Monday, April 22, 2013

Dvorak Classic: Chapter Twenty Two

Dvorak Classic
Chapter 22 (or, "Washington Heights Goes Missing")

Previous Episode: Mac, Carissa, and Isabel got a few more answers and a clearer goal: find the person named Dvorak, and he will fix everything, or else reality will settle and Carissa will lose those she loves.

    Carissa woke up the next morning to the smell of burritos. She dragged herself out of bed and made her way through the apartment.
    “Morning,” she muttered in English, knowing that her mother would get after her. There were times when her mother expected her to use Spanish only in the house, as a way of keeping tradition alive.
    But surprisingly her mother didn’t give her grief about it today. “Buenos días, mija. Do you want to help me bake?”
    Carissa always liked making food with her mother. Her mother would tell her stories of her parents and the land they came from so long ago while they mixed ingredients like their ancestors had done. But Carissa was strangely silent today, and her mother noticed. “Are you all right, mija?” she asked.
    She nodded. “Just stressed out. Tell me again about the chickens Abuela used to catch.” And while she heard a story that she could certainly recite by heart, she zoned out and thought to herself.
    Did God have anything to do with this? Sure, she went to Mass like every other good girl did, but that didn’t mean she necessarily believed everything. Her mother was devout, but her father let her do what she wanted. And she wasn’t a bad girl. She never stole and she did what her parents told her, and she never had any issues with people. She didn’t even really hang out with guys...unless you counted Mac, whom, despite him being ridiculously white, her mother seemed to approve of.
    So while she didn’t see herself as a sinner, she didn’t see herself as a saint either. Except that she was being treated as such by these mysterious people in QWERTY, who wanted to have her find this Bible because it had a clue in it as to where this all powerful Dvorak person was. And if she found Dvorak, then they could get Peter back and fix this whole problem. The question she really had was: why her? If God was listening and not just a tradition, then what was His plan?
    “Mama always says it’s not so simple,” she thought to herself as they finished the burritos.
    Carissa’s mother let her go to the corner store to get some soda pop, and together they watched her mother’s favorite telenovelas. Carissa didn’t usually watch them -- they were more Isabel’s cup of tea -- but if she was doing it with her mother, then it was worth it. After normal school hours, she went to go call Mac -- but instead, he called her first.
    “Do you want to meet up at the Saint Arbucks in Midtown?” he asked. “The safe one that Isabel found for us, near the library. Only if you’re allowed.”
    Carissa checked with her mother, and it was fine as long as she took her phone with her and checked in often. Carissa agreed, and took the 1 train down to Times Square without any issues. Mac was in the Saint Arbucks waiting in the back, at a table, when she arrived. When she got closer, she could see there was something else waiting for her: a chai.
    “Been a while!” she said as she took it from the table and, sitting down, sipped it.
    “I just got a normal one, nothing special,” Mac said. “I should have asked you if you wanted it a particular way. I think you like yours with extra espresso in it.”
    “Oh, no, this is fine,” Carissa said, suddenly flustered. She took another sip of chai to try and calm down her nerves. “As I said...been a while.”
    “It has,” Mac said, which didn’t calm Carissa down at all. She wound her legs around her chair and leaned her arms on the table, suddenly realizing that there was much less space at this table than she had anticipated. Which also meant that if she leaned forward any more, she would quite be in Mac’s personal space. It was somewhere she wasn’t sure she wanted to be yet.
    “So,” she said, now that she had her chai, “why did you call me out here?”
    “Do I have to have a reason?” Mac asked. “I just figured you’d want to get out of your apartment after a long day there. I mean, I was bored all day, but then again, I was at school...”
    Carissa was no longer listening to what Mac was saying. Rather, she was focused on what he was NOT saying. If he wasn’t giving her a straight answer...then what was his motive? Did this involve Dvorak? Or didn’t it? Did it involve her? It had to, otherwise she wouldn’t be here. And Mac was here. She felt the world spinning around her and thought, for a fleeting second, that maybe the world would skip again while she sat here. But no, there were no apples. Saint Arbucks sold bananas, but they clearly weren’t the same.
    So were they going to talk Dvorak? Or wait, Isabel wasn’t here. Was this personal? And he had bought her a chai. Was this him getting to know her better -- or even a “define the relationship” talk at the Saint Arbucks?
    “Uh, Carissa? Are you okay?”
    Carissa took a deep breath and sipped her chai. “Why are we here? Honestly? I need an answer before I get another headache.”
