My fanfiction and other random ramblings

Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

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

Splinters 20: Who is the girl I see

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Elsa was making use of the rare day when she was the last one to leave the apartment as she had a court meeting at eleven.

She was standing in front of the window and making faces. Trying to work out how in the world it might have happened that nobody noticed until now how different she was from her so-called sisters.

Her face was more triangular, her hair tended to be whiter rather than blond, her eyes were set differently and their colour was of course… Blue. Not green.

She squeezed said eyes shut, trying to keep the treacherous tears from falling, but a painful drop or two was already rolling down her cheek.

And yes, her emotional reaction to everything was always quite different from Emma’s and Elena’s. Elena tended to take the obstacles with a shout and a kick, head-on into the adversity, hitting the opposition with a stick. With gusto. Emma was more measured and calmer, but allowed her feelings to take the better of her, from time to time, when situation forced her to.

Elsa couldn’t. She never showed her anger. She never argued. She never swore – at least not in an uncalculated way. Every move was controlled, every word was thought through and even when sometimes she did something not exactly planned, it was always projecting the utter calm. Even menace. But never anger.

She directed all her anger inside.

She burned from the inside with all the stress of keeping herself on a leash. She never knew how to express her more violent emotions in a socially-acceptable way, so ever since she had gained some social graces – probably around middle of the first grade – she controlled herself to the utmost.

By now she knew it was not a healthy way to live, and she knew she would be paying for it sooner or later. But it was already too late and she found herself quite unable to let it go.

She swallowed and opened her eyes, looking at the woman in the mirror with pain-pricked eyes. Her eyes were slightly puffy, but she knew that in ten minutes she could make herself quite presentable and ready for the challenges of a working day.

A deep breath and…

“Don’t be stupid” she said to her reflection. “We have to get Emma to that magical town and she’ll need me to be the reasonable one.”

Her reflection didn’t roll her eyes, of course, but it seemed to present, quite clearly, her own doubt in her decisiveness.

“Yeah. I know. But we have to help her. And not because this may potentially lead me to my parents.”

That hurt. Her parents. Apparently, Emma’s and Elena’s parents had a perfectly good explanation for dumping their daughters in that forest – in another reality – but every time she considered that, she couldn’t but imagine her parents just getting rid of her, for some stupid reason. She had already been a month old, after all. They had a month with her and only then decided to send her away.

She could only hope her family, whatever it was, came from the same world as parents of her “sisters” and so she could hope that if they ever went back to their reality, she could try to track them down and find out what exactly had been going through their heads all these years ago.

She straightened her jacket and scarf, re-applied eyeliner and a bit of colour and checked herself out in the mirror again. Yes. Quite enough of this. Work doesn’t wait.

Written by Srebrna

2017/04/01 at 22:52

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 19: Just around the riverbend

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Emma sat with her head in her hands, trying to work out the way to rationalise the very idea of going to Maine and searching for undefined spot full of supposedly lost fairytale characters, including their supposed parents.

They had good life in Boston.

They had their apartment and Henry had his school and friends.

They had each other, which had been quite enough of a family until now.

They had the stability of knowing what was what and who was who.

And suddenly, there was that guy, very honest and very sure of what he was saying, telling them to uproot everything and go chase fairies.

He was also promising them – at least two of them – their parents.

It seemed too good to be true.

It seemed way too complicated to be a hoax.

It seemed unfair to Elsa.

It also seemed like the only chance they’d ever have to understand what had happened to them.

They knew what August could tell them, true. But on the other hand, when he was sent away with them – if they believed him at all – he had been not much older than Henry was now, so he wasn’t exactly an expert on the delicate details of Enchanted Forest, or whatever the place was called.

They had to check it out.

She banged her forehead softly on the tabletop.

She was supposed to just pick up their lives, unroot them, move everything to another state and find a town that doesn’t want to be found.

She was supposed to then save said fairytale characters and make them remember who they were again. With no knowledge of magic, rules of the magical world, people they would be meeting or basically anything helpful. And the only person who could in fact help them was barely able to stand their presence due to an overwhelming itch in his wooden leg.


Henry was the only one of them who actually saw the leg. Henry was the actual reason why she hadn’t thrown August out that night. Her son saw something in August, he saw the leg and treated it as an obvious, real thing. He was apparently also slightly magical, or at least that was her guess.

