Week five of Lovelace 1/2, which has been going quite well so far. It certainly seems to be popular and I enjoy the ‘figuring out Andi’s limits’ discussions that recur. (For those who have asked — oh yes, she has them. In her own way.)
Of course, sooner or later we need to move to the next actual… events of the story….
I hope you like it!
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“So let me get this straight,” Jennie said, leaning her chair back so she was effectively lying against the windowsill of their room while she talked. Andi always imagined she was going to fall straight back out the window when she did that, though she knew now there wasn’t any chance of that. “You remember everything now?”
“Yes,” Andi said. “And no.”
Bell laughed. She lived in Moulton Hall across the quad, but it was Saturday night so she didn’t have to run straight back for check-in and lights out. So long as she hit the front door by ten thirty, all was well. Which in Bell’s case meant she would just be five or six minutes late. “I’m glad to see some things didn’t change, miss ‘I’m allergic to giving a straight answer.'” Bell was lying on Andi’s bed, next to Jennie’s laptop, which was playing techno just loud enough to obscure conversation if anyone was listening in on the other side of the door. It was an old trick, passed down from senior to freshmen in boarding schools stretching back to the dawn of radio, or so Andi imagined. It seemed kind of silly to Andi now that she thought about it, though. So long as they weren’t discussing something that was against Brooks-Carillon’s rules, who would care enough to listen in? And why would they care that they had? It was a ritual of border school — and like so many of those rituals, it had lost its meaning long ago.
Or maybe it was a way of feeling important, at least in their own heads.
Andi herself was lying on Jennie’s bunk, which had been set on top of one of the desks and a bookcase to make a fake bunk bed and a little alcove underneath. “I am giving a straight answer. I can remember everything. I think, anyway. Everything I’ve tried to remember. But that’s the thing — I have to try. I have to be reminded of something or be thinking about something or try to remember something. It’s not… I don’t have my entire life history running through my head three times a second or anything.”
“What’s the ninth word I ever said to you?” Jennie asked.
Andi rolled over onto her stomach. “Yeah.” She took a half-second, thinking about the way Jennie had looked and had spoken. Fourteen years old, and already with a personality six sizes bigger than her body. She considered how Jennie had held her mouth, how her intonations had sounded and probably been formed… “Well howdy, stranger! I’m Jennie — I guess we’re goin’ to be roommates!”
Bell squealed a little, slapping her hand up and down on the bed. “Oh that is so cool! You sound just like her!”
Jennie laughs. “Better’n that. I’ve heard kids try to break out the yellowhammer an’ cotton, and they just sound like — I dunno. Every bad comedian who thinks South means ‘inbred, dumb and racist.’ For a second there Andi actually sounded like she could’a come from Tallapoosa County.”
“No way — okay! Do me! Do me do me!”
“Do you what?”
“Do me saying… the ninth sentence of the fourth conversation we ever had.”
Andi shifted a bit more. It was hard to really emulate Bell’s very physical presence while lying on her stomach, but not insurmountable. Her tone matched Bell’s kind of generic ‘New England’ accent. ” It’s like, what — you can build a whole new gym at your expensive private school and somehow forget to put in a freaking pool?”
Jennie and Bell both howled. “Wait!” Bell said. “Wait — did I say that? I mean, it sounds like me and all but– no wait, I remember that now! We were talking about wanting decent swimming and Jack Olson kept butting in to get us to go to, like, this pond!”
“What? He tried to get you two to–”
“Oh, not just us or anything,” Bell said. “He was trying to get a whole group together. I dunno if he was just really into pond-swimming or if he had some beer or weed hidden out there or what. I don’t know if anyone took him up on it. I can’t imagine–”
“He did,” Andi said. “Jim Estes, Ellie Smith and Neal Gillett. That’s when they got so tight, before Billie started hanging with them too. They did everything together for a while after that. God, can you imagine what they must have…” she cocked her head. “…well, thinking about it, I think Neal ended up getting some kind of infected bite, which they had to deal with without admitting they broke campus to go swimming. That must have got them in the habit of running around together.”
“Infected bite?” Bell asked.
“On his left leg, yeah. Below the knee.”
“You saw his leg?”
“What? No, but given the swelling you could make out plus the way he limped for a few days there, and he was flushed without sweating even in the heat so he had a fever, and he–”
“All right, all right!” Bell said, laughing again. “I believe you already.”
“Does it scare you?” Jennie asked.
“Yeah — well, the changes?”
“Kinda — it did at first. I mean, overnight, I apparently became some kind of freak.”
“Became some kind of freak? As opposed to what?” Bell smirked.
