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Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

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Splinters 30 – I wanna be where the people are

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“Isn’t it nice?”

A tall man with a dog was standing in front of the diner’s door, so Elsa had to ask him to move, as she carried a basket with takeout lunch for Elena and Henry. It was him who spoke – a little dreamily, looking up at the clocktower.

“What is?” she asked out of courtesy, getting a better grip on the handle.

“The clock. Apparently Marco finally managed to fix it. It’s working, first time in years, you see.”

“Well” she shrugged. “He’d better set it to the correct hour, when he’s at it. It’s half past one, and the clock still showing quarter to nine.”

He smiled and patted the dog.

“At least it’s progress. A week ago… or maybe it was two weeks… he said nothing could be done as the great spring was stuck in such a way that he was scared to move it.”

She walked to the street, shaking her head.

“It’s progress, but I wouldn’t set my watch by that thing.”

He pushed up his glasses and hurried down the path after her.

“I’m guessing you must be E…” he suddenly stuttered.

“Elsa. Elsa Swan” she said helpfully. “No worries, I guess we are kind of a novelty in the town. And you’d be?”

“Ah! Archie. Archie Hopper. I’m the local psychologist. Well, psychiatrist, really, but I advise at school and at the hospital in my less medical hat. I actually wanted to talk to you – one of you – about Henry. You are his…?”

“Aunt. So whatever you need to discuss, should probably be with Emma, his mother.”

He grimaced.

“Well, of course. However, if you could give me a few minutes of your time… You’re not signing Henry into the school, I understood – could you tell me why? I’m wondering if I should be prepared for something specific once he starts attending.”

Elsa put the basket on a small stump next to the fence.

“Henry is being homeschooled, because we don’t know how long we’ll be staying and we don’t want to make him adjust to class life for a month just to take him out of it again. If he continues to improve – his health had been poor – we’ll enrol him in the fall. Is there anything else you’d like to ask?”

He shook himself just a bit, looking at her in surprise.

“That’s… I see. No, no, thank you, that is probably all I needed. Yes.”

“I’m quite sure Henry will not require your help once he is in school. He is a very stable and very bright boy, and he’s being brought up with all the care he may need.”

“I understand that the three of you love the child very much, but you can’t be that sure about your own methods… after all, if I understood correctly, you’ve not been raised in an actual family.”

Elsa picked up her basket and straightened up, her spine stiff.

“Where we were brought up and who took care of us has no influence on the methods we’re using with Henry. I assure you, we know what we’re doing. I understand you’re professionally trained in the area of psychology, but do not assume you’re not the only one with education on the subject.”

“What do you mean, study?”

“I mean, take a course. Come on. I know it sounds weird, but I want to prepare for this properly.”

“And you think there is a course on how to be a proper parent? Specially for people, well, like us? Missocialised outcasts raised in the system?”

“It actually exists and it’s for everyone. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t know how to be a parent – they came from a situation where they had no chance to learn anything about kids, or even about running a household.”

“We at least had good home education lessons – they were rather useful and reasonable, even if not with actual real parents.”

“There is even a separate course line for people from public care who had not been correctly prepared before being kicked out of the group homes. Including renting a place, signing contracts, getting insured, dealing with health system, making sure you know what are your rights at the hospital or at a clinic…” Emma sighed and moved to a better position. “I’m going for the parenting one. Five hours a week and it leaves me a free Thursday afternoon for the birthing classes. I’m not saying you have to come, but it may be easier for us if we all join. Funny thing is, if you take the advanced course, it actually gives us a paper that allows you to work as a kindergarten assistant. Not as an actual teacher, but hey, it’s still a skill we could use at some point.”

Elena nodded and swallowed her sandwich.

“I’ll do it, why not. I want to be properly prepared for when the kid comes. We have our house set up, we know how to manage the finances and we know how to live day to day, but I’d rather have someone give us a good set of notes regarding the visit to the hospital so that we don’t end up in debt due to the fact that you’re having a baby.”

“Or end up having problems being admitted as your family, if someone decides to make fuss about lack of a man.”

Emma snorted.

“As if they never had sisters accompanying each other. But yes, it’s better to be prepared.”

Doctor Hopper was making his way back home, glancing towards Elsa from time to time uneasily. She, on the other hand, calmly walked down the few buildings and joined Henry and Elena on the porch of the inn, where Elena was trying to work and Henry was trying to interrupt her.

“Small town” Elsa snorted, setting the basket on the kitchen table. “Everyone is poking their noses into everyone else’s business.”

“Who accosted you?” Elena reached for the container with homemade lasagna, still hot from Granny’s oven.

“Doctor Hopper, or something like his. Local shrink. Tried to suggest Henry will need counselling due to living with incompetent victims of social system upbringing. Really, people.”

Henry sat next to Elena, bringing his plate.

“Who said that?” he asked, frowning.

“A doctor from the town, darling.”

“And what does coun-cell-ing mean?”

Sisters exchanged glances.

“That he thinks you will need help when you go to school in the fall.”

Henry’s frown deepened.

“Why would I need help? I was doing OK in my previous school…” he seemed a bit worried, but soothed the feeling with a healthy bite of the lasagna.

“He thinks that because we lived in an orphanage, we don’t know how to raise a kid and so we probably broke you” Elena hugged him. “Don’t worry. He doesn’t know us yet, so he’s probably a bit suspicious.”

“That’s silly” Henry chewed for a moment in silence. “Why would it make any difference where you came from?”

“It makes no difference, Henry” Elsa patted his shoulder. “Some people just can’t understand it, that’s all.”

Regina came with Emma to the playground, actually. Early spring afternoon was sunny and warm enough for both Roland and Henry to get out of their light jackets and run around the area, shrieking with happiness. Henry thoughtfully let himself be caught a few times, following Emma’s delicate suggestion before they met.

“How old is Henry?” Regina asked absently, tracking the movements of the smaller boy.

“He’ll be six in the fall” Emma watched Henry more discreetly, trying to let him, for the time being, play without over parental oversight. “I hope we can stay here that long. He could go to school and start with everyone.”

“Why shouldn’t you? Storybrooke is a nice town. I hope” Regina grinned. “If there is anything here that could displease you, I’d very much like to hear about it.”

Emma shook her head, smiling.

“It’s mostly about Henry, actually. He became so sick in Boston we had to take him out of school in early spring. The pollution in our area was very bad and the doctor suggested we take him as far from the big city as we could manage. So, when one of our friends suggested Maine as a place with some woodland, we decided to give it a try. Our jobs give us a lot of flexibility, and my sisters are rather devoted to Henry, so we decided to, well. Just find the place that felt right.”

“And then there was a storm, and you found Roland.”

Emma nodded.

“And it seemed a good idea to check where the fate has brought us. So, we’re here, and we’ll see what happens. Kind of a demo version of actual living here.”

Regina watched Roland attentively for a moment, as he braved the short kiddie climbing wall, and relaxed only when he was back on the ground.

“I hope you can stay” she said, not looking at Emma. “It is nice here, but a bit boring, so you’ll be a breath of fresh air for the people here. Henry will certainly be a welcome addition to our school, and if he has any kind of big city stories, he’ll be an instant micro-celebrity. Nobody here travels much, so kids mostly see big world in TV.”

Emma made an understanding face and a non-committal grunt.

Henry managed to sneak behind Roland and tickle him, making the younger boy howl with laughter and kick up a huge amount of sand. Regina started to get up, but suddenly glanced at Emma and sat back down.

“I suppose I may be a bit too cautious” she said suddenly. “But that’s because I care. I care about him. I just can’t… I try to make sure he has everything he needs – including some structure – but also… sometimes I may be too careful, but I think it doesn’t make me a toxic mother. I hope so, at least. I try to stop myself from hovering. But sometimes I still think he feels smothered by all the attention.”

Emma blinked.

“It makes you a nervous mother, that’s for sure. Have you tried letting him out of your sight from time to time? You know, controlled situation, and you go and have an hour to yourself?”

Regina snorted.

“Sure. And it works out so well. Two days ago? I though he was napping after a whole day of running around the house. So I went downstairs, put on my headphones and listened to some music. He must have sneaked out then. It’s not only that I’m watching him for what every kid does – I suppose you’ve had your dose of this with Henry – but also stop him from going into the woods. He’s obsessed with finding his father, and unless I manage to convince him to stop, he will get hurt one day.”

