Ceylon tugged at a frayed, golden string sticking out from between a dilapidated refrigerator from the early 2400s and a heap of burned books, tossed away by the elitists of the city center. After some careful maneuvering, they were able to extract what was at the end of the string. It was just an old pen, decorated with blackened stickers. They sighed despondently.
“Found anything interesting yet?” Chispa yelled from atop a junk heap. Ceylon didn’t know how she was able to maintain her balance on such an untrustworthy thing. It looked ready to collapse at the slightest provocation.
“Just this pen.” They waved it around for her to see, the string dangling flimsily from its tip. “Have you?”
Chispa nodded enthusiastically. “I found another light novel you might like!” she exclaimed, pulling it out from inside her jacket. She squinted her eyes at the title curiously. “Beyond the Boundary? It’s about some Korean pop band or something.” She shook her head but tossed it to Ceylon anyhow. They caught it effortlessly, and tucked it underneath their arm. “I also found some cool techno boards that the centralites threw out! You gotta admit that their limited attention spans really gives us more bang for our buck in this place.”
Ceylon nodded their head in agreement. After flinging the pen behind them, the both of them begin scavenging once again.
This particular junkyard wasn’t Ceylon’s favorite, considering how most of the stuff was just kitchen appliances, but it did provide some pretty interesting finds every now and then. Ceylon circled around the junk pile, searching for something better than a pen. When the rounded the corner, they met eyes with a child. Ceylon surmised that the kid was no more than eight years old, and he isn’t looking too great. His clothes were a tattered mess, his hair in complete disarray. His bones would be stabbing through the skin if it weren’t for the kid’s apparent tenacity.
“Hey,” Ceylon interrupted the kid’s scavenging. “If you’re looking for food, this isn’t the best place to find it.”
The kid sniffled, almost disheartened, and it broke Ceylon’s heart.
If it weren’t for Abuela, they didn’t know where they and Chispa would be right now. The world they lived in wasn’t particularly forgiving, catering only to that fraction of a percent in the center, and it fueled a fire within them to abolish the system. That’s why they joined the anarchist society– they wanted to create a world where mirror images of their former self didn’t slink around waiting for some miracle to give them the basic necessities to live.
They knew the big picture. There were the elite, the rich, and then there was them. But, they knew the small picture, too. They knew there were starving children scattered around the city, and they knew that if nothing changed, they’d continue seeing such heartbreaking sights.
It was hard to swallow knowing that there wasn’t much they could do right then. But, with no slight hesitation, Ceylon reached into their jacket pocket and offered a snack to the tiny boy, shivering from the bottom-up. “Here,” they said. “It’s not much, but if you don’t mind the taste of it, it’ll get you through at least two days.”
The kid looked on the verge of tears, but took the offered food gratefully. Ceylon ruffled the kid’s hair and smiled.
Although this is all the help they could offer now, Ceylon knew for a fact that they wouldn’t settle for that small act of kindness. They were going to make it much bigger.
“Soooo when are you two getting married?” Abuela said, poking Ceylon in the side.
Abuela is Chispa’s mother figure, and she doesn’t have any other children, let alone grandchildren. Her name is Lacy and she took in Chispa after her parents died. Little Chispa thought that the word abuela meant a woman with white hair, and Lacy’s hair had been white from a very young age. Thus, Chispa called her Abuela. At first she tried to get Chispa to stop (“No, dear, I’m Lacy.”) but little Chispa wasn’t having it, and eventually she grew to like it. No one but Chispa and Ceylon are allowed to call her Abuela, though.
Ceylon posed dramatically, as though they were thinking very hard. “Well, Abuela. It is hard to say. When, do you think, will the men down the hall stop their doorway rivalry?”
“Maybe the joy radiating from the union of two soulmates would ease their heavy hearts.”
“And maybe the centralites will come down from their towers and give the lower circle our share of the wealth.”
“I do believe in miracles, darling!”
“Okay you two.” Chispa said, rounding the corner carrying a pan of brownies. “Let’s not fight.” She set the brownies on the coffee table and sat on a chair across from the two. Ceylon was resting on the couch next to Abuela.
“We aren’t fighting!” Abuela and Ceylon said together.
“We are merely having a heated discussion about the prospect of your future wedding.” Abuela said.
“Or lack thereof.” Ceylon chimed in.
“You’re my only baby, Chichi, and I really want to see you married before I go.” Abuela said, ignoring Ceylon.
Chispa laughed, “Abuela you are forty-five, you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
“I still have my old dress, you know. Very stylish back in the day.”
“Yes, I know. You were the talk of the town, a vision in pink.”
“Pink? You wore pink on your wedding day?” Ceylon cut in. They had never heard details about Abuela’s wedding, mostly because Abuela always turned it around on they and Chispa and the two of them always changed the subject in response.
