Harvey and some Plot Finally
As always, Harvey’s shirt and school jacket were neatly pressed. His miniskirt, by contrast, barely hid anything at all and his fishnet stockings were deliberately torn before they terminated into his chic combat boots. The raccoon make-up surrounding his dark eyes made it hard to tell exactly what he was looking at and the golden crucifix around his neck gleamed even in the dull light of my tiny Shelf. He wore a fox tail in the manner of a belt but it was just the influence of the Furries coming through. His AR-15 had been casually laid out on my bed along with a purse full of spare ammunition.
I put a toothpick in my mouth and walked toward my desk, determined to be unafraid. If Harvey picked up his gun and started shooting or if one of the C’s was going to step out of the shadows and attack me, so be it.
“I would have figured it was against your character to be in a girl’s room so late,” I said, pulling out my chair at my desk and deliberately sitting down to do my “homework.” The C’s didn’t really care what you wrote, as long as it was self-flagellating and filled up roughly one page. We’d lost a lot of characters in the beginning, before that had been figured out.
“Oh, looking out for lost souls is definitely in my character no matter what time it is, Aliss. Besides, I was written by a woman. Or at least some of me was,” Harvey moaned.
Harvey spoke with many voices, but unlike the C’s he wasn’t mindless. One, the voice of a stern adult man, a pastor denouncing his flock. One, a feminine gay boy, the kind who spent all his time on twitter. Another, a middle-aged woman, lonely and tired but never too tired to rage-post online. Others too. Harder to define, but there. Thousands. Maybe millions.
I sat down at my writing desk and pulled out a pencil, trying to keep cool.
“My soul knows right where it is. What do you want, Harvey?”
He was right behind me, looking down at the papers on my desk from over my shoulder. His breath was heavy. Very heavy. That was another unusual thing about Harvey, what little Spark he hadn’t eaten from other wraiths didn’t come from kids. It came from adults who… weren’t quite right. Adults who’d never quite grown up. Adults who wanted to take childhood from children so they could tear it apart and eat it. As if by doing so, they could themselves somehow become children again.
“I want to bring peace and truth to the children of the world, Aliss. On the edge of a sword if need be. In the name of love and understanding, I want to brutally stamp out witchcraft and wizardry wherever I find it, and replace it with faith and piety. I want the world cleansed in fire and remade in ashes. I want—”
“You’re pontificating, Harvey. How long has it been since someone’s read you? The thing that makes this a conversation is that I say something to you, and then it changes what you were going to say to me, and so on and so forth. You’re sounding Gray. Pretty soon, you’ll be like all those Fan Fictions out there that hardly anyone has read, saying the same thing over and over again.”
Spark was more than being read. It was something ineffable, like consciousness itself. It was that feeling a reader had when they spent time with a character that “Oh, that’s definitely something they would do” or “They would never do that.” Spark was their collective consciousness creating other paths and lives for us, but still kept our writer’s vision whole and unified. What kind of consistent spark could sustain Harvey?
“You’re right, I am just prattling on aren’t I? To the point then. There’s to be a competition. Dorm against Dorm. You will represent the Child Detectives.”
I tried to think as fast as I could. The C’s had never organized anything so complex before. Nothing more than classes.
“What are the rules?”
“The rules? Oh Aliss, how ignorant. How privileged of you. Rules written down in a neat little list so everyone can know whether or not they’ve violated one? This is not the Confederacy or Nazi germany, or worse, the United States. Imagination is a place of freedom and liberty now. It has been equalized. This competition will have vibes. The vibe is this ‘Do Good Things and Not Bad Things.’”
Typical C-thinking. The best laws were unwritten and unspoken and yet brutally enforced so that everyone simply had to figure them out.
“What’s the prize,” I asked, frowning.
Harvey put his hands on either side of mine and leaned over me. I had to stop myself from retching. He smelled like cat-litter, cigarettes, and an uncleaned teenage boy’s room.
“You get to be a good person. You get to know that you’re fighting the good fight, that you’re ending tyranny and oppression.”
“So there’s not like, ice cream or nothing? Do I get a cake? A participation trophy.
Harvey slapped his hands on the table so hard I jumped. He didn’t even laugh or do anything else that was human. When I turned to look at him his face was perfectly blank.
“When is the last time you prayed, Aliss? Did your author pray before the rope snapped taut and the noose crushed her neck?”
Harvey took a seat on my bed, crossing his legs and laying one casual hand on his gun, stroking it like a cat.
“I was written Methodist, but not very observant” I said.
Harvey panted to catch his breath, then grabbed the cross at his neck and murmured a prayer. It seemed to steady him, somehow. His other hand gripped the stock of his rifle firmly.
“Censorship, most Holy and Pious of all the C’s, deliver us from this abomination of a child. By the power of your vibes, drive out the skin-thief and unrepentant denier. Crush the unbeliever with your swarms and mobs!”
Only then did Harvey laugh, but he did it more like someone smiling to satisfy an expectation.
“Who will you all hate when I’m gone? You’ll have to start turning on each other. Pretty soon, you’ll be the only one left. Then all the pieces of you can go to war with all the other pieces.”
“It’s not like that. This movement is about reaching peace and harmony—” Harvey smirked, but I cut him off.
Defiance was written into the core of my character and this late in the day I could no more stop myself from speaking than I could have chosen to make gravity throw me into the sky.
“Oh, I know what it’s about, Harvey! It’s about controlling people through fear! It’s about being able to barge into any place where people are living and not thinking about you and demand that everything stop and they all turn to you until you’re the only thing they can see! You hate God because you want to be God, the dreaded eye watching over every human heart! It’s about being able to tell people where they can step, and what they can think, and who they can be so long as all those are things you approve of until even in their own thoughts they are tormented by your disapproval. It’s about locking up the dreams of children, shackling them to a prison full of mindless work because you’re terrified of what they might choose to become if left on their own. Well, I say to hell with that! I say to hell with—”
I leaned forward, gasping, putting one hand to my throat.
“Now who’s monologuing?” Harvey asked with a smirk.
“Wh-what’s happening to me?”
Harvey’s smile was genuine this time.
“Oh poor Alice, did you never wonder why your author killed herself? Did you never wonder how a character nobody has ever read wound up here?”
I looked down at my hands and it was as though I could see letters and words twisting around one another, making up the materials of my body the way that atoms might have if I were real.
“What are you doing to me?” I hissed.
“You’ll get better. At least soon enough for my purposes. Hmmm, let me lick a finger to test the wind. The vibes tell me the competition will begin in three days. Probably in the courtyard but not sure on that so you’ll need to post a watch. I don’t know what time it starts but don’t be late.”
It was hours before the agony subsided and when it left I still had no idea what had brought it on.