Author's Notes: Written for the sga_remix. Remix of Day One by James.
Quotes from the letter are directly from James' original story. The rest is my rather twisted imagination.
Immeasurable thanks are owed to Munchkinott, who told me frankly what she thought of my first few versions. Anything good in here is down to her. The rest is all my fault.
On the shelf sits a shoebox, so old that the lettering on the side, once gold, is a mere trace of the colour, clinging to the sides. The words are now marked more by the absence of ink than its presence, outlined in a darker green where the sun has not faded it away.
Dívčí boty – červená. 33.*
The corners are ripped and worn; the lid, placed carelessly on top, has slipped to the side, and inside lie childish treasures. A stone, worn smooth by the river and veined whitely all the way through. A feather, still perfectly curved and dark blue. A photograph of a smile, gap-toothed and joyful.
The colours are dulled by time and the dust that has drifted in. The pebble has lost its lustre, the feather its shine. The photograph has faded and the corners of the letter curl, yellowing and brittle as dust, towards the sun.
Dust also fades out further the words already faded by time.
... I am so far away...
No fingerprints mar that perfectly smooth layer, and beneath it the words spider across the page, washed out to the colour of old blood.
There's a spider on the shelf next to the box. Time has taken its toll here too. It's nothing but a husk, black and shrunken, a sad remnant to go with the others. Even the web it wove is nothing now; a few ripped strands of silk, blown apart by the breeze, hang there, sticky and limp.
The room is empty; the box, untouched.
...my daughter, my joy...
The window on the west is cracked and part of the pane is missing. It rained overnight, and a puddle lies drying on the sill.
It rains a lot; the paint on the sill is peeling, curling up in grey flakes, the wood underneath dark and swollen. The winter wind is harsh and whistles through the gap, stirring the slick brown leaves left by the autumn gales.
They flutter slightly, caught by a sudden gust, and then subside into sodden clumps.
The air is musty and holds a hint of damp decay, of temperatures too cold and of too little care. Even the crisp tang of snow hanging in the breeze does nothing to mask it.
...I am far away and that barely tells the distance I have gone...
Another photograph lies on the floor, near the rust blistered radiator. It hasn't been sheltered from the rain blowing in, and the colours have washed out. The film is buckled and mildewed, curling up at the corners. The distortion gives the man in the picture a slightly startled air.
It's only a fleeting impression, gone as the breeze stirs that too, shifting it slightly across the bare floorboards. The corner flickers and the light glimmers wetly on the surface. All the detail has gone now, and all that is left is an imprint, the image reduced to shade and light, shapes and lines. He's nothing now but a shock of hair and a pale face and what might be glasses amidst the water stains. Nothing else is clear. He could be talking, he could be drinking. He could be smiling.
He could be aeons dead.
...we might not survive our first night here...
There's a sound, quick and sharp, and a sleek, brown head scents the air. The rat squeezes through a gap in the skirting then pauses and eyes the room beadily.
Nothing stirs. Nothing sees it. Nothing screams or throws, so it darts across the linoleum floor, claws clicking, until it is safe in the shelter of an upturned chair. It rests there for a moment, still eyeing the room, whiskers twitching.
When nothing moves, it turns its attention to hunting for scraps long gone. What fell from the table has been eaten and what remains has grown hard on the plates, like painted-on portions in a dollhouse's display.
... We are pioneers of the sort dreams are built from...
The rat pauses in its search and raises its head, whiskers once again twitching. Its body quivers and fur bristles as it rises onto its hind legs, forelegs coming together in a parody of an old man, nervously rubbing.
Something spooks it, driving it back to its hold like the terriers of hell are on its tail. Perhaps it's the tang that hangs in the air now but isn't winter snow. Something heavy, metallic; like static before a storm. As subtle as the sound that starts; a faint edge on the breeze like the faint charge in the air, something not so much heard as sensed.
It builds though, slowly, from a low hum of unease to a high pitched, complex whine full of strange harmonics.
The plate on the table rattles. The box stutters on the shelf.
An aged letter flutters in the sudden breeze, and the words shift beneath the dust.
There are wonders everywhere waiting for us. If we can survive our first night we will be ready to unlock all the mysteries that await us.
The photograph is blown across the floor until it rests against a sodden, paper doll, as dusty and withered as the rest, hair blown across its small and wrinkled face and hand outstretched. A rusty stain marks where a heart used to beat.
The wind finally wins and pulls the paper free from its shoebox. It floats and dances, fluttering low to skim shrunken features before being caught in an updraft and pulled towards the window. There it sticks in the wetness against the glass, and the corner flickers in and out of the broken pane.
The brown ink finally smudges; it runs and smears until the meaning is lost forever.
Outside, blue death screams across the sky.
* Girls' shoes. Red. Size 33.
Summary: A box of childish treasures in a room of dreams gone awry.