Fear The Dawn: Chapter 48

What do I do now?”
Since that night, Karma had been completely lost, wandering aimlessly throughout the ocean like flotsam floating out to sea. He had relived those events in his head a hundred times, wondering if he did the right thing and whether or not this was best for Line, but ultimately it made little difference either way. He had dedicated himself so completely to his goal of finding Line that he had no idea how to live without it.

For as long as he could remember, he had something driving him. At first it had been his hatred of the strangers, and the delight in tormenting and besting them. Thankfully, that had not returned, even if it would have given him the strength to keep going he didn't want to be that person again. After that it had been his desire to find Line that kept him going, but now that too was gone, not to return. Was he to try to aid the strangers, as the others had found fit to do? Or to continue trying to restore his ship to its original condition? Both felt so hollow to him, yet he had no better ideas, so there he sat, night after night, wasting away.

He hadn't been back to see Lace, either. He knew that he should, no doubt she was waiting for him, but it had already been too long, and that promise was made under the assumption that Line would return. Was he to go to her now, tell her it hadn't worked out, and ask her to give his life some direction instead? He couldn't bring himself to face her, not like this. He felt badly, but it was better that way. He had warned her that he probably couldn't be the person she wanted him to be, if only she had listened.

Karma sighed and walked over to the railing of his ship, looking down at the waves. He didn't even bother checking the signals anymore, there was no point. He didn't care where the others went, and if they wanted to find him they were welcome to, though no one had bothered. It was still early in the evening, the sun wouldn't be up for quite a while yet. Maybe he would check them just this once, it would help pass a little time until morning.


Elsewhere, someone else was sharing Karma's feelings of confusion and loss. When he first stepped onto the ship, it was as though his mind had been wiped clean, purged of its identity and memories. He had vague memories of events that had come before, brief visions and tinges of emotion, but they were all tangled up and he couldn't separate them right now. He leaned out over the railing and looked down at the reflection of the cream-coloured creature in the water below. He twitched his ear, and the creature twitched back. He stuck out his tongue and flattened his ears, and the creature made the same ridiculous expression, and he laughed. “Well, at least I've still got my looks”, he thought to himself.

But who was that creature in the water, and what was he doing here? He looked out across the night sky and tried to recall anything that might give him some direction.
As he stared up into the sky, the light from the stars slowly blurred into the lights on the roof of a small coffee shop.
You're one of us, Line. You've been away in this world for a long time, but it's time you came back.”
I've been away”, he thought, returning to reality. “But I'm home now.”
There had been two people who came to get him, a man and a woman, but for the moment he couldn't remember any more than that, nor could he remember where they had come to collect him from. Line decided to take a look around the ship. “Maybe they're around here somewhere”.
There was no one up on the deck, nor in the little cabin below the helm. The cabin was messy, in particular the bed wasn't made, the sheets were just haphazardly strewn about the floor. “The captain of this ship must be a real slob”, he thought jovially, before it occurred to him that it might be him. He made the bed and backed out the way he came. He discovered a hatch leading below, deck, so he opened it and climbed down.
Hello? Anybody home?”, he called, but the only reply was his own voice echoing off the walls. He walked along the narrow hallway, peeking into the various rooms. Some looked as though they might have been used at one time, but there was no one to be found right now. At the end of the hall he came to a room with a podium at the front and several rows of small chairs towards the back.
Ah, this rings a bell”, he said, stepping up to the podium and addressing the empty crowd. “First of all, I'd like to thank you all for coming out and supporting me, without all of you I wouldn't be here”. He looked around at the empty room. “So is anyone here tonight invisible? Yeah? How about that transparency, huh? Sure, it's great when you want to cut work, but I tell you, it really makes relationships difficult. Everyone can always see right through you! And don't even get me started on trying to get service at a restaurant, it's like you're not even there!”
He paused for a moment. Predictably, there was complete silence in the room. “It's no fun without an audience”, he thought, heading back above deck. Perhaps this might once have been a vibrant place, full of energy and life, but right now it just felt lonely and sad.
Back on the main deck, he looked up at the giant white sail. “So what, I'm expected to sail this thing all by myself?”. There were a lot of ropes attached to the sail, but he didn't really know how to work them. He walked up to the helm, where he found the ship's wheel. “I know how to work this thing, at least”, he thought, giving it a spin, and with that the ship lurched to life, almost knocking him off his feet. For a moment he just stood there in amazement as the giant ship sliced through the ocean, but then he realized he had no idea where he was headed.
Well, I don't know anything about navigation, so I guess that's as good a place to start as any.”
Line regained his composure and gripped the wheel, steering it towards the place in the sky where he had seen the vision of the coffee shop.


