Chapter 329: Taking It Under AdvisementAlexandra Erin on September 13, 2016 in Volume 2 Book 10: Lucky Thing, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Mackenzie Puts Her Ass On The Line For Answers
I didn’t say anything for a long time after Amaranth’s pronouncement.
The thoughts that chased themselves around in my head went something like that can’t be right… but it sounds right… but it makes no sense…
If it was true, it was one of those things that felt like it should have immediately changed everything. If the curse or entity or whatever form the thing might take was afraid of me in particular, that must mean I had some kind of power I could exercise over it. I had no idea what that might be, or why it would be.
True curses, classical curses, were related to the energies of the lower planes. I was unusually rich in those energies for a basically mortal person, which is where the “kind of makes sense” part came into play. But even if we were dealing with something hell-born, I didn’t think being half-demon would make some demonic power fear me any more than being half-elven would make some eldritch fey power afraid of Steff.
“If you’re right, I can only think that it’s because I was onto something, whether I knew it or not,” I said. “Because I’m clearly not immune to its machinations in any way, shape, or form.”
“Well, for all that it’s taken a lot of time and energy to ruin your day, you have to admit it is mostly striking indirectly at you,” she said.
“That might be a proximity thing?” I said. “I noticed Hazel’s ring the same as everybody else did. It might have an easier time sending Shiel, who hangs out with Hazel, to put me out of commission than it does just sending me on my merry way by itself.”
“Except we were postulating that it was manipulating me and even Coach Callahan at a distance, and I really can’t imagine why she’d have crossed paths with Hazel in any meaningful way.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “The thing Is, I feel like I was as much a part of that whole sequence of events as you were. I don’t think it can just yank on people’s strings like they’re puppets. I think it’s more like subtle nudges mixed with the occasional shove.”
“I can see the sense of that,” Amaranth said. “But, baby… I also forgot what we were talking about, and I didn’t have to fall asleep. I hate to say this, but that sounds like it has an easier time manipulating me than you.”
“Or maybe the topic wasn’t significant to you, because you didn’t know what I knew, or was starting to realize,” I said. “If I do threaten it, maybe it’s just the fact that I figured something out?”
“Except we’ve all been trying to figure this thing out, and you said it was only when you were falling asleep that you really put it together? If you did.”
“I definitely put something together,” I said. “I’m more sure of that the more we talk about it.”
“I know, I know,” I said. “Certainty isn’t the same as being right.”
“I’m not saying that you didn’t work it out,” Amaranth said. “I just don’t want you to get too attached to the idea that you had something and lost it. You could wind up beating your head against that wall for days when you could be covering fresh ground.”
“That’s a good point,” I said. “I know I’m not the best at letting go of something, but I think this is one of those things where the harder I try to claw it back to the surface of my mind, the deeper it’s going to sink, you know? I need to figure out a different angle to come at it from.”
“It’s really a shame that your mind is not more compatible with any of the telepaths we know,” Amaranth said. “My understanding from the things I’ve read is that the things we forget aren’t lost, just… misplaced, in a sense. I’m sure Dee would know some technique for reconstructing lost memories. Oh! Do you think the owl-turtle thing could help?”
“I think it knows everything Dee knows about how minds are put together and then some,” I said. “But seeing as it’s a dream, I’d rather explore other options before jumping with both feet right into the one that requires me to be asleep again.”
“Still, there would be something almost poetic about falling asleep to recover what you lost falling asleep,” Amaranth said.
“I’m not in a mood to trust poetry right now,” I said. “The thing you said about Dee? I think you were on the right track there.”
“But it’s not safe for her to have direct mental contact with you,” Amaranth said.
“But not all her mental techniques are telepathic,” I said. “I’d bet money that something in her repertoire of guided meditation is conducive to memory recovery.”
“Dee?” Amaranth said, in a slightly louder, slightly firmer tone.
She wasn’t indicating incredulity to me, but talking directly to our elven suitemate in a tone that indicated we were suspending the polite fiction that her keen senses couldn’t hear every word we said.
It was a convention among her people that was basically as strong as the human convention that you didn’t stick your hands down a stranger’s pants and start thumb-wrestling with whatever you find.
When there was no response, Amaranth repeated the invocation, again without apparent effect.
“Well, it seems like she’s out,” Amaranth said. “Is it wrong that the first thing that popped into my mind is that this isn’t a coincidence? I mean, I don’t want to take anyone for granted, but I think that’s the first time that hasn’t worked.”
“Okay, just because she’s usually around when we want to talk doesn’t mean she’s always going to be,” I said. “She lives next door and she’s not very social.”
“Fair points,” Amaranth said. “I’m still adjusting to the second-guessing… I really don’t want this to become normal, baby.”
