Just Duet (Yesterday You Said Tomorrow) - by GrenadierApple

>it's you >you're Anon >and just like always, you're alone at lunch >that's fine, in fact you plan around it at this point >it affords you an extra half hour of time to finish off your homework >well... closer to twenty minutes once you take into account getting and eating your food >but usually nobody bothers talking to you in line, and you can balance chemical equations with one hand while shoveling food into your mouth with the other >you scrawl a 2 in next to the formula for butane and shovel another spoonful of Turkey Slopâ„¢ into your mouth >then erase the 2 and write in a 3 >Mr. Erlenmeyer always assigned way too much work, and they were all needlessly tricky problems >"Excuse me, can I sit here?" >you blink a couple of times, eyebrows knitting in confusion as your brain jumps tracks and tries to identify the voice without looking >you look up to the source and see Sonata staring at you, head tilted slightly to one side as she waits for your answer "Uh." >you hesitantly look at the table and then start moving some of your spread-out worksheets and books around "Yeah, sorry, one sec." >she gives you a disarming smile, waiting patiently as you rearrange things and put away the book for English back in your bag >"Thanks!" >as soon as the spot's been cleared, she sets her tray down and then drops her purse beside her on the bench >you return her smile with one of your own, before hesitantly going back to what you were doing >alright, so that would result in... 4 water molecules? >er, no, because the carbon dioxide would take more oxygen... >"What're you working on?" >Sonata peeks over one side of your textbook, her head casting a shadow over your paper >if she gets much closer she risks putting an eye out on your pencil "Chemistry...?" >you answer cautiously, looking up at her >she wears a look of slight awe, mixed with a healthy dose of confusion >"Wow... that looks complicated!" >you nod, a little off-put, and then return your attention to the paper >so then, 4 carbon-- >"What's this mean?" >she points an expertly-manicured nail at one of the first questions on the paper >you frown >is this some sort of prank? >it's starting to feel like one "That's sodium hydroxide. It's an alkaline..." >she nods, pretty apparently not actually understanding >"What's it do?" >huh? "Huh?" >"What's it do? Like, is it for cleaning stuff? It sounds like it would be, it has that kinda name. Y'know, like hyDROXide, it sounds like what you'd find in a janitor closet!" >she gives another beaming smile >your frown only deepens >partly because you're getting the strong sense this is some sort of joke >and partly because actually you don't know what you'd use sodium hydroxide for, actually >some of her smile seems to fade as she notices your look >"Uhhh... but I don't know?" >you clear your throat a little "I don't know either. It's just a thing for a worksheet, I think..." >you try to go back to the sheet, but apparently Sonata's having none of that >"Maybe it's something you put in water?" >she chatters on while eating off of her tray, mostly over-steamed veggies but with a small cup full of fruit too >"Like, hydra, probably is a water thing, right? That totally makes sense! but it still sounds kinda cleaner-y, maybe it's like a soap you have to soak in water?" >she takes a bite of the half-liquid broccoli, oblivious to its flavor (or lack thereof) as she prattles on >poor thing, her taste buds must've been destroyed years ago >"But I thought you had to wash your hands with soap and water anyway? Maybe it's dry soap! Ooh, or maybe, maybe it's supposed to be dry! It could be, like, waterless soap!" >your eyes go slightly unfocused, unable to balance the equation with her bubbly voice bouncing around your head >"So if your sink was busted or something, you could just use that instead! But... how would you get it off your hands? Would you wipe it on the towel? I guess that works if you're using paper towels..." "I'm sorry, but could you stop please?" >your voice has an irritated edge in it, and you don't bother looking at her while you speak "I don't know whether it was Snap or Lay-Up put you up to this, but it's really not funny. I've kind of got to get this done by next period." >judging by the silence that follows, you guess your assumption was correct, and can return to your work unimpeded >"Oh." >it's so soft you barely hear it, but the slow return of light to your paper indicates the blue-haired girl has withdrawn her attention from you >you hear a shuffling sound as she moves further away down the table >accompanied by a muffled >"Okay." >you look over at her, but she's pretty resolutely staring anywhere but you or your worksheet now >she half-spoons, half-pours another helping of boiled veggies into her mouth >"Sorry." >... >wrong guess >you look back down at the paper, then over at her again >resolutely, you go through the motions of balancing another equation >... >y'know, Anon, maybe this is why you're always sitting alone during lunch >you get about halfway through the next equation before you finally give in to your guilt >dammit, and you just know Erlenmeyer's going to pick you to answer one of the ones you don't get to "Hey, uh, Sonata, right?" >you try to get her attention, waving sheepishly until she looks back over "Sorry, I didn't mean to be a jerk. I just wasn't expecting company, and I've been dealing with the jocks pranking me lately, and, uh." >you realize about halfway through that this sounds a lot like making excuses "Right. Sorry." >you sneak your phone out of its pocket, careful to keep it under the lunch table lest one of the teachers sees it >you do a quick bit of googling, then scoot over a bit closer to her "This says that NaOH is used for, let's see: pulping paper, dissolving tissues (yuck), food prep (really?), and... huh." >you look up at her, surprised to find she's closer than when you started "Cleaning supplies." >she gives you a proud smile that washes away some of your self-imposed guilt >"See? Sonata Dusk, chemister extraordinaire!" >you chuckle at the irony of that statement >reading through the wikipedia page, you see a link that catches your eye "Oh, that makes sense then. It's lye!" >she cocks her head to the side again >"So I was wrong?" "Huh?" >"You said it's a lie." "Wha- oh! No, it's not a lie, it's called lye, L-Y-E. Y'know, like in Fight Club? Where they make soap out of liposuction fat? And then later he does the whole thing where he kisses the other dude's hand and puts powdered lye on it to... teach him a lesson..." >you trail off awkwardly >Sonata's mouth is slightly agape with the shock of what you just said >"Wow, that is," >she pauses, searching for just the right word to express her disdain-- >"totally rad!" >--or fascination, you guess? >"I should check that out, it sounds cool! 