    “Oh, okay. I mean, I wanted to see you...but I was also trying to think of a way that we could get the Gutenberg Bible back. We know what district it’s in. We just have to find a way to search the area and then get out without being caught by, I don’t know, tens of thousands of people. People who are all then going to blame us for stealing the Bible when we clearly didn’t. So what I was thinking was that we could stop time -- you could do it by the apple thing -- and then while everybody was frozen we could look for it in Union Square. The book seems like it’s outside the effect of the time slips. Otherwise, none of us would be here right now.”
    Carissa nodded, her DTR thoughts long gone. This was strict business. “So you’re saying that if we can just stop time for a little while we can finally get this straightened out.”
    “Right.” Mac paused for a moment. “I just want to make sure you’re okay with that. You’re the one in charge of this, Carissa. You’re the one who has been chosen. Whatever that means, it also means that I can’t make these decisions for you.”
    “But I’m glad you’re helping,” Carissa said. “I’m not sure where I would be if it wasn’t for you. Still lost and without a clue on all of this Dvorak stuff, that’s for sure.” She was quiet for a moment. “I know that I didn’t really know you before this started...”
    “I hope that we’re able to stay friends,” Mac said, and at the word ‘friends,’ something in Carissa wilted. He continued: “You’ve certainly brightened up my days here, and I want you to see this through. For all of us.” And then he added, “And I’m not just saying that because apparently I might disappear if you don’t find Dvorak. A lot of things might disappear if you don’t find Dvorak, including your parents and best friend. I am committed to helping you find him in any way possible. And then, after this mess is said and done, we can still hang out. And eat your mom’s churros. Seriously, those things are that good.”
    Carissa remembered that her mother had wanted her to call when she had gotten to Saint Arbucks. “Hang on a second,” she told Mac, then pulled her phone out and dialed it. It only took a couple of seconds for her to hang up. “Okay, that’s weird.”
    “What’s weird?”
    “My phone just said that my mama’s number was not in service. Hang on, let me go outside where the signal is better...”
    And she did. And it still didn’t go through. “Can I try your phone?” Carissa asked as she went back into the Saint Arbucks.
    Mac nodded and handed over his much simpler phone to her. She knew the number by heart; it had been their number for years, and her grandparents’ number long before she herself had existed. But again with the “this phone number is not in service” message.
    “This has me worried,” Carissa said as she handed Mac’s phone back to him. “Can we go home now?”
    She took her chai to go as they left the Saint Arbucks, hurrying over to Times Square. They took the next 1 train headed toward Washington Heights, which arrived in the station right as they got there. Carissa sat down for a minute, exhausted, and sipped her chai as the train thundered through the tunnel. “I’ll feel better once I get home and find out that my parents are okay,” she said.
    “I’m sure they’re fine,” Mac said, although he couldn’t be completely sure. This was a new world, after all, one where he didn’t make the rules. The girl who sat next to him did.
    They made it as far up as 145th Street, and then the train stopped running. “This is the last stop,” the conductor said, and everybody else got off of the train as if it were normal.
    “Excuse me,” Mac said to the conductor as they got off the train, “will there be a train behind this one going to 181st? You know, one that goes to Washington Heights.”
    The conductor gave them a look that made Carissa’s heart fall. “Where again? This train goes to Morningside Heights, not Washington Heights. There is no such place as Washington Heights.”
    Carissa was completely speechless, so Mac took her chai from her so it wouldn’t be spilled. “What’s up ahead, then?”
    “The Inwood Land Preserve. Goes all the way up to the tip of Manhattan. By law no trains or buses or cars can trespass over or under it, so your best bet is to walk. It’s not too far from here.” With that, the conductor shut the car doors and marked the train as out of service.
    “The reality slips are getting worse,” Mac made notice of aloud as Carissa tried not to freak out more. She finally spoke, and it all came out at once.
    “If Washington Heights doesn’t exist anymore, then Isabel doesn’t exist anymore! Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? Does the school still exist? Will this reset itself tomorrow? Did Mama and Papa go to the same place Peter went? We have to get them back!”
    “We will. I promise.” Mac had no doubt of that now.
    “But...” Carissa took a deep breath. “If I can’t go home now, where am I going to go?”
    Mac had only one solution. “Until we figure this out, until we get your family stay at my place.”

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