The covers were drawn up tight around her neck, arms folded over her chest beneath them. Her breath wasn’t visible as she exhaled but the chill air still prickled at her skin. Her mind raced and wandered but with no destination. It trampled down pathways with signs that pointed upwards to destinations unattainable and down to those not wanted. To the left she saw the morning and its demands and to the right she saw a flicker of something distant but familiar.
“Sokwurf,” she muttered and turned to face the wall, allowing a brief moment for the cold air to flood down her back as the blanket separated from her skin.
The sock had been one of the first. A character that appeared with a story, one that was whole but waiting to evolve, as we all do, with an adventure. He had been left somewhere in another world, reached through a washing machine and in a place where people worshipped plants, and crabs tore through the sand at high speed to attack. A place where Ratch lived, and a place where Arbie was supposed to exist as a character, too.
The first Arbie, that is, the one who’s name she took. The axolotl turned assassin that would have become one of Sokwurf’s comrades.
She wonders how much of Sokwurf she created, and how much these characters created her. How much of herself had been lost, chipped away at, as the characters that grew to become her sheltered hidden forest were taken by fire. A place never meant to see the embers of demons caught up in their flames.
I need to move.
A pit swells in her chest, filled with dread for the new day. Night is always so much calmer. There’s less weight to it, you can’t feel it bearing down on your shoulders like you can the day. Legs stretch out, muscles feel tight, and in one final movement she’s up and staring at the door.
The room sways a little as she stands, like it’s unable to support her weight, but she believes that it’s the hungover feeling that comes with lack of sleep that is causing her to jolt a little over.
Handle down, door open, a river in place of a hallway. Knave takes bishop.
Water floods in. Rival king is close.
A sock is floating on a book. A grin as wide as it possibly can attempt across its face.
“Checkmate,” it says.
“Oh, fuck off,” she replies.
Beneath the door water spills into her bedroom. It spreads under the white wood, soaking the bristles from a door stop once used to prevent her ferrets from escaping. Caught in its spindles a sock flutters against the increasing speed with which a flood soon begins to rise.
“Can you…” water gurgling… “Can you just…” a splash of a hand, another raised up to signal for attention… “Help…”
The woman steps into what is a shallow stream for her but a murky deadly depths for the sock.
“Me…” Sokwurf splutters as he is detached from the door stop and plucked up out of the water.
“Was there any need for that?”
Sokwurf, his body trembling with both anger and cold, shook out his hands and then his body. Upon him little bobbles of fluff stuck out on end giving him the appearance of a much more worn sock than he actually was.
“Stop following me,” the woman replied. “I’ve told you I can’t help you.”
“You’ve also told me you’re not really Arbie, and, I think we both know that to be a lie,” he looked back at her scornfully. “Anyway, I’m not looking for your help, not right now. This isn’t my story. I don’t actually know who’s story this is. It might not even be yours. What I do know is that whenever I wake up you’re somewhere nearby, and whenever you try to sleep I soon appear. Or perhaps I’m dreaming and you’re awake, I don’t know. Do you?”
Arbie shook her head. “Only thing I know is that this has been going on for too long now and-”
“It’s been a week,” Sokwurf interrupted, stopping from patting himself down to look at her aghast.
“Yes,” she replied, “too long.”
“You left me on an island discussing politics with a man who had a plant pot in his pocket, all the while being hunted by a mad god.”
“I do like mad gods,” Arbie replied.
Sokwurf pushed and positioned the blankets into a little curve. He plopped himself down inside the deepest ridge and pulled as much blanket as he could on top of him, mostly concerned with covering his feet.
“You’ll over use them and that will be no good for anyone.”
Arbie helped position the blanket over the socks feet, momentarily pausing to wonder whether or not it would be a lucrative business to start designing socks for socks.
“You’re giving me writing advice now?” she asked, with a glance over the bed to the rising water.
“Well, it’s in my best interest to,” Sokwurf replied. “Have you ever considered writing a sock romance?”
“I’m going to presume you mean a romance between two socks and not that you’re asking me out for dinner, and I’m going to say no.”
The water was rising more quickly than she remembered it had before. It was nearing the mattress upon which she and Sokwurf were perched, and, above the sounds of sloshing as it carried light objects around, Arbie now began to hear a low groaning sound.
“The door is going to give way,” she said, a nod of her head in its direction.
Turning to face it Sokwurf let out a deep sigh. “This is different,” he said. “What do we do now?”
Arbie shuffled beneath her blankets. Despite his grumbling, she pulled some of Sokwurf’s small nest up and over her and then turned to face the wall. This time, when the blanket separated from her back, it wasn’t a flood of cold she felt creep down her back.
“The room is raining!” Sokwurf called out, backing away from one splodge of rain to land upon his head only to step into a pool that had appeared by his feet. “We need to leave.”
He looked down to the water, and across to a shelf where books, figurines and a small goat teddy bear stood.
A deft leap positioned him atop the goat.
He gripped its horns and readied himself for the water to rise to the height of the shelf.
Arbie had shuffled herself into the corner of the room, her t-shirt and shorts darkening as water dripped over her. Her eyes were on him.
He nudged his head towards the door and, with a cry that he would be proud of should they make it out alive, he yelled, “Move now, you great slug!”