Welcome to the seventh installment of my fantasy web serial!
“Hey, Olivia: I’m new to the story…” – Oh really? Fantastic! You can read it here.
“Hey, Olivia: I’m also new to the story, but I’m pressed for time…” – Equally fantastic! Pop over here for the nutshell summary.
The World That Forgot How to Dance
True to her word, Denise was waiting in the university’s library. Ellsie wondered if she might possibly live there. When the girl turned her dark eyes to Ellsie, they narrowed in confusion or challenge, like she wasn’t convinced the other was real until she spoke.
“I’d like to know…” Ellsie paused, “…the answer to what we were talking about,” she finished the statement in quiet ambiguity. Freedom was still unfamiliar on her skin, and she was quite uninterested in doing anything that might get her caught again.
Denise nodded in gravest understanding and led her to a soundproof room in the library that contained one tiny television for viewing archived materials.
Once the door was closed, Ellsie said, “Do you know anything about Laenin?”
“I know everything about Laenin,” Denise said, without hint of exaggeration or arrogance. “I did my undergraduate thesis on it. Is your spell somehow connected to what happened there?”
“Lester thinks so.”
“He’s that guy in the cell across from mine,” Ellsie said, and then stalled. Beyond the simple objective fact of his location relative to hers, she wasn’t sure how to describe the relationship that passed between them.
“Okay. How does he think the two are connected?” Denise asked.
“He never said. It was just at the very end… Sorry, I know it’s not much help. He told me he was a dancer, and my spelled rock didn’t identify him as one.”
“And it did identify me, even though I’m not a dancer.” Denise spoke slowly, leaving room for any revelations to wriggle their way between the facts. When this new information failed to make sense on its own, she turned her attention back to Ellsie. “When you gathered us, you said that you thought the world could move past the tragedy at Laenin.”
Ellsie felt embarrassment squirming through her as she remembered the speech she’d crafted so carefully. She had been so stupid to believe she could undo three hundred years of prejudice with a few well-chosen words. The frozen expressions on their faces would stay with her forever as a reminder of how she attempted something too large for herself. “I remember,” she said.
“I’m not sure there was a tragedy,” she said, instantly dissolving Ellsie’s cloud of self-pity.
“The entire village was killed,” Ellsie said, leaning forward as if that could make Denise’s explanation reach her faster.
“Were they?” Denise leaned in as well. “They never found any bodies.”
This was true; there was certainly never anything to bury. But this wasn’t exactly new knowledge. “They were incinerated,” Ellsie said. “Or something like that.”
“No, they weren’t,” Denise said, eyes shining with this secret that so wanted to be freed. “That’s what everyone thinks, but no matter how destructive the spell is, there is nothing capable of taking a human body and reducing it to nothing. Recently a geologist ran countless tests on the area where Laenin used to be, and he scientifically proved that there are no traces. There were no bodies.”
Understanding settled in, freezing Ellsie’s breath. “So, it’s possible those people never died,” she said. “What happened to them, then?”
“I don’t know,” Denise sighed. The bridge of knowledge had reached its end, plunging her back into uncertainty. “Maybe the spell transported them to another country? Or to another world entirely? Or to the future? I’ve never had any leads on that, but I’m working on it.
“I do my Laenin research Wednesdays and Sundays at the city archives. If you’re curious about it—”
“I am,” Ellsie said, and the immediacy of the response urged a smile onto Denise’s face; the first one Ellsie had seen.
Thanks for reading! Comments are always well-loved, so leave them below if you are so inclined. I’ll see you next Wednesday for Part 8 🙂
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