Spoiler Alert: This chapter contains spoilers for AllySimBuild’s Alienated and Ny’s Whisper. Before reading this chapter, I suggest catching up on those two stories first, in particular, this chapter from Alienated, “Jogging Isn’t An Escape.”
Roots and Sprouts
This afternoon, our home was filled with family: Octy’s mother, Xirra; her niece, Whisper; my genetic brother, Emmanuel; his genetic great, great, and etc. granddaughter, Shésti; and Pops and Octy. My sprouts and my roots.
Whisper and Batuotuo just left. Xirra and Shésti left a few hours ago. Octy is sleeping, and Pops is lying on his bed with his eyes open. Being around Xirra and Shésti tends to do him in–all that emotional input.
I know how he feels.
I’ll be processing this for days, weeks, months. Maybe all my life. It was… amazing. My family. I am left with snippets and scenes and the tired feeling of too much happiness to contain in a moment.
When Whisper and Batuotuo arrived, I could feel their anticipation.
I have people for you to meet, I said to them both, inside. Family.
My voice choked when I went to introduce Xirra to Whisper.
“Have you ever felt that you’ve walked into an echo?” Xirra laughed. “That’s how I feel! Genes are incomparable data-storage devices!”
“It’s great to finally meet you. Unless you knew me as a baby,” Whisper said through a smile. “In which case, it’s nice to meet you again.”
“Of course I knew you as a baby, silly!” Xirra said. “I was Situ’s doula, like any good sister. I watched you emerge!”
I wasn’t sure how to tell Emmanuel about Shésti, so I just blurted it out the first opportunity I had.
“Another guest is here. Another of my pops’… what-do-you-call-it. Another one of those… She’s… well, she’s related to your sko, your original. She’s like a great, great, times-a-hundred, granddaughter. Or, something. This is weird. I know. Anyway, she’s here.”
“Related to Batuotuo? Legitimately a derivative?”
I explained, as best I could, that Batuotuo was her lineage.
“She’s eager to meet you.” That was putting it mildly. She was like a groupie about to meet the lead guitarist. “Get ready,” I warned. “Shésti is a little intense.”
Emmanuel and Shésti talked for a long time. Xirra joined them, too.
When I went up to make sure everything was going OK (Shésti can be a bit much.), they were in the middle of one of those earnest conversations that Xirra, and my brother, too, for that matter, are so fond of.
I left them to it.
Downstairs, Pops was getting acquainted with Whisper. I’ve discovered Pops’ Achilles’ heel. He has zero resistance to the charms of a beautiful woman. Shésti, Panda, and now Whisper–He’s completely overtaken.
“I love all the cozy nooks you have in this house!”
“I’m glad you like it,” Pops said. “It’s called Pauper’s Style! We were so broke until Xirra helped us out that we never had funds for anything more than little couches, little corners! But I think it’s become our aesthetic.”
Octy got up from his nap.
“People!” he said. “Hi, peoples! Hello.”
“Octy, this is your cousin,” I told him.
“Hi, Whisper,” he said. We had been talking about her for weeks.
“Hi, Octy!” She smiled warmly at him. “You’re a lovely indigo color.”
“I’m a grape,” he replied. “You’re berry pretty!”
Whisper giggled. “Why thank you! You’re a cute one, Octy. Berry cute.”
“Uh-uh. Grapey cute.”
When Emmanuel joined us downstairs, he had that brow-furrowed look. I suggested he join me for a walk along the river path.
We walked in silence.
“What did you think of your great, great, great granddaughter?” I asked when we reached the plaza.
“Intense was an understatement. You could have better prepared me,” he said, grinning.
“She is beautiful, though,” I said. “She looks like you. Pops is quite smitten.”
I told him about the baby that wasn’t. “It was pfura,” I said. “It prevented the baby from coming to term. I would have liked to have had a genetic sibling that had come from my pops.”
Emmanuel nodded. “That’s an interesting idea, to have a sibling that genetically ties you to your dad.” He seemed lost in thought, but immediately resurfaced. “If he’s taken with her, will he not ask her to stay with him? If so, there is a possibility…”
“Oh, heavens no!” I laughed. Clearly, my mogoto had not yet gotten to know Pops. “He and I are different that way,” I explained. “He has no need for a soul-mate and hardly even knows what to make of the champagne feelings inside of him!”
“In that case, is what I’ve suggested offensive? I apologize, if so. My intention was anything but!”
