Did he just…
Smash everything and then roll around in the books like he was trying to cover himself in bookstink?
Bookstink? Why wou-
An arm fell around his shoulders, turning Kid and directing him in jerky steps down the side walk. Kid took two or three steps before shaking off Twitch’s arm and springing a step away, but continuing to walk along side the taller boy.
“What was that about?”
Twitch grinned, reached under the back of his jacket and handed the Tales of the Trickster to Kid, who looked up at him like he was holding a relic of the forgotten gods.
“Y’gatta get’em ta un’erestimatcha, al’ays,” Twitch said, “Ain’ no one think th’spaz on’a flo’e is jackin’ ’em while ‘e’s losin’is shit. Hah. Shi’ getz’em ev’ra time.”
Kid walked along, eyes flashing from the book to the older boy, and back.
“Tha’s’tha goal, see. Not juz gettin’ y’shit, but th’m n’even knowin’ y’got they shit.”
“Oh. Got it.”
Maybe? I mean, I recognized more words that time.
“Hah! You didn’ e’en know!? Tha’s wha’ getten away wit’it means,” he laughed again, and reached out to push-smack Kid on the shoulder, sending him stumbling for a step, almost colliding with a man pushing a stroller with determination up the hill the two boys were descending.
“Um,” Kid began, stealing a glance at the other boy out of the corner of his eye, “how did you know which…?”
“Ha,” Twitch barked another short laugh, “you’s si’in’ ‘ere f’r’ike, twen’y minits all hunchey, ‘ike,” he brought his hands together in front of his hunched shoulders, drumming his fingertips together, “‘tricksy, like a trickster, jus’ be tricky, you can do it.’” Another laugh shook Twitch’s shoulders back into their usual shape, “so’s I guessed. Why’a e’en stealin’ books, anyway. Them shit’s free a’tha lib’ry.”
Should we tell him?
Tell him what?
Why we wanted to take the book.
What, say that we remember the name ‘Loki’ even though we can’t remember our own name? He probably already thinks we’re brain broken. Besides, did he just mention…
“Kid,” Twitch shook his head over a chuckle, flipping loose ends of his braids around his head “You’re ‘onna dig this.”
With a twitch of his head Twitch indicated they should cross the street, one eyebrow cocked above the other. Kid tucked his new book into his bag, slung it back across his back, grabbed each strap where they came over his shoulders, pinning his elbows close to his side.
So, we got the book.
Right. Now, we could just bug off to do the reading . . .
Right. I mean, do we even want to follow this guy?
He’s going to a library. We’re following him for sure, I think the question is just do we do it where he can see us.
You mean the way he is staring at us right now?
Well, not what I meant, but good point. Need to make the call: go with dude, or no?
Sure? I mean, it is kinda nice to talk to someone.
What am I, not someone?
Stop it. You know what I mean. Someone . . . Out there.
Hey, Twitch is crossing the street ‘out there’ so . . .
Gah. Yeah. We go.
With a deep breath, Kid followed the older boy across the street.
“Betcha ne’er be’n’in’a Imp, eider, huh? Paxye? Sheeit,” Twitch had kept talking while he walked, throwing the words over his shoulder for the younger boy to chase after like the birds who followed Birdman around for crumbs. “Thay’z o’er by’a Needle. Shi’s cra’y. Y’kna’ th’big, blue’n red twisty metal thin’, tha’za Ipm. Paxyes cross’a way.”
“Are you speaking English?”
Soft words slipped into a rare gap in Twitch’s speech, prompting a look over his shoulder beneath raised brows. Kid’s mouth snapped shut and he squeezed the straps together across his chest, intertwining his fingers around them.
“English? Fuuuuhck no. Fuggen spe’k Amuricin. You feggen spe’k English, soun’i’ li’e y’ur’ rea’in’a book. S’wrong wi’ya, inyway?”
The two boys came to a corner, Twitch leading the way around an enormous sculpture of a watering can pouring liquid life onto a two story metal flower which had no need for such refreshment, while Kid tagged along unanswering. Kid’s eyes were dancing between eyeing the rooftops, tracing paths up and back down, and shooting quizzical looks at the boy in front of him speaking near gibberish.
Yeah, we totally should have come this way sooner.
Look at all the bridges between buildings! We’d never have to come down.
All those crossing pipes supporting that arch?
Looks like a lot of fun.
