The door to the bar swung open, and a man with shaggy red hair and a goatee walked in. â€œWell, if it isnâ€™t my favorite bar,â€ he said, â€œand my two favorite ladies.â€
â€œHi, Brody,â€ said Elegy from the behind the bar. She was stacking rocks glasses. Elegy was a Fate. I lived with her in a time-traveling bar fixing time paradoxes.
The man whoâ€™d walked in must be Brody, and he was a volur. He sidled over to where I was sitting, nursing a rum runner. â€œHey, sexy,â€ he said in a gravelly voice, heavy with suggestion. He kissed my temple.
I drew back, almost knocking over my rum runner. â€œWhat did you just call me?â€
Elegy set down the glass she was holding with a clatter. â€œWhat did you just call her?â€
Brody looked back and forth between the two of us and took a step backwards. â€œYou guys seem different than the last time I saw you.â€
By this time, I was used to volurs wandering into the bar who already knew me. Their timelines were different, and so they could have already met me, even if I hadnâ€™t met them. â€œProbably different timelines,â€ I said. â€œIâ€™ve never met you before.â€
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. â€œYou donâ€™t know me?â€
I shook my head.
â€œHuh,â€ said Brody. He looked at Elegy. â€œBut you know me.â€
She nodded. â€œI know you pretty well, Brody.â€
â€œYeah, um, what was the last thing we did together?â€ he asked her.
â€œThe Titanic,â€ she said. â€œWe made sure it sank.â€
Brodyâ€™s mouth made a small round â€œO.â€ He laughed nervously and sat down on a bar stool. â€œWow. The Titanic.â€ He looked back and forth between us again. â€œThis is probably the most awkward moment of my entire life.â€
Elegy and I both gave him a questioning look.
He laughed again. â€œCan I, um, have a shot?â€
Elegy folded her arms over her chest. â€œLetâ€™s go back a second, shall we, Brody? You walked into the bar, came over to Catherine, remember? Repeat what you said to her.â€
â€œLook,â€ said Brody, â€œElegy, youâ€™re the person who told me that itâ€™s better all around if we donâ€™t know too much about our futures. Iâ€™m basically coming from your future, so I probably shouldnâ€™t say much.â€
My future? Brody knew me in my future. And he called me â€œsexyâ€? That must mean… I cocked my head to get a better look at him. He was an attractive guy. Trim. Tall. Broad shoulders. Big hands with little red hairs on his knuckles. He seemed to have freckles all over him. What was going on between Brody and me in my future?
Elegy glared at him. â€œSee, the last time I remember that word you used coming out of your mouth, I was straddling you.â€
â€œYou were what?â€ I said. It was my turn to glare at Elegy. â€œYouâ€™re already sleeping with him?â€
â€œI sleep with the volurs,â€ said Elegy. â€œAt least the men, anyway. You already know this.â€
Now that I thought about it, I did remember Elegy saying she was sleeping with two guys. One was Kellen, and Iâ€™d already met him, but Iâ€™d never met the other one. It must be Brody. But Brody was my… Well, I didnâ€™t actually know him yet, did I?
Brodyâ€™s face had turned bright red. He turned to me. â€œHey, it was before I met you, okay? And it was only a couple times.â€
â€œTry ten,â€ said Elegy. â€œAnd why are you explaining yourself to her? Sheâ€™s known you for all of two minutes.â€
â€œRight,â€ said Brody, pointing at me. â€œYou donâ€™t know me.â€ He turned back to Elegy. â€œSo, you seem kind of pissed off. And if I remember correctly, you were very no-strings about the whole thing. Iâ€™m a little confused.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want you to be faithful to me or something,â€ said Elegy. â€œI couldnâ€™t care less about that. But Cathy? How could you want Cathy?â€
â€œHey,â€ I said. â€œThere is nothing wrong with me.â€
â€œIâ€™m a goddess,â€ said Elegy. â€œYouâ€™re not.â€
Brody scratched his goatee. â€œMaybe we should talk about the paradox Iâ€™m supposed to fix?â€
â€œWhy should I get your leftovers?â€ I asked Elegy. I eyed Brody. â€œMaybe I donâ€™t even want him if heâ€™s already been tainted by your touch.â€
Brody took a deep breath, addressing me again. â€œSee, I was pretty sure you already knew about Elegy and me… and Iâ€™m realizing that you did, because you found out right now, and this is a terrible way to find out, and Iâ€™m really sorry.â€
â€œAre we like dating?â€ I asked him.
â€œPlease, Cathy,â€ said Elegy. â€œItâ€™s really not a good idea to know about your future. You could mess things up.â€
â€œYeah, I think Iâ€™m messing things up,â€ said Brody. â€œMaybe I should just fix the paradox and be on my way, huh?â€
â€œAre you fucking her?â€ asked Elegy. â€œBecause Iâ€™m not going to let you do that in my bar. I will never let you do that.â€
Now I was blushing, because I was thinking about having sex with Brody on the couch next to the pool table and wondering if his penis had freckles on it too.
Brody swallowed. â€œCan I die now?â€ He ran a hand over his face. â€œThe paradox, Elegy. Why am I here?â€
Elegy sighed. â€œOh, someoneâ€™s trying to kill Hitler again.â€
â€œAgain?â€ I said. â€œWe just saved Hitler.â€
â€œWe save Hitler a lot,â€ said Elegy.