“I did! Pink is my color, too, you know. Pink looks amazing with white. My Leatha about fainted at the sight of me. I’m a traditionalist, as you know, so she had not seen me before the big day, and when I stepped out from behind those big wooden doors, she actually swooned. It was so beautiful, and I, of course, felt like the luckiest woman in the world. She was no plain maiden, either, mind you. She was a vision in a red dress, her black hair pulled up beneath a veil covered in roses.”
Abuela got up and walked around the corner, reappearing holding two dresses and a framed photograph. She sat back down and showed Ceylon the photo. It was of her and her wife at the altar, holding hands and staring into each others eyes. “She was far more beautiful than I ever was, but the way she looked at me I know she didn’t agree.”
“Abuela,” Ceylon said. “Why don’t you hang the dresses out here? You have this whole wall, and they are beautiful dresses. They deserve to be seen.”
Abuela hesitated. “I don’t know…”
Ceylon grinned, struck by an idea. “How about this? I dare you to keep these out here for a month.”
Abuela smiled wide. She never turned down a dare. “Bet you twenty bucks you’ll regret that within a week.”
Ceylon held out their hand. “Deal.”
When Chispa found Ceylon they had been going from home to home, staying with friends and carrying their meager belongings with them. Chispa had, however, been living with Abuela, who happily took Ceylon in. Then later, she found the two of them an apartment near hers.
The two settled in and the apartment filled with trinkets and pieces, half finished lamps, dilapidated radios, mechanical birds that sing an out-of-tune song. All of which belonged to Chispa. The only sign that Ceylon lived there at all was a sturdy set of shelves that held three books they hadn’t been willing to part with throughout the years- books they had deemed too valuable to leave for the next scavenger that came along.
One was a copy of The Allegory of the Cave by Plat. At least, that’s the only part of the name that had been left when Ceylon found it. It had been in extreme disrepair when they found it, and their first read through was an uphill climb through a soup of faded words on decaying paper. Then they went through with a pen and wrote over the words to make them legible. The third time through they wrote their own notes, updating it for the time and their own circumstance. One of the first things Ceylon had asked Chispa to do was rebind the book, and she did it masterfully, fabrication a new cover inlaid with silver metal pieces to spell out: The Allegory of the Cave by Plat, annotated by Ceylon.
The second was a copy of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Chispa had on more than one occasion found Ceylon simply staring at the cover, a threat of tears showing on their face, though never spilling over. Chispa never asked, but she did she read through the inside of the cover to try and understand his attachment to the copy. Ceylon’s name had been written there in a neat script, with a small dedication.
For my baby,
May time and space be yours in time, through books I found my power, through words may you find yours.
And that was all. Mom. No name. Chispa also realized this was a possible reason why Ceylon seemed to rarely speak, each word carrying weight when they did.
The third book seemed inconsequential in comparison with the others, the first being Ceylon’s whole basis of thought and reasoning for why they fight, the second being Ceylon’s mother’s favorite, and possibly the only thing left of her. The third book though, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, always seemed like a silly, unlikely story to Chispa. To her it held no meaning, no necessity, but she read it nonetheless, doing her best to understand everything that Ceylon held dear.
Ceylon stayed out late most days, doing sketchy things Chispa quickly figured it was better not to ask about. The apartment still felt like it was missing them, and in the junkyard if she ever saw a book she’d bring it home and place it on their shelves. Soon after she designed a new bookshelf for them, metal and inlaid with images from the three books Ceylon held so dear.
“Hey, Chispa.” Ceylon calls from the kitchen.
Chispa rolls in her bed and sits up, staring at them through her hair from across the room. “Wha…Why are you up? It’s like 10.” She mumbles, rubbing one eye.
“I’m headed out, the organization is running some ops today. I’ll probably be back before bedtime.”
Chispa’s face falls and she brushes her hair out of her eyes. “But Cey, it’s–”
Ceylon cuts her off. “Sorry but I really have to go, I’ll see you later. Love you!” Cey says, walking over and squeezing her hand. They hurry out the door before she can say anything more.
Today is Valentine’s Day, and Ceylon did not forget. They are also not going to an anarchist ops meeting. Ceylon hikes up their bag of goodies and heads toward Chispa’s favorite junkyard, a place which had once been an extravagant park. Now the grass was a mix of old technology, and the many large fountain’s had been softly eroded by time, the creatures depicted within them no longer recognizable.
Ceylon had been here with his roommate enough times to know the perfect place to set up: a clearing between three fountain’s. They set down their pack, and begin the difficult task of removing the loose debris from the space.
When the sun is almost directly above Ceylon, the area is clean enough, and they set to work emptying their pack. They lay down a large blanket Abuela (Chispa’s mother-figure) had made to match their signature pink and blue and set a large picnic basket on top. They pull out four candles, four candlesticks, a vase, six metal flowers, and a bag of rose petals. They arrange the candles on the corners of the blanket, finding heavy items to weigh them down, place the roses into the vase and onto the center of the blanket, and throw the rose petals haphazardly around the blanket.
