Games of Semantics, Part I

(November 11, 2004; I don't like it, so I don't know if I'll bother to write more)
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Meia heard the call a few minutes after midnight; the lights in her room were dim, casting just enough of a glow to forge a score of silhouettes from her possessions. It was neither loud nor soft, working instead through constant, evenly-applied force, but it drew her to the doorway and out into the darkness. She knew who wanted her, and took a moment to choose her form before making her entrance - in this instance, deciding that a tall, broad-shouldered woman with a vaguely feline cast to her strong features would make the proper impression. She swept toward her garden, the scent of frosted dew on the foliage leading her into its centre, as her features rearranged themselves, her eyes growing somewhat cold and completely unreadable.

Coming upon the circle of stones used in previous seasons as a firepit, she sank into a cross-legged position at its northern edge, orienting herself carefully by the distant shine of her porch light and stretching her back more than should have been possible. Though the tensing of her muscles would have displayed the certainty behind her actions to any particularly observant watcher, any others would have been perplexed by her next movement: without warning, as soon as her toes touched the rocks before them, she tumbled forward, hands splaying over the crushed leaves and burned sticks as if reaching...

She stepped through a doorway barely tall enough to clear her head, entering a curiously low-slung and broad chamber. It was a war room in all but name, with a circular granite table dominating its space and a series of strategic diagrams covering the walls, and she treated it as such, lowering her eyelids to half-mast in suspicion. Hoping that the gesture was subtle enough to avoid detection and feeling nervous enough that she didn't quite care either way, Meia elongated her bones slightly more, flexing her fingers as a few feathers, the same shade as her eyebrows, grew to dangle a few inches beyond the tips of her hair. She crossed her hands behind her back and cast an expression of serene expectation across her face, hoping that it sat convincingly atop her cheeks.

As she approached the table, a figure standing at its opposite end - one who had previously been all but invisible against the dark stone wall - detached itself from the shadows, turning to face her. It was a woman, more or less, but her features and form were in such a state of flux as to be impossible to pinpoint. Unlike Meia's carefully-wrought changes, the woman's body seemed to have no set centre from which her alterations flowed; rather, her face played an endless game of elongation and retraction, sharpening and softening, growing recognizeable and completely unfamiliar in various combinations. Meia caught traces of familarity there - the slope of a nose she recalled tracing with a finger in younger days, a pair of lips her own remembered grazing - coming and going with no fixed beginning or end. As they made eye contact, she suddenly understood. Gathering her thoughts around her, she spoke:

"I'm unaware, lost inside your visions... I know you. You're Love." These were not the words she had planned to utter; she clapped a hand over her mouth before her need to maintain a veneer of composure returned, inwardly cursing herself for giving up the only strategic position she had and betraying that she knew the other's identity. Love smirked.

"Who you wanted to see, who you want it to be, for what you needed to need..." Her tones were not musical, not quite, but there was a sweet cadence in her words that immediately reminded Meia of the song she quoted. "Very nice - Smashing Pumpkins, yes? Don't look so confused. Everyone uses cliches when they aren't sure how to talk to me. It won't happen when you get to know me better, but don't worry - at least you default to song lyrics. Sonnets are much more irritating." She rolled her eyes, which shone briefly with the amber undertone that Meia had adored in a childhood friend long forgotten, and stepped forward to wrap her hands around the table's curving edge. "You've tried very hard to avoid me. Why?"

Meia began to speak, but felt the wrong words begin to well up in her throat again, and choked them down before she revealed more than she wished. These are not words, they're only feelings, she told herself. She paused a moment, contemplating, trying to figure out which projected emotion would grant her words that would not betray her position. This was, after all, a game of one-upmanship, and Love's reputation for cheating was well-known. She had not been invited into this place of the mind for no reason, and until she knew the other's purpose, bluffing was the only sensible course of action. So it was with Love.

"I'm always falling down the same hill, bamboo puncturing this skin. Nothing comes bleeding out of me, just like a waterfall I'm drowning in." She tinged her voice with a slight malaise, a few drops of bitterness and a flutter of hope, synthesizing melancholy with a series of notes that ground against each other disharmonically. The other stared at her for a moment, her grin widening, then leaned upward into a back-bending stretch.

"You do not want this? Oh, you're going to be fun, I can tell. You'll give up your secrets eventually, though; everyone does. That's really neither here nor there, though. We have a rather grander purpose to work toward, you and I, and it has shockingly little to do with your nighttime proclivities or your oft-broken heart."

Love reached above her head, snagging a ring dangling from the stone ceiling with one finger and drawing it downward; a large piece of canvas slid into view. Meia glanced at it despite herself, and saw that it was painted to resemble the stars as she might see them from her backyard, each speck glowing faintly phosphorescent like light reflected in a cat's eyes.

"We need to do some terraforming, you see. There's a world up there that I haven't visited, and I figured I'd send someone in my place - someone who has as yet been immune to me, and doesn't feel my presence until I practically shove it in her face - to decide whether or not it's gotten quite half-baked enough for me to show up. You're no Cupid, but you'll do. You're just enough of a chameleon, and it's not like I'll miss you if your soon-to-be new friends like to eat those who vacation on their planet."

Meia stood unblinkingly, analyzing this information in the hopes of decoding whatever allegorical message was intended; a grey checked pattern wound its way down her arms and up her neck without any conscious prompting on her part, blending her form with that of the table and floor and causing Love to snicker. "It wasn't a metaphor, my dear, nor a request you've the option of refusing. I'll bring you home when you're done; just dance around under the night sky in a picturesque fashion like every teenage romance ever filmed, and I'll come get you. I'll also laugh, but that's part of the joy of it."

***

She awoke in the midst of a gleaming silicon forest, arms wrapped around her head to shield her eyes from the stray grains of sand which whipped by on the breeze. Wait. Wait. Waaiiit just one minute... She unfurled herself and peered around curiously, slowly taking in the sight of both her surroundings and her current self. Well, shit.