â€œIâ€™ve saved him three times already myself,â€ said Brody, seeming pleased with the subject change. â€œCan I please have a drink, Elegy?â€
â€œVodka tonic?â€ she asked.
â€œUm, Iâ€™m actually Iâ€™m partial to rum runners these days,â€ said Brody.
Elegy gave him a withering look. â€œYouâ€™re kidding me.â€
â€œWell, I tasted one of Cathyâ€™s once, and it was really good, andâ€”â€
â€œYouâ€™re getting a vodka tonic,â€ said Elegy.
â€œWhich Iâ€™m completely fine with,â€ said Brody.
Elegy began mixing Brodyâ€™s drink. â€œIâ€™m moving the bar right now. The paradox happened in 1920, so Iâ€™ll drop you off there in just a minute or two.â€ She set the drink in front of Brody. â€œDrink up.â€
Brody gulped at the vodka tonic, downing half of it. â€œSo, Iâ€™m thinking maybe there should be a code word or something? Like, the next time I see you guys, I could ask you a question, and if you didnâ€™t know the answer, then Iâ€™d know that we hadnâ€™t lived this particular experience yet.â€
I sipped on my rum runner. â€œWell, okay, I guess.â€
â€œYeah,â€ said Brody, drinking the rest of his drink, â€œbecause then I could avoid embarrassing myself.â€
â€œWhat further damage could you possibly cause at this point?â€ Elegy said.
â€œWell, I could…â€ Brody trailed off. He looked at me. â€œI guess I already kind of screwed it up, didnâ€™t I?â€
Elegy nodded. â€œYou said it, not me.â€ She looked up as if something had happened. â€œWeâ€™re here.â€ She waved a hand dismissively at Brody. â€œOff with you.â€
Brody trundled out of the bar, hanging his head and muttering to himself.
Elegy and I stared after him for several minutes. Then I went back to my rum runner. Who was this guy? What was going on with him and me?
â€œWell,â€ said Elegy, â€œthis means I get Gabriel.â€
â€œHow does it mean that?â€ I said. â€œGabriel said he was glad I didnâ€™t die. He totally flirted with me. Maybe all those volurs were only sleeping with you because there was no competition. Maybe Iâ€™m going to have the volur harem now.â€
Elegy rolled her eyes. â€œYou couldnâ€™t handle not being monogamous, Cathy. Donâ€™t be ridiculous.â€
She was probably right. And the whole thing was weird anyway. â€œWell, I donâ€™t know. I think Gabriel was more attractive than Brody. Of course, Brody does have all those intriguing freckles.â€
Elegy smiled. â€œYeah, theyâ€™re all over him.â€
Which made me realize that Elegy already knew how all over those freckles actually were, and that made me want to punch her. I sucked the rest of my rum runner through my straw. â€œBut donâ€™t I get a choice here? I mean, some guy shows up and calls me sexy, and I have to be with him? By default? I donâ€™t know anything about him.â€
â€œI think you should take what you can get, frankly,â€ said Elegy. â€œClearly, Brodyâ€™s lost his mind if heâ€™s attracted to you instead of me, and Iâ€™d take advantage of it while you can.â€
â€œYouâ€™re so rude,â€ I said.
Elegy picked up my glass, shrugging. â€œAnother rum runner?â€
â€œPlease,â€ I said.
â€œYou could be more grateful to me, you know,â€ said Elegy. â€œI saved your life, and I make you drinks all the time. And how do you repay me? By stealing Brody Lincoln from me.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t steal him,â€ I said. â€œI donâ€™t even know him.â€
â€œYou havenâ€™t stolen him yet,â€ said Elegy, â€œbut you will. You backstabbing little hussy.â€
Elegy scooped ice into my glass. â€œYou could at least apologize.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t done anything,â€ I said. â€œAnd besides, itâ€™s not like you donâ€™t have enough men to screw whenever you want.â€
â€œI have exactly one now,â€ said Elegy, pouring rum over the ice cubes.
â€œWhich is enough for most people.â€
â€œIâ€™m not a person,â€ said Elegy. â€œIâ€™m a Fate.â€
â€œRight,â€ I said, â€œand I bet before you were in this bar, you didnâ€™t have sex with anyone at all.â€
â€œJust your brother,â€ she said, grinning nastily.
â€œWhich got you sentenced to spend your life in the bar, anyway,â€ I said. â€œItâ€™s against your nature to even have relationships with humans.â€
â€œI donâ€™t have relationships,â€ said Elegy. â€œI have orgasms. Get your priorities straight, Catherine.â€ She handed me my drink.
I took a sip. It was very good. â€œIâ€™m sorry I stole Brody from you.â€
She sighed. â€œOh, donâ€™t be silly, Catherine. As long as youâ€™re both happy, I donâ€™t really care. Besides, Iâ€™m sure you didnâ€™t steal him. Iâ€™m sure I let you have him.â€
And that was as close to nice as Elegy was going to get. I knew that by now. I grinned at her.
She smiled back.
The door to the bar banged open, and Brody came back inside. â€œWell, that was easy.â€
Elegy surveyed him. â€œYouâ€™re done?â€
â€œYeah, bunch of stupid teenagers from the twenty-sixth century,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s always teenagers,â€ said Elegy, making a face.
â€œAnyway, I scared them off and stuck them back into the time portal, and I think everythingâ€™s cool now.â€ Brody smiled. He was really very adorable when he smiled. And he had green eyes.