Finally, Ceylon pulls out a clay sculpture of the two of them that they had made. In the figure they are sitting back to back, each with a leg up. Chispa is winking and holding two fingers up around her eye. It wasn’t perfect, Ceylon was better at drawing than physical creations. But Chispa preferred objects to pictures and Ceylon had been practicing.
It was now about three o'clock and the clouds overshadowed the sun, allowing the air to cool to a comfortable temperature. Ceylon sits next to the picnic basket and takes out the meal they had woken up early to prepare. There is pasta, steak, rice, vegetable stew, and fluffy brownies for dessert. Ceylon arranges the food around the roses, then pulls out their communication device, one of Chispa’s creations, and calls her.
“Chispa, I need you to come to the Mythic junkyard as soon as you can.” They say before she can say hello.
“What? Why?” Chispa sounds alarmed.
“It’s nothing life threatening, but it is rather urgent. I can’t really talk about it over the phone. Can you come?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll be there soon.”
Fifteen minutes later, Chispa is walking fast through the park, calling out Ceylon’s name.
“Over here!” They call.
Chispa rounds a pile of junk and stopps in her tracks, her hands coming to her mouth and eyes widening.
Ceylon pats the blanket beside them, holding out the sculpture, “Happy Valentines Day.”
A long time ago in the city, there was a myth of a book that could grant someone a single wish. People searched near and far to find this book to wish for superficial things like wealth or power. The book, however, was never found, and slowly vanished from the memories of those who searched for it.
Work was getting progressively busier for Chispa with the start of the new year. She was always tinkering away at her most recent projects. Ceylon hadn’t been able to hang out with her in a little over a week and admittedly they missed the engineer. They, unlike Chispa, had a break for a while due to the success of a recent anarchist raid. So, here Ceylon was strolling around the desolate wasteland near their apartment. They were lost in thought when the apartment door opened and Chispa came outside.
“Oh, Ceylon!” She exclaimed.
“Hey, Chisp. What’s up?” They said. Chispa had an enormous bag on her back that amused Ceylon.
“I have a huge order, so I’m heading out for a few days to grab the materials I need.”
A cab beeped. The two turned around to view the black car with an impatient driver.
“Hurry up lady, I don’t have all day!” The driver shouted.
Chispa turned to Ceylon and smiled “Well, see you in three days!” She hopped in and the car flew away.
Ceylon, left with nothing but themself, decided to go out to the black market to kill some time.
The streets of K9 market were filled to the brim with people looking for the latest items in technology and medicine. Some of the stands were intriguingly filled with creatures that had multiple heads or technology so convoluted that it seemed like magic. But nothing was really of interest to Ceylon. That is, until they saw an elderly lady staring at them from behind a table. She seemed to be one of the ones selling “magic” items.
“Come here, young one.” She said, with an eerily omniscient voice. Ceylon shrugged and walked over to the stand. The woman wore a black cape, with embroidery around the openings. She pulled from her sleeve a worn and tattered book.
“What is this?” Ceylon questioned, staring at the book. It had a weird insignia on the cover.
“This is what you seek. Take it. I only desire a small payment.” She whispered. Her hands shook as she gave the thick book to Ceylon. Ceylon considered whether or not to take this book, deciding based off of what Chispa would do. They gave her the requested sum of money and began to walk away. Ceylon turned back briefly, but the woman had vanished.
Once home, Ceylon promptly went to their room, turned on the light that Chispa made for them, and set the book down on their desk. Flipping to the first page, Ceylon read the rules. The Book of Desires: One may only use this book for a single desire of their choice. There are no second chances. It sounded simple enough to Ceylon. They flipped through the pages, and in many different handwritings were thousands of wishes. They wished for the obvious things: wealth, power, fame. It was very predictable. Ceylon closed the book. There was no way such a thing would actually work. They laid on the blue sheets of their bed. There was no way it would work. But… Ceylon decided to give it a try. They dipped their feathered pen into the blue ink. Soon quill met tattered paper. Ceylon closed the book and waited a second. Of course, it wouldn’t work. Then there was a knock at the door. Ceylon hurried over to see who it was. They peered out the window and grinned.
Chispa and Ceylon walked into the old fairgrounds, now a sort of alternative dumpster, like every other open space in the city. Chispa grabbed Ceylon’s hand and began weaving through the crowd. Ceylon kept up easily, but let Chispa lead; they didn’t care where they stood, there were concerts like this almost every week around the city. Chispa, on the other hand, wanted to be right up front. The old fairgrounds were one of her favorite places in the city, and she loved listening to other artists perform there.
They got to the front and Chispa let go of Ceylon’s hand, lifting her arms toward the band playing and jumping up and down to the beat. Ceylon stood behind Chispa and put their hand on her hip, nodding their head to the music. The band was playing on instruments that were clearly salvaged, but looked like they had been refurbished with glue and tape. Which, apparently they had been, because just moments after Chispa and Ceylon got the front, the drum set fell apart in a series of loud crashes. One drum bounced down the stage, rolled into the audience, and was promptly stolen by a group of girls. Ceylon looked around and spotted the announcer hitting on a girl next to the illicit treats vendor, apparently oblivious to the issue. The band stood wide eyed for a moment, and then the singer said “uh, well…” and the other two instruments, a keyboard mixed with a DJ dock and a guitar also fell apart, the keyboard sparking and creating a tiny fire on the keys.
