What Lies Beyond: Chapter 37

The brown ball of fur toppled backwards onto its backside upon being discovered.
“Lapse?”, it exclaimed, backing away. “Is that my name?”
Sister examined the reclining woman more closely. She couldn't exactly remember what Lapse looked like, but it had to be her. But how could that be? It filled her mind with so many questions that she scarcely knew where to begin. Lapse was still sitting on the ground, looking up at her with a frightened look in her mismatched eyes.
“It's okay”, Sister said, reaching out with her paw. “I suppose you don't remember me, but we used to be friends. I'm Sister.”
She reluctantly accepted it. “I'm sorry”, she said, “I can't seem to remember much of anything.”
“You've been gone for a long time. Do you know where you were?”
“No...” She could see that Sister's was terribly saddened to hear that, and it affected her as well. “I'm sorry”, she said sheepishly.
“It's not your fault”, Sister reassured her. “Surely you must at least remember Pack? You two were always together.”


Come with me!” she told him excitedly. “There's so much I want to show you!”
She grabbed his paws, but he pulled them away, “We can't, it's just not right. It's too dangerous to do strange things like that.”
“Is it strange for me to want to be with you?” She said, drooping her head. “I thought you liked me. I guess no one likes me...”
He shouted something, but she was already gone away.

She opened her eyes and found herself alone in an empty hallway. He hadn't come with her, he hadn't even wanted to. She tried to find a window so she could look out at the sky, but there weren't any, there was only her, all alone. Some strangers seemed to materialize from out of the shadows in one side of the hall, and at first she was happy to see them, but her excitement quickly faded.
“So, all alone again?” One of them taunted her, cruelly.
“Where's this friend that you apparently have?” another one asked, appearing from somewhere else.
“I don't see anyone. I bet you don't even have a friend.” A third person jeered.
“No! I do!” she blurted out. “He's just-”
“He's just not real!” they all chimed in, interrupted her. “The only friend you have is an imaginary friend!”
“Freak! No one would be friends with a strange girl like you!”
“Freak! Freak! Friendless freak!” they all chanted. Sobbing, she quickly turned away and ran. Someone threw something at her, but she didn't stop. She burst through a doorway and found a corner behind a wall that seemed safe enough, and she curled up into a ball and hid from her tormentors, not daring to come out even when it started to get dark.


Lapse said nothing, but her lip quivered and her eyes were full of tears.
“Hey, what's wrong?”, Sister asked.
“Everyone hates me!” she cried, sobbing pathetically into her paws.
“Hey, it's okay, I don't hate you...” Sister tried to calm her down, but Lapse was inconsolable. She started to tell her about Pack, but then she remembered what he had said about her. “Just what did he do to you?” She wondered grimly.
The sun was almost up by the time she finally stopped crying. “This is why I just watch”, she said, her voice hoarse. “It's the only way. I'm not meant to have friends.” She looked at the purple horizon. “You should go now. It's not safe for you to stay here.”
Sister felt awful for her, but what could she do? After talking to Pack, she no longer had any idea what to believe, and she was in no state to help anyone herself. She hugged the poor broken woman and left as she was instructed to.


Nearby, a dark speck against the rising sun, someone else was watching the scene unfold.
“I still can't believe it,” he thought to himself, stroking the fur on his chin. “Somehow she really has come back.” He paced up and down the deck, assessing the situation. “Unfortunately, she can't help anyone like this. What she needs now is a friend.”
He walked to the helm of his ship, shielding his eyes from the sun with a dark-furred paw held aloft, watching the other ship sail away.
“Poor little calico. Once you were a friend to all, but now what have you become?” He sighed. “I'm sorry to do this, but for everyone's sake, you must remember who you are.”
And so, unbeknownst to her, a ship with black sails slowly closed in on her as she sailed off toward the rising sun.


“You stupid ass, you're two hours late! You were supposed to be here at seven! We had plans tonight!”
“Are you blind, woman?! Look at the weather, it took us ages to get here! And you dropped him off late last time anyway!”
Sister jumped back, startled, finding herself in the middle of two people yelling at each other. They were outside, the sky was pitch black, and it was raining hard. “Excuse me”, she said, timidly.
“You're lucky I let you see him at all!”, one of them snapped at the other, ignoring her. “I've told the judge all about your temper!”
“Did you also tell her that I haven't hit you yet, despite how many times you've really deserved it?!”
“What's going on? What's wrong?” Sister protested futilely.
“And what's all this homework?! Don't tell me he hasn't finished it all! What were you doing all weekend?!”
“That was a whole week's worth of homework, he can't do it all in two days! I'm sure you're just saving it up so we can't spend any time together!”

They continued arguing endlessly, despite Sister's efforts to interject. She was considering throwing herself between them when she heard a tiny cough from somewhere behind her. She squinted her eyes and scanned the darkened yard for the source of the sound. One of those moving rooms was off to one side, as were some trees and bushes. Since the two people didn't seem to be paying any attention to her, she walked in the direction of the sound, and when she peered behind a tall bush she saw a tiny man hiding there.
“What's going on?” she asked him. He nearly jumped away, so Sister knew he had heard her. She crouched down beside him behind the bush, and he looked at her suspiciously for a moment before responding.
“They're fighting again”, he replied, sadly. “They won't listen to you. They don't listen to anyone.”
“Why are they fighting?”
“Because of me. They're always fighting over me.”

Sister peered over the bush. They were still going at it.
“It's all my fault”, said the little man, “a long time ago mommy and daddy used to be happy, then I started having trouble at school and they started fighting. Eventually they split up and I hardly see daddy anymore, and when I do it's like this.” He sniffed and wiped a tear away from his eye. “Maybe if I was gone, they wouldn't fight anymore. They're not watching now, I could just run away and not come back.”
She looked into his watery, frightened eyes. “What can I do?” she thought to herself. The other two wouldn't listen to her. She looked at them again, and thought of Corsair and Lay arguing over her. Thanks to her, Corsair was gone now, too. Maybe it would have been best if she had just gone away before things got so bad, maybe then Corsair would still be around. She looked up at the stars as the rain fell on her face, and she realized she was crying too.

“I just want everyone to be happy”, said the little stranger, and he started to stand up.
She put her hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back down. “I know,” she said, looking down at her feet. “I know exactly how you feel.” She took a deep breath as one of her tears landed in a puddle on the grass below. “I had many wonderful friends, and we all got along very well, but one day I realized that one of them was extra precious to me. I wanted to show him something that made me happy, but he didn't like it, and suddenly things around us started to go bad. We all started fighting over the silliest things and I felt my friend slipping away from me, and now he's gone.”
“Then you know why I should go”, the stranger said, sadly.
“I know why you feel that way,” she said, looking at him now, “I felt the same way too. But it's wrong. It's not your fault. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes people fight and do things that hurt others. You can't always prevent these things from happening. It's what we do afterwards that really counts. If you want to make people happy, be strong and try to make things better. Running away isn't the answer, it only brings more sadness. Not a night goes by where I don't feel sad that my friend is gone. I'm sure there are people who care about you and would miss you, too.”

She hugged the little stranger, who was still crying, though he looked up at her and nodded. “I wish I could help you more”, she said, feeling sorry for what he was going through.
“It's okay, thank you, miss” he replied. “Look, they've stopped arguing now.” One of the two had gotten into that moving room, and the other was standing in the doorway. The rain even seemed to be letting up. “I should go now.”
He walked over to the one who was waiting at the door, and she hugged him and hustled him inside. Sister waved to him from behind the bush as the door closed.
“I should go too”, Sister thought to herself as she walked down the darkened street to her ship. “There's something I still need to set right.”

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