Yesterday was a write-off, but at least there was a write-in today. Still behind par but at least I’m writing!
I checked my watch; there was still an hour before I needed to meet up with Vanessa. Not long enough to head out of town but longer than I could waste just walking around.
I made my way to a park – the weather was clement, so I decided I could use the time to start organising my notes. Information was good, of course, but I needed to come in with a coherent narrative to string it all together.
Half the problem was that nobody was quite sure how much of our history belonged to us and how much had been retroactively added when the mystics had arrived. The upheaval brought on by the arrival of dozens of new intelligent species had disguised a concerted and deliberate effort to scramble most of the world’s reliable historical accounts – the only surviving records that most authorities trusted were the hardcopy archives. Sifting through them had proven to be a tedious, frustrating process, as each document brought its own voice to light, with no agreed consensus between clashing accounts. Memory was also unreliable, outside the accounts of ghosts like Sylvia; the merging had mixed up everybody’s recollection of what had gone before.
Historical research was a robust field, as a consequence; my efforts with Sylvia were just a drop in the bucket, as there were thousands if not millions of people around the world working to uncover what facts they could and re-establish a consensus.
It had been a rocky road. Competing schools of thought disagreed vehemently on the sequence of events, the motivations, and even the veracity of major events in our past. There were whole university departments devoted to unravelling the Cold War, the Enlightenment, the world wars…
My field was perhaps less glamorous than many, but it was a critical one nevertheless. The gap between the first and second world wars – reckoned now to be less than thirty years – was the most likely origin of countless social, technological and political revolutions – a few decades of upheaval and change made all the more remarkable by the fact that there had been no major conflict to drive it in the fashion of the later years of the twentieth century.
To make matters worse, the same time had also been an active one in Faerie. Fake memories were full of vivid impressions of wars, journeys and great works of art – and given the astonishing diversity of mystic culture, it was quite difficult to tell how many bizarre accounts were foreign and how many were simply too strange to believe, despite their truth.
“Ghosts” like Sylvia, for some reason, seemed not to have been scrambled. The popular theory was that they were a reaction of our own world to its scrambling; a repair mechanism of sorts, as the world found itself suddenly trying to reconcile two incommensurable pasts. Researchers in the hard sciences frowned at theories like those of course, but teleological explanations carried a lot more weight in a world that had found itself resembling a storybook.
This naturally made her account highly valuable, at least if she had been truthful. There had been a few instances of mischievous shades abusing the near-sacred trust given to their accounts and filling the heads of their interviewers with nonsense, and despite my optimism, I had to be prepared to cross-check Sylvia’s account with the agreed-upon facts as I knew them.
As I sat down on a bench and began unpacking my notes, I caught sight of a group of fairies standing near a pond. They were too far away for me to overhear their conversation, but I found myself wondering what they were up to. Most public gatherings of mystics tended not to last long; the police did not look kindly on otherworldly people, fairies in particular. Governmental nerves were still raw in the wake of their appearance, and even now most mystics still had few if any legal rights. Gathering together in the middle of the city was a serious risk, given how thoroughly surveilled it was.
My suspicions were uncharitable, perhaps – fairies had as wide a range of interests and social expression as humans, so for all I know this group was simply feeding the ducks. Still, they were certainly alert; there was always one pair of eyes directed outwards and the first sign of blue uniforms triggered rapid dispersal. One of the group, leaving by the path I was seated in front of, acknowledged me with a cool nod.
I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them, despite my mistrust; they certainly hadn’t wished for the ostracism they were subject to, and while they were often deceitful and unpredictable, I had never heard of them behaving any more maliciously than humans had been known to.
Life wasn’t very fair, I thought.
Vanessa hadn’t arrived when I got to Solomon’s, so I grabbed a table and sat down to wait. There weren’t many other customers, so I ordered a coffee to get the waiting staff off my back. The counter was adorned with the plain green diamond that indicated that this establishment would serve anybody, regardless of their origin.
The staff were all human, of course – inner city places tended to avoid hiring mystics, given most of their customers tended to be conservative, middle-aged sorts – but the tag showed that this place seemed to be driven by more by pragmatism than by prejudice.
Some cities had been seriously affected by the merging, with whole suburbs being transformed or relocated according to whatever logic had been behind the part of Faerie they had overlapped. Some places had simply been replaced by their otherworldly equivalents. Adelaide, however, had survived almost wholly intact.
A more subtle transformation had followed, of course.