“Not at all, brother!” I laughed. His earnestness is endearing. “Do you have anyone you can talk to, mogoto?” I asked. He seems so inexperienced with the easy exchange of hearts and minds.
He shook his head. “Other than Mom, and recently Whisper, no. I do not have time. I’m studying as much as mentally possible. I have goals and dreams and plans!”
We took a selfie: “To Dreams and Plans!” we yelled.
Octy pounced on Emmanuel the moment we got back home.
“Are you my brother?” he asked as Emmanuel lifted him up.
“Relatively,” he laughed. “And essentially so!”
In a quiet moment before supper, Emmanuel joined me in the reading nook.
He sighed and began speaking softly. “I want to know, what do you do with the bubbles inside you? I find them intimidating. Immobilizing.”
“You mean the champagne feelings? Like what my pops feels around Shésti?”
He nodded quickly.
“I look longingly at a beautiful man with hair that is pleading to be messed up, who would look absolutely adorable in a checkered apron, but who is, alas, both oblivious and entirely unavailable, and when it gets to be too much, I shout, ‘YOBASKA!’ at the top of my lungs, and then I go for a jog. So. Maybe Pops’ approach isn’t so bad after all! Do you have someone who makes you feel bubbly?”
“I do,” Emmanuel replied through a laugh. “And we truly are mogotogo, as I jog when it’s too much for me as well! I don’t know if she reciprocates. I’ve been to afraid to ask. But is asking the best course of action? Have you asked this beautiful man about this checkered apron?”
“No. He wanted me to teach him inside-talk. He’s from here, you know, from this planet. And he learned so quickly, and I thought that all we exchanged was mutually understood. And then he got married. To not-me. Pops says on this planet, you need to say the words aloud. Inside-talk doesn’t cut it. So, if I had known, I would have said to him, long, long ago, that he had the cutest smile, and that… Ah, well. Waters and bridges!”
“Mogoto, my hearts hurt for you!”
“Ah, it was ages ago! There are other floppy-haired cuties, right? But what about you? You could start slowly. Drop a little hint. Or even drop the whole enchilada! KaBOOM! See if your world explodes.”
“I have to say, the two of you look quite good together. Something I’d paint if I had enough skill.” Whisper said as she came to pause in front of us.
“Thank you, darling,” I vamped. “I inherited the looks, and he the brains.” Emmanuel squinted at me.
“You’re very welcome.” She gave us a peculiar look. “I think I’ll go for a jog around the neighborhood.”
“Funny! We were just talking about jogging, weren’t we, mogoto?”
Emmanuel nodded. “We were. For the record, mogoto, you inherited everything.”
“Emmanuel, don’t sell yourself short,” she paused. “I’ll find you guys later.”
Emmanuel waited until Whisper left for her run, and then continued. “You are the positive-pull. I have no doubt you’ll draw someone to fulfill your standard of ‘floppy-haired male.’ I think I’ll drop the enchilada,” he said under his breath.
Xirra came in to say it was time to wash up for supper. Emmanuel and I, like brothers, washed our hands in the same sink, sharing the bar of soap.
He spoke softly. “Why did you write only to Whisper? Why did you not write to me, to tell me I was cloned by the rebels? That we were supposed to live together again? To invite me for a visit? Hearing these things from her, and not you, wasn’t easy for me. The frustration has subsided, but I’d like to understand your logic.”
I had to reflect. For me, there were no boundaries between the three of us. We were a triad, connected through Situ, Warrior, and the rebels’ plans. What one of us knew, the others would know.
“When I met Whisper at your pool party, I pledged that I would share everything that I learned that concerned her. My connection with her deepened when I met Octy’s mom. Much of what Xirra shared with me concerned Whisper directly, and so I felt it imperative to relay to her. To tell you the truth, it never occurred to me to write you. This all happened before I met Shésti, and you and I are so connected, mogoto, that everything I know feels to me like it is something that you know, too.”
He smiled as he listened.
I continued. “I’m unskilled. It’s like that problem with Mr. Gorgeous Apron. I assume that because I feel it all joined inside of me, it’s all joined outside, too. Forgive me. I need to learn how to do more than inside talk.”