She sighed and closed her eyes, trying to calm her thoughts.

She couldn’t just order her sisters around, anyway. If she had that great destiny, maybe she should go on her own, leaving them and Henry back in safety and face the challenges of the strange world alone? The very thought of leaving Henry for any stretch of time made her heart constrict painfully and somehow she had that feeling that freeing a whole town of fairytale characters was not a thing she could just do during one weekend trip and then come back home and continue her life just as it was before.

She shivered at the thought.

Elena has just as much right to go there as I have. These would be her parents, too, after all. And then we can’t just leave Henry with Elsa, because she has to go to work and he has school… Also, it would look like we are abandoning Elsa, because it’s not her family that’s in danger…

That was all so wrong. How she wished August had never found them. They could have been living normal lives, just like they did until he showed up. They could have continued on that good, well-worn path of being parents, employees, sisters. That was stable. That was known. That was sure and safe.

But the thought about Storybrooke seemed so enticing. To find out where they came from. To be the hero. Save her parents and everyone. Be not only a mother and never-exactly-best programmer in the team. To be a Saviour. To win something more significant than a library reading contest.

She wanted to go. And she wanted to stay.

The surface of the tabletop was so shiny and brown. She traced one line of woodgrain softly with her fingers. It didn’t really help, but it did calm down her slightly.

Maybe it will work out. We’ll be able to go to Maine and see what exactly August meant. Then we can leave before they get used to us, if the situation seems unsolvable.

Written by Srebrna

2017/03/13 at 22:46

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 18: Journey to the past

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In the end, they didn’t really tell Henry all that much. They explained that August was a friend of his grandparents and he would help them all find the family. They left the details about fairies and magic for some later occasion, when he would be able to understand the nuances better and keep the secret.

They also didn’t tell him about Elsa’s being no longer a relative, as Emma felt it was not relevant at all and would only serve to upset him. Elsa felt some weird relief, as Henry was her favourite thing in the world and she didn’t want to lose the connection she had to him – being his guard and protector from crazy nurses and overzealous teachers – because of the things they had learnt about their past.

The change that occurred was on Elena’s initiative, as she dragged home a thick tome of Nursery Stories and Fairy Tales.

“Is it Andersen?” Elsa asked innocently, peeking inside the covers.

“No way. Andersen is way too depressing. The girl with matches, dying in the snow, brraugh. I’m not going into these. No, this is a baby-level standard of slightly-optimistic, mostly-happy-ending stories from different corners of Europe. There may be some Andersen remakes here, but not his own stories directly.”

So they put Henry on a steady diet of fairytales and provoked discussions about them, usually between themselves, to see what would be his reaction to questions like “What would Cinderella use to get home from the ball in US in XXI century” or “How do you think Red Riding Hood would dress?”

Sometimes Henry joined the fun, suggesting Prince Charming riding a bike – like August’s – or saying seriously that Sleeping Beauty would be better off as a patient in a modern hospital, not asleep in a castle overgrown by brambles. Sometimes he just laughed when they made their crazy suggestions or corrected them when they tried to make wild changes to the known tales.

Based on what August had told them, they tried matching the “facts” to the tales they knew and quickly understood that even the best research into available material was not going to prepare them for the actual meeting with the inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest. The tales they knew – or read for the first time now – were all very contained and unlinked from each other, and of course none of them mentioned anything but a Happily Ever After, without details, and they already knew that this was what the Evil Queen took away from everyone.

So apart from delving into theoretical past as re-written by Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, they decided a little delving into their own much more recent past was in order.

“I was wondering when you three would show up” Annabella Hanners peered at them from over her glasses. “And who is that young gentleman?”

“That’s Henry” Emma hugged him tightly as he pressed himself into her side.

“I see. And you two, nothing…?”

Elsa reached for Henry and ruffled his hair.

“Henry is quite enough for the three of us, I think.”

“Ah. So, what brings you here today?”

They looked silently at each other and finally Elsa spoke up.

“Why did you do this?” she gestured to the three of them. “Why did you make us sisters?”

Annabella Hanners sighed.

