Chapter 5 – January 14C

Who commands them, sir? The Bird groaned, grabbed Rex’s arm and pulled him toward the tree line at the edge of the field. She hid behind a wide trunk as Hamlet and the other characters approached.

“What do you mean, it’s too late?” The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras. “And since when did you memorize Shakespeare?”

Rex turned to her, shrugged. “I didn’t memorize anything. The words, they’re just coming to me. Rune and I — ”

UUUUU-HUH. The Bird made no attempt to disguise the dismay in her growl. “So which character is Rune playing?”

Hamlet addressed Rex, who replied with his lines of dialog. The Bird remembered this was a short scene, and Rex’ character would only appear again on stage at the end, with no lines. Maybe that’s all she needed to do, let this performance play out until the end, then she and her friends on the Bark Bay High School fencing team could return to their world — no, with Double-J interfering like he had, there was no longer any certainty this performance would end according to the script.

God buy you, sir. Rex began walking away.

The Bird stopped him with a sharp whisper. “Where are you going?”

Hamlet had stepped a few yards apart. How all occasions do inform against me!

Rex looked back, making sure he was not seen before making eye contact with The Bird. “I’m exiting, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Sure he that made us with such large discourse

She stepped out of the tree line, into the field. “You’re supposed to be finding me, remember? And now, you have.”

Examples gross as earth exhort me

She pointed in what she instinctively knew as the direction of the castle. “So why don’t we go back, find the room you and Mr. Jacobs were hiding in, and let’s all figure out how we can get back — ”

Rex raised a hand, silencing her. “I’m not going back.”

Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument

 

Chapter 5 – January 14B

The Bird waited for Fortinbras (Go softly on) to march past with his company of soldiers, leaving the captain alone in the field. She did not wait for Hamlet’s arrival, running up to the captain from behind, grabbing him on the back of his shoulder, spinning him to face her.

“Rex, what the hell are you doing?”

She was familiar with the expression she saw on his face, having seen it multiple times during practices with the Bark Bay High School fencing team. It was a look that betrayed his uncertainty whenever challenged by Double-J, questioned by Annie or Rune, quizzed by Mr. Jacobs. The Bird had come to realize that the tall teen’s hesitancy was not caused by lack of knowledge — his answers when they came were always definitive, revealing none of the uncertainty shown earlier on his face. What caused him to pause was not what to say, but how to say it. She saw a flash of anger in the eyes that looked down on her, while words of apology formed on his lips, and guessed his answer would come from some emotional ground lying in between.

“We were looking for you.” The Bird was relieved to see that she was no longer invisible, at least to him.

“Well, you found me.”

Good sir, whose powers are these? The Bird rolled her eyes at the sound of the voice behind her.

Rex lifted his chin, looked past The Bird. They are of Norway, sir.

She stomped her foot on the grassy field. “Will you knock this off?”

How purposed, sir, I pray you?

“Sorry, it’s too late for that.” Against some part of Poland.

Chapter 5 – January 14A

Instead of following her friends into the woods, The Bird walked down the bank of the wide river, once again guided by her instincts. She didn’t know why this was the best way to get to the next scene — she remembered now, Annie had been right, the gravediggers were next, they bury Ophelia just a few lines after announcing her death — but she nevertheless knew she was heading in the right direction.

She kept her head down, keeping the dense mist from fogging her eyes, paying attention to the stones she kicked in front of her. Then suddenly, there were no stones to kick. Only tall grass at her feet. She looked up, then behind her — the river and woods, they were no longer in sight. Perhaps concealed behind the thick mist, but The Bird did not care enough to verify by stepping backwards. Nothing about what had happened had made any sense since she and her friends on the Bark Bay High School fencing team had suddenly appeared in the middle of “Hamlet,” the performance they had been watching. If she had just now suddenly been transported from the river to what looked to her now as a wild, wide field — that would have made as much sense as anything else that had happened to her.

And suddenly, there were soldiers, marching past her, their leather armor seeming to soak in the moist fog. The Bird saw a motion at the front of the line, a man waving his arm, motioning another to come towards him.

Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king.

She recognized the line, from Fortinbras, the Norwegian prince who threatens to invade Denmark throughout the play.

You know the rendezvous.

But this scene, it was from earlier in the play, before Ophelia’s death. How could . . . but then again, why not? She watched with disinterest as the Norwegian captain nodded in acknowledgement of his leader’s command.