“But you can’t just tell the kid that his father is dead, can you?”

Regina nodded slowly.

“I considered it, actually” she said slowly. “But I can’t. He worships his father. His father is the best. He lives in the forest, he knows how to build a house, how to make a bow, how to fletch arrows, how to shoot the bow, how to make a campfire, how to…”

“Basically, he’s a superman of the forest, so he can’t be dead because that would be against the laws of nature themselves” Emma pursed her lips. “Also, if you convince him that his father is dead, and then the father is found, it will completely mess the kid up.”

“I haven’t even thought that far ahead” Regina admitted. “I’m worried every day that someone will come and take him and place him in some ugly orphanage and he will have nobody to make sure he doesn’t drown in some pond in the forest. Mostly, I want us all to survive until the fall semester, he will be going to school then. And I will maybe manage to get some work done without having to fetch Graham and a babysitter to make sure Roland doesn’t go exploring the moment I close the door.”

“At least now he looks like he’s having fun” Emma pointed to both boys looking closely at something – quite certainly disgusting – they dug up from the sand.

Regina nodded slowly.

“Maybe because Henry doesn’t have a father, either” she said with a sigh. “He mostly gets this need for searching when he sees other children with their fathers, I think.”

“Well, glad to be of service, madam Mayor. Maybe when he is around us a bit more, he’ll get used to the idea of non-standard families.”

“You four are definitely not standard, by any definition” Regina smiled cautiously. “May I ask…”

Emma rolled her eyes.

“I was an idiot, he was a conman, he split before I ever knew I was pregnant. And he tried to frame me for theft.”


“I got over it, don’t worry. In hindsight, I could have done without the court case during the first vacation after getting our master’s degrees, but I’m certain I wouldn’t change the fact that I was pregnant during it. It was a bother and I managed to throw up way more than I ate, but I got Henry and I don’t have to share him with that lowlife.”

“Just with your sisters.”

“Well, they are his parents, too” Emma shrugged. “And way better ones than he would ever be. Myths of male role model are just myths. Better no father than a lousy one.”

The afternoon paper ran an article, very general in the way it was worded, about the dangers of strangers coming into closed societies and what kind of imbalances such can cause. It also alluded to said strangers’ murky past, unknown upbringing, possible involvement in high-profile court cases and child endangerment. Emma additionally found a weird echo of what she told Regina, as there was a small paragraph regarding children reared in partial families.

She snorted, drank the rest of her coffee and hopped off the stool.

“Ah, Miss Swan” the headmistress smiled from her booth “Or may I call you Emma? I’m just about finished and I thought we could walk together. I could show you the town – as much as there is of it – and I can give you some materials for Henry to work on for the rest of the school year, so that he isn’t behind when he joins in September.”

“Sure. And yes, you can call me Emma” she smiled as the dark haired woman drank the rest of her coffee and gathered the abundance of paper she had spread on the table. “Writing assignments?”

Mary Margaret stuffed them into her bag.

“Actually, yes, but rather my own. I’m trying to…” she blushed “to write a novel. Not that I’m any good at writing interesting action scenes, but I hope I can get the social part of the text interesting enough. Now, let’s go left and I’ll tell you where everything is…”

As Emma noted where a laundromat was, where the car mechanic resided and which bakery saved better pastries (which was not the one with the best bread, and still not the same that sold better apple pies), she allowed herself to be led through the park, into more residential area.

“This one is all empty” her guide said. “They are supposed to tear it down, it has some structural problems, so it’s dangerous even to go there. This one is a lot of tiny flats, mostly single people live here – ones with not much need to store stuff. And this is the one that was remade from some weird factory and nobody knew exactly how to divide them correctly, to allow everyone access to facilities and windows, so some flats are really complicated. Mine is just up here, on second and third floor. I’d invite you in, but I made a complete mess of my kitchen today – I was trying to mix some pancake batter and my mixer went crazy. I’m kind of avoiding going back there, because it would force me to face my kitchen” she made a disgusted face. “Let’s go see the park here, what do you say? I’ll show you the area. I’d really love to have someone friendly live here…” she trailed off and stared into the sky over the trees. “Almost nobody moved in for the last year or so, and there’s just one flat taken in the building, except for mine, so I feel a bit lonely, sometimes. I’m sorry” she smiled weakly. “I don’t want you to feel pressured, but I kind of jumped at the occasion to get someone to rent that huge flat next to mine, so I can hear that there actual living people around me.”

Emma could only smile weakly at her earnestness.

“I have to check what my sisters decide. But I have to admit, it does sound nice. If that Mr Gold…” she blinked. “That was him, yesterday, I just connected it.”

Mary Margaret frowned.

“Where? You met Gold already? That was quick.”

“He was… I suppose he was collecting rent. Yesterday, at the B&B. He seemed a little weird, I must say.”

Mary Margaret just shrugged.

“We all have our little quirks. Maybe he has more than others, but nobody is free of their own, personal weirdness. I can’t abide being alone – that’s why I mostly work in the diner, just to see people around me. Ruby detests colours other than black and red. Archie talks to his dog and just to himself, out in the open – and he is the shrink of the town. Nobody here is exactly normal.”

Emma coughed.

“Well, maybe you three. But you’re triplets, which makes you automatically ‘non-standard’, according to general public. You don’t even need to show you’re different, you just are.”


Mary Margaret stiffened.

“Madam Mayor is in a category of her own” she said carefully. “She is a single working mom in a power position. You can guess what the streets were saying when she adopted that little boy. She didn’t get any less strict, for all their gossipping and muttering, and I’ve never seen her go any easier on herself. I may not be a fan of hers, but I have to admit she takes good care of Roland…” she straightened her shoulders. “There are some parents I won’t mention who could benefit from following her example. I see enough neglect at school to make my heart hurt.”

Emma raised her hand hesitantly, but decided not to pat Mary Margaret’s shoulder after all. She had no idea how the woman would react to sudden physical contact.

“Well, let’s walk a minute more and you’ll see the greener part of our tiny corner. Here is the playground – much cleaner than the one in the city centre – and there is a bit of a park, including one big lane for biking and skating – and here’s the fountain, and the benches. The angel on the fountain is supposed to be by some very fameous sculptor, who came to Storybrooke looong ago and decided to make our town a but weirder by sending one of his works for us to adorn our “sweet little town”. I think it’s a bit gloomy for a fountain just next to the playground, but…” she shrugged. “Kids ask sometimes why she’s crying.”

Henry was fast asleep as the three grownups gathered quietly in the corner of the room.

“The townies are suspicious of us” Elsa provided in a whisper, her copy of the newspaper flat on the table in front of them.

“And rightly so, we’re probably the first new thing they’ve seen since this place was created. From what Regina said, we’re the news of this decade” Emma shrugged. “I think it’s like an immune system. They’ve never seen anything like us, so they are reacting with slight aggression. May even be the effect of the curse itself.”

Elsa bit her lip.

“I’m a bit worried about something else, actually” she said slowly. “Have you noticed the difference between Henry and the local kids?”

Emma frowned, glancing towards her son.

“What do you mean? I only saw him playing with Roland, and there’s a two years difference between them, so obviously…”

“He is…” Elsa pursed her lips. “He seems older than kids his age. And if you think about it, it was always like this, even in Boston. But there were other bright kids there at the school, and here the population is smaller, so he stands out more. He’s almost six, but he talks like a kid three years older. When I was at the park with him, in the evening, I saw other six-year-olds. They are way less outspoken and have much more limited vocabulary.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

“Do you think it may be the same thing that let him see August’s leg?”

“You mean he has some special magic that lets him see stuff in a different way from others?”

Emma pondered it quietly.

“I think… I know when someone is lying – I hear the thing they say and I have a feeling whether they are lying or not. Sometimes I can feel the general falsehood about someone – even before they say something specific. What Henry does is seeing true things. We never saw the wooden leg, but I know August isn’t lying about it, due to my magic. It’s just probably hidden by some illusion, like Storybrooke itself. And Henry is the only person who sees the actual thing. He may actually be seeing stuff we never guessed is there and he treats it like something natural, because we’ve never told him otherwise.”

“And how does this change the fact that he behaves like a little grownup?”

“He is very grown up in his understanding of the world” Elena sighed. “I think he’s less childlike, due to being treated like a partner by all of us and if at the same time his brain is wired to see the reality in more real way, it makes him talk like a kid half again his age.”