“Jerk.” Andi threw Jennie’s pillow at Bell, who knocked it aside and laughed.
“Hey!” Jennie said, laughing as well. “Throw your own pillow!”
“She’d have to throw me my pillow so I could throw my pillow at her. This is more efficient, Jennifer.”
“Ah!” Jennie said, affecting a Sloanish dialect. “More efficient, is it? Excellent. More tea?”
“That never gets old, Jennie. Not once. It’s not possible it could ever get old. We can prove this, because in the thirty-nine times you’ve done it, it hasn’t gotten old.”
“Oh, whatever. So did you get in trouble?”
“Sort of,” Andi said. “They pulled me out of Lacrosse for it.”
“Don’t remind me,” Jennie muttered. “We got slaughtered.”
“Oh, like I would have made the difference there.” Andi rolled back onto her back. “As it turns out, I’m all brains, didn’t you know.” Andi tried to keep bitterness out of her voice. She knew bloody well she had no call for it — this was a remarkable thing, whatever the cause, and now that she knew about it, she could prepare for it — maybe even use it.
“So… what’s it like?” Bell asked.
“What? Having a freak brain?”
“Yeah. Having a freak brain.”
Andi shrugged. “People keep asking me that. It feels exactly the same as it did yesterday. I mean, I wouldn’t even have noticed all this except suddenly I’m getting all the answers right.”
“Heh. Nice work if you can get it,” Bell said. “I mean, on the big list of problems–”
“Yeah, you’re right. Because if there’s anyone in public school who really gets on well — really has a wonderful time for all the years she’s there, it’s the know-it-all. Well, know-it-all-except-for-why-it’s-happening.”
“I assume you got hit by radiation from the government,” Jennie said. “And you may have also been bitten by a radioactive smart person.”
“I notice a common theme of ‘radiation’ in your theories,” Andi said.
“Well, sure. Everyone knows superpowers come from radiation.”
“Plenty of super heroes don’t have powers that come from radiation,” Bell said. “Look at the Avengers!”
“The Hulk’s, like, the original radioactive superhero,” Jennie said. “That’s how we know radiation’s green.”
“The Hulk gets his powers from radiation, and Tony Stark nearly died of radiation poisoning,” Andi said. “Also, there was some kind of radiation involved with Captain America, and we don’t know enough about Hawkeye or the Black Widow to be able to talk about it.”
Jennie snickered. “Since when did you pay that much attention to–”
“Do we really need to go over this again?” Andi suddenly felt very tired. “If you really want to get buried in this crud say the word — two of my mates back in Year Six were obsessed with comics. Between that, summer blockbusters and actually being on the Internet for more than ten minutes, I probably know more about super heroes than anyone else in this building.”
Bell looked at Andi, before slowly standing. “You know we have your back, right? Whatever’s happening — we’ll stick by you?”
“I know that,” Andi said. She didn’t say how many friends had told her similar things for admittedly different reasons over Andi’s fifteen years. She didn’t tell them about Maribeth who swore they’d write every week until they were old and grey. It had been two hundred and fifty eight weeks since Maribeth’s last letter. She didn’t tell them about the blood oath of the tin post circle, founded by Andi, Cora and Lisle when they were eight years old, and how it meant they would be best friends through thick and thin, or how that blood oath hadn’t mattered much at all by the fourth week of Andi’s first term at a different school. She didn’t tell them of the nannies who’d promised to always love her, only to vanish when they found a better job elsewhere, or the stuffed owl that had promised, in her imagination, to never leave her side. Said owl was still in London, Andi having neglected to pack it.
It’s not that Andi blamed Maribeth, Cora, Lisle, or any of the others. There was no blame to be had. Promises made before you really understood how the world worked couldn’t really count. She believed firmly that Bell and Jennie would ‘have her back,’ as long as that was relevant, but that inside of three years they would almost certainly go to different colleges and only ever like each others’ Facebook timelines from that point forward.
If there was one thing Andi could say for her parents’ disinterest, at least they hadn’t made promises they couldn’t keep or raise expectations for anything more.
“Good,” Bell said, earnestly. Andi was almost startled — she’d pondered all of that in the span of a second or two (0.37 seconds). Not that that should surprise her any more — but if there was one thing in all this she hadn’t gotten used to yet, it was how much she could do with so little time. Regardless, she’d felt that wave of thought and emotion before Bell could even acknowledge Andi’s words.
“You got to get back to Moulton,” Jennie said. “It’s almost check-in.”
“Yeah yeah. We meet for breakfast?”
“You know it. G’wan. We need our sleep.”
Bell nodded to Jennie. “Bye, you guys!”
“Night,” Andi said, watching her leave.