“I’m guessing either one of you needed some medical procedure and you found incompatibility or the boy managed to find you” she stated calmly. “Well, in any case, I did it because you already were sisters by the time we shuffled the papers. I couldn’t separate you from them anymore than I could separate them” she gestured towards Emma and Elena. “You probably don’t remember it, but you twisted an ankle when you were three. Both Emma and Elena cried from the moment it happened, showing all the typical reactions of the so-called twin syndrome. Which is not taken very seriously by psychologists, but I’m not a psychologist. And my great-grandmother was a Scottish witch, or so they said. They say my family line always inherited a bit of a shine – or a touch, or a sight, whatever you want to call it. I just knew you three belonged together, and everything that happened seemed to confirm it.”

They sat in silence for a moment, Henry still holding tight to Emma and Elsa working very hard on breathing deeply and evenly.

Even then there was something at work she thought and dared a look at Elena, who was biting her lip in concentration.

“It wasn’t only that” Emma suddenly stated. “What aren’t you telling us?”

They looked intently as the older woman bit her lip and considered the question.

“There were people adopting little girls” she finally said. “And killing them. Because it happened all over the country, there was no reason for single state to see more than one or two cases and so the authorities in the system…” she snorted. “Well, they didn’t see any reason to block adoptions, even temporarily and even ones matching only certain characteristics. Specifically, blond girls born around the same time as the three of you. It ended when one girl survived and was able to tell her story – as much as an almost-four-year-old can. There was investigation, but the actual culprits fled long before police located them.”

“So, why…?”

“Because it took more than half a year in total” she explained darkly. “And there were people trying to get one of you all the time. They were getting confused seeing three girls, and never asked too much, but someone was going to notice that one of you is available. So I asked my hacker friend to deal with it, and she did. She changed Elsa’s entry to match yours, and so she disappeared from the potential list of victims. I never knew what it was that these people were after – just any random blond girl or if they were looking for some specific girl and if so…”

Elsa looked at her sisters with one brow raised. Emma nodded shortly.

“You think they were looking for a specific girl and that specific girl was, in fact, Elsa?”

“I know it sounds awful, but that was my feeling. Remember, witch for a great-grandma, I get these flashes of knowing from time to time. And every time I read about one of the cases, I saw you three in my mind’s eye.”

Elsa shuddered and Elena covered her hand with hers.

“It’s good that you’re here” their host added. “There was that other thing I wanted to show you, and I’ve had the worst of luck with it.”

She raised and took a big cardboard box from one of the shelves.

“This was stuck in a bank vault for ages and by someone’s idiotic… Well, they removed the deposit box from the list of ones we’re allowed to access, even though we did have the key. Later I was ill, and so, time passed and nobody could get the box. Only two weeks ago I managed to remove it from the bank and kept it here ever since. I kind of guessed you’d be coming around sometime soon.”

She raised the cover and unwrapped first layer of paper.

“When you were found in these baskets, you were not just lying there naked on the wicker, you know” she smirked. “You had these on” she shook out tiny, baby-sized dresses. “If a child comes to the home with something more than standard romper set, I try to keep it – maybe someday they will be able to find their family with it? Or at least keep it as a souvenir? Well, here you have it. This one is Emma’s, this is Elena’s and this is Elsa’s” she pointed one by one. “You were also wrapped in blankets…” she sighed. “I kept them, despite some people’s ideas to put them to daily use, and then wanted to give you when you left, but you were pushed out before I came back from that PT month, so…” she shrugged. “Now, the funny thing about these blankets, you see, is, well. This one is Elsa’s” she handed her a thick piece of woven wool with “ELSA” painted in fading blue in one corner “This one is Emma’s” and the second blanket was knitted, with purple “EMMA” embroidered across one side “…and this one is Elena’s”.

What Elena actually was handed was not a blanket. It was, in fact, a big ball of white yarn with a tiny piece of paper stuck into it.

Her name is Elena. Make sure she gets this and knows that we didn’t expect her, but we still love her.

Elena’s voice broke on the last word.

“One of the reasons I hid them was that they were so… different” Annabella said. “Someone would have picked up on it and there would be no way to disprove that Elsa is not your sister. Also, it seemed unfair for Emma and Elsa to have theirs when we couldn’t provide one for Elena. I’m a terrible knitter, I’m afraid.”

Emma nodded slowly.

“They also would have gotten dirty and torn” she added. “I’d much rather have them now, when we can try to use them to – maybe – track down our families, than at the time. It’s not that we had no link to our parents at all – we had each other, so it’s not like with these kids whose only link are the clothes they were wearing.”

Elena turned her wool ball a few times and sniffed it carefully.

