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Glowy Green Things

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Glowy Green Things

Part One: Glass
…which contains some posters, a query about chess, and far too many pizza boxes.
It was called the Delsian Arch Crystal. It was transparent with white flecks, slightly asymmetrical, and it was delivered on a Thursday.
Not an uncommon occurrence, really. They regularly took delivery of blessed swords, cursed mummy appendages, sleeping potions, cremated remains, eternal mirrors of the night, and on one rather memorable occasion, a crate of captured Ghes’nhull demons.
So a crystal? Wasn’t that big a deal.
Michael glanced at it briefly, put it in a box along with some old manuscripts and a silver amulet, and carried the whole thing across the office to the door on the far right.
“Hey, Dawn. Got a few more things for you.”
She was answering emails, and barely glanced at him.
“Thanks, Mike. Just put them on the table.”
Michael paused, and raised an eyebrow.
“Which one? The one under the Fallen Things poster, or the one covered in pizza boxes?”
“Pizza boxes.”
“Are you sure? If you’d rather not disturb them, I can always bring in a folding table from outside.”
A brief smile.
“The table with the pizza boxes is fine. Thanks for asking.”
“Any time.”
Not that complex an operation. Hold box of papers in one hand, pick up pizza boxes with the other hand. Maintaining firm grip on box of ancient manuscripts, negotiate a path through spilled half-eaten pizza from said pizza boxes, and place manuscripts on table. Remove battleaxe from the vicinity of table, as it is likely to drip unidentified green gunge onto priceless manuscripts. Easy, really.
Surveying his handiwork, Michael stepped backwards onto a Pomp and Circumstanz poster.
“What, you ran out of wall space, so you’re going to start sticking them to the floor?”
“Hey. Not all of us can be neat freaks. Just put it back up, would you?”
And she was back to the emails.
The poster was crumpled, but intact. He stuck it back on the whiteboard, between some copied-out runes and a question written in red marker: “Chess – DS or K?”
Task accomplished, Michael returned to the relative tidiness of the outer office.
And inside a box sat a crystal with white flecks, un-noticed.
Part Two: Kryptonite
…which contains some fancy chocolates, some worrying memory problems, and an obscure analogy about fishing trips.
It was called the Delsian Arch Crystal, and it sat on Dawn’s desk among the stacks of paper scattered haphazardly across the top.
Xander was calmly munching his way through her See’s chocolates, apparently unconcerned that the box had still been unopened when he’d arrived.
“Is this the only reason you came? To steal my food?”
“Actually, I was wondering if you’d finished translating my manuscript.”
The manuscript. It was a useful pretext. And he really did want it translated. It just wasn’t his main reason for visiting, that’s all.
Xander watched Dawn carefully as they talked.
Yeah. There was something. He didn’t know what it was, but something just wasn’t right.
The cashew brittles were pretty good, though.
Dawn’s computer beeped.
“I think you’ve got an email.”
Dawn glanced over at the screen. “Just Andrew.”
“What a shock.” Xander carefully selected a raspberry cream, and asked, “Aren’t you going to reply? Or read it? Or maybe read it and then reply?”
“He can wait.”
“Since when do you make Andrew wait for a reply?”
A slight frown. “It’s fine.”
“Come on. You guys have emailed at least once an hour for the past three years. Don’t break your winning streak now.”
“Xander. It’s fine.”
“Wouldn’t I say if it wasn’t?”
A scotchmallow. Those were great.
“The thing is, Dawn, I was wanting to…”
To what? To talk to her, and find out what was wrong. Because she wasn’t behaving like she normally would. And he’d been worried about… something. About… someone. Someone connected with Buffy. Her sister. Who was called… Dawn. Dawn! Dawn was behaving weirdly.
“…to see how you’re doing. Really. Is everything okay?”
She didn’t answer. Xander waited. He was seemingly engrossed in the vanilla nut caramel he’d discovered, and ignoring her completely.
Finally, the question came, very quietly:
“Ever been fishing, Xan?”
Rule One: never notice anything odd about what they’re saying.
“Not really. Have you?”
“You go out to sea, in a boat, and you take a packed lunch. Make a day of it. And even if you don’t catch anything, you still have a good time.”
Her voice was getting even quieter, but much more intense. Xander tried to seem indifferent. And relaxed.
“Hmm. Sounds pretty nice.”
“So, if the sea wasn’t there, could you still go fishing in it?”
Weird question. Very weird question. What the hell was he supposed to say? Xander’s gaze wandered the office as he searched his brain for words.
The room really was kind of bare. Whoever worked in this office should put up some posters or something. Posters? Who decorated with posters? And why was he thinking about decorating? He wasn’t here to decorate, he was here to visit… someone. Someone important. Dawn! That was her.
He frowned. “Were we talking about something?”
“No. It’s nothing.”
“You asked me about packed lunches. Or… I dunno…”
“It doesn’t matter. Thanks for dropping by.”
Xander let her show him out the door, still slightly unsettled. Seeing Dawn was great, but he had this nagging feeling that he’d been meaning to ask… some kind of question… to… someone. Someone vaguely connected with Buffy.
It probably wasn’t that important.
Part Three: Expenses
…which contains possible hardware problems, Bolivia, and a quick test question.
It was called the Delsian Arch Crystal, and it worked sort of like a leech, and sort of like a battery.
Her inbox was empty.
Utterly empty.
There’s no data. There’s no pictures on this one there!
Dawn sat, staring at the screen, and wondered how often cyberspace mail was misdirected by the postal service. Unlikely, sure. But she hadn’t made a career out of ruling out the unlikely. Men could change to snakes, shrimp could cease to exist, and postal workers could read an email address incorrectly. Obviously her email was ending up in Bolivia. And all she had to do was turn incorporeal, melt into cyberspace, find the nearest postal avatar, and submit a complaint.
