“So do you ever think about it, Bri?” Gigi asked her twin brother, Brian, over tea. She spoke not in Aldershire’s common tongue, but in a homemade dialect she and her brother had been using to communicate with each other for as long as they could remember, even before they learned to converse with others.
“Think about what?” he asked, smearing lemon curd on a scone with a silver spreader that had a scalloped edge. It looked delicate in his hand, which was now even larger and stronger than their father’s own hand.
“What will happen, later…I mean, legally, we’re grown already. Are we always going to be here, with Mother and Father and Uncle and the tentaclebeasts?”
“Well of course I’ve thought about it. But do we really have any other options?” Brian seemed a little more snappish than Gigi thought the situation merited.
“Why shouldn’t we?” she returned somewhat petulantly.
“It’s not as if we’re exactly well-groomed for life outside Thousand Candles. We haven’t been schooled with other children since we were little. We almost never leave the grounds anymore.” He chomped down the scone in three mouthfulls. “Why are you asking anyhow? I thought SPOT was the summit of your ambitions, just like Mother and Father.”
“I don’t know, really.” She sipped some tea—not her favorite peppermint, but instead a simple black tea, which was a more tentaclebeast-friendly option. For some reason, the absence of her favorite mint was more frustrating than usual at that moment.
“In all honesty, Gi, can you truly imagine yourself as a housewife? A mother? After all this?” Brian asked pointedly. “Could you really just set it aside, stop travelling to other worlds, forget about tentaclebeasts, ignore the deaths around you?”
“Of course not while people are still dying! I would never do that.”
“Then does it really matter? We’re here until we see it through, and Uncle and Mother and Father are all with us, just as committed as we are, if not more.”
“I don’t think they expect to see this end in their lifetimes,” Gigi said quietly.
“Gi,” Brian said, patting her arm gently, “what’s brought this about? It’s not like you, to be so morose. You’re my sunshine sister, remember?” The gesture vividly reminded her of Inky, and the comforting presence of other tentaclebeasts, when she was Interfaced.
“I don’t know. It’s almost as if…as if it weren’t even my own feeling. As if it were someone else’s feeling, coming from my own mind.”
Brian looked at her carefully, taking in her words and weighing them in that quiet way of his. “Have you been Interfacing more than usual?” he asked after a moment.
“Not really? Or no you haven’t?”
“Well, Inky and I were out on a walk, but not Interfaced. It’s been awhile since I did more than just training.”
“Hmm…What I think is this. We feel things, from the other tentaclebeasts, and from each other, when we Interface, as if we were all in the same pool and we felt ripples from all of them. You’re right—it’s not your own feeling, or at least not entirely. I think someone else didn’t feel so good about being here, and that feeling latched on to doubts in your mind, and magnified them.”
“That’s quite insightful…but still…” Gigi trailed off.
“But still?” Brian asked, after waiting silently for a time.
“It just makes me think all the more that we don’t know what we could try, if we weren’t here. What we’d be like.” She shook her head. “But you’re right. Neither of us is going to leave while there are still attacks. We can’t.”
“I’m with you,” Brian told her firmly. “So let’s chin up and enjoy our tea already, before it gets cold!”
Gigi smiled and they proceeded to do just that.