“So, in fact, we might have messed him up a bit?” Emma rubbed her face with both hands.

“But in a good way, Emmy. He’s more responsible and communicates with us way better than kids at six do ‘normally’. He comes to us with every question and they are good, sensible questions. When he comments on something, it may be naive, but it’s not stupid. Like today, he said that what the shrink said was ‘silly’ – well, I thought the shrink was an idiot to tell me that we’re unfit to be parents, but I’d never say this in Henry’s presence. He made a correct assessment of the situation and summed it up in a way that made sense for him – fortunately we didn’t teach him any stronger vocabulary.”

Emma snorted.

“I hope the good doctor tries this again with Henry present. He’ll be in for a surprise from his supposed patient.”

“I’d rather he didn’t, actually. No need to make Henry look like a shrink client in front of his future schoolmates” Elena sipped her tea. “He’ll have enough challenges, if we actually stay here. Especially if we do break the curse.”

Elsa started giggling uncontrollably.

“Do you know what Henry is? I just suddenly understood…!”

They both looked at her suspiciously.

“Well, if Emma is the heir to the throne, or however it is called, then Henry, as her son, is second in line!”

“Wow” Emma grinned. “Imagine Neal’s face if he ever learnt about this.”

Elsa shivered.

“I hope he never does. Sorry to say, Emmy, but he was a useless loser, and he tried to frame you for the watch job – so if he ever knew that you’re an actual princess, he’d never leave you and never stop trying to empty your pockets.”

Emma shrugged.

“We’re not yet sure I actually am a princess, so let’s keep any kind of conjectures to ourselves until we have confirmation. But I’d much rather never see Neal again, if I may have a choice. Explaining to Henry that Neal is untrustworthy will be a tough task. He may accept it in principle, but Neal has this thing that makes people trust him, even in completely stupid circumstances, so Henry may be unable to resist him, if we ever meet him again.”

Elena caught her hand.

“I hope that before you ever have to, we’ll be able to surround Henry with enough other members of family to compensate for Neal’s so-called charm.”

“And his overall uselessness.”

Emma rolled her eyes.

A graying man in a dapper suit moved carefully around his shop, sorting the trinkets on his counter. His uneven gait made him look slightly unbalanced, but he managed quite well, at least until the moment he leaned his cane against one of the cabinets and managed to accidentally push it to the ground a moment later. By reflex he made two longer steps to catch it and only when he was holding it, he stumbled in surprise.

He sat heavily on the floor, hugging the cane and looking at his lame leg in astonishment.

“Well, that’s new” he finally said into the silence of his shop.

Some hanging glass decoration clinked quietly in response.

Written by Srebrna

2017/10/22 at 22:43

Posted in Splinters

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Splinters 29: Since the morning that we came

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The next morning they all looked rather bleary – except for Henry, obviously. Henry was as lively as possible, making all three of them wince from time to time, as they sat waiting for their coffees to cool down to drinkable temperature.

“Lovely little gentleman you have here” an elderly man in a worker’s overalls said approvingly from the next booth, raising his cup of tea in greeting. “What is his name?”

Henry knelt on the seat and held his hand out.

“I’m Henry Swan. These are my mother and my aunts. And you are?”

The man put the cup carefully away and grasped the offered hand.

“My name is Marco, Henry. Very nice to meet you. Are you staying in Storybrooke, or just passing through?”

A thickset, bearded man from next booth made a rude noise.

“Who cares. One more brat in the town, one less, no difference. All they do is make noise and bother people.”

“Leroy, manners. The ladies here are new in the town, you’re giving Storybrooke bad image.”

“I’d rather have them out of here, and taking the noisemaker with them. Man can’t drink his coffee in peace.”

Marco smiled sadly.

“I’d give anything to have one just like him. All my life, I… Well, he was not meant to be.”

Emma and Elena exchanged quick glances and Elena pulled her notebook to check the descriptions surreptitiously. She nodded minutely.

Marco looked at his cup again.

“Well, young Henry. Be good to your mother and I hope I’ll see you around the town.”

Leroy only snorted, covering his face with the newspaper.

Granny slapped him with a rolled-up one, passing by.

“Get some manners or get out. And take your shoes off my cushions.”

He got up grumbling, slurped the last of his coffee rather obnoxiously loudly and walked out, passing the booth where Henry and his family sat.

“I’m getting out, no worries. And you, sisters, will be better off if you get out of this town, and take the snotnose here with you.”

Henry blinked and looked at the man as he exited the diner.

“He’s really grumpy, isn’t he?” he asked in a surprised, but clear voice, easily heard in all of the booths around them – and probably outside, too. A wave of snickers and giggles made Emma’s face burn red and she pulled him down to sit properly on the bench.

Ruby sauntered up to their table, bearing plates of food and a mug of chocolate for Henry.

“You all look like you’ve had too much fun yesterday” she said, unloading the breakfast. “Which is all kinds of unfair, considering you were all down and snoring next to no time after checking in. If you feel like you’ve partied the day before, the least the life could do is offer some entertainment to go along the pain.”

Emma smiled weakly and nodded.

“I feel as if someone had set up a hammering workshop in my brain. We will eat, take some painkillers and re-evaluate that novel idea of a hangover without a drinking, thank you” she rubbed her forehead. “It must be all the driving we did yesterday and then the storm which was on exactly as Elena found Roland. If this doesn’t go away, is there a doctor in the town who could give us something stronger?”

Ruby smiled widely.

“We have even a whole hospital. And doctor Whale is dealing with so many different cases in this town, he should be able to find something even for a killer headache.”

Elsa squinted and sighed, sipping her icy mocha.

“I hope so, because we need to pull ourselves together a bit” she said tiredly. “If we’re going to be staying, we’ll need a better living solution than B&B – however lovely it is, Granny, of course” she smiled at the older woman. “But we can’t stay in one room for more than a few days.”

“Don’t worry, Elsie. I’m sure there are enough places around the town to fit all four of you” Ruby quickly adopted calling the sisters by their pet names. “There is some property you can rent – or buy, if you’d be staying longer – and if you need more than a flat, there are even some houses on the edge of the forest, just outside the town. Owners moved out and there were no buyers, so they still are on the market, who knows why.”

The sisters exchanged glances, but Henry chose this moment to try to chase up his tomato sandwich with a big swallow of cocoa and started hiccoughing, making disgusting noises and giggling like a loon in between hiccups, so Emma escorted him out of the diner and let him breathe in peace.

The meeting with the school headmistress was a surprising event. The gregarious, smiling woman was not the type of personality Emma usually linked with that position and it took her a while to accept that all her senses were confirming the lady was for real.

“I see” Miss Blanchard tapped the school report from Boston and peeked at the doctor’s opinion. “So, for the time being Henry would be homeschooled, and you’d want to enrol him at the beginning of the next term?”

“That would be the best, yes. We’re not sure he gets better in Storybrooke, so I’d rather not make him start the school here if we have to move in two months. However if by the end of this term he seems to be improving, we’d like him to start lessons with other children in fall.”

“And you just moved here, like this? Dug up all rots in Boston, left friends behind?”

“Well, we do have Henry’s best interest as our priority, so yes. With no hesitation.”

“I hope you and your husband can find something to do around here, but the town is rather small, so it may be a challenge.”

Emma sighed.

“I don’t have a husband. And I’m quite sure I can work something out, as long as Henry’s happy here.”

The woman behind the desk gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.

“So sorry! You said ‘we’ and I assumed…”

“Me and my sisters. We raise Henry together” Emma allowed herself to smile, economically.

“Sisters! How lucky! I always wanted to have a sister!” the headmistress had the most infectious smile, once she let it be seen and was not covering it with her hand. “How many do you have?”

Her eyes were shining with innocent excitement, so Emma finally smiled fully.

“Two. I mean, we’re triplets, so three altogether.”

“Triplets, wow…” she trailed off. “I remember someday dreaming about having a twin, just to make sure I have someone I’d be sure I will love…”

“Well, you’re welcome to one of mine” Emma smirked. “It gets cramped in a small apartment and we’ve been stuck at Granny’s for a day and we’re already getting on each other’s nerves. Do you want a sister, maybe? I can sell you one. Only slightly used.”

The headmistress snorted and started giggling uncontrollably.

