Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Matter of Dreams: Chapter 10.3

            Lily had a fixed route in her jogs around campus: through town to the chapel; down the east side of campus past Stevenson Theater to the river; follow the tow path along the canal back over to the stadium; up past the engineering school and then bear right toward home.  Sometimes she’d do it twice, if she was feeling ambitious.
            Today, though, she started feeling lightheaded as she approached the theater.  She didn’t usually run out of steam this quickly, especially when she’d had a large breakfast.  She dodged out of the way when she heard a car horn, but then couldn’t see any car nearby.  Her head spinning, she sat down on the blocky granite steps of the theater and rested.  What was it she had eaten this morning?  Harte had served something, well, hearty, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember what it was.
            Lily took hold of a brass railing and hauled herself to her feet; black spots flickered at the edge of her vision.  So much for the rest of her run -- she wasn’t even going to be able to walk back like this.  She needed an energy bar, or something with sugar.  There was probably a vending machine somewhere in Stevenson; they seemed to be everywhere on campus these days.  Failing that, she could call the campus police to pick her up from one of the bluelight phones, but the last thing she wanted right now was to go back to the Trask Center.
            Luckily, the theater door wasn’t locked.  Like many of Harkness’s non-academic buildings, the theater only really came to life in the evenings after classes let out, but it seemed that there were people around.  Someone should be able to help her.  The lobby was empty, but the lights were on and she could hear the sounds of construction from the stage. 
            She pushed through swinging doors covered in red leather and into the auditorium itself.  A massive set piece rose from the back of the stage, extending out and upward to incorporate the proscenium and reach toward the audience.  At its base was an open door, flanked by demons frozen in the act of playing a fanfare on brass trumpets; rising from the top of the door were billowing clouds in which angels spun.  As Lily watched, a section of cloud broke free and descended to the stage, lowered to the ground on a rope.
            “Impressive, isn’t it?  Too bad we’ve got to strike it before anyone gets to see it.”  Lily turned; a slightly plump blonde woman wearing a tool belt and coveralls had come up behind her.  “Watch it!”  the woman shouted in her ear.  “I don’t care if the show’s off, we didn’t build that thing so that you could smash it to pieces!”
            Lily’s legs went wobbly, and she clutched at the back of a row of seats to prop herself up.
            “Hey, you don’t look so good,” the woman said.  “Why don’t you sit down?”
            Lily did so.  “Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.  My blood sugar just crashed.  Is there someplace here I can get a candy bar, or a Coke?”
            The woman opened a pouch on her belt, and took out a pair of wrapped candies.  “Here.  Hope root beer is okay.”
            “Perfect.”  Lily unwrapped the little barrels and popped them in her mouth.  She felt better almost immediately.  “Thanks,” she said, rolling the word around the mouthful.
            “No problem.”  The woman sat down next to her.  “So, what do you think?”
            “What, the set?  It’s big.”
            “Tell me about it.  We spent weeks building it.  Now one lead’s disappeared and the other one refuses to show up, so we have to take it all apart.  Guess the understudies couldn’t hack it, or something.  Hopefully we can reuse it for something else.”  The woman held out her hand.  “Lily.”
            Lily blinked.  “Yes?”
            “That’s my name.  It’s how we greet one another on planet Earth.  Need another beer barrel?”
            Lily shook her head, smiled, and shook hands.  “I’m sorry...I was just...that’s my name too.”
            “You don’t say?  Look, one Lily to another, can I give you a ride someplace?  I’d rather not have you keeling over in my theater, and watching these jokers wreck my hard work isn’t my idea of a good time.”
            “I’d appreciate that,” Lily said.
            The other Lily stood up.  “Rich!”  she called out.  “I’m taking the van -- you’re in charge until I get back.  Try not to knock the building down!”  The blonde woman turned to her.  “Come on, let’s go before they do something I can’t ignore.”
            Lily levered herself up; the candy was definitely helping.  She moved to follow her namesake, but stopped when she saw a shadow cross the stage and disappear into the ornate door.  It wasn’t obvious what cast the shadow.
            “Did you see that?” Lily asked.
            “Nope,” the other Lily said, without turning around.
* * *
            “...decide to work with Professor Harte in the first place?”
            Lily looked up.  She was in the passenger seat of a van, winding its way along the perimeter of the Harkness campus.  The other Lily was driving.
            “I’m sorry...I must still be a little fuzzy,” she said.  “I missed most of that.”
            “You were telling me about switching labs.  What made you decide to work with Harte, if he’s such a flake?”
            “He’s not a flake.  He’s brilliant, and the work he’s doing is revolutionary.”
            “Was doing, you mean.”
            Lily bristled.  “Maybe.  But it was a once in a lifetime experience.”
            “So, anything else you do at Harkness would probably be a bit of a letdown, huh?”
            “What choice do I have?  And why do I have to explain myself to you, anyway?”
            The other Lily shrugged.  “You seem like you might need to justify it to yourself, is all.”
            “Isn’t it taking you a long time to get to the other side of campus?” Lily asked waspishly.
            “You want to go home, we’ll get you home.  We’re just taking a shortcut, is all.  See, there’s your building.”  And there it was; they must have taken a right at the stadium and cut up at an angle.  Or was it before that?
            The other woman pulled the van up in front.  “Thanks for the ride,” Lily said, as she stepped down to the sidewalk.  “I’m sorry I lost my temper.”
            “That’s nothing.  Try dealing with a cast full of prima donnas in permanent snits.”
            “Good luck with taking down your set.”
            The other Lily frowned.  “Time’s running out.  Take care of yourself, Lily.”
            “You too.”
* * *

[Go to Chapter 10.4]

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