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Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

Archive for June 2017

Splinters 24: Bare necessities

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“We go?”

Emma sighed and finally smiled thinly.

“We go. If we don’t, we’ll drive ourselves crazy. You know, Narnia-style. What would have happened had we gone and checked. So we go, we check, we try to help. If it doesn’t work out, we still have our apartment or money to rent something else somewhere else. If we don’t find the town in reasonable time, we locate nearest civilisation and make base there. If we…”

“I see your point” Elsa leaned forward and prodded the notepad with one finger. “What is that?”

“That, my dear, are our plans. All we have to pack to storage, all we have to pack to take, all we have to do to secure the flat. Also, all we have to buy to make that road trip reasonably comfortable. Neck pillows, portable fridge, stuff for Henry to do, because he just managed to go through that last math puzzle book today, out of sheer boredom. Stuff we have to verify we have, like all types of power cables and a portable modem – I’m sure we had one, but I can’t find it. Also, stuff we’re not supposed to even try to pack, to avoid taking space.”

“I’ve written down everything that August told us” Elena dropped her bullet-journal-calendar-notebook on the table. “I’m now putting it in a cross-referenced library on my laptop, but we have a hardcopy, just in case. All the history, whatever he remembered of the internal and foreign politics, local heroes, everything. And the descriptions of our persons of interest.”

Emma patted Elsa’s hand.

“By the way, I forgot to tell you, but… that was well done, Elsie.”

Elsa blinked.

“What do you mean?”

“We got… so caught up with August describing our parents that neither of us ever thought to ask him about his father. And you did. I could say, you saved the honour of the royal family, covering the debt we have to our loyal servant” Emma snorted finally. “Really, you made the guy happy. And we gain one more good description of our parents’ ally. One of the few we can trust to apply in this world, by what August says.”

Elsa shrugged uncomfortably.

“It seemed like a reasonable thing to do. This way we can check for Gepetto first thing and let August at least know if his father is there, and how he’s doing.”

“And you’ve gained yourself an ardent admirer” Elena poked her in the ribs. “All he did for the rest of the evening was stare at you in wonder.”

“Gee, Lena. Thank you. Yes, the only guy that thinks I’m an interesting woman is a wooden puppet. Superb. It’s not like I was counting on this, come on. I just wanted to make sure he knew it will be taken care of. He was rather nervous, after all.”

“The ice queen has feelings for the wooden puppet” Elena giggled and poked her again. “You care for him!”

“It’s obvious that you’re a month younger than me” Elsa said in a tired voice. “I feel soooo much older.”

“What do we take?”

Emma checked her list and added a few objects to the pile.

“Clothes for a week. We can hope for a laundromat or maybe a hotel with a laundry room after that. More for Henry, who know how many changes he will go through in one day. Also, his stuff takes much less space than ours, so we can afford the volume” she turned a page. “Four full sleeping sets. A tent. Camping cooking gear. Just in case. I don’t want to sleep in the rough, but we may need to. First aid kits, one small and one large. Two termoinsulated picnic baskets for food.”

“Where do you want to put all of this? Even our car may be too small, if you include Henry’s gear, electronics, tools, some books…”

Emma turned a page.

“We’ll buy a roof container. It should be good for the camping gear and other stuff we won’t want to unpack every night. Actually, I’ve already ordered one online. With setup service, so no worries about fitting various screws as needed, they’ll send someone to mount it for us. I don’t want repetition of the bike rack tragedy.”

Elena shuddered, recalling the day they almost lost their bikes in the middle of nowhere due to mis-aligned screws in the bike attachment.

“And the fridge goes into the trunk” Elsa added happily. “It’s connected to the lighter socket there, so it can stay powered during the drive.”

“I see you already have all the gear you need” Elena smirked. “Have you packed it full of water, or not yet?”

Elsa poked her in the shoulder with a finger.

“You’d better focus on taking your yoga mat and the staff, and let me worry about ice water. We may need you to bash some unsuspecting fiend’s head with it.”

“I’m strapping it to the side railing on the roof. Enough velcro and it should stay in place. Otherwise we’ll be riding with it sticking all the way through the car, between our heads.”

Emma flipped a few more pages.

“You two, stop bickering, and pack, each a minimum set of clothes for a week, full change. Consider poor conditions – it may rain, or there may be a problem with laundry. Seven or eight of everything. Then add a bit of warmer wear – a sweater, tights, maybe snow overalls. Who knows what that town looks like. Maybe it’s all Wild West, so they walk on earthen streets covered with cow manure.”