“No, thank you, I’d rather have a new one, if I can get any. But I appreciate the offer! Now, as to the apartment, you need to contact Mr Gold, who manages most of the real estate here in the town. You tell him the requirements and he’ll whip up the offer for you. There’s even one place in my building – it’s an old factory construction, so the measurements of the flats are rather untraditional. You can get something quite normal, or a weird two-levels combination like mine. I don’t have a lot of space in the hall, but I do have an additional floor over the kitchen and there’s an actual full room there” she shrugged “Never used it for anything but storage, but it is cosy. Anyway, the flat I mentioned also belongs to Mr Gold, so you can just ask him about it – I’m quite sure you’ll love it. There is a bit of a park just nearby, a tiny playground, and a stream just a few steps from the building” she handed Emma the papers she filled in while talking. “Also, in case you needed help, I could assist you with homeschooling Henry. I have my own class of ten year olds, so I can probably find some stuff for a five year old to do.”

“It does seem a bit creepy. Like she wanted us to live nearby to have control of us or…”

“Well, I only got an honest, truthful vibe from her, all the time. It is possible that she is, in fact, a happy and helpful person.”

“Mary Margaret Blanchard” Elsa read the business card. “I’ll google her and see what we can dig up about her. Just in case.”

“Let’s see if she’s not listed as an axe murderer on some Wikipedia page. She’s just too sweet to be alive.”

“She doesn’t exist” Elsa sighed, pushing herself away from the keyboard. “No digital footprint at all. No Facebook account, no google account, no twitter – one that I could identify at least – no Instagram. Actually, Storybrooke is more or less an invisible town, too.”

“Probably, being a magical creature from another world, under a spell, she – like everyone else in town – is forced to avoid detection. Remember what August said, and what we’ve tested by ourselves – it’s hard to get here if you don’t know it’s here, right? So if someone posted anything about the town on the ‘net, people might start getting here by accident…”

“Protective part of the curse.”

“Well, we have to work out who she is without the internet. I just hope she is someone from the court, not a crazy witch from neighbouring kingdom.”

“One thing for sure, she is lonely. It looks as if she tried to make the connection to us by any means necessary. Seems desperate for company.”

“Well, from what August said, all ‘our’ side was supposed to be perfectly miserable, and our mother should be worst off” Emma sighed and sipped her tea. “So it can’t be her – and the description doesn’t match. Black hair yes, long hair no.”

“You do understand the general idea of cutting one’s hair, I hope?” Elena looked at her pointedly. “The fact that she has short hair may only mean she trimmed it.”

“But she’s not miserable enough.”

“That would depend on someone’s definition of ‘miserable’, really” Elsa pointed out. “Everyone has a different set of reasons to be miserable.”

“She has a good job, around a lot of kids – so if she’s the family lady August said, she’s ok – she has a nice flat in an area she does recommend to others. Doesn’t seem that bad.”

“But from what you’re saying, she’s lonely…” Elena mused.

“She seems really really lonely. Like she’s missing human contact even though she’s the headmistress. She couldn’t stop talking when I was there, and it was what, about 20 minutes.”

“Well, who would get friendly with their child’s school head?” Elsa provided. “Remember the guy from the primary school whose parents were some family of the headmaster? He had no life. It’s the same thing here, probably.”

Emma nodded slowly.

“Her position isolates her from the people around her, so she is around people, but…”


“OK, so, plan. We befriend her?”

“I suppose we should. Better be friendly with our own mother. And if she’s not” Elena shrugged “at least we get a friend out of it, whoever she is. And if she’s an evil axe murdering witch, then at least we’ll get on her good side before she gets her memories back.”

“Basically, we want to get on everyone’s good side before we confirm who is who and/or they regain their memories.”

“That means we have to be on our best behaviour” Elsa warned. “No hitting people with your bo staff.”

“And no going full lawyer on them without reason. Someone may die of fright if you do this unexpectedly, and how would you explain to our mother the fact that her favourite maid is missing? Or why the kingdom has one smith less now?”

Emma couldn’t sleep, despite being tired to the bone. She waited quietly until Henry was snoring, arms around his bear, and slipped out of her room, down to the lobby of B&B.

Granny was sitting in a deep, slightly shabby armchair, knitting something grey and fluffy, peeking at a tiny TV set over her needles.

“Do you need anything?” she asked, not pausing her knitting. “Is there anything missing in the room?”

Emma shrugged and smiled.

“Not really, no. Thank you. Just can’t sleep, so I thought I’d stretch my legs and maybe make some tea, if I could?”

“Sure, sure. There’s a kettle behind the counter and a tin with tea bags next to it. Mugs are on the bottom shelf. If you could make enough for two, that would be nice, too.”

“And now you’re using guests to make tea for you?” Ruby appeared from some room inside the ground floor. “Really?”

“Well, with you out all the time, how else is an old woman going to get her tea, missy?”

Ruby shrugged and wrapped her hair with a lacy red scarf.

“The same way you’d be getting it if I was in Boston, like I planned.”

“Well, I’m so sorry my health issues stopped you from…”

Emma coughed suggestively and the two women fell silent, looking at her with embarrassment.

“Which one would it be, Granny? Earl Grey, or…?”

“There should be some plain black there, if you could. Thank you, Emma.”

“Emma” a male voice said. “What a lovely name.”

They all turned, Granny stuck in her deep chair, looking at the man in surprise.

“Ruby” Granny said with a slight nod towards the counter.

The younger woman darted behind the check-in desk and grabbed a roll of banknotes stashed there.

“It’s all here” she said breathlessly, handing it to the man.

He smiled, thin lips stretching into a slight grin.

“Of course it is, dearie. How could it be otherwise. I see your grandmother is trusting you with more… important tasks nowadays. How could an old woman live without someone to help her…” he mused, pocketing the money.

Ruby withdrew her hand as if burnt.

“You enjoy your stay… Emma” he gave her a symbolic nod.

“We sure will” she managed to answer, slightly stuttering, as the man’s whole figure radiated some kind of menace that made her ‘spidey sense’ go on full red alert. He wasn’t lying, as such, but his whole person felt somehow false.

“We?” he turned back towards her from the door he had just opened.

“Well, my sisters and me. We’ll be staying here for a while.”

He… blinked. Suddenly the feeling of slimy menace retreated, replaced with honest surprise.

“Your sisters?”

“Yes, my sisters” she smiled, drinking in his unease. “Elena and Elsa. They are upstairs, I just couldn’t sleep, so…”

He shuddered slightly, as if shaking off something on his shoulder.

“Really. Two sisters. How nice for you…” he seemed somewhat lost in the conversation.

“Oh yes” she smiled widely. “There’s nothing better than family.”

His face went rigid and he turned without a word, shutting the door behind him with a thud.

Ruby and Granny jumped slightly at the sound. Emma finally switched the kettle on and the hissing made them look in her direction.

“Who was that?” she asked, dropping the bags into prepared mugs.

“Mr Gold” Ruby provided, walking to the nearest window and peeking though it towards the street. “He owns this place.”

“This one? The inn?”

Granny grimaced.

“More like the town.”

She made a few more angry stitches on her needles and dropped them in a large workbasket sitting next to her chair.

“So… how is that tea coming on? I probably need something to pick me up now.”

“And then you will be complaining you’re to keyed up to sleep” Ruby snorted and fixed her shawl again.

“It’s better than being too drunk to walk straight” the older woman commented under her nose, as her granddaughter opened the door.

“I heard that!”

“You were supposed to!”

Silence fell as Emma handed Granny her mug and they both waited for the tea to steep a bit.

“She’s been like this since her parents went missing” Granny finally blurted out. “I’m worried for her, but I can’t really stop her from going out. At least it means she’s in the town, and not on some crazy road trip out to Canada or somewhere. If she parties in town, either she gets back by herself, or that cute sheriff brings her back. If I press too much, she may just as well try to go to Boston or somewhere else, like she said, and I’d probably never see her again.”

Emma pursed her lips.

I wonder if it’s even possible for them to leave the town. Roland did, but he never got anywhere close to other people, so he didn’t actually leave, so it may not count…

“We’ve seen a lot of kids reacting to losing their parents in a destructive way. I suppose it’s no different for grownups.”

Granny sighed.

“She was fifteen when it happened. It’s been eating at her ever since.”

“At least she has you” Emma said and sipped her tea.

“Yes, that she does. I suppose you three didn’t have that much, right?”

Emma nodded and smiled thinly.

They sat in silence for a moment.

“What are you watching?”

