I wasn't sure the sort of talk to which Amy was accustomed, so I was starting to get a little concerned about the stream of profanity coming from the bedroom. "Hey, Dad, we have a young lady present," I called from the couch, but he made no sign of hearing. The muscles in my legs complained fiercely when I got up from beside Amy to go ask him again, and I remembered the urgency of our situation. I knew what it was like to grow increasingly drained during a long stay in Aphter, and I did not relish the idea. Amy looked positively miserable already, her eyes blood red.
"Any luck, Dad?" I asked, walking into the bedroom. The drawers of the dresser were all pulled out and emptied onto the floor and the bed. Unfolded shirts and underwear, unmatched socks, belts, gloves papers, pocket knives, keys, handkerchiefs, books and various other assorted junk was strewn about.
"What?" he snapped, glancing back. "Oh, no, damn it all to hell, where is that book!" Dad was never the most organized of men. "Ah shit!" he yelled in disgust, throwing an empty drawer against the bathroom door and sweeping by me back into the small living room.
"Maybe we should watch our language a little in front of Amy," I suggested, following him out. "I'd hate to return her corrupted to her mom."
"What," he scowled, diving into the closet and tearing out piles of junk. "Oh," he said, turning to me and remembering himself for a second. "I'm sorry to be so coarse, ma'am," he said, sincerely, "but it's a bit late to change that now." His managed to lowered his tirade to an angry mumble as he returned to work in the closet.
"It's okay," said Amy, sliding down to lie with her head on the arm of the couch and closing her eyes.
"Ah!" cried Dad, standing triumphantly with his prey in his hand, "here it is!" He strode loudly into the kitchen, plopped down on a chair, slammed the book onto the table and began thumbing through it. The book was bound in brown leather with the words "Glory Dawn" stitched into the spine in black. Dad did that mumbling, half-reading thing he often did when skimming a book.
"Are you hungry?" I asked Amy, tapping her on the shoulder where she lay.
"No, my stomach hurts," she said.
"You may feel better if you eat something."
"Okay." She didn't open her eyes or move.
I walked into the kitchen, "What have you got to eat around here, Dad?" I asked.
"Huh?" he asked, not really listening.
"Food, Dad. What food do you have around here." I noticed that the coffee was steaming away on the burner, so I reached over, set the pot onto heat pad beside the burner, and lowered the snuffer down over the flame. Taking one of the mugs Dad had set out earlier, I filed it with coffee. "Careful, it's pretty hot," I said, holding it out to Dad.
"Huh?" he said, glancing up. "Oh, thanks." He took the cup, set it on the table, and kept mumbling through the book.
So, I felt free to look through the cupboards. There was a loaf of dark bread wrapped in a cloth and covered dish of butter in the cupboard above the sink. In the back, behind the butter, there was a half of a smoked ham wrapped in kitchen towel. "May we have some bread and am, Dad?" I asked?
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I mean, yes, of course. Have anything you want. Of course." He never even looked up.
I found a sharp knife in a drawer beside the sink and cut a couple of slices of bread for Amy. I put a little butter on the bread, because it was a little dry, and cut some thin slices of the ham, making a nice little sandwich. "Here you go," I said, walking back over to the couch.
Amy opened her eyes and looked at the sandwich suspiciously and without enthusiasm. "What is it?" she asked.
"Ham sandwich," I said.
"Why is the bread so dark?" she asked.
"Because that's what my dad likes to eat."
She reached for the sandwich, sitting up on the couch. She opened it and looked inside. "What's on it?" She asked.
"Butter and ham."
"Is it fresh?"
"How do you know?"
"Because," I said, "there's no decay here. Food stays fresh here."
She glanced several time from me to the sandwich and back to me, and then decided she had no choice. She took a tentative nibble of the bread, and then another with some ham in it.
"How is it?" I asked.
"It's okay." She began to eat it in little bites.
I picked up her cup from the side table and refilled it at the sink, setting it back beside her.
"Thank you," she said, her mouth full.
"Here it is," said dad, slamming the open book onto the table. "Right here. The Maker Song."
I walked over and sat in the chair beside him. "What is this book?" I asked.
"Glory Dawn," Dad answered, "It's one of the chief books in Fate literature."
"What's it about?"
"Well, what do you think? It's about the great and glorious plan the Fates have for the world. It's about the culmination of all things into the dawn of the glorious future the Fates have in store for all living things. It's a load of crap, of course."
"Who are the Fates?" Amy asked.
"Huh?" asked Dad, having forgotten for a minute about the girl. "Oh, right. Well, the Fates, little lady, are the biggest pains in the ass in the universe."
"Dad," I frowned. "She's just a kid."
"Oh, sorry." He left the book on the table and stomped over to sit beside her. She sat up next to him. "Do you know what ambition is, my girl?" he asked.
"I don't think so," she said.
"Well, ambition is like a drive some people have to accomplish things. You might have an ambition to be a butcher, like your mother. Or, you might have an ambition to be an artist or a singer. People have various ambitions or goals, and ambition is that feeling or drive that makes you want to get those things accomplished. Do you understand?"
"Well, the Fates are all ambition, Amy. The Fates are like spirits, but they're not human spirits. They're another kind of spirit, and they have a lot of ambition for the world. They want to control everything, and they claim they have a plan for all living things, a plan that will ultimately make everyone happy."
"Oh," she said. "That doesn't sound so bad."
"Doesn't it? Well, then, I must not have said it right," he laughed. "The problem is, little girl, that they don't seem to have any sort of plan at all. Each of them, in fact, seems to be working toward some different plan of his or her own. They'll tell you that everything they've ever done is a part of The Plan, but it's obviously not true. Most of them time the Fates end up fighting each other and causing no end of trouble for the rest of us."
"Well, the Fates can't interact directly in human affairs, you see. They have to get people to carry out their plans for them. So, they'll plant ideas into the heads of people in position of influence. Sometimes they'll take complete control of a person, but they can't do it by force. A person has to willingly submit themselves to the Fate, commit themselves to the plan, and then the Fate can take control of them."
"You mean it can take control of their body?" she asked.
"That's right. One minute you're committing yourself to a life plan, and the next thing you know you're stepping out of the Lightstone here in Aphter and you never know what happened."
"And then," I continued, "the Fate takes control of your body back in the living world and uses it until it dies."
"So it kills you?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Dad. "And then it uses your body and your name to make a mess of things back on Earth."
"Man." Amy seemed bewildered. "So, what does that have to do with my mom and me?" she asked.
"Well, we don't know. But that's what we're trying to figure out."