'Tho I guess that means it's not dry soap like I thought." >she puts on a slightly pouty face, but now it's your turn to look confused for once in the conversation "What, have you seriously not seen it? Fight Club came out like fifteen years ago." >"Nah, I wasn't here then." >she gives a shrug and a laugh, before something causes her to cut herself short >"I mean!" >she forces a second giggle, starkly different from the first, waving her hand dismissively (and preemptively) at you >"I just never got around to it!" >you're about to ask what she means, when the bell chimes, indicating you've got about 3 minutes to get to class >"Anyway, thanks for letting me sit with you Anon! Toodles!" >she waves and you give a rueful smile >not looking forward to sweating through Chemistry hoping you're not called on >still, this was kind of fun >not something you're aiming to repeat, but a nice conversation anyhow >"Seven." >you stare, dumbfounded, at Sonata from several seats back >not that you're the only one; actually most of the class is right there with you on this one >Mrs. Fourier at least seems to have the wherewithal to abstain from open derision >though you get the impression that if she weren't being paid specifically to teach people like the former Siren, she'd be the most disgusted of all with that answer >"Sonata, dear, I asked what polynomial we should see if we were to factor out 2x-9." >she nods excitedly >"Uh-huh!" >"You said... seven." >she gives the same nod, same intonation; you'd swear it was deja vu if everyone else hadn't heard it as well >"Uh-huh!" >silence reigns in Algebra class >you hear a couple of the girls and one of the guys you sit next to snicker "Hey, cut it out," >you whisper to him >Mrs. Fourier was a good teacher, though she had a certain condescension to her voice when she spoke to students >one that she's barely trying to hide right now >"That is... incorrect." >for what it's worth, Sonata seems to take it completely in stride >"Huh. I thought it was seven. What is the right answer?" >if anyone else had asked that question, it would've sounded sarcastic as fuck, but coming from Sonata, it sounds genuinely interested >"Wonderful question. Anon, would you tell us the answer please?" >you look down at your notebook paper where you'd already scrawled out the answer "Is it... x^2 - 14x + 49?" >the teacher smiles at you, the corners of her eyes crinkling with the signs of age as she nods >"Yes, perfect! Thank you Anon." >as her gaze flits back to Sonata, she seems to consider something for a second >"Ms. Dusk, if you could stay after for just a second, there's something I need to discuss with you after class. I'll write you a note for Ms. Haiku explaining why. Anon, you too." >she looks over her glasses at the pair of you, the same students chuckling at the two of you "Seriously, shut up." >you hiss at your neighbor ... "You want me to tutor her?" >Mrs. Fourier nodded hopefully, looking back and forth between the two of you >"I'd be more than happy to give you study hall during my class, as long as you feel you have a grasp on the concepts." >you think it over for a second >on the one hand, teaching Sonata could be a huge pain in the ass >when your primary talents are music and being cute, and then a group of magical seniors takes your talent for music away, you can't imagine that lends itself well to mastering mathematics >on the other hand, 48 minutes of free time >which you could probably use to get work done and then have 48 extra minutes of fuck-off time after school >some of that, granted, would be taken up with helping Sonata... >hm >"Please, Anon?" >Sonata gives you a doe-eyed begging look >confirmation that the rainbow-laser didn't steal her ability to be cute, you feel your heartstrings being pulled >... "Alright, but can I have some extra credit for this?" >the teacher gives a small nod, her brown-and-graying bun of hair wobbling slightly out of sync >"Of course! Does an extra 5 points on your quizzes sound fair?" >half a grade's padding >ehhhh... that'll do "Sure. Is right after school okay with you, Sonata?" >"Umm, sure! Sounds good to me!" >you give both a curt nod, before rustling around in your backpack >ah, there it is: English textbook, specifically the Mythology book you're supposed to be studying from >going to need that for next class >Sonata's interruption during lunch has cascaded down your schedule until you're about one class behind >luckily Literature is pretty easy to bullshit through if you know the basics >"Heehee, it's so weird, too, we like just started talking today and now we're, like, study buddies! Super cool!" >Sonata's walk seems bouncier than usual as she practically skips out the door >somehow you feel like she missed the gravitas of this situation >you're supposed to be keeping her from failing, after all >"Thank you, Anon." >you turn back to Mrs. Fourier and give a noncommittal shrug >she grabs a paper with school letterhead and writes out a note to your Lit teacher, explaining that it was her fault you were late >you're almost out the door when the thought occurs to you "Did Sonata get one of these?" >the Algebra teacher's face grimaces slightly >was she hoping nobody would remember? >or does she just feel sorry for what she's inflicted on you? >she scribbles out a second note as the batch of students for seventh period start filing in >"I believe both of you are in the same class, right? If you don't mind, thank you again Anon." >you take the sheet of paper and fold it in half, carrying both as you skim the passage you're supposed to read >can't afford to take your time, but you walk slower than normal to give yourself a few extra seconds >blah blah blah, daughter of Demeter >something something ruler of seasons >God of the Underworld rape >that's why autumn exists >got it >mostly >(probably) >you get to the door two minutes after the bell rings >as you open it, you get an earful of the most Asian accent in the school >of course she's the English teacher >there's absolutely no irony in this situation whatsoever >"Anon? Why you late? Where your note? Come in, sit down! Already discussing the Raep of Pers-i-phon-y!" >you silently hand over the two notes, one for you and one for Sonata >the black-haired teacher squints at the paper for a few seconds before looking back up >"Ohhhhh, I see! Okay, So-na-ta, no detention! Remember note next time! Now, who can tell why Hades chose Pers-i-phon-y? Anyone?" >you give the girl you'll be tutoring a thumbs-up and take your seat, already open to the right page from your cram session >"Hey Anon! Yoohoo! Over here!" >Sonata waves you over as soon as you step into the library, leaning back in her chair so she can see the door >Ms. Cheerilee shoots her a disapproving glare but otherwise ignores her >you walk over and put your bag down, muttering a vague apology on your newly designated pupil's behalf as you pass the front desk "Hey Sonata. Ready to get started on this stuff?" >"Heehee, sure! In fact, I already did a few problems! That way we can get out of here faster and go hang out somewhere totally cool!" >... >you feel like she may have misunderstood the point of this >but y'know what? >if it gets her motivated to get these problems done, and gets you home faster, you're all for it >you take her notebook from her and flip to near the end >along the way you take note of a couple of silly doodles along the margins >she seems to really like seahorses >and jewelry >finally you get to the end and find the last page she wrote on >yep, these look like the equations Mrs. Fourier assigned >well >really more like twisted mockeries of the questions she assigned, warped and rearranged by a tenuous grasp of mathematical operators >exponents and coefficients seem to switch places at random >you're pretty sure she expanded a single variable into four different instances >even more disturbingly, some of the answers aren't wrong >you're not sure if