Granny smiled with some embarrassment and turned the sound up a bit.

“A crime show. Midsomer Murders. It’s nice to listen to that accent, you know. And it isn’t fast, like all the CSIs, with the car chases and computer hacking. Easier to follow for an old woman.”

Emma moved a chair to see the screen better.

“Would you mind me watching it for a bit with you?”

Granny stared at her over the rim of her glasses.

“Not at all, dear. Not at all.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/08/16 at 23:12

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 28: Peace the evening brings

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All three kept to mundane remarks until they were safely lodged in the largest suite of rooms the B&B sported and Henry was again asleep, teeth brushed and shower, for once, skipped.

“So…” Elsa’s voice rose in a slightly questioning tone.

“That would be our step-grandmother” Elena provided flatly.

Emma sat heavily, mug of tea in front of her.

“What about the kid?” she asked, fingers worrying the table runner edge.

“Unknown” Elsa shrugged. “But August couldn’t have known everyone in the whole kingdom. He doesn’t even have to be from the court, if what she’s saying is correct.”

“Sure” Emma agreed. “But it complicates things.”

“Why? It’s not like we were planning to kill her… By the way, I think she’s worried about something” Elena leaned back on the couch. “Did you see how panicked she was? And she was actually rather, may I say, friendly. For an Evil Queen.”

Emma sipped her tea.

“I think it’s because of Henry” she suggested finally. “It was, well, a connection. Some common base. She has a kid, we have a kid. She’s a single mother, we’re a female family with a kid and no guy. She’s having problems with Roland, with him running away and looking for his father, and I’m sure she guesses we have problems with Henry, too.”

The all nodded slowly, each picking up her mug.

“So, what do we do tomorrow?” Elena took out her notepad and pencil.

“We must identify our family. We have August’s descriptions and we know they will be in some miserable situation.”

Elsa pursed her lips and shook her head.

“Actually, the next step should be to find ourselves something to do in the town, establish ourselves” she said slowly. “Not that I don’t want to look for your parents, but if we spend a day or two making a real effort and, well, giving everyone a proper, innocent reason for us being here, we can then work out things faster. If we have to make up a new reason each day for why we aren’t leaving, it will take much more time in total.”

Elena sipped her cocoa.

“However much I’d like to do something now, Elsa does have a valid point. If we show we’re here to stay, they will not question our search… We can cover this by, well, anything. Job hunt. Flat search. We could be looking for a tutor for Henry.”

“Poor little Henry, ordered by the doctor to leave the big city…” Elsa mused. “We may work from that, start by visiting the hospital to check with them what would be the best section of the city to rent a flat, the school to register him as home-schooled but with option to join classes after the next term starts, all the shops to buy stuff before our things get shipped here…”

“And I can take Henry to visit Roland tomorrow” Emma rose to put her cup on the shelf. “I’ll ask Regina if he can go with us to the playground. I saw one in the park. If she decides he can’t go with us alone, even better. If she is the Evil Queen – and everything matches, even the scar on her lip – I need to find out what she knows, if I can. Or at least I can get some bonding time in over the kids before she knows what we are about. We should get on her good side, if she has any – and looking at Roland, I think she does, actually.”

“I’ll ask Ruby if she knows about any vacancies we could fill. Or maybe I could volunteer at school for after-class activities? We’ll make a schedule of who is at home, who is “working” and who is socialising. I have to be online mostly during the working hours, but the two of you work when you want, so we can split it any way we need. This way there will always be one of us at home for Henry and the other two can be out there, looking for clues or being sociable or whatever.”

“I’ll go and visit the sheriff” Elsa offered. “As the local law enforcement, he may be a good point to start, and I may be able to get him to talk if I play the lawyer card well.”

Emma nodded and pulled out her own notepad.

“I made a list of who we’re looking for first. Of course we need to locate Geppetto, just to let August know he’s OK. We need to find our parents. We already have the Queen. Who else?”

“The dwarves. Snow White was helped by seven dwarves.”

“And there should be some court members, August said there were at least twenty people.”

Emma flipped the right page open.

“Yes. There was the Blue Fairy, but I doubt we can identify her by her size now. There was someone called “Red”, apparently standard human sized, so we have a chance – she wore a red cape, but I somehow doubt she’d be running around in one here and now. And there was Red’s grandmother. No idea why she is so important that she got included into the Council, but we have her on the list. There were some other nobles whom August could not describe in enough details, which is just peachy, because we frigging need them.”

“Useless” Elena looked up from her laptop. “The ones that August did describe are either useless, because they probably look like standard humans now, or too generic and too many people will match the description. But, actually, what you said makes me think we can find one of them immediately. And she may be very important, and useful. Red, the one you mentioned.”

Emma sat closer to her.

“Red? Why Red?”

“She was Snow’s best friend. She was brought into the castle and whatnot, despite the fact that she lived in the forest all her life – so she was, basically, a peasant. And she always wore red. Not only the cape, actually, all red. And she was dark-haired. Now, who did we meet in the last hours who matches this description?”

Elsa’s eyebrows went up.

“You’re saying Ruby is your mother’s BFF? Do you think the relationship might have survived despite the curse, so we can make use of it and track down the others?”

Emma shrugged.

“She’s a waitress and a barmaid. Everyone talks to the waitresses, so it may be a challenge to work out who is our mother in the crowd – even if their relationship survived.”

“And as you said, Red had a grandmother, a formidable lady who shoot the crossbow quite neatly” Elena continued reading from her database.

“Granny, even if without a crossbow. I could totally see her using one on some rowdier clients, mind you” Elsa fell silent and then frowned “So we have a red-dressed young woman and her grandmother. What do you think is the ending to this story?”

“I’m wondering why August didn’t see that link – at least he never mentioned it.”

Emma shrugged.

“Maybe it’s one of these way off from ‘reality’ – so our version doesn’t really match the events from Enchanted Forest.”

“Also, there is no big Disney movie for that one. And once he was in the orphanage, he might have been too old for nursery stories, so he just simply missed it completely.”

“I wonder if she has a basket.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/08/15 at 23:10

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 27: Little town

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They finally managed to get Roland to give them the address – or rather the directions – to Regina’s house.

From his disjointed story, they worked out the situation – adoptive mother, his long-kept longing for a father who apparently disappeared in the woods, his attempts at finding the place where he used to live. All very familiar, well-known from the stories of other children in the group home.

As Elena spoke to Roland, wiping his wet hair and tucking the blanket around him, Emma slowly drove forward, looking carefully for any sign of civilisation. When they suddenly came upon a sign saying “Welcome to Storybrooke” she was not even that surprised.

That magic thing about pushing them in the right direction was starting to be annoying.

The town was slightly anticlimactic. Just a standard somewhere-in-USA town – reasonably sized streets, unexceptional shops, some bigger buildings, a clock tower, a crossroads, a phone booth… very generic, very normal.

Even at the rather late hour they could see people walking, some cars on the streets, some shop windows illuminated. Smell of fried onions wafted in through the partially open window on Emma’s side.

Emma sent a grateful thought to whoever may be listening for this being a XX century town, probably well-equipped with all modern facilities, like running water. She really hated field solutions to hygiene problems.

“Here we are” Emma parked the car in front of a huge stone mansion. “Come on, girls. Let’s hand Roland back to his… Well. To Regina. Preferably before they start a kid hunt in the forest in darkness.”

Elena managed to scoop slightly damp kid out of the backseat, where he tried to resist, for just a moment. Still, he seemed more resigned to his fate and to protest mostly for the sake of appearances.

Elsa pressed the buzzer button and they waited in the slight drizzle.

“Who is…!?” tall, handsome brunette woman opened the door abruptly, her voice dying as she took in the whole group. “ROLAND!”

“Um. Afternoon” Elsa smiled her best lawyer-y smile. “It seems we found something of yours.”

“WHAT? Where… How… Why do you have Roland?”

The boy curled up in Elena’s arms even more tightly.

“Regina?” a male voice asked from inside the house.

“Graham! Yes, there are some women who have Roland…” she trailed off. “Who are you?” her gaze focused on Elena, who was still holding the small boy.

Tall, curly-haired man with a wide smile strode into the hall behind her. His uniform and badge were rather obvious hints towards his role in the town.

“Ah, sheriff!” Elena’s smile brightened. “Hello. Sorry, yes, we found Roland. In the woods, something like two miles outside the town.”

Regina gasped and reached for the boy.