I will do’t, my lord.

Her disinterest disintegrated in an explosion of disbelief that defied her acceptance of this absurd situation. She knew that voice.

Lessons

About the same result as usual. One win in six pool bouts. Came at the very end, so at least I can say that I didn’t roll over in disappointment (really should have gotten more touches than I did, and there were a couple bouts where I had a chance — but my execution just wasn’t there). There was no play-in round for the DE, so I lost right away.

Joked about how I got my one victory, making the day worthwhile. But I want more from this sport than to not finish last. I want more success, but that’s not going to happen until I fence better. And I’m not going to fence better unless I see these tournaments as learning opportunities, unless I respond by examining what went wrong and working on making the necessary correction.

So what lessons do I take away from today? Once again, patience. Got caught in the bad habit of flying at my opponents if I saw my footwork preparation wasn’t getting the results I was looking for. If I see it, go — but if I don’t see it, don’t just go anyway. Number two — parries. It’s a very weak part of my game, and getting better at this simple defensive motion (the adjustment could be as minor as taking a step back) will create opportunities for myself. And a third is the mental side of the game. I’m still starting these tournaments wide-eyed and nervous, instead of anxious and excited, and I think it’s those nerves which lead to my impatience.

So much to work on. But as I keep saying, I’m in this sport for the long haul, and I’m not afraid of hard work.

Chapter 5 – January 13J

“I’m sorry.” Mr. Jacobs’ words sounded more like a command than an apology, The Bird half expecting him to follow with but you need to move on. She looked back, saw Annie kneeling, her face red and streamed with tears, at the side of the corpse.

“Was I naïve?” Annie remained staring down at the lifeless body. “Was there every any real chance — ”

“I don’t know.” Mr. Jacobs, kneeling beside her, put a hand on her shoulder. “I don’t think any of us knows how we’re supposed to be acting right now. You acted bravely, tried to do what you thought was the right thing. For what it’s worth, that’s the only thing that matters to me.”

“Yeah.” Butch had walked up to her as well, kneeled on the other side, put a hand on her other shoulder. For a moment, it looked to The Bird as if they were trying to push her down. “We seen the whole thing. Where’d you learn to do that swimming thing, where you were carrying her.”

Annie sniffed, wiped her nose with the back of her right hand. “Red Cross.”

“Oh! And that thing where you were breathing into her mouth — ”

“Same place.” She stood up suddenly, almost seeming to shrug off their hands as she rose, and in the same motion turned away from the corpse. “I’m assuming they’ll come for her — they bury her in the next scene, right?”

“More or less.” In their lack of recognition of her words, The Bird confirmed she was still invisible and inaudible to her friends. She watched them walk away, Mr. Jacobs recommending they return to the castle. As they approached the woods, Annie took a step closer, another, to Mr. Jacobs, who offered his broad arm across her shoulder, which was eagerly accepted.

Sunday

Two local tournaments this weekend, and no, there’s no way I’m going to compete in back-to-back days (even consecutive weekends would be a challenge). Was originally going to compete in today’s tournament, but when my coach pointed out the strength of today’s competition (several A and B fencers) and the relative lightness of tomorrow’s (seventeen fencers, only one D), the choice became easy for me.

Haven’t fenced on a Sunday yet. Am curious to see if I have more energy than I usually do, dragging my body out of bed on a Saturday right after a full work week.

Goal for tomorrow is simply to compete. Want to get off to a better start (need to warm up aggressively), and hopefully use my stamina to my advantage.

Chapter 5 – January 13I

The Bird caught a glimpse of her reflection in the dark water of the pool, the waves having finally settled from Annie’s failed rescue attempt. She marveled at the ability to see herself, despite being still invisible to her friends. Most of them, anyway. Double-J seen her, spoken to her. Somehow he had crashed through the barrier that prevented her from interacting with the people from her world.

She looked down at her reflection. A toad broke the water’s surface, caught a fly, splashed down again, concentric waves emanating from its reentry. She watched her face disappear in the ripples, then form again as the water’s surface became inert once more. And what she saw surprised her.

She was smiling. Sweet and genuine. Looking only at her reflection, she reached with her right hand, brushed the thin black curtain of her hair away from her face, the better to see her smile, and watched with delight as her expression blossomed, the white of her teeth showing on the reflected surface.

