In Which Falda Is Suitably Entertained.
by Electric Keet
every sphere in line to be outside of orbit and white makes colours at the edge of a lens
I was naked and dreaming. Abstracted masks floated about like characters in an Eridian play. A massive tin labelled “meat” stood nearby, a magnitude larger than myself and casting the opposite of a shadow. Notions tickled the edge of what could be comprehended. I was a wolf well out of her element.
time was earlier and this loop is closing new new new we all split like pure beams and come back
Distant starlight glinted off of an array of perfect squares. I walked to one, and some of the masks followed, orbiting slit-eye moons observing. I tilted my head, not quite understanding. There was a person on the other side of the glassy pane, a grey-furred vixen with unfocused edges that bled colour.
do you see do all of you see this is lens albedo mirror reach to me reach and twist the loop
I strained to lift my arm, to initiate contact, to touch white to grey, to ask what it meant, to complete a circle—
Yaz, Ira, and I were sitting in the main social area of the hostel, him cradling a restorative cup of kaflet and the raccoon and myself sipping at white tea, when Lady approached with the smooth discomfort of a headache. She was wearing that horrible vest – a rough-looking, shape-muddling canvas thing the colour of overcooked spinach. “That’s the last time I let zim handle dosage.”
Yaz and the freesia over his ear stayed aimed toward his data-scroll. “Said that last time.”
I motioned with my cup and saucer. “They have hot drinks over there, and something claiming to be fruit juice. That would help.”
The reindeer turned slowly toward the labelled carafes, then jerked back with her eyes pinched shut. “Blin! Words hurt to look at right now.”
This time, Yaz looked up. “Are you still feeling it?”
“Must’ve been the long-acting variety.” She nodded slowly and motioned toward the rooms. “S’prolly why Eekay’s still asleep. If it’s done this to me with my metabolism, zie’ll be glitched for a while yet.” Under her breath, she added, “Serves zim right.”
An idea snapped to mind immediately. “We have an hour or so before we have to head for the port, yes? That would be enough time. Ira, would you assist me in a bit of harmless fun, a sort of prank?”
Zir tail twitched through the air behind zim as a way of smiling. “I would be glad to assist.”
Lady dug into the pocket of her vest and pulled out her auto-concierge. The silvery disc settled in her palm like a flattened egg and lit up. It projected the image of an androgynous mooncat head complete with the eye-whiskers that almost looked like antennae. It spoke pleasantly. “How may I assist, friend Aesc?”
The reindeer mused out loud. “Aren’t these things so blinkin’ cute? Shame I gotta give it back when I leave.” Then, she said to the holographic head, “I want you to let Falda here into my room, spot?” Before the thing had a chance to even acknowledge her request, she tossed it to me and said, “There. Prank zim with my blessing. Just don’t do anything that’ll make us late for the flight.”
The cheerful mooncat head popped up again. “Friend Flosadóttir, may I provide you assistance in finding room fifty-three?”
I smiled politely. “No thanks, I know the way.” I clasped my hand around the concierge and beckoned Ira along.
“What are you going to do to zim?” the raccoon asked.
I grinned. “Nothing zie wouldn’t do to zirself.”
“How can I help?”
We rounded the corner and stepped into the lift. “Two things. The first is to play along and be convincing. The second is to be a distraction.”
“I’m a distraction?”
“Zie will realise quickly that zie has been tricked. If we run in opposite directions the moment zie does, zie won’t know which of us to pursue first and we will both be safe.”
To zir credit, Ira did not decline. At the fifth floor, we opened the third door – unlocked automatically by the pocket concierge – and certainly enough, Eekay was sprawled out awkwardly on one of the two beds, mostly undressed with zir tail draped over the side. I motioned to the cat’s shoulder-bag and whispered to Ira, “Find zir mirror.”
By time zie had it out and unrolled, I had extracted the eyeliner from the bag at my side. “Good! Now, we write a species on the mirror, wake zim up, and imply that zie had a tank job done and forgot about it.”
Ira’s eyes went wide; zir tail was still for a couple moments, and then swished with amusement. “You’re evil, you realise. In a way I like.”
“I know,” I grinned. “Now, what species?”
“We’re on Luna. We could say that Alba talked zim into becoming a mooncat.”
“Clever, but not convincing. Zie would never change to something less capable of housing an ego the size of Jupiter.”
“Perhaps a raccoon?”
I gave Ira’s ears a friendly ruffle. “Nice try.” Then, I remembered the bizarre dream. “I think I have it. Ready for this?” I carefully brushed the words “grey fox” onto the mirror’s surface and showed the result to Ira.
Zie nodded and said, “That should do. Here, I’ll wake zim up.”
“One moment, I have another idea.” I snagged a pair of tissues, one to brush with a word and the other to tie the first in place. Ira had to stifle a giggle. “All right, now we are ready!”
It took more to wake the dozing cat than either of us expected; the most zie would do if nudged was bat zir tailtip in the direction of the disturbance. When I shouted zir name, zie finally startled awake. “Euh? Whuh? I’m up. Mizza flight?”
“You didn’t miss your flight,” Ira translated. “But… er….”
I handed the mirror to the snow-leopard. Zie stared at it and blinked a few times. “It’s… a good look for you,” I prodded.
That seemed to do the trick. “Aw, fraz. Did I squeak in a tank job while I was chemmed?” It worked! The last of the Key Logo in zir system meant zie saw in the mirror what the words on it said. “No wonder I’m so tired. What a time for me to do this.” Zie looked at each of us in turn. “Does Yaz know?”
“Not yet. There is no time for another change before we fly, though.” So far, I hadn’t said a single untruthful word….
Eekay pinched thumb and forefinger to zir muzzle and sighed, “Not good. Wrong time for this. Middle of the Thirteen….” Then zie looked down to see the strategically-placed tissue. “Oh, I don’t believe this! I got rid of that, too? That was my favourite part!” It took every ounce of willpower for me to not burst out laughing.
Ira, it turned out, was frighteningly good at keeping a straight face. “You seem to have made a thorough night of it, Eekay.”
Zie looked in the mirror again, shook zir head, and muttered more to zirself than us, “It’s a bad time for this… I’ll be out of sequence… just not ready, not done yet….”
The situation was suddenly stranger than I would have guessed. Eekay sounded different than I had ever heard zim, as though taking a situation seriously for the first time. I looked to Ira a bit nervously. Had we gone too far somehow and touched a nerve? Had we been too convincing? I honestly had no idea how to deal with a serious Eekay.
“I’d like some privacy,” zie said soberly. “I’ve a full bladder, and once that’s taken care of, I’ve an explanation to come up with to tell the others.”
The raccoon and I nodded politely and headed for the door as the imagined vixen shuffled toward the lavatory. However, once Eekay saw zirself in the unadorned vanity mirror, the spell was broken. “What? Did I just imagine it?” Zie started to laugh, and Ira and I looked at each other with relief. The prank worked after all—
The restored snow-leopard shouted, “Oi! You lot get back here!” It was enough to send Ira and I sprinting in opposite directions as planned. They probably heard zim on the ground floor.