it's actually allowable to perform a Bateman transform on a single equation like this >but you're sure it's not what was intended >still, the values she came to were at least an eerie reflection of what the actual answers were "Uh. Well." >you speak haltingly, not wanting to crush her enthusiasm but also not wanting her to fail this class "Some of these are, hm, okay. But I'd like to see how you did them?" >you push your pencil and paper over to her, having already written out the first problem in the set >"Awww, but! But!" >she whimpers, her head drooping >"Fiiine..." >somewhat slowly, like she was embarrassed to have to do it in front of you, she scrawls out the first line of the transformed equation >it looks right, at least so far >giving a silent nod, she continues to the second operation, dividing both sides by 3 >you stop her when she tries dividing the exponent by 3 as well >"Ohhh... I thought that it was just another number!" >you frown "What, you mean like a coefficient?" >"Sure, whatever those numbers are. I just thought they did that to make it look nicer?" >you scratch the side of your head, not entirely believing that sentence just fell out of her mouth "No. Like, definitely not. Exponents mean that what they're after is multiplied by itself that many times." >she stares at the numbers for a second, before shrugging her shoulders >"Neat!" >she seems completely undeterred as she rewrites the line, this time only dividing the proper numbers out of each side >looks better >you encourage her to go on, and she finishes out most of the equation before you spot another problem "Hold on, you divided inside the parentheses, you can only divide the outside." >"Whaaaaat? That's crazy!" >she giggles >"Then how're you supposed to divide anything out of it ever? It's just gonna stay like that all the time!" >you take a moment to explain how common coefficients can be factored out of a bunch of parts >"...Huh. So you can just put in and remove parentheses? I thought they had to always be there..." >you shake your head >this might take significantly longer than you figured to start with >but eventually, with much trial and tribulation, she manages to solve the first equation >the same one, in fact, that she'd been trying to answer when Mrs. Fourier decided she'd had enough >and you notice something interesting about it >normally these equations have two or three answers, since they're polynomial >but this one, since the factors were the same, only had one 0 = (x-7)^2 >or in other words "Seven." >"Huh?" "Well, the answer's... seven. Kind of." >"Oh. Coolio!" >she seems pretty calm about the problem that forced her into this had the answer she said it did >but if she's not upset about it, you sure as hell won't be either >so you move onto the next problem, providing a watchful eye but pretty much nothing else >the things you told her from the first problem seem to have sunk in, and though you need to explain briefly that numbers outside the parentheses can be multiplied back in when necessary, she grasps that too >after about ten equations, you're convinced that she's gotten the basic concept, at least for the day >still, you don't want to piss off the teacher on your first day as her tutor >so you finish it out, watching carefully for any mistakes she might make >she puts down the pencil after the twentieth, stretching her arms above her head >"This is boooooring, Anon. Are we done yet?" >you weigh the options in your mind >even if you quit now and she had to do the rest last-minute, it could be done >and she does look particularly pitiful right now... >oh, fine "Sure, we can call it here, but only if you're confident you've got it." >"Totally! Oooh, excellent! So what do you want to do now?" >huh? "Huh?" >"Like, we could go to the mall, or Starbucked's, or whatever. Where do you wanna go?" >you shake your head, standing up from your own chair and stretching your back "I think I want to go home, actually. I've got some stuff to do there before class tomorrow." >"Oh, alright!" >she packs up her stuff quickly, and the two of you take off from the library >huh >never knew Sonata lived the same direction you do >you look over your shoulder at her, watching her merrily skip along, humming off-key to herself >god, that is... awful >anyway "Where exactly do you live, anyway? I don't remember seeing you on my way home before," >you remark offhandedly >"Oh, I live over near Riverwoods Apartments, over near the mall, y'know?" >you nod understandingly, trying to remember where you'd heard the name before >oh, right, you think Sunset Shimmer maybe lived there? >but "Isn't that the other direction?" >"Yup!" >... >uhhhh "So, why're you following me?" >"'Cause you said you wanted to go to your place! Duh." >the way she says it, you almost feel dumb for asking >until you actually think about it for a second "I kind of meant... by myself." >"Oh!" >she taps her finger to her lips for a second, looking around >"But that's in the other direction. Can't I come over and hang out? For just a little bit? Pleeeeeease?" >oh god, those doe eyes again >but no >you really need to stand resolute on this one >seriously >you should >... >why is this working on you? "Alright, fine." >wait, seriously, why is this working on you? >you wave over your shoulder and lead on towards your place >you just met her today >whatever, she's probably just lonely like you >and it's not like you were really going to DO anything when you got home, right? >other than jerk off and maybe play some video games >whatever further thoughts you were going to have are tackled out of you by a blur of blue and giggling >"Heeheehee, yay! Thanks Anon!" >she really is skipping down the street ahead of you now, and the humming is if anything more out-of-tune than ever >oh well, you think to yourself >c'est la vie ... >you walk into your house just slightly ahead of Sonata, unlocking the door and hitting the key combo on the alarm to disarm it >your new blue companion, meanwhile, wastes no time beelining to your kitchen to grab a soda >good thing you'd stocked up yesterday >she comes back to check on you as you pull your backpack off and adjust the air conditioning >ahhhh, the sweet promise of 72 degree air >"So this is your place, huh? Preeeeetty swanky!" >she kicks off her shoes, wiggling her toes in the pink socks she's wearing before jumping over the couch to flop down on it "Hey, c'mon, careful there!" >you whine, mostly concerned about the couch >her magenta eyes peek over the back at you, not bothering to look away even while she turns on the TV and swaps channels over to MTV >huh >when'd they start making new Beevis and Butthead? >"So what're we going to do?" >she asks innocently, sprawling out over half the couch >you sit down next to her, snatching the remote away when she's preoccupied with her phone "I dunno, is there anything good on?" >"Tch, just TV? I thought we were going to do something fun!" >you roll your eyes, flipping through the channels on the guide "Hey, you're the one that wanted to come over. Hm, Shawshank Redemption?" >she rolls her eyes back, attention pulled naturally back to her phone while you channel-surf >"No way, too much prison." "That's the central point of the story." >"Psssh, yeah, and I'm saying that's way too much prison for me." >you keep flipping, trying to find something that'll hold both of your interests >as cool as you think a