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Spin Sisters


by animageous

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There is a place where the leaves fall far from the tree. Our little town is quiet, pets move away, blown off to the glitter of Brightvale, that ever-greener somewhere else. And when they are gone, the tree cries, shedding its leaves. I cry too, beneath its bare branches.

     Then, I look at the sky and spin, spin until I forget it all. It's a ritual, a sort of funeral.

     But funerals aren't for those who leave. They're for those they leave behind.

     * * *

     Ruth leans on the rotting fence, her delicate arms splayed carelessly across the beam. She stares at the ground as if she could will it to dry and harden before her eyes.

     "Maybe we could fix the broken fence post," I suggest, sliding the curtain of waterlogged Cybunny ears from my face.

     "Nothing to fix it with," she sighs. "All the wood by the barn's rot too, sinking in a puddle."

     "We could move it."

     "Where?"

     "Good point." I look around at the marsh that was once Meri Acres. The fence is sodden and mossy, sagging sideways in the sludge. The soil, once silt, is cold clay, wet and pliable; I can squish it between my paws. The whole town seems shorter, somehow. Across the field, neighbor's cottages look like faerie houses, sunk so low in the mud that the windows almost touch the ground. The effect is almost comical; there is a large Yurble lumbering into a house short enough for a Miamouse.

     Surveying the hills, all I can think of is mush. I imagine the potatoes a few feet under mine, no longer a vegetable but a green rotting piece of mush. There's hundreds of them, rows of rotting potatoes stretch out before me. I close my eyes and conjure the touch of the sun, but I can only feel grey.

     "Let's walk to the creek," I say, and pull Ruth away, breaking her gaze. When she moves, she leaves two large holes where her boots have sunk into the ground.

     The creek is wide and swollen, its banks submerged under torrents of run off. I notice large pieces of junk sweeping down river, bobbing up and down in the angry swells. What looks like a bicycle wheel races by, spinning and bucking in the black current.

     "Look, there's Sandy," Ruth cries over the rush of the rapids. She points at the wily Blumaroo, hanging upside-down from a branch bent precariously over the water. We race across the bridge to the fallen tree, near the Rubbish Dump. The lot is nearly empty.

     "Sandy," I shout. He waves, motioning that he'll come to shore. "What happened?" I ask as he wades toward us up the bank.

     "Bouncin' Blumaroos, she swelled up overnight like a Skeith's belly," he says, rubbing the spot between his ears. "Banks got so slick, zip bang the whole thing plonked right in, it did. The water's full of junk."

     As he speaks, I glance at what used to be the Dump. A few broken toys tumble into the creek and disappear.

     "Hey, look Roody," he continues to Ruth, "if you hang down from that felled tree, you can grab things out of the water. Wan' a go?"

     Rolling her eyes, Ruth takes his hand and they make their way across the mire to the fallen tree. I follow slowly.

     We spend hours pulling junk out of the creek, letting the blood pound through our upside-down heads. Our paws are numb, and Ruth almost slips right off the trunk into the frozen eddies.

     "Don' worry Roody, I'll jump in after ye if ya fall," Sandy says. Ruth rolls her eyes again and giggles.

     We finally bore of this game. Sore and shaking, we tread home. As we cross the bridge, Ruth points across the dump, "The marrow's caved in."

     "A field of squashed marrow, blimey that'd stink like a rotten tater."

     Ruth laughs. Looking at the massive soggy vegetable, all I say is, "Another field of mush."

     * * *

     "We're going to drown," I say, scratching my rusty eyes. Beyond the fields, the mountains slumber on, oblivious to the wind that wracks the trees, and the storm clouds rushing inland.

     "Everyone's leaving," Ruth says.

     "Soil can't keep them anymore."

     "It can't keep me either," she says fiercely, kicking a fence post before heading inside.

     "The land's a part of us, Ruth. You can't leave yourself behind, can you?" I tell her. I perch myself on the fence like a tin scarecrow, and just sit there for a long time, rusting.

     * * *

     I take them to the place where the leaves fall. Sandy follows, dragging his feet.

     From the top of the hill we can see the retreating figures of Sandy's brothers. Sandy raises his paw and tips his straw hat, as if his brothers will turn around and wave back. But they can't see us anymore. They're too far away.

     Two leaves fall from the tree and land at my feet.

     "They're really gone, aren't they?" Ruth asks, looking at the solemn figures on the ground.