Elegy shook her head. â€œSee? Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m talking about. Efficiency. Itâ€™s what weâ€™re clearly lacking these days.â€ She turned to me. â€œHave any of the other volurs weâ€™ve worked with recently been able to go out and get the job done this quickly and easily?â€
I considered. Actually, usually it was a lot harder than this. â€œThat was pretty impressive, Brody.â€
â€œHeâ€™s good at what he does,â€ said Elegy. She winked at him.
I glowered at her. She didnâ€™t get to wink at him anymore. He was my… well, I had no idea what he was to me, but I was feeling pretty possessive of him suddenly.
â€œYou want another drink?â€ Elegy asked.
Brody sat down at the bar. â€œLove one.â€
Elegy got out another glass and put some ice in it. â€œYou know, Brody, whatever disgusting things youâ€™re doing with Catherine in our future, you arenâ€™t doing them now. We could have a last little fling here, you know?â€
â€œNo, you couldnâ€™t!â€ I exclaimed.
Brody cleared his throat. â€œElegy, you broke it off with me.â€ He looked at me. â€œWhich Iâ€™m realizing is probably because you knew that I was going to be with Cathy, and…â€
And what? â€œSo, can you be more vague?â€ I asked him. â€œDo we have a fling? A kiss? Are we married?â€
Brody opened his mouth to answer.
â€œDonâ€™t say anything,â€ said Elegy. â€œWe donâ€™t want to know.â€
â€œI want to know,â€ I said.
â€œNo, you donâ€™t,â€ said Elegy. â€œIf you know, things might not work out properly.â€
â€œSo?â€ I said. â€œYou donâ€™t want them to work out, do you? You want Brody all to yourself.â€
â€œI am not nearly that desperate,â€ said Elegy, setting a glass in front of Brody. It was another vodka tonic. â€œBut I might be a little vindictive.â€
Brody took a drink. â€œVindictive?â€
â€œI think Iâ€™m going to move the bar to feudal Germany and leave you there, since youâ€™re refusing my charms.â€ She chuckled.
â€œHey,â€ said Brody. â€œAre you overreacting much?â€ He looked at me. â€œSo, since, you know, you donâ€™t know really know me yet, would you mind if Iâ€”â€
â€œWhat?â€ I said.
â€œYouâ€™ve never been to feudal Germany,â€ he said. â€œAnd itâ€™s not like I havenâ€™t had sex with her before.â€
â€œIs there some reason I find you attractive in the future?â€ I said, feeling disgusted. â€œBecause I have to admit, Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m seeing it right now.â€
â€œYou like my freckles,â€ said Brody, sipping at his vodka tonic.
â€œYep,â€ said Elegy, â€œmoving the bar right now. Weâ€™re already in Germany, so I only have to move back in time, not in space. Couple of secondsâ€”â€
Elegy choked, bending over.
Around us, the trappings of the bar suddenly began to flicker, like everything was just a television station getting bad reception. I looked to my left to see a staticky image of Kellen appear briefly and then fade out as if it had never been there.
Brody vaulted over the bar, supporting Elegy. â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€
Elegyâ€™s eyes bulged. â€œDoubled through myself,â€ she gasped.
â€œElegy?â€ I said. I leaned over the bar, unsure of what to do. Iâ€™d never seen Elegy get hurt or anything.
Elegy wretched, like she was going to vomit. She clutched Brodyâ€™s arm to keep herself upright. â€œI can feel Meurtia Bliss. Get… get to her. She canâ€”â€ Elegy broke off, coughing.
â€œElegy!â€ I said.
â€œMeurtia?â€ said Brody. â€œIâ€™ve worked with her. Where is she?â€
â€œClose,â€ Elegy rasped. â€œSheâ€™s close. Butâ€”donâ€™t let her see Catherine.â€ And she went limp in Brodyâ€™s arms.
The bar was absolutely silent.
He looked up at me, terror in his green eyes. I didnâ€™t know what to do.
â€œIs Elegy…?â€ I didnâ€™t want to ask if she was dead, but she wasnâ€™t moving.
Abruptly, Elegy pushed herself away from Brody, standing up ramrod straight. She surveyed the bar, and gazed at each of us. â€œWhere am I?â€ she said.
â€œUm…in Germany somewhere, I think?â€ I said.
Her gaze flitted about her surroundings. She pointed. â€œThis isnâ€™t Germany.â€ She looked down at herself. â€œAnd what am I wearing? I look some kind of Duran Duran groupie.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™ve always tried to tell you that,â€ I said. â€œDo you have amnesia, Elegy?â€
â€œHow do you know my name?â€ she said. â€œWho are you?â€
â€œIâ€™m Catherine. Iâ€™m your sidekick,â€ I said. Even though I hated it when she called me a sidekick. It seemed the easiest way to explain.
Elegy made a face. She turned to Brody. â€œAnd you?â€
â€œIâ€™m Brody. Iâ€™m a volur.â€
â€œVolur?â€ Horror appeared in Elegyâ€™s eyes. â€œThen Iâ€™m…in a praxidikai?â€
Elegy had used that term to describe the bar before. â€œYeah.â€
â€œI must have done something wrong to be punished like this,â€ Elegy said, covering her mouth with her hand. â€œThe only good thing is that I can change the way all of this looks. Right now.â€
The bar had morphed into a green garden, with a sparkling stream running through it. There were ornately carve stone benches that Elegy, Brody, and I sat on. Elegy was no longer in 1980s clothing, but instead wore a long white toga that hung over one of her shoulders. Her hair was tied into an elegant bun on top of her head. She looked regal and royal, the way a goddess should, I supposed. But she was acting very, very strangely.
