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27 October 2008 @ 04:22 pm
Amber Revamp  
Yessirree Bob, per richelle2972's request that I show you lovelies whatever I ended up with, this is the new version of Amber. If you'd like to skip to the entirely new sections, they're the now-third and now-fifth, counting the introduction as the first section.

There's also a new chapter of The Dawn of Remembered Time today, though I'm trying to convince myself that doing all the other fic-spamming I want to will (a) annoy the b'jesus out of eltea and (b) postpone my doomed essay even further. Frigging essay. God. It's on one of the densest novels I've ever read, and I just do not want to do it. XD I may cop out and do the easier book, but there's so much more in this one; it's just that it requires more brain than I have after being up late... again... and just sucking at life in general. (The book is The Gangster We Are All Looking For, if anyone's now curious. It's really interesting, just... I don't want to write a paper on it. -____-')

In other news, I really am going to show you Amber once I shut up about everything else. This is it, folks. If I don't get into the class with this one, I think I'm going to stop trying. This is the best I can do. If that's not good enough for the class, then I'm not, and I should quit wasting everyone's time.

...like yours! :D

The sun slides downward as though the evening sky can’t bear its weight, and dust motes dance, sparking like stars, in the warmth of the honeyed amber light that pours through the windowpane.

It is in this golden-tinted world, in this breathless query of dusk, that a current of something stirs—something softer than electricity; something realer than suspicion; something that peers through the frosted windows of inexplicability with curious, glowing eyes.

On nights when the boy is gone, when he’s off travelling with his family, when the place has at last been left to its own devices, the last flirtatious turns of twilight coax the inhabitants of the bedroom into life.

“Damn it, Joe,” the blonde says, stretching improbable legs that taper delicately into tiny, slender, almost halfhearted feet. “We’ve got twenty more minutes before I have to go, and I don’t want to spend them watching you stare at yourself in the mirror.”

“What’s the rush?” Joe drawls, turning with a roguish grin and running a hand over the chestnut-colored helmet of his hair. “That leaves us fifteen minutes to spare.”

Joe!” she cries, succumbing to the girlish, bubbling laugh that ripples over and through him like nothing else he’s ever found. She tugs the sheets a little higher and eyes him, perfect pink lips curling upward at the corners, until he can’t stand it anymore and joins her, settling his head on the puffy breadth of the cotton-stuffed pillow. He lies there quietly, just looking at her, as a few long seconds sidle away—her wide, exquisite eyes; her slightly upturned nose; cheekbones like altars he can lay his kisses on.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

She’s less of a bimbo than most people think.

He frowns and smoothes the sheet, focusing intently on the futility of the task. “Nothing,” he promises. “I’m fine.”

“Joe,” she repeats, running a fingertip along the sleek line of his jaw. “Come on.”

“It’s just…” He sighs. “I know it’s stupid, but it just gets under my skin…” She waits, eyebrows angled expectantly, and he folds his arms behind his head and gazes at the ceiling. “I hate it,” he tells her reluctantly, “when people call me a ‘doll.’”

There is a long pause.

“I’m an action figure,” he insists. “How hard is it?”

Barbie brings a manicured hand to her forehead. “You’re a doll,” she says.

“I am not!”

Tinkertoy towers stretch their brightly-colored arms skyward, plastic beams converging in round yellow joints that bear an unforgivable resemblance to wheels of cheese. In the darkness they fade to lackadaisical tones, as if they don’t care about themselves either.

Catherine, a slender doll with hands buried deep in the pockets of her worn old coat, strides briskly down the silent avenue, casting furtive, darting glances at the gangly structures and their mismatched geometries. She’s always hated this part of the Closet District. There’s something unnatural about it, something unspoken and unspecified, something in the brush of the air, in the expansive darkness, in the nebulous shapes that make up a pendent wardrobe of cavernous folds. She always feels as if the other shoe is about to fall, as if a vast, crushing sole hovers inches above her head, and she just… can’t… see it…

She half-turns to look over her shoulder, her sleek brown hair sliding about her ears, but there’s nothing but the dark lines of shadow that the distant ceiling-scrapers paint on the ground below. A sigh of relief bubbles in her chest, but she swallows it, ignoring the way it sticks, because she’s a grown woman, and it’s just silly to suspect…

Footfalls ptat on the hardwood-pavement. Catherine freezes stiller than a Play-Doh opus left out in the air, her instinct urging her to listen closely and to trace the source of the sound—but then she realizes that knowing what’s there isn’t going to save her from it.