Jennie got up, walking over to the laptop and closing it, cutting the song off a moment later. She looked over at Andi. “Thirty nine times?”
“You know.” She affected her faux-British accent. “Having a laff over the sport, pip all.”
“Oh. Yeah. Forty now.” Andi slid off the bed, landing straight-legged with a thud.
“That must really bug you. I’m sorry.”
“What? No — it’s alright. You know. We’re just making fun. It’s what people do.”
“But…” Jennie bit her lip.
“But I kept count?”
Andi took a deep breath. “Jennie — do you know how many times I’ve said your name to you since we’ve met? Counting Jennie, Jen, Jennifer and all?”
“Nine hundred and thirteen. Jennie, I’m not counting the number of times you send me up. I just… count things, now. It’s not you. And for God’s sake don’t stop making fun — right now, I need a lot more of that. It’s still just me, Jennie. I don’t… want to lose that to whatever my brain’s becoming.”
“Yeah. So… are you going to get checked out?”
“What — at the hospital?”
“Well, yeah. Or down at Mass General in Boston or something.”
“I probably should. I’ll bring it up with Mister Stone on Monday. I’ll poke at a few books and websites tomorrow — maybe start doing some proper research on all this.” She laughed, softly. “If I’m going to have this, I might as well use it to try and figure it all out.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“Well, I’m going to brush teeth and hit bed. Good night then?
“Yeah. Good night, Andi.”
Andi knew exactly when she had started dreaming.
Andi had realized she was dreaming in some of her dreams before. Just one of those moments of clarity which didn’t change the soft focus treacle of the dream proper. This wasn’t like that.
No, this time, Andi’s ‘eyes opened’ in the dream, and she knew that she was asleep, and had begun to dream.
Andi looked around herself. She was wearing her old Cricketer’s togs, but otherwise there was little to be said. The ‘room’ she was in was just dark haze. But all around her….
Andi watched as what looked like mirrors, turning in spirals and moving along past her in chains that looked like silver molecules passed by. Looking at them, she saw the events of the day, in differing detail with different viewpoints — on one side her conversations with Luke and Mister Stone, with other gleaming mirror chains sliding above and through them, all without collisions, depicting all the other conversations she’d had with the pair. Above her she saw faster mirrors — snapshots, like seeing glimpses of lights passing by when on a night train. Each fragments and bits of thought — a paragraph from the Guardian, a second in New York City with Bell, polynomials like starlight flowing by.
“My God,” she murmured, looking around. She peered closer. It took her a moment, but she realized what was happening. Sleep was more than a diversion — it was a chance to clear the mind, to process the things that had happened, both recently and in the past. One’s dreams were experienced as hallucinations while the database optimized, to use a phrase.
Only now, despite being asleep, Andi was effectively ‘conscious’ for the process. There was no hallucination, no dreams of flight or fancy, no nightmares of Mister Charlton yelling at her.
It was all just… happening. She could see her own mind coping with the mass of information it had accumulated during the day.
“Is this… how it happens for everyone?” she murmured ‘aloud,’ again, though she knew she wasn’t talking in her sleep — she could have told if she were.
Andi jumped, whirling — fixing on–
She was a young woman — Andi’s age, maybe — with long brown hair with what looked like natural blondish streaks, probably from exposure to sun. Her brown eyes had a very slight almond shape to them. Her face was almost deceptively pretty, and she wore a black ribbed tee shirt over a slight frame, and black jeans. Only a golden necklace broke up the dark color scheme. Well, that, and a very slight golden light Andi could just barely see along the edges of the woman. She was still talking, of course. “Everyone churns through stuff when they dream, of course. It’s part of the purpose. But if people don’t properly dream for some reason, that doesn’t mean all of this happens. I guess this is just your brain’s way of interpreting what it’s seeing. And I’ll admit, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“…who are you, and what are you doing in my dream?” Andi felt caught between a sense of deep violation and of terrific absurdity.
“Making the evening rounds — and I’ll admit I was drawn to you like you’d set a fire that could be seen all the way to Adlucinatia. Honestly, you sort of did. I can help you with that, if you’d like. I mean, I doubt you’d want just anyone showing up.” She moved her fingers, little golden fire traces following where their tips fluttered, and formed into golden sparks which slid up and around the mirrors, weaving a kind of thin wispy firefly dome far above them. “That should help.”
Andi kept staring. She was positive the girl wasn’t part of Andi’s ‘dream.’ She was real — some kind of outsider. And she was equally positive she’d never seen this girl before in her life. “Who are you?” she repeated.
“Oh, sorry!” The girl grinned, and held a hand out for shaking. “I’m Tatum Parrish. I’m the Queen.”