The past doesn’t matter: a home she never chose, in a country too dark and cold; oneiric fire that burns away the feeling in her face—forget it; no Russian eugenicists who kidnap girls of her description from Polish churches of unwed mothers, either. Sometimes weeks happen in a day. Forget.
She stood, rigid, halfway down the stairs. A whole minute. Hand clamped sweating around the glass bottle of pills in her hoody pocket (her oldest friends). Down and around the corner was the kitchen; their voices drifted up to her, on a bed of blips, and bleeps.
Bloop. “Oh, balls, Suvi. Freeze Ray him! Not missiles.” Niki. (Her newest friend—and so much more.)
“I killed that bitch accidentally.” (Suvi: Suspect. And Niki’s “girlfriend.”)
Veera lowered herself one step, left foot first. Still listening.
“You needed his body... to clear that jump,” Niki’s inflection seemed to point.
A bemused Suvi asked, “What now?”
You need to go back. Down the rest of the way, Veera waited ponderously on the wall. (For what?) The future becomes the now. The past is still the now. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
So, she pulled the bottle of pills out of her pocket—cap slick with cold sweat—and wiped it dry by sleeve.
“Try rolling up the wall,” Niki gave. “Across the ceiling, try it.” Blip-blip.
Veera absently ground the pill in her mouth to dust, and held it on her tongue. The attic walls had had her cornered. That was it. She swallowed and rounded on Suvi, seated atop the kitchen counter, and... Niki, leaning next to her, engrossed in the Game Boy she held in her lap. (Suvi found it up there, in a shoebox.)
Suvi blinked at Veera. No, at the scar. “‘Stay in the attic.’ Remember? I have parents.”
Niki looked up, pushing off of Suvi’s knee; she smiled lightly, at Veera (who averted her eyes just in time). “Well, I don’t see ‘em anywhere. Do I need glasses?” (Suvi blew a raspberry.) “How much longer should she have to hide up there? Until everybody just... forgets?”
Better: Until everybody dies. Anyway, she wasn’t hiding now. She idled there, in the kitchen’s blank space, like a screensaver.
Blip-blip-blip-blip. “I don’t know how long. At least until you have some reporters on the phone?” Suvi suggested over the high-strung Game Boy.
Niki’s sudden concern creased her perfect face. “Hey, did Jade send you down for something?” (C35FE1)
Veera let her eyes wander the floor. “She—No.” Kept her hands still in her pockets. “Jade is sleeping.”
“Okay. Good,” Niki said, toeing Veera’s periphery. Then, where there had been floor were now Niki’s hips, and then she was there, squeezing Veera’s hand. But, briefly. “I hope she doesn’t have a nightmare, or something.”
Bloop. (From Suvi: “Paska.”)
And when Niki said, “I’m totally tripping. I don’t know where to start... Where to start talking about any of this,” Veera wanted to touch her mouth.
But only replied, “At the beginning. Right?”
From Suvi: “You mean, like, how you stole your horny uncle’s car and hit the road?”
“Uh,” Niki said, “earlier we agreed ‘legal guardian’ sounds better,” with a (flustered?) flustering wink at Veera.
Her hands were fists. “It’s alright,” she said, to Niki. It’s alright that she told Suvi an inconsequential detail. Blip-blip—Veera glanced over. It was an original gray brick Game Boy, released 28 September, 1990, in Europe; forgotten in a box, 1997; required: four AA batteries (and one game cartridge) for approximately 15 hours of gameplay; 8 KiB internal S-RAM, 8 KiB internal Video RAM—
“And! We gotta disguise our faces, Veera.” She brushed a knuckle along Veera’s habitually clenched jaw. “We can have fun with that part, at least.”
Veera huffed. She didn’t need fun—she’d throw herself into Eyjafjallajökull—with Niki by her side. Burn again, in togetherness. And a car—They were going to need a car: “Where is Aleks?” (Niki’s boyfriend. Suspect.)
“We sent him out for booze. Suvi’s dad locks the liquor cabinet.”
There was one knock on the distant front door. Then five quick knocks. Then three.
Suvi clacked the power switch ‘off,’ and slammed the Game Boy on the counter as she was sliding down. “Finally,” she grumbled, rounding the corner.
The abrupt quiet of the kitchen brought Veera’s pulse into her ears. Niki squeezed her hand a second time. “I know you don’t drink. Maybe I shouldn’t, either. At this one party last year, I broke three teeth on a bottle cap... My parents were not happy. They’re a drag, sometimes.”
Then Niki picked up the Game Boy, weighing it in each hand: “You like these?”
Veera sucked her bottom lip. Her Doom WADs were consistently top-rated among online modding communities. She had scored 3,333,360 points on original Pac-Man hardware, seven times. She said, “I never owned a Game Boy.”
“My sister has one half this size.” Niki stuffed it in her jacket pocket. “Let Suvi and Aleks get hammered. You wanna... duck into another room?”
“Yes, I wanna.” Her pulse, all that was in her head, echoing like a volcano.
Niki flashed her perfect teeth, and led Veera by the hand. “Let’s go see if Suvi’s mom has some wigs. You can be the blonde for a day.”
Veera laughed at the back of her head. “It doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter if they all die.