Chapter 25: Making plans
When I open my eyes again I feel like I’ve slept for three days and my body can’t seem to decide whether it’s rested or not.
I get out of Tungsten’s bed wondering how I got here but I guess the only explanation that makes sense is ‘Tungsten carried me here’
Because I collapsed somewhere out in the lab and don’t remember anything from the moment I took that sleeping draught. I’m fully dressed, aside from my shoes that are set on the floor, and my watch is hanging on a small watch-stand on the nightstand.
According to that, it’s past midday already and it makes me feel very uncomfortable, like I’m sleeping through the apocalypse while I should have done something.
Even though I don’t know what I could possibly do at this point.
‘Up we go’ I tell myself immediately feeling the urge to collapse back onto it.
But after bullying myself into washing up. Or repeatedly dunking my head into the washing bowl until my eyes stop wanting to close by themselves. I make my way to the parlour.
Finding no one there.
Then head to the lab where I spot Tungsten sitting on the floor, eyes closed and head lulled forward.
Did he sleep in the lab?
I don’t see the machine anymore, I wonder if he threw it out or stored it away again?
I step towards him and kneel down “Tungsten?”
There’s a soft panic inching in.
I push his shoulder gently then jump back as he opens his eyes suddenly. The big guy groans grabbing his head “Fuck! My neck’s killing me.” He then pushes down on the back of his neck and cracks it with a sickeningly loud crack before acknowledging my existence. “Morning ion, how did you sleep?”
“I think I slept okay? I just passed out and now it’s hours later with no recollection of what happened in between.”
“That’s the sleeping draught, it tends to do that.” He groans as he gets back up “Do we have food still?”
“We have bread.”
“Excellent. Come on, let’s have a bite.”
We head to the parlour together. He pulls the bread from the basket and collects the butter dish off a shelf. Then we sit down on goat-legged chairs and he breaks off a piece for me “Here.”
“Thanks.” I tear off a piece and chew it, it’s a bit dry but I’ve gotten used to that by now. “About yesterday…” I start.
Tungsten winces “Uhu?”
“First off I want to apologise for snooping, I shouldn’t have done that and I certainly shouldn’t have tried to use a machine of yours without permission or supervision.”
“You really shouldn’t have, should you?” Tungsten says as if that just occurred to him right now. But then the smile on his face fades again “But I also shouldn’t have held on to it for anyone to find. The stupid thing doesn’t talk to the dead. It’s just a bowl and some salts to change the flame’s colour I-” He pauses “I made it as a get-rich-quick-scheme when I had just become an alchemist.”
I look at him with disbelief “You built that?”
“Me and…a friend, but yeah. And I know, I know I shouldn’t prey on the grieving and desperate that’s really low. I’ve learnt that by now but back then I wasn’t thinking of how my actions affected others. Some days it even felt like a noble thing, like we were giving them closure. But that’s bullshit. It was just so easy! People will believe anything as long as they want it enough. It didn’t even matter which colour happened when because people will interpret it in the way that suits them best. We’re kind of a stupid species, to be honest.”
I chuckle listlessly “Yeah.” Yeah, we are. Especially me.
In hindsight, every step of the way felt sketchy.
I should have read the manual.
I bet I would have spotted it was fake then.
But I didn’t want to be proven wrong.
Not right then.
Not when I was this close to getting what I wanted.
Then a thought occurs to me.
“Tungsten I think-”
“Look I’m not that guy anymore okay!” he waves his hands frantically “If you think less of me that’s fine but I promise I’ve changed.”
“Well too bad because you just gave me an idea!” as the gears start spinning like crazy in the back of my head
“We’re going to scam the alchemists!”
The big man blinks ar me “Okay, you have to explain that one.”
“The alchemists want a heart, one the dolls don’t want to give up because they’re afraid it gets stolen.”
“But if we just make a fake heart and use that as bait the dolls have no reason to complain and the alchemist won’t know it’s a fake until it’s already too late.”
“And where do you expect to get that fake heart?”
“I can make it, well…at least the insides, it’s in a glass casing that I wouldn’t know how to make myself…do you happen to know someone?”
“A glassblower? Not really but we can go through the trades street if you want, getting something custom-made will cost you though.”
“Ah…right…and I don’t have much money left…”
“Don’t ask me, you can borrow my den but I’m not spotting your crazy schemes.”
“I expected as much. It’s fine I just need some time to think…”
“Can’t your rich-ass parents spare a bit of cash-”
I wince “Rather not…but I may have a different idea.”
I didn’t expect to be back at Viola’s this early but part of me feels relieved to be.
Things felt simpler out here, kinder, softer.
I guess the place just feels cosy.
I open the door and am surprised to see a smattering of guests walking around.
“It’s the season, which is good because without it we’d probably go bankrupt.” Melody explains from behind the front desk “Welcome back dear.”
“Hello, Miss Viola.”
“I told you to call me Melody.”
“Right, I’m sorry I uh…do you have a telephone?”
“Of course, can’t be a hotel without one nowadays.”
“Good…I have a bit of an odd request actually…”
There’s a pressure on my chest and a tightness in my throat that’s difficult to shake as Melody talks to the operator.
“Yes, number 507, Winton Manor please.” She looks at me for a moment “I’m on hold now dear, which man did you need to speak to again?”
She nods then sets her attention back to the telephone “Oh, yes hello, this is Miss Melody Viola from Viola’s hotel, I’m looking for Sir Abel Gloria in regards to a bill that has not been paid for yet. Yes, I’ll hold, thank you.”
Maybe he isn’t home.
I don’t think I should hope for that but I’m still dreading the idea of having to pick up the phone from Melody soon.
“Oh hello, are you Abel Gloria? Yes, yes I know you’ve never heard of the establishment. I have a man called Inquiry on the other side of the phone for you, do you want me to give him to you?” She signals at me to come over “Oh no we are a real hotel feel free to visit someday, we’re just small so call ahead. I’m giving him to you now. Have a nice day.” She pushes the earpiece into my hand and sets me down in front of the receiver.
The voice on the other side sounds tinny, but I’m glad I at least recognize it from the Utopia bar “Inquiry Winton, I’m so glad you decided to call.”
“Don’t cheer just yet. I’m calling to ask for a favour.”
“What is it?”
“Well uhm, it’s a long story and I don’t want to wrack up Miss Viola’s phone bill, can we meet?”
“Of course, Would the weekend be convenient or-”
“Actually I’d like to meet as early as is possible for you.”
There’s a pause, then I find his tone has shifted from warm to serious “I’ll need to finish up some tasks here, can you do three in the afternoon at Utopia again?
Well I did not expect that but I’m not complaining “Thank you, that’ll do nicely.”
“Good, I’ll see you then.” He responds resolutely and then the line breaks up.
Oh, sounds like he hung up already.
“Did it work?” Melody asks and I shrug.
“I guess…we’re meeting in Utopia this afternoon.
“Why utopia?” Melody asks a bit surprised.
“Do you know the place?”
“I do” A smile curls around her lips. “I’m far too old for it nowadays, but I did have some fun in my youth”
“Really?” I can’t envision the proper and nice Melody to hang around in Utopia of all places. It makes me smile
“Thank you for your help.”
“Of course. Is that all dear?”
“Yes, I think so. Now I just need to figure out what to say.”
“What you want to say, is that weird? I thought it might help.”
“That’s not a bad idea actually, thank you.”