“In my dreams, Batuotuo seeks Baxini’vre, so I think we have always been like this: you draw me in. I will do better to reach for you in the future as well. There’s no need to ask for forgiveness, you already have it in addition to my thanks. Whisper is around me, our parents are coupled, but we had become strangers. Your letter made her speak to me.” He glanced around and then spoke quietly. “She’s the enchilada, mogoto.”
“Woot!” I shouted. “I totally ship it! Have lots and lots of little babies, OK?” I really said that. I am so rude! But chances are, I will never have children, and the idea of my brother’s beautiful genes blending with the genes of Situ was almost more than I could bear.
“Septemus,” Emmanuel scolded. “I’m confiding in you!”
“Sorry not sorry!” I laughed. “I made taco casserole for lunch. Now I’m wishing I’d made enchiladas!”
He sighed. “I regret everything that’s transpired in the past minute…”
I laughed so hard. “Clearly you’ve grown up an only child! But I will be a good brother. I will let you suffer your shyness and reticence, while I snicker in the background! Only don’t wait too long! You don’t want somebody named Raj to swoop in while you’re sitting in the corner picking at a fruit salad!”
“I eat fruit salad every day!” Emmanuel’s eyes widened. “You really think she’d be snatched while I construct the enchilada?”
“Look,” I said, “next to Shésti and Panda, she is likely the most beautiful person to walk this green earth. You’d be a fool not to make mad love to her on the train home.”
He nodded. “I hear your argument, mogoto. Though I’ve never met Pandora, I understand the point you’re proving. But I’m not sure I have it in me to ‘make mad love to her’ on the ride home… My biggest concern is this: do I care for her because she knew my story and remained sitting on the bench, or do I care for her because I am attracted to females and she’s the only one I bother to interact with?”
“Does it even matter? If you love someone, then all questions are silenced.”
“The other reason may be that she sees me as an original, not a copy. Not Batuotuo, but just Emmanuel’s soul. That’s how I feel as well, that I am not Batuotuo, just Emmanuel inside Batuotuo2.0’s body.”
“Ah. The enchilada has already been baked, and now, it needs only to be served. What is love, my brother? Love is looking into the eyes of the soul. Nothing more is needed, ever.”
“Love is looking into the eyes of the soul,” he repeated. “Nothing more is needed, ever. I understand. The third reason is the one I should value and base my decisions from.”
“OK,” I said. “Now, I have something very important to ask you.”
He hummed a calming tone. “I’m happy to provide an answer.”
“Take a look at this. Do I go with the purple theme or the tiger stripes?” I showed him two blog themes I was considering for my new secret project.
“Mogoto,” Emmanuel grinned. “You know I’m partial to purple.”
We carried our conversation back into the living room.
“What do you intend to do when you grow up?” he asked. “When you finish with school and become a man? I’ve been thinking about the future, myself, and I am curious to know what you intend to do, as Septemus.”
I explained how, up until very recently, this was a point of pain for me. “What I desired to do,” I told him, “in my heart of feeling, was to return and fight, in anyway that I could. But Xirra tells me that I cannot do that. It would risk too much. The Kfvico’kyastorr cannot know that I–that any of us–survived the crash. So I am prisoner of my fate.”
This was how I had seen it until my trip to the desert. But there, I fell into the embrace of this planet. My fate is here. I asked him about his dream.
Before Emmanuel could answer, Whisper came through the door. “You two are still talking?”
“We’ve been talking about you, darling!” I teased.
Emmanuel shot me a disgruntled look.
“I’d hope not,” she said, and her periwinkle cheeks flushed rose. “There are far more interesting things to talk about.”
“Well, yes. Like enchiladas.”
Whisper laughed. “Food?”
“Nurturance. Food, love, same difference.”
“Secret, the very idea that you are less interesting than food is absurd.” Emmanuel turned his attention to his brother. “Nutrition and romance are hardly a proper simile!”
“Okay then. I’m going to check on Octy,” she said. “Don’t let me keep you from discussing me, enchiladas, and your dreams for the future.” Her eyes sparkled playfully. “You know where to find me if you need me.”
We continued the conversation in inside-talk. “Your dream, brother,” I prompted. “You were saying? Before we were so delightfully interrupted?”
“Medicine,” Emmanuel answered briefly. “What did you mean by ‘return and fight?’ If you cannot do it, than I should do it. Just as before. Baxini’vre wrote words that he could not speak, for whatever reason, that Batuotuo spoke them for him everywhere he could. This is a brother’s duty to his mogoto, no? If Emmanuel is capable, he will help Septemus in any way he can.”
