Vertigo

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vertigo
ˈvəːtɪɡəʊ/
noun
a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height

Knowing that you're about to do the most important thing in your life is a weird feeling. It's stranger still when you're not even into your twenties. What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? Assuming I don't get killed, thrown in jail or something similarly sucky.

We were a few days out from the big event, holed up in a safe house in Perlyn. That's right: we'd come home. The place was a bit of a dive, having not been lived in for years. It had a faded grandeur and had probably been pretty rad once upon a time, but now it was all peeling wallpaper and creaky floorboards and leaky ceilings. The air smelled of damp and there was a film of something slippery on every surface.

So, yeah. Not great. But it was also close to the gardens and main square that surrounded the Aviary, while being far enough away and inconspicuous enough to not draw any attention. People could come and go without being noticed while we got everything set up. It had been pointed out to me that we could quite easily have set up a staging post on the other side of a dimensional jump, back on Red, and based ourselves there while we made final preparations. Except that felt like cheating, somehow, in spite everything else we'd done. I didn't feel like we would be truly trying to save Locque and our people if we were constantly hiding away on another planet, and able to zip away at a moment's notice. Winning this thing meant committing and having some kind of honesty. Telling people to think differently while we lived safely back on Red was just another form of elitism. It'd make us no better than the wings.

Which meant we were here. Back on the streets I'd known my whole life. I'd even recognised the smells when we returned. Everything about Perlyn felt cosy, like a warm blanket - albeit a blanket that could kill you at any moment. A blanket with drawing pins in, perhaps. We were here to find those safety pins and remove them, bringing social revolution to duvets everywhere.

Extended metaphor, meet Kay.

Some kind of critical mass point had been hit on our big world tour. We'd shown up in enough places and talked to enough people that we couldn't just be ignored, or dismissed as an urban legend or conspiracy or wishful thinking. It got to the point where everyone knew someone who knew someone who had seen us appear and say our piece. We'd started seeding Perlyn as the place to be and soon after started to let rumours of a date slip out. It was a tricky balancing act: we needed everyone to have enough information so that they could choose to meet up at the right time and place if they wanted, and global travel was pretty archaic compared to Red; but by the same token we had to time it right so that they wouldn't be stopped on their way there.

Time would tell, and it wouldn't be long. There was a definite sense of change in the air - or was that just me projecting? - and reports of groups of people travelling from far and wide to reach Perlyn had been cropping up in the news. Mainstream media had been suppressing the story from the very start, at least once they realised it wasn't just a crank piece, but it was getting increasingly difficult for them to ignore what was right in everyone's faces.

Police presence was up, too, inevitably. I'd never seen so many armed cops around. Just glancing through the closed blinds on the top floor of the safe house and I could see two across the street. That's why we needed lots of people to come. If it wasn't enough, then everyone would be at risk. Get above a certain threshold and even the cops and the wings wouldn't be able to do much.

That was the theory, anyway.

"Marv?" I asked. The room was dark, the door closed and the windows all shuttered.

"Yeah?" I heard him shifting about on the bed.

"Are we doing the right thing?"

"Saving the world? Sure."

I turned and leaned on the window sill. Marv was propped up on one elbow, hair all ruffled. "That's not what I meant," I said. "If all these people come, or if even only some come, then we're basically inviting them to get in as much trouble as us."

"Nobody can get in as much trouble as us," Marv sighed. "But you're offering them a choice. That's the point. Up to them what they do with it."

"I guess. Still feels like something's not quite right."

He sat up, grabbing at his t-shirt and slinging it over his head. "Look, you've held this thing in your head for so long. It's gonna feel weird to let it all out."

"Maybe."

"You're going to share this problem with the world, Kay. It won't just be your burden anymore. That's a good thing."

"I think I feel guilty for making everybody else have to face up to this." Truth is, I felt guilty for making Marv go through it all. If I hadn't gone up to talk to him at the bar in the Black Jasmine, all that time ago, he'd never have got wrapped up in Cal's shit. He'd be happily going about his business, looking after his family and living his life.

"Listen," Marv said, "it's the easiest thing in the world to have an easy life. Most people, whatever their life is, they think that's the best it's ever going to get. Even when it's pretty shitty. Everyone thinks that changing stuff will only make life worse. That it's dangerous to change things."

I threw my hands up. "It is dangerous! Changing things is the most dangerous of all the things!" I grimaced. "And now you've made me say 'things' too much."

Marv pushed the sheet aside and stood up, walking over to me and putting his arms around my waist. "No, Kay," he said, slowly, assuredly, "the only dangerous thing is to not change things."

"Now you're doing it," I said, softly, leaning onto his shoulder.

"Yeah, well," he said, "you got a habit of convincing people."

We stood there, together, as one, for a long while, the house creaking around us. So, yeah, that had happened. For reals. It had been the first night back in Perlyn, in this safe house. Cal had disappeared off on one of his scouting escapades, sneaking out after dark, leaving just me and Marv. Neither of us had said a word; it just happened. And now, he were are, at last, after so long. Compared to conspiracies and parallel dimensions and genetic manipulation and orbital travel and the rest, having Marv remained the most unlikely event of them all. And yet. Maybe we both had a sense that if we waited any longer it might be too late. Times were changing, after all. Whatever happened in the Aviary square come the day, the worlds would never be the same again.


Not long now. Thanks for reading! Believe it or not, there's only two chapters left until A Day of Faces is complete. Please do vote or leave a comment to let me know what you thought. Chapter notes can be found on my blog: https://simonkjones.com/tag/a-day-of-faces/


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