The easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is here on Messages from Mâvarin. Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven. Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen. Synopses to Parts Fourteen through Eighteen are at the top of Part Nineteen. Synopses to Parts Nineteen through Twenty-Five can be found at the top of Part Twenty-Six. The installments themselves can be read in order on Blogspot using the sidebar.
Part Twenty-Six: Cathma and Cathy wonder why they haven't lost consciousness with everyone else.
Part Twenty-Seven: It's All About Me
Cathy tried to get to her feet, but a sudden wave of dizziness pushed her back into her chair. Her eyes closed involuntarily, and when she tried to open them again she found she could not do it. Nothing about her body would obey her. She was no longer sure she was in her body at all.
At first she was surrounded by darkness and silence, but then a dim gray light grew all around her, accompanied by the murmur of an uncountable number of voices. Many of the voices sounded familiar, but there were so many of them, all sounding at once, that Cathy could not distinguish individual words in the unintelligible hubbub. All of the voices were female – except one. Cathy tried to focus on the one voice that was different, but it was barely audible amid the others.
“Will everyone please shut up for a moment?” she cried out. She had no idea how she had managed to say anything, when she could not feel her own mouth or lungs or throat. She hadn’t intended to speak at all. Her voice rose above the others, and then faded away. It sounded no different from any of the other female voices she had been hearing.
The other voices subsided. “That’s telling them,” the male voice said.
But it was hopeless. The female voices rose again, a thousand versions of her own voice, she realized now, all sounding frightened or annoyed or downright angry.
The gray light resolved itself as Cathy’s bodiless vision sharpened. Shapes and colors emerged, gradually becoming distinct and recognizable. She was surrounded by teenaged girls, most of them blonde, all with her face, or a close variation thereof. They sat in a bewildering variety of chairs, or lay on beds. One of them was on a vinyl raft in a night-darkened swimming pool. Real eyes could not have processed what she saw now, a thousand Cathys or more, all in their own tiny room-sized environments, all so close she felt she could touch them, if she had a hand to touch them with. She directed her inexplicable gaze downward, and saw her own arms and legs and body. They did not look quite real or solid, but it reassured her a little to see them at all.
Through all of this, the thousand variant Cathys gradually quieted, and began to stare at each other instead.
Yet another girl appeared. Cathy was pretty sure it was Cathma. She was dressed exactly the same as the Cathma she had met at the mall, right down to the pizza napkin that still clung to her collar. “Merciful Mâshela!” she said. “What now?” She looked directly at Cathy, as if recognizing her specifically.
“I’ve no idea,” Cathy replied. Several other Cathys, scattered about, echoed her words, or said something similar. “But somewhere around here, there’s at least one person who isn’t a version of us.”
“Uh, that would be me,” said the male voice. It came from off to the left.
Cathy turned her noncorporeal head. Joshua Wander sat cross-legged nearby, on what looked like an Andy Warhol-inspired rug depicting Marylyn Monroe.
“Sorry about this,” said Josh.
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