Burned Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17

Horseshoe crabs are incredibly fascinating to me. The earliest fossils have been found in strata that put it in the Ordovician period. The best estimates make it around four hundred fifty million years old as a species. Homo sapiens have been around roughly five hundred thousand years. Horseshoe crabs could have watched humanity rise and fall nine hundred times in their entire existence.

So let’s talk about the bulls for a moment. I haven’t had an easy time, wrapping my head around them and they stick out like an alligator in a koi pond. Why bulls for one? I’m guessing that PCK decided that they wanted something masculine as they wanted to symbolize power and danger. Because we all know women aren’t dangerous or powerful.

The reason it doesn’t fit though it because these entities are supposed to be the representations of light and darkness. Things that are older than humanity and quite possibly as old as time itself. Why would they pick the form of a domesticated creature whose wild ancestor appeared around two million years ago? Why would their forms have to resemble any creature we’ve ever seen? Maybe, to them, biological creatures are well beneath them and taking the form of one is like pretending to be mentally handicapped?

It also doesn’t fit with the theme that they were going for originally. One minute, PCK is trying to evoke Native American imagery and the next they’re aping a sort of pagan European/Gaelic vibe. There’s at least one animal they could use that would cross that border nicely and that would be the wolf. At least that’s a wild animal. You know what the bull symbolizes outside of strength? Domestication. I’m not an expert but I don’t think these entities would want to come across as under the control of humans.

Still with Stevie who’s being told by Kramisha that “that boy’s gone on you”. What was the big tipoff, Kramy? Was it the subtle glances over his cup? The barely repressed tears when Stevie says his name? Or was it the way he was trying to suck her essence out of her body so she can never leave him?

Not like Stevie is doing any better. She’d rather lead Dallas on under the guise of not hurting his feelings that just be honest and tell him they’re not a couple. Stevie is a teen though and inexperienced so it’s to be expected. She tells Kramy she’s not dealing with it right now. Kramy says that just causes stress. No it doesn’t, it writes a check for a soap opera-esque argument where everyone can cry and PCK can pretend they get drama.

Kramy says she’s been thinking hard on her poems. Judging by the near lack of verse, I highly doubt that Kramy. So she repeats one aloud—which is good for page count as poems take up lots of space for less words—and Stevie forgot about it too. It’s something about Kalona and being free and purified and blah blah blah, doesn’t matter. They both figure it means Zoey will be free as will Kalona.

Kramy says the last she spoke to Zoey, she told Zoey to follow her heart and she feels guilty about it. Then she decides she doesn’t because maybe this was all supposed to happen to Zoey anyway. Stevie thinks she’s right and that, if Zoey keeps following her heart, the end of the poem will come true and Zoey will be free. I love characters talking about how everything that could be remotely tense really shouldn’t be.

Kramy says that Zoey has to know this because it mentions the five elements, which Zoey has all of, and she might need to know. But how to get it to her? Stevie says she can’t go over to the otherside, not being a master of spirit. Kramy suggests Stark which Stevie puts the kibosh on that because his head’s “not right”. They’re going to tell Aphro instead and she’ll force Stark to memorize it.

Page break to grandma who’s reading a romance book. She’s startled to see Stevie as she was about to get her geriatric solo Olympics on and hates to be interrupted during the opening ceremonies. Stevie brings her up to date on Zoey’s not really a crisis. Grandma is very sad because Zoey’s soul is shattered. Stevie says not to worry as Stark will be playing Mario to Zoey’s Peach.

“Cedar,” Grandma said, nodding like she’d just answered a question, and Stevie Rae should be agreeing with her.

“Cedar?” Stevie Rae asked, hoping the news about Zoey hadn’t made Grandma lose her mind. Literally.

“Cedar needles. Tell Stark to make whoever watches over his body while he’s in the trance state to burn them the entire time.”