She doesn’t want to give an object to that pronoun.

She runs.

Her footsteps sound like raindrops—fragile, erratic, and doomed, splattering-pattering—and she refuses to think about it, refuses to speculate, refuses to look back, because it will only slow her down. She thinks of the heralds’ warnings and the extra officers and the occasional flash of a newspaper headline, stark black letters coiling on a scrap of white to spell out murders and carnage and officials are unsure

Her pursuer gives chase, and the echoes of their stuttering steps twine in an ungodly harmony, a hymn to the looming presence of the towers above, to the dark night and the cold world, to the wretched persistence of the unknown and the unthinkable—and Catherine clutches her purse and runs, because she doesn’t want to become a newspaper clipping, and because Gavin can’t make it alone.

The certainty rings in the pounding of her shoes—cannot cannot cannot—and drags her forward faster than she could ever move unaided. The it behind her relinquishes after a few minute-hours, but Catherine doesn’t stop running until she’s reached the shoebox condos. The contours of the first rung of the plastic K’nex ladder are cool beneath her shaking hand, and she leans her forehead against the side of the cardboard building until her breathing evens and her heartbeat settles.

She feels safe here, squarely within the king’s jurisdiction again, inside this imaginary aegis she shores around them because there’s nothing else to keep them safe.

The ladder ferries her up to the right box, and when she crawls in, Gavin is sitting cross-legged in the ancient plastic armchair, the tip of his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth, with one of his school books sprawled in his lap. His russet hair looks licorice-black in the dimness of the room, and she fumbles with the switch on the lamp, murmuring something about him ruining his eyes.

Catherine just looks at her boy for a long moment, the little light-bulb picking out honey-colored ribbons in his hair, and thinks that everything will be all right. It has to. In this little boy’s world, it must.

Nibbly wrinkles his nose, which is twitching madly to start with.

“But that doesn’t make a lick of sense,” he declares stoutly, long ears stretched along the curve of his back.

Speaking of licking, Amber’s going at her right paw with a vengeance. Dotty makes a face. Cats are so gross.

“It makes perfect sense,” Sly retorts, piqued, his broad tail flicking back and forth. “Some—thing—some giant thing—must live here. Look at the furniture in the king’s villa. It’s all the same objects, but on a significantly smaller scale.”

Nibbly snorts once before going back to twitching. “That doesn’t mean anything,” he sniffs. “It’s perfectly possible that the monarchs took a series of ancient ruins as the model for their interior design. It’s—what do they say?—retro.”

Shaking her head, Dotty folds her front paws and lays her head on them, looking absently out over the view from their preferred mesa. Thomas and Percy trundle contentedly around the great loop of the wooden railroad, delivering freight and toting any passengers that can fit in the cars from one end of the room to the other. A Lego woman scrambles down from the last boxcar, clutching a miniature suitcase in one semi-circular hand, and lopes clumsily across the platform to embrace a Lego man with glaringly red hair. He appears to have donned a tuxedo-clad torso for the occasion, and the woman pitches her luggage aside so that the two can kiss as passionately as a pair of cylindrical yellow faces will permit.

Dotty attends the ongoing argument behind her with one glossy black ear.

“—furthermore, anyone who believes in giants is clearly a few beans short of his stuffing—”

“I think,” Sly snarls, “that the material meant for your brain got channeled into those ridiculous ears instead.”

Dotty thinks it’s rather brave—well, mostly stupid—of Nibbly to fight with Sly. The fox could eat him, after all.

“Amber,” Nibbly interjects abruptly.

“Mmm?” the feline prompts lazily, pink felt tongue pushing her fur into place.

“What do you think?” Nibbly presses.