“I think I will keep it like this” she decided finally. “I can knit, but I’d much rather have it as it came with me” she stuck the piece of paper where it was very carefully and hugged the whole non-blanket to herself.

“But…” Elsa started, looking at her. “If this paper says you were not expected, then maybe these people who were looking for little girls were not looking for me?!”

Emma blinked in surprise.

“Right. Because if our parents weren’t expecting Elena, then whoever else knew about the coming child would only be looking for me. Not for twins.”

“And they must have lived in some pretty rural area if the first moment they knew there are twins was when you two were born” Annabella added. “At the beginning I thought you were born in some weird religious community and maybe out of wedlock – or they thought twins are brought by demons, or whatever else. But now that I see this all together…” she shook her head. “I’m positive, and I’m saying this as a descendant of a girl who escaped burning, point one, your parents – both sets – left you in that forest because that was safer, somehow. And point two, these people were looking for one of you. Maybe Elsa. Maybe Emma. Logically, it couldn’t have been Elena, but still… They were only looking for a single girl. So once you became a set, they lost your trail. Even when you were modelling, nobody came asking for you.”

“You muddied the trail” Elena provided quietly. “Thank you.”

“Well” Annabella shrugged. “Did what I could. Now, this is the last part, and if blankets can’t tell you much – I wouldn’t really expect them to – this may have more value. Both monetary and information-wise.”

With this she pulled out three ziplock bags full of glittering trinkets.

They spent some time sifting through the jewelry in utter silence, as Annabella looked at them curiously and Henry stole a tiny figurine of a unicorn from Emma’s stash and played with it on the table quietly.

“I must say” the older woman said slowly “You seem – I don’t want to presume or to be patronising – uncommonly well-adjusted. We have a lot of children coming in much later than you did, already socialised, and then leaving unable to take care of themselves. We try as much as we can – and as we’re allowed but the law – but most cases we just can’t help at all. You three not only managed to stay on the right side of the law, get education and graduate, but you have actual jobs… and you have an actual family, with Henry. I must admit I am a little surprised.”

Emma smiled, looking at Henry’s dark head.

“The education part was your doing, so it’s not so much of a challenge. Most kids don’t have money for college, and you managed to get it for us.”

Annabella snorted.

“If you hadn’t had proper grades in the school, no amount of money would have helped you. Most other kids have been submitted for financial aid and scholarships, but even the ones who managed to get them mostly dropped off a year or two after leaving the home. I have a feeling we’re not preparing you all too well for the realities of life, but…” she sighed. “We’re not really allowed to. The System doesn’t care, as long as you’re clean and fed until 18th birthday and out of the list the day after.”

“I think that’s because there are three of us” Emma suggested. “If I was here alone, I would never have had good grades… I see myself running away, or doing stupid things, like other kids. Like the ones that got shipped back from their ‘families’ after the first offence. There were so many of them, leaving and coming back. If I got sent back like a faulty package, I would have been a bit resentful, too.”

“And I only function socially thanks to these two” Elsa added. “Otherwise I’d have ended up on some couch – or as a drug addict – simply because I can’t really work well with people.”

“And they two balance me” Elena pointed out. “I know I’m volatile, because I can compare myself to them. Also, Emma has excellent aim and a well-thrown bottlecap is a great reality reminder if I get too involved in something.”

“So, I suppose you could say that we’re sane, stable and in a reasonable situation in life because you put the three of us together” Elsa smiled slightly. “Who knows what might have happened to us if had grown up separated.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/02/20 at 22:42

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 17: At last I see the light

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“I was thinking” Elsa paused and seemed to be very carefully stirring her coffee.

“Dangerous habit for a lawyer.”

“Yeah. Funny. But. You remember how August said that the magic thinks? Or at least that it makes things happen in a certain way?”

“Yes, that it will help us find Storybrooke if we let it. So what?”

“I was kind of thinking of another thing. How, if we look at all our lives, there were things happening to us that were so damn random and overblown. Like, when a normal person goes to school, there is no weirdo teacher trying to run experiments on them. But we had to come across the only idiot in the county who did. Like, when you don’t have documents, police normally agrees to let you find some, even if you have a gun – and they let you show the gun permit! And we got arrested and Elena was suspected of being illegal. How, actually, the very fact they called Immigration is a bit too much, considering Boston is a sanctuary city! Normally if they have someone with doubtful immigration status, they let them pass, unless there was a crime committed – and Elena was not being accused of any crime, so they should have let her go.”

