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part one | theory one

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part one | the flightless lark and the arcane clown

theory one | jack and jill

When Alouette Strauss opened her eyes she could see nothing but a stretch of white. The ringing in her ears faded. The steady ticking of a wall clock sliced the silence lingering in the antiseptic-soaked room, repeating its circular path, ticking over and over as if to remind her time was still moving. She stared blankly at the ceiling. Time still crawled forward and she was still alive.

She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. They felt raw and tender. Had she been crying in her sleep? Slowly she tucked her pale hands back under the white sheets. Her eyes drifted left to right, blank walls stared back at her. The clock ticked once more, louder than before and a little bit slower, a second dragging into a minute.

Slowly she lifted herself to a seated position and rested her hand on the metal railings welded onto the bed. She glanced about, but her search for the slow ticking clock was in vain. There was no clock, only the white walls. She sighed, it was no surprise.

Her fingers brushed the surface of a stray sketchbook on an oak bedside cabinet, its cover a pencil-sketch-textured hot air balloon. For five seconds she let her fingers slide over the glossy cover, then Alouette brought the sketchbook close to her face, flipping the pages frenziedly until she realized the drawings were hers. Crooked scribbles of single-winged butterflies and stick figure people.

Turning to a blank page, she grabbed the charcoal pencil lying on the cabinet and sighed in relief, thanking the empty room that her right hand didn't have the IV needle jabbed into it. Her left hand pulsed with an ache where the needle poked into her skin. She ignored it and positioned the pencil favorably between her fingers, then started curving lines on the rough paper until a circle had formed. A while later, pencil hovering over paper, she stared at her drawing: an antique clock, its springs showing, its pendulum broken.

Alouette closed her eyes and shut the sketchbook, returning it to the oak bedside cabinet. She lay down, her head sinking to the pillow, and pretended to drift into sleep. This time she was fully aware that the sound of shuffling slippers in the hallway wasn't one of her psychotic imaginings. The slippers scuffing the floor echoed louder and louder, then a creak invaded the silence. The door swung open slowly.

She knew who it was. Ever since the bus she had been on had tipped in the streets of London and she had got stuck in a room dipped in antiseptic and white, he had dropped by to visit. He said he was lonely in his spacious room down the hall. He said he needed someone to talk to.

"Are you awake, Alouette?" his voice broke the air.

Alouette half-opened her grey eyes, hid a frown, and resumed her sleeping act. It had been a week, a week since he'd started this routine of visiting her in her hospital room for no reason. Even though seven days had passed, Alouette found it hard adjusting to the boy's existence in her life. He troubled her, that was the truth, but she couldn't shoo him away since he really wasn't doing anything wrong. Occasionally he entered her room, ambled to the blank walls then the glass window, and then asked questions she never replied to. Nothing wrong.

Claude Redmond was his name, she recalled. He had been awarded a lot of medals for science-y things. Mini grade school fake Nobel Prizes, according to the rumors floating from the chattering nurses' mouths. A boy who always smiled, though to be honest Alouette thought he looked stupid when he did, his head wrapped in bandages and his hand in a cast--broken when the bus chairs had landed on it. He was supposed to be confined in a room at the other end of the hallway, but as soon as he'd heard someone his age was close, he couldn't wait and rushed to Alouette's room, bed hair and all.

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