“I don’t like having to distrust anyone, least of all myself.”
“I know,” I said again. “In theory, we might be closer to the end of this than the beginning, if only we knew exactly why it’s so determined to keep me sidelined.”
“Well, if Dee’s not available, maybe we should try the next best thing,” Amaranth said.
“The owl-turtle is a thing, but it’s not next best to anything,” I said.
“Not it,” she said. “Me.”
“Try not to act too shocked,” she said. “But… I mean, after Two, I’ve probably had the most meditation sessions with Dee.”
“How many of those were focused on memories?”
“Well, none, but that’s not my fault,” Amaranth said. “I’m sure I’ve forgotten things in my life, even if I can’t remember what they are, but since I didn’t have a childhood, I don’t even have the normal childhood amnesia most people do. I’ve never needed to dig up something.”
“Okay… forgive me for being skeptical, but I don’t think knowing how to meditate alone is going to do it,” I said. “If it comes down to it, I’ve had sessions with Dee, too.”
“I’ve also studied the general theory of it, though,” Amaranth said.
“In a general sort of way, though.”
“It’s better than nothing,” she said.
“Well, I mean, that’s not necessarily true… it could be exactly as good as nothing. But I guess it can’t hurt, either way?” I said. “It’s not like you can do it wrong and I wind up with the wrong memories.”
“Well, that’s where we do have to be a little careful,” Amaranth said. “It’s like you said earlier about certainty. You can be convinced that you remember something and still not be right.”
“…right, I think I covered something like this with the owl-turtle thing,” I said. “The mind accepts new memories the same as old ones. They all exist only in our mind, so they’re all equally real.”
“Right,” Amaranth said. “So if you’re already in a highly suggestible state to begin with, you could be led to believe you’re remembering something that you’re actually imagining or even being told for the first time.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” I said, though I wasn’t actually that impressed with the danger. Amaranth was brilliant and capable of a great many things, but she wasn’t some kind of master hypnotist, nor did I deem her likely to have become one no matter how many books she had read.
“No,” Amaranth said. “That’s why we’d be focusing on recreating the circumstances, taking you back to what you were thinking and how you were feeling in the moments before you passed out. I would have to be very careful to give you absolutely no guidance, no prompting, for what you were thinking or why you were thinking it.”
“So the idea is to recreate the same chain of events and hope it winds up in the same place?”
“That might happen,” Amaranth said. “But it’s more about the associations. The same way that you can prepare for a test by studying your material in an environment that mimics the conditions under which you’ll take the test, or how a scent or flavor can be a gateway to a memory. Like I said, things you forget aren’t lost. It’s more like you lose your way to them. If I’m right… and I think I am… then I can help you find your way back.”
“Well, that all sounds like it’s a fine theory, and it’s definitely worth a try,” I said. “I just don’t want you to get your hopes up, okay? If we need to find Dee to make it work, it was still your idea, and it was a good one.”
“Why don’t you think I can do this?” Amaranth said, frowning and biting her lip. I wasn’t doing anything more than trying to manage her expectations, really, but I could tell I’d taken it too far. She was inches away from an adorable little foot stomp of the sort she’d indulged in more often much earlier in our relationship. “I’m way more than a pretty face, and you of all people should know that!”
“I know, I know,” I said. “But honestly, it’s… well, it’s not you, it’s me. Even taking it as given that you know what you’re doing well enough to guide me once I’m under, I don’t know how to get there, and I don’t think either one of us has the experienced needed to make that work. Everything you’re saying makes perfect sense in terms of how to proceed when I’m a suggestible state, but I don’t see how we’re going to get there.”
I was trying to be measured, reasonable, but I was expecting at any moment that Amaranth’s frustrations with having her expertise challenged would boil over.
Instead, though, she smiled… no, she smirked.
“What?” I said.
“Baby,” she said.
“I don’t understand…”
“You don’t think I have what it takes to render you in a suggestible state?” she said. “You think I of all people don’t know exactly how to, as you put it, ‘put you under’? Come on.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “I really don’t see how this in your wheelhouse.”
“Fine,” she said. “Perhaps a demonstration, then?”
“We’re doing this now?” I said. “If Dee’s not available, I think it might be more fruitful to find out what, if anything, Hazel was up to while I was asleep.”
“That will keep,” Amaranth said. “And if it turns out something did happen, we’ll be in more of a position to do something about it if we know what you knew, or almost knew.”
“Okay, what do I do?” I said. “Should I sit on the floor? Oh, if we’re going to recreate the thing, I guess I should be on the bed…”
“Neither, actually,” Amaranth said.
“Bend yourself over the desk, baby.”
“You heard me,” she said. “And brace yourself, because I’m going to make you regret that ‘couldn’t hurt’ line.”