You’re nothing, you’re a shadow!
She’d never been good at filling in complaint forms. Well, at least the first part of the plan wouldn’t be too hard.
I don’t know what you are or how you got here!
Still empty.
Maybe refreshing the page would help.
Of course, time moved differently in other dimensions. Maybe her computer was stuck in a dimension where time moved really slowly, so her email was taking a lot longer to…
Stop making excuses. This was the price.
Nothing comes without a price. This is yours.
Not like it was unexpected.
Or maybe it was a software problem. Or a hardware problem. One of those problems that meant you had to call the technicians, and they’d fix her computer, and charge her a fortune, and then she could get back her email from the time-frozen Bolivian dimension of digital post guys.
That would work. Definitely.
The door swung open, and a cheerful girl looked in.
“Pizza’s here, Dawn. Coming?”
“In a minute.”
“We’re not waiting for you.”
Dawn looked up. “Sophie?”
“How long have we been working together?”
“Uh… eight months. Why?”
Dawn nodded thoughtfully. “Just checking.”
No further reason seemed to be coming, so Sophie closed the door and started on the pizza.
And Dawn sat at her desk, and stared at the computer screen.
Can’t hear it. Can’t hear it. What’s the frequency? Empty.
Still empty.
Part Four: Calm
…which contains an experiment, some mild panic, and a crazy, crazy girl.
It was called the Delsian Arch Crystal, and it glowed green.
The door was right there. Right in front of her. Any time she wanted to, she could get up, walk over to the door, and end it all.
A “fake suburban nightmare”, that’s what she’d called it.
It’s like a costume for girls like you and me.
Maybe not fake, but definitely a nightmare. Or, actually, wasn’t that supposed to be the other way round?
They were all out there. In the office. Together. And they’d never notice. Not until she was sure. She could stay here, and they would stay there.
We don’t even know what she is.
Just like a game of hide-and-seek.
She’d played hide-and-seek, years ago, with Buffy. And afterwards Mom had given them ice-cream.
No. Not that. Focus on the important things.
What was important?
Fishing. Chess and fishing. And something about an experiment.
Yes. It should be the other way round. Maybe not a nightmare, but definitely fake. That was it.
Blobs of energy don’t need an education.
Hard floor. Rough and dusty, like no-one came in here very much. She’d preferred the carpet.
So: hard floor, lots of boxes, a broom, a broken chair, and a lot of cobwebs.
Apparently this was a storeroom.
A bedroom filled with boxes, Buffy had said.
Huh. Symmetry. She liked symmetry. But that wasn’t true.
The posters had been nice, though.
So pretty, can I have one?
Had there even been posters? There had been a desk. And a computer that was kidnapped by Bolivia. And photos. A photo of two women, one with red hair and one blonde. A man with an eye patch. Another of the blonde woman. Didn’t they used to have names? And, yes, lots of posters. All different. Brought out the character of the room.
Really brought out the blue in my eyes.
It was still green. Funny – it had been completely colourless when Willow sent it. Except Willow hadn’t sent it anymore, because Willow didn’t exist. No. That wasn’t the right answer. Willow still existed. It wasn’t her.
They were eating pizza. Without her. Had they even gotten one with anchovies? Probably not. Or maybe they still had, but just didn’t remember why. She hoped so. Pizza should have anchovies.
Was that important?
There was a story.
Curds and whey.
There was a story. A girl who liked cheese sat on a cushion, until a spider-
That wasn’t it.
There was a story. Two girls moved to Sunnydale and started to fight the… people with teeth. And one of the girls was really strong, and the other girl wasn’t even-
No. Wrong.
There was a story. Four monks sat in a circle and started chanting. And the world became the world. Then came Sunnydale, and pancakes with Tara.
Who was Tara? The name was familiar. And there were images. There were pancakes, and soft mothery cuddles, and a broken window, and tears, and she’d promised that she would never forget, it was far too important, but she didn’t know anymore, didn’t know why, and she had forgotten, but she’d promised, and she just didn’t know, and it wasn’t supposed to do this, Willow had said, and it wasn’t working properly, and who was Tara, and it was all going wrong, and what if she NEVER GOT OUT?
No. That was just fear talking. Completely unproductive. Why had the monks put that bit in, anyway?
Maybe that’s why you’re crying all the time.
It was better this way. Definitely better. She couldn’t quite remember what her reasons were, but there’d been a lot of them. At least twenty. Twenty. Did twenty still…? Yes. Numbers were always real.
And maybe she was real too.
I assume you’re talking about her existence rather than her intentions.
Only way to find out.

Part Five: Illusion
…which contains eternity.
It was called the Delsian Arch Crystal. Back when names still mattered.
It could hold all things, and tear the universe open.
It sat in a storeroom, undisturbed.
It held within itself a gateway to worlds. A living energy. A portal.
It held it close, and kept it safe.
And time was not time. Instead there was forever.
And the world was no longer the world. And would not be until the answer came.
Eternities were examined.
Puzzled through.
And slowly all became certain.
This is what has been. (No matter what was.)
All is other, and other is one.
If everything was, then so was this.
Nothing can be made to fit a shape not its own.
The crystal shone green.
And it was here. And it was now. And it was beautiful.
The universe span.
The crystal sat, in midair. Undisturbed.
Light spilled out of every facet, shining green onto the dusty floorboards.
Disturbing the long-forgotten air. Speckling it in emerald.
From a certain angle, the crystal’s glow almost seemed to form a shape. Sitting underneath it, and holding it in one hand. The outline of a girl.
It was probably just a trick of light.



The Mezzanine

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