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This one is for everyone at Gossamer who didn't get feedback from me in 1997 through 2000.

It's been years.

There's a mermaid on the wall of the shower, and she's got her back to me, hunched over, studying the ripples in the water like she can see something there that I can't see, not even if I squint hard enough to see stars. I remember the black screens and amber letters, logged in too late to my shell account. Thin client, they'd call it now. Dumb terminal. Dumb angel, and saving grace in a world full of madness when the 24 hour study area in the library was the only sanctuary I could think to find.

All the geographic-distance between the screaming fangirls meant e-mail. E-mail meant culture and archives. I dreamed in gossamer, gold and green and all the lovely colors I couldn't see on my screen. I never responded, always lurking. Bad fangirl, no feedback. I was never a part of the culture, but there I was lurking on the outside, watching the words patch the hell I was living in. The characters always got worse, but they came together in the end, didn't they; they were meant to be together, and all the aching and poison words couldn't keep them apart. You could tell by the chemistry it was meant to be so. And in the end, it was.

Autumn leaves and crystal blue skies and that little treasured hope of independence and higher education turned in to twisted winter and bitter bare birch. The words were solace. I wouldn't let myself cry over myself, so I watched them burn in their silent orbits around each other, mute hateful torture. Sometimes they laughed, and I laughed with them. It was safer than crying. If I started, I would never stop...

I memorized the names of the ones who wrote them best. I had to believe that it was inevitable when they wrote them that way. I wasn't sure whether I liked the ones where they got together at the end or the ones where they weren't yet there but they'd make it there someday. I tried to write down what had happened with us, make it happen to them, but the words wouldn't come. It wasn't time. It wasn't right. I had more waiting to do, and someone with better words than I did had to write them as they were.

The years turned the anguish into dust, and from the dust grew flowers. They're still broken and beautiful, and the mermaid in my shower sits watching them. Why does she dream of unhappier times, when today is so full of life and promise?

Oh, my dystopia. We were perfect, you and I.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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