Ruby’s hand squished the clay, loving the way it slipped through her fingers. It made a silent sound… it was blue. She knew that blue was a color, not a sound, but that is what it was. At least the texture of the clay was still a feeling—a sensory connection that was still hooked up the right way.
She squeezed and formed a small amount of clay till it sounded just right. A bird, by sight, but also something else, something indefinable to her senses.
She felt the muse visit her again. Funny, how muses were supposed to be female, but hers was most definitely masculine. She created a symphony of lost chords, carefully setting the clay pieces on a board to dry. Archie would take them to be fired later, and she could paint them. Then the music would move.
The muse left, but she still held his vibration. It lingered. She made beads, perfect spheres of clay in a variety of sizes. They didn’t need to be pierced. The string that would hold them together was not a physical one.
The water smelled like pineapple. Ruby pondered this new sensation, then laughed at herself when she glanced at the label on the soap. Tropical Fruit was written in large letters across the squirter. Reading was difficult. If she looked at too large a chunk of text, the words formed other images in her mind and ceased to be letters at all. Single words and phrases were much easier.
The water cleaned the clay off her hands, but it did something else as well. She could not put words to the sensation, but she liked it, and wanted more. She leaned over the sink, wetting her arms up to the elbows, frustrated she could do no more.
Irritated at the limitations of the small sink, she headed for her bathing facility, shedding clothes as she went. Her tiny tom followed, extending various protuberances to snag each article as it fell.
One stream was not enough, nor were two. She fiddled with the controls till she found something that provided the same sensations she’d found in the sink, amplified. She crumpled to the pebbled floor as the feelings overwhelmed her, but she didn’t want it to stop. Her tom scurried in the cat door, blinking and bleeping questions and a warning. Ruby ran her fingers through her hair, stroking the strands and streams of water away from her face. The tom lifted the shower curtain away and bleepled inquiringly. It had three lights into the orange zone, and if it reached the red the tom would automatically call for help.
“I’m fine, I’m fine…” she reached out and patted the tom, sending it away. The feeling was departing, and she felt the fingers of her muse go with it. She hadn’t even realized he was there.
Warm and dry, she wrapped herself in a fresh bathrobe and sat at her make-up table. She spent an hour sorting and perusing her selection, experiencing the odd sensory inputs each provided for her. Some colors were smell, some textures were sounds. But as it was play, not something that anyone depended on or needed, she enjoyed it. She was beginning to make sense of her scrambled inputs.
She missed her muse. Maybe if she made herself pretty, he would return.
With practiced strokes she began to apply her favorites. Thinking she would be a little creative, she added a design fluttering out from her right eye, then extended the design above her eyebrow.
She wasn’t sure how long she sat at the table. She didn’t remember changing from the bathrobe into regular clothes, but somehow she must have.
The doorbell chimed and she expected her muse. Shaking her head to clear the silly thought from her mind, she went to answer.
He was there.
She had never seen his face, yet there he was, physical and as real as… well, she never could tell. Two other people stood in front of him, separating her from him.
She recognized Miranda. Miranda, she liked. The older man was a stranger.
“Hello Ruby.” Said Miranda, demanding eye contact with her stance. “I wanted to bring a couple of people here to meet you. Is that all right?”
As soon as Miranda’s body language relaxed, Ruby’s eyes snapped to the man behind them.
“Er… maybe I should go…” he said.
Ruby panicked. “No!” she thought it was an inner monologue, but by the reactions of her guests she deduced she must have said it out loud. She concentrated, thought about what Miranda had said and figured out what the appropriate response should be. “No, don’t go. Please, come in.”
She backed up and gestured for her guests to come in. It was a comfortable suite, and she had begun to make it feel like home. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been living there, but considering the fact that she sometimes did things, like dressing, and had no memory of it, she had no doubts that the healthcare facility was exactly where she needed to be.
The man laughed and she found herself all the way across the room, one hand holding up his shirt while the other caressed his abdomen. “That tickles!”
She knew she should feel embarrassed, but desire drove her to know more. The symbol around his belly button was familiar. She remembered its taste. And there was another tattoo, reaching lower…
“Um… Miranda?” he asked, holding still, pushing his waistband down enough so Ruby could see the tattoo while keeping her from pantsing him. Her fingers traced the symbols for courage, and he watched her face carefully.
“What is it Ruby? Do you know that symbol?” Miranda’s voice jerked her back to her senses, scrambled as they were.
“This one tastes like coffee…” she explained, tracing the tribal sun around Kennealy’s navel. “But this one…” she touched the top of the courage symbol “It isn’t a taste, or a sound… I don’t have a sense to explain it.”
“I’ve had that experience too, Ruby.” Said the older man. He had probably been introduced, but she couldn’t think of his name. “Like your senses are not only scrambled, but there are three or four other senses you never knew you had mixed in with them.”
Ruby nodded. “Yes! Like a sunflower from Ringworld.” She beamed at Kennealy, but the reference was lost on him.
“Ringworld… by Larry Niven. Instead of planets orbiting a sun, it is one huge world, shaped like a ring.” Miranda said. “Great, imaginative stories. Fantastic scientific hypotheses.”
Ruby had wondered why she had a bouquet of sunflowers by the window. She remembered ordering them. She remembered wanting them, though she’d never been partial to the large flowers. “Sunflowers earned their name because they track the sun. Their faces are always turned towards the light.” Ruby began.
“But on a Ringworld, the sun is always directly overhead…” Miranda followed.
“So, on Ringworld, they are simply a nice, big flower, whose faces point straight up.” Ruby smiled, and sat at the table. “But if a sunflower from Ringworld suddenly found itself on Earth, or any Ball World, it would discover that it had an ability it never knew it possessed.”
Her three guests looked at her askance, as if she was interrupting something.
And she was sitting on the couch.
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