Sunday April 6th, 2014

The exercise:

Vancouver Irrealis.

Let's go.


"You're still alive!" Anne-Marie observed as she came to stand beside Tristam. He couldn't help thinking that she sounded more than a little surprised.

"So far, so good." He started to get to his feet but Anne-Marie sat down beside him, so he tried to turn it into a shifting of his weight instead, a mere repositioning of his backside. He almost fell over. "How's everything out there?"

"Oh, I got yelled at by my boss a little bit when I got back but that's not unusual," she said with a quick laugh. "The streets are just crawling with Icepol though. They seem pretty determined to find whoever they're looking for - they even stopped me to inspect my documents!"

"Right, whoever." Tristam's entire body wilted. He kept his eyes on his boots to avoid looking at his companion, feeling utterly wretched about dragging her into this mess. A voice in the back of his head wondered how many toes lurked inside those boots, but it also triggered another question. "Hey, do you remember when I came into your restaurant?"

"No, Yakth does all the seating."

"Sure, of course. But, you remember taking my order, right?"

"I... well, no. But it was very busy." Anne-Marie seemed a little flustered by this admission. "It's not that you weren't memorable or anything like -"

"No, no, it's fine." Tristam glanced at her, flashing a smile before returning to his footwear study. "It's just that I wasn't... there until the end of the meal, if you know what I'm saying. I guess I was just wondering if I, like, took someone's place when I showed up."

"And whether or not someone took yours?" Seeing Tristam's face transform from hopeless to shocked horror caused her to bolt upright. "Oh! No, you weren't thinking that at all! I'm so sorry!"

"I have no idea how this... stuff... works," Tristam said with a low moan, allowing his head to fall into his hands.

"Well, we can't stay here all night. It wouldn't do either of us any good for the Icepol to come crashing through those trees right now."

"I'm so, so sorry to do this to you. I didn't -"

"You had no choice in the matter, right?" She waited until Tristam shook his head no before continuing on. "Then you have nothing to apologize for. Now get up, we have to get moving."

"Where are we going?" he asked as stood up and collected his bag. He looked at it properly for the first time since he'd arrived in that other place and wondered what had replaced his reports and financial statements. He wasn't at all sure that he wanted to know.

"My apartment, it's not far." Seeing his reluctance, her tone turned no-nonsense. "I've already come this far and there's nowhere else I know that's guaranteed to be safe, for tonight at least. So let's go... wait, what's your name?"

"Oh God," Tristam groaned as he moved to follow his only hope of escape and survival through the trees, "please don't ask me that."


Greg said...

Ooh, just as promised! And ever more intrigue in this story :) I wonder what the Icepol are doing, and if Tristam did replace someone, but someone important...
By the way, I spotted that you're catching up on the comments again - nice job!

The streets of Vancouver -- Vancouver Irrealis thought Tristam glumly -- were quiet now, and in the deepening twilight looked almost familiar. The intersections were the right distance apart, and the streetlights didn't look odd, and the trees -- he shivered at the mere thought of the trees and the way they reached for people -- seemed sleepy and well-behaved. Anne-Marie was alert, checking the cars and passers-by with quick, animal-like glances, and once or twice decided not to make a turn because she thought she saw signs of the Icepol. Tristam meekly acceded.
"Come on," she said after she'd indicated an apartment block up ahead that was where she lived. "What's so bad about your name?"
"I just don't want to," said Tristam stubbornly. He worried that he'd try to say it and it would come out different. Maybe... maybe not even some anagram of Tristam.
"I think you ought," said Anne-Marie. "If it's too weird then we're going to have to think of a new one for you."
Tristam fell back into silence at that, wondering if he could get away with never mentioning his name again. No, not never, just until he got back. However long that took.
"It's Tristam," he said, and felt a wave of relief go through him that it hadn't come out as Tamtris, which would have made him sound like an old computer game.
"Huh." Anne-Marie sounded almost bored. "I had an uncle called Tristam. He was married to a woman called Xanthippe, but we all called her Pexa. There's nothing wrong with that name; in fact... would you mind telling people you're French?"
"It'll sound right with the name, and it'll explain why you're a bit helpless. Not enough, probably, but it might get you past some situations."
"Sure. I mean... I'll think about it."
They'd reached the shallow, downward sloping drive of the apartment block. It led to an underground garage, with a path branching off halfway down that climbed some steps to an entryphone-guarded front door.
"This is us," said Anne-Marie. She raised a finger to point at a window, and then stopped. "But I didn't leave the lights on!"
As Tristam looked at the illuminated window, the lights winked out suddenly.
"Oh crap," said Anne-Marie.

morganna said...

Anne-Marie whirled, grabbing Tristam's hand. "Come on, we've got to get out of here!" She ran through the streets and alleys, pulling Tristam behind her. Finally, in a completely different part of the city, they ran panting up the steps of a small brownstone house. Anne-Marie rang the doorbell three times quickly.

The door was flung open, and they darted inside. The door slammed shut, and as they heard bolts being slammed into place, Tristam turned to see who had let them in.

A small, white-haired man in a cozy-looking bathrobe was just turning to them and spoke in a surprisingly deep voice. "Young man, I hope you appreciate all the trouble we are being put to."

"Of course," stuttered Tristam. "I do appreciate it, I do."

"Come sit down in the parlor, both of you. We'll have some tea and I'll explain what is going on," the old man said.

Marc said...

Greg - ugh, I'm trying, I'm trying to catch up...

I really liked that things became more familiar to Tristam as night fell, that's a nice touch.

Very interesting that he's able to tell her his name without issue. I'm trying to decide what that means.

Also: I have no idea what Xanthippe is meant to represent :P

Excellent end point, by the way!

Morganna - well this is an interesting development. Who is the old man and what does he have to say?

I'm glad I've got a month to think about both of those things :)