You'd think it would be difficult to talk to a guy with a rat and a cat in his hair and take the conversation seriously. I was surprised to walk away with a dull sense of foreboding instead.
Traveller was surprisingly easy to coax away from his duties. After receiving permission from Libby yesterday to sit down for an hour-long chat, I approached Traveller and proposed a meal. He agreed immediately, dropping the stack of clean towels he'd been carrying to Dragomir's quarters in the middle of the hallway.
"Uh. Shouldn't you... take those to Dragomir first?" I nudged the towels with my foot.
Traveller shrugged. He reached into his hair and scratched; something inside purred. "Nope! Libby will get them. And then she'll hit me. And yell. That's the way it has to be."
"... okay then."
I led Traveller to the Neo Beefiary, which Morris, for some reason, has renamed the 'Neo Neo Beefiary' since taking over. I guess he thinks the re-rebranding will wash away the odious mystery of Bora. I'd argue against his success. He brought us each a plate of smelly hashbrowns; Traveller scarfed down both.
"Did you want yours?" he asked, feeding the last three hashbrowns to the kitten in his hair while the rat watched angrily from atop his head.
"Kinda moot now, isn't it?" I pointed at my empty plate.
"Oh, yeah." Traveller blinked. "I hope you find them some day."
I raised a finger, opened my mouth, began to speak, and promptly gave up. The hashbrowns hadn't smelled very good anyway.
We talked. I asked Traveller how he was getting on with Libby, and he told me that everything was fine, great, hunky-dory. I asked how Dragomir was doing, and he said basically the same thing: fine, great, hunky-dory. Also, still in a coma. But, hey, nobody's perfect, right?
"Right." I rolled my eyes, watching Traveller giggle as the kitten chased the rat along his shoulders. The rat looked irate, but it refused to abandon Traveller. "So. Uh. Trav. How... how you doing?"
"Fine," he mumbled. More giggles as the kitten dug into his scalp with its tiny claws. "Ow! That should hurt more than it does."
"Probably." I shook my head. "Sooooo... Trav. I, uh, kinda had a question for you."
"Yes, I love souvlaki." Trav's eye went wide and hopeful, and he clasped his hands together in childlike hope.
"No." I slapped my forehead. So much for focus. "That's... that's not the question. Look, uh, Trav. Remember two weeks ago?"
"Yeah. I figured. Okay." I raised a fist. "Remember when you punched Dragomir?"
Traveller shook his head. The kitten clung to his ear and mewed. "I didn't punch Dragomir."
"Yes, yes you did. I was wondering why - "
Traveller lightly pounded the table. It splintered a little under his fist. "No. I didn't punch him. He just..."
I slid away from the table, fearing that he might sheer my legs off if he slammed the table again. The change in his demeanour was frighteningly abrupt. "Just...?"
Traveller's smile vanished. He planted both elbows on the table and clutched the sides of his head, as though suffering an intense headache. The kitten didn't seem to notice or care, but the rat shot up on two legs and watched Traveller.
"He just... got in the way." Traveller bit his lip. "I tried to punch her, but he got in the way. And I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, but he got in the way."
I mulled over this for a few moments, scratching my chin. Something didn't seem right with that. "But... you just said you didn't punch Dragomir. So... which was it?"
Traveller shuddered. He didn't speak again until the rat, looking concerned, crawled into his hair and disappeared. "The voice in my head says you shouldn't ask me about this stuff. It says you'll break my brain."
I've read enough of Dragomir's diary to know about rats. "What's going on here? Tell me. I need to know."
Traveller waited a moment, cocking his ear, then shook his head. "No. The voice in my head says that forgetting is more important. It's always been more important."
"Why?" I stood, snarling. "By the gods, why? What are you hiding?"
Travelled didn't answer for a while. He slowly drooped until his forehead met the table. For at least a few moments I thought his brain was broken, perhaps even moreso than I'd always expected. I didn't think he would offer any sort of cogent reply. He surprised me.
"The voice in my head," he said eventually, talking into the table, "doesn't remember. It used to know, but it doesn't now. It doesn't think knowing would help anyone."
I gulped. Traveller's voice was hollow, and sad, and stern. I suddenly felt small, as though I'd shot back to my early days when The Baron would chastise me for sneaking extra cookies from the kitchens.
"She stole my life." He sounded like a different person. "She took it, and tucked it into her pocket, and ran away with it. And he's the only one who can give it back."
But he didn't know what that meant, and I'm afraid to learn the answer.
Logan the Thief