Lapse was also in her common room tonight, sitting on a couch with Pack. Not long after that night, Pack had really surprised her by handing over the captaincy of his ship to the one called Snag and coming to stay with her on her ship. She had been a bit curious about what had happened to Mr. Karma and his friend, but she had been so busy with her own affairs that she'd hardly had time to think about it. Right now she was trying to explain weddings to Pack with the aid of a few pictures she had drawn.
See, here's the groom, he's dressed all in black... actually, that's basically how you look most of the time anyway, and here's the bride, she wears this giant poofy white dress...”
As poofy as you?”, he asked, tweaking some of her fur in his paw. It was still just as wild as it always had been.
Even poofier! ...And they walk down the middle here and some music starts to play and...”
Hold on, I think I hear something.”
Lapse frowned, a little upset. “If you're bored, you could just say so.”
No, really, there's a weird noise coming from somewhere.”
Lapse tilted her head. “Actually, I think I hear it too”. It was kind of like a low rumbling sound. “I think it's coming from above deck, come on!”
She sprinted up to the deck, bounding up the ladder ages before he caught up with her.
What is that?”, she asked, pointing towards the distant object.
It looks like a ship!”, Pack said, having finally reached the deck.
Lapse hopped up on the ledge and leaned out further to see. It was definitely a ship, and it was coming towards them at amazing speed.
Aaaaaaaahhhh!”, someone on board the ship yelled.
Is that... Mr Karma's friend?”, she asked, in disbelief.
How do you stop this crazy thing?!”
Pull on the rope!”

Line managed to bring the ship to a stop just before it would have hit them. Sheepishly, the cream-furred man walked down to the deck to see who was there.
It is you!”, Lapse said. “Mr. Line, you've come back!”
He looked at her for a moment, as if he was struggling to remember.
My goodness... Lapse, is that really you?”
Yes, it's me, why don't you come over here so we can talk?”. She lowered the plank across the two ships and no sooner had she even stood up than he had scooped her up in his arms.
I'm so glad you're okay”, he said, giving her a tight squeeze. She was a little concerned that he was going to kiss her in front of Pack, but he didn't. She wasn't sure exactly what she would have done if he had.
Did I miss something?”, Pack asked inquisitively.
It's a long story”, she said. It was the truth.
Line released her. “Is the other person not with you? The one who came to get me?”
You mean Mr. Karma? No, I haven't seen him in a long time. I'm sure he's around somewhere, though. By the way, this is Pack, my loved one. I don't think the two of you have met before.”
So you are the one who finally made Lapse happy”, he said, shaking Pack's hand. “Thank you”. Pack looked even more confused than before.
I'll try to explain later”, she said, giving Pack an apologetic glance. “Actually, could you excuse us for a minute? There's something I have to talk to Mr. Line about.”
All right”, he said obediently, clearly still confused. She gave him a quick kiss to reassure him.
Did you just come back?”, she asked, once they were alone.
I think so”, he said, “it's hard to remember. I feel as though I've been away, but I can't remember much of anything about where I went. I know you were there, somehow, but that's about it.”
I thought so, it was just the same when I came back”. She looked down at her feet for a moment. “Actually, I have something for you, could you come with me for a second?”
Line followed Lapse down towards the common room while Pack waited up on deck.
I had a feeling that you might come back someday”, she said, “so after that night I wrote down what I could remember about that morning. I thought you might want it.”
She handed line a few loose pieces of paper. On the pages was a story about a man named Aidan, a woman named Nisha, and a love that could never be. On the back of one of the pages was a drawing, showing a great white orb floating over the sea, lighting the waves in its pale glow. For some reason, when he looked at it it made him want to cry.
Thank you”, he managed to say, a bit choked up. “I'm so sorry for all the trouble I caused for you, Lapse.”
It's all right”, she said, patting his shoulder. “It all worked out okay in the end. Besides, this should be a happy time. I'm sure Mr. Karma will be thrilled to see you again. He may not show much emotion, but he really worked hard to find you.”
Is that right?”, Line asked. From what he could recall, the way they had parted had been less than amicable, but he did recall seeing him there in that coffee shop. Perhaps things had changed.

