Felicity developed pronomephobia, a deep-seated fear of pronouns, later in life. While this fear resulted in no debilitating impact on Felicity’s life, it did provide with an odd affectation of always asking for a name, repeatedly, and always using that name in full: no pet names or short versions. Matthew was never Matt, and Margaret was never Peg. Those who spoke with Felicity were often left with an oddly unsettled sense that something wasn’t quite right without knowing just what was missing from Felicity’s vocabulary. Fear of spiders might result in avoiding situations where spiders might be encountered, but for Felicity, social situations often induced an inability to respond at all. At those times, frustration and fear combined in an alchemical reaction in which Felicity spent time pacing the room to work off the conflicting impulses.
Darkness falls and rises and falls again, a dance with the sun and the moon and all the starry heavens, and I am the rock in the middle of the river, water flowing around me, cold snowmelt runoff, rushing on toward home and the ocean, rising as evaporation, falling again precipitously, from the depths of the sea to the tops of the mountains to the clouds above the peaks, traveling on to where it will go in an ill-advised revolution, but always there is me in the middle of the river, redirecting the current, defining and shaping the world through resolution, a rock slowly wearing away.
He left secret messages, stupid poetry or lovelorn letters or strings of words that collected into a run-on sentence as long as the Great Wall, and hid these words in places he hoped she would find. He’d visit her neighborhood library and place envelopes with her name on them inside of books. Several times he wrapped the words in zipper sealed sandwich bags which he left tied to a tree like clear leaves. When he checked back to see if she’d found them, hoping she’d take them home to cherish, he discovered the papers had gotten wet and splotches of dark mold obscured his words. Once he collected a manuscript worth of pages and placed them inside a plastic replica pirate treasure chest, dug a hole in the sandbox of the local park and buried them. To help her find the treasure, he created an intricate hand-drawn map and mailed it to her without any markings or return address.
Marcus sat under an evergreen tree. As he leaned back against the aromatic bark, he closed his eyes and breathed in the cool damp air. This was his place, not home, not Book, this small part of this forest. This was where he found peace, a solace that connected him, grounded him.
It didn’t happen very often, but on this occasion, Marcus let his imagination drift and he found himself in a lucid sort of waking dream. The clouds, that ubiquitous protective layer that secreted Book thinned. Instead of anxious or fearful, which would have happened had this not been a dream, Marcus felt curious. The blue sky, now revealed, seemed to call to him, draw him up from the confines of the earth. His body rose, brushing past the pine needles, higher and higher until he could see all of Book, its wall, and even the great city state of Haven beyond. He could see it all, a growing, living beast of brick and steel and glass and wood.
The beast slumbered, but something stirred, something deep beneath the beast: a light that pulsed. The pulses increased, split apart into a thousand lights, each a different color, pulsing together in an intricate pattern. He could hear the sound of the lights, a music of the soul.
He sat on a large rock outside the circle of friends that had gathered in the arboretum, a secluded spot away from the preview of parents or teachers. They didn’t mind his presence, all of them having grown up together, but did not encourage him either. He existed just as the rock existed, a part of the surrounding scenery. He half-listened to the laughter and whispers, only turning his full attention when one of his classmates produced a pipe and proceeded to light it. The skunky aroma enveloped the area as the passed the pipe around, each of them taking a draw before passing it on. More than a few of them did more coughing than inhaling which produces more laughter. Their derision was mild and familiar, intended to tease and not wound. Their negligence of his presence did more harm than their good-natured slaps on each other’s backs or elbow jostling. Still, he knew from experience that there was little he could or would do to ingratiate himself to them. The least he could expect was a mutual stance of inattention.