     "Course they have," says Sandy. "They're smart aren't they? Going to make it in Brightvale, start their own shop, or even become knights, if they make it. They're getting out of here, and that's the point right?"

     "What's all this hating the place you come from all of a sudden?" I ask.

     "Look around, Sarah. We're nowhere. This place is falling into the ground. Sinking Acres."

     "There's plenty to like. Lots of space."

     "Space. Outer space," Ruth chimes in.

     "Fresh air," I counter, glaring at Ruth.

     Sandy sniffs and wrinkles his snout. "Rotten taters and moldy marrow?"

     "You can't hate the place you come from. It's not natural."

     "What's not natural is wanting to stay somewhere diseased. I'd rather be anywhere but here," he yells, and runs back down the hill toward the farm.

     I turn to Ruth, demanding, "How can you encourage him? This is our home." But she doesn't reply.

     Suddenly, I feel claustrophobic. "Let's spin," I suggest.

     At first, she only watches, noting the way my feet brush the grass, the tilt of my head, and the whip of my ears. Then she too begins to turn, slipping on the wet grass at first but then gathering speed. The world falls away. We whirl, together, around and around and around, until-

     We hit the ground, tail first. My body is sprawled on the grass but the rest of me is still spinning. Blood pounds in my ears and I look up at myself in the grey clouds spinning, forever spinning. I don't want to stop but the image slows in my brain, and, like a windmill without wind, I spin slower and slower, falling back into my body.

     The sky is at a standstill.

     Sitting up, I shudder as the wind blows into my damp fur. I notice Ruth is still staring up at the grey sky in wonderment. The bottoms of the clouds fall out and it starts to storm. Thunder grumbles and lightning flashes, but I don't move. I just sit there and feel a great-calm-in all the noise.

     Finally, Ruth sits up, rubs the rain from her eyes and whispers, "That was realer than real."

     I take her paw and we walk home. We don't say another word all evening.

     * * *

     Ruth has soft, thick fur the color of Tyrannia. Spots of white flour speckle her brown coat as she kneads dough in our small kitchen. With every pounding of the dough, a fresh cloud of white powders the air, like dust kicked up from the ground.

     Spaghetti.

     Bowls of it. Mounds of it.

     Back when the soil was firm and dry, Ruth and I scampered across the hard ground in bare feet, filling our bowls with seconds, thirds, and fourths; red tomato paste stuck to the roof of my mouth.. There were longs rows of picnic tables lined across the field. It was the Meri Acres Festival, and the whole town had showed up, eating the fruits of the harvest. Pa had just won the marrow contest, and Sandy's brothers clapped him on the shoulder by way of congratulations.

     As the sun set, torches were lit, staked into the ground in a ring.

     "Music," cried Mr. Pickles, the pudgy Festival Coordinator. A jumble of paws hastily cleared the tables, shifting them out of the light to make room for a dance floor. Charlie, Sandy's burly brother, unpacked his banjo while Sally, a slight Aisha, made her way to the band platform, a picnic table on one side of the floor. Pa grabbed his fiddle and so did a reddish Cybunny named Violet.

     Everyone stood on the edges of the floor, watching as Violet slowly picked up the fiddle and bow, twisting the end of the bow, tightening the strings. Her jaw quivered above the chin rest. She had a flower tucked behind her ear.

     Then, her chin dropped, and she played a long, low note. It started softly, lulling, and then grew, climbing up the scale. As it peaked, the sound whooshed out and fled into the night, escaping our ring of fire. Then it stopped. I held my breath. The night did too.

     Then she tilted her head, and looked at my Pa. She lifted the bow, and began to play again. The notes ducked and swayed, twisted and pulled, spinning around me. Then Pa joined in, with his lively beat. Then Charlie, and soon Sally's voice sprang up, high and strong. Ruth grabbed my paw, and we headed onto the dance floor, right in front of the band, in front of everyone. We too began to dance, to twirl, to spin. Our bare feet hit the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust around our ankles. Then other pets joined in, some clapping and stamping on the sidelines, leaving scuffmarks on the ground.

     The Meri Acres festival is cancelled this year. Mr. Pickles moved away. The ground is cold and wet, and the picnic tables are sinking. We'll all be swallowed eventually.

     * * *

     There was a note tacked to the tree with the falling leaves this afternoon. "Meet me here at midd-night. Imporrant bissness. -Sandy."