Is it true? Is he really here?”
If you mean the one called 'Line', yes, he and Lapse went below deck just a moment ago.”
Line climbed up the ladder to find Pack talking to a thin, black-furred man with long, scraggly fur. The man noticed him immediately.
Line... you really came back.”
He thought for a moment. “Is that you? Old Grouc-”
Karma”, the black-furred man corrected him.
Ah, yes.”
They stood there for a moment, awkwardly. Without warning, Lapse shoved him from behind and he nearly crashed into Karma.
It's good to see you again, old friend”, Line said, giving Karma a somewhat involuntary hug.
You too, now get off me”. Lapse giggled. Karma and Old Groucho were definitely one and the same after all.

They went back to Line's ship afterwards to catch up on old times. Their conversation was a bit strained at first, because they had both changed so much, but before long their old friendship prevailed. Karma reminded Line about the ways of their world and told him a bit about what had happened while he had been gone, and Line gradually started to act like his old, irreverent self again. Karma didn't tell him about Lace, but she was on his mind as well, and he finally felt as though he could go and visit her again. It was a jovial evening full of memories both old and new, and for the first time in a very long while Karma actually enjoyed himself. They were so busy talking that they didn't even really notice when the sun started to come up at the end of the night.


Hey, what happened? What are we doing here?”, Line asked, suddenly finding himself in a strange place.
Shh!”, Karma scolded him. “Don't tell me you don't remember how we got here?”, he whispered.
Yeah”, someone said from behind Karma, apparently still hearing him despite his efforts to talk quietly. “That joke you told in the middle of class totally killed, it took the teacher like 10 minutes to get the class under control again. So worth it.”
Line's eyes seemed to light up. Karma turned to look at the person who had just spoken. It was a small male stranger with brown hair and light-coloured skin. They were all seated in small desks towards the front of a brightly lit room. There was a window at the back of the room, and the sun was shining outside, but somehow it felt very far away.
A door opened, and a large stranger with grey hair walked into the room, closing the door behind him and sitting down at the large desk in the front of the room. “Ah, the terrible trio”, he said, “That was quite a disruption you caused in class today. You will serve out your detention quietly, then you are free to go”. The man quickly immersed himself in some papers, and it was silent in the room once again.
I don't mean to alarm you”, Karma whispered again, “but I think we're in some kind of prison”. He looked around for a way out. There was only the one door, and it'd be difficult to even get up from the desk without alerting the guard. “Escape seems difficult.”
You've got that right”, the stranger agreed, still displaying an uncanny ability to listen in on whatever he said.
That's enough out of you two”, the guard said, looking up from his papers for a moment to scold them. He quickly returned to what he was doing.
Karma began devising some sort of plan to get them out of there. The guard was easily distracted, so they could set up some kind of diversion as long as they were extremely quiet about it...

