The wall-shaking cacophony from the room upstairs ceased. A few seconds later, Daniel, Rene's calico, came barreling down the stairs and settled quickly at Riven's feet with a purr. Which meant that she wasn't too far behind, since she never let Dan out of her room while she was practicing - she even brought the litterbox in from the bathroom. However, it took a couple of minutes for her to finally appear at the top of the stairs, and Riven had picked his book back up in the meantime. When she finally did appear, her descent was slow; she averted eye contact, and Riven didn't push it. Her hands buried deep in the pockets of a grey hoodie, she walked into the kitchen. Riven could hear a cup being filled with water from the refrigerator, and Daniel got up and after a moment and followed the sound. After she returned, Daniel at her feet, she walked over and sat on the couch across the living room from Riven. After a minute of sitting silently, she watching the coffee table with her left foot on her right knee, sipping cool water, he pretending to continue reading but in truth worrying what could be wrong, she lowered her left to the floor, pulled a coaster off of the side table and set her glass upon it, sat up straight and spoke.
"I’m feeling really badly about my music." Riven placed his book to his side on the couch and looked at Rene.
"Really? Well, I’ve told you before, and I stand by it now, that your music is really something special, Ren. I haven’t heard anything like it." A pause, but Riven knew not to continue - that she took her time while formulating her thoughts.
"Thanks, and I know that…Mm, that I should just do what I feel, and that that's what makes art move forward, you know? And that a lot of amazing artists aren't appreciated in their time…so, I shouldn't expect immediate reception to reflect how my art will be seen in the long run."
"But I guess it's…Well, I know it is…hard sometimes. Like, today, we had some time in Music Appreciation, and I had asked Mrs. Sands if I could play the class a recording of one of my songs that I'm putting on my album. And, you know, I figured it would be safe since it's Music Appreciation! So I played it, and, well, you know, it was ‘Cassie's Song,’ and you know how much work, how many hours I put into even mixing it, and I thought I had gotten it just right to, you know, like, show off the really basic instrumental makeup that I used, and how it had been subverted to allow for a lighter atmosphere, and more of, like, a cerebral and introspective feel that's really hard to achieve with those instruments. And, like, I even explained that a little bit to the class, but no one liked it. I mean, of course Jon and Philly liked it, but you know that both of them have made stuff with me before, and that we all share music between the three of us, with Phis and Adsen. The thing that made me feel the worst though was the look that Mrs. Sands gave me. I mean, she's teaching Music Appreciation, and she gave me this look while the song was playing like 'You really wanted to share this?' It really makes me feel like I'm never going to find people that appreciate what I make." Rene used her fourth and pinky fingers to brush aside her auburn hair and scratch her right temple. She had begun tapping her foot unconsciously while she was talking, and, looking down, stopped. After a while, Riven looked up to her and spoke:
"I've got a story from back when I worked with your dad and Oliver at the Foundation. I know that you don’t like hearing those stories sometimes, but would you mind hearing this one? It's one I haven't told before, and I think it might help."
"Sure, of course, if you think it’ll help. Usually the reason that I don’t like those stories is because the Foundation gives me a bad feeling…it just seems like worse times, ya know? Can I turn the lights off though? They're giving me a headache." Rene sat up, walked over, switched the overhead lights off, and took a seat next to Riven, leaning her head on his right shoulder. Riven consciously cleared his throat like he always did when he was about to share a story - it just felt right.
"Well, it was the second year that I had worked in my own labs, which was about seven years before my job kind of became, uh, null, you know, and so I was scrambling around as usual, trying to keep people safe, early, early in the morning. Probably about 5:30. I remember it was a Monday because I was quite excited about one of the items that was in our cache for the week. If I remember correctly it had some element of instantaneous transportation, and those were always some of my favorites.
"So I'm doing the routine scramble, and I'm breathlessly approaching our office, and I notice that the door is ajar, which is worrying because the only other person that works in there is Researcher Milen, and he’s terribly punctual: 7 AM, every day, no exceptions. So, even though I know I may have just left it ajar from the night before, ‘cause in those days almost every night was a late night, I approach cautiously - no, it wasn't silly of me. You need to remember this is pre-CC, and where I was working. We needed to stay alert. So I move very slowly along the wall, and I get right outside the door to peek in, and there's a woman standing in there.
"She's all bloodied up, clothes all torn, panting all breathless, and she's looking all over the place really panicked. She turns, and it seems like she's planning on running out of the room, but she sees me, and I'm deer-in-the-headlights at this point, and she starts rambling about cars. An endless stream of strange comments and negations on the features of cars! 'Cars cannot travel through time!' 'Cars serve people!' 'Cars don't want to find me!' 'Cars are made by people!' And as she keeps talking she starts to calm down, and she gets this ethereal look on her face, of just…pure joy. I've never seen such pure joy, - well, when your father and I saw you for the first time I'm sure it was the same. Well, soon enough her panting is sounding a lot more like sighs of relief. By this time, though, I've hit the button on the inside of my coat that summons security, and I'm sure they were on their way anyways, thinking back - cameras on every corner. She got sedated right off the bat, taken, questioned, and then - I later learned - given some strong amnestics and turned away. I asked for a transcript of the interview, and shared it with Mark and Oliver, and Aunt Zyn too, and they didn't believe it at all, and apparently neither did the higher-ups, or I'm sure we wouldn't have just given her amnestics and thrown her away…Or maybe we would have. Those were strange days…
"She claimed she was from another time. That in whatever world she came from, which she swore was ours, there was an extra-dimensional threat to humankind called cars. That they pervaded the conscious space of all people, that they tormented them, drove them mad. I mean, really incredible, scary stuff. I think I've still got a copy of the transcript in the attic if you'd like to read it. I don't do the story justice. Well, anywho, she told us that she was a mercenary who wielded the power to change the cars with statements on their nature, as long as such statements had a listening ear, but that there was no one left to hear her. She spent many years digging through the ancient, abandoned archives of a group she called 'The Candlebearers.' How she managed to survive that long is left to our imagination. The interviewer never asked. Finally, she finds something, she finds some object that she thinks may help, one of many I’m sure, but this one truly is the one, and, through some interaction, she winds up in Oliver's and my office.
"So…even now, no one believes that this woman was anything but mad. She got her mind wiped. She got kicked out on the streets of a nearby town. And that's how it was. But you know what I think?" A smile made its way across Rene's face in the dim light that came through the door to the kitchen.
"I think so, but I want to hear you say it." Riven smiled too.
"I believe that she saved the world. Existence. I believe that without her, we wouldn’t be here.
"So, what I'm trying to say is that” Riven ran his fingers through his hair, contemplating how to go on “no matter…what some people think, know that you'll find someone to listen to you, to hear your voice, to hear your message. To hear you. You're saving the world, Ren."
Rene took a deep breath and kicked up from her spot on the couch. A smile once again spread across her face. She looked down on Riven.
"Hm." Walking towards the stairs, Rene flipped on the lights. "Do you know when Dad's gonna be home?"
"Pretty soon, I'd say."
"Alright. Thanks, Dad." And with that, Rene ran up the stairs, Daniel in hot pursuit. Riven returned to his book. Shortly thereafter, the cacophony started up once more, and the walls shook a little harder.