Ceylon saw the announcer notice the issue and begin running towards the stage just as Chispa disappeared from beneath their hand. Ceylon looked back and Chispa was climbing onto the stage and crawling under the keyboard. Ceylon rolled their eyes and jumped on stage as Chispa popped back up and slapped the tiny fire to suffocate it. With her hand. Ceylon held out their hand for the microphone and Chispa plugged in her makeshift music playback device into the keyboard. The singer from the last band shrugged and handed the microphone over, waving for his band to get off stage, only taking the broken guitar with them.
Chispa attached a mic to her headphones and screamed “We got you!” and began spinning her music. The audience immediately came back to life and energy surged through Ceylon’s body. They loved improve. As Chispa set the beat, Ceylon began to rap, rhythmically voicing their concerns about the world, and they had a lot of material to work with. As a member of an anarchist society, Ceylon was always ready with a list of issues to talk about, and what better way to say them than through music?
Chispa and Ceylon stayed on stage for what felt like both hours and minutes, but was probably around 30 minutes. Their entire set was basically one long song, a mix of rapping and singing, a heartfelt set of impromptu verses about the difficulties of life in the junkyard and the power of community. Ceylon felt the crowd respond to their lyrics. Shouting agreement when they sang about the strong disposition born of living in a world filled with junk. Booing when they spit about the rich centerlings in their chrome towers. Singing along when they brought in one of the most well known songs of the day for lifting spirits. Ceylon wanted to continue onstage forever, but the announcer eventually waved at them to stop, and the duo wrapped up their song, ending with a sudden stop in perfect sync. They smiled at each other and the announcer came onstage.
“Well, that was pretty great! Thanks to these random audience members for saving the day!” He held his hand out and Ceylon gave them the microphone, dropping back to the ground. Chispa followed close behind. “Now let’s hope our next performers tested their instruments before they got here!”
Chispa and Ceylon made their way through the crowd, getting high fives and words of encouragement with every step. As they exited the fairgrounds Chispa began to bounce up and down and turned to face Ceylon, her face aglow. “Cey I have always wanted to do that!” she shrieked. “Let’s do it again next week!”
“Ceylon! I brought you some soup and the 2413 reboot of Sailor Moon,” Chispa hollered from across the apartment, lugging the aforementioned items along with her. She gingerly placed the pot of soup down onto the counter, and then made her way to Ceylon’s slumped form, hunkered down beneath a pile of blankets on their bed.
“Hey, love, how ya feeling so far?” She lifted strands of hair away from their eyes and then laughed when she was only given a half-hearted grunt and a grimace. “I brought you some of Abuela’s famous soup. If you eat something, you’ll feel better.” Ceylon just gave her a shake of their head.
Chispa harrumphed. “Alright, I know for a fact that you are not a stubborn child, Ceylon. We’re going to eat this soup together and watch Sailor Moon kick some alien butt, and then you’re going to be feeling loads better!” she proclaimed, tugging on their arm and bringing them up to slump against the wall.
Ceylon groaned painstakingly, rubbing at their head. “My head is killing me, Chispa… I don’t think watching shows will be good for me,” they muttered, sniffling softly.
Chispa hummed, steering her eyes over to some of the books pried open on Ceylon’s bedside table. “And reading No. 6 light novels was?” She gave them a knowing look, and Ceylon gave no rebuttal. Ever since they found said novels in their recent junkyard spree, they’d simply been obsessed with it. “Come on! It’s time to feel better. And I just so happen to have a remedy for this cold that you got.”
At this, Ceylon gave an even bigger moan of pain. “Please tell me it’s not what I think it is…”
“Yup!” Chispa squeaked. “I got you some leeks!” To make her point more poignant, she whipped the leek out in a grandiose fashion from its plastic bag. “One leek a day keeps the doctor away!”
Ceylon coughed into their hands. “No one says that…”
“Hatsune Miku says that and she’s my hologram queen,” Chispa retaliated, ignoring their childish groans and getting to work on the leeks by cutting it up into pieces and then tossing them into the soup. “Did you know this is her 55th edition now?”
“But, I hate leeks, Chispa,” Ceylon attempted to once again convince her, ignoring Chispa’s tiny instance of “fangirl-ism,” as they liked to dub it.
“Yeah? Well, I hated Boruto’s dad. We all have unpopular opinions here.” At this, Ceylon just sighed, resigning to their fate and turning the monitor on with a click of the remote so that Chispa could play the disc.
After Chispa was done preparing the soup, she inserted the discs into the player and brought Ceylon’s portion over, making herself comfortable on the bed alongside them.
