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Tombstones

Tombstones

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Tombstones

Lunghezza:
341 pagine
4 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 11, 2013
ISBN:
9781301384280
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

When Molly takes on a holiday job in a small clothes shop she doesn't expect to see people appearing in a small alcove across the road. She discovers they are Wings, people from another world known as Haled Tor. As she learns more about them, she also uncovers some family secrets. And the owners of the shops next door may not be quite who they seem either.

Tombstones is a science fiction fairy tale in which the prince is half asleep. You'll find alternate realities, a cyborg or two, tattoos, technology and a love story.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 11, 2013
ISBN:
9781301384280
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Kyna Baldwin lives in Sydney with two kids, two dogs and a sleepy husband.

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Tombstones - Kyna Baldwin

TOMBSTONES

by Kyna Baldwin

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2013 Kyna Baldwin

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

1

The girl with pink hair stood beside the scaffolding for a long time, perhaps to make sure nobody was watching, but really nobody was paying her any attention. Except for Molly. Then the girl folded down, collapsed, so that she was sitting on her heels, head in her hands. Molly closed the door to the shop and ran across the cul-de-sac. The girl remained curled into herself, mute. Molly bent down slightly, hands on her knees.

‘Are you okay?’ The girl looked up and shook her head, then looked down again. ‘Can I help?’

‘We’re not meant … I can’t talk. Really it’s okay, please just go.’

She was shaking now and Molly didn’t think she could leave her. She squatted down. There were weeds growing up between the wet pavers. Moss and a few wrappers, but it was quite clean. Builders had slapped up scaffolding and blue plywood around the renovations they were slowly doing on the railway station. It had created a small alcove, a tiny, hidden place. Most of the plywood was covered in billboards and graffiti, but here, in this space, it was almost bare. Only one message. Someone had drawn a wonky tombstone in permanent marker. RIP it read and underneath was a pair of wings.

The girl kept her head down. Molly looked at her hair: bright pink with a fringe. She’d been watching her for a while and she’d never seen any sign of regrowth; it always looked as if she’d just dyed her hair and even now, so close, there were no dark roots to be seen. You’d have to be obsessive, to keep that up. She smelt faintly of something chemical that Molly couldn’t place.

‘My shop is over there,’ Molly said. ‘I’ve seen you here before.’ Appearing and disappearing.

The girl looked quickly up at Molly. ‘No-one is meant to know. Please don’t say anything, please.’

‘I won’t tell anyone.’

The girl struggled to her feet. ‘I have to go,’ she whispered. ‘Don’t look.’

Molly pretended not to, but she saw the girl step into the nothing, shaking, defiant and sad. Molly tried to follow. Not straight away, and maybe she just wasn’t quick enough, but all that happened was that she walked further towards the back wall of the train station.

After that, Molly watched even more obsessively. She started to write times down. The girl with pink hair didn’t come back for a while, but the man in the suit appeared quite a lot. He’d taken a while to notice because he looked so much like all the other commuters and he usually appeared in the early morning. He seemed the least interesting of all of them. The boy arrived about four in the afternoon. Not in school uniform, but in jeans and runners and a T-shirt. Maybe he wasn’t really that young, maybe he was more eighteen. It was just that he was trying so hard to look casual, to look as if he fitted in. The shopper could appear any time. She wore boots and stockings, a tight patterned skirt made out of stretchy fabric, a jacket and a bag she wore slung across her body. It was the bag that didn’t seem quite right to Molly. Although, if she needed to run, to keep moving, that might be the only way it could work. The shopper looked good, but she always looked the same. They all did. And last of all there was the old one. If they needed to run, the old one had no hope. He was dressed for it: he wore a black tracksuit and sports shoes. But he always moved as if he was in agony. As if every step cost him. He looked healthy enough. Not fat, not overweight in any way, and not too skinny either. He would always arrive at 10 in the morning and slowly make his way over to the park and sit on the bench. Molly had to stand in the display window to see him once he’d sat down. A couple of times she’d closed up the shop and started to walk over, but he always got up and moved away.

A week after she’d spoken to the pink-haired girl, Molly put up the Back in Five Minutes sign at 9.50 and went to sit on the old one’s bench with a cup of coffee. The bench faced in, towards the park, and she looked at trees and the disappearing train line, waiting for the old one to arrive. She heard him coming, moving slowly along, sounding heavier than he appeared to be, more menacing because she had her back to him. He sat in his usual spot. Molly kept drinking her coffee; she didn’t want to scare him off.

‘You spoke to Althea,’ he said. ‘Just answer yes or no.’

I don’t know her name, thought Molly. But she knew the old one was talking about the girl with pink hair. ‘She was in trouble.’

‘It is hard, but she must not be found talking to you.’

‘And you?’

‘Who would care about me?’