“Let me” the sheriff offered and picked him from Elena’s arms. “Regina, I’ll take care of the lad, you please talk to the ladies. I wonder how he managed to get so far… Come on, little guy, you gave us all a fright.”

The brunette’s eyes tracked him until he apparently reached the stairs, his steps echoing in the hallway.


Henry stood on the steps behind them, holding something up.

“Roland left his hat and his bag in the car” he explained, pushing between his aunts. “Hello. I’m Henry Swan. I think these are Roland’s?”

Regina took the offered objects almost automatically, looking at Henry in astonishment.

“Thank you, Henry Swan. And…” she raised her eyes at the grownups on her doorstep. “I’m so sorry. Didn’t introduce myself. Regina Mills. Would you all please come in? I have just made tea, maybe you’d like some?”

They sat on the grand leather-covered sofa, all three in their casual travelling attire, Emma holding sleepy Henry in her lap, opposite of Regina, who even at her own home was dressed rather smartly.

Their host was arranging the tea set on the tray in front of her, and glancing at them from time to time. Finally she poured and handed them their cups.

“So… You just arrived in the area? I’ve never seen you around here. And it is a rather small town, so I know everyone. Probably.”

“Yes” Emma lifted Henry to a more comfortable position against her shoulder. “We were driving through the forest when Elena spotted Roland between the bushes. Considering the fact that we didn’t see any lights or homesteads around, we decided it would be best to take him with us and hand him to the authorities, if we couldn’t find his family.”

Regina nodded slowly.

“Thank you” her gaze stopped on Henry’s slumbering form. “Roland is… Is a bit troubled. His family does not… Well.”

“I understand he thinks his father lives in the woods” Elena smiled, leaning forward. “I’d assume this is some trauma from before adoption. He seems very determined.”

“Actually, we have no idea what happened to his family” Regina sighed. “He was found wandering the woods one day by a teacher from local primary school. She brought him to the sheriff and we tried to identify whose he might be. We assumed he just got lost, but from what he said, we worked out…”

She stuttered a bit and Elena smiled compassionately.

“He said something about smoke” she provided. “I’m guessing some kind of forest fire? Maybe he was hiking with his family and they set their campfire up without securing it properly?”

Regina nodded, then shook her head.

“We didn’t have a forest fire anywhere near where he was found. I’m afraid he must have been walking for miles before he was found, and so we have no hope of ever identifying where he came from. We sent his description to social services in the nearest city, but all they could give us was the offer of one of their social workers picking him up” she hugged herself unconsciously. “I couldn’t… just give him to be lost in the system. At least if we kept him here, we had a chance of controlling what happened to him, and in case his parents were ever found, to check what was it that had happened. If we sent him to the main offices, he would have become just one more number on a long list… And they’d probably hand him over back to whoever was irresponsible enough to have lost him.”

Elsa leaned towards their host and patted her hand.

“You did well” she said gently. “He’s better off with you, whatever he thinks, than in a group home.”

Regina blinked.

“We were in the system” Elsa weaved towards the other two. “Unadoptable, as triplets. It’s way better for him to stay with you. He seems like a very delicate boy, he wouldn’t have done well in an average group home. And some of the foster families are proper nightmares.”

Regina’s trembling half-smile surprised all of them.

“Thank you” she finally uttered. “I’m… I was never sure I did the right thing, I know nothing about raising children. But it seemed safer, and with me being the mayor of the town, I could move the papers to declare myself the foster family for Roland. I really hope someday his father is found, but it’s been already a year…” she bit her lip.

Elsa’s smile faltered as she watched Regina carefully and she touched Emma’s hand, tapping her watch.

“Alright, we’ll let you get back to him, then” Emma smiled over Henry’s head. “We should be getting on our way. Is there a hotel somewhere in town? I don’t want to even try to drive anymore and Henry deserves a proper bed for the night.”

Regina rose with them, and walked them to the door.

“If you turn to the left on the next lights, three houses down is the B&B. Granny should still be up so you have a chance for a room if you hurry.”

They walked down the paved path silently, Emma holding Henry’s prone form and the other two thinking very intently.

As they opened the car door, Elsa finally inhaled deeply.

“I never actually believed August was right.”

“You saw it?”

“Yep. A scar on her lip. Just like he said.”

Elena helped buckle Henry in.

“Let’s get some sleep and start this early tomorrow. We have to call August in the morning, to tell him we’re here.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/07/23 at 23:08

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 26: Almost there

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Second day of the journey was, to say the least, unexciting. They were cruising to and fro on the same 50 miles – plus side roads, which almost never led to anything specific – and were growing really, really bored. And angry.

Elena finally pulled out her crocheting and the small stash of colourful squares of cotton was slowly growing in her yarn bag.

“Seriously, you have to do it right now?” Emma rolled her eyes, as her sister bit off another end of thread.

“I want to stab something. It’s either this, or I start biting the upholstery. This whole thing is driving me crazy, so I need something to do. I feel largely useless, as we just drive up and down this road. Also, my fingers tingle and I have to either hook some more squares or start testing my magic. Which one do you prefer?” she made a short nod towards mostly oblivious Henry.

Emma sighed. “OK, but after the next stop, you’re driving.”

The thick book in Emma’s handbag turned out to be not actually a programming textbook. Actually, it was something completely different.

“Mitnick’s book? Why would you read this? I thought you weren’t so much into the hacking stuff?”

Emma shrugged.

“It’s more psychology than technology, at least as far as I got in it. And it’s fascinating to see how his brain works.”

“Geez. I though you were so proper and responsible…”

“Come on. It’s not like I’ll start hacking stuff just because I read this book. I’d probably have to be a much better programmer to make use of actual technology… And much more of a people person to be able to use this psychology stuff effectively.”

Elsa was singing. First, it was just a hum, then some whistling – the Queen of the Night aria seemed particularly annoying in a small space of the car, in Elena’s opinion.

Then she switched to a Disney medley, which made Henry laugh like a loon at all the faces she pulled, including the haughty Ursula and wide-eyed innocence of Snow White.

Emma was trying to focus on the road – quite empty, but still it was not a task that one could ignore – and losing badly, listening to Elsa making all the needed voices in “Gaston” and then “Something There”.

“We need to stop and eat” Emma growled. “I know it’s too early for lunch, but we were up at half past six, so it’s kind of time for it.”

Also, we’ll start killing each other if we are stuck in the car one more hour. It never seemed that annoying in the flat. Maybe the car just has bad acoustics…

Very soon, Henry’s cheeks were painted with tomato sauce and he had a slice of sausage clinging to the front of his t-shirt. The grownups were in slightly better condition, with Emma’s blouse being lightly seasoned with a spatter of mayo and Elsa managing to spill half a glass of water down her trousers.

Elena carefully cut up and ate her piece of pizza, managing to stay moderately clean and dry, so, in what Emma later deemed a rather obvious outcome, a faucet in the toilet broke off and sprayed her with icy water from head to toe.

“I think someone is telling us to move” Elena said, dripping angrily. “And I will find her and kick her so hard she’ll be sticking her tampons into her ears.”

“Why would someone stick a tampon in their ear?” Henry’s bright voice asked from just behind her. “And what’s a tampon?”

At seven, Elsa sat down on the grass by the road and refused to move. Even despite all the evil looks Emma could throw her way.

“My legs have gone numb, my backside is sore and I have to sit for a moment on something that doesn’t have an engine, OK? Also, I need air. Air, not air conditioning.”

Emma finally shrugged and undid Henry’s seatbelt snaps and handed him out of the car.

“Just don’t go farther than where Elsa’s sitting. And don’t touch any animals that you find. And if…”

He went running before she finished the sentence.

Elena was stretching on her yoga mat on the grass.

“We do need our blood circulation, Emma. We can’t just drive around all day and then fall on a bed, we need to walk and move our legs.”

“Yeah, I know. I just… I can’t sit still. It’s here, somewhere. I know it. At least, the computer simulation says it’s here, so we don’t have much choice.”

“What if we apply different conditions? Smaller radius around known cities, this kind of thing?”

“August said twenty miles.”

“He said that was what the magicians he found told him. Maybe they meant twenty kilometres? Or some other miles?”

