Fiction, Music, Art

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Nineteen – Part 1


The hospital staff were largely human, only a few of them had purple fur.

Miranda’s leg brace itched like crazy. The doctor said starfish cells in the wrapping were making her leg heal quicker.

She passed time writing down the ways the world was different. She’d started a timeline to track which change happened when.

Cindy kept Miranda supplied with pictures she snapped around town. Obviously the most important thing was to track what was true now. Since it didn’t seem like the world would be changing again.

The river was gone and they had an actual street again. It was made of long symmetrical slivers that fit together perfectly like scales. The scale streets ran the entire length of the town. Out by the highway the scales ended and the regular roads started. The wind made the edges of their scaly streets rippled a little by the curbs.

Cindy had found Miranda a copy of the latest school rules. They’d figured out together with Tom that the school’s grading system was based on the previous year’s grades. With all her missed classes, Miranda didn’t think she’d be able to go to college this year. She’d need to make a spreadsheet to figure out the new credit situation. It’d be easier if she could infiltrate the school records. Cindy had suggested a few ways they might go about breaking the new school security system.

Cindy’s dads got a loan to reopen the old bookstore on Perkins Street. They were renaming it Modern Fables.

Miranda put her book down. She was pretty sure she could roll with how the world was now.

The door creaked open and Cindy poked her head around it. “You up, lazy?”

Miranda grinned. “Dork.”

Today’s dress was green, the one Miranda thought of as Cindy’s “special occasion” dress.

Her toes were getting hot again, so Miranda dragged on the sheet to expose her leg brace. The plaster changed color when the light hit it. “The doctor says I can leave tonight.”

She reached out for Cindy’s hand. “Mom says your dads are making us dinner.”

Cindy took her hand, but put the other one on her hip. “I’m making dinner. My dads are helping.”

The pose reminded Miranda of Alice. A little pain ran across her chest. No one in town remembered Alice ever existed, except Mom and Cindy and her dads.

Miranda needed to finish the latest sketch of Alice. She wanted to try to make a perfect one while her memories were still fresh. She and Mom agreed that if people asked questions about the gravestone Mom was carving with a diamond-tip drill, they’d just tell the truth and let people think they were crazy. Cindy and her dads had all cried when Mom offered to make two more gravestones for Cindy’s missing dads.

Once she was out of the hospital, she, Mom, Cindy and her dads would do a private funeral. They’d set the gravestones out on a hill overlooking the north side of town. Mom said she was carving a secret compartment in the back of Alice’s stone. Miranda was busy writing down everything she remembered about Alice to hide inside.

Cindy handed her a tissue and Miranda blew her nose. “I’ll try to act surprised when you bring out the surprise cake.”

“You rat! How did you figure that out?”

Miranda tapped her nose. “I’m still the best investigator in the area.”

Cindy’s face fell. “You didn’t…”

“I didn’t change anything.” Miranda looked down at the schoolbook to give Cindy a moment to calm down. It would probably take a while for Cindy to feel totally safe again.

“I can’t see the strings anymore, I’m not sure I ever will again.” Miranda tapped the book. It felt reassuringly solid.

Outside, the pink water tower was still there, but now it just read AUGHT.

Some of the buildings in town were now built on stilts. It was random chance whether a building was ground level or in the sky. Folks didn’t seem to mind walking up the spiraling stairs, but the town council had started deliberations on installing elevators. No one could figure out why they’d never thought of using them before.

Mom’s voice came from outside Miranda’s door. ” …thanks, doctor.”

Miranda wasn’t sure why, but she let go of Cindy’s hand.

Mom came in loaded with papers and a bag. She was wearing a denim shirt over tan pants, her new working clothes. When she saw Cindy, she smiled. It had only taken a week for Mom to become comfortable with the Bauteils.

“Hey, you two.” She deposited the papers on the foot of the bed and the bag on the floor.

From the bag she pulled out a little branch of dogwood. It was stuck in a little clear glass. Its white blossoms were already in full bloom. “Something to cheer up the room.”

Miranda frowned. “Mom, I’m leaving in a few hours.”

Mom waved her hand. “You can bring it with you.” She sat on the edge of the bed. “I’ll be back in a few hours. I have my second video interview with the firm in California.”

She’d already given two weeks notice at the grocery store. It only took her the previous week to teach herself two modern computer languages. If she got the job, she was going to buy Mr. Murphy’s high-stilted storefront and use it as a telecommuting office. Mr. Murphy said he was glad to finally get the opportunity to retire. He wasn’t going to miss all those stairs.

“I have to talk to Mr. Bradley before tonight’s dinner too.” Mom scooped up the papers. If she got the job, she was going to have the real-estate agent make an offer on the house next door to Cindy’s. Moving across the street would be a snap, but they’d need to buy furniture and house stuff.

The nurse came in. “We need to fit your walking cast.” She handed Mom a piece of paper and smiled at Cindy. “You’ll see her in a few hours.” She smoothed down the fur around her collar. Clothing styles hadn’t quite caught up with the furred people.

“Okay.” Mom leaned over and kissed Miranda’s forehead. “See you in a bit.”

As she followed the nurse out she said, “You know, your fur makes your eyes really pop.”

The nurse giggled. “Why, thank you.”

Cindy watched Miranda’s leg wrappings change color. They both seemed to be getting better about not needing to fill every moment with talking. Cindy looked at her watch. “I should go cook.”

Miranda squeezed Cindy’s hand one more time. “See you tonight?”

“Of course!” Cindy got up and smoothed her skirt. She ran after Mom. “Ms. Smith, can I get a ride?”

Miranda sat in silence for a second. She sighed. She’d needed the downtime, but she’d be glad to be getting back to school. Hospitals were boring.

The wind blew a piece of paper past her window. It danced in a loop, once, twice.

Miranda felt a brief stab of fear. For a moment she imagined it dancing up to her window. A new note from the god.

But the breeze fell away and the paper drifted harmlessly to the ground. It was going to take a little while for her to get used to feeling totally safe too.

She set the book on the side table and stretched down to get her spyglass. Mom had dropped it off earlier in the week to help Miranda fight the boredom.

The adapter she was designing would need to fit both the camera lens and the spyglass’ eyepiece, but it would need a support so they wouldn’t fall apart.

She sketched a few ideas in her notebook.

Cindy and she had plans to build a tree house out in the woods. If Miranda built a mount for the spyglass she bet they’d get some amazing pictures of stars.




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