Scene Title Memorial
Synopsis So as you stand upon a shore gazing at a beautiful sea, as you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity, remember me. —Margaret Mead
Date June 24, 2021

Above a Kitchen

The Flooded Timeline

How do you find a ghost?

The question has been on Elliot’s mind for days. It runs in his mind as he puts his skills—and those of Wright and Asi—to use paying his way through this new world. As he eats his meals, as he lays down to sleep. He has a faint memory of Asi suggesting that he look, in the first dream in a week that wasn’t a nightmare. That wasn’t BLACK BLACK BLACK. Even if she didn’t understand what he meant when he asked.

How do you let only the ghost know you’re looking?

The population of this scattered collection of doomed islands is miniscule compared to the Safe Zone. Odds tilt against the local ghosts having drawn the right straws when the sea came. But of all the places that could have survived the rising of the tides, this is where Tala and Yancy lived in his world.

Elliot doesn’t know where Bastian lived before they met in the Ark. He can’t remember. He knows that the information is probably there, probably available for him to sift through. If only he were brave enough to venture back into the Palace. If only he weren’t helpless against the beast that pollutes its halls. If only he were able to banish it again. If only, if only.

He can’t understand why he remembers Bastian the least. Though, if he’s honest with himself, he does know why. It’s easier here, alone in this desolate place, to pretend the memory that started to breach the surface a few weeks ago will never make it all the way up. That he can live and die without remembering. If he could pray to never remember, he would. So he rides the edge of it. Feels the presence of that recollection but lets it bend in his mind, fall away, again and again.

In the Here and Now he winces against it, snaps his fingers, takes a deep breath, touches his fingertips to the hallway wall to build on his map of the world. To keep himself from collapsing from the tragedy of it. He breathes in the air that will never not smell like salt and rust when he’s only ever half here. Wright feels the familiar sensation of forgetting with purpose, the infinite edge of memory that lets them live in peace. She sends her understanding. Her perfect and unquestionable partnership. She sends, ‘␇HERE␎.␄’ across the edge of the table. Across the network. Across the void.

Elliot sends, ‘␆␄,’ in thanks as she draws him away from it for now, knocking on the wall with his knuckles as he pushes himself further into the building. Where was I? Ghosts. It would be easy to chalk this up to just that. A fruitless ghost hunt in a land of displaced survivors. But there’s a chance. So he’s been toying with it. How do you find a ghost?

Yancy would almost certainly be impossible to find here even if he did survive. Even if Elliot walked past him every day, desperate for the help this world’s version of him wouldn’t know Elliot needs. The way he could make Elliot’s mind bend away from the sight of him. Fall away, again and again. Elliot doesn’t dwell on that, as the unknowing betrayal would break his heart.

What would this world have done to Yancy? At home his life was broken into starkly contrasting arcs. Living at the top of the world yet in the shadows. Dealing cards to men who had men killed. Then, suddenly, living at the bottom, in alleyways and under bridges. Dealing worn cards on a cardboard box to tourists unlucky enough to hand him their money, never knowing they never had a chance.

He doesn’t want to dwell on Yancy’s fall from society because Yancy wouldn’t want him to. His Yancy; the man who held his shattering mind together as he screamed into the abyss. He’d just reach up, one arm across his chest to cup his other arm so Elliot could feel it. Feel the calm certainty that they would survive this. The calm inaccuracy. The permission to let go that he can’t let go of.

Elliot has filled these days walking a fine line between anonymity and being suspiciously good at having access to information once lost to this world. Despite the seeming laissez-faire attitude of the other catoptrinauts toward the dangerousness of desperate people knowing what they’re worth. Because the only thing Elliot fears more than people knowing is being captured again. It’s being put in a closet to scream and bang and scratch and tear at his own body under the merciless gaze of somebody who owns him.

It’s been incidental work, mostly. He moves constantly, lending a hand here and there where it warrants lending. Always looking. Occasionally he’ll find his way to help when he hears of an accident. He still has flecks of blood beneath his fingernails from the last.

But he can’t be too useful, too helpful. That’s what people notice. He’ll settle for only being recognized as that guy who’s handy. It’s so much easier to explain than that guy who has internet access. But all the while the wheel is turning. There’s only one ghost he’s likely to find, as unlikely as it is to begin with.

