Saturday, November 17, 2012
"Now, I'd like to get this newspaper out by the end of the month, so if any of you are having trouble, please let me know at least a week before the deadline. If you have any questions about your assignments, meet me in my office after school tomorrow--I'll be around until 5 o'clock, at least."
Mr. Hobbs gave a look around the computer lab, but every teenager in the room had their eyes fixated on the screens in front of them, oblivious to the fact he was even still there. In the silence, the hum of the computers filled in where crickets could not.
"Alright then," he said with a nervous chuckle. "If that's all, I'm taking off. You guys have a good afternoon--make sure the last one out locks the door, alright?" He paused, waiting for a response; only Kenzie, with her back facing towards him, craned her neck around to give him a small smile. "Alright, then. Bye guys."
As the door to the lab clicked shut behind their teacher, Margo looked down on the slip of paper in front of her with dread. Margo Kane: Community Spotlight was written in bold letters at the very bottom, almost as an afterthought. Community Spotlight, the bland vegetables of the school newspaper. Margo was used to being given the projects no one else wanted, but this one was positively insulting. Community Spotlight meant actually talking to people. In the community.
Margo's eyes traced over the rest of the Club member's assignments with resentment and envy. Ethan was doing a piece on the art department's most recent projects; Mack Leman, known for his dopey wit, was assigned to write a humor column; Kenzie, to no one's surprise, was writing about some of the new Tech installments at the school; even Daisy got to cover sports, which half of her friends either participated in or cheered for.
There was no doubt in her mind: Margo had been given the leftover. The misfit in the bunch, just like her.
"Ah c'mon Margo, it won't be so bad," Kenzie said from across the table, eyeing the sick greenness flushing Margo's cheeks. "Mr. Hobbs wouldn't have given it to you if he didn't think you could handle it. Maybe he thought it would be good for you, to get out and do some interviews?"
"He's crazy," Margo mumbled into the hands cupped over her face, trying not to whimper. "You wanna trade?"
Kenzie's face fell a little. "I love you Margo, but... Technology? You couldn't even plug your mouse into the right port, this morning. You wouldn't know half the stuff you'd be writing about."
Margo knew Kenzie was right--and honestly, it was probably true for every other topic going into this edition of the newspaper--but it didn't make her feel any better. If anything, it just made her more aware of the gaping hole where her "specialty" was supposed to be. Everyone else had their little niche... Ethan and his art, Mack and his jokes--but her, just a channel for someone else's greatness. Fabulous.
"There's got to be someone you know you can interview--I mean, your family is full of big shots, isn't it? Your grandpa used to be a detective, your grandma owns the art studio--there's lots of possibilities, there?"
Margo scowled. Yes--another reminder that everyone in her family was amazing but her. And yet... "Actually..." Margo, who'd started pacing to get her thoughts moving, stopped beside Kenzie and gave her a quizzical look. "Maybe I could interview my Dad? I mean, he made the first sentient simbot, his time machine, discovered a way to--"
"--get murderous lunatics out of prison?" A loud, angry guffah came from behind Margo, startling her. "Yeah, sounds like a real awesome role model to be writing about."
"Daisy, you don't know what you're talking about," Kenzie snapped, grabbing Margo's hand and lightly tugging her in the opposite direction. "It's Margo's article, she can write about whoever she wants to."
Daisy rolled her eyes. "No, I'm pretty sure it's you that's blind, four-eyes. But fine--she can write about her father. It's not like anyone will read it, anyways."
Both Kenzie and Margo took a rather deep breath as Daisy started to turn away, but their relief was short-lived. "Actually, you know what, Margo?" Daisy retorted, spinning around to face them again. "Write about your Dad. I think it's a great idea."
Margo's hands shivered. "R-really?" she asked, skeptical.
"Yeah. That way, when he finally croaks, you don't even have to write an obituary--you'll already have one."
Kenzie gasped. "Daisy--!"
"What?! It's true, and everyone knows it! He's only got what, 5, 6 months left? Really, it would be convenient--all you have to do is rerun the piece, and add a little tagline at the end: The Great meddling Bradley Kane, finally bit the dust after a long battle with his big, fat ego.
"DAISY! Don't talk about her Dad like that!"
"Why? I mean, it's only fair--if my Dad has to die because of her idiot of an aunt, hers might as well, too."