“I think you’re both wrong,” Amber replies blithely, curling her tail around her, triangular ears swiveling as if to transmit a message in some strange version of semaphore.

“Who do you think left all of this here, then?” Sly inquires archly, short snout arranged in a scowl.

Amber returns her attention to her paw.

“Aliens,” she answers simply.

Dotty rolls her eyes. Cats.

Leon settles, leaning back and tugging uselessly at his hat, but the standard-issue cap doesn’t budge. Leon supposes that he ought to expect as much, given that, as with most accessories, it is designed to snap on and stay there.

Such is the curse of Playmobilism.

He toys idly with the vibrant orange spikes of his hair where they dangle about his neck, his gun lying absently next to him on the Duplo bench like a misplaced baton. Beyond the wall of the palace where he is stationed, silk flowers bloom eternally and plastic fern fronds jut up from their bases. Leon wrinkles his nose—well, the place where a nose would be; there isn’t actually anything there—and composes retorts to the things that Captain Joe bellowed at him earlier.

Was it a crime to attempt to employ one’s firearm as a pogo stick? Leon thought not. It probably wasn’t in the handbook, at any rate.

Besides, it totally worked, which should have justified it anyway.

Leon frowns. Some people wouldn’t know innovation if it bit them in the rear and then peed on their shoes.

“You are gravely misusing a weapon assigned you at the government’s expense—”

“The hell with that,” Leon mutters. “If the government was poor, they couldn’t afford to hire the uppity likes of you—ha!”

“This is dangerous and disrespectful—”

“You are ugly, and you stink!” Leon ripostes crisply. “I can smell you from here, and I don’t even have a nose!”

“Worst of all, you are violating the basic principles upon which this honor guard is founded!”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Leon finishes triumphantly, “that I’m not violating your mother!”

Though the flowers and the ferns don’t seem to be particularly moved by this stunning rhetoric, Leon thinks it’s a pretty good effort. So what if Joe’s their superior? He still shouldn’t be able to talk down to them (quite literally) in that high-minded (literally again) way that he does. Sniffing primly to himself, Leon thinks that if he were suddenly and inexplicably promoted to Joe’s position, he certainly wouldn’t count himself better than all the poor fools who’d signed up for the pay—or, rather, the pittance.

Actually, thinking about it… he’d probably lampoon them mercilessly and then lambaste anyone with a bizarre aspiration towards pogo stick proficiency.

Damn it, he’s gone and done that thing that he does, where he takes a stroll in someone else’s shoes (this time not literally, since his own shoes are attached to his legs and can’t really be replaced with somebody else’s).

Leon sighs and gropes for his pogo st—paradigm of sophisticated weapons technology, which he tucks under his arm just in case.

He supposes things aren’t too screwy, all told. At least, no screwier than usual.

Darien isn’t like the other servants of the king’s household: their plastic skins glimmer in the light cast by tiny electric bulbs, but he reflects nothing. He’s a soft doll, handmade from soft cloth, and his heart is the softest thing of all.

His pale porcelain face, framed as it is with silky black hair, doesn’t betray him as he stands beside Ken’s armchair, awaiting instruction. The regal monarch’s broad shoulders shift as he leans to balance an elbow on the armrest, chin resting on his fist, humming deep in his throat the way he always does when he’s thinking carefully.

Darien would be careful, too, if he had to negotiate with this blank-faced killer. Mis, as the bear is known, stands with rounded feet spread apart, paws folded calmly behind its back, and where buttons might once have winked for eyes, there remain only two dimples where the stitches lay.

Mis for misfit, maybe; for misguided, for mistake.

Darien tries not to shudder. He doesn’t know whether the creature can see him or not. He’d always heard that the teddy bears make shockingly good assassins, but he’s never seen one lounge in the king’s audience room, listening unconcernedly as he is charged with crimes the likes of which will slither into Darien’s nightmares.

The problem is that the king’s jurisdiction only legally extends to dolls—those were the stipulations of the original charter, and they’re ingrained by now. Muttered reports of missing stuffed animals and wisps of stray cotton fluff bouncing like tumbleweeds through the Disney Sector won’t change the charter.

