by Amanda Cast
“It’s not time to wake up yet,” Pandora’s father said. “You have to sleep for a little bit longer. You’re fine.”
“Father?” she whispered and opened her eyes. She was in a white room. No, it was just white space. She was standing on a white floor, but the ceiling and walls were always going to be too far away for her to get to.
“Well, you’ve been missing him, so I guess that’s the form I took.” He plucked at the lapels of his knee length jacket. “You must think he’s doing well too.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, we must be.” Her father shook his head and chuckled. “It is confusing, talking to ones self.”
Pandora frowned and looked down at her arms. They were covered in blood—bright blood. It was cold and sticky though, not hot and warm. Why was she covered in blood?
“Have you forgotten already? My, my, Pandora,” her father chided. “You never were the most clever child, but you never forgot.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say to your daughter,” Pandora sulked and moved away from him.
Her father sighed. “Look, I’m not your father, Pandora. I’m you.” The figure that was—or had been—her father changed and shifted into a taller, more elegant version of herself. “I’m your subconscious mind. You don’t listen very well to me, but right now your barriers are down.”
“What are you talking about?”
The second Pandora rolled her eyes. “Geeze are you clueless,” the subconscious said. “Listen to me, Pandora. I’m you and you’re me, only I’m the part of you that you want to ignore.”
“I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m smarter than you let on. Or we’re smarter than you let on. Look, I know that this is hard for you to comprehend. Believe me, we got some time for this to work, you know? You tuckered us out pretty badly trying to save that twit.”
“Who? What?” Pandora said and looked down at the blood on her hands. Why was she covered in blood? “I don’t understand.”
“You see, we both know that’s a façade,” the subconscious said. “You really are not as dumb and clueless as you put on. Why do you repress me? Oh, I know why. You have mommy issues. Let’s make mommy leave us alone. Pretending to be a retard will achieve that. You’re a bit well spoken for a retard.”
“You’re a bit mean to be me.”
“You kick people’s asses for fun, Pandora. You’re nice, but you’re not perfect. I mean, we’re not perfect. You need to let me out to play more. You really are going to drag our life down.” Subconscious made a face of irritation. “Why did you save her, Pandora?”
“Because it was the right thing to do,” Pandora said uncertainly.
“Sure it was, and you didn’t want a murder on your hands. You’re a good kid. I appreciate that. It kept us out of trouble for so long. Then you had to go and screw it all up. What were you thinking listening to Uncle Lindal? Now you’re strapped with four dragons and a dead weight cousin.”
“Is this a test?” Pandora said after a while of letting her own words sink in
“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t,” the subconscious said. “You are really boring though. You could have woken up in a forest of wildflowers and you chose this white plane of existence. You’ve no concept of power and strength.”
“I don’t think I like myself,” Pandora said dryly.
“Well, I could have told you that,” the subconscious said. She gave a laugh and this shifted into Serene. “Perhaps this will make you more comfortable? I know, I know… we both know really… she always gets what she wants. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“No, not really,” Pandora said. “And she doesn’t always get what she wants. She wants to be home with Uncle Lindal, but she can’t.”
“Well, that’s her own fault isn’t it?” A chair suddenly appeared and Pandora’s subconscious sat in it. “If she wasn’t so greedy and selfish neither of you would be here. You wouldn’t have been disowned either. Funny, isn’t it?”
“I could have behaved differently. Don’t blame Serene because I was disowned. It isn’t her fault.”
“Well, you know it was Serene or your mother. You knew the instant you found out she was your cousin. You had to make your choice. Are you proud of it?”
Pandora rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t regret it. I’m thankful to have the hatchlings. It is rewarding in a way.”
“They have only been alive for a few days. Not even a week. They were hardly eggs for a month. You can’t really expect to know all that they could be,” her subconscious chided. “You were always so subborn in your ideas… So stubbornly stupid, so stubbornly slow. It’s why you have problems with Magic. You’re like a rock, a very light rock… no… wait. You’re… well, I don’t know. You just glide along and roll away, but your shape and form never seem to change, but you do change slowly. I guess in a way you are like a rock in a very strong current. You just roll passed everything though… you never hit the rocks around you.”
“What is your point?” Pandora asked.
“You mean what is our point?” her subconscious asked, wagging a finger at her. She didn’t act much like Serene. “Ok, fine. I get it, I’m your subconscious.” She went back into her Pandora form. “You know I’m not Serene. What in the world do we see in her anyway? She’s just a greedy, selfish thief.”
“She’s more than that.”