â€œWhy would I do any of that?â€ said Elegy. â€œWhy would I have a relationship with a mortal or make my praxidikai look like a bar or wear awful clothes?â€
She did have amnesia, apparently, but it wasnâ€™t total amnesia. She seemed to have wiped out a huge portion of her life. She knew who she was, but she didnâ€™t remember anything besides being a Fate. She didnâ€™t remember my brother. She didnâ€™t remember being punished to fix time paradoxes. She didnâ€™t remember that she loved the eighties. This was a younger Elegy Flynn.
â€œYouâ€™ve always been this way,â€ I said. â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s positively horrid,â€ said Elegy. â€œIâ€™ve become sordid and laughable. I never thought Iâ€™d sink so low.â€
Neither Brody nor I seemed to know what to say.
â€œI serve alcohol?â€ said Elegy, looking scandalized. â€œI mix drinks?â€
â€œUm, yeah,â€ said Brody.
â€œHow common.â€ Elegy shivered. She stood up. â€œIf youâ€™ll excuse me, this is all a bit much to take. Iâ€™m going to walk a little.â€ She set off into the pretty garden sheâ€™d created for herself.
Brody and I sat on the benches and watched her go.
â€œWhat happened to her?â€ I said.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said. â€œSomething made her lose her memory, though.â€ He took my hand. â€œYou okay?â€
I liked the way his hand felt around mine. It was so much larger and stronger, and I peered down at the little red hairs on his knuckles. I smiled up at him.
He dropped my hand. â€œSorry. I keep forgetting weâ€™re not…â€
â€œNot what?â€ I said.
â€œDo you remember what Elegy said before this happened? About Meurtia?â€
So he was going to avoid the subject, was he? I sighed. â€œI sort of remember. But I donâ€™t understand any of it.â€
â€œMeurtia is another Fate,â€ said Brody. â€œIâ€™ve worked with her before to fix paradoxes. Elegy said she was close, and that I had to get to her. That has to mean that her praxidikai is nearby. Iâ€™ve got to leave and go look for it.â€
I peered around the garden. â€œLeave how? Thereâ€™s no door anymore.â€
Brody pointed across the garden at a rod iron gate, crawling with ivy. â€œI think thatâ€™s the way out, actually.â€
â€œSo, youâ€™re just going to go? Youâ€™re going to leave me alone with Amnesiac Elegy?â€
â€œWell, you canâ€™t leave here,â€ said Brody, â€œso you canâ€™t come with me. If Meurtia can help, then I have to try.â€
I bit my lip. â€œYou think Meurtia could get Elegy back to normal?â€
He shrugged. â€œMaybe. I hope so.â€ He stood up. â€œYouâ€™ll be fine here. Itâ€™s still Elegy, even if she doesnâ€™t remember anything.â€
That was true, but Elegy seemed completely different. I stood up too. â€œAre you going to bring Meurtia back here?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. The Fates are tied to their praxidikai. You know how Elegy canâ€™t leave the bar? Well, Meurtia canâ€™t leave her praxidikai either.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s hers look like? I heard that someone has a hair salon.â€
Brody rolled his eyes. â€œClothos.â€ He tapped his temple. â€œSheâ€™s a little nuts.â€
â€œMore nuts than Elegy? Is that possible?â€
He laughed. â€œMeurtiaâ€™s praxidikai is just like a house. Sheâ€™s got a nice parlor to receive the volurs. Iâ€™ve never seen the rest of it.â€
â€œBoring,â€ I said.
He shrugged. â€œYeah. Pretty much.â€ He shot a glance over at the gate. â€œOkay, Iâ€™ll be back. If for some reason Meurtia can come back here, remember that you need to stay out of sight. She canâ€™t know youâ€™re still alive.â€
I nodded. â€œIâ€™ll be careful.â€
â€œGood.â€ He leaned it and kissed me quickly on the lips, as if it was as natural as breathing. â€œLove you.â€
I put my fingers to my lips, feeling stunned.
He cringed. â€œDamn it, I keep forgetting youâ€™re not my girlfriend yet.â€
â€œIâ€™m your girlfriend?â€ I murmured.
â€œDamn it.â€ He ran a hand through his hair. â€œSo thatâ€™s the first time I kissed you, huh? That was a terrible first kiss.â€ He turned and started across the garden, muttering to himself.
I ran after him and grabbed him by the shoulder. â€œWell, maybe we should try again?â€ I presented my lips to him expectantly.
â€œNo,â€ he said. â€œThis is all wrong. You canâ€™t start kissing me because Iâ€™m telling you that youâ€™ll care about me in the future. You have to develop feelings for me.â€
â€œIâ€™m developing them,â€ I said. There was something about a hot guy telling you he loved you out of the blue thatâ€”actually, that sounded like usually it would be completely creepy. Maybe it was only that I was curious. Why did I like this guy? Why did he like me?
He smiled at me. â€œI canâ€™t kiss under pressure. Watch Elegy, okay? Whatever happens, donâ€™t let her move the bar.â€ He looked around. â€œThe garden. Whatever it is.â€
Brody strode through the gate and disappeared. I turned and walked through the garden until I found Elegy, who was sitting on a bench, gazing out over the garden with a mournful expression on her face.