documentary about pot would be, she'd probably think it was pretty boring >and you have zero interest in watching that vampire movie, uh... >the one where they sparkle... >Twilight! Right, no interest in that >suddenly, serendipity >you flip down to TNT and hit the select button >cool, it's only like five minutes into the movie >"Huh? What's this?" "Fight Club! Remember that movie I mentioned?" >"Oh, sweet! You said this was where they made soap out of peoplefat, right?" "Yeah." >you nod, and her attention is immediately glued to the screen >her phone completely forgotten in her hand as the screen fades and then turns off on a timer >'Eight months ago, Bob's testicles were removed. Then hormone therapy. He developed bitch tits because his testosterone was too high, and his body upped the estrogen. And that was where I fit...' >Sonata holds back a snicker poorly >you have to give the director credit, they know how to start off a movie >finally remembering your own shoes, you kick them off and put them beside the couch, angling yourself so that your feet can reach the coffee table >'They're going to have to open up my pecs again to drain the fluid.' "You seriously never saw this before?" >"Sssssh!" >the peppy girl doesn't bother to even look at you while she shushes, attention fully focused on the film >she manages to find her soda purely by groping in the general area of the endtable where she left it >taking a loud swig of it, she places it back and shifts her weight slightly >a little of it resting on you now as her head leans against your shoulder >... >well, you wouldn't want to disturb the movie-watching experience >she'd probably just shush you again if you raised any objections >best to just let these things happen >you settle in for two and a half hours of Ed Norton being a madman, trying not to focus too much on the warmth of the former singer resting against you >'WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!' >you could practically recite this bit word-for-word >but your houseguest seems to be way too enraptured to pull her out of her reverie by reminding her you're here >besides, her hugging your arm is probably doing that just fine >'Okay, you are now firing a gun at your imaginary friend,' >Brad Pitt gesticulates angrily at the person whose head he's inhabiting >'near 400 GALLONS OF NITROGLYCERINE!' >Sonata lets out a nervous titter that does nothing to hide how tense she's feeling >you're starting to lose feeling in your arm >gently, you wiggle it a bit, and she releases you from her grasp >at least, enough that the blood can flow back into your limb >seems she has no intention of letting you go though, as she only sprawls further out on the couch to encroach on even more of your space >the ditzy girl risks a look up at you when they break for commercial >right before the climactic finish, of course >OF COURSE >"This movie is totally wicked," >she informs you conspiratorially, before reaching for her soda again "That's what most scientists agree on, yeah." >you joke, scrolling through your phone looking for free shit to put on there >"Really? What kind of science is movie-rating?" >you give a chuckle, cautiously patting the top of her head "Joking." >"Oh. Lame, if I could be a movie-rater-ologist, I'd totally study for that," >she pouts >you find a new app that looks like an Omegle rip-off >Organized Chaos? >sure, chat with other internet losers all across the planet! >why not? >you hit install on that and what looks like a Puzzle and Dragons clone before locking your phone again >you'll give those two a try after the movie >luckily TNT doesn't run too many commercials when a movie's near the end, so they get back to the action fairly quick >you settle back down and do your best to stay quiet >you can't help but snicker at some of Brad Pitt's lines though, much to Sonata's chagrin >he's too good at playing a sociopath not to laugh >The Pixies are playing as you watch buildings explode all around the narrator >it's... still a surreal experience, you think >it kind of boggles your mind how easy it is to buy into the Tyler Durden way of thinking, even though it's a bunch of bullshit in the end >nihilism disguised as a grand philosophy of simplicity and self-determination >you're not sure you could call it a masterpiece, but it's not for lack of trying >'You met me at a very strange time in my life.' >that line makes you smile >evertim >Sonata seems to still be glued in place, either by emotional inertia or just waiting to make sure she doesn't miss anything at the end of the movie "So." >"Yeah..." "That was Fight Club, what did you think?" >she shrugs >not exactly the reaction you expected, but her silence and expression says a lot more than her words probably could right now >"It was... cool." >a girl of few words, this one >"Do you think people like that really exist, though?" >the way she speaks, you get the impression your answer's kind of inconsequential "What, like with split personalities?" >she shakes her head >"No, just people who want to, like, wreck the world because they don't care. Or, I guess, they don't care about anyone besides themselves?" >you shrug, mimicking her "Probably? I think everyone's like that, a little. Selfish, and childish, and just kind of fed up with things. Especially if they feel like the reason they're not happy is because of someone else." >she nods slowly >this might be the first time you've ever seen her serious face "But I like to think that everyone's capable of facing that side of them too, I guess. Maybe not with a bullet to the brainstem, but you get the idea." >she nods again, very slightly this time >"Wicked." >and with that, the whole somber mood is gone, and she's up and about, grabbing another soda from your fridge >"Anyway, thanks for letting me hang out, Anon! This was super fun, and I can't wait to hang out again tomorrow!" "Yeah, it was fun." >you realize as you say it that it's the truth, you kind of did enjoy hanging out with Sonata >it felt less like getting to know someone and more like reconnecting with them >you give her a smile that maybe for the first time since you met her is completely genuine "You, uh, want a ride home? I can drive you." >"Nah, it's not THAT far, thanks though!" >she slips her shoes on without bothering to untie them, still holding the soda in one hand >she pauses as she reaches for the door handle >"Uh, can I sit with you at lunch tomorrow, too? If you're not busy." >you think about it, but only for a second >obviously you don't mind >you'll just have to do a little extra work tonight so you can actually talk to her tomorrow >rather than her stare over your shoulder at stuff "Totally. You're sure, on the ride?" >she waves you off, giggling to herself >"Don't worry about it! I'm a big girl." >you feel a compulsion in your brain to say something stupid, but you fight it off >so you give her a friendly wave as she walks out the door >OOF >or you guess maybe you'll be giving her a hug in return for the one she's giving you >that's also fine >and then just as quickly as the little whirlwind of naivety wandered into your life >she's off and gone again >you let out a contented sigh as you close the door, going back to flop down on the couch >oh right, those apps! >you pull out your phone and swap channels to Cartoon Network >Adult Swim'll be coming on soon, might as well see if they've added anything good to