“Or maybe even medieval, so there will be a lot of crap, literally, lying on the streets” Elsa added with a shudder.

“Anyway, consider weird things that may happen. My gear is here” Emma pointed to a large shoulder bag, sitting by the door. “I’m adding a second bag like this with the warmer clothes, rainproof jacket… Also, add several pairs of shoes. Same reason…”

“Yep” both her sisters said instantly and turned to their rooms.

“I’ll pack my rubber shoes” Elsa made a face. “Juuust in case.”

Henry used the school-free days to sleep late, walk around the house in his pyjamas and fluffy socks until someone noticed and got him to change, lie around on the sofas, coughing from time to time and try to understand what was going on around him.

“Mum?” he sidled up to Emma on the couch. “Are we leaving because of me? Because I got sick?”

She hugged him tightly to her side.

“No, not really. At least not only. But Elena and Elsa had their jobs changed due to all these weird accidents, and I’ve already been working remotely, and with you sick we have no more reason to stay in Boston. You’d only get worse. Actually, it’s half of your class, too. Their parents are moving outside of the city or to smaller towns. So it’s not like you’d get your old classmates if you went back to your old school next fall.”

He sighed.

“That’s sad. If they move far enough, I may never actually meet them again.”

Emma picked him up and pulled into her lap.

“If you want to keep in touch with someone specific, I can ask your teacher to give me their parents’ number, so you can call them.”

He shrugged.

“Not really. Phone is not much fun. I could go to the playground with Tommy or Sasha, but I suppose they are moving, too…”

She hugged him closer.

“I will take these phone numbers anyway and when we’re next in Boston, we can call them. Meanwhile, I hope we can find some nice kids in Maine. I’m sure there will be someone you can play with.”

He only leaned on her arm and closed his eyes.

“It will be nice to stop coughing.”

Elena was standing in the middle of their tiny kitchen-cum-dining room and considering the big box of cooking and baking implements she was trying to close.

“Don’t pack half of the kitchen. We need to take only the basics. Kettle, a pan or two, a pot. The picnic basket with all the lunch plates in. It all must somehow fit into the trunk. The only things I’ll allow inside the car are backpacks and Henry’s stuff” Emma sounded rather tired

“Do you expect that we’ll have a chance to cook on the way? I was kind of resigned and though we’ll go for, well. Diners.”

Emma gave Elsa a reproachful glare.

“Maybe we’ll have to do this during the drive, but in that Storybrooke place, or wherever we find ourselves, I expect us to rent an apartment, and to have a proper household. For Henry’s sake, even if we don’t really need it. But I don’t think we need three muffin tins and your collection of silicon cake molds, Elena. So please, take them out of your backpack and add to the box going to the storage.”

“You’re assuming it is a modern kind of town that rents apartments and not huts” Elena made a face. “If it is some kind of medieval implant in Maine, it may make sense to bring everything with us, including kitchen tools.”

Emma rubbed her face.

“Yes, I’m assuming – maybe wrongly – that whoever transplanted themselves and these people to Maine in XX century, did it in fact in order to make use of said XX century luxuries. Maybe it’s a wrong assumption, but if I even try to consider the Renaissance option, I’m getting shivers down my back. Just thinking about the toilet solutions gives me nightmares.”

“You’re more afraid of a lousy toilet situation than of a curse, evil queen and black magic?”

“I can imagine bad toilet situation. The other ones, no. So I’m afraid of what I know is scary.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/06/25 at 22:57

Posted in Splinters

Spliters 23: I Wanna Try Everything

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Elena was staring dumbfounded at the until-now chipped cup in her hands.

“Elsa…?” she managed to utter finally. “Could you… could you have a look?”

Elsa looked in faint interest from the sofa, but seeing Elena sitting motionlessly, she rose and approached the kitchen table.

“The cup?” she asked, picking it up.

“Yeah” Elena licked her lips. “I think I just fixed it.”

“Well, that’s what Henry asked you to do, right? To glue it together?”

“I didn’t use the glue.”

Silence in the kitchen started to feel a little oppressive.

“How did you do it then?”

“I was just trying to see if there aren’t any small pieces missing. I fitted the chipped chunk to the cup and tried to make it sit flush with the rest and then there was this snap in my head and the chip was in. No seam even. No sign of it ever being broken in any way.”

