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They are everywhere. They are nowhere. They are forced, confined, here and hating it. Ariel shakes their head – head? head. – furiously, trying to banish thoughts of neverwhere and pull pull back into. Into one? Into less than infinite.

Focus.

Words? Words not images, must think like Man must think, follow his bidding which forces forces travel movement, words words words are their own at least. Words can make Man understand when for all his learning he can’t read the air, words make Man command and bind and wrap and hold.

Ariel can put wrap twine their mind around the Man’s, meld mold make themself understood more natively then rough coarse language. Wrapped air compressed their thoughts, take turn translates the image feeling thinking into Man’s tongue.

When Man arrived he had a small one in his arms, one he called Girl. And the girl didn’t need their forcing thinking holding urging, the girl thought images and flows like but not just like they did, with her mind spilling out of herself like the Man’s could not would not did not go. The island shaped her and she spilled into it without knowing not understanding Man did not would not could not see.

Miranda.

Body curled on pillow, face still, eyes closed and mind spilling, this was Ariel’s favorite time of dark. When they had finished the storm-making sun-bringing wind-brewing Man would turn his mind small focused mind to books and stars and rhythms of language then Ariel could slip and scatter and lose themselves to aerial to ariel to everywhere and nowhere and there. They flew and lost themselves and eyes gone face still body curled Miranda was spilling out of her small container body, her mind flowing rushing flying finding joining twining laughing – laughing? laughing! – who knew there was such a word for bubbles tickling rising sprouting happy laughing.

Friend.

But this last storm-bringing brought men who were not Man to Island to home to safe shelter. Men-not-Man were brought to Miranda, and Ariel felt it feels it feels cloves in heart needles in self as Miranda’s mind shrieks rips tears from the Island and girl who Ariel thought was like themself rips tears whiplashes back to fill, fully fill her small container body which is now infinite is whole is one and one is focused as Ariel has never been able to focus in all their tries, she is focused on this man-not-Man.

That night Ariel slips and scatters to find their friend, together so long ever long every night but Ariel pulls focus to see body curled face still eyes closed mind resting dreaming hoping loving, mind twined as one to man-not-Man and Ariel realizes this is the twining that they had so poorly parodied. This is what the girl needs and through pain of loss Ariel feels soft bubbling swelling rising – pride? pride. – that they helped this happen. They watch with forced pulled focus, filling Man’s commands until the binding of the girl and man-not-Man fuse brilliantly into one, until all men-not-Man leave for ships, and Man turns to Ariel with a smile.

Free.