the lineup >you tap the stupid, 2-edgy-4-u icon for Organized Chaos Please enter your credentials [New User]: Username: Password: >you tap away on the on-screen keyboard Username: CaptainNemo Password: ************ >you confirm the password, but of course someone's already grabbed that username Username: Outis Password: ************ >that one takes, and it bounces you to an interests screen to fill out >pffft, fuck that noise >you hammer the continue button until a pop-up box informs you that you haven't filled out any interests in your profile, and you'll be matched with total strangers with nothing in common with you >perfect >you hit the confirm button, and watch as a red circle whirls on a black background >jesus, this seriously must've been designed by a 14-year-old >what're you even doing on this stupid thing? >probably just going to catfish the fuck out of some lonely dudes >maybe troll the underage scrubs looking for nudez You are now connected with: MrRoboto Them: hi, asl? You: 8/f/uncles basement You: plz hlep Them: wat You: its relly dark and scary in here You: i cant see the keybaord >you chuckle to yourself as they disconnect >it's been a little while since you've indulged yourself in being a twat behind a fake username >you mash the connect button again You are now connected with: xXxPiPeLaYeR69xXx Them: a/s/l? You: m/67/New York You: You? ;) >you can't rightfully even call this shitposting, there's more effort involved in that You are now connected with: MuzikGrrrl You: hey, how's your night going? Them: ok, just bored and lonely Them: hbu? ;) >you roll your eyes >trollingintoanoceanoftrolls.jpg You: me too You: how old are you? Them: 14 >yep >nothing suspicious about this You: cool, I'm 20 Them: Ooo, I like older men ;) You: that's good, because I like younger boys ;) >all people are equal on the internet, and thus equally deserving of shitgiving >it's your civic duty, Anon You are now connected to: NthruP You: Hello sirrah or m'lady, and how're you this glorious evening? Them: I'm just fine, thanks for asking. Them: Thanks also for not asking for a/s/l, that's really quite bothersome. You: No problem, not one to judge >proper capitalization and punctuation? >y'know what, sure, you'll indulge them for a bit, they get a pass Them: Neat fact: Your brain is actually incredibly unreliable. Them: Did you know that every time you remember something, you're actually remembering the last time you remembered it? You: that's interesting Them: So then, what are you remembering the first time you remember it? What memory are you drawing from? Them: It's actually a crackpot theory, completely unproveable of course, that this existence is the replayed memories of a creature on the brink of death. >... >is this a sort of crazy person? Them: Did you know that eyewitness testimony is now considered practically inadmissible in court? Them: Because about 80% of the time, the testimonies are found to be flawed. Interesting, no? You: I guess so You: are you going somewhere with this? Them: Think about this carefully. Them: Your personality is informed by your history; your likes and dislikes, your hobbies, your passions, even your core values all stem from experience. Them: But your history is not unbroken, is it? Every night you fall asleep, and take for granted the fact that you'll wake up and continue on as normal. But that's 8 hours where the world turns without you knowing. >you're pretty sure you can mark this one down as needing psychiatric help Them: Ever slept on a plane before? >your finger hovers over the disconnect button Them: If you can wake up at a different time, or in a different place, could you wake up as a different person? >you blink a few times Them: Sound familiar? Them: How far back do you actually remember, Mr. Nobody? I mean, REALLY remember. Not just vaguely, but with vivid recollection? Them: A few hours? Them: A day? Them: A week? Them: Something to think about. >and with that, they're gone >disconnected and disappeared into the ether >... >what a fucking weirdo >you are Anonymous >and you have to escape >from what? >you don't know >you can't tell, because if you look back, even for a second >it >will catch you >fins and scales and teeth, all chasing behind a bloodthirsty roar that reverberates through your soul every time you hear it >you've managed to elude it so far, squeezing through holes and leaping over crates as you tear through the remains of some derelict warehouse >the salty smell of ocean and rotting meat stings your nostrils >but with each second you feel your strength failing you >your heart pumps battery acid into your muscles, your lungs suck down fire, but you keep running >you can feel the heat from its breath on the back of your neck >and almost in defiance >you chance a look over your shoulder >if this is how you die, you'll at least know the face of your demise >as you turn, though, you feel your foot catch on something >and all at once, you're world becomes a rush of color and sound.as you plummet toward the sea below >from a great way off, you hear a voice that calls your name > intensely familiar, full of concern >then, a curious tearing sensation and a pulling feeling around your abdomen and you feel yourself stretching, longer and longer >you look down, your fear seeming to evaporate even in the midst of what you can only imagine should be mind-bending pain >a pair of yellow eyes look down their snout at you >a raw chunk of meat, trailing rope-like intestines, hangs from the rows of razor-sharp teeth >almost casually, you look down >you're... a lot shorter than you remember >"Anon? Are you okay?" >haha >ha "No worse than usual, I guess," >you mutter, looking at your torso in the jaws of a leviathan with morbid curiosity >you feel yourself falling, and wonder if this is what dying feels like for everyone >god, you hope not >a scream wells up in your throat >before you can let it out, there's a splash and all your momentum is brought to bear on the water's surface >you jolt in your bed, whole body coiled tight like a spring under tension >your brain scrambles, grasping at every detail for hints as to what the fuck is happening >it takes you a few visceral seconds to come to the realization >it was a dream >something about a... fish >and you, uh >wait >every detail you scramble to remember lets two more by, and the entire thing seems to disappear >like tears in rain >groggily, you rub your eyes "Nnn. What the fuck," >you complain to your empty house, looking over at the clock >still another forty minutes before you need to be up >you flip your sweat-stained pillow, laying your head on the dry side and letting your eyes close hesitantly >it was just a dream, you tell yourself >gotta get some rest >or you won't be >won't... >something... >... >groggily, you lay your head against the back of the seat in front of you >under normal circumstances, you'd grab a window seat to watch the traffic roll by >but right now, what you could really use is a couple minutes of uninterrupted quiet >must've stayed up too late fucking with people on the internet >hopefully you can compose yourself by the time you get to school >your first class is History, so if absolutely necessary you can tell Mr. Epoch you're not feeling well >but Coach Deadlift doesn't give two shits about how you feel, unless how you feel is 'tired from all those sit-ups' "Ugh." >you let out a sigh as you