12: Ejection

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Powder swam deeper. She was sure she'd seen someone sinking, and the bubbles coming up from the deep were confirming this. She caught hold of a man's hand and tried pulling him up, kicking the water as violently as she could. It was no use. He was dead.

Powder landed hard on her back, swallowing a mouthful of water. She rolled onto her stomach, coughing and blinking, looking around at the Stage. This wasn't the river... this was... this was...

"She should have at least let you wear a bathing suit instead of that evening gown," said Bourbon. A bed sheet fell across Powder in her soaked black satin dress. Bourbon crouched beside her. "But I guess that wasn't in the script."

Powder sat up and pulled the sheet around her, taking in her surroundings. At the center of the stage was an enormous glass tank full of water. Above it, thirty feet higher, was a thick board that connected one side of the room to the other. A few dolls were up there fooling around and pushing each other.

"Did I fall?" Powder was pointing up at the board, which her recovering vision had split into four.

"You jumped," said Bourbon.

"Ugh..." Powder looked back at the tank. The water was still slapping the sides. "How did I get out?"

"You crawled out."

"Of that?"

"You... don't remember?"

Powder shook her head. She thought she could remember falling asleep in the sewing room, but really the only thing she was sure of now was the icy fire between her organs and her nauseous headache. She covered her mouth as she retched.

"Don't worry," Bourbon said, "memory-loss is normal. Most of us have difficulty remembering some of our earliest histories because parts of our memories will get knocked out." He pulled her to her feet and then, in a quiet and apologetic tone, said "the M wants you back in the dressing room."

As soon as they went up the stairs and over the balcony into the dressing room area, Powder sat down on the floor by a chair. Part of her was still churning around in that tank. The dolls were running about the place half-dressed and arguing over who was supposed to be wearing what. Powder rested her head against the arm of the chair and closed her eyes. She felt like she could sleep for a year, and as weak as if she already had.

"Nice belly-flop."

Powder almost jumped out of her skin at the sudden voice next to her. Scotch was down on one knee, looking at her with mock approval. "If you miss the tank altogether next time, you won't have to ever go through the Globe again."

"Where did you come from?" Powder said. "And what do you mean, 'belly-flop'? Were you watching when I jumped?"

Scotch nodded, smiling. "You can swim."

"Good to know."

Scotch scanned her face twice, his amusement waning. "You look paler than normal," he said.

Ill as well as afraid, Scotch's comments sounded flippant to Powder and she began to feel like he was making light of her situation. "That means the blood's gone from my outer skin," she said, hoping to make him uncomfortable.

"Then where did it go?"

"Probably to my belly where it's trying to figure out what I did to it. Hey..." Powder took in what Scotch was wearing; a navy-blue military uniform with epaulettes and double-breasted buttons. He also had white gloves. "Why're you so dressed up?"

Scotch looked down at himself as if he didn't know what she was referring to.

"Did you hit your head on the bottom of the tank?" he asked. "Have you ever seen the M not dress me up?"

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