Tala lived in Manhattan. Not originally, not by far. She’d only moved there a few years ago. Over a decade ago. After immigrating to New York she’d lived in a small neighborhood… where? Elliot shakes his head. It’s isn’t important to the story. She could have gone anywhere from there. Could have done anything. She could have piled doctorates on top of each other like cards in a deck. Could have built structures of memory like impossible works of art. Of dreams, not nightmares.

The only thing she cared to do was cook. Even laying low like she did she quickly rocketed to the top of her profession. Culinary school was abandoned because it could never teach her what she learned from watching. From remembering everything she’d ever seen, tasted, smelled, heard with perfect accuracy. The only thing she cared to do was create food that would cause someone to weep from the pure nostalgic joy of it. Meals tied to places, to people, to traditions. Ways of life linked together in an ever-expanding memory palace of sensory perfection.

He gives himself a moment to remember. He recalls with delicate purpose. He tastes a meal she only ever made for him in her mind. He’s careful, as always, to not bring anything with him into the remembering; he can’t risk polluting the memory with the apocalyptic dread that signs its name on all those he’s made in these last few months. He can taste the vapors of it drift into his mouth as he inhales. The way the flavors play with one another as he remembers eating, as the meal progresses. As she holds her hands in the way that means I love you.

He refuses to remember with anything other than rapturous joy. As such, he’s smiling when he returns to the Here and Now to find someone else wandering into the space with him. Not to interact, just passing by, but it means he’s almost there. He presses into the place he’s chosen for this. The place he goes to find a ghost.

It’s occupied, but not inhabited. The walls here peel with paint applied in layers, all of them long after the fall of this place. This building he bartered for transportation to. This building that once held a restaurant where he can still hear the ring of a pan being set aside on the stainless steel prep table in a room floors below him in the dark of the ocean.

There’s a transient market just past here, but he’s not looking for that. He’s looking to be seen, but only just enough. Only to seed the faintest hints of his existence to the bare handful of people who’ll watch him do this and then ignore his behavior. He stops, views the wall and the story told by layer after layer of graffiti. It feels disrespectful to those who’ve come before him to add his story to their own, but isn’t that what this medium is for? It can only tell a story for so long before it’s hidden by the current events of people who will find what they’re looking for here.

He draws a can of spraypaint, perfect bubblegum pink, from underneath his arm and cracks his neck. It was a small miracle that he found it when he did. It must have been brand new, just delivered, just purchased, just taken home, just before the end of the world. It seems a like destiny in his hand as he feels the weight of it, spins it across his open palm. He’s already tested it and nearly shouted aloud that it still worked. He adds a question to this story of ages.

He traces arcs of color, large and certain. He’s built a picture of this in his mind. He’s seen it so many times despite not truly remembering it. He’s never seen it himself, he has no memories of having seen it as it was. Yet it was preserved, all these years, passed from Tala to him to the 0bservation Room, where it has sat, Monolithic and tragic, untouchable and desperately wanted, on the table before him.

He pays only enough attention to the traffic of passers by to ensure nobody plans on chasing him away for this. With nobody having the will or inclination, he remains free to leave this searingly bright image to contrast the older paint beneath it. He doesn’t need to cheat to look up a picture on the internet—though he did find resources for how to do this. He knows every line and dent of this archaic thing. This monument to a dead woman who may never even have been born here.

As he finally finishes he steps back, takes it in, nods. A CD walkman, well past its prime, adorned only with the scratches of his fingernails across the paint where scratches should be. With the apparition of a sticker of an anemone, cut to shape, ticked up at the corner. The CD walkman she used at work even though she could remember every song perfectly.

Satisfied, he steps forward to paint below, ‘Alalahanin mo ako?’ Beneath it, what could be mistaken for a signature, he adds, ‘Oo Boya!’ Then, cap returned to can and can returned to the crook of his arm, he steps away, knowing despite hope that it’s meaningless. Another cry for help to echo through the labyrinthe. Because it can’t possibly be enough.

Because he can never tell her that she can help save the lives of anybody unfortunate enough to know him.

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