Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 6, part 2.31

Posted by harmony0stars on September 17, 2010

“Oh, you are full of crap,” she snarled.

“By keeping you ignorant, suppressing your burgeoning senses, I kept us safe,” he said, turning to glare at her as if he couldn‘t imagine why she might be upset. “You think Lori couldn’t find someone to teach her? I only have Aaron’s memories to go on, but she’s not as stupid as you think, and she was meeting with non-humans before you even had a clue they existed. I’d bet that she stole your book to goad you into coming after her, not because she needed the information in it. I‘m sure she‘s attempted to learn from it, but only to be ready for anything you might try.”

Glory shook her head. “And you couldn’t have explained any of this before now. Because you know, it worked out so well for us when I went looking for my father.”

“I told you not to,” he said, gritting his teeth.

“But you didn’t tell me why! How am I supposed to trust you without any explanations? You’ve been in my head, so you should know I don’t respond well to that kind of pressure. How am I supposed to feel now that I know you weren‘t just keeping things from me, but outright lying? The only reason we’re still together is because you know more about this place, and my people, than I do. You had better be more forthcoming, or you’re going to wake up one morning alone.”

Phoenix looked positively sickly at the thought of being left behind. “Look… look,” he stammered in a kind of breathless terror, “if you find a way to go back, you don’t want to go without me. We’re still linked while we’re here, but… if you go back alone…” He licked his lips nervously. “I can keep you like you are… indefinitely, if we stay together. Otherwise, you’ll start to mature, change on Earth. The form you wear, the one you were born into, it’s vestigial. Your father’s people, they send their young into other species Dreamlands like cuckoos. I don’t know why. Maybe to keep them neotenic so they can‘t challenge their parents.…” He continued to babble as she started walking again.

“I’m sorry about how we came together, but there was no way for me to ask for permission, not then. You understand that, right? I was a different creature then. I’ve helped as I could. Maybe I didn’t tell you everything at first, but I didn’t have any experience communicating, not like this, with words. I- I’m more human now than I’ve ever been, and that’s thanks to you. I’m not ungrateful for that. It took me a while to get used to it, but I like it. I like being an individual… I like… having someone to talk to.”

Glory sighed and walked to a half dead tree by the side of the road. Phoenix trailed after her, still trying to articulate his feelings as she leaned against a low hanging branch. She began digging through the sack Mika had given her. There was a loaf of very dense, black bread and a large chunk of what she assumed was some kind of dry, white cheese. She used the knife to cut off a strip from the lamb.

“Here,” she said, shoving a piece of lamb into Phoenix’s hands. He looked uncertain, as if he wasn’t sure if he should stop talking long enough to eat it. Finally his hunger won out, and he tore off a hunk of lamb, chewing it as if he hadn‘t eaten in days. After a moment, he gingerly perched on the branch beside her. She cut off a chunk of the cheese and tore away a portion of the bread, offering them to Phoenix as he finished the meat. “I’m not happy with this situation, but you’re right. There wasn’t really any way you could ask for permission, not if I understand what your relationship with your other hosts was like. Hating you for something that was beyond your control is not productive.”

“So… we can stay together?” he asked hopefully.

“I don’t know,” she said, pulling a leather wineskin from the pouch and handing it to him before he could start trying to convince her again. He drank deeply from it as she continued. “I don’t think you realize how… awkward it is to have someone else in your head. And there have been a few times where you took over, like when we were fighting that guard in the museum. You made it seem like I had no energy too, but that wasn‘t true, was it? You intentionally kept me weak so you could control me more easily, make me think I had no choice but to rely on you.”

Phoenix choked and lowered the skin, unable to meet her eyes. Had he thought she would forget? “You can’t afford to be so… kind to everyone. Your brother told you so as well. If that yugg had figured out what you were, it would have either enslaved you or destroyed you. You can be killed, you know, just not easily.”

She shook her head. “You expect me to be kind to you, but showing kindness to anyone else is a weakness?”

He shrugged, taking another swig from the skin before she snagged it from him and put the stopper back in. It was probably only water, but the last thing she needed was for him to get drunk. Besides, there was no way of knowing when they’d be able to refill it.

“You’ve got the wrong sister if you think that’s someone I could ever be. Maybe I’m just being stubborn, but I refuse to be a monster just because it‘s expected of me. If I gave in and stopped trying to do what I feel is right, it might be easier but I’d hate myself. I can’t live like that. I can’t just kill people indiscriminately… because they are people, even if they’re not people like me.” She stood, tucking the wineskin back into the pouch.

Phoenix shook his head. “If you won‘t do what your father says…”

“I’m doing what he asked. I’m on this stupid quest, aren’t I?” she said, shrugging the strap of her bag into a more comfortable position. “Whether or not everything works out to his satisfaction remains to be seen.”

to Book 6, part 2, page 32

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