     Important business, it said. What did he mean by it? Ruth and I look at each other, confused, as we climb the hill, holding a lantern between us.

     Sandy is already there. His face looks ghoulish in the half light.

     "What's all this about Sandy?" Ruth whispers. "Here we are, in the freezing cold, in the middle of the night. It better be good."

     "I'm leaving," he says.

     "Leaving?" I ask. "Like your brothers?"

     "For good?" Ruth says.

     "Yes, for good. I'll be gone in the morning."

     "You're crazy," I argue. "You're not old enough to go out on your own."

     "My brothers did."

     "Yes, but they're older than we are."

     "No, they're just smarter. I don't care what you say, besides, I'm leaving tomorrow at dawn and that's the end of it. You comin' or not?"

     "You've gone mad," I protest. But he stands there, defiant. Not the smartest of blumaroos, I think to myself for the hundredth time. "You can't possibly think we're crazy enough to come with you. What are you going to do for food? For shelter? For neopoints? You haven't thought this through, it's madness."

     "I have some neopoints saved up. I've been thinkin' about this fer a while. There's nothin' here for me no more. Not without my brothers. They've gone, and I'm goin' too. And you can come with me, if you like. Can't you see? There's nothing here no more. It's dead. Diseased."

     "There's nothing out there either," I shout. "Things will get better, you'll see." My cheeks burn, for some reason I feel as if he is insulting me. He comes from this town too. How can he just leave?

     He must see the determination in my eyes, because he takes a step back. "Fine, that's you, Sarah. What about you, Roody?" He turns to Ruth.

     "No way is she coming with you," I lower my voice, threatening. "You'll have to go alone." But to my surprise, Ruth shoves me from behind.

     "Let me speak for myself, Sarah," she says.

     "Fine, you tell him."

     She turns to Sandy. "I'll come with you," she says.

     I don't believe my ears. My sister, leaving. No.

     Sandy smiles. "I knew you would."

     "You can't. What will ma and pa say? What will they do?" I stammer, confused. "You can't be serious. It's dangerous, Ruth. It's stupid!"

     "Just because you don't have the guts to leave," she says, looking at me fiercely.

     "You're right. I have the guts to stay." I am angry now, so angry I could slap her. We stand there, quivering, like taut arrows.

     I let loose first. "How could you? How could you leave where you come from? It's not natural, not decent. You come from this land. We come from this land. Our parents are here, and our friends. Our whole life. Why would you leave?"

     "There's nothing here, Sarah. It used to be home, but it's changed. Things change. There's a whole other world out there. I want to see things, get out of this nothing. You'll never understand. We're too different."

     "Don't leave. Please." I look at her small delicate face. My sister. Leaving me behind.

     "I'm going." She sounds angry, but she looks sad. Then she turns to Sandy, "Okay, let's go get my stuff."

     "Bye Sarah," he says, and they disappear down the hillside. I stand there, frozen in shock.

     * * *

     The dark clouds choke the sky, like creeping vines on old walls. I smile at the familiarity. I've climbed this hill before, I've seen the way the wind moves the grass, soft as the bending bristles of a paintbrush. I am here tonight, yesterday, last week, tomorrow, on the first day of giving and the last of feasting. The past and present spin around me, in endless circles, only seen in certain light, like dust passing by a window.

     I am back at the place where the leaves fall. The trunk is thick and its limbs reach out to touch the yellow sky. A breeze rattles the leaves; they shudder and clink like a wind chime made of bones. My eyes are red and wet; Ruth is gone. Gone to seek adventure, gone away from this town, this quiet life. I look up and two leaves fall down, spinning to the ground: Ruth, Sandy.

     The colours are different, but the shape's the same. The same five points, the same smooth stem, the same veins, the same damp crinkled surface that crumbles in the heat. The same long ears, the same fluffy tail, the same clumpy black fur, but I'm different somehow. I've learned how to say goodbye. How to deal. How to smile as my sister drifts farther and farther away, blown out, like smoke from a candle.

     I count the friends at my feet. It is yesterday, tomorrow. The grass dances in the wind, tossed like the frantic stroke of a paintbrush. My tears fall like leaves, spiraling to the ground. It is raining. It is a million years ago, my movements are ancient, cemented in the tree's rings of growth. Higher, higher, I am on fire, dancing on dark cloud vines across the sky, choked with ash. Around and around I spin, until I too am far away from here.

The End

 
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