#AN: This idea bit me and wouldn't go away until I did something with it. Don't expect updates in a timely manner. Don't expect a plan, for that matter: brains will be brains so thinking ahead might happen anyway, but I'm intending to approach this strictly as it comes rather than planning things as rigidly as I have with Loopholes.
Chapter 1: Knife
I died. In the locker. I know this for a fact, like you instinctively know where your hands are. But that's not important anymore.
...What, I got better!
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. My first memory of after was...
Ugh, five more minutes. Hours. So tired...
"Come on, you've got school in... Taylor? You all right, kiddo?" Dad's expression shifted from Exasperated Parent to Concerned Parent upon seeing me still in bed and checked out. School? I haven't had school in such a long time. Not since I... pain. Sudden, blinding, excruciating pain cut into the haze of my exhaustion. Not enough to wake me, but the pitiful whimper that escaped my throat must have gotten things across. "Oh, honey, you..." I vaguely felt him touch my forehead and jerk back. "You're burning up! Hang on, let me call in at work and get you to a doctor."
I'm not sure why that thought alarmed me so much, but I managed to weakly fumble out something about how I was just tired and needed to sleep it off. I didn't honestly feel feverish, so I think I figured he was just fooled by the warmth of my blankets. I don't know. But with the way our relationship was after mom, he folded with little effort, only going as far as extracting a promise that I'd call him if things got worse. With a tall glass of water and some painkillers on the nightstand, he was gone and I could- I was asleep before I even managed to feel happy about the idea.
And I dreamt of swords.
Taking the glowing steel tang in my tongs, I let it drop into the quench tank. Surely, surely this time...
...damn. Another disappointment. It had the shape. It had the appearance and size and weight. I was sure of that. More sure of it than of anything ever before. But it just wasn't right. It didn't have the right... gravitas. It's like it was... too young? It's a strange thought, but that's what my gut said. Regardless, it would never go with this sheath.
Another nameless blade, then.
I wiped the sweat from my brow and furrowed it in thought. Maybe I'm just out of practice. I'll need to make a lot more weapons before I can tackle that one. Absently, I throw the poor counterfeit out the window and let the blade bury itself in the ground.
I didn't want to deal with a failure right then, I had hit upon inspiration!
There was a story mom told me once, about a man named Gan Jiang who... made perfect swords for the emperor, but then they killed his wife, Mo Ye? Something like that?
No, no, that's wrong. It was worse. Much worse. It was a far more tragic story, of that I was certain. My hands continued their rhythm, hammering out what I already knew deep in my bones to be a cheap counterfeit as I struggled to piece together the tale from my fragmented memory. But this time, unlike my clumsy attempts to forge that peerless golden blade at the edge of my unconsciousness, I had a good feeling. I knew, somehow, that this was within my reach. I just had to finish the failure first - any less would be disrespectful to my craft - and I'd get it right next time.
Or the next time.
Or the time after that.
Whatever, I'm sure I'll remember how the story goes soon.
If I'd been ‹Awake› I might have questioned why that was even important.
You know how it feels when you sleep for way too long and you wake up hoping they got the number of the bus that hit you? Double it. Quadruple it.
My head was stuffed with cotton and I felt like I was I swimming in sweat. And I ached. My arms burned like I'd skipped leg day forever. Blearily, I threw the blankets off, shuddering as the clammy coldness of the late December air in a house trying to save money on the heating bill washed over my damp skin. Gross.
I cast a glance at my clock. Three in the afternoon and I'd fallen asleep at... okay, so it was really only eleven hours of sleep, I guess.
...It was a good book, don't judge me!
Swallowing a couple times to get assess the situation in my mouth, I grabbed the glass on my nightstand and chugged half of it before remembering the pills.
"May as well."
I shrugged and downed them with the rest of the water.
Maybe they'll help with this headache.
I live for long, luxurious showers when I can. Sometimes, though, my body has other ideas so I went as quick as I could while still making sure to clean my hair well. It'd really suck to live down to the trio's jibes by actually smelling bad.
By the time I felt clean enough to call myself human, my stomach was doing its level best to give lie to the notion, so I ambled into the kitchen and threw a bagel in the toaster. I think I drank like a pint of water by the time it popped up and I was feeling just a bit sloshy. Pacing myself will probably never be my forte, but I really needed it after all the work I'd done while I was asleep.
Jeeze, I guess there might be something to that old "sweat it out" idea.
With a chunk my egg bagel was toasty and the cream cheese was ready, so I tugged the silverware drawer open and grabbed a-
"Daaaaad!" I complained.
There were no clean butter knives. The nerve of some people!
Fine, steak knife it is.
So I grabbed the steak knife and wow that thing was fascinating. The stamp said it was hand-forged and I could definitely see it. In my head, I had a clear image of the smith working. It was the last of a set of four and as unremarkable as its siblings.
"Ah, no!" I cried out in reflex as I realised what was coming next.
He didn't notice when he bumped the dial on the tempering oven. He was too tired, and the quality of his work suffered the consequences. Since the temperature was too low, the whole set was a bit far from the eutectoid temperature...
Brittle! The poor thing was brittle! My heart broke a little for this knife my... my m-mom and dad had received as a wedding gift from one of mom's colleagues. I'd have to be careful with little Tiny Tim. It wouldn't break in normal use, but any sudden impact or lateral torquing would be liable to snap it right off, probably right at the hand carved rosewood handle.
Carefully, almost reverently, I lavished my bagel with cream cheese and set it carefully next to the sink. If my stomach had had a tail (and, you know, was a separate independent entity resembling a dog) it would have been wagging: its gratification was literally right on the tip of my tongue when my thought process came to a screeching halt as my head whipped back around to stare at the knife again.
"Wait, what the hell was that!?"
I don't remember eating the bagel, but I know it happened at some point. Not important. The eggs I was planning to make as a chaser? Forgotten. The fact that I'd missed school on the last day before winter break? Probably for the better, honestly.
Somehow, I know the history of that knife. I know it in excruciating detail. If I had the tools, I could probably make it myself, right down to the flaws that made me feel momentary pity for it. This isn't normal, but I... how did I become a parahuman? When did I become a parahuman? Why?
Maybe I was freaking out a little. I mean, powers, right? Every kid goes through a phase where they fantasise about being the next Alexandria. Granted, for half of them, it's largely in the time before they realise boys and girls are different. But even then, that phase for me ended years ago. First order of business then: suppress!
I... sheets! That's right! My bedclothes are as gross as I was and maybe I should pick up some groceries for- oh right, I should call dad and tell him I'm awake and getting much better and definitely normal and not some kind of... Thinker, I guess?
Yeah, I was off to a good start. Idly, I noted I wasn't getting any flash of insight from the phone receiver or the Rolodex, so maybe it was just my imagination running wild after that...
Come to think of it, I feel like I had an important dream? Or not?
... after last night. For some reason.
I might have even doubled down on that conclusion if everything fibre of my being wasn't completely certain that the history I now knew of the knife was a matter of fact, as though it was recorded in my very soul.