Happy Weekend Reading! I hope you enjoy. Continuing where we left off…
Yours truly, Sarah
The Plains Fairy Tale
by Sarah McCoy
Odette extolled the virtues of champagne linens versus cream and ivory, but Ezie didn’t hear a word. The rhythm of the music seemed to match her heartbeat, swelling up inside until she thought it might burst out her chest, leaving a mess of twitching muscle and soft tissue on her lap. She dug her fingers into her temples, failing to hold the pulsing still. “I don’t know my Purpose,” she blurted out through splayed fingers.
Lilith gulped her wine. “You do so.”
“I don’t.” Ezie lifted her face to them. “Do you?”
“Of course,” said Lilith.
Penny and Odette nodded in unison.
“You’ll know when the time comes,” reassured Lilith. Her cheeks were pink and slick, her eyes shellacked like beetle backs.
“And what if I still don’t?” asked Ezie.
All three stared back at her, vacant, and for the first time in their lifelong friendship, Ezie felt a cavernous divide between them. The loneliness of that moment stole her breath.
Penny leaned in, close enough to hear, but still too far to touch. “Don’t worry, Ezie.”
Across the club, a man yelled, “I ain’t hurtin’ nobody!” Two bouncers escorted him out, his full beer untouched on the bar.
An abnormal chatter spread through the crowd. “Not from the Plains. Wild. Fake ID. Slipped passed the doorman,” they whispered and shuttered to one another. For people of the Plains did not associate with anyone from elsewhere.
The DJ put on another mix, returning the club to its natural drone.
Lilith huffed. “Why can’t they stay with their own kind.”
Odette rat-tit-tatted her fingernails on the tabletop then turned to Ezie. “I once heard there was a woman who could see into people’s hearts and tell in a minute what their Purpose was.” She finished her wine and waved for the waiter to bring a refill. “They say on the morning of her Twilight she was riding her horse.”
The waiter approached and set a full decanter on the table.
“Oh, yes, thank you. Read my mind. Wonderful.” Odette poured her glass to the rim, took a sip and waited for him to move out of earshot. Lilith and Penny did the same. “Apparently,” she continued with shiny, wet lips, her words beginning to slide into one another. “She fell.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Penny, though her eyes were flat and distant.
“Yes, and hit her head on a large, round stone. Knocked out cold. When she awoke, she found that the collision had cleft the stone in half revealing a hollow of crystals, but she had not a scratch on her. The injury was far deeper. It was then that she knew of the knowledge of Agony and Ecstasy,” Odette spoke the last part in a kind of whisper-hiss.
“No!” said Penny and this time her eyes were focused wide.
Lilith laughed and shook her head. “What a bunch of bull.”
“It’s what they say.” Odette sucked the blush from her teeth. “They threw the stone in the ocean for fear it was a bad omen.”
Ezie leaned in. “And what happened to her?” It was a well-known fact that neither Agony nor Ecstasy existed in the Plains. Each was forbidden and neither had been felt by any of the Plains people in generations.
“Obviously she couldn’t stay in the Plains, so she picked up and moved.”
Ezie’s heart sped up. No one born and raised in the Plains left for good. Goosebumps ran over her skin. Living outside the Plains was… well, unacceptable.
“The way I heard it, she journeyed to the coast and boarded a boat to the Island of Wilds where she married a local man and had five children.”
“Savages!” said Penny.
It was widely agreed upon that the Plains people only had one child. This allowed for all family assets to go directly to that offspring, thus eliminating sibling strife and parental favoritism, keeping neutrality throughout the land. In addition, they were taught from their youngest of days that outside the Plains, societies of lower intelligence and feral customs procreating in litters like dogs.
Odette sighed. “Yes, yes. They say that’s what comes of the knowledge of Agony and Ecstasy.” She gave a satisfied nod and her head bobbed ever so slightly off kilter.
Penny grew quiet and traced the side of her glass with a manicured finger. “Do you think it’s true?” Her voice was small.
