.  
  259. “What did I just do?” She asked the roadside. Never before had she affected a life in so direct a fashion. That was more than switching out junk in back-pockets, or errant texts sent to an old girlfriend, or tagging along to an old ice cream shop.
  260.  
  261. Eris bit her lip and clenched at the dirt she stood on. No. For Bea, Eris had reached into the aether where time and fate lived and told it to fuck off.
  262.  
  263. Although she couldn't say where Bea would ultimately end up. Eris could not say if she just cursed or blessed the woman, but now her life would be different, and different was its own avail.
  264.  
  265. The wind blew and tumbled her hair away from her face. Eris looked towards the distant clusters of buildings and lighted towers of the city. The shimmering wires and cables of lives, human or otherwise, netted and webbed through the sky and beyond. Beads of potential and promises rolled in grooves set by unseen variables and the near-unstoppable momentum of millions of people.
  266.  
  267. Her hands itched. She looked down, expecting to see one thing, but saw nails, fur, and scales instead. Her chest rumbled, nose quivered, and she felt as if melted gold poured all down her body. Curving antlers caught the moonlight and hummed. She cracked her knuckles and thought she saw rails floating over the city shiver.
  268.  
  269. Eris smiled.
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