*

Mid-morning on Thursday, one of the days Lissa came in, Molly saw the shopper appear. There were no customers and Lissa was happy fiddling with the display.

‘Just gotta go out for a bit,’ Molly called to Lissa.

‘Okay.’ Lissa didn’t seem fussed.

The shopper turned right, climbed the steps to the train station and then bought a ticket from the machine. Molly lined up behind her and peered over her shoulder. City, one way. The shopper collected her ticket and headed down to the platform. Molly thought it would probably be okay to go into the city and back, but that was about all the time she wanted to take. She bought a return ticket and waited on the platform under the awning. It was easy to sit in the same carriage without seeming too obvious. The shopper stood, holding onto the metal post just inside the door even though there were plenty of seats. Molly went down to the lower level and sat facing her.

Central, Museum, St James and the shopper was gone. Molly could see her legs through the window. The train continued through the city, through Circular Quay and its glimpse of the harbour, then on, a dark, noisy tunnel ride back to the shop. Molly told herself she had found out something. Not much, but something. She’d always thought that the five stayed around the shops, stayed close by, but she’d been wrong about that.

‘Sorry,’ she said to Lissa. ‘I didn’t think I’d be that long.’

‘It’s okay,’ said Lissa. ‘It was quiet and look …’ Molly admired the window. They had five mannequins and Lissa had dressed them in long, white dresses. Red jewellery glowed against their black skin. Around their heads she’d twined some red beads. One of the mannequins dangled a red, beaded cross from her outstretched fingers. The floor of the display window was covered with red flowers. So much red was maybe a little disturbing, but that was Lissa’s thing.

‘You like?’ she asked.

‘It’s great.’

‘Yeah, now all we need is someone to come in and buy something.’

Lots of people stopped to admire the shop window, but mostly they were on their way to the park. Molly loved this shop, but it was on the wrong side of the railway line; everything over here was just a bit crumbly, a bit old, a bit unprofitable. Most of the clothes in the shop were on consignment which probably made the finances easier, but Molly sometimes wondered if the shop made any money. It was just a summer holiday job; the owner was away, travelling overseas. But Molly wanted to show that she could make it work, maybe stay on, maybe not go back to study.

‘Why don’t we have a launch?’ suggested Lissa.

‘I thought they already did.’

‘Well, a second launch. Dave could play. His band could play. We could invite everyone we know, everyone we don’t ...’

‘Maybe,’ said Molly. But she was already planning it.

*

Saturday night was the launch party. Molly had tried to give flyers to three of the five: the shopper, the suit and the boy, but they’d all shaken their heads and walked away. She’d left a flyer under a stone on the old one’s bench and he’d taken it. Not that she expected him to come. She still hadn’t seen Althea, the girl with pink hair. Molly somehow hoped she’d show up.

On Friday the shopper crossed the street to Molly’s side of the street. She often spent some time looking at the antique shop next door. Even though it was mostly junk, and dark and messy inside. Lissa liked it. She found props for their display or furniture she took home and restored. She’d found the mannequins there and spray painted them black with silver hair. They’d tried, once, to paint the features of the faces, but they hadn’t looked right, and so they left them black. That’s okay, Lissa had said, it’s meant to be about the clothes anyway.

The shopper wandered up to their window and looked inside. Her hair was almost the same as the mannequin hair – more blonde than silver, but swept back in that same way, maybe a little longer. She had three ear piercings on one side. Molly didn’t remember that from the train ride, but she wasn’t completely sure it was new either.

The woman looked closely at the mannequins, pausing for so long that Molly was tempted to come out and speak with her. Finally, the shopper opened her bag, retrieved a small, black tablet and wrote on it with a stylus. Molly pretended to be busy stacking away clothes, clothes that she’d already stacked, but the shopper saw her watching and so Molly gave her a smile, just like she would to any customer looking in the window. The shopper gave a half smile back, regretfully, Molly thought, and then she walked quickly away towards the train station. When she’d disappeared, Molly stepped outside and looked at the window, trying to see what the shopper saw. Just a clothes shop. She wondered what the shopper had written down.

*

The launch party started slowly, became loud and chaotic for a while and now was fading away. People had come, not just friends. Clothes had sold. But most customers had gone home now. Lissa was still dancing. She’d dressed to match the mannequins in the window. Dave and whatever friends he’d thrown together as a band had finished playing and started drinking. They’d squashed themselves into the space beside the change rooms and one of them had plugged an iPod into the sound system. Dave’s friend Robert had come late, straight from his martial arts class. He was standing by the counter, virtuously staying away from alcohol, his tracksuit out of place among the dresses and jewellery.

