Chapter Four: Crash

Skin like a rhino, horns like a triceratops. She ran her hand over its nose and it snorted at her.
"Crash." she said, smiling.
"Yup," Hero said and patted its side. "They're one of the older animals here." Adore gently ran her hands over the crash's rough skin as Hero spoke. Not that she needed to be gentle, they were hard-working, stupid animals that didn't scare easily. She was just somewhat in awe. "I apologize. I don't know my history as well as Soma. But then again he's got libraries and libraries of books on everything you can imagine-"
"Books?"
"Well of course." Hero cocked his head. She had an unusual smile on her face. She didn't look quite as scary and fierce as when he first met her. She was like a child on Christmas morning petting the crash. She was especially bewildered about Soma's books. "Ah, Acymera. I imagine they don't let you read there?"
"Nothing of any substance." In her mind, she was walking down dusty, drippy, dank halls. A fluorescent light swung over her head. It smelled like mold and mothballs. In the dim light, she turned to the left to see a bookcase. She saw her pale hand pull a book out. It was a water-ruined copy of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. She flipped it open, then threw it back on the shelf. It sprawled open pathetically when it landed. She pulled out the book next to it, called Presidents and Gods. She put her cigarette out in its pages.
Then she was back petting the crash. "Did they find them here?"
"Oh no, no. Damn, Adore, you have a lot to learn."
She didn't seem to be listening. The crash seemed to be purring as she pet it and the sound almost made her giggle. A giant, brutish thing such as that - purring. It was lovely.
"Let us go for a walk. I'll tell you everything. No - better yet, we'll ride some of our animals. It's a gorgeous day."
She perked up. "More interesting animals?"
"Oh very interesting. Horses. Have you heard of them?"
She rolled her eyes, but much more kindly, as if she was developing a sense of humor.

The air seemed to be a different color. Green. Blue. It seemed to blend from the sea right into the air. The horses galloped on the shore and tossed the water into the air, infecting it with the sea's colors. It smelled gorgeous. Like stargazer lilies. Like salt. Like a heavy, rainy day. Like fish. And the wind blew and made Adore's cheeks cold and rosy, and she stuck her cold nose into the horse's mane and enjoyed the smell. It smelled like earth. Like land.
They had no destination. They just played in the surf. They raced. Their horses kicked up water and the riders laughed. They ran around each other, chased each other, and cut through the blue green air. She galloped ahead, in love with the feeling of free motion. It was as if she had been walking in wet concrete every day before and that day was the first day she moved freely. She let go of the reins as the horse was running and put her arms out. Running her hands over her head, she closed her eyes and let the sun cover her face.
And he watched. Just watched her riding ahead, embracing the salty air with her arms and running it through her non-existent hair. Watched the movement of her mouth as she laughed. Squishing up her eyes and nose as she threw her head back to laugh at something really funny.
Eventually their gallops turned to slow trots. The horses carried their riders to a piece of land with a sheer cliff that dropped into the water. The riders sat on the edge and stared at the water.
"This road follows the ocean. We are almost always on it, so I have lots of chances to goof off on the shore. Soma usually comes with me."
"You and Soma are good friends?" Adore asked, laying on her back, her eyes closed, the sun still covering her cheeks and eyelids.
"Very good. More like brothers." He seemed to speak to himself as he looked over the ocean. "We're a lot the same. We both come from noble families. We both desire the restoration of the Iginee rule and the original capitol of Sparta." He paused. "We're both a bit solitary."
"I don't doubt you are. You offend everyone you meet."
He snapped his head toward her. She was still lying on her back, rhythmically bringing a cigarette to her lips and taking it away.
"I do not offend everyone I meet."
She said nothing.
"I do not."
She continued to smoke.
Hero pouted in silence.
"You carry yourself like everyone should worship you. Now where do crashes come from?"
He didn't know how to respond. Irritated, he took a deep breath and chose to tell the history of crashes. "I don't know when they made them, but it was after Sparta became a garbage dump. Well, after it became more than a garbage dump. It was when it became a human garbage dump."
Adore propped herself up on her elbow and listened intently, but seemed confused.
