ASN 4.0 Not Right

by Matt P.

Winter refused to give up its hold on the city entirely, and as evening set it had brought a chill with it. It settled in and sent people in to their homes and even licked frost on windows by the river.

The cold air that blew through the city brought Siobhan, Antigone, Lacey, and Monica in to the Richards house when they had planned to spend it out. Staring at a pile of math homework—Antigone and Siobhan were a grade ahead in mathematics and studying pre-Calculus, while Lacey and Monica were both studying full Calculus a year early—Antigone decided that she had enough. They navigated the almost obsessively cluttered floor of Antigone’s room when they stood, owing only to that she had a larger desk to study on—Siobhan’s tidy room had seriously tempted them.

“It’s not normal,” she declared, sighing and pulling away from the desk. While not a small office desk, purchased from a well known flat pack furniture store in Kansas City along with most of the furniture she and Siobhan owned—it was nonetheless almost groaning with the weight of math textbooks. “And I don’t like it.” With that proclamation she flounced down on to her bed, legs rising in the air before flopping back down on to her pillows.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to like pre-Calculus, Annie,” Siobhan said with a sigh, as she too left the desk by rolling back away. She had dragged her rolling chair from her room, and folded her legs back up under her on it as she rolled back to the bed. “Although, I’m not sure that it’s exactly abnormal…”

Antigone glared at her, and then sat up. All four girls, planning on a sleep over to study for a pair of scheduled quizzes the next day, had changed into a panoply of pajamas. Antigone sat up in matching forest green flannel, while Lacey was in a less subtle matching pink, Monica in a subdued dark red pajama bottoms and white sweatshirt, while Siobhan had a black and red plaid pair of shorts and a black tank top under a black zip up sweatshirt. “No, I mean school, and don’t interrupt me by saying of course school is weird. The way everyone’s been treating me since the…thing.”

“Incident,” Lacey supplied with a grin as she stood up to take a break.

“Battle!” Siobhan insisted. What to call, amongst themselves, the incident from the previous semester that had involved literal lords of the realm of Nightmare galloping out of the school basement had been an ongoing argument.

“We can’t call it that, because it isn’t subtle,” Monica pointed out, in a tone reserved for something repeated not less than one hundred times.

Antigone grabbed one of the stuffed animals around her bed, of which there were not a small number, and chucked it at her friends. “Everyone likes me, and is really nice to me! And it is weirding me out.” That, along with the flying teddy bear, brought silence to the conversation as everyone considered it.

Lacey was the first one to speak up. “Isn’t it what you wanted?” Siobhan propped her feet up on her sister’s bed, and nodded.

“For as long as we’ve been conscious, and out of the womb? Maybe a little bit in the womb, while we were eating our triplet?” Siobhan added, her voice taking on a faux-innocent questioning tone at the end.

“What—you didn’t…what?” Lacey spluttered, diverted from the conversation by this apparent revelation.

Siobhan leaned back further in the chair, tucking her hands behind her head in smug satisfaction. “You’ll never know if we ate Cassiopeia,” she pronounced.

“Of course not,” Antigone offered with a long suffering sigh. “It’s just one more horrible thing that Siobhan had an entire school convinced was true for a while. I’ve seen the ultrasound picture, and there were just two of us in there.” Siobhan, at this revelation, pouted heavily and crossed her arms. “And yes, I’ve wanted to be popular and accepted, and not always feel like I’m invisible or marginalized in school—but this is just wrong.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment as they considered that. “Because it isn’t real?” Siobhan asked, and Antigone nodded in response. “Because they remember…differently, and we remember the truth.”

Antigone fussed with another stuffed animal, but it was Monica who spoke up. “There’s something kind of…terrifying about how everyone remembers the official story, and we don’t. Why don’t we?”

“I think there has to be something in Border,” Siobhan answered sincerely. “I mean…you guys explained some of the weird stuff. And we’ve seen other things happen the same way—no one thinks that Death got loose in the hospital over winter break—but I still don’t think that just happens. People are stupid, but they’re not that stupid.”

Monica shrugged. “It could be that’s true, but I don’t think there’s a way for us to test the hypothesis. What would we do to test?” It was a fair question, although they did have one way to accomplish it—ask Morgan. Monica and Lacey knew that the coroner was involved in the supernatural world, but not exactly how; the fact that she was one of the Queens of Faerie remained a secret, in part because it sounded insane to say out loud and in part because they felt like keeping some of the specifics secret was important. Maybe that’s what keeps Border running and people ignoring the crazy crap, Antigone thought wryly, compartmentalization.

“Oh, testing it is easy…we just wait for the next insane nonsense to happen and see what happens,” Antigone offered. “But once again Siobhan has taken us down a conversational rabbit hole we may never recover from. What do I do about the people at school?”

No one had any easy answers, and after a moment Lacey shrugged. “Let it ride, Annie, and see what happens. Take it for what it is, and worry about it later. And other things you can purchase on inspirational posters—anything else is just borrowing trouble.”

Before anyone had a chance to respond they heard the telltale signs of the front door being opened and someone entering. “Want to make Dad go order us all pizza?” Siobhan offered, to the general agreement of the room.