(The Prologue to The Dualists can be found here)
This story begins as so many do: with a transfer student. Namely, one Ivy Klein, who moved to the small town of Hooke Springs because of her father’s work. It was definitely a change of pace from the big city she came from, quite literally what the doctor ordered. Her father had suffered a minor heart attack, if any heart attack can truly be described as minor, which the doctors attributed to job-related stress. Thus, they prescribed him to move “out in the middle of goddamn nowhere,” as he always said. Then, like clockwork, his wife would roll her eyes and point to the swear jar, and he’d add another quarter to its impossibly vast riches. “What those-” he just barely managed to stop himself before he lost any more change. “What those dang doctors don’t seem to get is that moving is a whole-” he stopped himself again. “A whole heck of a lot more stressful than anything I’ve ever done for my job. And don’t even get me started on how much harder it is to conduct business over a conference call, rather than a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting.” “Trust me, we wouldn’t dream of it”, his daughter would say. “Well, I was just about to go on to say that the worst part is that it puts my lovely wife and daughter under the same stress, but I guess if she’s going to be such a…” he sighed. “If she’s going to be such a smartass about it, maybe she deserves it!” At the very moment he said “smartass”, he flipped a coin in the direction of the swear jar. The very next moment, it hit the floor, several feet from its intended destination. Ivy couldn’t help but smile. “Was it worth it?” “You bet your-” he decided he’d lost enough for today. “You bet it was.” And then they’d all laugh.
Ivy was sure she’d miss her old friends from the city, but at least she’d always have her family. She decided to think of this move, not as the loss of her old friends, but as an opportunity to gain new friends, as well as reunite with one friend in particular. Coco, her best friend since elementary school, had moved to this very same town two years prior. No one better embodied the saying “opposites attract” than those two. Ivy was, for the most part, a perfectly normal girl. She had decent grades, performed adequately at sports, occasionally drew for fun, listened to popular music, and loved chocolate. If she had to name one unusual thing about herself, it’d be her status as an introverted extrovert (or an extroverted introvert, depending on how she was feeling that day). She enjoyed making friends and talking to people, but often had trouble striking up conversation with strangers, so she usually only had a few good friends. This, of course, only made her even more normal, but she was not aware of this. Coco, on the other hand, was… abnormal. Her grades were just good enough to get by, to the great frustration of her teachers, who could tell that she was plenty clever enough to excel. She proudly proclaimed that she “only moved when she had to,” so she was not the most physically fit person; she was far from dangerously overweight, but it was noticeable enough to get her teased. She never drew; she insisted that her creations were to be called “etchings”, and were only produced when she entered a trance-like state, or so she claimed. She insisted so ardently that her “art,” which seemed to inspire a precisely honed confusion and unease in all who gazed upon it, was the product of supernatural inspiration (or possession), that Ivy had no choice but to play along. Her tastes in music were similarly extreme, favoring either The Common Practice Era (Baroque, Classical, Romantic), various subgenres of Metal appended with creative adjectives, or something called “Neo-classical Darkwave.” She was an extrovert, but her desire to make friends was far stronger than her ability to do so. She’d always approach strangers, excitedly recounting a cool bug she saw, or a crazy song she just heard, and they’d politely play along until she left, never to speak to her again. Despite having so few friends, (or perhaps because of it) she treasured them dearly, and would go to any length to ensure their safety and happiness. She also loved chocolate, because who doesn’t love chocolate?
Ivy could still remember the day that she was approached by that weird girl that she’d heard unpleasant rumors about. “Hey, will you be my friend?” she asked, catching Ivy off guard. “Um, sure! But why me?” Ivy asked. “Well, I want a friend, and no one else in this school seems to want to be my friend. I think it’s because they’re boring,” Coco said, very matter-of-factly. “So you’re saying that I’m the last person in the school that you asked to be my friend? Gee, I’m honored.” Ivy said, sarcastically. She was only joking around, but this was lost on Coco. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, I’m just being a bother. As always. You really don’t have to be my friend if you don’t want to.” “I’m so sorry! I was just teasing. I really didn’t mean to hurt you. Of course I’ll be your friend!” Ivy said. Coco was unconvinced. “I can tell you’re just saying that because you feel sorry for me. But really, it’s fine. I’m used to it. You don’t have to feel bad for me.” “I-” Ivy wasn’t sure what to say. She DID feel sorry for the girl before her. But… “Look, since we’re friends and all, I’m not going to lie. I do feel sorry for you. But you know what? I also kind of envy you. I always want to make friends with people, but I’m too scared to say the wrong thing, so I don’t say anything. But you’re brave enough to be yourself, no matter what, and that’s awesome.” After a short silence, Coco spoke. “Soooooo… what you’re saying is that ‘being myself’ is ‘saying the wrong thing?’” “What? No, not at all! I mean, I was just-” Ivy began. “I was just teasing!” Coco said, with a wink. They both laughed. Coco said, “You know, going with the whole ‘not lying’ thing, you were kind of right. You were one of the last people I approached to be my friend, because I thought you looked boring. And I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong about anything in my life. I’m glad that we’re friends.” “Me too,” Ivy said. “So, how do we make this official?” Coco asked, “Do we just shake hands? Or do we do that thing where we spit on our hands and then shake hands? Or is it on each other’s hands? Or do we do that thing where we cut our hands open and then shake hands? If we do that, we probably shouldn’t also do the spit thing, because infections are-” “I think just shaking hands is fine,” Ivy interrupted. They shook hands, and from that moment on, they were friends.
(Chapter 2 of The Dualists can be found here)