Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dvorak Classic: Chapter Thirty

Dvorak Classic
Chapter 30 (or, "It All Begins Again")

Yesterday’s Episode: Mac and Carissa saved the world, but at a cost.

    They left the Saint Arbucks -- as it was technically closed -- and went over to Columbus Circle. The night was now normal, and busy as New York always was. The old lady -- or who used to be the old lady -- cleared her throat. “I assume Mick caught you all up on Carissa and her role in all of this?”
    Everybody nodded.
    “Well, when Carissa left our world for limbo, as she had to do in order to initiate Operation Colemak, she left a void in this world. There was no longer a guardian in this realm. And so, a new one had to be chosen.”
    Carissa could see where this was going. “You mean...”
    “I was sitting at the Saint Arbucks when your friend came in,” the lady explained. “She was scared but intent on finding me, as evidenced by the way she was making a scene. She asked if there was any way we could stop Dvorak. I told her there was only one possible way we could, and then Ariana arrived and said that they had initiated Operation Colemak. In order to keep the power equal, and to not let Dvorak get an advantage in our world, I made Isabel the new guardian. The guardians have the power to create whatever they want to in limbo, and Operation Colemak usually works by both guardians coming together in that limbo. That’s why Carissa had to go to limbo to rewrite the world. Isabel became a guardian who could also rewrite this world, but Isabel only had one wish: that Carissa’s notebook, and every request in it, take hold in this universe.”
    “Wow,” Mac said, putting his arm around Carissa, who merely looked straight ahead with a blank look in her eyes.
    “Any limbo can only be opened when somebody is sent there,” the lady continued to explain. “So we waited as long as we could, watching the wreckage Dvorak was causing. Then, shortly before midnight, Ariana sent Isabel to limbo, and on her way there, she invoked her powers. That pulled you all out of limbo and activated Carissa’s list.”
    “And got her stuck in there,” Carissa said, very quietly.
    The old lady sighed. “She said she would do it. I told her the consequences of her actions. But she wanted to make sure you got back to this world, Carissa.”
    “She said...she said to drink lots of chai,” Carissa said, losing her voice to the tears that were coming.
    “Now that Dvorak is gone, a new replacement will have to be found for Dvorak,” the lady explained. “We’ve never had to do this before. In that case, we need to leave for our dimension as soon as possible.” She stood up from her bench and walked over to Mick. “I am so looking forward to all of the paperwork. Are you ready, sweetheart?”
    “There’s only one more thing I would like to say,” Mick said. “And this concerns Carissa. We have mentioned before that everybody in limbo ceases to exist on the fated day. Do you remember that?”
    Carissa could only nod. “Get to the point,” Mac said, cross.
    “It has also been said that those people from the other world who are qualified enough can become members of QWERTY instead of disappearing. That’s how Sarah here and I became members. Do you remember me saying this?”
    Carissa caught her breath, and for the first time, she smiled. “You mean --”
    “We can’t tell for sure, but we’ll know once we return to our own realm. But I’m pretty sure your friend is qualified.” Mick took Sarah’s hand. “We must go now.”
    And just like that, they did, as if they had never been there to begin with. The world was born anew at midnight, and as far as Carissa knew, it was missing only one soul.

