“Okay I give up…”
“Seriously WHAT is your deal?”
“A ghost! Jesus fucking -”
“Oh NOW you notice there’s a ghost? Pff.”
“I don’t – Sorry… what?”
“I’ve been haunting you for months, fucko.”
“… really no need to be rude.”
“We just met, is all…”
“Yes. Sorry. It’s just been…”
“… hardly know what I’ve done, but I really don’t think it warrants…”
“…really frustrat- you don’t know what you’ve done?”
“… did you say you’ve been haunting me?”
“YES. And you’ve ignored. All of it.”
“No one’s that good an actor.”
“I’m not saying that, I’m saying I haven’t noticed a haunting.”
“You didn’t notice?”
“… I don’t think so?”
” I’ve been randomly shifting furniture around your rooms for the last three months!”
“… You have.”
“That was you.”
“Who did you think it was?”
“WHY WOULD – Sorry…”
“Do you… Remember… Moving any furniture?”
“Ha. That’s funny. No.”
“I just assumed I did it when I wasn’t paying attention.”
“… I-I can’t even process that.”
“Okay forget the furniture for now. What about the lights?”
“I turn on every light in the house before you get home from work and all I get in response is it kind of tired sigh.”
“That was you?”
“I think we’ve established that.”
“I thought I just left them all on my the way out the door.”
“You NEVER do that.”
“Really? That’s a relief.”
“HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THIS.”
“Dude I’ve got ADHD. All this is just… How my life works.”
“You’re telling me I cover every flat surface in the kitchen with half full glasses of water, and open every window in the house, and you figured it was something you did and forgot about?”
“I mean… Probably?”
Something “interesting” about the Avatar series, both of them, is that people get grumpy with Korra for having a little bit of representation that didn’t go far enough, early enough, while Last Airbender has NO representation and everybody’s okay with that.
It’s like catching heat for getting a D in trig while your sibling didn’t even take trig (and no one had the guts to even TRY trig when they were in school) but they’re still everyone’s favorite kid.
Or… Steven Universe. A in trig. A+ maybe. People complain their freshman year math wasn’t great. “Why did they take so long to take trig? Why didn’t they take it when they were freshmen? Why didn’t they take it when they were in junior high?!?”
Or they point out the B in art. Or the C in the Life Skills they took senior year to finish out the last semester after they already had enough credits to graduate.
“They could have been MORE.”
Yeah. But instead they were brave enough to be first.
If another show goes further, later, consider the possibility it’s because these other shows moved the starting line.
“Ready to go?”
“Two seconds. Need to feel Amalia.”
My wife nodded, checking her phone while I rooted in the fridge.
“We’re low on greens and fungus.”
She swiped the screen. “Those sliced toadstools? I can put it on the list.”
“And mustard greens.” I checked the tupperware next to the reptile enclosure. “We’re good on grubs, which is great since I’m not going to be anywhere near the store this week.” I fished the blind, scaly, larval worms out of the grainy bedding in the feed container, then tossed them into the enclosure for Amalia to snatch up. Which she did, energetically. It always impressed me how she generated such loud smacking sounds with no lips.
My wife came over, dividing her attention between the shopping list on her phone and what she called our ‘alleged pet.’
“You’re impressive, Amalia,” she said to the inattentive, rainbow-scaled reptile – one of the largest any of our neighbors had seen outside a zoo, “but if I’d known how much work a basilisk would be…”
“The kids like her. And we don’t have rats.”
“We never had rats. And the kids, I can’t help notice, don’t feed her. Or clean the enclosure.”
I paused, trying to remember if I was at thirteen grubs or an even dozen, then shrugged and put the lid on the container. “I don’t mind, though it’d be easier -”
“Don’t say pixies.”
“- if I could give her pixies. All the books and the kids at the store recommend it.”
“Sweetie. I love you. The kids love you. Probably even Amalia loves you, since you feed her, but I lived for too long in New York apartments to ever let pixies in my house, knowingly. Line drawn.”
“I know.” I grinned. It was a familiar conversation. “You don’t think you’d enjoy watching her eat them?”
“No. Ugh.” She shuddered. “They crunch. No. Never.”
“Fair enough.” I slide the enclosure door closed. “Ready to go?”
She gave me a look. “I am. You need to wash your hands.”
Nothing wakes you up from a dead sleep more effectively than the sound of a pet quietly retching on your new carpet at five in the morning.
“SON of a -” I stumbled toward the kitchen while my wife rolled out of her side of the bed and led the dog to the backyard. She was already dropping back onto her pillow by the time I’d got back with paper towels in hand.
“Ugh…” I wiped at the viscous puddle, giving thanks for the stain resistant carpet coating. Extra cost – SO worth it. “And what a surprise – a big clump of cloth.”
“Wha…” my wife’s voice crawled muzzily out of the comforter. “Where’s he getting that stuff?”
“I’ll give you one clue,” I said, plucking the wad off the carpet. “Red felt.”
She groaned. “Gnomes? Again?!”
“Looks like it.” I peered at the fuzzy, soggy glob. “Maybe two or three.”
“And just the hats?”
“Just the hats.” I pushed myself to my feet. Maybe their clothes are some other … thing. Substance. Whatever.”
“Maybe it’s just… skin.” I shrugged. “Explains why there’s never any belt buckles.”
No reply from the bed while I shuffled into the bathroom and dropped the wad of sogginess into the trash. She sat up as I turned around.
“Well, I’m not going back to sleep with that image in my head.”
She stood, and we headed back toward the kitchen, breakfast, and an apologetic dog by the back door.
“Maybe he’s making a political statement,” I said.
“The red caps. Maybe…” I trailed off, staring down at the dog through the screen, trying to turn MAGA into Munch A Gnome… Something.
I shook my head and opened the door. “Nevermind. I need coffee.”
“Officer Hobsmythe, in your report, you state you subdued the… irate hobgoblin with a binding spell.”
“… You reported your service wand damaged beyond use after the incident last weekend.”
“So, if you don’t mind my asking…”
“I improvised. Sir.”
“You improvised. A wand.”
“And that… Worked.”
“Yessir. Fairly well, actually.”
“Did the… Improvised device… Survive?”
“Yessir. I have it right…”
“That’s a pink, plastic…”
“Chopstick. With some kind of toy -”
“Shopkin, sir. A cabbage, I think.”
“- shopkin. Stuck to the end.”
“For pity’s sake WHY?”
“Needed a way to make the wand ‘notable and unique’, sir, per crafting guidelines, and it’s what I had to hand.”
“My niece, sir. She’s mad for the things. I still had one in my pocket from babysitting last week.”
As they walked, the grass border along the pavement grew shaggy, then positively neglected. He commented on it, just to have something to say, but she only scowled harder at the ground in front of them.
It felt to him as if Wilderness and Times Before crept in wherever he wasn’t looking, trying to act casual and “always been here” when he gave them a straight on glare.
It got worse.
Worse? Probably unfair. Say it progressed.
They’d lose sight of the path ahead, because of a curve or a rise or a particularly aggressive shrub, and as it came into view, there was both less and more to see.
Less path. More wild.
Pavement became paver stones, became gravel, became groomed dirt, became a thin line of flattened grass in a sea of whispers.
Mountains rose in the not-so-distance, which he felt sure he would have noticed earlier, had they BEEN there earlier. “Where are we going?” he asked, too late for it to matter very much.
She kept walking, leading the way along a single file barely-trail, her gaze still on the ground ahead of her, calling to the next change, just around the next turn.
“Away,” she murmured. “You’ll see.”