ASN 2.1 Sweat and Silence

by Matt P.

Antigone Richards wiped the sweat off of her forehead with a towel from her gym bag as she stepped out of the dance room. The large, wooden floored room was part of the Border Athletic Club that the dance company rented out while they were saving for their own studio. It would be at least another year before they hoped to find the space, but Antigone wasn’t particularly worried. She slung her towel over her shoulder and stuffed her tennis shoes in to the duffel bag, and walked out to join her sister in the chairs outside the studio.

Siobhan was waiting, wearing her gi and still barefoot herself, quietly reading a novel. Her dojo had started renting from the Athletic Club as well, partnering with another martial arts school to offer extra lessons and cross-training. Her classes started and ended half an hour before Antigone’s, but it still gave them the opportunity to ride together—either with their father or with a friend.

Antigone slung her bag in to one of the empty chairs and flopped down herself, leaning back and breathing deeply—it had been a difficult session, getting ready for their upcoming competition. She stretched her weary muscles a little bit as Siobhan marked her page in the novel and set it aside. Antigone met her twin’s eyes, and they shared a knowing look. With both of them having put their hair up in pony-tails but wearing the very different outfits of dance and martial arts, they looked like versions of one another from alternate universes.

“It’s still not doing it, is it?” Siobhan asked softly, idly tracing her fingers across the raised letters on her novel. “Still not feeling like we used to.”

Antigone sighed and brought her legs up, wrapping her arms around them and resting her chin on her knees. “I was trying not to think about it too much, but…” she trailed off to think about it for a long moment, before shaking her head slowly. “No, we’re not.”

She looked out at the people doing their gym routines, working on machines in the distance or going to one of the rooms for practice. After dance class the fencers came in, and she could already see some of the early arrivals pulling swords out of hard cases. Not too many, and they soon left to use the facilities before their class.

“It’s been months,” Siobhan pointed out, shaking her head in frustration, her dark hair swaying from side to side at the movement. “We were supposed to start feeling better already. We’re coming up on the deadline.”

They had both realized something was off after the incident at the hospital. Things in their life, things they had previously enjoyed or used to blow off steam and relax, had started feeling…disconnected. They had separately realized they were enjoying them less, were less enthusiastic about them then they previously had been. Antigone had almost lost a solo in a competition and Siobhan had been required to talk to her sensei about testing to the next belt in order to do it.

Once they had come to the realization they decided to work on it, throw themselves back in to their activities and school to try to reconnect to what now seemed a very separate part of their lives. Try to get back in to the mindset and feelings of their fellow dancers or martial artists, who didn’t occasionally have mythic creatures or literal grim reapers trying to kill them.

Antigone shuddered a little bit, swallowing against acid flooding her mouth. She saw creatures coming at her through a terrifying door; she saw fire spreading across the walls and ceiling of a hospital, and heard the sound of thousands of lights and windows breaking all at once. The edges of her vision started to waiver as she closed her eyes, and then felt the warm hand of her sister on her shoulder.

“Breathe,” Siobhan commanded softly, and met Antigone’s eyes when she opened them again. She saw a little bit of sweat beading Siobhan’s brow as well, and knew that some of the same things were going through her head. She envied her sister’s apparent strength, although given their rooms were conjoined she knew when Siobhan’s nights were wracked with nightmares as well.

Antigone sighed, a long exhalation that carried with it some of the anxiety. She grabbed her towel again and wiped at her brow, staring at the floral design on the terrycloth for a moment to steady herself. “Thank you, Bonnie. We’ll…give it another week or two before we break down and talk to Morgan’s therapist. Ok?”

Siobhan settled back in her seat and watched the gym for a long, quiet moment. People went on with their mornings all around them, going to or from workouts. Some headed to the showers, some headed out to their families and the bright world outside. Their hallway was quiet and dim, cool and slightly private amongst the growing bustle of people. It was almost nice, their own little world together away from the people who had no idea what they had gone through. Finally Siobhan gave a sigh that matched the one Antigone had just let out a moment ago.

“We should go meet Lacey before she gets too antsy,” Siobhan offered after another quiet moment. She rolled to her feet and held out a hand for Antigone, which Antigone took gratefully and stood up as well. “It’s a long walk.”

Antigone considered her sister for a moment as they started to walk out toward the people. “But we’d walk it together, right?” She asked, her voice soft.

Siobhan blinked, and then gave her an impish grin that was all Bonnie and no sorrow. “Of course,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.