The Woman in the Radio

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Illustration by Danielle Mendozahttps://www

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Illustration by Danielle Mendoza
https://www.instagram.com/daniemendz/

    The song that filled the Greenknoll Academy auditorium gave the revelation of the Seeress and her dance partner a whimsical swagger. It was the exact inverse of the feeling in Quincy's gut. He choked on the words,

    "A-aren't you supposed to dance with your Prime Guardian?" His eyes scanned the darkness for the luminescent javelin over the Seeress' counterpart, but Elly pulled him closer.

    "I have a partner," she whispered. The synthetic stars filled her glassy eyes, "Here, I'll show you the movements."

    "M-movements?" Elly answered by kicking his feet into the appropriate position.

    "Follow the leader," she smiled. Elly swept Quincy into a twirling, rocking riptide. The song spun on while the Seeress and the dropout put on their best, unpracticed waltz. A circle of bewildered bodies packed around them. No one dared cross the threshold of ten feet's closeness.

    "What's their deal?" said Quincy, "They as stunned as I am?" A lighthearted chorus of voices joined the piano, with a soft pulse of percussion.

    "It's a sort of paradox," Elly snickered. She rested her hands on Quincy's shoulders, "Their job is to make sure no one messes with the First Dance. Even each other, it looks like." Quincy scanned her for signs of sarcasm or doubt. There wasn't an ounce of either.

    "How... long did you know about this?" Quincy muttered. She lead him into a wild spiral.

    "We don't have much time left, Quincy. Our song's almost over," Elly whispered.

    Quincy couldn't do much more than shake his head and hold on. There were too many things to say, for him to spit out any one of them. Instead, he smiled and tried to take it all in. Two months ago she'd been a stranger. In a year, she'd be the Beacon. As much as he was hurt, or shocked, she deserved her dance. Quincy gave her every second of it, right up until the last chord chimed across the invisible piano. A bodiless voice announced,

    "Our new Seeress of the Beacon, Eleanor Loraine Carello."

    Elly clenched the collar of Quincy's jacket and pulled his lips to hers. Her smile stuck on him, with him. They parted when grasping hands yanked them asunder, and the auditorium burst into commotion.

                                                                                                  -

    Currents of bodies wrenched Quincy around like a seashell in a rogue wave. He tried to scream for her, but Elly was lost in the swarm of Ranks and students. When it cleared, Quincy was outside the Academy, alone but for one companion. Before his eyes could focus on his company, he said,

    "I respect your balls." Quincy froze. Raines clasped his wrists, turned him to the wall, and bound his hands with cold steel. "Hell of a way to go out, stealing a dance with the Seeress." Seconds separated Quincy from kissing Elly and the conclusion of a most dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Once he caught up with reality, the mysticism of his dress clothes melted away. He was right back where he deserved to be. In binds.

    "Go?" Quincy peeled away from the wall and went where he was led by the wrists.

    "Well, I'm taking you, so you're going," Raines said, "Not sure where... to tell you the truth, I was looking for any reason to get out of that Auditorium. You just happened to be the most interesting one." Quincy's thoughtful eyes swung a low arc on the ground. He doesn't know who I am, he realized. Despite their meeting thrice, the former Captain Raines had neither heard Quincy's voice, nor seen his face.

    "Glad I could help," Quincy sighed. With an inch of clearance, his mind jumped to Elly.

    He should have known, the second he caught those eyes through the A-Train door. He should have known he'd see that light shine on her face. He couldn't stop thinking it should've been anyone else under that glowing Ring with her. Quincy and his captor marched on in silence to Path 50. Quincy was only vaguely aware that the Greenknoll detention hall was in their path.

    "So, you got the insider's view of the Appointment. What now?" Raines' tone was only half-mocking, "Lawyer? Carpenter?"

    "Downshipped."

    "What?"

    "Just got my packet a couple of weeks ago," Quincy told him, unsure why.

    Raines' mind flung back through years to the day he saw a classmate dragged down his street by Bolt Rangers, when he refused his Downshipping escort. He was quiet for the rest of the walk. Quincy  knew he should be terrified, but he just couldn't feel it. His mind veered from Elly only when Raines led him past the fork for the detention center, and again when his bindings clicked off at Cranberry Drive.
                                                                                         -

    "Back alone, are we?" greeted Percy.

    "Tell you about it tomorrow," Quincy hardly managed. He dragged himself up the stairs. He rolled into the sheets on his bed and honestly considered staying there for his last weeks. Then he heard the hiss.

     Four, maybe five nights now Quincy had heard the sound just as he laid down to sleep. It'd been late enough before for him to write it off as artificial wind in the trees . But, the night of the Sunrise Ball, he heard it semi-conscious. That had him up in the dead of the sleepless night, tracking the sound to its source.

    Quincy hadn't been in his parents' room since the day he last saw them. But, after five paces up and down the upstairs hallway, there was no mistaking it: the hiss was coming through their door. With now or never on the table, Quincy turned the knob.

    "...hello?" muffled speech faded in. Words continued to dance through what he could now tell was static interference. He groped in darkness until his fingers found the cold metal knob of his parents' dresser.

    "Respond... please respond," a desperate voice whimpered inside. Quincy extracted a metal box that surprised him with its weight. A bulky antenna jutted from it. A radio. "Please..." Quincy took a deep breath for chances, fumbled for button on the side, and said,

    "Responding."

    "Henry?" it was a woman, hopeful.

    "This... is his son."

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