After braving the draft, Kanade brought James back to Laurentia for a wander through the streets beneath festive decoration. Christmas was called something else in Shattered Land, but it was undeniably Christmas, and a fairy dusting of snow covered everything, though the temperature was pleasant for walking. The glories of magic.
The trip wound to a stop at Kanade's house.
"You got a new couch," James said.
Previously, almost everything in the house had been stone, including the chairs and seats. Now, the couch was black leather, looking plush and soft enough to dip into like fondue.
"Try it out," Kanade said, smiling. "I'll be right back." She went past the kitchen and up a flight of steps.
James sat. It was like being swallowed by a marshmallow. Among the antiquated stonework, an enormous leather couch was incongruous as decor, but its comfort was impossible to argue with.
The rest of the room was contrastingly spartan. The couch faced a bare wall of textured sandstone tile. No pictures, no posters, no clocks. No plants in the corners, no standing lamps. The light came from recesses covered in translucent glass. A glimpse of the kitchen suggested more of the same.
Kanade came back down, softly humming a tune. A familiar presence bolted beneath her, bounding down three steps at a time and then scuttling along the ground. James leaned further into the leather, resigned, as Wigglewaggle made a flying leap into his lap and scampered up his arm. Instead of nesting on his hair, the creature lay flat on the backrest of the couch with its head on his shoulder. Sudden stillness suggested instant sleep.
"Whenever you're around, I think I'm playing second fiddle," Kanade said, standing in the archway of the kitchen.
"He doesn't have time to get tired of me."
"Hmm. Well, settle in, you've got a marathon ahead."
With how comfortable James was, settling in sounded just fine. "Okay. Explain this marathon. I'm staring at a stone wall."
Kanade held up something retrieved from upstairs. "The solution is before you."
James peered at it. "A remote control?"
"Sort of." Kanade walked over and sat next to him, wiggling back and forth into the cushions. "Ooh. So comfy. I should have gotten one of these ages ago."
She held the remote up and poked at it. A panel of the stone wall unhinged and slid back, revealing a gigantic television screen. Numbers appeared in the screen's upper right corner, scrolling down at a blurring speed from 274 to 003.
"—oining us for everyone's favorite pre-celebration celebration, the Studio 3 marathon Christmas special," exclaimed an enthusiastic young Asian woman in a Santa suit cut off at the thigh. "We'll begin with the best of the best for your viewing pleasure: a two-hour Christmas edition of Ryu and the High School Beat Box. Ryu and his friends have been practicing for the Christmas concert for three episodes, but what will they do when disaster strikes at the winter formal? Stay tuned to find out, and don't forget, this is a marathon, so coming up right after Ryu we'll have meatier fare for mature audiences as The Darkest Heart pumps through its first ever holiday special."
"No way," James said. "Seriously?"
"You sounded like Casey just then."
"Ryu is my favorite show."
"I know," Kanade said, turning enough to smile at him.
YOU ARE READING
No Life to LoseMystery / Thriller
James Kirkpatrick's difficult life leads him to take solace in virtual reality—a momentary peace soon shattered by mystery, intrigue, and unseen forces bent on plunging the world into chaos. An epic tale of love, loss, and the boundless influence of...