When mountain ranges cut across the horizon before and behind her, and the blue Toyota still hovered in her rearview mirror, Terrin’s better judgement gave way to curiosity. She tapped the break lightly. The car seemed to hesitate, just a moment, as cruise control disengaged, and then she eased the car into a speed that might be described as grandmotherly. At least to other people. Her own grandmother collected speeding tickets like fine china and had recently begun wall-papering the dining room with them.
Dalia looked up as the car decelerated, glanced at Terrin, then the side mirror, and shook her head. “Don’t do it,” she said.
Terrin took her eyes off the road for half a second to purposefully give her an innocent look. “It’s not illegal to go under the speed limit.”
There was no hiding from sleep. Hushed, it crept through doors or windows, with all the familiarity of a cat too comfortable in its own domain to announce itself at the door. On padded feet, it might climb the stairs, ease itself into a room. On the space of a blink, it slipped in a shadow, then seated itself boldly in the corner. Not there, and then there all at once, calm and unsurprising. It was always there, prepared.
But Nesha could run from sleep. She drank her hot drinks, kept her hands busy, kept her feet moving. There were always small stacks of things to do and always thoughts to chase around her head. It didn’t matter that sleep was a quick-sand thing, gripping her all the firmer for how hard she kicked against it. Tugging her down more forcefully after each attempt to push it away. She tipped her head back to drag in waking air and ignored the way it pulled at her ankles.
Her problems faded out of sight in the rear-view mirror and she relished the roar of the highway wind. In a few minutes, maybe, she would turn on the radio, twist the volume up until it rumbled in her floorboards, her seat, her lungs. Until it filled the car and pushed the horizon farther away. She usually did, just as part of ignition, listening to the engine turn over once before she drowned it out with drums and guitar.
A friend had told her once that there was a science to why music sounded better when it was cranked up loud. She didn’t need the excuse, but she used it just the same, turning the dial higher. Turning decent songs good, and good songs great. Forcing everything back.
It was still dark when Anie started to hear heavy feet ahead of them, though the sky was turning promisingly gray. The trees were spreading apart, and their little band moved more easily. Mel kept up with her better, and Thea wasn’t far behind while Chas and Darien stayed to either side to keep them all together. When the voices petered back through the air, they drew in closer. Anie listened hard for armor, for the clink of metal that she had heard around the soldiers at the fortress. They only sounded dull, thudding along under the thin tones of their speech.
Chas slipped ahead. Anie watched him go, and almost moved in next to him. Long-legged as he was, she would have bet half the moon that she could keep up with him. But glancing at Mel, she stayed close, dropped back and threaded her finger’s through Thea’s.
“Hey!” someone shouted ahead of them. Not Chas, and not as far ahead as Anie would have expected from the rest of the rumble. There was a following thud, and a gasp, like someone forgot how to breathe.
“Hey, hey, stop,” Chas said. Quick, sharp. Not quite as loud as he usually was, as if he didn’t have the lungs for it.
Anie peered forward in the dark. Thea kept her close with tight fingers. Darien padded forward into grayer shadow.
“Where did you come from?” the woman asked.
Answers served with a surprising plan for the future
Kate Kearney searched: Why did I feel a need to create an army of large eyed Disney characters?
For centuries, commanders and kings have sought the best way to build an army. The soldiers of Sparta were schooled to be deadly and sassy. The Sacred Band of Thebes was built in pairs of lovers. The Macedonians won battles with very, very, very long sticks. The Romans mastered teamwork. The Mongols moved massive hosts, very fast. The Chinese blew stuff up.
No one has yet tried an army built of the very doe-eyed, and the very animated. It’s very possible that you may conquer worlds.
Kate Kearney searched: Why is my Ariel so grumpy?
Ariel’s thesis for the best army included people who wielded scowls and glares like swords and shields. The generals turned her down when she pitched the idea, but now her face is stuck like that. (And after every battle, the generals look a little stupider.)