Molly sat behind the till, happy and hopeful, watching her friends. She looked out at the night and saw the pink-haired girl in the doorway. Althea, if that really was her name, seemed as though she’d recovered from her distress; she was complete, whole. She was dressed the same as always, although her earrings were red and they glowed just like the ones on the mannequins. She smiled as she stood there, with her head on one side, almost dancing, but not quite. One of the boys noticed and saluted her with a beer. ‘Come in,’ he called. Althea looked longingly at the room for a short while. She shook her head.

‘We won’t bite,’ yelled another of the boys. Tipsy, but friendly. The girl shook her head again, and remained in the doorway. Molly walked over and offered her a drink. Althea smiled, but didn’t take it.

‘It’s only juice,’ said Molly.

‘No,’ said the girl. ‘We can’t, it’s not good …’ She turned away again.

Molly put a hand on her arm. ‘Don’t go,’ she said. ‘You’re here now. Stay for a little while. I’m Molly and I think you’re Althea.’

The pink-haired girl looked at her for a moment, smiled then took a few steps into the room. A raucous cheer greeted her and Lissa danced over. Quiet, Molly wanted to say, you’ll scare her. But Althea began to dance with Lissa, contained, graceful movements that did not completely fit with the music. Some of the boys got up and began to dance too. Lissa led them out into the street. It was raining, very lightly, and the two girls put their hands and faces up, collecting the drops. Molly took Althea’s place in the doorway, watching them all.

Robert left first, then the rest of the boys packed up their gear and drifted away. Dave and Lissa offered to walk Althea home, but Althea shook her head and went back inside. Molly kissed her friends goodbye, then returned to the shop. She found Althea crouched down on the floor by the counter, shaking.

‘You have to go?’ asked Molly. Althea nodded. ‘Back to where I found you?’ Another nod.

Althea pulled herself up and Molly put an arm around her, letting Althea lean on her as they walked out of the shop then across the road to the alcove.

‘I don’t know why I feel so bad, usually I can stay much longer than this.’ Althea looked up at Molly and tried to smile.

‘I’m glad you came,’ said Molly. She wanted to ask why she was here at all if it was so painful to stay, ask if the others were also affected badly. But it seemed too personal a question.

Althea took a step forwards. ‘Don’t look,’ she said. Molly turned her back but she thought she felt Althea leaving. A sense, a vibration. She turned and the girl was gone. Nothing was left but wet pavers and weeds.

*

The First Observer watched the shop from his bench. He could see them better than they could see him and he hadn’t needed to displace out as he feared he might. Even after the girl had helped Wing5 across the street, she had not noticed him sitting there. He would consider the girl’s timeline, find out what he could, see if she had a counterpart on Haled Tor. He walked, slowly as always, over to the alcove and pressed a button on his watch. He did not completely understand Wing5’s distress: but he knew that it was more than physical. She had always known this was coming. At least, she had known if her family had raised her properly. Sometimes families kept it a secret, tried to carry the child away, lose themselves before the time. Sometimes they even tried to kill them. It was not such a terrible life that death was preferable. Perhaps not a life of your choosing, but a life. And there were some rewards. He walked back to the alcove, bracing himself for the shift. There had been no accidents for a long time but he still could not shake the memories of past accidents, the feeling that something would go wrong.

*

The next time she was in Lissa painted the hair of one of the mannequins pink.

‘I only had enough paint for one, but I’m thinking it’s like a tribute. You know, to that strange girl who showed up.’

‘Althea,’ said Molly. ‘I don’t know if she’ll like it.’

‘What’s not to like? It looks really good. And so does she.’

‘It’s not that. It’s just … I think she would be easy to scare away. It might be a bit much for her.’

‘How about I put it here then. By the change rooms. That way if she comes in and sees it, even if she’s scared she’s already here and it would be rude to go.’

Lissa placed the pink-haired mannequin carefully. The display outfits she’d chosen this week were blues and greens with fluro jewellery. It should have looked boring, but, in Lissa’s hands, it didn’t.

‘It does look good,’ said Molly.

‘I know,’ said Lissa. ‘That’s why you love me.’

‘I hope we see her again,’ said Molly.

‘It’s kind of weird, don’t you think?’ said Lissa. ‘Just showing up to dance for a bit.’

Molly shrugged. She wasn’t ready to tell Lissa about the five.

The two of them were out the front of the shop, inspecting the final display, when the boy walked past. He stopped and looked at the window with them.

‘Why only four mannequins now?’ he asked.

‘Well my friend Molly here thinks that I’ve made the other one a wee bit scary.’

‘Can I look?’

Lissa led the boy inside the shop to show him the fifth mannequin. He left his skateboard just inside the front door, resting against the display platform. It looked ordinary enough, black with a red scorpion design underneath and red wheels. Molly followed them in. She looked at his ears – no earrings that she could see.

‘Pink hair?’ he asked.

‘Tribute,’ said Lissa.

‘Okay,’ said the boy.