    Mac met Carissa the next morning, a Monday and the start of the school week, at the Saint Arbucks where it had all started. Everything was normal again, although he did notice that, for whatever reason, the prices were cheaper than he had anticipated. Perhaps Carissa’s decisions about their world reached farther than he knew.
    Carissa smiled when she saw him. Both were in their school uniforms, and Carissa still had her duffel. “Any word on the book?” Mac asked as they sat down, him with a mint tea, her with her chai.
    Carissa shook her head. “None, but I don’t have it. I bet it’s back in the library where it belongs.” She sighed. “I wonder if Isabel is going to still celebrate her birthday next month. I mean, I know I’m talking like she still exists --”
    “She does,” Mac said. “And she’s probably asking Sarah and Mick lots of questions right now. Things like, ‘do they serve chai in this reality?’ Stuff like that.”
    Carissa laughed. “I hope so.”
    “Well, this is also the first time that Dvorak has been beaten. QWERTY isn’t playing by the rules anymore, so if anybody can find a way to come back to this realm, I guarantee it’s Isabel. Even if it’s just to get some chai.”
    “Yeah, but nobody would recognize her.” That was true; while Isabel’s parents were still lifelong friends of the Lopezes, they had all of their sons and daughters save for one, and to them, it had always been this way.
    “You and I remember her. And your parents, and Peter. He called, by the way. He’s gonna take today off school. I think staying in limbo for all that time can do a doozy on your brain.”
    “Funny,” Carissa said as she rolled her eyes. “Do you think we can still have a party for Isabel?”
    “Of course. With lots of red balloons and everything. We’ll get her presents, and when she finds a way to come back, we’ll give them to her. Even if it takes years.”
    Carissa forced a smile on her face. “Even if it takes years.”
    “Now.” Mac leaned on his hands and stared at Carissa. “Was that line about the chai the only message Isabel had for you before trading places?”
    Carissa blushed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
    “Don’t play games with me. I heard what she said. And I think it’s a noble pursuit.”
    Carissa could only stare back in shock. “You mean this is...a DTR at the Saint Arbucks?”
    Mac looked back in confusion. “What?”
    “Define the relationship. Are we friends, or are we...” She waved her hand around in midair. “You know.”
    Mac waved his hand around in midair as well. “I think we’re much more than this.” And he leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “We’ll work it out. And I don’t want to work it out with anybody but you.” He reached into his wallet and pulled out a card, showing it to Carissa. “And you know why.”
    “I do,” Carissa said with a smile as she looked at Mac’s new Social Security card with his name on it. “Your mother has hers, too, I assume?”
    “She does. Applying for schools now will be so much easier.”
    “As long as you go to school here in the city, I’m game.”
    They smiled at each other, then downed the rest of their drinks and headed to school, where nothing had changed. Everybody was running around, getting to their classes. “You know,” Carissa said as she put her duffel in her locker, “I’m never going to be able to see reality the same way again.”
    “That’s because it’s not,” Mac answered with a smile. “You changed a lot of things when you wrote that book. But it’s not just you. I think everybody has a little bit of power, if not to change the world, then to at least change theirs --”
    Mac’s philosophical speech was interrupted by a glomp hug from behind Carissa. Carissa tried to move away from her attacker, and when she finally did, she didn’t recognize the girl. She was blonde haired and brown eyed, with fair skin and a pink backpack on her shoulders. Her version of the school uniform included knee high penguin socks...socks that, if Carissa remembered correctly, weren’t allowed. Unless that was something she had written in the book?
    “Girl,” the blonde haired girl said, “you didn’t wait for me this morning! What’s up with that? We were doing so good with our record, too, and I was kind of hoping we could keep it going for three weeks, but no, you didn’t show up at the front of the school like you always do, and I tried looking for you at Saint Arbucks but you may have been sitting in the back and I had to get to class --” She stopped and saw Mac. “No way. No way! Carissa Lopez and Mac Taggart, the school genius!” The girl squealed. “I can’t believe it! You should have told me! I didn’t know anything about this. And you know I know everything about you! Why didn’t I hear about this, like, last week! When did you guys DTR? Omigosh, wait. Were you doing that this morning?”
    Carissa had to put a stop to this, sooner rather than later. Whoever this girl was, she was making her head spin. “Hold on just a moment. Are you new here or something?”
    The blonde girl looked hurt. “Seriously, Carissa, what was in your chai this morning?” she asked.
    Mac put his hand on Carissa’s shoulder. “Carissa...”
    “No, Mac.” Carissa had had enough with reality for the next millennium or so. She turned back to the mystery girl. She wanted answers, and she wanted them now. “I’ve had a long weekend that you wouldn’t even believe. I just want your name, and then I’ll leave you alone and you should do the same.”
    “Uh, all right. I’m Isabelle Plotnikov, your bestest friend, like, ever. We’ve lived in the same building since we were kids and my family moved to Washington Heights from Brighton. And we went to the same elementary school. Spirit sisters. Remember?”
    And it all made sense. For what was missing in one world needed to be replaced, and balance needed to be kept. Carissa wasn’t sure if this Isabelle would ever understand, but she knew her Isabel would.
    “Yes,” she said. “I remember.”

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