Sleepwalkers Fiction: The Balance

Writing 150Prescott’s ear twitched as he looked down at the paper before him. He had written words and numbers on it, all laid out in a nice little chart. The source of income or expense in the far left column, and money going into his bank account in the middle one. At the far end went all the money that left his bank account for whatever reason, from the beginning of the month until now. At the bottom, the balance in his checking account, as it stood now: $-87.33.

He stroked his nose, from the twitching tip up to the top of his eyes. It soothed him to be petted, even if he was the one doing the petting. And right now, it was the only thing keeping him from having a small panic attack in front of all these nice people inside Zia’s Cafe on Allegheny. He double-checked and triple-checked the numbers. It simply couldn’t be right.

His phone buzzed. He plucked it carefully and read the text message displayed on its screen. Now I know why you wanted me to buy you lunch.

Prescott looked up and gave the man sitting across from him his best disapproving stare. When you were a six-foot tall walking rabbit, that only worked so well. Vitaly merely smiled back at him, hunched in his comically undersized chair, cradling the comically undersized phone in his massive hands.

To each other, they looked as they truly were. Prescott was the perfect blend of rabbit and man, with big brown expressive eyes, oversized buck-teeth hidden under a blunt and boxy muzzle, a thick coat of white fur covering his entire body. He favored baggy jeans and a light sweater this time of year; his fur was more than enough to keep him warm, but he couldn’t walk around naked when most people couldn’t see that he was keeping modest. Vitaly was an enormous blue troll of a man, thick white hair forming a mane that nearly hid the small horns and pointed ears that still managed to poke through. He had an underbite to match Prescott’s overbite, thick, sharp canines jutting up from his lower lip. He wore simple and sturdy clothing, blown up large to contain the impossible, ancient strength that was his birthright. He had learned restraint by living in a world made far too small for him, and had come to have the patience of mountains.

To the cafe’s other patrons, they were merely an eccentric couple — a hulking man who was constantly texting, and a strange younger fellow carrying out what looked to be a one-sided conversation. They came here together every Wednesday. The smaller man ordered for the larger one, and he had an odd, jokey way of talking. It was simultaneously hilarious and frustrating.

Prescott rarely told the truth outright after he came upon his true nature. It was the birthright of his kind, apparently, and it made simple conversations rather interesting affairs more often than not. He did his best to at least make it entertaining to decipher the truth, but that only went so far and inevitably people got fed up with trying to puzzle him out. Vitaly was the only person who knew what he was getting at most of the time, and that was an immeasurable relief to him. In exchange, he served as the troll’s translator so his muteness wouldn’t make things weird for anyone. They were the best of friends, and they fought often enough to prove it.

Today, Prescott was too nervous about his bank account to really give Vitaly a good rejoinder. “Ha. Very funny. I’m overdrawn in the first place because I bought lunch for you last week. You could have stopped after your tenth sandwich, you big ox.”

It was a lie, and they both knew it. Vitaly simply smirked and tapped away on his undersized phone. It was nothing short of magic that he was able to type anything with those fingers the size of soda cans. I know I could have. But it was more fun watching you sweat.

Prescott allowed himself a small smile. “If you think it’s fun watching me sweat, you have a pathetic and incredibly boring life.”

Vitaly shrugged, then ate the last quarter of his sandwich in one quick bite. Prescott looked down at his balance sheet and sighed. His ears folded as he thought about the bills he still had to pay. Money had never been his strong suit.

“I have everything under control, of course. My student loans are well in hand, and so are the utilities, and I certainly won’t make a late fee on the credit card. I know you think the negative in front of my balance looks bad, but really, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in excellent shape.” Prescott’s heart raced as he thought about it. Where could he get the money?

His phone buzzed. Is no worries. I give you $500 now, and you pay me back over time, OK?

Prescott looked up, stunned. “But you make even less than I do. I mean, you’re practically a peasant! Where did you get that kind of money?”

Savings. I save while you buy video games and hair dryers and what not. This is interest-free loan, pay back when you can. But I help you budget your money, yeah?

The rabbit’s whiskers and ears lifted. “I don’t see what help you could possibly be, but I suppose it couldn’t be the worst thing.”

No, worst thing is borrowing money from Brendon. He lords it over you until the end of time. Lucky for you, it’s just me. Vitaly smiled, then reached over and grabbed the other half of Prescott’s sandwich in those big fingers. The troll sniffed it, made a face, and then ate it anyway.

Prescott snickered and rolled his eyes. It’s amazing how money in one’s bank account could lift your spirits. “Arrogant grand-standing is far better than some lummox eating you out of house and burrow, that’s for sure.”

They both laughed, then, Prescott loud enough for the two of them.

(This week’s prompt was balance, and I wanted to take it to a different place than most people would have thought of. Balancing a checkbook can be rather boring, but…I thought for these two it would fit rather well.

Prescott and Vitaly are two of the Three, a group of characters who find new Sleepwallkers and help them with the realization of their true nature. I really love the idea that they both find basic communication challenging for various reasons, and rely on each other to make things a bit easier. Prescott is the mouthpiece for the group, and all the twists and turns and verbal rabbit-holes can be useful in their line of work. When he needs to be earnest, he can trust Vitaly to decipher what he’s actually trying to say. Vitaly, for his part, can’t speak at all. For him, those tiny cell phones are a god-send. Also, I never get tired of seeing giant people trying to use tiny gadgets.

That being said, trying to figure out how Prescott and Vitaly actually speak to one another — and to ‘civilians’ around them — is a bit of a challenge. I know that I’m not a good enough writer to really pull it off yet, so I want to get in a lot of practice. They’re fun to write, anyway, so expect to read a lot of these guys in the future.)

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