Grandma Redbird is a bit of a bitch. She acts like Stevie should know all about herbs and which ones do what. She tells Stevie that cedar needles are powerful stuff and can repel the most evil of spirits. She warns that it’s only for use in dire need. Or what happens? The ancient Lepidoptera god, Mothra attacks you for aggravating its people?

Grandma also tells Stevie to tell Stark—third party instructions make excellent reading—to breath in the smoke deeply. And don’t exhale right away, hold it as long as he can. He also might want to have some Funyuns on hand and Mountain Dew. And if anyone can bring a copy of Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon, that would be swell.

Angela the nun comes in, saying she just spoke to Kramy. She cries out in disbelief for a moment, because she’s grown so attached to Zoey in the intervening years of this story, and runs off to pray. Stevie then goes to Kramy and asks her to cover for her while she communes with the earth. Kramy knows better and demands to know what’s really going on. Stevie says she’s off to see a guy and Kramy says she’ll tell them if they ask but they’ll get no other details than “a human” or “some guy” if they press.

Kramy then says that, if he’s human, Stevie can keep him and Dallas as that’s perfectly cool being a priest. Because the guys have absolutely no say in the matter. Kramy also asks what race he is, asking if he’s black. Stevie asks what it matters, Kramy says only if she’s ashamed of him and Stevie says no and she’s not a racist anyway. Then she runs off laughing because he’s a birdman and son of Kalona.

Chapter 18

We’re with Rephy who’s waking up to find Stevie watching him. I don’t care who you, watching someone sleep is creepy. Unless you went to bed with that person and they’re cuddling or something.

Rephy isn’t creeped out, possibly because he’s a bird man who’s been trapped as a spirit for a thousand years or more. Instead, he’s amazed at how vulnerable she looks in spite of being so powerful.

Which is one of those stereotypical guy traits I hate. I hate it when guys melt because a woman looks like a five year old in front of a surgery table. Maybe it’s just me and I’m an odd duck but female characters who are so useless they can’t fill out a change of address form without someone holding their hand irk me. It’s not endearing, it just makes me want to yell at them to get their shit together and stop bothering the adults.

Don’t get me wrong, I know what PCK is trying with this. She’s trying to say that the power Stevie wields doesn’t make her less human and Rephy finds that charming. It comes across more as he sees her as weak, in need of protection and his man parts demand he turn into a meat shield for her.

Stupid rant aside, Stevie is concerned for Rephy because he’s taken a beating from VS. He says she got fed off by VS as well and she says he got it worse. Though she does appreciate him acting the hero. He denies he was heroic and she brushes it off, saying she wants to help him. So she drags him over to some trees outside so her power will be stronger. He doesn’t feel like it so she drags him along anyway.

On the way out to the trees, Stevie tells him that VS said he wasn’t going to kill her. Rephy says some things are worse than death. He says all it took from him was pain that it inflicted on her. Stevie says that’s because VS feeds on pain while the other feeds on love. Then Rephy asks her what the black bull wanted. She won’t say but we all know he told her to bone Rephy.

I love the dichotomy between PCK’s message and the reality in her stories. They want to be clever and invert evil and good’s colors, suggesting a morally complex universe. But then they just have evil feed of hate and good feed off love. So good and evil just underwent a palette swap but they still work on the logic of children’s stories.

Stevie sits him down on the ground and they babble while she thinks. There’s some faux sexual tension between them which goes nowhere. Then Rephy finally asks why Stevie doesn’t just summon the element and ask it to do her dirty work. Stevie smacks herself for it being so obvious and wasting all of our time. She puts earth into him and he smells summer winds and sweetgrass and blah blah blah. Oh, and it heals him too.

Stevie gets awkward as she realizes his wings are healed. Rephy says it was the darkness that did it but it left him wounded and her healing fixed that. Stevie heads off, saying she has to go. Rephy asks if he’ll see her again, Stevie says she promised, Rephy says he releases her from her promise and she says it wasn’t to him. Then Rephy flies off trying to forget Stevie.

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