“She’s family, right. You hold such stock in that one little thing. Just admit it already. She was adventure. You were always so deadpan. Always so boring. She was bright and shining and you could sense her power even if you didn’t know what it was. You were drawn to her adventure.”
“That makes no sense,” Pandora said, jeeringly deadpan—if that was possible.
Her subconscious threw up her hands with a disgusted howl. “I understand it even if you don’t. You’re like a moth. And she’s the flame. Understand?”
“Yes,” Pandora said. “You should know that. You’re my subconscious after all. You know everything. Why are we even participating in dialogue?”
“Because we’re bored, really,” her subconscious admitted. “I’m sorry I’m being such a bitch…I know I shouldn’t say that.” She rolled her eyes. “It’s just… you’re so hard to talk to sometimes. You just always give that stupid look. Even to me! Why do you shut me out all the time? We’re supposed to be a team.”
“You’re the subconscious, remember?” Pandora asked. “You’re supposed to be what entertains me when I sleep. So far all you’re doing is making me irritable.”
“Oh, Dragons forbid you get irritable. We can’t have that, now can we?” Her subconscious rolled her eyes.
“I think you’re starting to make my head hurt,” Pandora warned.
“Augh! I can’t talk to you at all, can I?”
“What are we? A married couple?”
“We might as well be,” her subconscious said scathingly. “You never listen to me… You forget everything I say. You’ll probably forget this too.”
“Well, so far you haven’t said anything worth remembering,” Pandora told her.
“I just didn’t want to get too serious right off. You have a lot of sleeping you’ve got to do.”
“Well, you’d better hurry up and say it or those barriers you talked about will be the first thing to come back up.”
Her subconscious glared at her. “You would do something like that. Oh well, I guess here it is. A lot has happened since you passed out.”
“How long have I been out?”
“About twelve hours, I guess. Topaz feels guilty or something and won’t leave. I think I heard him snap at Serene when she tried to make him leave. Anyway, he’s on the bed with us. Nice of him, isn’t it? We broke his wing, by the way.”
“Oh,” Pandora said with a frown. “I figured as much.”
Her subconscious shrugged. “Anyhow, he’s here and Oola and Mack have been by to visit. Chloe is already out and running about, but there has been a bit of a change in her. I can’t really explain it through since I can’t see her. Our eyes are closed.”
The figment of Pandora’s imagination tapped her lips thoughtfully. “Oh, Mack didn’t sound well. The healers were whispering about it too, but we couldn’t quite make out the words.”
“They actually came to visit me?” Pandora asked, genuinely pleased. She felt her cheeks flush with pleasure.
“Now that is emotion,” her subconscious said victoriously. “Doesn’t it feel nice? Much better than anxiety.”
Pandora frowned at the image of herself and her subconscious shut up. “You don’t have to gloat about it. It’ll only make things worse.”
“I’m sorry, but you are so boring. And dull. It’s nice to see you happy about something. I mean, you didn’t even get properly angry at the hatchlings. You just played the part, went through the motions. You didn’t feel anything. It was… depressing.”
“I think Serene was upset enough for the both of us.” Pandora gave a wry smile. “They must be more like Serene than she likes to admit. Imagine, a thief trying to tell her children not to steal.”
Her subconscious laughed. It was a good belly laugh. Even Pandora could feel it. “You’re right. Man, you can be funny if you wouldn’t pretend to be so slow witted all the time. You should think about that.” Pandora’s subconscious ignored a meaningful glare from her conscious. “Anyway, when I take over you’re so much more cool. Remember Hetia? Yeah, you know that was all me. Your conscious couldn’t even come up with that sort of contempt.”
“I’m not that dull,” Pandora murmured.
“Well, not anymore. I must admit for all my badmouthing Serene has been good for you. You’ve opened up a lot. The hatchlings haven’t been bad for you either. I mean, you had a genuine girlish excitement about them. I don’t think you’re doing too bad for a mother either. Especially for a blind sided twelve year old that knows nothing about dragons.”
“You don’t know anything about them either.”
“On the contrary,” her subconscious said looking smug. “As a Speaker we instinctively know things. Didn’t know that did you, you big fat conscious face.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked very much like a twelve year old who won he battle of wits.
“Whatever,” Pandora said. “Well, if you’re so smart, then tell me what it is you’re talking about.”
“I don’t know why I should tell you.”
“I’ve got a very good reason and it starts with a ‘b’,” Pandora said threateningly.
