The Transmundane, Episode 13: Back in School

Ashlyn flopped down on the grass next to him and rearranged her skirt so he couldn't see quite as much. "What about the troll?"

"Wngk?" Way to look good! He took the sandwich out of his mouth and tried again. "What?"

"The troll, when this all started. We've been exploring the astral plane, or whatever it is, and it's obviously connected, but the troll wasn't a dream. It was solid; you even had a piece of it for a while. So what was up with that?"

"Uh. I don't know. But it seemed pretty real, all right. But we don't have any evidence, since we threw out the window on the freeway."

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," she said defensively.

"It was! But it means we can't, I dunno, dissolve it in acid in the chem lab to see what color it turns."

"I was thinking a microscope would be better, but yah." She fished an energy bar out of her purse and started carefully peeling it.

"Right. Science stuff. But getting rid of it got the Senses of Doom off our trail, which is good."

She carefully flattened the wrapper on her lap, then broke off a bit of the energy bar and popped it into her mouth. "Good for not getting caught, but maybe not for finding out what this is all about."

"Like where James Bond gets captured by the bad guy, who tells him the whole plan?"

Ashlyn broke off another bit of the energy bar, then slowly dismembered that, eating it crumb by crumb. "I suppose, although I seem to recall most of the Bond girls coming to bad ends. But I don't see what else we have that connects directly to what's going on. The answers might be somewhere on the astral plane, but I don't know how to find out where, and exploration seems pretty dangerous."

Is there some reason she's not looking at me? The power bar can't be that interesting. She doesn't sound like she's mad at me, though. "The troll wasn't exactly safe. I kicked it pretty hard, but I don't think I hurt it much." Or she's not letting on she hates me until she doesn't need any more demons killed. But I haven't done anything! There must be paranoia pills in this sandwich.

"Breaking its thumb off hurt it, although I admit it didn't stop it. Maybe if you had a weapon?"

"What, a jackhammer? Or maybe some dynamite?"

"Dynamite sounds good! I don't know where to get any or how to use it without blowing myself up, though. I was thinking just a sword or even a club, something so you can hit it harder than you can with your bare hands."

"Right, leverage. So you really think we should let them catch us?"

"Not catch us, but catch up to us. We know at least one thing they want, and we can hurt them, and that's all we need to set a trap." She popped the last two thirds of the last quarter of the energy bar into her mouth and leaned back, stretching her legs out and propping herself up on her elbows. "I can't think of any other way to extract information from them. Whoever 'they' are."

Tetsu watched hypnotizedly. How does she keep her skin that white in California?! And it's not like she never goes outside! Belatedly he realized that he should be paying attention to her words as well. He looked up into her face and forgot whatever he had been about to say. "Oh shit! What happened?" It looks like someone tried to gouge her eyes out with a spoon!

Ashlyn swiped at the bloodstains around her eyes, embarrassed. "It's not as bad as it looks. Just since we... came back, I've been crying blood. I thought it stopped, but then I came out here..." Blood really was oozing from her eyes, and she sniffled. "I was hoping it wouldn't; I didn't want you to worry."

"Not worry?! Ashlyn, you're bleeding from the eyes! How can that not be bad?"

"What can you do about it? Take me to a doctor? What would she see when she checked my eyes?"

"If you're bleeding from your eyes, there's probably something worse wrong inside! Ebola makes you bleed from the eyes!"

"And from everywhere else. This is only from my eyes, it doesn't hurt, nothing else is wrong with me. I don't have ebola. I think this is just the aftereffects of looking too far."

"Maybe, but remember we're scheduled to die in..." He checked his watch. "...Just over four hours. I think anything strange is worth worrying about!"

"Whatever's going to kill us, I don't think this is it, since it's only affecting me. Unless you plan to poison yourself when you see me keel over?" She raised her eyebrows, which only made the bloodstains look worse.

"Ugh. Have you been walking around like that all day?" He grabbed the napkin from under his sandwich and started dabbing at her eyes.

"No, just a bit in second period. I made up some story about a tragic contact-lens accident and ran for the girls' room."

"Tragic contact-lens accident." The sun must have dried this stuff out, because it's sure not coming off. He spat on the napkin but stopped before applying it to her face. Oh yah, real classy.

"What? Didn't I offer you the chance to drool all over me just last night? I can hardly object now!"