hear the doors hiss open, another wave of chattering classmates piling onto the bus with you >without bothering to look up, you can tell that one girl is having a day >the pink one with the floofy hair, uh >Plinky Pry? >sure, why not >you feel the seat shift as someone sits down next to you, gingerly >"Hey Anon, what's up?" >you look over, eyes half-lidded, at an obliviously cheerful Sonata "Hey Sonata. I dunno, just didn't get much sleep last night, I think." >she pouts slightly, though you get the impression it's supposed to be sympathetic? >"Were you up all night playing video games? Or watching TV? Or painting pretty pictures? Or washing dishes? Or--" >you shake your head continuously, letting her chatter on and on and on >the longer she goes, the more forcefully you shake your head >until eventually you're whipping your head around like you're at a thrash metal concert >"Or thinking about milk? Or masturbating? Or building Gundam models? Or reading?" >she stops listing things, but it takes you a few seconds to stop shaking your head >"Huh. Bad dreams?" >you blink, then nod slowly "Yeah, I think I had a nightmare that really fucked me up, I can't remember though." >the blue-haired girl nods sympathetically, patting you on the shoulder gently her hand trails lightly up your neck to your temple, and she reaches her other hand out to the other side of your head >gently, she guides you to look at her, looking mildly concerned but mostly just calm and happy >"Do you wanna try something that works for me sometimes, with this stuff?" >you nod curiously >she reaches for her purse, grabbing her phone and then delving into a side pocket >when she comes up again, she has a pair of earbuds in her hand >she plugs the audio jack into her phone, offers you one bud, and places the other in her own ear >you can hear the menu sounds of her clicking through to find what she's looking for after you slip it in >finally, she taps the screen in a final-ish motion and scoots a bit closer >probably so you don't pull the earbud out if you sit up >the guitar fades in slowly, repetitive in its familiarity >over the noise of the engine and the other students talking, you can still hear her hum >it sounds at once both absurdly strange and completely right >a sort of monotone to match the guitar >the first verse starts, and you can hear her get softer >she nudges your shoulder with hers >"Hey, you have to sing, or like hum or something. Otherwise it doesn't work." >the way she says it, it's like you should've guessed instinctively >you're not totally sure how she knows you know this song >but you do >so you wait until the start of the next verse >under your breath, you sing: "Come down," >she hums the melody, the two of you huddled close in the row despite more than enough space for everyone to have their own seat "and waste away with me," >you look at her, and she gives you a smile, before closing her eyes >you mimic her, concentrating on the song rather than the world around you "down with me..." >you feel her hand settle on top of yours "Slow, how," >she rests against you, a comfortable warmth and weight that feels cosmically right just where it is "you wanted it to be," https://youtu.be/OgMkST2rUR8 "I'm over my head, out of her head she sang..." >the guitar leads into the chorus, and to your surprise she jumps in with you "And I wonder," >"And I wonder," >the two of you rest against each other, hand on hand, growing a little bolder in your sing-along as the energy of the song picks up "If anything could ever feel this real forever," >she gives your hand a squeeze, and you let her take the next line solo >"If anything could ever be this good again..." >you focus intently on the song, letting everything else in the world slide >and slide it does, much to your surprise "The only thing I ever ask of you," >"The only thing I ever ask of you," >you sing in chorus, now starting to really play off of each other, taking a back-up role on alternating lyrics before jumping back to the fore "You've gotta promise not to stop when I say when... she sang," >the guitar strums its steady rhythm, and you and she ride it along, carefree >swaying back and forth in time >"Breathe out," "So I can breathe you in..." >you let the reverie take its course, just enjoying the primal simplicity of music >"Hold you in..." "Hold you in..." >you lean back, daring to go just a little louder "And now," >"I know you've always been," >she matches you and pushes even further, emboldened by your dare >"Out of your head," "Out of my head I sang!" >the two of you pause, the lead-in to the chorus short but still enough to build a bit of anticipation "And I wonder, when I sing along with you:" >"And I wonder, when I sing along with you:" >"If everything could ever be this real forever?" "If anything could ever be this good a-gain?" >you put your arm around her and she mimics the motion, hesitant at first but decisively once she makes contact "The only thing I'll ever ask of you," >"You've gotta promise not to stop when I say when...!" "She sang!" >"She sang!" >your eyes snap open, and you're greeted by a couple dozen gawking faces >even the bus driver is staring from the rear view mirror >one of the nerds near the front of the bus even has his phone out and pointed at you >oh jesus, does someone have that on film? >you give Sonata a distressed nudge, and she half-peeks at you >when she sees where you're looking, her eyes open too and she starts to blush intensely >she practically trips over her own words as she fumbles for her phone "What do we say?" >you hiss at her from the corner of your mouth >"S... Sorry! We didn't mean t--" >"Holy shit!" >the beanie-wearing kid the next seat over interjects >"That was totally wicked!" >a wave of assenting murmurs washes over the school bus >you blink a couple times, nonplussed >but everyone else seems to be in total agreement >well... everyone except Pinko Pow >the normally over-energetic girl seems to be very reservedly watching the scene around her unfold >for a brief second your eyes meet >her eyes narrow, and she spins in her seat, not even bothering to mute the key-taps on her phone as she hammers out a text >uh >fucking what? >halfway through she even turns around to look at you again, though this time with much more curiosity than malice >your brow furrows in confusion >"Anon, I'm so sorry, I just kinda got," >your ditzy singing partner absentmindedly wraps a strand of hair around her finger, >"Carried away, I guess." >you flash her a slightly bemused smile "Nothing to apologize for." >you give her a gentle squeeze, which only makes her blush more >a realization gives you pause, before you point it out to your seatmate "And, y'know, I actually do feel way better now? We should do that sorta stuff more often." >she stares at you curiously, head tilted to one side >"Yeah..." >then something seems to click in her head, and she shakes it vigorously >"I mean, no! I mean, yeah, but... not on the bus." >she clarifies >kind of surprising that she has stage fright, you think to yourself >but okay, sure, you can find another time to sing along with David Grohl >or RHCP, you're not picky >as long as you're singing along with Sonata Dusk, too >the bus pulls up to the drop-off station, and you grab your backpack and wait for the folks ahead of you to file off >Sonata taps her fingers on the seat back idly, wrapping up her earbuds and