“Oh, all right. You’re such a party pooper,” her subconscious said. “Anyway, for one I know that Topaz is a form of earth dragon—a stone dragon, to be exact.” She gave Pandora a sideways look. “Of course, you don’t know what that means. It means they’re stubborn little shits, is what it means. Topaz has a notion in his head, and it’s going to take a lot of wearing to get his mind to change. Like a rock, got it?”
“I hear they change quick under heat and pressure,” Pandora said, vaguely remembering something about that in a geology lesson.
“Well, yeah, but you don’t have what it takes,” she said haughtily.
“Now I know where Star gets it,” Pandora said.
“Whatever, Star never gets to see me.”
“There was that time with Hetia as you so boldly pointed out earlier,” Pandora reminded her.
“Oh yeah, there was that,” she said with a satisfied smirk. “Anyway, not important. I know that Star has more magic abilities than you guess at, and really, I’m having a hard time figuring it out myself. She’s keeping it firmly to herself just like you told her to. Emerald is an Underdark dragon. That means she’s primarily a war dragon, but since she’s not bred I can’t be sure on how sturdy her stock is going to be at this point. She’s yet to decide really.”
“What do you mean, yet to decide?”
“Well, you see, she’s a Septum dragon. That means she was born out of the Septum scales. There is a story about that but I don’t understand it, and I think the term is septum. It’s just names to give you, really. Otherwise the concept would be too confusing for you. The conscious is so limited.”
“Will you just say it all ready?”
“Oh, like we don’t have time,” her subconscious said blithely. “Anyway, it’s hard to say. They aren’t as limited in some ways and they’re more limited in others. Rubio is obviously very strong in fire, but that isn’t all that he is. He could easily be mistaken for evil. For that matter so can Emerald once they realize what she really is. I don’t think they do. Once the students find out they could be cruel and cold towards her because of her situation.”
“But Emerald is the most mild mannered one,” Pandora said loyally.
“Of course she, because her role model is. That is you.”
“Well, yeah, she said as much.”
“I’m trying to tell you things. Are you going to let me talk? The questions are mostly rhetorical anyway when they’re asked. Got it? That was rhetorical.” Her subconscious straightened up, feeling important. “So, together they should be relatively unstoppable. Also, you’re going to live shorter than the average human. You’re like a wax candle and you’re burning too hotly.”
Pandora frowned. “So what, I’m going to die young?”
“Well, you won’t feel young when you die, but you will die with considerably less years around you than an average human. You’ll probably die when you’re thirty or forty. Forty if you’re lucky. I mean, we. Man, that is morbid. I tell you what.”
“Well, you don’t have to sound so amused,” Pandora said crossly.
“Yes, well, it is kind of funny. I mean, we’re going to die when we’re so young. It’s insane. Well, if it makes you feel any better, Serene will only live about ten years longer… maybe. She’s burning too hot too. She’s burning hotter than you and she uses a lot of magic. She doesn’t feel it now, but it will really start to wear on her when she gets older. When she hits thirty she’s suddenly going to crash, and each spell she casts is going to suck years out of her. Fun huh?”
“I wouldn’t say as much,” Pandora said. She had a sour taste in her mouth, or perhaps it was more of a feeling since she was sleeping.
“Of course you wouldn’t. Now what did I say about the talking?” She tapped her lips again. “You see, we’re all burning too hot. There is only one thing that will help us live longer.”
“And what is that?”
“To soul bond with one of the dragons, of course,” her subconscious said. “You see, most Speakers don’t get this kind of pep talk from their subconscious, I bet. If they did we’d have a lot more people bonded to dragons. Immortality and all.”
“Immortality sounds crappy,” Pandora said.
“Well, the hatchlings have to deal with it. Why shouldn’t you?”
Pandora scowled. “I’d rather die in thirty—or even twenty—years than live forever.”
“I think that’s selfish,” her subconscious said. “You know why I think that’s selfish? Because dragon young have their parents for at least fifty years, and then they still are taught how to use their powers by them. So, if you’re not going to take care of them, you’d better find some good dragons who will. You can’t do that in this school.”
Pandora eyed her subconscious suspiciously. “Are you sure this isn’t your way of justifying running away. We can’t run away while the hatchlings are so young.”
“Well, no, we have to wait a few years. They won’t be able to fly for some time.”
“I don’t know if I trust the mages enough to stay that long though,” Pandora said thoughtfully.
“Well, you shouldn’t. It’s very much a gamble staying just as much as it is leaving. You have just as much chance living and dieing, but with one… well… it’s hard to say. I don’t trust their motives anymore than you do, but at the same point, neither of us knows what their motives are.”
“Well, we can guess.”
“But a guess is still just a guess,” her subconscious reminded her.