18 March 2007
By the time Alice woke me, she was fully dressed and had breakfast from Dunkin sitting on my nightstand. She was sitting next to me, drinking her coffee, and poking me until I rolled over.
“What time is it?” I muttered. She looked over at the clock on my dresser.
“Almost noon,” she said. I groaned and pulled myself up to sit against the wall, and she handed me a chai and a bag. “Today is a workout day for you, right?”
“Uh, yeah, why?”
“I want to try something. Tell me, have you ever worked out with someone else? Like at a gym or something?”
“Jackie has hung out and chatted while I was lifting,” I answered, fishing out some hashbrowns from the bag.
“No, I mean, where they were also working out and you could tell how much weight they were lifting. Have you ever spotted someone?”
“Oh. No. Why, you want to get in on it?”
“No, I was just wondering if you had a frame of reference for what people your size and weight generally can lift.”
“I’ve never thought about it.”
“I have!” She hopped off the bed, set the coffee down, and rested her hands on her hips. “You know those tables you moved in the Hudson library normally take two men with some equipment to lift and move?” I shook my head. “I have a theory about this, but I need actual numbers.”
“And that means you need to monitor my workout routine?”
“Not just your workout routine. I need you to push yourself. I need your actual limits. You think you’re up for that today?”
“I’m not up for much of anything until I’ve eaten this sandwich.”
“You and I both know that’s not true,” she said with a wry smile. I chuckled.
“Okay, well. I’m not up for anything outside of this bed until I’ve had my breakfast.” She sat back down and grabbed a second bag, from which she produced another sandwich for herself.
“That’s fine. When you’re ready, we’ll head downstairs. I already have a clipboard with my notes on it waiting there.”
“How long have you been up?”
“Just eat your food.”
It was the weirdest workout I’ve ever had. Dad had, of course, been present when he was teaching me how to do it, and Alice herself sometimes hung around and occasionally her and Jackie would trade commentary, but this was the first time anyone actively checked every single thing I did and checked my heart rate between things and wrote stuff down and sometimes made thoughtful noises without telling me what the hell she was doing. Jackie found the whole thing fascinating, and made a point to hang around and occasionally look over Alice’s shoulder and whisper something to her, which sometimes elicited another thoughtful noise from Alice and more notes. It was, frankly, hard to concentrate with all that going on. I did what she asked, and pushed myself on certain exercises to see where my limit was, and when I was finally done she told me she needed to check and finalize her notes while I got a shower and we could talk afterward. So I went to do that, and when I was done she and Jackie were sitting in the living room waiting for me.
“So,” I said, sitting down and lighting a smoke, “what’s the verdict?”
“Okay, so first off, you lift way more than you should be able to,” Alice said. “I mean, okay, so this isn’t my specialty within biology, but I’ve been looking up numbers for comparison. And there are different classes of ability one can have in weightlifting, so I’m using the ‘advanced’ numbers for you since you’ve been at this for a while.”
“Uh huh. And?”
“And you’re generally lifting much higher weights than those numbers! Your normal routine is almost twice as heavy as the standard for an advanced weightlifter of your size, and your limits are similar.”
“This was all related to a theory, I thought you said.”
“Yes! Okay, so I don’t know if I can account for it physically. I’d have to do a whole battery of tests to be certain about that, but your muscles aren’t more defined and don’t seem more dense than someone with more standard numbers.”
“What are you basing that on?”
“I know what your body feels like, dear. But the point is, and I’d have to check some other factors to be certain, but I was talking to Jackie about the ontological gap, and I think what’s happening is that your spiritual aspect is so closely infused with your physical aspect that it grants you additional physical power. I’d like to compare these numbers to Benedict some time, since he should have more of his spiritual nature infused into his physical nature—”
“Well, no. I don’t know if Akshainie follows the same rules. She’s a naga, her physical form is generated by her own magic, so it wouldn’t necessarily follow the same biological structures, you know?”
“Okay well I don’t think her results would help me understand the matter more because she’s fundamentally not human, even when she looks human.”
“Well!” Jackie said, slapping her knees and then standing. “It’s about time for me to head to work. You two have fun! I’d love to hear more about this when you have more data!” And then she was gone, and Alice was putting her notes aside.
“So what now?”
“Oh, nothing,” Alice said. “I’ll have to determine my testing parameters and what specifically I need to do to see if my theory is correct, which I’m not going to do now.”