"Why you stupid--Margo... Margo? MARGO!"
Please try to be patientand know that I'm still learning.I'm sorry that you have to seethe strength inside me burning.But where are you my angel now?Don't you see me crying?And I know that you can't do it allbut you can't say I'm not trying.-- The Hill, Marketa Irglova ~ CLICK TO LISTEN ♫ --
The whole world spun. Underneath Margo's fingers and knees, the cold tile rolled back and forth, barely holding up her capsizing stomach. The smell, the cold, it all made what was left of her lunch keep coming even when she thought she might finally be able to stop.
The sick feeling in her gut began to subside as she weakly collapsed against the back of the bathroom stall's door, but when she raised her hand to wipe the corner of her lip, she saw her fingers shiver through her foggy vision. It wasn't the world that was shaking: it was her.
When she finally was able to put her weight back on her feet, Margo carefully slipped out of the stall and stumbled to the sink. She smartly avoided looking at what she was sure would be a horribly accurate reflection of how she felt.
Margo cupped her hands under the faucet, bringing water to her lips and swishing it inside her mouth--but it did little good. She could still feel the sour taste of bile at the back of her throat, threatening to escape again each time she remembered Daisy's words:
It's only fair, that he's dying.
It's only fair.
After several more minutes of just trying to squeeze some air back into her lungs, she decided to escape the horrible stench the bathroom now had. Margo's fingers tenderly pushed the door open, and she shuffled back out into the hall.
Several steps out, she heard a small chuckle behind her. "Your stomach finally have enough of those crappy school lunches, Klinger? Sounds like you were barfing up a whole year's worth, in there." Ian's voice was thick with amusement--the kind that made Margo's stomach do another double-dutch in her belly.
Margo angled her face away from him and kept moving. "Leave me alone, Ian," she spoke--instantly wishing she hadn't when the sobs suddenly began flooding out again.
"Hey hey hey, quit the waterworks, Margo--I was only kidding!" When she didn't turn around, Ian's hand reached out and snatched her arm, pulling her to a stop; but still, she didn't look at him. "What the hell's the matter?"
"Just go away," Margo said softly as she reached her free hand up to her face, gingerly trying to erase her tear stains. "Please. Just let me go."
"Not until you tell me what's wrong," Ian snarled, his grip becoming tighter on her arm. "C'mon, spit it out."
But Margo remained silent. She became a ragdoll in his hand, limply swaying with the forceful sobs she tried to stifle in her chest. The longer she stood there, the angrier he became, until he finally couldn't take it anymore.
"Margo, look at me!" he barked, tugging her arm and swiveling her around to face him. "Talk to me, dammit!"
Margo continued to resist, raising her hands to try and shield her face; in response, he latched his fingers around her wrists and drew them down against his chest. She turned her face to the side; he tried to follow it with his own. They continued their clumsy pasadoble until Margo finally became too weak to fight, and her weight slowly shifted against him.
"Daisy," came her soft answer.
Ian made a noise closer to animal than human. "What did she do."
"She said... my dad... deserves to die."
"She what?!" Margo felt Ian's body begin to shake with rage; even his fingers felt as if they were vibrating against her skin. "And you did what--you ran away?!"
Margo's head bobbed loosely to the side. "I didn't know what to--"
"Yes, you do! You're not an idiot, Margo--you know exactly what to say!" Another tear began to trickle down Margo's face and her hands started to pull up to hide it; Ian tugged them back down, shaking her whole body along with her arms. "Why can't you stand up for yourself, Margo?! Why do just sit there like a dead fish and let her walk all over you?! Don't you see what this is doing to you?"
"I--I just--I just can't, Ian--"
"FINE!" Ian's fingers released her, almost making her lose her balance when her weight was suddenly her own responsibility again. He walked past her, taking the first few steps up the staircase to the computer lab. "If you won't stand up for yourself, then I will!"
"NO!" Her voice reined him to a halt. "DON'T!"
He looked back at her over his shoulder and threw his hands up in frustration. "Margo, someone has to shove that girl's head into the floor, and if it's not going to be you--"
Margo's sobs turned to wails. "Why is your s-solution to fix everything always breaking something else?!"
The air surrounding them became still and cold. Ian had stopped moving; his foot had frozen mid-air above the step, until gentle gravity pulled it back to rest on the floor. The emptiness swallowed them, until Ian came completely off the stairs--but in a strange role reversal, it was now Ian's eyes that refused to meet Margo's.
