I am finding where I am, by understanding where I was.
And everything I was is linked to the island of Myst-the refuge.
Never in her life had Yeesha seen Myst in person like this before. Not that this here, what she walks on, is Myst Island at it's peak, but she's only seen it (all branches of it) in ruins. She once found an awfully rude, disgraceful, horrid tribute to its ruinedness online, seething as it played haltingly on a DRC-installed computer. But she's never before walked around in its most fondly remembered state of decline, so at least she could say she's done that, if this is all for nothing. She walked into the library.
I will never return to that place.
Yeesha is a queen of loopholes and a leading innovator in technicalities. This is not the Myst of her parents. There may even be another Yeesha right now, in that place, which is not the place she said she would never step foot in again. She opened a book.
Why did she do this?
Some strange impulse.
Pride is a thief. Pride stole the soul of the D'ni people. Pride stole my own brothers. The temptation was too great. It is not the power, but the desire for power that destroys. That desire is in my blood. The blood of my ancestors-the blood of my flesh. I fight it, but I am pulled, even now.
No, not impulse, she corrected herself. Foolishness. Pride. This time, this time, she thought, (foolishly), (and pridefully), she was ready, her arguments were prepared, she could talk anyone anybody anywhere into seeing the- into seeing the darkness-
"Who are you? Hello... Hello, can you hear me-"
Yeesha said nothing and silently walked across the room. Sirrus' book was letting out the loudest static she'd ever heard. She opened Achenar's book as well.
"Do you know why you are imprisoned?" Yeesha asked them both.
Perfect equality. Now nobody can fight over who she talked to first.
"What?" yelled Sirrus. "I can't hear you. There's... static! ...Imprisoned...need pages...."
"BLUE pages!" burst out Achenar. "NOT red....blue...blue pages..."
Yeesha sewed in a page to each book, and the static quieted down by a lot.
"Not perfect," Sirrus said. "Still need more red pages. Red pages, by the way, not blue-"
"I can hear a little, but I could hear better if I had blue pages, blue, not red-"
"You are imprisoned."
"Because of HIM!"
She wasn't looking in the books' windows, but Yeesha was absolutely sure they were pointing accusingly at each other.
"Your ways have been evil," Yeesha lectured. That was her best skill, and she was going to use it.
"No I haven't," said Achenar. "HE'S been evil."
"Part of this evil is a failure to recognize flaws in yourself."
"HA," said Sirrus. "I TOLD you it was all your fault."
"Your prison books, I see, are intentionally incomplete. You hover in the space between where you are from and where you are going. You sit in the darkness, frozen in an eternal journey. This is the perfect time to self-reflect, to mend your ways."
"Okay, so, are you going to let us out then?" Sirrus asked.
"I want to. I want to, so, so, badly. But only if you are prepared to be let out."
"Trust me," Achenar said, "I'm as prepared as it gets! Give me the blue pages and set me free!"
"And you'll do what?"
"I'll KILL h-" Achenar started, and then screeched to a halt. "Um, sorry, I'm not sure! Haha, wow, being free, I can't even imagine it. I've been imprisoned so long... trapped for weeks, years, decades maybe, the big wide world, the freedom, what WOULD I do first?"
"The world," Sirrus supplied, "Would be my oyster."
"MY oyster." corrected Achenar.
"Yeah, I said that. My oyster."
Yeesha rolled her eyes to the heavens. No one should own an oyster, in her opinion. Oysters should live freely in the seas.
"I'm going to give you time to prepare."
She hoped they would use it.
She wandered around the island for about a day. Deeply, she wished it was her home. The Katran and the Anna who wrote this version of Myst, she could almost imagine them with her. Could almost imagine another mother of hers, another grandmother, rescuing another father, living in this place. Nearly the very same as what she knew, but not quite, not in any deep down intrinsic difference, but in all the small coincidences. The tiniest change to a word regarding weather, so a wind blew differently one day, and someone turned around, saw a sunset they otherwise wouldn't have seen, became enchanted with a different favorite color. Someone stopped to smell a flower where they could have marveled at a bird.
The switches here had buttons, not levers.
One constellation in the planetarium- only one- was different than what she knew.
She explored everywhere except for her father's recordings. Imagining is all well and good. To see him...
"The mother here would not fear me if she saw me," she said to herself. "She would be curious. Perhaps that is why I am here, too. Because I am curious."
She knew it was wrong as soon as she said it. If she were curious, she'd be exploring the other ages written on this Myst, and she'd be exploring silently, respectfully, changing nothing, not- she growled to herself, balling her hands into fists, and stalked back to the library. Fine, if this is the branch she wants to walk down, then let her walk into the blistering hot sun. Let her gamble on this and be crushed by disappointment.
"Look, whoever that is, she clearly already knows we're both little rascals, so just tell her we've had a change of heart," she heard Sirrus whisper as she approached. This didn't accomplish anything at all, because Sirrus' book was letting out the second-loudest static she'd ever heard. "We'll tell her our imprisonment made us goody-goodys and she'll let us free- starting with me, of course-"
"As if! You'll just burn my book!"
"Don't say that, I'm a good person! I'll even offer some of my finest wine to our guest as her reward."
"Let me guess. The poison wine?"
"Do you think I'm an idiot?"
"Shut up. Anyway. Obviously the poison wine."
She's heard enough.
"It pains me," Yeesha groaned, and sank right down to the cool wood of the library floor. She wriggled herself to the center, emulating the humble worm (not the most humble of beasts, but definitely in the top ten) and laid face-down. When she spoke, her words were muffled, so she turned her face sideways to be heard clearly.