“So,” she began, leaning her head against their shoulder. “Still think Sailor Star-Fighter should’ve ended up with Usagi?”
“Hell yeah. Non-binary characters for life,” Ceylon agreed, ignoring the floating leek pieces in the soup, and finally taking a sip.
“So, are you a boy or a girl?” the stranger asked, leaning in to get a closer look at Ceylon’s face, even though half of it was covered by their jacket. Chispa stopped and watched.
“Neither.” They said calmly. This was normal to deal with. Even though it was accepted officially there were still a lot of people who refused to understand.
“Yeah, but which way do you lean? I mean, all nons do, even if they’re too indecisive to stick to it.”
“I don’t.” Once again the picture of calm. Chispa was getting impatient.there were piles of scrap to search and here she was waiting.
“Okay,” the stranger said and huffed, obviously flustered, “But what’s in your pants?”
“Well, it isn’t a raccoon if that’s what you’re asking,” Ceylon responded, their face straight, though a smile was forming behind their jacket. Chispa lost it and was on the ground in fits of laughter almost immediately. Racoons had somehow been removed from the city about five years ago, and then were banned from the city on top of that. Somehow this ban worked and there hadn’t been a raccoon sighting since. Even the officials weren’t sure how it worked, but it was now a running joke among everyone.
The old lady’s eyes kept darting to Ceylon as Chispa counted up the bills for her order. “So, sweetie… are you a boy or a girl?” Ceylon looked up and blinked, wide-eyed.
“Neither,” Chispa muttered, concentrating on getting all of the lady’s information down so she could check in and make sure her invention was still working within the next few weeks.
“But…what’s in your pants?” she asked Ceylon, ignoring Chispa.
Ceylon blinked, and in an unexpected turn of events pulled the device the woman had ordered- a method of warning her if her windows or doors opened in the shape of a metal blue jay- from their pants. Chispa had even gone through the effort of crafting feathers and fastening them to the device, “Your order, of course.” The old lady looked appalled, but Ceylon’s shoulders were shaking with slight laughter, and Chispa hid her face in her order book.
“So, a secondary contact number?
Ceylon stood awkwardly holding the little girl’s hand. Chispa had just walked up to the little crying girl and then immediately wandered off to find her mom, leaving Ceylon standing with her in case the mother came back. They were very aware of the little girl staring up at them, a little sniffle, “You’re really pretty.” She said and wiped her nose with the back of her sleeve.
“Thank you.” Ceylon said, looking around, maybe the mom is within eyesight?
“Are you a boy or a girl?” The little girl asked, tugging on their hand a little more, Ceylon sighed.
“Neither.” It was always a little disappointing when kids asked, picking up the habit from their parents.
“But… what’s in your pants?” Obviously mimicking her parents. Ceylon winked down at her and pulled out a disk that Chispa wanted them to hold onto for one of her projects- but their pockets were full with all of the other random shiny things Chispa picked up, so in the pants it went.
“Technology.” Ceylon said, not sure if the little girl knew what a DVD or CD was, it was a miracle Chispa had managed to find one fully intact as was.
She looked down, “Ohhhh….” She said, seeming to understand, “Yes, yes…” she stood up straighter, squeezing their hand a little, “I see.” She smiled happily, as if she had solved some great mystery of life at the grand age of five.
Today was a good day.
The heart of horror is that bad things happen to good people.
It started as a peaceful day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to me or Chispa. We simply conducted life as usual, fulfilling orders and doing typical anarchist things. We were curled up beside each other on the couch watching some television on the rare day that we both had nothing to do. Just a boring day. Man, this sucks.
“Hey Ceylon, I think you sleepwalk.” Chispa said as she looked blankly at the television screen, hung upon their walls around photos of the two.
“What makes you say that?” I questioned, interested.
“Last night, you were in my room and looked at me smiling.”
Wait, what? “I think you’re delusional.” I said. I know for a fact that I do not sleepwalk, nor is my room anywhere close to Chispa’s.
“Maybe I was dreaming then,” Chispa pouted.
“Maybe you were dreaming of a giant kitten person!” I exclaimed, jokingly as I made cat ears with my hands above my head meowing. It made her laugh.
As with every day, it soon turned to night. Chispa had fallen asleep, her head against my shoulder. I didn’t want to wake her up, so I shut off the TV and picked her up. She was warm in my arms while I carried her into her room and placed her on the bed.
“Goodnight, Chispa.” I whispered, not wanting to wake her. I placed the cover over her, and as I walked out I looked around the room. Just her imagination, I suppose. The room was clear with the exception of the mess she made with her tinkering. I left the room and headed down the hall to my room. It ended up being a good day afterall.
I heard a scream down the hall in her room. Chispa. “Chispa, are you alright?” I yelled, busting into her room. I looked to where she should be. She was laying in her bed under dark crimson covers. Wait Chispa’s covers are a light pink, not red.
