Part 27 - New Pants

Edna was woken by the choking smell of smoke filling the air. It was neither the savory woodsmoke of the campfire nor the sulfurous smoke of the volcano, instead it was the sickly sweet smell of cigarettes. She sat up, rubbed her eyes, and blinked the slow, forceful blinks of morning, looking around for the source.

The sky was dark - gray and heavy - which is how mornings felt to Edna anyway. Over and beyond the ashes of the dead fire she saw a shifting silhouette, clad in black and half swallowed by smoke and mist. An ember-orange glow lit the figure’s left hand down by its waist. Focusing her vision Edna realized the person wasn’t dressed totally in black but rather a boxy, pinstriped suit. A dark fedora sat on a head of even darker hair - it was angled in the way fedora’s are legally required to be: jauntily.

Before Edna could panic, or scream, or say something rude about how rude this intruder was being, they turned, lifting their cigarette to their mouth as they stepped from the swirling cloud. “Iona?” Edna asked, shocked fully awake.

“That’s the name, kid,” Iona replied, the words squeezing out around the cigarette clinched in her teeth, her accent changed along with her clothes. She squatted down in front of Edna and draped her elbows on her knees. One cupped hand she angled up and out and Edna understood it as an offer to help her stand. She took it.

When she was up, she dusted herself off, trying to be cool and casual about Iona’s change. “Have you seen my pants?” she asked, coolly and casually.

Iona said nothing but cocked her head at what had been the fire. Looking down, Edna saw her pants inside, burnt and ruined.

“Right,” she said, remembering a moment of solidarity with Highmond where she had thrown them in the fire.

She was about to ask Iona if she had any spare boxy suit trousers, for Iona was the only one of them with any spare clothes. Just then Highmond emerged from the underbrush into their little clearing. He was wearing a huge grin and also pants.

Well, to call them that is generous (which of course I am). Really, they were a bundle of long grasses, thin twigs, and stripped vines that Highmond had fashioned into the general shape of pants. He hobbled happily over to Edna, holding out a similar mass. “I’ve made us trousers!” He bellowed.

Edna winced from the volume, her head still swimming in morning goo.

“Is that what you call ‘em?” Iona said, feeling less generous than me.

Highmond gave her a look. He was about to say, ‘I should like to call YOU trousers,’ but Edna saved him from that.

“They’re lovely. Thank you, Highmond,” she said, taking the “trousers” and crunching them on.

“I see you’ve met the new Iona,” Highmond said saltily, and Edna was comforted to see her two companions had returned to their resting state of bickering.

The trio packed what amounted to their camp and got ready to leave. At Edna’s request, Iona put her cigarette out. She dropped the butt in the ashes of the fire then took the whole pack from her jacket and threw them in too. She surprised Edna by stomping on them.

“Thanks, doll,” she said when she’d straightened back up, “I found those in the suit this morning, felt like I should smoke ‘em, ya know?”

“No,” Edna said. She didn’t know - had never felt that way at all about cigarettes.

“It was the same borrowed instincts that’re makin’ me talk like, well, this.” That Edna understood. She nodded sadly. She knew what it was for the world to shape you into something you weren’t. Iona went on, “But you just reminded me that I hate cigarettes.” She laughed, a small, lone chuckle. “I think that’s the first thing about myself - my real self, before all the changin’ - that I can remember.”

“That’s very sad,” Edna responded truthfully, “I hope - at the end of all this - we find what you’ve lost.” But that part was a lie. She wanted them to do as she’d said, but she had no hope that it would come to pass. Pain and Grief had taken her Hope on a spa trip a long time ago, and had come back without it.

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