‘What do you think?’ asked Molly.

The boy shrugged. ‘Put it in the window if you want. I think she’ll like it.’

Lissa grinned. ‘Told you,’ she said.

‘It won’t …’ get her in trouble, Molly wanted to say.

‘Nup,’ said the boy. He grinned at Molly. ‘Later.’ He collected his skateboard and left, heading towards the park.

‘So, we have authorisation,’ said Lissa. She’d already picked up the mannequin and was taking it up to the display window. ‘I want to put her right in the middle.’

Molly stepped obediently into the display window and moved the other mannequins to the side.

2

No matter how often the Wings were told not to deviate from their instructions, they always did. First Wing was tired of reminding them. Wing3 had been foolish today, going in to the shop, although the calculations showed no likely damage. Their role was to make small changes, keeping the two worlds in sync. Small authorised changes. Every change had the potential for catastrophe.

‘You deviated too,’ pointed out Wing3. ‘You got out at St James.’

‘Because she was following me.’

‘Yeah, but you did it, you deviated from your instructions.’

‘No,’ said First Wing, ‘my instructions include the directive to keep our actions secret.’

‘So, that’s why you let Wing5 visit that night.’

‘Wing5 needed something to help her through. The calculations showed—’

‘Yeah right,’ said Wing3.

Don’t say it, thought First Wing, don’t say it’s not fair. Of course it’s not fair. None of this is fair, not to you, not to Wing5, not even to me.

Wing3 didn’t say anything, he just picked up his skateboard and left. There was an hour before lockdown, she could let him go for a while.

The First Observer walked slowly in. She wondered that he could still function. It was time, beyond time, for his upgrade, but he resisted and, as an observer, he had the right to do that. But even moving seemed painful for him now.

‘I’ve looked at her timeline,’ he announced.

‘Wing5?’

‘No,’ said the Observer. ‘The girl, Molly, the one that has befriended Wing5. She has no counterpart.’

‘She followed me last week.’

‘Yes, and the lineshifts your actions caused were not beneficial to the flow.’

‘What choice did I have?’

‘A First Wing is meant to remain calm. Not jump around, not deviate from prescribed actions.’

‘Are you telling me that it is acceptable for her to find out about us?’

‘She has already found out about us,’ said the Observer. He paused for a moment. ‘She is interesting, from a chaos perspective; difficult to pin down. I’d like to find out more about her, let your Wings continue to interact with her, see what we can discover.’

‘As you wish,’ replied First Wing.

‘I have your future actions.’

First Wing retrieved her tablet from the table and passed it to the Observer. He held it carefully in his right hand and briefly placed his left hand down on the surface. He handed the tablet back to First Wing and bowed stiffly.

*

Wing5 stood in front of the shop window. It was late and the window was not lit, but Wing3 had been right, it was worth the visit. She looked at the mannequin version of herself. There was still a little silver showing through the pink hair which made it shine. Maybe she could do that, thought Wing5, though she wouldn’t want it that short. Not that she would get away with it. Even though First Wing seemed to be in a mood to bend the rules at the moment, you couldn’t change anything about yourself. Not while you were in deployment. And when you weren’t, it didn’t really matter.

She looked for the bot Wing3 said he had left. It should probably have grown enough to be visible by now. If she kept still? Yes, there it was in the far corner. A tiny, red spider on one of the mannequin’s faces. It had found a way to get inside that mannequin. A good place to hide. Wing3 said he just wanted it to look around, but Wing5 thought he was trying for observer status. Better than being a Wing. Being told what to do, where to go. Most of it seemed meaningless, although they were told over and over and over that a small action could have a large consequence. Small actions, unobserved, are the best path. She did not understand why they had to look the same way, always, why only some people would become Wings. Why you had no choice. Did it really matter if their world was not in step with this one? There were times Wing5 hated this world.

She crossed the street together and stood in the alcove. She touched her bracelet and the aperture opened. Shifting wasn’t so bad this time. Probably because she hadn’t left it too long.

*

Robert had persuaded Molly to practise Wushu in the park early, before the shop opened. He’d cornered her at the launch party and it had seemed impossible to say no. The old one hadn’t been there when they’d started, but about halfway through she’d noticed him shuffle up to the bench and sit down. He was ahead of his usual schedule, almost as if he’d known she would be here.

‘Morning,’ said Robert when they finished their session.

‘Morning,’ said the old one. ‘Is that something you could teach me?’

‘Sure, maybe modify the moves a bit.’

‘Not now,’ said the old one, ‘but I am due for … rejuvenation soon.’

‘Well, let me know.’

Molly and Robert left the old one sitting on the bench.

‘You can’t teach him; he can hardly walk,’ said Molly.

‘Maybe he’s been undergoing some kind of therapy that’s knocked him

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