“Oh, alright. You wanna go out or something, then?”
“No.” She leaned back, crossed her legs, and rested her hands on her knee. “I want you to tell me about Lori and Hecate.”
31 october 2004
I helped clean up the apartment and run to the store with Jacob to grab drinks for the party before vanishing into the restroom to change into my costume. My options were limited, since I had to pack everything I'd need in my regular luggage for the trip, and I decided to go as an android. A pretty simple shirt I made at home with a couple drawn panels and buttons, gray pants, some stage makeup. I shaved off my facial hair alone, but Jackie helped me shave my arms and apply the makeup to look as plastic as I could. I agreed to help her in exchange, and once I was ready, I relinquished the room to her. After about ten minutes she called me in, and I found her sitting on the side of the tub with fabric bunched at her waist and laying over her lap, holding up a towel to cover her chest and her bare back turned toward me. I closed the door.
"I can't apply the paint on my back," she said, indicating with her free hand to the water-based paints on the sink. "Just a solid color is fine, if you want." I looked at the four colors on the sink, three different blues and an off-white.
"Are you doing solid color everywhere else?"
"No, I was going for a water effect. See?" She switched hands and showed me the other one, and I saw that she had figured out the design on the back of her hand. I pulled up the little step stool and grabbed the brush.
"Then I'll go for that." She nodded, returned her hand to her towel, and straightened up. I opened the first blue, then stopped. "This seems an awful lot like you've decided to trust me, after all."
"I'm considering it." I chuckled and began to paint. It took me almost twenty minutes to do her design, with occasional feedback when she'd turn to look at the mirror beside us, and then I was kicked out again so she could finish the rest. By the time she emerged a half hour or so after that, I was helping set up drinks in the kitchen. She was a nymph, a white gown standing out against the watery look of her painted skin. I stopped as I watched her walk toward us. "You alright, there?" she finally asked, stopped in front of me.
"Sorry, I...water-themed things catch my attention."
"Maybe it's that bit of river in your blood," she offered, absently poking the buttons on the chest of my costume.
"Well. Just don't blow a circuit over it," she said, pushing me back slightly and then walking away. Jacob sidled up to me as she left earshot.
"So you two seem to be getting rather close," he said.
"She's playing a nymph, Jacob." I turned back to the drinks and resumed my duties. "It's part of the shtick."
"Yeah, well. I guess we'll see if she plays one for anyone else," he said, laughing as he turned back to his task.
30 october 2004
Jackie had to run to the restaurant to pick up her paycheck, and had invited me to come along. So I got ready, and went to wait near the door to the fire escape, and found myself growing bored when she was taking longer than expected to grab things downstairs. I went to lean on the wall, and the only open space I could find was the slender patch of wall between the haunted bathroom and Jacob's bedroom. Neither was occupied, so I took it. While leaning my head back against the wall, I closed my eyes.
Instead of the normal black, it looked like I was staring at a wall of water. Just beneath, or behind, the surface was a young woman. Her green eyes were locked on mine, her blond hair floating out in every direction. Between some shadows falling on the water, and the rippling surface, and the fact that I couldn't quite look away from her eyes, it was hard to make out the rest of her form. I could feel, more than hear, her calling out for help.
I snapped my eyes open and stood for a moment, looking around. The apartment looked normal, though no one was on this floor, so I turned and went into the bathroom without bothering to turn on the lights. I left the door open so Jackie could find me if she came by while I was there. I walked slowly around the little space that was available, looking for some sign of the ghost, or anything out of place. What caught my eye were some of the tiles on the wall near the ceiling. I stepped up onto the side of the tub and looked at a small patch of them, a different color and faded less than the ones around them. When I looked across I saw a matching set of tiles on the other wall. I reached up to touch the tiles next to me, and when I did I found my hand suddenly inside a shower curtain bar that hadn't existed a moment earlier.
The room was brightly lit, the tiles on the wall looked much more new, and the shower curtain was passing through my body. I turned and saw the young woman from the hall, sitting naked in the full bathtub and crying. She was leaning forward a bit, her face nearly on her knees, and I could just barely see that her stomach was interfering ever so little. She sniffled and looked up, her eyes locking onto mine. I suddenly knew what was happening, why she was crying, who put that baby in her. A shadow appeared, looming in the shower curtain, and she reached out to me. I returned the gesture, my hand passing through hers just before the curtain closed on her.
