Emma sinks into a corner of a battered leather sofa, and pulls a thick crocheted comforter over her legs, and rests her head on the cracked back cushions. A faint odor of incontinent animals and children rises from the area. Her eyes close. She’s not sure she cares.
When she opens her eyes again, she’s aware that she’s been slumped to one side, snoring a bit, and her eyes are scratchy and her mouth is dry. She blinks, unsure what woke her up. A flash of white and then arcs of rainbow colors dazzle straight into her eyes, making her blind. She jerks, unable even to fumble up a hand in time, and squints her eyes shut. She struggles her arms up out of the comforter’s wallowing tangle.
Lights and rainbow fractions of it flash around the whole room, shifting and scattering and hypnotic.
Dance is sitting in a chair with his feet out in a patch of sunlight from a window. His arms cradle a classical guitar, one knee propped up slightly higher on a cardboard box. He is playing flamenco music on it, fingers moving all over the neck of the guitar. His face goes remote and stern when he concentrates so hard, eyes shut.
He forgets to think about anything else when his whole body is focused on the guitar. His whole body shifts gently and sways with his playing.
He has forgotten that this body includes a prehensile tail that he didn’t have some weeks ago. It is a tail with new vertebrae, a tail that has been growing out of the base of his spine in a matter of days. He is still clumsy trying to grip things and move it. He is still learning how to move with it, how to use its unknown optical properties. When he is fearful or alarmed, it will look so much like its surroundings that it can virtually disappear.
When he forgets himself, like this, the tail emerges from all its various camouflages to astonish them.
It is the tail, lying in the sun around his ankles, curling and shifting and coiling in time with the breaks in the music’s beat, that is punctuating all the pauses with knuckle-like thumps and knocks on the wooden floor, thudding like the castanet beats of a dancer’s heels.
In the stretch of sunlight, reflections flash and glitter off the keeled surfaces of the tail, flaring off diamond-paned scales in sprays of color. It flares back the light in an almost perfect mirror, creating lenses and throwing brilliant arcs of sunbow spattered across the walls.
Emma squints, watching the colors flicker around the walls. For some moments, she stares up in amazement at an entire wall filled with little diamonds of color. It looks like a snakeskin of pure light stretched up the grubby stucco wallboard. The reflected light ripples, like a soap-bubble, rippling through all the colors of the rainbow, over and over. When she puts out her hand in the way, the little diamonds of color move and breathe over her fingers.
Writer’s note: I’ve had a plotbunny take off from the previous bjd_30minfic prompt, “Cornered”, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied with seeing where it went–and it turned into plot-elephant. It isn’t a matter of *planning* on this prompt–it’s just that this story arc is all I seem to be thinking about lately! This bit is part of the same skewed universe trying to join your regularly-scheduled reality.