Elsa carefully took the cup and put it on the shelf, then sat in front of Elena.

“Did you feel left out?” she asked directly, putting her hand on her sister’s.

A deep sigh was the only answer.

“Did you look for the magic inside you?”

A shrug.

“Did you just discover, by accident, that you in fact have some kind of magic and got very scared?”

A nod.

“So now you know what Emma and I felt when August dumped that whole ‘You use magic’ thing on us. Or rather, when we finally believed him.”

Elena shuddered slightly and nodded again.

“Now, we can deal with it in two ways. We can ignore it and see if it happens again by itself, or we can try seeing what it is that you can do. I know, it sounds a bit too logical for someone who had just discovered that their sister is, in fact, a witch – or whatever it is that we are – but I’ve had a few weeks to consider mine and Emma’s talents already and we’ve tried it out, checking what it is exactly that we can do, so I’ve had some experience in this by now.”

“You do?” Elena sounded a bit surprised, so Elsa just shrugged.

“We didn’t want to bother you with it, as it seemed to be a bit, well. Unkind. To advertise what we have and you don’t. Which means now that you do have it, well. We have some experience and we can help you research.”

“Research. Into magic. Your logical brain applied to that magical mess?”

“It’s not a mess. It follows some rules and it is limited by specific laws. Emma’s power, for example, only applies to someone talking directly in her presence, and it works better if she sees them. So, watching a movie is not a problem, as the people on the screen aren’t there. If we went to see a play, she would probably feel a twinge – that was what happened when Henry was in the play at school, we’re guessing – but because nobody there is in fact trying to trick someone into believing them, it doesn’t trigger all her alarms. On the phone it’s tough, but she guesses two times out of three, depending on the quality of connection.”

Elena blinked and looked at her hands.

“And what do you want me to do then?”

“I’m guessing, but that would probably need to wait for Emma, that you can stick things together. So we can check what it is that works for you the best.”

After a few tries of putting different things together, then stopping for the time to prepare dinner and to pick up Henry, then waiting nervously for Emma and then working with Emma, they managed to arrive at a conclusion.

Late in the night, when Henry was already sleeping after a healthy dose of bedtime reading – as usual recently, fairytales, doubling research with pleasure – Emma drew a big red minus sign next to another suggestion and looked at Elena tiredly.

“One thing they all have in common is simple. You can’t stick together things that were not together in the first place. Basically, you can fix what’s broken and that’s it.”

Elsa snorted.

“That’s it? Emma, wake up! If she can mend broken things, she can basically do anything, like mend bones!”

“Ah, we don’t know. We just checked on inanimate stuff.”

Elsa reached behind her without looking and broke off a leaf from the small basil plant on the window.

“Ellie, try this” she handed the piece of herb over the table.

“Sure” Elena shrugged. “Can you give me the pot?” she reached towards Elsa.

Suddenly there was a small ‘blorp’ sound.

The plastic pot appeared in Elena’s hand, leaking dirty water all over the table. She could only stare at her hands as the leaf appeared to straighten itself and reconnect with the parent plant with a tiny, wet-sounding ‘smack’.

“Eep” was the only comment Elsa managed in reaction to that.

“Eep” Emma confirmed, hand with the pencil shaking as she put the notepad slowly on the chair next to her.


The leaf looked just as healthy as before and not even the tiniest line marred the place where it was connected to the stem.

The puddle of dirty water on the table and the empty saucer on the windowsill were however a very definitive proof for the fact that Elena had just teleported the missing part into her hands.

“That’s… new” Emma finally managed.

“I wonder what that means for us” Elsa added, taking the pot out of Elena’s motionless hands. “Do we also have additional talents – or other ways of how the current ones can work?”

Elena hiccoughed.

Written by Srebrna

2017/06/22 at 22:56

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 22: Patch of heaven

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Emma hauled semi-asleep Henry up the stairs, holding his prone form steady on her hip. She cursed the breaking elevator more than ever before, as three flights of steep steps were a bit of a pain to traverse with a sick kid.

She juggled her handbag, her son, her phone and her keys for a moment before she managed to open the door without dropping any of these objects (she considered for a moment sitting Henry on the floor and propping him against the wall…) and was finally home. She carefully deposited Henry on the living room sofa, took off his shoes and covered him with his favourite furry blanket. Only then she could collapse bonelessly into an armchair and unclench her fists.

