I couldn't shake the feeling that Billy, no matter what he said, was ill. He wasn't eating. When he'd spoken earlier, he was much too hearty to be plausible. And he didn't seem to dare speak about his new home. I was suspicious.
But by the end of lunch, by the time we were cleaning up and resigning ourselves to another break out in the dreary courtyard, Billy approached me. He looked a little reluctant, embarrassed maybe, but curious. "Gabriel," he began, "could you tell me about something? It's a thing that's been worn by someone, but it's not a usual kind of thing."
Hhhmm. That interested me. What could be some sort of clothing and unusual at the same time, unless it was a lurid lime green shirt with neon orange splotches all across it? I didn't think that was what Billy meant, though. I understood the curiosity in his unnerving ruby eyes.
"Show it to me outside," I suggested.
He handed over a button, as it happened. What would I make of it? All I could think was that it certainly was interesting. Billy was mumbling. I did my best to catch his quiet words. Oh. "It's not as if I'm telling you anything, is it?" he turned out to be saying. "I mean I'm not talking about home, am I?"
I got more suspicious. "'Course not," I replied, just to reassure him. I took the button and sat on the grass, back to the ruin, face to Charlie, Fido and Billy.
"Where did you find it, Billy? And what's so unusual about it?" pumped Fidelio.
"Can't say," said a tight-lipped Billy.
Fidelio was probably thinking that it looked like just any old button. Which it did, mind you; there wasn't much special about its looks. But when you're a clothes psychic, you pay more attention to any sort of clothing. Already I was wondering how I was going to "wear" it. Then I started wondering other things.
"I need to know a bit more about it," I murmured, staring at it sitting on my palm. "Did you find it in your new home?" I tried. "In a wardrobe? On the floor? Do you know who wore the clothes it came from?"
Billy nodded twice, shook twice. I decided to send my suspicions on Billy's held tongue to the back of my mind. I itched to put on the button in any way I could.
"OK," I sighed, fiddling with the button some more. "So we're a bit closer. I guess I'll have to work with what I've got." I knocked the button on my breastbone, where a shirt would button down. I didn't get the feeling that I always got when I jumped into other people's memories.
"It's difficult," I remarked. I stuck it over my right breast pocket. "You see, I can't actually put it on, so I don't think it's going to work…ugh!"
The familiar chill flowed through my blood when I held the button over my heart. It was like diving into a freezing pool from ten feet up, headfirst. Headfirst into a freezing pool of another person's memories and feelings. I felt my back arch and the eyes of my mind open wide into another world. I could hear a drum-like beating in the background. Now that was unique to this button. It had never happened before. I could tell from the looks on my friends' faces that they heard it too.
They heard the beating, but they couldn't see what I saw. It was so…cool. I could only gasp at first. I shut my eyes, but I continued to see.
"It's amazing," I breathed.
Glass. "There's glass everywhere. Walls of glass." Glass…or was it mirrors? "No, it's mirrors…" Whatever it was, it permeated my being. I saw mirrors. I breathed mirrors, I heard mirrors, I even tasted mirrors. Most of all I felt mirrors. My skin tingled under the touch of the mirrors.
And then I wasn't seeing only mirrors anymore. I was seeing a man, a dark man. "…mirrors with…with a dark man looking into them." I strained to see him clearer; the mirrors made it hard to see him well.
Then I started to hear music. Piano music. Instinctively I searched for the piano.
"And there's music, piano music, but I can't see a piano."
Then a sudden idea struck me. The man must be trapped there, in the mirrors. I told them so. "I think the man is trapped…inside the mirrors." What else would he be doing in there anyway?
I could have stared at that sight forever, the enthralling glass mirrors and the beautiful piano-less piano music.
Then the…thing…screamed. Whatever the…thing…was, it wasn't human. That scream wasn't human. Chill flooded through my blood again, but it wasn't the I'm-about-to-dive-into-someone-else's-past feeling. It was fear.
I cast of the button as far away from myself as I could. Then I cowered. And waited for death.
Or something like it.