"Ian, I didn't mean--"
"Yeah, you did. And you're right. You're always right." She watched through tear-burned eyes as his hunched shoulders began to fall from his ears, weighing everything--even his gaze--towards the floor. "Breaking things... it's all I'm good for."
"That's not tr--"
"I'm sorry, Margo. I keep forgetting nothing I'm capable of is good enough for you."
"Lil, please... Can we talk about this later," Lamont grumbled, trying to avoid Lilobot's earnest gestures as she followed him around the science lab. "I just want to finish your diagnostic and go home."
"What, so I can go home worried that I am going to wake up tomorrow and not remember my family or my friends? Something is wrong, Lamont! I know it! Please, I need you to--"
"Alright, fine." Heaving a heavy sigh, Lamont leaned against a nearby machine. His eyes were clouded with frustration, Lil could tell--but she wouldn't back down. This was too important.
"What happened," Lil asked, plainly.
"When you told me about what happened with Tanner... how upset you were... I couldn't bear to see you suffering like that. It was too much. So when I transferred you to your new body--I just... didn't transfer those memories. I thought you would be happier without them."
Lilobot immediately felt her Positronic Emotion Chip flaring into anger. "You deleted part of me without asking?! Those were MY memories, Lamont! MINE! If you thought I would be better off without them, you should have asked me, first! It was not your choice to make!"
"You're right," Lamont sighed, nodding. "It was foolish and... selfish. I'm sorry."
Lil opened her mouth to continue ranting, but when she registered what was saying, and studied him for a moment--she suddenly became even angrier. "What else did you delete, Lamont."
He shook his head, avoiding her eyes. "Just Tanner."
"Do not lie to me. I can tell when you are lying--your ears turn red and your eyes run away. Stop avoiding it--just tell me! These are my memories we are talking about, I have the right to know!"
"We kissed." Lamont's head flopped down onto the machine, 'facepalming' against the back of his hand. "You happy now? We kissed. And I freaked out, and I erased it."
"We... we kissed? But... but when?!"
"Right after the procedure. You were so happy, and I was so happy, and my marriage was already on the rocks, and just... I don't even know how it happened. I came over to help you up, and we just--it just happened."
"You don't understand, Lilobot," he continued, growing more and more upset as he recalled the events. "I couldn't do that to my son. It wasn't something I would usually do, and... it was just such a huge mistake. I didn't want it to be a mistake you had to live with, too. I didn't want anyone else to know. So when I hooked you up to make sure everything had transferred fine--I made sure you wouldn't remember. If I could have done the same thing for myself... I would have."
"So all this time.. you have been lying to me, about us. About your feelings for me."
Lamont shrugged. "I have a wife. I have a son. If you knew what it was like, Lil... you would know why I did what I did."
"I may not understand completely, but... I get that you had the best intentions. I have to know, though--do you still feel that way? About me?"
She scanned his face, hoping for some sort of reveal; she waited for his words, but they never came. After a moment, she knew, he wouldn't say; either he would hurt her all over again, or he would hurt his wife. There was no win, no matter what he said.
"Okay, fine, you do not have to tell me--but you understand, Lamont... Why I have to ask you to give me my memories back. You still have them, right?"
Lamont nodded slowly, and pointed towards a nearby computer. "They're on a harddrive marked XR-1010 Backup. When we do the diagnostic... I'll put them back. If that's really, really what you want."
Without hesitation, Lilobot nodded. "It is."
And so they linked their hands and danced'round in circles and in rowsAnd so the journey of the night descendswhen all the shades are gone.-- Mummer's Dance, Loreena McKennitt ~ Click to Listen ♫ --
As the hours crept up on midnight, Margo tossed in a restless sleep. It had been years since she'd had night terrors, but even though they'd passed, she always felt like she was always half asleep, searching for a comfort that no nightlight or heavy comforter could give.
She tried to pull the blankets closer, but the frosty window radiated the chilling night straight through to her bones. Fall days were wonderful--fall nights, not so much.
So, when the noise began, Margo was awake enough to hear; she sat up in her bed with a start. "What the--" she gasped, her eyes glued to the front window.