A light-hearted menacing laugh sounded making my heart race. “Who’s there?” I called out, half-way bursting into tears at the sight of my best-friend’s body. I meet eyes with a dark figure in the corner of the room. Their eyes were lifeless. Inhuman. I wanted to scream, but the sound wouldn’t come out. I frantically cut on the lights. The creature was gone. I sighed, relieved and looked down but that was a mistake. Why was I casting two shadows? After all, there was only one light bulb.
“Ceylon, turn around.” A familiar voice said, giving me shivers. It was Chispa’s. I slowly turned and was met with a horrific sight. It was her. At least I wish I could say it was. It’s face was something indescribable except that of a copy of Chispa only more…disturbing. More grotesque, more broken. Her eyes were bleeding and pitch black. But her smile was just as beautiful as usual, bringing me back to reality. I let out a scream, being shook over and over as the thing laughed.
“Ceylon wake up it’s okay. It’s me, Chispa!” I heard her say, voice full of worry. My face was covered in tears. I was squeezing something warm. Ah, that’s right. I was on the couch. My eyes creaked open to meet Chispa’s concerned ones. I was hyperventilating, but slowly calming down, full of relief as I saw she was just fine. My embrace became tighter as I held Chispa against my chest.
“Everything’s okay, Cey.” She said, just letting me hold her. Everything was okay.
"Chispa," Ceylon said, excited, shaking her awake. "Chispa! I've discovered something amazing in this book!"
Chispa pushed Ceylon's chest and attempted to roll over. "Cey, it's like...early." she muttered. "Tell me about the maze in the later."
Ceylon rolled their eyes. "No, not a maze. Something amazing, as in awesome, spectacular, cool, tubular, dank, fleek."
Chispa looked at Ceylon like they had six heads. "What in cyberspace are you saying? Those aren't words."
"They are, just old ones."
"Those stupid books."
"Exactly. Now, come outside! We're going to have a snowball fight!"
Chispa perked up. "A what? I like snow, balls, and fighting."
Ceylon grinned so wide Chispa could see the corners of their mouth above their jacket. "You're gonna love this." They glanced to the side and shrugged. "I mean, i think so. I've never actually done a snowball fight."
"Had. You have fights, not do them."
Ceylon shrugged and stepped back, tugging Chispa's hand.
The two went out through the side door and stepped onto the street. They were greeted by a white city, due to the thick coating of fluffy snow. Chispa exclaimed and clapped her hands. "Oh, it's so pretty in the morning!"
"If only you were capable of waking up before noon!" Ceylon said, and threw a glob of snow at Chispa. It fell apart in the air and drifted over her.
She turned and laughed. "Well it won't be much of a fight if we're just raining snowflakes over one another!
Ceylon's brow furrowed. "The book made it seem much more exciting. The snow should be able to fly through the air as a ball and only fall apart on impact." When Chispa gave them a look they added, "I'm sure of it! The book was very clear!"
Chispa tinkled another laugh and picked up snow in both hands. "Here, let the engineer try," she said, winking. Chispa tilted her head and threw the snow away, picking up snow that was deeper, slightly heavier, and pressed her hands together. Rather than melt, it compacted. "Haha!" She grabbed more and made the ball bigger. Chispa threw the ball at Ceylon as they were attempting to copy her, and it landed on their shoulder as they started to duck.
"This is war!" Ceylon said and threw their half made snowball back. And war erupted, snowballs flying back and forth as deftly as two people who had never thrown them before could manage. Ceylon had a disadvantage at first, but the odds quickly evened out, puffs of snow erupting just as often off of Chispa as off of Ceylon.
Chispa ducked behind a tree and popped back out to deliver another blow, snowball in hand, but Ceylon had moved. She spotted them out of the corner of her eye just as they picked her up from behind and spun around. She twisted out of their grasp and smashed the snowball onto the top of their head. Ceylon gasped and Chispa threw her hands in the air, shouting to no one: "No need to worry anymore citizens, i have vanquished the beast!"
"Excuse you miss I am not a beast. I am a tasteful villain with a troubled past."
"Ah pardon me for not knowing which one of those tropes you go on about is best suited for each situation." She spun back around and clapped her hands. "Ooo Ceylon I forgot! I have a surprise for you, too!" She ran inside and skipped back out moments later, carrying a rectangular machine. She set it down and pushed a few buttons, and a hologram shot into the sky.
"Happy New Year!" She cried, and pressed another button. Bursts of light erupted within the hologram, each burst accompanied by a small pop. The bursts looked like flowers with thin petals.
"Fireworks." Ceylon whispered. "Fireworks! Oh my goodness! Magé vasthuwȧ!" Ceylon exclaimed, using a pet name his father used to call his mother. "You made fireworks for me!" Ceylon squeezed Chispa's hands and then turned to look back at the sky. "They're beautiful! They're better than I imagined they would be!"
"Well then," Chispa said. "I think we've found a new tradition."
There’s a special bond held with those you live with. There’s fighting- sometimes to the point of crying. There’s hugging- sometimes because of crying. There were late night binges of talk shows- that sometimes ended in crying. Okay, Chispa cried a lot.