The Bird had never experienced this feeling before, taking delight in her reflection. Looking into a mirror, the act hadn’t repulsed her but had always left her dissatisfied, for a reason she could not articulate. Until now. She suddenly realized that there always seemed to be something missing in her reflection, she was always looking for something that wasn’t there, would only solve the mystery of her face when she stumbled upon the secret she’d been seeking.

The mystery had vanished. Seeing herself take simple joy at the sight of the toad’s conquest, allowing herself to forget for a moment the absurdity of her situation — she saw in her reflection the face of a person who had the strength to find a solution, who needed nothing other than her native abilities. She saw, for the first time, the face of a person who had all she needed.

Chapter 5 – January 13H

Annie threw herself on top of the body she had retrieved from the pool, began pumping the sternum vigorously with both palms. The Bird wished she could somehow stop her friend from continuing to pursue what she knew to be a pointless task. From the moment she and her friends on the Bark Bay High School fencing team had entered this world, they had been trapped by the logic of the play’s structure. This body which had been Ophelia, was doomed; nothing Annie could have done would have kept her from plunging into the pool, from drowning.

Annie had moved to the head of the body, was now blowing air forcefully into dead lungs. The Bird wanted to touch her friend on the shoulder, say she was sorry, that Annie wasn’t to blame because the truth was (for some reason she didn’t understand but nonetheless knew with conviction), The Bird was responsible for bringing them into this world. But her friends weren’t able to see her, hear her; she hadn’t tried touching any of them yet, but without —

ANNIE! The Bird turned in the direction of the cry from her right, while noticing her friend had not flinched from her position over the body. She saw Mr. Jacobs running in their direction, followed by Butch. She reflexively called to them, waving her arms, then threw her arms down to her sides in frustration as they raced past her.

Seeing Annie’s determination to ignore Mr. Jacobs and continue her hopeless struggle, The Bird found she couldn’t watch any longer. She walked along the shores of the pool, kicking stones (was she not invisible to them? could her friends see the stones flicking magically?) as Mr. Jacobs pulled Annie off the body, the teen girl screaming in pain and frustration.

Chapter 5 – January 13G

KRACK, the log under Ophelia’s feet disintegrated, she fell then slid into the pool with an almost supernatural alacrity, as if she were being pulled into the black water by a hidden vortex. Annie ran forward, screaming NO!, but the body of the Shakespearean character had already disappeared under the surface.

The Bird called to Annie, forgetting she was still invisible to her friend, but the athletic teen’s actions made it clear that words wouldn’t have stopped her anyway. Wild determination in her eyes and pony-tail flying behind her, she stepped briskly into the pool, dark water splashing noisily in front of her once, twice, then she dove, her hands in front of her knifing into the water, her body looking like a torpedo beginning its strike.

The dark surface  of the water swirled, dense fog hovering above. A moment later Annie emerged, gasping and leaning forward, her face contorting in agony, her right arm emerging from beneath the surface and exposing the face of Ophelia, her skin already a deep shade of sickly blue.

Transfixed, The Bird watched from the bank of the pool as Annie swam with one hand toward the shore. Her feet finally touching ground, Annie lifted the limp body of Ophelia completely out of the water, then carried her out from the pool, past the gravelly shore, and finally dropped her down with gentle firmness into a small field of tall grass.

Chapter 5 – January 13F

Ophelia drew back from Annie’s touch at first, then stopped herself. Smiling to herself, she took one of the wild flowers she’d been holding, offered it to the athletic teen.

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance –

“Thank you.” Ophelia did not seem to acknowledge Annie’s response, as she handed her another flower.

And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

The Bird sensed Annie’s impatience, as she accepted the flowers with growing reluctance.

There’s fennel for you, and columbines.

“Come with me.” The Bird couldn’t tell whether Annie was pleading or demanding. Ophelia did not respond. “I can help you. I don’t care what’s happened, don’t care what he’s — done to you.” Definitely pleading now.

There’s a daisy. After handing the flower to Annie, Ophelia began walking backwards, along the edge of the pool.

“I can get you out of here.”

Ophelia looked down, walked onto the end of a log lying on the gravelly bank. The log’s other end was submerged in the black water. Ophelia took a step down the log’s length.

“You can’t — ”

Ophelia’s head shot around suddenly, her face bright with delight. She made eye contact with The Bird, before turning her attention to Annie.

Sweet ladies, good night.