“No,” I said. “First, it wasn’t that Baxin’ivre couldn’t speak. He could best serve by writing, by teaching. And Batuotuo served in the way that he best could. Second, you are not Batuotuo. I am not Baxini’vre.”
“I apologize for my assumption. Honestly, I only know Batuotuo’s half of the narrative. My sentiment remains: I wish to help accomplish the things that you cannot. What would returning to fight for the rebels entail? What would I have to become?”
“This is a conversation for the rebels. For Shésti and Xirra. If you want to be recruited, they are the recruiting agents.”
“Did I hear my name?” Shésti said. We had switched back to talking out loud. “I’ve been looking all over for you, Batuotuo!”
“You have?” Emmanuel asked. “I apologize for not being more present, Shésti. What may I provide for you?”
“Do you think you could give me your T-shirt?”
“Shésti! I said. “That’s a highly inappropriate request!”
“If I were to comply, it would be a cold walk home.” Emmanuel shot me an urgent look, proceeding to speak inside my head. “Though, would that improve the the enchilada’s appeal?”
Shésti surprised us both by answering inside, “Enchiladas? Oh, I’m starving!”
Emmanuel shook his head. “I’m afraid I need to retain my shirt. It belongs right where it is. Sincerest apologies, Shésti.”
Octy has decided that Whisper is the best cousin. He wouldn’t leave her side, chatting on merrily, oblivious to the marks of grief carried about her eyes. I could feel a shadow behind Xirra’s smile, too, and I didn’t have to wonder whom they’d been talking of all afternoon.
“Sweet Octy,” she said, “you are lucky to live in such a colorful place. It reminds me of where I live. Colors make everything better. They comfort the soul, didn’t you know?”
“I like stei, thari, fotli, steithari, tharistei, tharifotli, fotlithari…” he went on and on, combining colors. Xirra joined us before he reached to four-color combinations.
“So, byu, I’m sure you hear this all the time, but you look just like your mother. Are you musical, too?”
Whisper nodded, a smile spreading on her face. “I am. I sing and play the violin!”
“Here’s a song we used to sing all the time when we were little:
Shésti, situ, situki,
Baska xiipayukī .
Wind, spirit, air
We fly without a care–”
“When I was little, I used to sing this song!” Octy interrupted.
Yada, yada, yada!
Yada, yada, CUTIE!
Boska, paboska, PUPPY!”
“Porcupines like that song best!” he announced. “And strawBERRIES!”
“Porcupines, strawberries, and Whisper. The song has a great tune, Octy, though I have no clue what you sang!”
“I don’t, either, Whisper! And I know Vingihoplo!” Pops said.
Whisper laughed. “He’s got a secret song, then. One meant only for him to understand…”
“It’s for the pagotogo!” he said. “I sing inside like Sept!” And he closed his eyes and hummed really, really loudly. “Can you hear that?” he asked.
“Yes!” we said.
“Louder?” he asked.
“No!” we said. But he hummed all the louder, until we all joined in, singing-inside, Octy-style. I think we hummed loud enough that all the pagotogo here, there, and everywhere heard!
My brother, my cousin, my pops’ secret flame, they gathered the dishes and carried them into the house. I stayed behind.
Octy only fussed a little when Xirra scooped him up and carried him in for bed.
I watched them all file into our home. The light faded. The stars came out. I looked for the far star. It didn’t beckon me. How could it, when everyone I love is here?
When at last I went back inside, I looked in on Octy. Whisper sat at the foot of his bed while he slept. Maybe one day, I will look in as she sits at the foot of the bed of her son, my nephew. One can dream. On Whisper’s face, all trace of grief had left, replaced with the soft light of home. Maybe two can dream. Or, knowing my mogoto, maybe I should amend that to three.
Whispannuel. Emmisper. Whemmasper. I ship it. The whole enchilada.
Author’s notes: You know those times where the Sims are such great actors that all you do is chase after them with your camera and notepad like a crazed paparazzi? That’s how I felt when shooting this chapter. Or maybe, these stories we write really are their lives, and so they are not acting at all…
At any rate, having Emmanuel and Whisper visit my game was delightful, and writing this chapter with Ally and Ny was even more delightful! So grateful for the opportunity to braid together our tales… or tails (take your pick!).
I’m giddy! This is the penultimate chapter, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude! Vadish, friends and readers! 🙂