But then! Then there were the holidays: Birthdays. Halloween. Raccoon Forgiveness Day. Valentines Day. New Years. Christmas.
And of course, Christmas was the favorite. That special bond was brought out as you decorate together, bake together, and pick out presents for one another.
However, this year Chispa had a deadline. Three orders. And she had been working on them nonstop since December 16th. Ceylon hung back as they watched her meticulously tinker away at the orders. Ceylon was holding the box of worn out decorations they’d collected over the time they had been together, and not once had Chispa made them decorate alone. She’d always found time, and always without Ceylon having to ask. So they didn’t even know how to ask.
“So, Chispa...” Ceylon muttered bashfully, “want to decorate with me?” they smiled as they stared back at themselves in the mirror and groaned. It had been terribly hard to find the words to say. On the ground were pages and pages of words scribbled with things, but none of them seemed right to say. Ceylon pouted, setting the box on the floor. Well I can try do this on my own! Chispa always helped, since Ceylon had a bit of a problem styling things. Why, it was Chispa who even chose Ceylon’s clothing for them. But, surely today would be different! Ceylon pumped themselves up grabbing a set of string lights. Stepping onto a chair, they tried to untangle the lights.
“Come on, just a little bit more.” Ceylon tugged and twisted the cord. A few hours later and as expected, the was room done. Well… all but done. Various ornaments and decorations littered on the on the ground while in the middle of the floor was a twinkling ball of Ceylon stuck in the lights.
Chispa walked into the room looking seemingly tired from her work.
“Oh hey, just hanging here” Ceylon said and it brought out a rejuvenated laugh from Chispa.
“Cey, how about I come help?”
“Much appreciated” they said as they held their tangled hands towards Chispa with a pleading grin.
Once Chispa helped Ceylon get free, they began doing all the things that any other people would do. The lights were hung, they baked cookies, and even made time to watch a Christmas special. Despite the rough beginning to their Christmas spirit, it was just as good as any other Christmas.
The junkyard was a place for all who reside in the city to find parts and trinkets for their home. It reeked of garbage, rust, and a particularly thick scent of thievery. In the middle of this wasteland, however, one could find just about anything they needed, so here she was. Chispa, with her long, raven hair and vibrant style, had been looking for parts for her newest build. Although she usually went with her long time friend Ceylon to the Junkyard, today she decided to leave ahead of them. After all, the early bird gets the worm.
That being said, it still was considerably difficult to find the one trinket, a knob. Not any in particular, it could have been the oldest of knobs. It didn’t matter as long as she could complete her construction of a lamp for Ceylon. She had broken their lamp the other day, and the mere thought of it made Chispa cringe.
The music was pulsing through the house. Steady beats of Electro-Casanova guided Chipsa’s body as she drifted through the loft space. Ceylon, her studious companion, was hard at work plotting another series of events for their anarchist movements. They often ignored the commotion that the energetic girl made, due to the noise cancelling headphones that they wore, choosing instead to peer down at their plans from a dim lamp. It had a dark blue cord, similar to the shade of Ceylon’s shoes. Being that the room happened to only have one plug that was on the other side of the room, there was a long, snake-like trail of pulsing blue light. Chispa just so happened to catch her foot on this cord during a little spin. She shrieked and closed her eyes, expecting to tumble onto the cold, pale marble only to be met with a surprising feeling of warmth. Her eyes opened to see Ceylon, their arms around her and her face on their chest.
“Are you alright?” Ceylon muttered. Concern was met with the apologetic eyes of Chispa. Their ears were shocked by the sound of glass. The lamp had shattered to bits.
“Yes, I got a little carried away with the music.” She said almost bashfully, cheeks full of rosy blush.
The mere thought of the incident made her cheeks begin to warm once more. During this moment of reminiscence, a glaring light shined in Chispa’s eyes. She peered up to where the light was coming from. It was at the top of one of the piles of garbage. The particular item. What was it called? Ah, a lightbulb. Those were hard to come by here, a hot commodity if you will.
“There it is!” Chispa exclaimed, practically stumbling over the junk in her signature reflective pink bodysuit to get to the last piece of her project. She spotted another eager individual hurrying up the other side of the hill to the piece. “Oh no you don’t!” As her pace increased, they both met at the top of the hill. Each of their hands were on the sides of the bulb.
The goofy smile of Chispa’s opponent showed confidence. “Not today. This one’s mine, missy,” the stranger stated. But Chispa was more determined.
“Alright, I’ll let you have it. But first...what's that over there!” She said with a shocked expression causing her opponent to look away and loosen their grip on the bulb. Chispa took off down the hill and tripped. She rolled down safely onto an old mattress and began to hurry home.
When Ceylon came back to the loft from their meeting, they were met with a beaming grin from the girl and she covered their eyes “No, peeking!”