Darien looks uncertainly to the king, whose rich brown eyes are locked on the irrepressibly indifferent visage of the murderer (for Darien knows the thing is guilty; knows it in the plush of his gut), his steady fingers half-curled about his strong chin. Dark bangs slide wearily over a forehead furrowed like a plowed field.

Darien wishes he could sow that field with kisses, wishes he could stroke it gently until the wrinkles went away.

Before the king can offer a verdict, the door wheezes open, and the queen saunters in. Guards draw the monster back, as if he’ll attack her right here and now, felling her with a single sightless glare.

Her ornamented slippers peep out from beneath the hem of her glinting sequined dress with every step, and the glee that dances in her eyes tells Darien where she’s been.

When it comes to Darien, people tend to conclude that if he doesn’t speak his thoughts, it must be because he doesn’t have any thoughts to speak.

He used to hate her, this bright-eyed siren who now bends at the waist to put her assets on display as she presses sculpted lips to Ken’s cheek. But he’s come to pity her, because her sapphire eyes are somehow blind to the beauty of what she has. He thinks that someday she will realize how terrible she’s been, and he wonders with a fascinated horror whether it will break her.

She will never realize, however, that there is nothing he wouldn’t give to have Ken look at him that way. No one will.

Over a thousand and one sleepless nights, he has fumbled his way to the explanation. Ken is just too good to think that a woman could flash a dazzling smile to hide her fangs. For all his dexterity in governing the realm, for all his shrewd and discerning decisions, when it comes to matters of love, there is a heartbreaking naïveté in Darien’s king. Ken believes that everyone in the world is as faithful, as loyal, and as pure as he.

Barbie takes her place by her husband—the word bears a familiar sting—and smiles demurely. Ken wouldn’t give her up if she was selling herself on the streets to fund a cocaine habit. (Not that Darien’s ever seen cocaine, and not that it would really make sense for a plastic doll to start using it, but the verity of the statement stands.)

Darien thinks his heart, wherever it lies in his narrow, meagerly-stuffed chest, must be made of unfired clay, for it has crumbled and re-formed more times than he can count.

Anakin Skywalker knows he’s not actually Anakin Skywalker—or, rather, that he’s not the only Anakin Skywalker. He’s seen the back of his box. There’s a podracer edition with a removable helmet, and there are Anakins that are much older and have—get this—lightsabers.

It’s kind of weird to be jealous of himself. Or sort-of-himself. Or whatever it is exactly…

Sometimes his multiple identities make him feel profoundly inadequate. He’s spent long hours staring at his little backpack with its rubber straps, cradling the tiny black gun that fits into his fingers like it was made for his hand, and wondering what it means to be an individual.

But he forgets all of those depressing thoughts in an instant as he and Darth Maul (who has a wicked lightsaber and sometimes lets him whack things with it) go hurtling across the bed, leaping over creases and folds like canyons. They race towards the headboard, knowing the pillows will defeat them and pretending they won’t, but they don’t get that far anyway—their spindly legs fail them as a lump in the bedspread sends them both tumbling head over heels, and they land in twin stiff-jointed heaps, howling with laughter before they’ve even stopped bouncing.

Anakin gasps for breath and glances over at his best friend, whose sinister black-and-red-painted face is lit up with a broad grin.

The Maulmeister is a pretty cool guy, if you can get past the black robes, the red-rimmed yellow eyes, and the demon horns.

Anakin doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

Sunrise.

The distant hills yield a burning disc to the grasping clouds. Amber light tinged with a rosy pink flushes through the glass, and the bedroom stills again.

…until sunset.



 
 
Feeling: anxiousanxious
On the Radio: "Wanted Dead or Alive" - Bon Jovi
 
 
 
richelle2972richelle2972 on October 28th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for letting me see it! I love the additions! : ) I hope the teacher finally appreciates what a wonderful writer you are and lets you into the class.
Vitamin C: Matsudatierfal on October 28th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
You betcha! :D

The fact that this is a different teacher than the one to whose class I applied last time might help, too. ^^ Guess we'll have to see. XD