Karma's concentration was disrupted by a loud and somewhat vulgar sound coming from where Line was seated. He had placed his hand on the inside of his arm and was clapping it against the side of his chest, making a ridiculous noise.
What are you doing?”, Karma thought, shooting him an urgent glance.
The guard looked up in annoyance, but Line had already stopped, folding his hands innocently over the desk and looking straight ahead. The only one looking out of place was Karma. Helpfully, both Line and the stranger pointed towards him as the guard glared at them.
A wise guy, eh? Very well, if you're so bored I have some erasers that could use clapping. I have to step out for a minute, make sure these are all spotless by the time I get back.”
The guard did indeed leave the room, but Karma tried the door afterwards and found that it was locked.
What did you do that for?”, he demanded of Line, “now we're never going to get out of here.”
Because it was funny”, Line replied. The stranger nodded. Karma glared at both of them. Honestly, why was he always the one who had to do all the work to make sure they made it home in the mornings?
He found the stack of erasers and started banging them together to clean them. Every time he did so, a cloud of white dust blew out, and no matter how far away he tried to hold the erasers from his face it was impossible to fully avoid it. He coughed away as the other two fools sat there talking in their desks.
You two could at least help me out here”, he protested.
No, we're good”, Line replied.
Karma snarled at them. “You're doing it the stupid way”, the stranger said, standing up from his desk and walking towards Karma. “You can bang the erasers on anything, not just each other”. He picked up two erasers and clapped them against the guard's papers, then against the chair, leaving a fine layer of white powder on the seat. Karma shook his head and continued clapping the erasers properly. “Look alive”, the stranger said, “I hear the teacher coming back”. He quickly took his seat again.

The guard re-entered the room to find Karma still banging the erasers. The cloud of white dust quickly got to him too, and he allowed Karma to return to his seat. Line was busy scribbling something on a piece of paper. He held it up for the others to see, it was a simplistic doodle of Karma clapping the erasers and gagging, with his tongue hanging out to a ridiculous degree. The stranger laughed, earning them another scolding from the guard. Karma looked out the window again. It was a little darker than it had been before, but there was no sign that they would be getting out of here any time soon. He snatched away one of Line's papers and started drafting up an escape plan. He would pretend to drop his pen on the ground, then Line would create a diversion. While the guard was distracted, he would steal the key, then they would all bolt for the door, tipping over a desk in the process to prevent pursuit. It was very straightforward, but they didn't have much else to work with. He showed the plan to Line, who promptly folded it up into a triangle and tossed it into the air. It flew around for a bit before striking the guard in the shoulder.
Who threw this?” he demanded, holding up the piece of paper. Line tried to blame it on him again, but he was the one with the papers on his desk, and that time he ended up clapping erasers. Karma smiled ever so slightly in satisfaction.

A little while later, the guard finally stood up from his desk.
All right, that's been long enough, you're free to go”. He walked towards the door and opened it. Unbeknownst to him, the back of his black-coloured pants were completely covered in white dust from when the stranger had banged the erasers on his chair. “You boys stay out of trouble now.”
Yes sir, Whitebottom”, Line replied.
That's Mister Whitebottom to you.”
Line and the stranger giggled as they exited the room into a long hallway. Karma was just glad to be out of there.
So, guys, same time tomorrow?”, the stranger asked.
You know it!”. Line and the stranger struck their palms together.
Can we please just go home now before we get into more trouble?”
It turned out that Karma got his wish, the hallway darkened as they walked along and by the time they reached the end the prison had disappeared and so had the stranger. Karma started to climb up the ladder with Line following close behind.
Oh, so we're back here again?”, he asked.
Yes, this is how it goes every morning. Haven't you remembered yet?”
Not completely, but when we were in there a lot of stuff started coming back to me.”
Well, this morning did a lot to explain why you were always so annoying.”
Line shook his head. “You just have no sense of humour. Other people appreciate my jokes. Like the girl with the white fur who was always with you”. He paused for a moment. “Where is she, anyway?”

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