It was her father, using the curtain to muffle her as he shoved her backwards under the water. I screamed and took a swing at him, which accomplished nothing. She struggled, and as he fought her, the shower curtain bar tore out of the wall. I lunged at him, trying my hardest to be felt, to do something, and crashed headfirst onto the floor.
I rolled onto my back, holding my head and groaning. When I opened my eyes, I found I was laying in the middle of the bathroom floor, the lights off, alone. I slowly got to my feet and looked at the empty bathtub, before turning and leaving the room.
"You alright?" Jacob asked, standing in front of the couch. "I heard a crash."
"I'm fine, yeah, where's Jackie?"
"She went outside looking for you," he said, pointing to the fire escape door. I nodded and headed out as fast as I could manage. Jackie was there, smoking a cigarette and checking her watch.
"There you are!" she said, turning at the sound of the door. I walked over and grabbed her shoulders, staring her in the eye.
"I know what happened to Alethea."
28 october 2004
When I woke up yesterday I got to meet everyone and then we went to a diner a few blocks over for breakfast. It seems they go there a lot, we had breakfast there today, too.
I spent the rest of the day yesterday hanging out with Jacob and his roommates, mostly the girl on the other couch. Her name is Jackie, and apparently she's a witch. Basically everyone here are Wiccans or druids or some sort of neo-pagan, though Jackie specifically said she mostly does traditional stuff from her family in Mexico and Central America. I don't know if there's a name for that.
We hung out a lot. She had a short shift, and we're the only people here who smoke (which we have to do outside on a fire escape, so we tended to go together), so I saw a lot more of her than of basically anyone else. The highlight of the day was definitely the marathon of some ghost hunter show we watched. They asked if I'd seen it, and I said I hadn't heard about it because I don't actually have tv stations at home, and Jacob insisted it would be something I'd enjoy. I gave it a shot, it was pretty fun, but it seemed pretty obvious that half of it was just them overreacting to things that weren't really there.
Jackie asked me about ghosts and we talked a little bit. She told me the one bathroom is haunted here, and I told her I can see ghosts when they're kicking around. I haven't noticed one in the bathroom yet, but time seems weird in the metaphysical realm so maybe she just isn't there all the time. There is absolutely a ghost roaming around outside, though. Dude seems pissed. I've tried to avoid paying him enough attention to really know his deal, because he seems the sort that just will not leave me alone if he realizes I can see and hear him. He's not speaking English, so there's only so much I can make out, but based on his behavior and the general look of him I think maybe he was here before the city was and is not happy with what we've done with the place.
I kinda get it, honestly.
Anyway. Today was her day off so her, Jacob, and I went downtown and acted all touristy and I got to eat a proper deep-dish Chicago pizza, so that was fun. When we were walking around, Jacob started by telling me what everything was, the usual sights and that. Then an alley caught my attention and I mentioned it and Jackie got all excited because it looked interesting and Jacob tagged along but he was more quiet after that and Jackie and I ended up carrying on about the weird bits of the city that caught our attention and magic and ghosts and how spirits in the city are different from spirits in the country. If I'm honest, I think I'm starting to get along better with Jackie than Jacob. Like, Jacob and I, we joke around and stuff and we have history through this game, but it really seems like in person her and I have more in common. I think he's noticed, but he doesn't seem to mind. I hope. That would be pretty rude of me if he did, right?
27 october 2004
I arrived in Chicago today, met Jacob at O'Hare. It was early, far too early for either of us to do much talking. We rode the L to his apartment, a two-story affair near Loyola University, where everyone was asleep. In order to avoid waking anyone, we slipped in quietly, and he informed me that he had a late night and that he would like to get some rest. I told him that I had, as well, and was up early for my flight, so I wouldn't mind. I just didn't know where I was staying.
He showed me to the living room, which had two large couches in it occupying two adjacent walls and connected by a small table. On one, a figure hidden behind long black hair and a heavy blanket lay sound asleep; the other would be my spot for the week. Jacob's room was the only other one on the top floor, next to the bathroom, and he bid me a good rest and slipped away. I watched my temporary roommate for any sign of stirring for a moment before changing into my pajama pants and crawling under the provided covers.
The blog of John Matteson.