Someone was on the porch. At first she thought it might be Mud, but he hadn't been back since the night she followed him home. That and, as she listened closer, the footsteps had a distinctly solid *thump* to them; unless Mud had gotten himself a thick pair of boots, it was definitely human.
The better part of Margo wanted to hide, or scream for Alesha, but the curious side of her always won. She climbed from her bed, shrugged on her slippers, and tentatively inched towards the window as if it would arise from the wall and snap her with a large set of jaws.
In a way, it did.
Margo's eyes met upon the fierce face of the demon horse, sending her arms waving wildly as she stumbled back and fell, *fwump*, onto the floor.
"Marrgo? Margo? Ye in t'ere?" came a muffled voice from the other side of the glass. Dylan's face appeared in the window shortly after, lighting up with a smile when his eyes met her own.
"Dylan," she said, her mouth gaping. "What are you doing here?"
"Oy've come teh rescue you from certain boredom," he responded, flashing her a whimsical smile. "C'mon outside, I can barely hear yeh."
Margo tiptoed through the front door as quietly as possible, latching it shut with her breath caught in her chest. "Vvv vv v vv v vvvv, ugh it's cold out here," she grumbled, regretting not grabbing her jacket as well. "So what are--ah ah, I think your horse is going to eat me."
"Badger? Neeeh, he's a bit ornery but he won't bite yeh 'less I tell him to," Dylan chuckled.
Margo frowned with disbelief. "So why are you here?"
"Well, I'm goin' on a bit ov an... adventure, yeh might call it--and I thought, well don't I know teh perfect girrl to take wit meh. You do like sneakin' out in teh middle of teh night, don'tcheh?"
"I--not really," Margo sighed, biting her lip. "That was kinda just a one time thing. Besides, I really shouldn't. My mom might notice, and... I have school tomorrow... and..."
"Do ye always make t'is many excuses? Come now. You want to come. I can see it in yehr eyes."
Margo flinched away, shaking her head. "I shouldn't."
When her head dipped, she felt Dylan's rough fingers thread through the loose locks around her face, gently combing them back to uncover her eyes. "Course yeh should. What's a pretty lass like you gonna do boxed up in here, anyways? Yehr comin' wit meh." When she remained unmoving, he continued. "Come now. Say it. I'm cohmin' wit yeh."
"I--" Margo finally looked into his gaze and suddenly became lost in the piercing, hypnotizing insistence in his eyes. "Okay. I'm coming with you."
When she finally relented, he grabbed her hand, and led her and Badger to the edge of the road; once there, he swung himself up onto the massive horse's back with the acrobatic grace of a feline. Margo couldn't help but feel the sting of jealousy.
"Are ye sure you don't want any help, t'ere?" Dylan said with a laugh as he looked behind him, where Margo had begun to try to pull herself up, as well.
"No, I want to do this, myself," she insisted, determined that this time, she would make it without the helpful guidance of her riding instructors. "Just... gimme a second..."
"C'mon now, yehr struggling--here, Alley Oop!" Dylan slung his arm under Margo's shoulder and hoisted her up, looping her behind him. "See? Bettehr. Yeh ever been on a horse before?"
"I--once," Margo sighed, her face flushing red.
"Aah, well--just hang on, then? Ol' Badger's got a bit offa jumpy trot, but he won't t'row us--I slipped a bit o' beer into his trough earlier, that usually puts him in a nice good mood," Dylan laughed. When Margo gave him an uneasy smile back, he gave her a wink, and softly clucked Badger from stillness.
Dylan wasn't exaggerating--Margo could feel her brains bouncing up and down in her head as they rumbled down the road, leaving soft hoofprints in the frosty sidewalk behind them. Compared to this, Bean had been a dream; now, without even so much as a saddle blanket, her rump felt like it was slowly turning to mashed potatoes.
"Come on, don't be shy--yeh can squeeze in a littow tighter," Dylan teased, noticing her queasy expression. "It'll seem a bit less harrsh that way."
She reluctantly obliged, and in a way, it did help; but the foreign smell of him might have been part of it. Campfire, patchouli, and a touch of something spicy she couldn't quite place; it all filled her lungs and warmed her, melting away the last unease she had being so close to what was, to her, a complete stranger.
"Where are we going?" she finally asked, opening her eyes to see the autumn world slowly passing by.
"Someplace special--you'll see."