Answers served with two buckets of weirdness
Kate Kearney searched: Would you make up a crazy doomsday weapon?
I give you: THE TRANSPOSIT FICTIONIZER 5000.
The TF5000 works under a system of modulated handwavium and counter-intuited unobtainium. Balanced against each other, they do very little, except to create a field approximately eight feet in diameter which converts fictional matter into tangible matter, and tangible matter into fictional matter.
For instance, point this contraption at a book, and you can drag characters and objects out into the real world. Point it at your best friend, and she or he may become the hero of their very own comedy. Maybe. They may also become that one extra in the back of a disaster film. It’s tricky.
But I guarantee you, once the TF5000 is used more than ten times, nothing will ever be the same.
Tanna had been awake so long, exhaustion no longer weighed on her. A few hours ago, she had been made of lead, tripping over stones that barely poked above the dirt road, shoulders aching, skull pressing down too hard on the column of her neck. Now, she wasn’t sure she owned bones, or if something had hollowed her out. She too light. Unsteady. Her hands shook in the breeze of her own pulse.
The wagons rumble behind her. The horses beat the ground in front of her. The rest of them walked the wide road, safe between them. Tanna glanced at the boy beside her, a little older and a little thinner. She listened to the others’ trudging footsteps, and considered looking at them as well.
Yesterday, they had all been strangers. Today, they were still strangers, and most of them were lost, following the two or three riders who had taken this road before. But the dirt taste in her mouth was growing familiar.
Answers served with a dose of optimism
MadamLibrarian searched: Would you ever go to Antarctica?
I can think of approximately 6,479 situations in which I would go to Antarctica:
1. A eccentric millionaire named Frank invites me to join him on an expedition to the southern continent after learning how much I love winter weather. I am clearly useless on their quest to find the lost alien civilization under the ice, so I tell the rest of the party that I’m only there because I fell asleep in the box of parkas by accident. When pressed, Frank tells the party that he needed someone who would remain cheerful while we were all freezing our rear ends off.
2. A very old stone is found under the ice, carved with an Ancient Greek phrase which simply says, “I’m only half the contest.” It makes a lot of people curious. Dozens of teams make their way south. I get to go because I can read Ancient Greek and crack Stargate jokes.
3. I win a ticket to go on a cruise around the Cape Horn. A freak storm drives the ship horribly off course. The ship is beached with an iceburg through the hull. Most of the crew were lost. The passengers and I learn how to survive from a friendly tribe of penguins.
4. McMurdo is hiring new staff for their post office…
Answers served with musical head banging. But you don’t get to see it.
Kathryn searched: My sister and I are going on a roadtrip. As an expert roadtripper, what advice can you give us?
There are five necessities for a good road trip:
- A plan for where you are sleeping every night.
- Car snacks. The yummy kind.
- A mutual understanding between all participants as to whether it is okay to gamble on the radio as you move farther and farther and farther away from friendly territory, or whether driving tunes should be secured from home.
- One crazy rule that must be followed at all times (like quacking every time you see a white car, or taking pictures of yourselves feeding any animal statue you find.)
- A carefully cultivated Road Trip Attitude, which says that whatever will be will be and that the brilliant part of travel is what finds you along the way, not what you set out to find.
One answer served. It just takes a long time.
Kate Kearney searched: Would you create some alphabet instructions for an amazing roadtrip?
Let’s get started:
Announce your intentions to take a massively awesome trip. For each acquaintance who is aware that you are going, it becomes one order of magnitude harder to back out of your plans. You can explain yourself to your friends. Your acquaintances will be waiting to live vicariously through you, and it gets awkward when you disappoint them.
Bring friends. Whether you’ll be driving far enough each day to want to take turns driving or not, you do want the company. You do not want to be so desperate for human interaction that you become one of those people who strikes up a conversation in the gas station restroom.