"You did? Go Ashlyn! I thought you'd never figure out what guys are for!"

Shit! How long has she been listening for? "Tiffy!"

"Tiffy!" Ashlyn's face was as pink as his felt. "Don't you have anything better to do than eavesdrop?"

"I only listen to the juicy stuff, so it doesn't take too much time." Tiffy plopped down crosslegged on the grass, the front of her tube top bouncing. "So, how far did you get? Do you need me to teach him proper tongue technique or anything?"

"No! Tiffy, don't you ever think about anything else?"

"I tried once, but then Tetsu walked by in his soccer shorts. Jeez, what happened to your eyes?"

"Tragic contact-lens accident."

"You don't wear contacts." Tiffy leaned forward interestedly.

Tetsu dragged his gaze away from the sway of round breasts in spandex with a pang of guilt. Maybe guys do suck as much as people say. He scooted around so his back was to Tiffy and worked more on cleaning Ashlyn's eyes.

"That's why it was so tragic. Do you mind? We were trying to have a conversation."

"And it was just getting to the good part!"

Ashlyn's voice took on the patient tone most people assumed with Tiffy (the rest just screamed). "It was not. That was A, a minor digression completely unrelated to what we were talking about, and B, none of your business. Tetsu is my boyfriend; if you want someone to tell you the details of his sex life, Mikey's right over there." She waved toward where Mikey Hong and a couple of his gangster-wannabe were huddled between two of the concrete fins protruding from the cafeteria well, sniggering over something. "Or look in your diary."

Wow. She called me her boyfriend in front of a real live human being! It's really real!

"Boyfriend, huh? That explains the goopy expression on Tetsu's face." Tiffy looked back and forth between them. "Okay. But if you ever want a threesome, call me, Ashy sweetie." She tucked her feet under her and stood without using her hands. For a moment, she stood there looking down at the two of them, then her mouth twisted and she undulated off in the direction of the photography club's table.

Ashlyn put her bright red face in her hands.

What was that-- Oh. "'Ashy sweetie'?"

"It was just a bit of necking! We were eleven!" she protested into her hands.

Tetsu's brain obligingly produced a full-color, three-dimensional image of Ashlyn and Tiffy intertwined, pale hands sliding over brown curves and brown hands between pale thighs. He gulped. No, no, they were eleven! What did Tiffy look like when she was eleven? Um. Sixth grade. Did she have-- He noticed Ashlyn peeking through her fingers at him and blushed. I hope she can't read minds too! Her eyes dipped briefly and she blushed too. Right. Anyone can read guys' minds. He quickly drew his knees up and draped his arms over them, wincing at the way his tight pulled. If I'm going to keep hanging around Ashlyn, I need to get looser jeans.

"Don't you ever think about anything else?" She didn't sound too mad, though. "Like, oh, DYING in four hours?"

Scared is what she sounds. He pulled her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. She leaned her cheek against the top of his head and sniffled a bit. "I do, but I don't know what to do about it. All I can do is stay with you and be ready for something to happen. I don't even know whether to do what we normally do or change everything so they can't find us."

"If it is a 'them' and not some accident. Or fate." She sighed and nuzzled his hair. "Whatever it is, I'm glad you're with me."

"I just hope I can do something."

"VALEROSO! ALFLATT! You're in school to improve your brains, futile as that may be."

He was instantly on his feet and facing Frigarsen, who recoiled. Ashlyn sprawled on the grass, skirt riding up around her waist, but was up and decent before he could note more than pink stripes. Her eyes were huge and bloody, and she looked even paler than usual, but her hands were up between her and Frigarsen.

Frigarsen recovered her composure and glared. "Don't you threaten me, Valeroso!" Her anger spread to Ashlyn as well. "I think both of you need to spend some time thinking about how to improve your attitudes. I'll see you both after sixth period." She turned to leave, but didn't quite take her eyes off Tetsu as she stomped away."

She's scared of me. I didn't think she was scared of anyone, at least not below forty. Am I really that different?

"After-school detention ends at four fifteen," Ashlyn said softly. "Eight minutes is just about time to get to our lockers and out to the parking lot, I bet."

The bell rang, and the crowd in the courtyard started dispersing toward the edges. Tiffy ostentatiously ignored them as she went past with a photography geek on each arm.

"Yah. Well, if you think of anything to do between now and then, tell me."

She caught his hand and squeezed it before heading off toward her locker.

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