I don’t think I want to repeat today, ever.

Henry had gotten sick during the second period.

In fact, half of his class had been coughing, sneezing and had teary eyes. Some smaller children had already developed fever by the time the parents were called in to pick them up.

Henry’s face was flushed and he was breathing heavily, so she turned him on his side and started calling doctors, angrily deducting the money she would have to spend for a home visit from her monthly budget. Still, it was much better for Henry not to be taken to a clinic and she could afford it, even if it was a bit annoying to spend so much.

About three hours later a very perplexed young man was listening to Henry’s chest sounds and nodding slowly with concern.

“We’ve been having this all over this side of Boston. Children, preschool, early school, getting very asthma-like symptoms. There is some research being started as to why, but the general suggestion is, it’s pollution and the weather getting warmer. Combine into it plant pollen and kids spending more time outdoors at school and we have a wide-spectrum set of aggressive agents. Everyone is getting hit, if they are short enough. Plus the pollution, the whole thicker part of air is getting kept close to the ground, so mostly kids are affected, and if it gets warm enough, it may take even a few hours for them to develop symptoms.”

He packed the bag and started scribbling on a prescription pad.

“He has to drink a lot, and give him this syrup for coughing – and I mean, to make him cough up this crud, actually. He should cough, and sneeze, to get rid of excess, or he could get pneumonia, if the mucus gets into the lungs. And, if you can, get out of the city. I tell this to all the parents. You at least live on the third floor, so you’re actually better off than families who have houses, because you’re higher over the ground. If he’s doing OK at school, take him out, doctor’s orders, and find some place in the country. Otherwise we’ll probably meet again, at the hospital.”

Henry was sleeping, curled up on one side, as Emma finished her last technical document of the day, sitting next to his bed on the floor. Door squeaked open and both her sisters tiptoed in.

“Is he doing any better?”

She shrugged and reached out to test his forehead and neck.

“No fever, but he is tired and he was coughing for the whole afternoon. The doctor said it was a good thing, as it makes him get rid of the mucus, but it made him rather miserable.”

Elsa sighed and sat on the floor next to Emma, leaning her head on her sister’s knee.

“Do you ever get tired of the Great Destiny that awaits you?”

“Great Destinies make for very good Great Funerals” Elena provided morosely.

“Come on! Stop saying that! We’ll help her kick the curse’s ass – or whatever that a curse may have – and she’ll be done in next to no time. And we’ll all live happily ever after.”

“Shh” Emma pointed to Henry.

“Sorry. But, I mean. August – Pinocchio – said that magic will be prompting us to do certain things, right?”

Emma took off her reading glasses and looked down at Elsa’s bowed head.

“What happened?”

Elsa sniffed quietly.

“The firm is splitting up. And they are getting rid if a third of the staff.”

“Including you” Emma sighed.

“Including me, in a way. Celia asked me to stay as an off-site consultant – they will send cases my way for pre-reading and analysis. They just can’t keep me on normal contract for court work. I’m supposed to hand all my cases over to Catherine and Maya and stop coming to the office starting Monday in two weeks. She promised to keep me in enough work to make it a fair deal, but she can’t guarantee they will always be interesting. Or even challenging. So I’ll probably be getting a lot of very standard crap.”

Elena snorted.

“At least your guys have a proper reason. Ours are closing the Boston office and officially ordering everyone to work from home, because – and I kid you not – the waste disposal in the building failed and due to large-scale contamination of the offices nobody is allowed in the office until the security and health inspectors are done with it. They will probably require the building managers to redo the floors and part of the walls, and also decontaminate the air conditioning and all installations. Probably tear out some of power installation too, considering it was covered in, well. The effect of waste disposal going wrong.”

Emma blinked.

“You mean the toilets flooded the office?”

“Flooded, ha! This was a bloody deluge. Shitty deluge, more like. And there was no Ark to sail away in. We barely got out with our personal stuff, they were hurrying us so quickly. I have my laptop and all my papers, but some were not so lucky. Cristine lost her pair of ballet flats, the ones she was using in the office. They got stuck to the floor.”

“Ick” Elsa made a gagging sound.

“Oh, yeah. It is so. I suggest if you have any kind of business with someone from my office block, just… don’t. Especially not if they invite you to the office.”