Walking further into the room, Ceylon questioned “Where are we going?” No comment was necessary though, as Chispa pulled her fingers off of their eyes revealing a brand new lamp. It was a pink and electric blue lamp that contained the two of them in a photo. The lamp was a bit on the rough side.
“Do you like it?” Chispa looked away, embarrassed. “I wanted to make up for breaking the other one, since I know you use that for your work.”
Ceylon smiled, and said “I love it. It looks great, thank you.” Chispa grinned, before laughing.
“Well, back to the music,” She said and the dancing resumed with the two doing their usual once more.
Chispa came through the door, no giant pile of junk in tow, but rather a very small, tattered box. Ceylon looked up from the cooking, something they had taken upon themselves for the day, and raised an eyebrow, “What’s that?”
Chispa walked it over to the dining table and began cooing at the contents, concerning Ceylon more than they were comfortable with. They turned the burner down to low and walked over, peeking into the box. Inside was a dirty, shaking, scared kitten. Ceylon couldn’t discern the natural color of its fur- it looked brown from the mud coating it- and Chispa was pretty sure it was white, “We can’t keep this.” Ceylon said.
“Why not?” Chispa whined and looked at them, stomping her foot and pouting, “It’s cold and hungry and lonely and our house has us and food and warmth! Why can’t we keep it?”
“Because it’s against the apartment rules!” Ceylon sighed and grabbed the bridge of their nose, they knew this was bound to happen. Chispa was actually on the lookout for cats when they went out sometimes. She continued to pout.
“Well, then I’ll find it a home tomorrow, but I’m keeping it tonight.” She huffed and picked up the scared kitten and marched to the bathroom to wash the dried mud from its fur. “Use the dirty towel!” Ceylon called after her and returned to cooking.
Chispa returned ten minutes later, flustered and her hands covered with tiny little scratches, but in her arms was the kitten, bundled up and half asleep. It was white and very fluffy, “Isn’t it cute?” Chispa held it up to Ceylon’s face.
Ceylon looked at it and the kitten mewed pathetically before settling back into the towel, then they heard it- the purring. It was hard to believe that such a small thing could make such a loud noise, it’s purr sounded like a motor, an old one. Ceylon nodded.
“Ha! Soon you’ll love it too and you won’t be able to give it away!” Chispa hugged it tight, the purring grew louder, “And then I’ll finally have a pet cat!”
Ceylon felt a little bad. “We can’t keep it.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know, I know. I’m not intending to. I just couldn’t let it starve on the street. I’ll find it a home tomorrow and you won’t have to worry about it.” She walked around with the kitten for the rest of the night, even eating with it curled up in her lap and sleeping with it on her chest. Then, when tomorrow finally became today, she found it a home. It took less than an hour for someone to take it into their family and Chispa moped around the apartment for the rest of the day. Ceylon wasn’t home when she got back and she flopped onto the couch, whining to the empty room.
There was work to do, but she missed her kitten and didn’t feel like doing any of it. She just continued to lounge and roll around on the couch waiting for Ceylon to get home and tell her to work.
Ceylon got home, latching the door behind them. “Where were you?” She asked.
They walked over and sat beside her, pulling something from under their jacket, “I’m sorry you couldn’t keep the kitten, but I could at least find you this.” And they handed it to her, a stuffed white cat. It was almost the same size, but not nearly as fluffy. It looked like Ceylon had tried to bleach the stains out of it and the eyes didn’t match, but it was a kitten for her, from Ceylon. She took it gingerly, Ceylon had only seen her treat her trinkets so carefully, and she hugged it to her chest, trying not to cry.
“Thank you.” They sat on the couch together, Chispa leaning into Ceylon as she hugged her new kitten.
Chispa came through the door in a huff, dropping her haul for the day onto the pile from yesterday. Ceylon looked up from their book - a find from a few days ago of a collector’s edition of Fahrenheit 451 that was printed well over a hundred years ago.
“Something wrong?” They asked.
“Apparently there was a raccoon sighting early this morning about three blocks over!” She replied, throwing her hands in the air in mock frustration.
“How… how do you know that?” Ceylon asked cautiously, not sure they wanted to know the answer. She pointed to her headphones, the ears glowing bright .
“I listen to the local alert station when I’m out without you.”
Ceylon was surprised. They had assumed she listened to the same music she did around the house. “Why?”
“In case something happens, silly. They report thefts, missing persons, sightings of animals, and messages from loved ones who can’t get ahold of their…” She struggled for the word, “Loved… ones… They play old jazz music unless there's an alert , and this way I'll know if something happens to you when I’m away. As soon as I can, at least.” She smiled and wandered off to the bathroom, assuming that was a good enough end to the conversation and desperately needing a shower. It had been a big day for her - she'd been to trinket shops to deliver some special orders, to Abuela’s apartment to check up on the security system she had made for her, dumpster diving, and to junk piles to scavenge. Ceylon was left at the dining table with their book, smiling. It was good to feel cared for, and the ways Chispa showed it always managed to surprise them.