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I glanced out at the Great Lawn as I sat alone on an iron park bench, trying to be inconspicuous as I waited for the Man, sure that I was sticking out like a sore thumb. I had some bad habits-‘modern habits-‘that are hard to break. Until he returned, I wasn’t free to slide Steamside, as my companions had christened our own slice of late Victorian hell.
The Punks love naming things, including calling themselves punks. It fits some of them. But you have to cut them a break. I mean, we’re stuck in 1890, at least half the time. I’m not sure when the other half is, or if it is a when.
I’m not even sure how many dimensions Steamside really has, but if I think too hard about that I get heart palpitations. The less I think, the better off I am. I think. Even the hardiest psyche sometimes has trouble adapting to the little details of our existence. And there is a hardiest among us, but I’ll get to him.
As I waited in the sweltering August heat, I realized in dread that it was almost my 26th birthday, and that I’d been splitting myself between Steamside and Normal 1890 for the better part of a year. I sure as hell wasn’t used to it. The slide-‘in either direction-‘makes you feel like your skin is being ripped off in long strips. A few of us also get tumbled, a sensation like you’ve taken a big wave and are tossed around in a cloud of sand on the bottom of the surf, not knowing for a minute which direction is up. Nobody knows why some of us get that extra bonus round.
The only thing I like about sliding is that once in a blue moon, the Man, as we call our fearless leader, is around to nod in approval. Once, early on, he even pulled me into his arms and rubbed my back until I stopped shaking. He doesn’t do that anymore. Damn it. If you saw him, you’d get what I mean.
I feel like I’m stuck in a perpetual first day of school, just wanting my stuffed bear and my mommy. No new adventures, nothing to learn, no dragons to slay. I mean that last part literally. We have dragons. And dragonflies nearly the size of dragons, along with less attractive super-enlarged vermin. And every other freaking nightmarish creature you’ve ever seen in a horror movie, read about in a book, or woke over in a trembling sweat. It’s an alphabet soup of paranormalcy. If you’ve thought of it, it lives Steamside. Because, you see, that’s how they got there in the first place. You all are to blame.
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