“Don’t start. If we don’t find the place here, there is another spot, north of here, which was also a probability. It’s way smaller and in the middle of open land, so… I just hoped it will be the forest. But I can’t start doubt the accuracy of what August told us, because once I do, then maybe it’s not twenty, maybe it’s ten. Or not in Maine at all. Or maybe not in the US. I have to keep believing what he said is correct and work from there. Otherwise I’ll simply go crazy from having too many options. This whole thing is getting on my nerves a bit, and having too many options makes me even more nervous.”

She breathed deeply and leaned on the car.

“The problem is, if we find it, we find it, but if we don’t find it, we can’t be sure it’s not there. It may still be there and we’d have just missed it. I feel like we just need one more drive, and just maybe one more, and…”

Elsa chucked her sandal at Elena.

“Stop messing with her head. She has the Great Destiny to fulfil and you’re trying to make her doubt we’re even driving in the right direction. We need to focus.”

“I’m just getting so bored by this” Elena mock-whined. “I mean, driving the same stretch of the road whole day and looking at the bushes? I’m starting to recognise some of them. I could probably name them by now. The Bush That Henry Peed Under, and The Bush We Stopped By To Eat The Sandwiches and The Bush-”


Emma’s head jerked up, looking for her son, who was standing straight, pointing towards the sky.

“MOM! Look at that huge black cloud! What is it?!”

“Crap” Elsa jumped up and started collecting her things, running over to Elena to grab her sandal.

“Henry, get back to the car, now!” Emma picked him up one-handed and pushed into the seat. “It’s a storm. A big, nasty, ugly storm. We have to get under a roof, now.”

Elena was already sitting in the backseat and she helped to strap Henry in as soon as she closed the doors. Emma ran around the car to the driver’s seat and got caught by the first drops of heavy rain.

“Ssssh… sugar” Elsa said with feeling, looking at the suddenly-wet road in front of them and the quickly darkening forest around them.

Emma started the car and slowly headed back towards the motel they used the night before. With Henry pressed into the window, watching the light-and-sound spectacle outside with fascination, Elsa mumbling curses about something-or-other missing in her handbag and Elena sitting awkwardly with her yoga mat pressing into the side of her head, she hoped they’d make it to the motel before all places were taken and they’d have choice of driving another ten miles and sleeping sitting up.

“Stop the car!”

Emma pushed the brake pedal so hard she was almost standing on it.

“What the hell?” she managed to utter before Elena darted out of the car and into the undergrowth. She only had time to thank her good reflexes, assuming her sister got a sudden bout of motion sickness when Elena was back, holding a small child in her arms.

“I saw him between the bushes” Elena’s voice was a bit breathy. “There is nobody here but him, we haven’t seen a sign of a human being for the last twenty minutes, and there is noone in like ten miles from here, except for us.”

“What do you mean?” Emma squinted at Elena’s red face.

“I…” she stuttered. “I feel it. There is nobody here. I tried, you know, fetching something that looks like a human, and the only ones I felt were you. And him” she hesitated. “And now my head hurts. I think I might have overdone this magic thing.”

Elsa blinked a few times, looking at a tiny, dark-haired boy in Elena’s arms.

“What is your name, dear?” she asked kindly.

The kid looked at her with teary eyes.

“Roland” he finally whispered, his lower lip trembling.

“Alright, Roland. Is there someone, some grown-up, with you, in the forest?”

Elena’s gentle question seemed to send the boy into full-blown sobbing.

“Did you get lost? Did you run from someone?”

He kept shaking his head, making his soggy hat fall off.

“M’dad” he finally uttered. “M’dad is in the fores’. I was lookin’ for’im.”

Elena breathed slowly and shook her head slightly at her sisters.

“Roland, can you look at me, please?” she raised his head slightly to face her. “Did you go into the forest with your dad, or did you go looking for him?”

He blinked.

“I goed there ‘lone” he sniffed. “Regina says m’dad is not in the fores’ but I know he is.”

“And who is Regina?”

“She says she’s like me mum. Only I know me mum was someone else. And she died.”

Elsa’s eyebrows reached her hairline.

“Well, Roland, can you tell us where you live? We should probably take you there and you should get changed out of these wet clothes.”

His head drooped a bit and he leaned away from Elena.

“OK” Emma finally started the car again and turned heating a bit up. “We’ll drive to the next town and we’ll see if anyone can help us find his parents or whoever is responsible for him. The sooner the better, unless we want someone to think we’ve kidnapped him.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/07/14 at 23:07

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 25: Life is a highway

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The main luggage had been packed and repacked, removing unnecessary garments and appliances, adding a few survival items and replacing chosen gear with smaller, more compact versions.

They emptied the apartment of all personal items and left information with the building manager that they would be coming back in four months. They signed an agreement for the apartment to be leased for a short term to someone else, with the proviso that that person would clear the place in sixteen weeks.

Emma’s aim was to be done with the whole curse-breaking before it interfered with Henry’s schooling, or to know in a definite way that they were unable to deal with the problem and to remove themselves from the area. There weren’t that many other options.

Even the curse-breaking thing seemed more like a wish than a plan.

“Everyone is leaving. All the parents are taking their kids out for early vacation” the building manager said, filing the documents. “Some are coming back in fall, but I’ve heard rumours that there are a lot of families just moving out, not planning to return. My granddaughter is in seventh grade and her class lost five kids this last month. Their younger siblings got sick and parents just packed up the whole house and moved – anywhere, but outside Boston. It’s as if this part of town became toxic to the small ones”

“Well, that’s why we’re taking Henry away for the summer” Elsa smiled and signed another page of the contract. “He got rather ill during that heatwave and doctor suggested he needs a change of climate.”

“But you’ll be coming back?”

She shrugged.

“It depends on Henry. And what kind of a place we manage to find out there.”

“So you don’t know where you’re going?”

Elena handed him her part of the papers.

“In general, we know. A friend suggested a tiny town where his father lives – it’s supposedly in the middle of nowhere, so we can hope it’s more likely to be a clean area.”

The managed nodded.

“We’re sending the grandkids away next week. Big, small – they will all go to my sister’s place, in the country. Parents are signing them out of the school early, even the ones with poorer grades. My daughter will be taking the van and driving the whole bunch there next weekend. I think it’s better to be healthy than to have best grades. They can always study with their aunt, but they won’t get any better from staying here.”

“Absolutely” Emma smiled at him tiredly. “That’s what we decided for Henry. He’s not going to school anyway, so what difference does it make?”

The car was packed so high, Elena heartily blessed the proximity alarm they had installed on the back bumper. Otherwise she had no idea how she would have managed to get out of their tight parking space – she couldn’t see anything through the back of the car.

There were all the planned bags and boxes in the trunk and on the seats, plus some definitely unplanned items. Henry somehow managed to smuggle his soccer ball into the car, which they only found two hours after leaving Boston. Emma crammed two more programming textbooks into her “hand luggage” and was holding them uncomfortably in front of her, trying to behave as if they weren’t poking her in the stomach. Elsa was sitting in the back with Henry, so Elena couldn’t really see what was going on there, but she was quite sure there was some contraband stashed in her backpack, too.

That was because her own bag, placed between Elsa and Henry, had a few silicon moulds discreetly stuffed into internal pockets.

They stopped in front of a motorway diner for a technical break and Henry’s second breakfast. He chewed his apple and looked around.

“Where are we going? Tammy and Tessa said their parents were taking them somewhere to the seaside to get better. Are we going to the seaside, too?”

Emma sat next to him on a bench.

“We are actually going to… There is a little town, far away from everything, that we want to find. August told us there is a chance our family might live there, you see. So we kind of used the fact that the doctor told us to get you out of the city and we’re going for a longer trip. We need to find it, because apparently someone forgot to put it on any map, so it may be a bit of driving… There may be some forest and there may be seaside, we’re not sure yet.”

“Ah” he sat in silence for a moment, working on the apple. “What’s the name of that town?”

“August says it’s called Storybrooke.”

“Sounds funny.”

“We’ll have to find a place for the night. We’ve driven that stretch of the road like five times today already and I’m feeling like someone is making fun of me. Henry is asleep and it’s not healthy for him to sleep sitting up for too long” Emma gripped the steering wheel more tightly.

Elsa tapped her phone a few times and looked around.

“The road on the navigation looks a bit different, but I think we should be about a mile from a motel I see marked here. We could spend the night, eat hot breakfast and continue tomorrow. And the kid needs to sleep on something flat, definitely. Or his spine will grow all crooked.”

Emma rolled her eyes and sped up a bit, looking for a sign to the motel.

