Part 15 - The Ground

Edna mustn’t have died, she realized, for she was awake. She tried to move, but her pain wrapped tightly around her. It seemed to say, “See? I told you you’d need me. You wanted me to go, you did, you said as much, but I knew -- I knew you’d need me again. It’s a good thing, too. What would have happened if I hadn’t been here, I wonder? No, no, no, don’t get up. I’ll take care of everything. You just rest.”

She managed to open her eyes, but the light pouring in felt distant. Her pain must have convinced her other senses to give her some space, she thought, for the world sounded as far away as it looked.

Slowly the light and the sounds, the chill and the scents crept into her mind and whispered, when her pain wasn’t listening, that it was morning. That made it the second time in as many days she had woken up this way. She wanted to snap Highmond’s stupid, gelled mustache.


She tried to sit up but her pain rebuked her. “Oh sure,” it said, “get up, move around, dance a jig. Sure, I told you not to before, but what do I know? It’s just my sole purpose to tell you what not to do.” Edna made one of those noises that starts as a groan, turns into a laugh, and ends in a little cry. She stayed down.

With great effort, she turned her head to one side. Her left cheek plopped to the ground. Slowly her eyes informed her that there was not a single mustachioed, older gentleman - alive or otherwise - to be seen in this direction.

She tried to turn her head to check the other side, but her pain insisted she’d moved enough for the day, maybe even the week. Eventually she forced a compromise wherein her pain would let her flop her right arm around like a fish.

She flopped it, fishily, back and forth for a while. Her arm bumped into a few large chunks of something but none of them, she convinced herself, were any piece of her companionable kidnapper. She sighed, or tried to. It came out instead as a series of small coughs that sent her pain into a frenzy.

But Edna was unbothered by this outburst of pain, content in the knowledge that Highmond was not still next to her and therefore not dead. An argument shouted from some deep corner of her mind that this did not, in fact, mean he was alive, but she closed her eyes and let her pain shoosh it. “You think she needs to hear from you right now? Go! Get out of here! Next time I see you, I’m callin’ your mother.”

Edna wasn’t sure she liked Highmond, but she was sure that didn’t matter. Her opinion of the man had no bearing on his right to live. Besides, he would be in a lot of pain now too, and that might teach him not to go kidnapping women who just wanted to be left alone in their studies to write nasty letters to their unions. Or, you know, a broader lesson.

Either way, something about Highmond was itching at her mind - something from a different corner than the one that thought he might be dead. She didn’t know why yet - hadn’t put the thoughts together into words - but she knew she needed to talk to him. First though, first she would listen to her pain.

In one last, small compromise, her pain helped her to flop her right arm. A final, great flop brought it over her body, rolling her onto her side. Eyes still closed, her hand patted softly around her midsection until it hit the thing for which it searched. She clutched her watch. It tick ticked back at her and pulled her into peace.

Edna wasn’t aware of falling asleep, but time seemed to skip around her as she lay there. The distant sounds of morning became clanks and bangs, that became grunts and “Ahh!”s, that became the crackling of a nearby fire. She wondered if these jumps might be more of the time problems - timenomalies? they would need to come up with a name for them - that plagued Earth the Second. She wondered if it had taken her a few moments to think this or a few hours.

She got her answer when her eyes found their way open once more. It was getting dark again, but the fire in front of her had a warm glow. A shadow crossed in front of it - a tall silhouette that tinkered with a wood and metal contraption built over and around the flames. The silhouette sang a children’s rhyme to itself in a gruff, but fine voice.

Maa, maa, black goat

Have you any cheese

No, but, I talk

Marry me, please

How absurd? Marry a goat?

In a moment, it circled round to the other side of the fire, and Edna saw that it was Highmond. He saw her too, and startled from his song. “Ah! Edna Star! Forgive me, I hope I haven’t woken you. Though of course I’m very glad you’re awake. I was worried you might be some time asleep still, your injuries as they are. I mean it’s been nearly all day, but I knew you’d come around. Knew it! Haha! Splendid!”

He waited for a moment to see if she would speak, but she couldn’t force herself to before his attention span ran out. “Well, not all is splendid of course,” he went on, poking at something over the fire, “We’re stranded, without an airship or even a jetpack, I’ve lost my cane, my coat is ruined, you’ve all the aforementioned injuries, and, you know, Pythagoras is dead.”

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