Noticing, Hero elaborated, motioning as he spoke. "Sparta was first a garbage dump. It was a continent everyone decided to sacrifice so they could be shameless, wasteful people and not have to look at all the stuff they used and disposed. I bet Soma didn't mention we are also scavengers of all the waste, did he? He's not very proud of that."
Adore smiled, slightly amused.
Hero took this smile and ran with it. "Can you imagine Soma? In all his tall nobility, with a garbage sack and one of those garbage pokers," here Hero stood up and began to walk around pompously, gingerly picking up pretend litter, "walking around the shore line and scavenging? Not Soma." He pretended to dramatically push his imaginary long blonde hair behind his shoulder with the back of his hand.
She laughed slightly. He had succeeded.
"I digress," he said, sitting down. "Again, I don't know dates, but then the countries decided that this continent should be a dump for humans, also. I'm not sure, but I strongly believe it coincided with Acymera's turn. But you know all about Acymera's turn. . . "
"You really think I know the truth?"
He realized that was a ridiculous question. "Allright. Y'know Acymera used to have a different name. Your country was called something different. But I think they changed their names a few times, during the war, as they were acquiring all those new countries. But that was when they went from the light of the world to the . . . the . . . black hole of the world." He said this part very seriously. "Just devouring everything like a damn animal. No, animals don't gorge themselves like that."
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," Adore said, looking down and nonchalantly twirling the grass with her finger. "Every great and powerful nation turns. Even a nation like Acymera, a country formed as a sanctuary from so many other corrupt super powers, becomes evil itself. It is the story of history."
Hero nodded somberly, her words tipping over the first of many dominoes in his mind. "But not Sparta. We Spartans are different, you will see."
She said nothing. He was too busy thinking to be offended by her silence.
"There are a lot of historians who hypothesize why Sparta ended up to be such a prosperous continent. But during the turn, when Sparta became a place for banished Acymerans, its population changed. Most historians agree that there were two main classes of people that were being deported to Sparta at that time: psychopaths and geniuses. Instead of giving the criminally insane the death penalty, they sent them here. But the geniuses, they were the people who were too smart for the propaganda and suppression of the government. They decided not to kill the non- comformists, but to give them the option of shaping up or shipping out. Most decided to ship out."
Her view of him was slightly sideways as she leaned on her elbow, watching his every word. The sun was inching towards the horizon and dusk was near at hand. She was beginning to be able to stand the sound of his voice. He, too, had a nice voice. Not as princely as Soma's, but more like her own. Younger. More lively.
"So the geniuses and the crazies of all of the rest of the world were dropped off here with billions of pounds of stuff being dropped on the shores daily. It must have been amazing. If I were a scientist, I should love to see how they all made it work. What a wonderful experiment in human nature," he said, staring at the shore.
His excitement at this made her smile. "But how did they find the crashes?"
"Oh, the crashes. They made them. The rest of the world would be filled with unimaginable cross-breeds, had they not emptied themselves of all of their geniuses. Nearly one million 'political dissidents' were banished here. What do ya know, I guess I do know some history. I digress again. Crashes are just one of the cross-breeds they created. You won't find very many pure animals here. They just can't survive. Crashes and other animals were created out of necessity. The climate here is quite crazy. The radiation is extreme and we have storms unlike anywhere else in the world."
"Due to the pollution?"
"I would guess so." He noticed she was fascinated. Like a good storyteller, like an old man around a campfire, he knew how to kick a good story into high gear. "But if you think crashes are interesting, wait until we get to the first capitol Sparta. That's where the gills and the dolphins are."
"What are gills and dolphins," she asked excitedly, just like a six- year-old listening to her grandfather telling a tale.
"I'm not telling. We will get to old Sparta in a few days. Then you will see for yourself."
"That's terrible! Telling me all these wonderful things and leaving me hanging! Please, these are the most beautiful stories I've heard since Momma told me bed-time stories." Hero imagined Oliver Twist looked like she did then. Small and desperately hungry.
He smiled. "No. It will be a better surprise."
She sighed and rolled on her back. As the sun sank, it smeared wonderful colors across the sky. Just to look at them was a blessing. "I can wait."
She rolled over. "Hero?"
"Hm?"
She smiled. "Thank you for today. I can't say I'm happy to be here, but you are helping to make it less miserable."
He nodded.
They rode home in gorgeous silence, admiring the paint-box sky.