Yeesha, said her face.
"It pains me like a physical ache," Yeesha said again, "That even in this state, the two of you, suspended in pitch-dark over your solitary prisons, you still manage to be remorseless, crafty, and worst of all, blazing with prideful light. You generate the heat and light of miniature suns."
"Thank you?" said Achenar.
"It isn't a compliment," said Yeesha. "It is a curse. A curse on all of us. Look at me, assuming I could find you at your best point- that this of all times would be the time you would cling the least to your wicked ways, be the most receptive to change- thinking that I could do anything. Fix anything. As if I haven't learned my lesson... I am as rotten, arrogant, and remorseless as any of us." She heaved a great sigh.
"What was that?" said Sirrus.
"I said that all three of us are-"
"Sorry, I can't hear you one little bit," Sirrus cut in, "Because of all the static. You know, from the book I'm trapped in? Listen, why don't you get me a few more pages, and then mumble it all again?"
This was unfair of him to say. Yeesha was using her very best miserable monologue tones, clear and enunciated.
"Don't do it!" said Achenar. "You're totally right. He's remorseless and crafty and, uh, a flashlight? Just like you said. Us two have to stick together and watch out for his tricks, you know? He's deceptive, that wicked Sirrus, and together, we can be on guard for his lies."
"I would rather you have not heard a word I said than twist what you did hea-"
"Remorseless?!" Sirrus squawked. "I'm full of remorse. I'm bursting with never going to do that again. I'm-" he sputtered into static. "My friend. My savior. If you let me out, I'll donate all my gold to the poor."
"No you won't," groaned Yeesha.
"No you won't," laughed Achenar.
"And not only that," Sirrus continued, as if he was a salesman throwing a bargain into her purchase, "I'll even donate all my wine. To the sober."
"What about the poison wine?"
"I don't have any poison wine. What are you talking about. Are you on drugs? And speaking of drugs, I'll give all my drugs away, too. Down to my very last bahg of D'ni we'ed."
"Perhaps you are repentant."
"I will too!" screeched Achenar, trying to get his foot in the door of her softening resolve. "If you let me out of here I'll give all the bones in my bone box a proper burial, I promise!"
"See, now you fucked it up for us, Achenar. HAD to tell her about the bone box."
Yeesha pressed her face into the floor. Her makeup was smudging a bit, but whatever. Her head ached.
Yeesha, said the floor.
"Somebody tell me what's in the bone box right now," said Yeesha, stern and frustrated like a teacher.
Achenar giggled nervously.
"No offense, but, it's pretty simple."
"Our father's," said Sirrus, who either grabbed an opportunity when he saw one or told the truth. These were her brothers, but they also weren't.
"Only because you killed him!" said Achenar. He may have told the truth, he may have lied.
Atrus should be alive, oblivious to his wretched sons and foolish daughter in the library upstairs. He should have more important things on his mind, frantically scratching new lines into a version of Riven, saving a version of their mother. He should, but there was always the chance he wasn't. Maybe he was dead. And if he wasn't, she would rather have died herself than face him.
"YOU killed him!" argued Sirrus. "You bopped him on the head with- uhm- a huge book!"
They argued like children over the last piece of cake. It made her sick. Why did she come here, why does she want this from time to time? Redemption? Hasn't she learned yet? After all this time, hasn't it sunk into her head? People aren't cities, can't be swooped down on by the well-intentioned and rebuilt into a secure structure. Some people are rotted through and can't be helped, even if you scoop them up gently, like a fish from a cavern's river, and not even if you scoop them up, again like the fish, out of the deepest, darkest areas of their lives. Not even if you save them from the fear of being moments to their death. But she hasn't learned a damn thing, and so here she is, back in time, again, ready to scoop, and ready to be supremely disappointed. Again. She frowned into the floor. It's pride, is what it is. It's thinking she knows better than anyone else, that she can have a family if she just makes herself heard. It's an ugly sort of selfishness, grabbing, wanting, needing...
But that's not something meant for her.
"...Sirrus," she heard Achenar say quietly. "I think she's dead."
"Nuh- what? No. How?"
"Look, she isn't moving."
If Yeesha wasn't moving, it was only because she was frozen like the angriest dog in the world. She raged at herself, at them, at everything. Fine. She's learned who never to try and help. That's enough of that.
"What?!?" Achenar screamed as she linked away.
"If you could do that all along you should've taken us with you!!" Sirrus shrieked.
She reemerged on the side of a cave river, deep in D'ni, her arm dangling in the water, sleeve growing heavy and soaked. You know who doesn't live for conquering and theft and killing? Who truly can be trusted? Fish. Her hand bumped into something non-fishy in texture, but unbelievably fishy in content: a glass bottle with a note inside.
Obviously, she was going to open it. Curiosity, that thin mask for uglier emotions. She never learns.
hi! you haven't moved in six hours and we're all kind of concerned about you. if you get hungry we're having a picnic around the riverbend by the big stalactite. do you like deli sandwiches?
It had a DRC stamp, a little drawing of a traffic cone, and - the nerve - a journey hand, in lieu of a signature.
She was hungry, it was true. For food, but also... well... maybe she needed to feed her starvation for companionship. Maybe, just as hunger for food can lead a person to extreme acts, this would keep her from doing the foolish things she'd tried that day again.
"That's very kind of you," she called, her voice echoing down the cavern. "Please float a sandwich my way."
She got up, and walked following the river until she could see their shadows flickering on the wall.
(That's close enough for her liking.)