Margo didn't open her eyes again she felt Badger's trot slow to a stop; releasing her deathgrip from Dylan's tummy, she gently slipped off to the ground with his help, and then looked up.
"My grandmother's art studio?" she asked, her eyebrows scrunching up in confusion.
"Oh, yehr grandmot'er owns it, eh? Ain't t'at a coincidence," he said, surprised but not annoyed. "She has good taste. C'mon, let's go 'round back."
As they slipped up the back steps, sudden realization hit Margo over the top of the head. "We're not... going inside, are we?"
"Why ov course we are," Dylan said, slyly winking. "It'll just be a minute, this lock's a wee bit tricky."
"Don't worry, I do it all the time!"
"It ain't illegal unless someone finds out, lass," Dylan chuckled, before turning back to the door and sticking something in the lock that, to Margo, looked like nothing but a long hairpin.
All her previous hesitations suddenly flooded back, tenfold. Her eyes flitted along the road, searching for any sign of movement; there was nothing, but it didn't change the fact that Margo could swear, they were being watched. "I don't like this," she whimpered, biting her lower lip.
"All done! C'mon, Marrgo--let's get that shiverin' body of yehrs inside before yeh to ice."
Margo had been inside the Bottega hundreds of times since she was born--she'd even had several birthdays, here--but now, with everything coated in shadows and silence, it felt like a a haunted graveyard.
"I w-want to go home," Margo stuttered, hiding her face in her hands. "Please, let's just--"
"Nonsense, we just got here! Besides, there's somet'in I want to show ya," he responded, his smile wicked. "Just stay there and look pretty, mmm?"
She watched as he darted around the room, chucking various tools into his pockets and dragging a clay block to the sculpting stand. The ease at which he did it--and the innate knowledge of the room he seemed to have--left her breathlessly uneasy.
"Are you sure this is okay?" she wheezed, biting her nails.
"Who cares?" he shrugged, raising his chiseling to the block to begin working.
"Well.. maybe the person who owns all this stuff?"
Dylan shrugged. "Does anyone really own anyt'ing, Margo? Besides--you said yehrself, yehr grandmam owns all t'is... so I guess t'at just means ye'll be able to smooth everyt'ing over for us." He sent her another confident, easy wink that weakened her knees and silenced her tongue.
It was a long time before she said anything else; occasionally Dylan made a sly comment, but the sensation of watching eyes left her unable to relax. "What about Badger?" she finally asked, realizing that she hadn't even seen Dylan tie him up outside.
"Ah, he's fine," Dylan smiled. "He won't wander off. If anyt'ing he'll just curl up and go teh sleep."
"But what if someone sees him?"
"Eesh, yeh sure know how to work up a storm worryin', don't yeh? So what if he's seen? So what if we're caught? Rules only matter if you let 'em."
"I just don't feel good about this," she said in a hushed whisper, looking out through the foggy glass of the door.
"Sounds like you don't feel good about lots of t'ings," Dylan sighed. "But it's no matter--I'm finished, anyways."
He reached out a hand and guided her to his position, looking over her shoulder as she looked at his 'final product'. "Whatcha think, Marrgo?"
Margo wasn't sure what she was seeing--was that... was that her?
"It can't be," she gasped, shaking her head. "I'm not--and it's so--"
"It's beautiful, just like you," Dylan lulled, resting his hands on her shoulders, dipping his lips towards her ear. "She's a little rough around the edges, but t'at's what makes her perfect."
"Hey--hey Margo, where yeh goin'?!" Dylan's eyes grew wide as Margo suddenly bolted from his grasp, darting down the hallway and disappearing into the kitchen. "Come back!"
When he caught up with her, she tried to hide her face--but it was impossible. There were already tears forming, and Dylan was anything but blind.
"What's teh matter? Was it t'hat hideous?" he said with a rough chuckle, reaching his hand out to stroke her arm.
"No, it's just... I've had such a bad day, and that--the way you're treating me--I'm just so... so confused, Dylan, and--"
"Ssssh, sshhhh, t'ere's nothing to be confused about, Margo." She turned around to face him, only to be lightly grabbed and tugged towards him. "Yehr a beautiful girrl, you deserve to be shown."
"Maybe, but--" she tried to draw away, but Dylan's hand was bracing her back, leaving her no where to move but closer. "This is all just moving so fast, and--"
"Life is short, Margo. Do yeh want to wait one more moment before you live it?"