Christopher sits in his stone chair facing a young woman with long loose tresses of auburn hair. Only she’d never call herself a woman. She’s a lifer, thank you very much and at the moment a lost one. She sniffs at the mists of the Cauldron with distaste.
Pausania: Honestly, can’t you adjust the background here?
Christopher: What would you like to see?
Slightly curved sandstone pillars rise around Pausania and Christopher. The two of them are sitting on a floating terrace under a magenta sky with the occasional crystal drifting by to twinkle in the rosy air.
Pausania relaxes into her chair, made of vines and something like a cross between bamboo and cedar.
Christopher glances down at his own seat to see it’s the same.
Pausania: Much better. Ah, I remember when my lover took me here. I was as wide-eyed as Phaedra at the time.
Christopher: Where are we?
Pausania: Calliope III, my poor child. No one has taken you here? It’s one of the most relaxing planets in the Intergalactic Democracy. Much better than Semele. Everyone goes to Semele, but every girl should come here as well.
Christopher: Well, I’m not exactly a girl, so I’m not sure if I should. It does look interesting, though.
Pausania: Wait, what? (She shrinks back from Christopher the same way Phaedra did.) What are you?
Christopher: I’m Christopher. We’re actually in the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, our scribbler’s blog. Err, a place between worlds, err, universes on the web. Sort of. It can be Calliope III, though, if you want it to be.
Pausania: A Cauldron? A place between universes? (She tightens her grip on the arms of her chair.) Are you some forgotten godling from Ancient Earth come here to make mischief? Are you Dionysus?
Christopher: No, I’m not Dionysus. (He considers her words.) I suppose as Happily Ever After I could be considered a godling. Perhaps. I’m not trying to make mischief. I’m only here to talk. Phaedra was here last week.
Pausania: Phaedra?! What have you done with her?!
Christopher: Nothing! We just talked. She disappeared after we spoke, the way all guests do when they’re done talking here.
Pausania: Is that so? (She narrows her eyes.) Make a lot of guests disappear, do you, Happily Ever After? Am I next?
Christopher: In a way. Once you’ve finished talking, you’ll return to your story.
Pausania: My story? (She raises an eyebrow.)
Christopher: Your universe. Wherever you were before you came here.
Pausania: Where I was was home. Phaedra just walked out on me.
Christopher: She mentioned that.
Pausania: She did, did she?
Christopher: Yes. She said she missed you.
All the snark seems to run out of Pausania. She slumps in her seat.
Pausania: Godling from another universe, I’m about at my wit’s end. You call yourself Happily Ever After? What happily ever after can I have after the things I said? I regret them, yet I wonder if I wasn’t meant to say them, giving Phaedra a chance to say everything she couldn’t. Not until I was cruel enough to give her an excuse to.
Christopher: What did you say?
Pausania: What I thought I was supposed to. What I thought was true. Now I’m no longer sure. Of anything. I just want to find Phaedra. I want to talk to her.
Christopher: She’s probably on her way to a symposium? She really wanted to go.
Pausania: (She buries her head in her hands.) That’s the last place I want to go. (She lifts her face, staring at something only she can see. Or someone.) Only if Phaedra is determined to enter the predator’s cluster, I can’t let her go alone.
Christopher: You’re going to this symposium, then?
Pausania: For Phaedra’s sake, yes. (She lets out a strained groan.) Here’s hoping I don’t regret this.
Christopher: I hope you don’t either.
What happens at the symposium? Will Pausania regret going? Find out at…
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