Beds were. There was not much more that could have been said about them, but they were. Emma transferred sleeping Henry from the car to the room – luckily, on ground floor – and stripped his clothes off as much as she had to, before rolling him under a blanket. She tucked his travelling teddy bear into the crook of his arm and added another blanket on top, just in case there was a draft.

Elsa lugged her and Emma’s backpacks into the room and looked around.

“Cosy. I hope there are no bugs.”

“That would be a bit more than cosy” Elena commented, hauling her own bag and Henry’s. “Nah, looks tolerably clean. Emma, you go take a shower and we’ll get something to eat ready. You’ll need to be up first anyway – Henry’s been asleep for more than three hours, so I’m betting he’ll be up with the sunrise, and he will start asking questions the moment he opens his eyes.”

They managed to put together a decent imitation of a dinner, including some hot tea thanks to the electric kettle and some ice tea thanks to the trunk fridge, so finally, an hour or so after booking in, they were stretched on their beds and staring idly at the ceiling.

“I’m not sure what to do tomorrow” Emma sighed finally. “We go to the same piece of the road and what, try believing in fairies, very strongly? Or maybe we should clap?”

“We go there and we drive slowly, looking for clues” Elena yawned. “Maybe there is some mark where the normal world ends and the magical one starts. I’m wondering how it’s done. Is it a wormhole that goes through the whole city, so we drive in at one end and pop out on the other side? Or is it somehow shielded and we actually drive straight through the town, not seeing it? Can we run over someone? Have an accident with an unseen car?”

Elsa groaned.

“Now I’ll be thinking about imaginary dogs dying under our wheels all the time I’m driving. Thanks, Lena. That’s helpful.”

“Hey, I’m just thinking aloud.”

“It sounds more like notthinking. Really, we don’t need any additional stress now. We need to find a town that doesn’t exist on a map, in an area that looks like no town had ever been there, without a guide or any real knowledge or even without being reasonably sure it is there. Are you sure it is here? I’m not, not really. So please, let’s not add more levels of discomfort to the whole thing, because it won’t make the whole thing any quicker.”

There was a short, uncomfortable silence.

“Eh. Sorry.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

Emma snored.

Written by Srebrna

2017/07/08 at 23:04

Posted in Splinters

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

Splinters 21: What she cooks like

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“So, I was thinking, do you have time tomorrow evening?”

“You’ll do it?” his voice sounded rather hopeful.

She snorted.

“Not so sure. But we are considering it. However, we won’t go in without, well. Intel. So, if you have time tomorrow, we could sit together and discuss the next steps. Because, well” Elena made a rude noise “I’m not letting my sister get herself made into some hero out of legend without proper preparation. We’re going nowhere until we get as much info as we can.”

He could only agree.

Henry was properly asleep by the time August arrived, so they quietly sat around the kitchen table and sipped tea, as August prepared himself for the coming barrage of questions.

“Tell us all you know. Just, everything. You can skip the obvious parts, but we need to know what are the specific differences between ‘our’ fairy tales and the actual magical world. Like, does every tale have their own universe?”

“Or what exactly is the structure of government.”

“Or who are the most likely allies and how do we recognise them.”

He swallowed his tea and put the cup away very carefully.

“Well, you’ve read all these fairy tales, and I suppose you’ve watched a bunch of Disney and other cartoons. Basically, well. They match, here and there. Partially. But…” he sighed “You can’t rely on them. I will tell you what I know, but that might not be all that you’re going to need.”

“Engaged to King Midas’ daughter?”

“She hit him?”

“Hatch? Out of eggs?”

“Hey, I’m made out of a fireplace log.”

“A real, life-sized dragon?”

“I have no idea, I’ve never seen one. Especially being exterminated…”

“So, our step-grandmother is the evil queen and our mother is the good bright princess…”

“Well, the queen now.”

“OK. So, do we have a complex family situation or what.”

“And she cursed everyone, wholesale? Nobody was left in the old world?”

August shrugged.

“No idea, I’m afraid. She might have just taken the kingdom, or several around it, or whole reality. But she wouldn’t have been able to fit the whole reality in one small town, so I’m leaning more towards ‘everyone around who annoyed her at some point’. Seems more like her. She would be able then to control everything that happens to everyone she hates.”

“And these other kingdoms would be what?”

“Related to the Disney or fairy tales, I’ve been able to identify Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom. Doesn’t really have its own name, at least not one I know. And there is the land of the fairies, where they have the dwarfs harvest the fairy dust. It’s not a kingdom in itself, but it is like a little independent piece of land. And there is the kingdom of king George, where your father came from. She probably reached at least that far. There were a lot of people that annoyed her there.”

Emma leaned back on the sofa and rubbed her stomach.

“I’m calling a technical break. Anyone hungry?”

Elsa shrugged noncommittally, but Elena immediately perked up.

“Sure! That new Asian place has fabulous spring rolls!”

August made a face.

“Don’t you have some acceptable pizza spot around here?”

They froze for just a second.

“We never order pizza.”

“Not anymore.”

“Chinese, definitely Chinese.”

He looked at each in turn and finally shrugged.

“Ok, fine with me. Something spicy with lots of noodles for me, please.”

They chewed in silence, passing the sauce containers around and pouring the drinks quietly, both to avoid waking Henry and to give everyone a chance to think through the new information.

Finally Elena put her empty box back on the table and looked at August expectantly.

“Can you tell us what they look like?”

He blinked.


“Our parents, of course. I’d like to be able to recognise my mother when I see her, you know. It would make the whole thing much easier.”

He pursed his lips.

“Your mother – and now I’m speaking as someone who knew her long ago, and was a rather attention-starved little boy – was the loveliest woman I’ve seen. There were many pretty ladies at the court, but Snow White is the fairest of them all, no question. She’s not as insipid as the one in the movie, and I’ve never seen her bake anything, but she shoots her bow very well, and she’s good with her sword. She’s… Black hair, that’s of course the part that’s correct in the tale. Don’t know about the milk and the roses – or blood – part, she always seemed generally, well, human-pinkish to me. Caucasian, we’d say in police speak. Her hair was long, maybe down to her waist, a mass of curls. I always admired it, and she wore it in different ways, but there was always a lot of it.”

He sipped his soda in silence for a moment.

“She smiled, a lot. With dimples. And she loved children and small animals. When I was at the Palace, with my father, she always had something prepared for me – a toy, or some piece of clothing that she thought my Papa wouldn’t think of. After all, I spent so much time as a puppet, he kind of forgot sometimes I was a real person now.”

“And our father?” Emma leaned forward, looking at him intently.

“I worshipped him” August sighed. “He… He was a real hero. A warrior, but not like the soldiers, who get paid and just do what they are told, but, well. Real actual hero, who defeated a dragon, and saved a kingdom. Big thing. And he taught me how to fence. Of course, we used wooden swords, and from the perspective of twenty-plus years I see he was just humouring my need to play at grownup things, but he did spend time with me, even though he was an actual king. I don’t think many rulers would do something like this. He was tall. Definitely taller than your mother – but well, that is more or less a common thing, women are shorter in more primitive civilisations. Blond, so I think you inherited your colouring from him. I remember watching him, in his military uniform, he looked like a historical figure from some portrait” he trailed off. “I wish I could draw, you could take the pictures and check against them.”

Elena patted his arm.

“No worries. It’s still much more than we had.”

“And what about the others? The Evil Queen, court members?”

He grimaced.

“Some of them didn’t look like humans – or not much, anyway – so I’d be guessing they either aren’t in the town or they are turned human, somehow. So I don’t see a way to identify fairies or Jiminy Cricket based on their old look. But the Evil Queen… She’s very, well… Straight. I mean, she holds herself very stiffly. She has black hair, which she mostly wore in very complicated hairdos, and I mean, like, fantasy bad-guy fancy. The only thing I can think of is… she has this tiny little scar, on her lip. No idea what caused it, but it’s there. Visible, unless she covers it with like an inch of makeup.”

The girls looked at each other.

“Well, so the Evil Queen is either a woman with a small scar on her lip, or the local mime?”

He snorted and nodded, grinning.

For a moment, they all sipped their drinks, deep in thought.

Suddenly, when it seemed there was nothing else to say, Elsa leaned towards August and asked quietly “What does your father look like?”

His eyes filled with tears.

Written by Srebrna

2017/05/10 at 22:53

Posted in Splinters