Part 28 - The Wonkiness of Time

They marched on toward where they hoped Pythagoras awaited them. Edna fiddled with her watch as she thought about her new friend, floating along in time like the rest of them but without the anchor of self to keep her steady.


She marveled at the extent of the Change. Even Iona’s air had altered - and not just from the smoke. What had been a kind of strict, shoulders-back confidence was replaced now by a loose, flowing swagger. But even that gave a glimpse of the real Iona. She was a woman bathed in confidence, wielding a loofa of self-assurance, splashed in bubbles that smelled of lavender and power, and… Edna abandoned the metaphor, now hopelessly longing for a bath.


They continued on their trek for another two days, moving in and out of the odd quirks of time that littered Earth the Second. They passed through a grove in the woods where it was never tomorrow and a town where it was always last Tuesday. They discovered a lonely little cottage in an unmelting snow and a stormy field where the lightning was slow. They met unionized chipmunks and onion-sized bees and a band of tanuki that sang the oldies. And in it all, Highmond lost seven canes.


Time, in short, suffused itself. It moved like watercolor across a map, ignoring the lines that were drawn, tracing instead through imperceptible troughs in the details of the page. Edna could see no pattern or end or reason to be annoyed, really.


In the travels and travails hoisted upon her, the great Edna Star had wandered into every kind of wonder. She had passed through the center of a gas giant, discovered the magics of Old Craig, met and subsequently became the Mayor of the Ocean (a fish called Edna). She had done the things her childhood friends had dreamt of that night under the stars and things they had dreamt of other nights, secretly and afar.


And in it all, she found so much fault. Wonder, too - sure - but more fault. The center of gas giants, she learned, was beautiful, but heavy. It’s weight pushed in on you from all sides, crushing your body, and your perception, and your favorite mug (the one you got at that renn faire from that lady with the hair). Old Craig’s magics were powerful, but also mean, a little too self-assured, and bearing strong and strange opinions about ventriloquism. Being Mayor of the Ocean came with prestige, but the job itself she found tedious and wet. You have been told what Edna expected of her friends’ childhood dreams, and she found she was mostly right.


All of this is to say that here and now - whatever that meant in the wonkiness of space and time - the balance had shifted. Edna was tired, yes - in pain, of course - dreading the inevitable crisis of soul when this all crumbled in around her, you know it. But. She looked forward to their nights around the fire, and she looked forward to each new day after, seeing the mysteries and joys through Iona’s wit and the curl in Highmond’s mustache.


She had had sidekicks and partners before, but the burden of them had always outweighed the boon. Somehow though, she felt a kinship with these two - like they had gone missing at the start, and she had been working her way back to them all along. Edna pulled back from her mental reverie, feeling herself too close to declaring them a ‘ragtag band of misfits’. She tucked her watch into her ruined vest, adjusted a stick in her pants made of tree, and kept walking.


***


As the sun set on the third night, the volcano still loomed so high over the horizon that Edna wondered if she would ever not see it again. It had ceased its cycle of eruption and what they were calling ‘noitpure’ not long after they had left the grasp of its strange reversal.


This was not as comforting to Edna as it might have been, consumed as she was in wondering why. Why had it started when it had? Why has it stopped now? Why did it end after a noitpure instead of an eruption?


On top of her whys was a smallness that consumed everything else she had ever known. The mountain seemed to grow even as she watched it, filling her vision from the outside in until all she saw was mountain - beautiful and terrible and sacred and big.


Together they built their little fire and sat at their little camp and talked and laughed and argued about whose pants were good and whose “weren’t even pants”. They were eating a stew Highmond had made when Iona caught Edna looking back to the volcano.


“Mountain got your goat, kid?” she asked, still cursed to talk like that.


“Hmm? What? No. Yes. Yeah. I suppose so,” were her various replies.


“It must be some distraction to make you sound like Highmond.”


Edna expected Highmond to take offense at this, as he did with most things Iona said, but when she looked at him he just shrugged and stirred his stew. “You, well, you know -- do sound like me,” he said.


Edna’s eyes flashed a little wider, her neck too, “Sorry,” she said, “I’m just full of questions.”


“I know what you mean,” Iona said, chewing on her spoon, “Me too.”


“Yes,” Highmond agreed, “and me as well. Like, for instance, what if Iona had died in the eruption?”


“Not a great start, old boy,” Edna replied with an admonishing look.


“Nah, I get what he’s sayin’,” Iona waved her spoon at them both.


“Thank you,” Highmond nodded at her, “What I mean is, if our amnesic... friend here had died in the eruption, what would have happened in the noitpure? Would she have come back to life?”


“Which raises its own questions,” Iona jumped in, “Like what would that have felt like, huh? Yeesh.” She started checking her teeth in the reflection from her spoon.


Edna nodded. “I’m sorry for doubting you, Highmond, those are good questions. Mine are more,” she moved her mouth like she was trying to push her thoughts out of it, but they just wouldn’t come. She knew it would be better to say them now, had promised herself never to fall for the trap of pushing off hard questions for a short escape from inevitability. Still, when the words didn’t come right away, she gave up, shaking her head. “Nothing,” she said, “I’m just remembering a story I once heard…”

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