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A dangerous business...

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Warm-white walls, the plaster sometimes cracked and fallen to show the brick behind it. Bela smiles when she sees them, considers taking a tiny hammer and paint scraper to other parts of the plaster, hunting for more brick. Then thinks, maybe better to let the building distress itself. Distress. De-stress. When she'd turned up on the doorstep at Skin Deep, Bela had been stressed and distressed. Fucking angry, to be frank. And then a whirlwind of familiar strangers had swept her up and danced her about her transplant-home like a leaf or a plastic bag. And it was alright. She felt like a freshly whitewashed wall--clean and bright, and a little caustic.

Sunlight through the windows, all glazed again, and either crystal-clear or freckled merrily with paint. How she loved the windows in this building, and the dust motes through the light. The quiet song of floorboards as she crossed the room. The drops of paint gleaming roundly against the grey-brown grain. You beautiful imperfect thing.

Tattoo, she had come for; paint, she found. Got to know a person more than I'm known before you'll let them put a needle to you. Bela thought. Right and proper. So instead of ink under flesh, she'd been keeping herself awake with paint on leather, on cloth, on canvas, on paper. On any damn thing she could put hands on. Henna-red diamonds and dots on all the doorframes, eyes to watch. Green and gold wheat-stalks up the second-floor's cupboards, may they never be empty. Paisleys and spirals in blue, maroon, violet, emerald, turquoise on tables and chairs--speak, listen, entwine, understand. A spotless and otherwise-Spartan place, echoing.

Well, you do it to yourself, you know. Spend enough time rattling around in your own skull, you'll clean it like an ant, came the whisper in the back of Bela's mind.

You're right, she answered it, I should get out.

Fuck "should". Do it or don't.

Bela nodded, and snagged a knapsack.


"Pack your cranebag with the things you'll need on your journey," I remember reading somewhere. Only the journey in question, there, was one inside the soul. So I--occasionally literal, dense I--wasn't wholly clear on how physical supplies not consumed by one's own flesh could be of use in dreamspace. Shall I set it beside me as I lie in my cave and wander? I can walk away from my purse in a restaurant; what odds I'd forget to dream it with me There? So do I pack the bag in the vision, instead? No guarantees, there, either--dreamspace and my memory are flightly things. When is a book not a book? When you reach into your bag for it and find a grass snake. My luck. But what if it's the grass snake you need more than the book? comes my little voice's quick reply, and part of me nods, true. And part of me wonders when it will quit pounding me about the shoulders with "you already have all you need within you. You always have." Probably when I actually manage to pull THAT out of the bag, shaped like an apple, and eat it.

I stow an apple, cold and green, in one of my knapsack's pockets. Then stop, follow the wordless whim, and stuff three more in behind it. You never know when you'll need to share. Honey goes in too, and I smile at someone else's memory of a leather bag full of tea and honey. Tea. Bags of tea into a handleless tin cup, and we'll pass it around if it's the only one.

We? Now wait a minute...

No, don't. Keep packing; you'll find you want these things, out there, and you'll wish you'd brought them.

Alright, fine. Change of clothes while we're at it? A shirt and socks, a towel. The towel between the clothing and the honey. You never know. What else?

Matches and lint. A bottle of water. A small jar of salt. Bread from Jack's, gods, so good.

The pack of cigarettes he'd forgotten in the car.

I stop, staring at the cellophane wrapper, at my shaking hand. I'd found his wallet, there, too, when I was unloading things. A worn leather castoff with two fives and a stranger's business card within. Under the passenger seat. Debris from a previous life. The wallet went into my pocket; I'd needed one and he was done with it. But the cigarettes... Hnh. Hadn't realised those were still here. I peel the hissing plastic away from the box and drop it--and his scent--into the rubbish bin beside me. Watch it drift down, cling to the liner. Tuck the box in between the honey and the salt. Something to clean a wound, something to seal it.


The shiver's gone from my hand to my spine; I'm cold inside, but ready. And if I'm not ready, I'll figure something out on the way.

It's down the stairs with me and out the door. The crows are wheeling in the sky, their usual evening Krähenmoot. Thing? Moot. I wonder whether I left the third floor windows open for them, then shrug. They survived before the building grew. Blow them a kiss, then, and head for the treeline.

Where shall I put my feet?

Guide me there and safely back again, will you?
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