Sally opens herself up.
She unleashes the riotous surges of color and noise inside her. They pour out onto the ground. They slurch about and then congeal into her fetch.
That’s when her Mom Emma walks in.
“Sally!” Emma says.
The fetch looks up. It’s a little rabbit. It perks an ear.
“Sally,” Emma says, “get back in your body.”
The fetch twitches its nose.
It thinks about disagreeing.
But then it sighs. It slurches back into its component colors. It crawls back into Sally and she closes herself up.
“But Mom,” says Sally.
“If you leave your body too often or too long,” Emma says, “you’ll forget things. Important things. Like . . . like, words, and geometry, and, and how old you are!”
Emma looks triumphant, as if this argument is very convincing.
Sally juts her chin.
“Don’t need to know that stuff,” she says. “You can ‘memmer it!”
“You might even forget,” Emma warns darkly, “how to get back in your body at all.”
Sally makes a dismissive noise.
She wipes her nose on the back of her hand, and then she giggles.
“Boogers!” she declares.
It is a fine joke, Sally thinks. It’s the kind of joke that immediately dissolves any tension in the room. She can’t help laughing at it, herself, and after a minute, Emma laughs too.
It’s just that funny a word.
Sally is six years old. She does not know much about the world, outside of things like the high comedy of boogers and the love that surrounds her every day. She does not know, for example, that outside her city there is a great and ancient world. She does not know the secrets of the great rusting robots that lay scattered across Abermund Plain; nor how Zax of Proxima came to Earth, and what he did there; nor why the Sangler dismissed the gods. She knows how old she is, and how to dress herself (as long as she is not too ambitious with the shoes), and a bit of math, and a bit of spelling. That’s pretty much it as her worldliness goes.
Sally lives in an old presswood house with chromeless net access, a green grass yard, and a 20th century aesthetic. The ancient style is not because either Sally or Emma are Luddites nostalgic for the past; rather, her home lacks modernity because raising a child in a full-tech zone is a task beyond the capacity of any mother’s love.
Now, one night, despite all of Emma’s warnings, Sally looks at the moon and she just isn’t ready for sleep. So she kicks off her socks and she throws off her covers and she opens herself up and she lets her fetch out. Emma’s not here to catch her this time, so the slurching colors assemble leisurely into a rabbit and stretch languidly before hopping around the room. Then the rabbit sniffs the air. It hops up to the windowsill. It pushes the window open and wriggles out through the screen.
The rabbit heads for Abermund Plain.
It is a long journey, but not so very long for a fetch. The moon is still high when the rabbit gets there and it runs all night among the great rusted forms.
It stands on the eye-screen of a great dead robot and it looks out over the junk metal on the plain.
It burrows down into the soil and crunches a little black bug between its teeth.
It runs, full-out and loping, along the shore of Abermund Lake.
And all the while the wind is blowing against its fur and its colors leave little dots of fetch behind it and the world is full of smells and beauty and moonlight.
And then the moon sets and the world is dark and the fetch suddenly thinks, “I’m in trouble!”
So it turns.
It kicks off.
It races across the ground: the grass, the dirt, the great metal chests of the robots.
It races along the streets and sidewalks and back to Emma and Sally’s house, and it slurches through the screen and window, and it’s pouring back into Sally’s body just as the morning lights come on and the alarm sounds its little chime and Emma opens Sally’s door to make sure that she wakes up.
“Good morning, Sally!” carols Emma.
Sally wriggles in her bed. She makes sure all the pieces are tucked back in but she doesn’t put back on her socks.
“Good morming, Mom!”
Sally gets up. She puts her feet on the carpet. She wriggles her toes. She looks happily at her Mom, at least in part because she, Sally, was right. She let her fetch out! Nothing bad happened! It was better than a normal night’s dreaming by far!
“What would you like for breakfast?” Emma asks.
And Sally rubs her nose on the back of her hand and there’s a little glob of snot that comes off on it and suddenly she thinks of this great joke—
This great word to exclaim—
This incredibly funny thing that she could say—
And she realizes, in horror, as she gropes for the word and cannot find it, that she has left something vital on Abermund Plain.
And she stares at the back of her hand, and the silence stretches long, and her lip begins to tremble;
And Emma is looking at her as if— no, it can’t be, but as if she might have guessed where Sally has spent the night, what she has spent the night in doing—
There is no time to flail for the word!
Sally must act with dispatch!
Sally synonyms, “Consolidated snot capsules!”
And Emma stares at her, that long cool stare, and Sally knows that she has failed as a comedian.
Take heed, children!
Don’t be like Sally!
That is the cautionary tale of Abermund Plain.