Under the glaring starlight, the wax-coated linen stitching the long berberis gown Naspugya id Hanbury had been wearing began to unseam. I stood there motionless as the unraveling goat-strung material revealed a layer of blood, oozing out with patient conceit, stretching time out long enough for the horror written out on the floor to shift from dramatic to awkward.
As would suggest the room were bigger than anyone would think it were to be, what they would offer me is an intelligible proposal: leave nothing but the feature behind and pretend, as sands formed into wood and as wood formed into blood, that what had been expected of me wove its way into the collective movement toward preventing inaction as a whole. I would have none of that. Vivi may entertain the incongruity between the threads composing her Interwoven Higher Regulator Security Garment and those weaving together her nastily-needled frame of mind, but such rushed dexision welcomes a heavier undertaking none but the clean could fathom.
My dress wouldn’t come to tatter, and nor would my mind ever sour pure. Like butterflies make with cream, my raspberry fingernails had curled the layers of soilage around in mocking disgust; the fruit of consciousness embedded as had been in her Hanburian clothing must exist within the self! The mental deterioration that would come to overwhelm people like dear Naspugya will never strip me nude because I am, after all, built of different mettle.
“So save me!” I yelled to a halting crowd, now fraught with flourishing interest. “Unweave me! Unweave me to free me!” I myself felt a pang of burgeoning confusion seize my reins, but nevertheless, I continued: “No chance will come to you shimmering as golden as this, but if it will be as it is, the weakness of the Court will gleam stronger than such frailty to luster.” Of course, these were empty words. This exhibition of disloyalty to the cause would establish my position as one of the Unwilling, a drastic yet necessary step to take in order to inceal the identities of Regulators then before me; with luck, the show would conclude with a conversation between myself and a Higher Regulator.
The theatrically motionless crowd then produced a blue-jacketed man seemingly from thin air, appearing before me as though he were the leader of an array of soldiers ready to be issued an order. To manufacture such an atmosphere, this Jacketer would be no ordinary Regulator, an unnecessarily lucky encounter to be met with.
In theory, performance art was dangerous. As the Higher Regulator questioned me, I quietly began wrapping my hand with the newly sewn cloth, colored a color that wouldn’t show against my dress; with this hand, I innocently grabbed at his Vital Pocket, detaching it without notice and hiding it behind my palm. Perhaps by the end of the one-sided conversation, he may have noticed his thinking gone loose. Sweeping away the Vital Pocket had proven with time a far more severe punishment than conventional murder or a loud Unraveling as had been in Naspugya’s case: this deterioration, the Muted Unraveling, opens up the pores in one’s strands, stripping away what defines the soul layers at a time.
And fortunately, only I had been familiar with Muted Unraveling.
As far as I had been aware during the Hanbury incident, only four people in the accessible world acknowledged its existence—Court law rung Court beliefs. Between Shihaya Farouz and the Trial to Bear and Pietro Aspilenki’s Six Golden Needles, I was the only dressless person alive worth talking about, and my slivery silver aspirations erased the stagnant cardinality that existed to those facing the horror of this world tête-à-tête.
Normally one would consider it opportune to be able to see with open eyes, but such a thing only adds apathy to the palate.
I may never have appreciated the madder lighting in the stairwell any more than I had during my conversation with Celebra the Lesser on the day we had heard of the first suicide. Seriously. In fact, I could have sworn my dear friend’s words swept past me as the atmosphere’s virulence stole my attention. I’d always been praised for my listening skills. I still am praised for my listening skills. I’m nineteen years old.
But maybe—pushing maybe—for the first time in a very long time, I couldn’t hear someone speak. An ugly feeling inside me began to mobilize as though he were a 10-year-old child trying to drag a hundred-stone weight with a piece of cloth, panicking and struggling to will its stubborn boss to move. I didn’t want to move. Celebra the Lesser was screaming in horror, but I was entranced.
It really is all too convenient I didn’t hear what she said back then. She pushed me out of the way and kicked the door open, rushing out onto the rooftop. She ran off the edge of the building—just like that!
She was telling me to get out of the way.
Celebra the Lesser was our family’s first dressed girl.
I was supposed to be the first.
“You couldn’t do it?”
I couldn’t hold in my tears. Celebra wouldn’t ever stop being nasty to me, but I came to remember her as a friend who taught me how to knit cables without a cable needle. I would always remember The Lesser that way, but I felt unsatisfied with that narrative.
So I jumped off with her.
Zakha held out a palm of mint.
“You don’t want it getting cold, do you?”
I’ve never tried it with leaves before!
“There’s a first time for everything!”
But leaves? It’s not like you’re thinking—
“YES! It is what I’m thinking!”
The chances are so small already! What’s the point??
“You never know when a Regulator will reach into your pocket…”
But they’re designed to never do that.
“You don’t know that!”
She had a point.
“I do have a point, yes!”
Zakharova the Golden, with three other familiars, had graduated from the very institution that twisted poor Celebra’s head sideways and up. I never graduated!
“That’s right—Mireia here failed out of the Ginsbury Academy. Ooooh.”
“Don’t you ‘Silence.’ me!”
I technically never graduated because the Academy had been declared illegitimate with my graduation. With more than four students on the Final Roster, the Court announced that their criteria had been “too loose” to allow five weavers in a high circle. It wasn’t very nice of them, but I was able to remove two chains—a chain of constraint and a chain of refraint—that I had long since forgotten the existence of.
Our conceit would, of course, be best described as tessellative, like a pattern of chalices and goblets defined along the lifelines of a Lapellian carve-knit fustel. I made sure Aspilenki had the design in mind before continuing.