The Making of Friends

I’d like to make a few comments before posting this. I mentioned a post or two ago that I was having trouble with a short work entitled Disciple of the Gauntlet.

Well, I kept having trouble with it, and found two of the reasons that I kept struggling were these: First, it was very long, and really more of two short stories that were only slightly related stuck together. Second, it felt more like part of a novel than a short story, which isn’t a huge problem, except that I was trying to make each individual thing self-contained.

Both of these problems stem from the fact that I wanted the readers to be able to read the story on it’s own, and still get it without having to read any of the other stories to do with Artifice. Well, I decided to forget that, and just fix the problem. Here lies the first of the two quasi-related stories, entitled The Making of Friends, and it is at least slightly recommended that you have read both The Glory of God and The Trick to Fish prior to reading this, although it is most certainly not necessary.

As a final note, if this feels a little half-finished, that is because, really, the stories of Sera and Terri are part of a larger work, and thus the story isn’t finished yet. Perhaps not that beneficial in the realm of short story, but this is stretching boundaries all over the place anyway, so here’s the bit-of-novel/short-fiction, The Making of Friends.

———————————————–

The first time Sera met Terri, was at the Pike Place Market, when Sera had been idly watching the show, and accidentally beaned Terri with a crab.

It had happened fast, and Sera hadn’t quite realized the significance of what had taken place that day. She had, as usual, been using her specs. She had just turned sixteen, and had gotten a new pair for her birthday the week previous. Her old specs had been clunky and too big—like those massive goggles that kids wore at the pool before they learned how to keep water from going up their nose. These were much better—they were to her old specs what a crotch rocket is to a little pink tricycle with streamers coming off the handlebars. Even sitting still on her face, they looked like they were going fast.

The gauntlet that had come with them wasn’t bad, either—great processing power, and a much more reliable wireless signal, so it was always in contact with the specs. Her old glove had looked like something an old lady would use for pulling weeds. This was a proper gauntlet—encased her arm halfway to her elbow, and was streamlined so that, for all the thing’s bulk, it didn’t look like she had a sledgehammer instead of an arm.

Sera had been watching the show from afar, using her specs to zoom in and record some of the more entertaining bits. She normally didn’t stop by Pike Place, because it had become a tourist trap over the years, and she didn’t like crowds. After all, she almost always had her specs on, and was at least a little more prone to run into other people than the normal pedestrian. She tried to stay away from streets, too, in case she took a real car for something that her specs showed her, and waltzed in front of it.

Today, though, she was shopping for a present for mom, and Mrs. Bevens was quite partial to the hand-made preserves that the stand just down the street from the fish market sold. She had stopped by, jam in one hand and gauntlet in the other, to watch the fish market just for old time’s sake.

She almost didn’t see the crab coming. It must have slipped from someone’s hand, because it was on a collision course from her head, and she only caught the tail end of one of its pinchers in her telescoped vision.

Pure instinct—Sera had always had good instincts, and good hand-eye coordination—made her reach up and catch the thing with a gauntleted hand before she knew what was fully going on, which earned her a small round of applause. With a few flicks of her pinky and a twist of her wrist, her specs became as translucent as normal glasses and left her staring at a pair of black goggled eyes on stalks like black marbles each glued to a bit of red macaroni. She gave a girlish scream, and flung it back in the direction it had come from.

That haphazard throw ended up changing the entire course of her life, because the crab had flown strait and true, and skipped off Terri’s surprised face like a piece of shale skipping off a pond. The tall girl—who at first, Sera thought looked more like a puppeteer’s marionette, stretched out lengthwise—fell over in a mess of gangly limbs, strawberry-blond hair, and orange waders.

Sera actually had the grace to look embarrassed when Terri got to her feet, stalked from behind a stand of ice-packed squid and up to her.

“You throw this crab?” she asked, holding up the offending crustacean at her.

Terri was tall—very tall. Sera wasn’t, and the older girl towered over her by more than a head’s-height.

“Ah, yes?” Sera offered, wondering somewhere in the back of her mind whether assault by crab was a punishable offense.

“Not a bad throw,” Terri said, waving the google-eyed thing at her. “Crabs are slippery, and it’s easy to botch. You ever thrown a crab before?”

“Not to my knowledge,” Sera said honestly. She was sixteen, and this imposing girl in big orange waders was clearly older—maybe even nineteen. Clearly in another class of adulthood altogether. Sera wasn’t used to being noticed by college aged kids.

Terri seemed to find this response funny, and let out a laugh that would have been more appropriate coming from a man. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Sera. Um.”

“Sera?” Terri asked. “Well, I’m Terri. It’s not a bad job, catching a crab whats been thrown at you, you know, Sera. You must have been paying attention.”

Sera wasn’t entirely sure that because this older girl was suddenly on a first-name basis with her that it worked the other way around.

“I try, um… Ma’am.”

Terri. It’s Terri. That’s what names are for, right?”

“Yeah,” said Sera, although she wasn’t as sure as she’d like to be. “I guess.” Her lips moved for a moment, as if trying to parse a detail from the conversation. “’What’s been thrown at you,'” she said softly. “What, you threw that crab at me? On purpose?”