“No,” said Lilith. “It’s a bedtime story to warn people of what can happen if you aren’t careful. You could end up outside the Plains with God knows who, doing God knows what!”
“But it was an accident. She didn’t mean to fall,” Ezie defended. “She didn’t do it on purpose. It just… was.”
“I believe the story,” said Odette. “My grandmother told me it before she moved to Walhalla. She wouldn’t have lied. Not before she went away.” She sucked her lip for a thoughtful moment. “I believe the woman’s name was Diane.”
If it was true, then Ezie had to meet her. It was the only way to find her Purpose. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t notice when her friends rose to dance, leaving her alone. The room’s music and lights drummed together. She stared down at her wobbly reflection in the tabletop, black holes of nothing in the pupils of her eyes.
They didn’t notice when she left Club Sterling nor did her parents wake when she packed a bag and took the keys off their bureau. Her plan was simple: drive to the Plains International Airport and buy a roundtrip ticket to the Island of Wilds. Assuming there were flights. She took an extra handful of hundreds just in case there weren’t and she had to charter a private plane. Nearly everything in the Plains could be bought—fashion, education, esteem, friendship, love—and since all Plains people had equally great finances, no one lacked anything. Except for a Purpose—specifically, Ezie’s Purpose. For that, she needed five minutes with Diane.
On the marble kitchen counter she left a note: “Mom & Dad, I’ve taken the Lexus to the airport. Don’t worry. I’ll be back before my Twilight. Love, Ezie.”
She left her manor and drove through the dark to Plains International. She was lucky it was past midnight and officially the first Purposeful day of the week. Had it still been the Trinity, all the employees would still be drinking and eating in purposelessness.
“Whereto?” asked the man at the airport counter.
“The Island of Wilds,” said Ezie. She handed him her photo ID.
“The Island of Wilds?” The man snorted and looked over the card information. “What’s a Plains girl going there for?”
Ezie thought it none of his business and so ignored the question.
He took her cue and didn’t wait for an answer, punching keys on the computer keyboard instead. “The next flight to the Wilds isn’t for a couple hours. It’s a small plane but lucky for you, nearly all the seats are open.”
She opened her wallet and flashed him the hundreds. “How much?”
After collecting her ticket, waiting through security, finding her gate and buying a grande caffé Americano with half-and-half, it was time to board. There was only one other passenger on the plane. A man about her age, not too old and not too young, but unlike herself, he was strikingly good-looking with coal-black hair and bright green eyes, wearing tailored slacks and a white collared shirt. She tried not to stare as she passed to her seat.
“Good morning,” came a husky voice from overhead. “I’m Tom Thomas and I’ll be your pilot to the Island of Wilds. Our flight time will be one hour and one minute. There are tropical rainstorms at our destination so it may be an unstable ride. Unlike here, their weather is quite unpredictable.”
A tropical rainstorm? In the Plains, the Weather-Techs made the rain fall gently over the land on scheduled nights, lulling the residents to sleep while keeping the days partly sunny and partly cloudy. Ezie had never actually seen a natural rainstorm. She clicked her seatbelt tight and questioned the possible consequences of this journey. What if Odette’s grandmother fabricated the story for a naïve granddaughter? Which was very probable. And even if it was true, what if Diane couldn’t tell her Purpose? Suddenly, the seat seemed too small. The metal hinges and buckles stuck in her back and legs like sitting on a bag of broken bones.
“Prepare for take off,” said Pilot Tom Thomas.
The small plane taxied to the runway and in a whirl and whoosh, they were airborne, flying high above the Plains where the morning mist over the manor gardens obscured the perfectly partition plots in a grey-blue haze.
Ezie leaned back in the seat and swallowed hard to pop her ears back to reality. The plane leveled out above the clouds, the sun, too bright, the sky, too blue. She hadn’t known they were so.
Ezie looked up to meet the green-eyed man. The plane dropped a little, jumping over a cloud, and her stomach followed suit.
“My name’s Cosmas—Coz for short. I figured I’d introduce myself since we’re the only ones on this propeller special.” He reached out his hand.
Part 3 to come….