â€œYou okay?â€ I said.
She didnâ€™t even look at me. â€œWho are you, anyway? The other man was a volur. Youâ€™re not. Youâ€™re just a normal human. What are you doing here?â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s a long story,â€ I said. â€œYou saved my life, because Iâ€™m the sister of the guy you fell in love with. The one that got you sentenced to fixing time paradoxes.â€
She turned to me sharply. â€œYouâ€™re supposed to be dead?â€
I nodded. â€œBut Iâ€™m not, thanks to you.â€
Her eyes widened. â€œThatâ€™s awful. I changed the threads of Fate! I ruined everything. What have I become? How could I change into someone who rebels against all the very things I valued the most?â€
I wasnâ€™t sure what to say. â€œWell, itâ€™s not that bad, Elegy. Fateâ€™s cruel sometimes. You make things better.â€
She put a finger in my face. â€œIt is not about being cruel or kind. Some things simply have to happen.â€
â€œWhy?â€ I said. Maybe this version of Elegy would explain things without insulting me for being stupid.
But Elegy only sputtered. â€œWhy? What a stupid question. There is no why. Fate simply is.â€
Okay, clearly not. â€œYouâ€™re really not that different after all.â€
â€œMy future self has become infected with you humans,â€ said Elegy. â€œItâ€™s disgusting. Fates canâ€™t become involved with human emotion. Thereâ€™s no place for that in our world. We are impartial and all-knowing. If we descend to the level of humanity, we degrade ourselves.â€
â€œWell, there must have been something about my brother that changed your mind, I guess,â€ I said.
â€œI canâ€™t imagine what,â€ said Elegy. She eyed me. â€œYou shouldnâ€™t even be alive. I canâ€™t allow you to remain in my praxidikai any longer.â€
â€œBut if I leave, Iâ€™ll die,â€ I said.
â€œAnd you are supposed to be dead, are you not?â€
I gulped. â€œYouâ€™re going to kill me?â€
â€œIâ€™m going to right the wrong that I caused by saving your life,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s your fate to die, so die you shall. Now tell me where and when to take you, so that you can greet your fate properly.â€
â€œYou think Iâ€™m going to tell you that?â€ I said. â€œYouâ€™re crazy.â€ All right, this wasnâ€™t going well. What if Elegy threw me out of the garden gate because I wasnâ€™t supposed to be alive? Would the Fates vaporize me right away or I would I somehow be sucked back into my old life? Would I have to experience Richard beating me to death?
Elegy stood up and advanced on me.
I backed away.
Elegyâ€™s eyes glowed white. The garden became windy, and the sky turned black and stormy. She stretched her arms out, seeming to grow taller and more menacing.
I tripped over my feet as I tried to get away from her. â€œThis is like what you did when you scrambled Shakespeareâ€™s brains, isnâ€™t it?â€
Elegy sank back to normal. The sky cleared. She looked horrified. â€œI scrambled William Shakespeareâ€™s brains?â€
â€œWell, you fixed it,â€ I said. â€œBut at first you did, yeah.â€
â€œWhy would I do such a thing?â€
â€œUm, you were mad at him because he was being a huge dick to a volur.â€
Elegyâ€™s eyes widened. â€œBut thatâ€™s absolutely idiotic. Why would I endanger the proper path of history simply to punish one mortalâ€™s transgressions?â€
â€œUh, I guess you liked the volur?â€ I wasnâ€™t really sure why sheâ€™d done it myself.
Elegy shuddered. â€œHow can I have become so sickeningly human?â€
â€œWell, youâ€™re really not very human,â€ I said. â€œI mean, I think youâ€™re pretty weird. And youâ€™re not really that nice most of the time. You call me names a lot, and you donâ€™t seem to care about the feelings of the volurs youâ€™re sleeping withâ€”â€
â€œSleeping with? Youâ€™re telling me I engage in sexual intercourse?â€
I nodded. â€œIs that a thing most Fates donâ€™t do?â€
â€œOf course not.â€
â€œSo, how do you make baby Fates then?â€
She gave me a withering look.
â€œDonâ€™t you guys have to reproduce?â€ I thought about it. â€œActually, are all the Fates female?â€
â€œWe are immortal beings,â€ said Elegy.â€There is no need for reproduction.â€
â€œRight, well, I guess you mostly do it for fun anyway, since you told me no one could get pregnant in the bar.â€ I shrugged.
â€œStop calling it a bar,â€ said Elegy. â€œI will never let my praxidikai look like that ever again.â€
I heard the sound of the gate swinging open. â€œElegy?â€ called Brodyâ€™s voice. â€œI know youâ€™re all alone in here, and Meurtia is with me. Her praxidikai is docked right up against yours.â€
Crap. I needed to hide. I darted away from Elegy and crouched behind a bush a few feet away. I could watch what was happening through the leaves, but they couldnâ€™t see me.