“So you think that the crap that happened to us…”

“Including that crazy nurse in the hospital?” Emma suddenly looked much more awake.

Elsa nodded.

“I think it’s all because of magic. Even if none of us is actually using it, it may be affecting us. August said that this world was supposed to be without magic, but if we assume he’s telling the truth – and Emma, you said he was – then there is actually some of it everywhere…” she trailed off.

“Elsa?” Elena prodded her with her spoon.

Elsa only stared ahead, raising her coffee cup slowly to her lips and her eyes were rounder than ever.

“Emma. Emma knows when someone is lying” she stated slowly. “She didn’t have it before, only when Henry was born. And all fantasy books say people with magic gain more skills during some breaking points in their life.”

Elena frowned, looking at their third sister.

“Emmy, when was the first thing you remember that your lie detector worked?”

She shrugged, grimacing.

“Not sure, but it might have been that crazy nurse, actually. I remember feeling the wrongness when she handed me these papers and tried to make me sign Henry away. I’m almost sure I’ve never had this feeling before, so… Are you saying the labour caused me to get magical powers?”

Elsa made a face.

“I’m grasping at straws here, but I’m guessing it might have. It was an important event, you were at risk, Henry was at risk, maybe your powers waited for this kind of spark to wake up. No idea. And that is all assuming August was right.”

“Well, he was telling the truth. The question of right and wrong is something separate. He might have been lied to and someone managed to convince him to sell the lie to us – innocently.”

Elena sipped her coffee.

“I’m…” she started and though for a moment. “Elsa, August said you were also using some magic, right?”

Elsa nodded and made a vague gesture.

“But you didn’t notice anything happening? Emma knows she can tell who’s lying, but you can’t, so it’s not the same kind of magic. But… did you notice something? Anything? Maybe you have more luck than others in the office? Get stuff done better?”

“The only thing I see is that I don’t get freaked out by Judge Perry. He loves to see the things done quickly, so he opens all windows before the session and has the AC turned down. Most people get so chilled they want to get out of there as soon as possible, but I’m OK, so I usually get my guys out or at least, well, not worse off than they came in. Celia actually assigns me every time we have a first hearing with Perry, because she said my statistics are way better than others… What?”

“Elsie, what are you drinking?” Emma asked very calmly.

“A coffee?”

“No. You’re drinking an iced coffee. What are we drinking?”


“Yes, lattes with hot milk. Do you see some trend here?”

Elsa eyed her glass silently.

“You hate hot chocolate so you drink ice tea. Even in winter.”

“But you like chocolate, just like us. But only the candy, not drinking it.”

“You prefer salads to warm dishes.”

“You usually dress in one or two layers less than us – remember when Henry tried to make us not put a scarf on him, because he argued you aren’t wearing one?”

Elsa put the cup on the table and stared intently at her hands, which were shaking slightly.

“Yes” she whispered slowly and a tear slid down her cheek. “I’m a cold freak.”

In an eye blink Emma was behind her, enveloping her in a hug.

“If you are, you are our cold freak. What I meant – and what Elena meant, I think – is that maybe, just maybe, your magic is represented by your cold resistance. Maybe it’s what you don’t do, because it’s just inside you. That is why you don’t actively see it, like I see the lies being told – because it’s always been with you.”

“Even when we were small” Elena added. “You remember, you were always way overheated in summer, when we were quite OK. And you always tried to run away when they dressed us for outings in winter.”

Elsa swallowed visibly.

“So you think I’ve always had it?”

“At least far longer than I can remember differently.”

“So why didn’t August feel it then?”

Elena shrugged.

“Maybe he didn’t know it was it? In the forest he must have been dead on his feet, and in the orphanage they didn’t mix the age groups a lot.”

Emma swallowed the rest of her cup contents.

“Also, he started turning into wood only recently” she reminded her sisters. “And he feels that thing only in his wooden leg.”

“Yeah. That too.”

“Now… I assume we’re all accepting finally that August was, in fact, right and we’re not from this world and we are – at least Elsa and me- magical, yes?” Emma grimaced and looked at her sisters nodding slowly. “Now, help me to work out how to explain it all to Henry.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/02/19 at 22:41

Posted in Splinters