the wind whistles softly

You must relearn everything.

Medicine, you know. History. Theology. Laws of relativity and gravity. Entropy and enthalpy. Verses from the book the Shepherd keeps drift by every so often like clouds.

Status, cumulus, cirrus.

From the Latin.

From the beginning.

Shoelaces are difficult.

Simon teaches you about silverware. About proper eating and sleeping and being. Teaches you how to exist in the world without falling apart, like loose strings being tugged, unraveled, sorted by color and length and rewoven into a new dress. Hat, scarf, and gloves.

Sometimes, you want to cover your hands. Cover them and hide them and bury them in dirt. Hide or expose.

They are lying to you. White and pale and full of veins and bones. You want to give them color and lightness, but Simon doesn't like it when you paint them red with steam and heat.

'It's only skin,' you tell him. 'It only hides. We have to find-'

Simon holds your wrists gently. 'No, mei-mei,' he murmurs. His voice sounds like rolling thunder - smooth and deep.

He shuts the water off, and everything is suddenly too loud. He wraps your hands in bandages - white, whiter than your skin and the clouds and the light behind your eyes.

'I can make a black hole,' you tell her. She spares you a glance, but nothing more. 'You have to condense the sun to three kilometers.' No response. 'Two times the gravitational constant times the mass divided by the speed of light in a vacuum squared will give you the Schwarzchild radius.'

She looks up, blinks, and doesn't know what to say. She is confused, but only slightly. The rest of her is indifferent.

'They fall inside themselves,' you say, but only to yourself. There is dust on the counter. The knives are sharp, but you don't need them today. Zoe is sitting at the table, cleaning her gun.


'Don't be mad,' you advise. 'It only condenses. Then you'll fall, too.'

Inara shows you how to brush your hair. How to struggle though the tangles without hurting your scalp. She combs and braids it, puts it up with smooth chopsticks and old clips and long ribbons. Sometimes she lets you keep them. Sometimes she doesn't.

'You look like a princess,' she says softly, with a smile.

You wonder if your hands will ever be as gentle.

Wash tries to teach you about dinosaurs, but you know their names.

'Tyrannosaurus. From the Greek. Tyrant Lizard. 13 feet wide and 42 feet long. Weighs 7.5 tons. Premaxillary teeth at the front of the upper jaw with reinforcing ridges on the rear surface were incisiform and curved backwards. Too many questions.'

He blinks, stutters something, and shakes his head. 'Don't you know how to have fun?'

You frown, and roll the word over your tongue several times before repeating: 'Fun.'

'Yeah, you know-' Wash makes a growling noise in the back of his throat and moves the plastic figures up and down, giving one a deep, gravely voice and the other a high-pitched whine. In his hands, they look like ballerinas, gliding across the steel surface of the consul. Levers and wires and red buttons that proclaim loudly, do not touch, do not touch, do not touch me, touch me, touch me...

You tilt your head. Wash stares, and makes a gesture with his arms. The plastic figures dance.

Laughter is beautiful. It isn't something you distinctly remember from before, or something you held onto. But now, echoing off the walls and bars and cavities of Serenity, it sounds like waves - like music. Kaylee grins and grabs your arm and you hear the pretty, tinny music swell.

In the middle of a firefight, Jayne hands you a gun. 'Pull back the slide, release it, and don't fire until I-'

One, two, three. Easy shots.

'-tell you to.'

You get lost.

The Captain finds you.

'This ain't the time for hide and seek, ya hear?' he says, a bit gruffly – a large hand on your arm, dragging you towards the ship.

'Had to find out.'

'Find out what?'

'The sky is black inside.'

Mal grunts, but doesn't say anything else, not until you're back inside and the engine is humming beneath your feet. He stands next to you, watching the large hatch close, light slowly fading out through the gap.

'Well?' he asks.

'Status, cumulus, cirrus,' you reply. He frowns. You smile. 'Still blue.'

Book reads to you aloud. He's the only one with the patience for your questions, your contradictions. Everything he says is a fallacy, but he says it with such conviction that it makes you pause.

'It's called faith, River,' he tells you gently. 'You just have to believe.'

'I do believe,' you inform him. He doesn't understand.

Two by two, hands of blue.

You believe everything.

They look through you, sometimes. Often. Simon says it's because they're busy; distracted. But you know better.

You are invisible.

Climbing the walls at night and tearing out your hair. But no one will see, not even Simon.

'The wind will blow, the boat will turn and darkness comes.'

You draw spirals and flowers and stars on the walls with your fingertips. Landscapes that only you can see, safe places only you can go.

'You won't find me here,' you tell them softly.

The wind whistles softly in response.

For now, you wander - barefoot and bright.