â€œWhere are you going?â€ Elegy yelled after me. She turned to face Brody and Meurtia as they approached. Meurtia looked exactly the way Elegy did now. She was wearing a toga, had her hair in an elaborate updo. They looked like sisters. Maybe the Fates were sisters. I didnâ€™t know. â€œIâ€™m not alone, you know. That girlâ€”â€
â€œOf course youâ€™re not alone anymore,â€ said Brody. â€œWeâ€™re here now.â€ He gave Meurtia a concerned look. â€œSheâ€™s pretty confused, as you can see.â€
Meurtia pursed her lips, staring at Elegy. â€œTell me exactly what happened again, Brody.â€
â€œShe was moving the bar,â€ said Brody, â€œand then suddenly she choked and started coughing. She said I needed to come find you.â€
â€œI donâ€™t understand,â€ said Meurtia. â€œWhat happened to her?â€
â€œSheâ€™s not herself,â€ said Brody. â€œShe seems to have lost her memory.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s really fine,â€ said Elegy, â€œbecause Iâ€™d rather not remember all those horrible things Iâ€™ve done. Really. Sexual relations with mortals? Ugh.â€ Elegy gagged.
Meurtia raised her eyebrows. â€œReally, Elegy? Youâ€™ve been doing things like that? How?â€
â€œThe volurs,â€ said Elegy. â€œOr so they tell me, anyway.â€
â€œThey?â€ said Meurtia.
â€œShe means me,â€ said Brody, who was turning red. â€œSheâ€™s confused, like I told you.â€
Meurtia turned her head slowly to Brody. â€œYou told her that sheâ€™d had sex with volurs?â€
â€œUh… it sort of came up in conversation,â€ said Brody.
Brody fidgeted. â€œIs this really all that important?â€
Meurtia patted Elegy on the shoulder. â€œI think itâ€™s just wishful thinking on this young manâ€™s part, Elegy.â€ She wagged a finger in Brodyâ€™s face. â€œShame on you for having fun at her expense.â€
Brody folded his arms over his chest. â€œRight. I made it all up,â€ he said in a flat voice.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t him that told me,â€ said Elegy. â€œIt was the girl.â€
â€œThereâ€™s no girl, Elegy,â€ said Brody. â€œJust me and you here. Thatâ€™s all.â€
â€œThere is a girl,â€ said Elegy. â€œSheâ€™s hidingâ€”â€
â€œNope,â€ said Brody. He turned to Meurtia. â€œYou see why Iâ€™m worried?â€
Meurtia knitted her eyebrows. She leaned close to Brody. â€œ Did you make it up? Or were you really intimate with Elegy?â€
Brody pulled away from her. â€œI thought we were done talking about that.â€
â€œDid it work okay?â€ Meurtia wanted to know. â€œThe two of you had…compatible parts?â€
Brody raised his eyebrows. â€œUm…â€
Meurtia shook her head. â€œAnd there havenâ€™t been any consequences for her doing that, I donâ€™t suppose. Why would there be? The volurs certainly wouldnâ€™t complain. I suppose we could all do it if we wanted, couldnâ€™t we?â€ She smiled at Brody.
Brody backed further away. â€œYeah, well, you know, it really was just wishful thinking on my part, actually. Iâ€™m awful. Sheâ€™s just, you know, so attractive and all that.â€ He shoved his hands in his pockets. â€œListen, she seemed to think you could help her.â€
â€œElegyâ€™s always pushing the boundaries,â€ said Meurtia. â€œBreaking all the rules.â€
â€œIâ€™m not a rule breaker,â€ said Elegy.
Meurtia threw back her head and laughed. â€œYou really do have amnesia.â€
â€œWell,â€ said Elegy. â€œClearly, Iâ€™m a rule breaker now. But I donâ€™t remember breaking any of those rules. And I want to mend my ways. Which is why we need to find that girlâ€”â€
â€œThereâ€™s no girl,â€ Brody insisted. â€œMeurtia, there is one other thing she said before this happened. She said something about doubling over herself or through herself… Does that mean anything?â€
Meurtia considered. Then her eyes lit up. â€œHave she ever had the praxidikai in this general vicinity before?â€
â€œWell, yeah,â€ said Brody, â€œwe were saving Hitler again. Sheâ€™s been through that tons of times.â€
â€œThe praxidikai crossed itself,â€ said Meurtia. â€œIt occupied the same space and time for a brief moment. You didnâ€™t notice it because mortals canâ€™t feel dimensions like that, but it would have had quite an effect on Elegy. When this happens, amnesia is typical.â€
â€œIs there anything we can do about it?â€ said Brody.
Meurtia nodded. â€œI can restore her memory. As a Fate, I have that power. Give me your hand, Elegy.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want my memory restored,â€ said Elegy, shaking her head. â€œI donâ€™t want to become that horrible whore again, changing humanâ€™s fates like that girl in here, whoâ€™s supposed to be dead.â€
â€œThereâ€™s no girl.â€ Brodyâ€™s voice was firm.
â€œThere is a girl,â€ said Elegy. â€œShe ran off just when you came in. She needs to be returned to her life and live out her fate. Thatâ€™s the order of the universe.â€
Meurtia looked at Brody. â€œWhatâ€™s she talking about?â€
Brody shrugged. â€œI have no idea.â€
â€œThatâ€™s odd,â€ said Meurtia, â€œbecause she shouldnâ€™t have become delusional. Crossing herself should have wiped her memory, but not made her crazy.â€
â€œIâ€™m not crazy,â€ said Elegy. â€œHelp me find her, Meurtia. She said sheâ€™s the sister of that man I apparently fell in love with. The thing I did to get myself stuck in this praxidikai in the first place.â€
Meurtia looked alarmed. â€œYou say sheâ€™s supposed to be dead?â€
â€œCan you just help Elegy, please?â€ said Brody. â€œNever mind her crazy talk.â€
Meurtia turned to Brody. â€œWell, perhaps she hid this girl from you, Brody. Perhaps, if she really did interfere with her fate, she wouldnâ€™t have wanted anyone to know. Maybe there is a girl, but youâ€™ve never seen her.â€
This wasnâ€™t good. Behind the bush where I hid, I held my breath. What would happen if Meurtia found me? Elegy has specifically said that Meurtia shouldnâ€™t see me, so it couldnâ€™t be anything good. She would want to kill me, wouldnâ€™t she? I didnâ€™t want to die.