dropping her phone back into her purse while she waits >the two of you manage to get onto campus proper just as the bell is starting to ring >great, 5 minutes to get to class >you were really hoping to get some breakfast, but you guess you'll just have to have a big lunch instead >the other half of your duet does a little twirl in place, turning around to face you >"See you at lunch, right?" >you give her a nod "Totally, I'll be at my usual table." >she nods, half to herself, then gives you a big hug that you just can't resist smiling through >"Okie-doke, see you then Anon!" >as she skips away towards the Science wing, you make your way to the Social Science area, out near the portables >you're about two thirds of the way there when you get that inarticulate compulsion to take a look around >you toss a glance over your shoulder >nothing but a bunch of stragglers headed towards their own classes >but for some reason, a flash of blue and yellow catches your eye >you double back a few paces and lean over >...candy wrapper? >you ball it up and turn back towards the classroom >Vice-Principal Luna was on a big anti-litter kick lately >but that didn't stop some students from just tossing their garbage wherever they pleased >the warning bell rings >shit, 60 seconds 'til you're late >you book it towards the classrooms >Mr. Epoch will have your head if you're late to his class for 'no good reason' >you sit in the library, fairly near to the front, so you can people-watch as students file in and out >during the lulls, you write out lines of equations that you're supposed to be working on >really just preparation for later this week, you've already got today's assignments done >well, except for Erlenmeyer's worksheet >Principal Celestia could replace him with a printer and a cardboard cutout, and nobody would notice for at least a week easy >so you put his work off in an act of petty, short-sighted revenge >that'll teach him, you tell yourself >you're almost done with setting up each problem when you see a familiar maroon coat and pink skirt flounce by >you hold your hand up and wave to get her attention, and after a few oblivious seconds, she turns and sees you sitting there >"Hey Anon! Ha! I found you!" >she puts on a smirk, as though this was a huge accomplishment, and sits down looking supremely pleased with herself "Yeah, you sure did. How'd I beat you here, though? Don't you have class in the building right across from here?" >"I had to pee! Also I hate math, so I walked reeeeeeeaaaaaally slooooooooooow." >she crosses her legs daintily, flipping rapid-fire through her notebook in contrast to her words to find an empty page to write on >for a writing utensil, she grabs a pencil she had holding her hair together in a bun, letting it droop into her face >she blinks a couple times in confusion, before seeming to remember she has a hair tie around her wrist >after which she does it up in her usual ponytail, picking up the pencil again and writing her name, date, and the period number on the top corner "Fair enough," >you shrug, opening the textbook to the relevant chapter >alright, Gaussian Elimination of a Matrix of Equations >it's a pretty intense title, but it's actually fairly simple if you know the tricks to it >a fact that you reassure Sonata of when she whimpers at the mouthful of words you use to describe it "It's actually almost fun, once you get the hang of it," >you tell her, pointing out the first set of equations in the problem set >"I don't believe you." >she scowls playfully, though she still listens attentively as you talk >it's pretty easy, honestly >you basically have three options: >reordering, where you move two equations in the matrix >multiplication, where you multiply the whole row by a common value >and addition, where you add one row (or a multiple of one row) to another >you let her go at it uninterrupted for a problem, and don't see any major issues with it >she muddles around a bit on the second one, multiplying and dividing a number out needlessly, and she winds up erasing a few times, but seems to come up with the right solution then as well >the third problem is where she stumbles, a simple case of not multiplying the other side of the equation >you point it out after a couple of minutes of struggling on her part, and she frowns at the paper as though it'd done something wrong >"Anon... this sucks." >you nod begrudgingly in agreement >it is not, as you convinced yourself earlier, fun once you know what you're doing >the lies you tell yourself to cope with this garbage... "Yeah, it's, uh, kind of a pain." >she scribbles morosely as she solves out the problem, now seeming to do much better when she's watching carefully for clerical errors >to her credit, she seems to have a firm grasp on this concept >it's just boring as all hell >"and theeeeeen... we subtract this one when it's multiplied byyyyy... -3?" >she asks herself as much as you, and you look over her shoulder >yep, looks good >she solves it out, and lo and behold >the correct answer >or at least what you came up with when you did the problem, it's not like you're perfect either >she holds it out for your inspection "Yep, matches mine, so I think we're good. If it's not, I'll take the blame from Mrs. Fourier tomorrow." >"Oh yeah! What'd she want to talk to you about, anyway?" >oh right, you didn't get to talk on the way to Haiku's class because you'd left your book in your locker "Right! It was actually about you, Mrs. Fourier graded your homework like that day to see how you were doing, and she was super-impressed at the change." >"Really? Cool beans!" >you chuckle at the weirdly out-of-date phrasing >strange that she was less excited about it than you were >her reaction was more akin to finding out that North Korea won an olympic medal: >a very 'cool, but who gives a shit?' attitude >still, it seems to have brought her spirits up a bit, so you won't look a gift horse in the mouth >instead, you doodle on the side of your paper while she works >occasionally you'll look up and check her work, but other than one more minor mix-up where she forgot to reorder the other side of the matrix, she seems to have this >"Psst! Anon, what're you drawing?" >her blue wisp of ponytail floods your vision as she inserts herself between you and your drawing "I dunno, I just kinda started scribbling. Think I decided it was some sort of dragon? Feels right," >you explain, shading a little area underneath the eye >it is, of course, a black dragon, thanks to your selection of colors being "graphite" and "graphite pushed harder against the paper" >you should probably draw yourself on the other margin >Sir Anonymous, Lord of the Edge >it'd need a little speech bubble with the words 'psssh, nothing personnel, kid' >... >you contemplate rewriting this on a clean sheet so Mrs. Fourier doesn't try to reassign you into the special needs class >"Iiiiiinteresting," >Sonata shrugs, before finishing one more problem >"There. I think that's, uh, two thirds of the assignment, is that enough? Can we please go to the mall now please please pleeeeeease?" >she leans her head against your shoulder and looks up at you, lower lip trembling theatrically >you think it over >a responsible tutor would make her stay and finish the whole thing >that way you could be dead certain that none of her answers are wrong >this would let her build her skills without the risk of failure >ooooor you could declare your natural right of 'fuck this' and go to the mall right now >and check her homework in the morning or during lunch >that'd still give you enough time to correct any minor mistakes, but you probably wouldn't be able to help her with a real problem in understanding >this is an important choice >you must choose wise-- >no, fuck it, she's bored, you're bored, obviously both of you understand the basic concepts by now "You absolutely have to have this done by the time we have lunch, okay? I want to look over it and make sure it's right." >"Is that a yes?!" >her magenta eyes absolutely sparkle with cautious hope >it's like you've told her she's going to Disney Land "If that's a promise, then yes." >"WOOOO!" >she claps her hands over her head a few times, earning a glare from Ms. Cheerilee >you're honestly surprised the librarian has kept this job this long without killing any students for disturbing the sanctity of this hallowed book-ground >well, if she has, she's gotten away with it so far >you pack up your things as Sonata bounces happily in her seat, practically unable to even contain her joy >doesn't she live right near the mall? >how is this such a momentous occasion for her? >a question you'll shelve for later >the two of you are all set, and you walk towards the door and out in the direction of the student parking lot >hopefully she doesn't mind a slight lack of legroom >you say a silent thank-you prayer as your car starts up without issue, and you pull out to the main road and then into traffic >you look over at Sonata, who's bouncing in her seat like she just passed a sign with Mickey Mouse ears that says '5 miles ahead' >how anyone can be this excited at the prospect of going clothes shopping, you'll never know >but at least it's made her happy >"Hey Anon! What kind of music do you have in this thing, anyway? Ooh, wait no, don't tell me!" >she puts both hands to her temples, apparently reading your musical aura from the nebulous ether beyond as she closes her eyes in concentration >"Youuuuuu... liiiiiiiiike..." >she points a hand at your stereo, waggling her fingers at it to coax your musical tastes from it >"Mmmmmm..." >her eyes open in surprise, before giving you an almost Costanza-esque disbelieving smirk >"Really, Anon? 70's soft rock? Aren't we a little, y'know, past that by now?" >you stifle a laugh at her >oh sweet, innocent Sonata >not that you don't enjoy a little Manilow when nobody's looking >but the truth is really so much worse "Is that your final answer?" >she blinks in surprise >"Uh. I guess?" >you imitate a buzzer, sticking out your tongue at her as you come to a stop at a light "Sorry Sonata, wrong guess. Would you like to go for Double Jeopardy, where the scores can REALLY change?" >she scowls at you >apparently she's not used to her psychic music intuition being wrong >"Really?" >she fixes you with a devious smile >"'Cause I'm betting youuuuu're bluffing!" >she hits the power button with one finger, then immediately switches to CD, cranking the volume before the song can even start >oh, you poor fool >the stupid, cheesy synth starts up almost immediately >you look over at her, stone-faced >in perfect sync with the music, you recite the opening: "Hiya Barbie!" >she's blindsided by this development, jaw actually hanging open in disbelief >so of course she misses her chance to respond >that's okay, Lene Nystrom fills the silence perfectly >'Hi Ken!' "You wanna go for a ride?" >'Sure, Ken!' "Jump in!" https://youtu.be/ZyhrYis509A >you mouth the words to the song at her while waiting for the light to change, actually taking a perverse pleasure in how bad your taste is >not that this is your everyday driving music >but it's a song you did unironically burn to a CD because it's got an infectious (read: obnoxious) beat >it helps break up all the punk rock and indie songs in your collection >she holds a hand over her face, letting her whole head sink into it as she rests her elbow on the center console >'imagination, life is your creation~' "C'mon Barbie, let's go party!" >you can't help but chuckle >but you have, you realize as you notice the smirk she's wearing through her facepalm, made a grave mistake >"A-a-a-ah, yeah," >she sings under her breath >uh oh >and incredbly off-key, like she was born to massacre late-90's pop, she belts back >"Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please," >she sings at the top of her lungs, blushing slightly with how stupid the lyrics are but not willing to lose to you in a shitty-music-off >"I can act like a star, I can beg on my knees~" >you imitate the male singer's gruff non-voice as much as you can "Come jump in, bimbo friend, let us do it again," >you head-bob in a way that any Night at the Roxbury fan would be envious of "hit the town, fool around, let's go party!" >not to be outdone, she improvises a couple playful-sensuous dance moves in her seat as she sings >"You can touch, you can play, if you say I'm always youuurs~" "You can touch! You can play! If you say I'm always youuuurs!" >the two of you are locked in a musical dual to the death "C'mon Barbie, let's go party!" "Uuu-oh-u! Uuu-oh-u!" >and neither of you will back down >not when the stakes are this high! >"I'm a Barbie girl!" "In a Barbie wo-o-orld!" >"Life in plastic:" "It's fantastic!" >you almost miss the turn for the mall you're so enraptured with this stupid sing-off >"Aah! You can brush my hair!" "Undress me anywheeeere!" >"Imagination!" "Life is your creation!" >you pull into the parking lot for the mall just in time, as the two of you can't hold back the laughter anymore >and you both dissolve into giggles just about the same time you throw it in park >sure you have a couple cars between the front doors of the mall and here >but you're not going to spend the next ten minutes looking for a spot >instead, you just sit in the car while the rest of the song plays out, the pair of you cackling at how stupid each other (and yourselves) sounded >as with all good songs >and with this song too >the music eventually comes to an end, and you turn the music down and back to radio >lest she discover other horrors lurking in your CD case "That... was awful." >you can't help but giggle again at it >"Ohmygod, it was ATROCIOUS!" >she holds both hands over her face in shame, nonetheless still catching her breath from the laughter >"Why would you have that song? Why would ANYONE have that song?!" >she gives you a disparaging smile that you shrug off easily "Well, on the one hand, it's great for when people want to complain about my music tastes," >you turn the car off and pop the door open >A/C's on the fritz, and you don't want Sonata getting warm sitting here talking to you "And on the other hand, it really does have a good beat. Not the most thought-provoking lyrics, but it's fun to sing along to." >the pair of you start towards the blessedly cold gusts of wind peeling out of the mall's main entrance >"Yeah, I guess. You know I've got blackmail on you now, right?" >she ribs at you "Excuse you, I think you knew those words better than I did!" >you fire back >she blushes ever so slightly >"Well, to buy my silence (and as an apology), I think YOU owe me a smoothie." >oh no >perish the thought >compared to this, you envy Germany's reparation payments "Fine, but you owe me some Reese's Pieces to make up for that performance." >she rolls her eyes, but nods