Kid turned to walk backward for a few steps to keep his eyes on the glass archway, spinning back around when he bumped into Twitch. The older boy was waiting for the traffic to allow them to cross, and Kid’s eyes tore free from the allure of the arch to settle his gaze on the building which took up the entire block.
Alone in the open space carved out by the four lane streets bounding every side stood a twisted compilation of steel and glass that jutted out into the air at angles that defied gravity and logic. Triangles of steel supports crossed between the glass plates, supporting a shape that looked like a giant hand reached down and turned the top half of the building so that it didn’t sit quite right on the base.
A tightness in Kid’s chest stopped his breath, his feet, his heart, it seemed, as he looked up at the ridiculous building, and his eyes blurred. Already striding into a gap in the traffic, Twitch turned to look back over a shoulder at his new companion, then stopped and jacked up an eyebrow.
Standing as still as the young boy on the crowded sidewalk, three haze shrouded figures stared into a clear space between them.
A series of images flashed ethereal into their midst, each image accompanied by a bite of discomfort: lime green automatic stairs, blood red walls twisting and curving, a never ending spiral of books. Faster the images flicker into view to be replaced by another, and another: dolls scattered around the floor, puzzles on the walls, computing machines in rows of rows.
A pair of eyes.
Pain seared the side of the boy’s brain, and the eyes gleamed, green eyes like his own.
Choking back a sob, Kid turned and ran, weaving almost blind down the sidewalk, trusting the flow of bodies to guide him across streets, rounding the corner whenever he couldn’t cross, not stopping for long enough for either Twitch or his thoughts to catch up with him. Soon enough he reached an abandoned building with a broken window at knee height, tucked behind one of the many berry bushes coloring the downtown.
The bag fell from Kid’s shoulders even as he dropped to his knees, slipping in behind the bush, through the window, dragging his bag after him before curling on the ground and dissolving in tears.
Ok. What. The. Fuck.
Um. Well, we’ve been to the Library before.
Do we remember being there?
Well. No. But how else.
I hate this. And what were those eyes?
It was a girl.
They were our eyes. In a girl’s face.
My head hurts.
This is what we’ve been looking for, though, isn’t it?
Memories. Of the time before.
Not much of a memory for the … How long have we been exploring the upper city?
Months, I think. At least. Months of searching for familiarity and all we get is a headache from the Library?
And the eyes. They belong to someone, maybe someone that we belong to, too.
Um. What about the guy?
The one who can’t talk?
Twitch. I like him. He’s funny.
What? How can you even understand what he’s saying?
Just relax, and let the words, ah, happen together, instead of trying to pick them apart.
I don’t like that I think that might make sense.
Huh. Well. If we see Twitch again, we’ll give that a shot.
Do we want that? To see him again?
Why wouldn’t we want to see Twitch again?
Not in a mean way, but this whole alone thing has been going pretty well..
Are you kidding? We remembered more in one afternoon with Twitch .
That was more the Library than the dude.
The dude who took us to the Library!
I’m not disagreeing, just saying: Library. In any case, that is part of what I mean.
It. . . Well. It hurt.
I didn’t think it would hurt that much.
Who’s whiny now?
Stop it. I didn’t think it would either. Do we really want to remember more?
Some eyes and a building? Is it worth it?
Yeah. It is, Fuzz.
Ok. I’ll agree, even. Just wanted to ask.
I agree, too, by the way.
We know, Whiny.
But HE was the whiny one this time!
So we’ll try to, ah, meet up with Twitch again.
And after managing that once in the whole time we’ve been up here, do you have some kinda plan as to making it happen again just cause we want it to?
I might. Did you catch what those other places he mentioned were?
The other buildings Twitch mentioned.
By the Needle!
Oh yeah, the, ah, Imp and Paxye?
The Imp is the Blue Armadillo. Pretty sure. We could check it out tomorrow.
Yeah, tonight we’ve got reading to do.
Ok, enough with the pity party then. Let’s go home.
After a few more rattling sniffles Kid wiped his face and rose to his feet. He stood in a large open space that looked like a basement for the abandoned business. The window through which he had entered was one of the few unboarded, the dim light offering scant illumination. Kid strode with confident familiarity away from the light, winding around pillars and piles of trash toward the opposite wall.
The windows on this wall had no boards, but also offered no light. Kid curved his course by habit over a rug covering a spill of broken glass scattered inward from one of the darkened windows. With an easy hop, he ascended to the window frame, and without a look back, dropped into the underground.