Brody shook his head. â€œElegyâ€™s not exactly a secretive person. I donâ€™t think she hid anything from me.â€
â€œOh, he knows all about her,â€ said Elegy. â€œHeâ€™s lying to you, because he doesnâ€™t want anything to happen to her. Humans get so attached to each other, you know?â€
Meurtiaâ€™s expression grew stormy. â€œYouâ€™re lying to me, Brody?â€
Brody clasped his hands together. â€œHelp Elegy. If we get her back to normal, we can sort all of this out.â€
Elegy stalked away from them, heading straight for me. â€œIâ€™m back to normal now. Whatever Iâ€™ve done since has been a bout of madness. This is the real me. And Iâ€™m going to find this girl, so we can send her back to her fate.â€
I needed to move, didnâ€™t I? I glanced around. Where could I go? There were other bushes, but if I ran for one, Iâ€™d expose myself.
Elegy was coming closer.
I backed further into the bush. Maybe I could hide inside the branches. Maybe she wouldnâ€™t seeâ€”
Elegy grasped me by the arm and yanked me out. â€œSee? Here she is.â€
Brody flinched. â€œElegy, if you knew what you were doing, youâ€™d never want this.â€
I tried to wrench my way out of Elegyâ€™s grasp, but she was too strong. She dragged me with her back over to Meurtia.
Meurtia was shaking her head. â€œElegy, when they find out youâ€™ve done this, youâ€™ll never get out of the praxidikai.â€
â€œEven if I make it right?â€ said Elegy. â€œEven if I undo what Iâ€™ve done?â€
â€œItâ€™s not Elegyâ€™s fault,â€ spoke up Brody.
Elegy and Meurtia both looked at him.
â€œItâ€™s my fault,â€ he said. â€œSheâ€™s not Elegyâ€™s exâ€™s sister or anything. We told her that after she lost her memory so sheâ€™d think it was her fault and keep her mouth shut. Clearly it didnâ€™t work. Catherineâ€™s my girlfriend. I saved her life. I stowed her away on Elegyâ€™s praxidikai and kept her hidden. Itâ€™s got nothing to do with Elegy. Now please fix her.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t save her?â€ Elegy asked.
â€œNo,â€ said Brody. â€œAnd you never slept with volurs.â€
â€œI never scrambled Shakespeareâ€™s brain?â€
â€œNo,â€ said Brody, looking confused.
â€œWhat?â€ said Meurtia.
â€œWhat about my praxidikai?â€ said Elegy. â€œWhy was it a bar? Why was I dressed the way I was?â€
â€œWe were heading to the 1980s,â€ said Brody. â€œYou never let it look that way otherwise. Everything I told you was a lie. But you need your memories back.â€
Elegy heaved a deep sigh. â€œWell, okay. Meurtia, go ahead.â€
Meurtia was glaring at Brody in disgust. â€œHow could have deceived her so badly?â€
â€œI was trying to save Catherine,â€ said Brody.
That didnâ€™t make any sense, of course, but Meurtia didnâ€™t appear to be trying to puzzle out Brodyâ€™s story. I wasnâ€™t sure I liked Brody taking the fall for this, but as soon as Elegy was back to herself, sheâ€™d fix everything. She always did.
Meurtia took Elegyâ€™s hand. The two of them suddenly lit up bright as a gleaming star. Their bodies glowed blindingly, and there was a humming noise that emanated from the two of them. Then Meurtia released Elegy, whose body tumbled to the ground lifelessly.
â€œSheâ€™ll be unconscious for a little while,â€ said Meurtia, â€œbut when she wakes up, she should be fine.â€
â€œUnconscious?â€ said Brody, looking green.
â€œHow long?â€ I said. How was Elegy supposed to help us if she wasnâ€™t even awake?
Meurtiaâ€™s lips curled into a nasty smile. â€œYou two, on the other hand, should be out of her hair before she even wakes up. Iâ€™m taking you to the Fates, who will decide how to punish you. Youâ€™ve violated the order of the universe, and youâ€™ve used us to make it happen. It wonâ€™t stand.â€
â€œPunish?â€ I said in a tiny voice. â€œWhat kind of punishment are we talking about here?â€
Meurtia shrugged. â€œWell, I imagine it will culminate in death, but Iâ€™m sure it will be very painful beforehand. You canâ€™t be allowed to get away with manipulating the very fabric of the universe.â€
Brody swallowed. His face was ash. â€œWhy canâ€™t you leave Cathy out of it? It was my fault. I did it.â€
â€œNo, Brody,â€ I said. â€œItâ€™s not your fault.â€ Why was he determined to take the blame for this?
â€œSheâ€™s supposed to be dead,â€ said Meurtia. â€œShe canâ€™t be â€˜left out of it.â€™â€ She seized both us by the arm, and she was very strong. We couldnâ€™t help but stumble along next to her as she yanked us toward the gate of the garden.
Brody caught my eyes. â€œIâ€™m so sorry,â€ he whispered. The look he gave me made my heart skip a beat.