“Yeah,” Terri said lightly, “I thought you were a Goggle Kid, and they annoy me. Quick crab on the head makes them wake right up, though.”

Sera found herself scowling. “I’m not a Goggle Kid,” she said frostily.

She wasn’t a Goggle Kid, although this hadn’t been the first time she was confused for one. After all, Sera was almost always wearing her specs, and the the folks at her school would be shocked to know that her right arm really did exist under her gauntlet. And she was a little more klutzy than most people, even without the specs on, and so it was easy to associate her with the society of the Goggle Children—the ones that became so wrapped up in the images on their lenses that they forgot the real world even existed. The ones that forgot what trees looked like, unless they saw them in a D&D game.*

But Sera always kept in mind that there was one key difference between her and the Goggle Kids: her opacity settings. Out of her own room in her own home, she never turned hers up past 50%, and settings that high were reserved for sitting on the bus while checking her mail, or working on a paper for school over some McDonald’s. She never played games while walking, or worked on schoolwork or anything. Out in the open, her specs were for observation—zooming in on an interesting scene without looking nosy, or taking a picture or movie when she wanted to remember something. But she never disconnected herself from the real world. There was a line there, and even if she was close to it she wouldn’t cross over. Not into Goggle Kid territory. She would keep her eyes open to what was really around her.

“I’m not a goggle kid,” she said again.

“Well, I figured not. You caught my crab,” Terri said. “I’ve hit Goggle Kids before. Sometimes with halibut. They normally only flinch a little. They never catch the thing.”

Sera found herself smiling, despite herself.

“That’s a nice rig you got,” Terri said. “You good with specs?”

“Pretty good,” Sera said humbly, because even though the computer guy at her school called her in to fix things, she didn’t want to assume anything about this older stranger. She found out, later, that she had made a wise decision.

“Great. Do you play Tourney?” Terri said, and she was smiling with a friendly, infectious grin that Sera couldn’t quite help but start to return.

Tourney was a game, and Sera did play it. She was a little nervous about saying so, though, because the game was rated Adult for bloodshed and revealing costumes for the women, and Sera wasn’t quite legally an adult yet, but Terri’s smile won her over.

“Yeah, I play.”

“What’s your username? Maybe I’ll come find you sometime, and we’ll play?”

Terri was still smiling. She had thin lips, and a lot of teeth. She looked slightly hungry. She had lots of hair, too, and it hung almost to her waist in a rather unruly manner, which made her seem much bigger and taller than she actually was. Sera looked up, a little intimidated, and thought of Eric Mathews, from her biology class, who was six foot one. She was fairly certain that Terri was even taller, and certainly more spindly.

“The Glory of God,” Sera squeaked out, and then, because she felt that this might require explanation, “so that when I kill somebody, it says ‘so-and-so has been killed by The Glory of God,’ see. I wanted The Wrath of God, but it was already taken.”

“Right,” Terri said, and rested her palms on the back of her head, bony elbows hanging forward on either side. Sera suddenly thought of a satisfied spider who had just felt a tug in her web.

“Well, I should be getting back to work. I have to stuff a mackerel down my drawers and dance around. If you’ll excuse me.”

She gave Sera a pat on the shoulder, and left towards the fish market again.

That was their first meeting—and Sera really didn’t think much of it. She didn’t realize it at the time, but that was when the words Once Upon a Time found her, and her story started beginning.

——————————————————

*In fact, almost all Goggle Kids did play all the latest Dungeons & Dragons software, and so not only did they almost all know what trees looked like, but most of them knew which ones to pray at to get a +9 defense against ogres, and which ones were infested with level 21 bark-goblins.

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3 Comments

  1. mykietown said,

    July 29, 2007 at 3:16 am

    OK, I didn’t quite go with your recommendation to read the other pieces of this collection, but I’d have to say this is a really interesting world you’re creating here. It took me a bit to understand what you were talking about “goggle kids,” I still don’t fully, but I can guess. You’re a good writer, and I’ll have to read the rest.

    Thanks very much. I think part of the challenge of Sci-fi is to make the cultural differences and technological differences clear without bogging the text down too much with explanation, which is what I’m trying to do. Basically, Goggle Kids are the next generation equivilant of those that play World of Warcraft 24/7. Except that when the computers are in your glasses, you really can play WoW 24/7—a complete disconnect from reality. Frightening.
    Thanks so much for reading.
    ~DK

  2. Cameron said,

    July 29, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Great stuff.

    That’s all I have to say about that.

  3. Cameron said,

    July 29, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    …with the exception of the footnote on the goggle kids. That was perfectly exectured–the cherry on top of a delicious sundae snack.

    Ehehe, thanks.
    I’m trying to differentiate myself from reading, and am beginning to be able to do it simply by reading broader—it’s hard to copy any one style when you’re reading five different ones. But, the one thing I think I’m going to keep from my Pratchett emulation is my footnotes. They are so very fun.
    ~DK


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