“I won’t be having any business with anyone soon, considering Celia just put me on strict home office, no client contact. I’m still better of than the guys from next office down the corridor – they just got fired, no options, no contract change. The old fart Maxwell just decided he’ll be keeping his assistant and just a part of the cases and so he’s just letting the boys go.”

“This all sounds massively idiotic” Emma finally provided. “And I mean both these cases. A law firm splitting after how many years? What are they going to do with the cases, split equally? Who will pick up the slack after the missing people? What will happen to the building?”

Elsa rolled her eyes. “No idea really. Not that I had a chance to ask. I was just glad to get off with some work that will pay – easy task and clean options.”

“And your office is just letting employees work from home?” Emma turned to the other sister. “There will be no backup office rented. Nobody really cares who works how and delivers what. Will there be any oversight? Management checks on their subordinates?”

Elena shrugged.

“I suppose it’s hard to keep people performing at high level without some kind of direct control, and they were planning to make this kind of virtual teams thing, including daily meetings with reports and all. But our boss has actually left this week on a sabbatical…”

Emma rolled her eyes and rubbed her eyes with her thumbs.

“Am I the only one seeing a pattern here?”

Elsa looked up at her and shrugged.

“Probably. As usual.”

Emma counted to five silently.

“Do you see all these three things happening together on one day as a coincidence? Because what I see is a lot of magic used to get us to agree to something. It makes me itch, like a storm brewing. I hate that feeling.”

“We’re getting manipulated.”

“By some stupid force which has plans for Emma.”

They sat in silence for a moment, Elena leaning on Emma’s other side and all three thinking worriedly.

“Do you suppose we should go along, or should we rather try to work against it?” Emma asked finally. “I mean, I hate being manipulated. You two, too.”

“But on the other hand, whatever is doing it, it is making it easier for us to leave Boston – whichever direction we choose once out of town. We were all worrying about Henry’s school and our work…”

“And I know you two were worried that I won’t be able to leave the firm, because my job is the least mobile” Elsa added quietly. “And however much I dislike being treated like a pawn on the board and just moved here and there by an unknown force, it makes it so much easier to pick up everything and move now than it was yesterday.”

Emma combed through Elsa’s hair with her fingers, making soothing patterns on her sister’s scalp.

“Yes. Now it seems we could just pack everything, load up the car and go.”

Elena scowled and undid her hair tie, sighing with relief at having her hair finally free.

I think we should plan. Properly. We have enough information from August to make some approximation as to where the whole Storybrooke may be, but we still didn’t put anything specific on the map.”

“Actually, I did” Emma said, a bit hesitantly. “I made a program that eliminated parts of the map based on the characteristics August provided. It’s supposed to be twenty miles from any other civilisation, so I made the program identify cities, towns and smaller settlements and “draw” a twenty-mile radius circle from the centre of it. I must say, after careful elimination not much is left. Especially as this town needs to be of reasonable size… And in some of the places left there are hills, or bare dry patches that don’t qualify for a town of any size. Basically, I see only this one strip of a road as our potential aim. It’s something around fifty miles of the road, so not that much to search through.”

Elena gaped at her, mouth open.

“My sister, the programming genius!”

“What is fifty miles of a good road?” Elsa quoted to nobody in particular.

“Whatever it is, it is far, far from here” Emma mumbled morosely and leaned back on the couch. “When I think about leaving this place, I get goosebumps. The bad kind. I just hate thinking about actually moving that far away.”

Elsa patted her knee.

“But we have a chance of finding your family. Think about it. We can always pay for the flat to be kept reserved for us for, maybe, half a year, and put the stuff in storage to avoid burglars. And if we want to stay there after that time, well, we can drive over here and order some movers… or if this doesn’t work out, we’ll have a place to come back to.”

Emma sighed and closed her eyes.

“I just feel that if we leave it’s like leaving behind the safe hideout and going into this bad, cold, strange world out there. We’ll be away from everything we know – work, school, shops, cinemas… do they even have a cinema in that Storybrooke? How would they get new copies of movies if they are magically hidden away from the rest of the world? Will cellphones work? Do they have a hospital? A school? A hotel?”

Elsa shivered slightly.

“Do they have net access? We can’t work without at least access to e-mail.”

Elena fished a notepad out of her voluminous bag.

“Let’s make a proper list of all stuff we’d need. I just hope they have electricity, because if I’m supposed to wash my clothes by hand, I’m outta there in three days. Tops.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/06/19 at 22:54

Posted in Splinters