â€œWait,â€ I said. â€œThis canâ€™t happen, because youâ€™re supposed to meet me in my future. I have to have a future for that to happen. We canâ€™t die, Brody.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think it works like that,â€ he said.
â€œShut up, both of you,â€ said Meurtia.
â€œOf course it does,â€ I said. â€œHow many times has Elegy told us that time is set and canâ€™t be changed?â€
â€œI donâ€™t think itâ€™s like that inside the praxidikai,â€ said Brody.
Meurtia stopped short in front of the gate, seeming to realize she had her hands full with both of us, and she couldnâ€™t open it. She glared at both of us. â€œIâ€™m going to let go so that I can open the portals between the praxidikai,â€ she said. â€œIf either of you run off or do anything to annoy me, I guarantee you I will make sure you regret it. Understand?â€
But Brody seemed distracted. â€œOh,â€ he whispered. â€œThis is what I did. This is why you said I saved you. This is why they came for me.â€
â€œDo you understand?â€ Meurtia repeated, glowering at him.
Brody lifted his chin defiantly. â€œI wonâ€™t let you hurt her. Never.â€
Meurtia let go of me and put both of her hands on Brodyâ€™s shoulders. She squeezed and looked directly into his eyes. Her own eyes began to glow white hot, like Elegyâ€™s had earlier.
Brody kept eye contact with her. He fumbled with the gate with one hand. â€œGet out of the way, Cathy,â€ he said in a low voice.
â€œYou will do as I say,â€ said Meurtia.
Brodyâ€™s hand pulled the gate open.
Meurtia suddenly looked panicky. She let go of Brody. â€œMy praxidikai. Itâ€™s not open!â€
I backed away, taking Brodyâ€™s advice.
Brody grabbed hold of Meurtiaâ€™s hair, pulling out her fancy topknot.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€ Her hands went to Brodyâ€™s hands on her. She pried at them, shrieking. â€œLet go!â€
Brody launched himself backwards out of the gate, pulling Meurtia along with him.
There was a blood-curdling scream, following by an explosion of bright white light. I turned away, closing my eyes against it. The force of it rippled into the garden, knocking me down on the ground. The sound seemed to echo in my ears.
I lay stunned, pain jolting through the places where Iâ€™d hit the ground. I opened my eyes.
Brody was kneeling over me. â€œYou okay?â€
â€œWhat did you do?â€ I said.
He gathered me into his arms, pulling me tight against his chest, smoothing one hand over my hair. He was shaking. â€œI took her out into the world, outside of the praxidikai. It killed her. Fates like Elegy and Meurtia have to stay in the praxidikai. If they donâ€™t…â€
â€œOh my God,â€ I murmured.
â€œI couldnâ€™t let her hurt you,â€ he said. He loosened his grip on me, gazed down into my eyes.
I looked up into his. They were so green. I thought I might get lost in them.
And then we were kissing, and it was nothing like the little peck heâ€™d given me before. It was fierce and urgent. One of his hands was tangled up in my hair, the other held my body tight against his chest. His mouth was on mine, nudging sweet thrills through me. I clung to him, caught up in the feel of him, how strong and male he was, how exciting and new it was to taste his lips.
â€œSo I lose my memory one time, and you two are already making out.â€
We broke away from each other.
Elegy stood over us. She was grinning. She snapped her fingers, and the garden around us faded back into the familiar bar. â€œGod, what am I wearing?â€ She wrinkled up her nose. Her garments changed too, so that she was in a loose fitting t-shirt and leggings. â€œWho wants a drink?â€
â€œUh, Elegy?â€ said Brody. â€œI kind of killed Meurtia.â€
Elegyâ€™s eyes got big.
We were sitting at the bar. Even Elegy was on a bar stool. She had a bottle of tequila, and she was liberally pouring shots into our glasses every time she noticed they were empty. Elegy downed another shot and shivered. â€œWell, Iâ€™m absorbing her praxidikai into mine, so no one should be able to find it. Since she exploded and didnâ€™t leave a body, it will be just like she disappeared.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry I did it,â€ said Brody. â€œI liked Meurtia. She wasnâ€™t as fun as you, of course. Kind of a stickler for rules and everything. But I didnâ€™t want her to die.â€
â€œIâ€™m the one whoâ€™s sorry,â€ said Elegy. â€œI let the two of you down. Without my memories, Iâ€™m a completely different person.â€
â€œYeah, you are,â€ I said.
â€œI almost got you killed, Cathy,â€ said Elegy, looking down into her empty shot glass. â€œI donâ€™t know what Iâ€™d do without you.â€
Really? Because usually I got the impression that I annoyed Elegy to the extreme.
Elegy poured us more tequila. I didnâ€™t want any more, so I set the shot down. â€œSo, nothing will happen to Brody because of what he did? Heâ€™s not like a Fate murderer or something?â€
â€œI honestly donâ€™t know,â€ said Elegy.
Brody hung his head. â€œI never wantedâ€”â€
â€œYou had to do it,â€ said Elegy. â€œYou didnâ€™t have a choice. She was going to kill you both.â€
We were all quiet for a few minutes.
Elegy picked up my shot and downed it. On unsteady legs, she got off the bar stool and shuffled back behind the bar. She picked up our shot glasses and set them in the sink to be washed. She turned on the faucet. â€œI meant what I said before, you know.â€ She looked over at us. â€œNo sex in the bar.â€
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