“Yeah, I decided that it may be time for you to go home when you suddenly seemed way too fascinated with the owner’s description of the air duct system,” Cotton told me. “He was telling us how he had to install some new vents and you were like ‘Wow! Are you kidding me?'”
“I don’t even remember anything about the air duct system,” I laughed. “No, I’ve just had a really stressful couple of weeks. See, after [April] and I broke up, I joined Tinder.”
Ash is a predator.
They go after systems and traumatized, mentally ill persons without a solid sense of self. They seek the under-aged or monster-like alters or “past-lives” for their own sexual gratification. They will synthesize a sense of belonging using religion and magic, and then turn the tides against you once you either learn to say ‘no’ or you start questioning too much.
It was probably in the middle of October when Ash, Arkady, and I went to visit Ithaca. (Was March even there on that trip? I don’t remember. My subconscious tends to automatically crop him out of happy memories and I’m honestly here for it.) I loved Ithaca– I still do. It was as if Rochester and Savannah had a love child.
“It’s an apology– kind of. Like the ones actors make when they realise there’s no way they’re not getting cancelled. You can read it now, if you want.”
I shook my head. “I can’t let her have the last word, Cotton. Otherwise, she’d win.” I’d meant that as a joke, but that was answered with another question about how much progress I’d made on finding a therapist.
I remember the four of us waiting around, partially hungover, and charged with pre-battle fire. March was accosted by Ash nearly immediately as he walked in the door. I’m pretty sure Pearl Harbour was less startled. “[March.] You lied to me?”
he more I think of it, the more our system represents that classic Divine Dichotomy. The Apollonian and the Dionysiac. The Failures and the Abominations, the Readers and the Stories, the Silver and the Gold, the Heart and the Mind.
Ash fell silent for a moment. “Who– who else thinks this?” Their tone was accusatory, as if we were all having a laugh at their expense and not terrified they’d end up in a double suicide.
“It’d– uh, be a shorter list of those who don’t think it. And I think that’s limited to–… you and… Maybe, like, his cat.” I don’t try to be a smartass; my dickishness is au natural. “
They opened their laptop, opened a new Word document, and began to type. “[April], If you are reading this, I’m breaking up with you, and blocking you on all accounts.”
That, containing a heavy reference to suicide, caused my mind to fold over in on itself and open up some dark neural pathways that led to only poor decisions. I screenshot this and sent this to Aberle, so that the trauma-induced panic could now bombard the system through two sources,
Aberle, then, out of the worry of his bleeding-heart Cancer Moon, did precisely what I told him we must not do.
He told Ash that March was abusive.
“Everything started going to shit when Neb disappeared and you showed up.”
“That’s the general consensus,” I said dryly. I’d heard it all before. Neb had been the naive, selfless one, like the devoted, virtuous Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean. And here I was, the near-constantly sozzled, egotistical, and floundering Jack Sparrow, suddenly being called upon to save Elizabeth Swan, armed only with comedic relief and a petty streak.