A tragic love story between a dust bunny and a sock that got lost under the bed (written for Christmas story exchange 2016 for Lydia)
Written by Five
This work was last updated October 11, 2017
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Ava had lived on the edge of the Light Strip her whole life. It was a peaceful existence, and often she would spend her time staring at motes of dust, drifting through the air, some of them touching down to the ground where she and the others would pick up that life-sustaining essence. She grew quickly, more so than her friends, as she always strayed so close to the Light Strip where dust rained down the most. Days held a sort of monotony that was both dull yet satisfying. To know the future would be secure, that everything would continue as it had before, was peaceful. The only true variation was the behaviour of the creatures that lived above. They slept and rose at about the same times every day, but the frequency that Ava saw the pillars shift was different.
Many times, the creatures would leave heaps on the ground, some large, some small, some brightly coloured, some not. They whispered to each other but Ava was always too far to hear what they were saying, and no one dared venture close enough to hear. The Light Strip was one thing, it was a known variable, dark and light during predictable times of day and night. Sometimes a random occurrence would happen and the Light Strip would light up when it shouldn’t, but that was rare.
The Open was nothing like the Light Strip. Strange things happened out in the Open. The monster known only as Hoover roamed the Open. To venture out was to leave yourself open to its sucking maw, it was much safer to stay in the dark, where Hoover could neither reach or see them.
And then one day, something happened. One of the brightly coloured heaps from the Outside appeared in the Light Strip. Ava watched it fall, landing silently but sending up a cloud of dust. No one knew what to do, nothing like this had ever occurred in their lifetimes. The little ones jumped happily in the dust cloud, each trying to gather up the most motes and grow bigger than the others. The elders, large and slow-moving as they were, decided to make a journey to the Corner, where the largest and most immobile of them all lived. His name was Scovis and Ava knew he had seen days when Hoover had not yet been created, and the only thing to fear was a slow-moving creature named Broom.
While the elders began their trek to seek Scovis’ advice, Ava alone was brave enough to venture near the heap. It was white, with splashes of blue, and when she was finally close enough, she could hear it murmuring, making soft snuffling noises.
“Excuse me,” called Ava.
The snuffling stopped, and with great effort, the heap twitched.
“Excuse me, what are you?” asked Ava.
“I’m a Sock,” said the heap, more than a little indignantly. “What are you?”
“I’m a Dust Bunny. My name is Ava.” She looked at the Sock. “Don’t you have a name?”
The Sock looked at her strangely. “Why would I have a name? Names are for those who don’t know what they are. You don’t know what you are. You’re not even a Bunny. I’ve seen a Bunny before.”
It was Ava’s turn to be indignant. “Of course I’m not a Bunny, I’m a Dust Bunny.”
There was huffy silence for a moment, then the Sock spoke. “I… I don’t suppose you’ve seen my twin?”
“What do they look like?” asked Ava.
There was another moment of silence, this time awkward. If a Sock could stare, this one was definitely staring.
“What is a twin?”
“You don’t know what a tw– Oh it’s hopeless,” sobbed the Sock.
“I haven’t seen your twin…” Ava began slowly, “but I can take you to the Outside. I’m sure you can find them there.”
The Sock perked up but wilted just as fast. “It takes forever for me to move, we’ll never make it.”
“It’s ok. I’ll guide you. It’s about time something interesting happened around here.” Ava reached out a tendril of dust as an invitation.
“Thank you.” The Sock shifted slightly so part of it touched Ava.
And so they travelled across the Dustlands, over many cycles of dark and light. Other Dust Bunnies moseyed by, none staying for too long. The Sock moved so slowly, but Ava kept pace with it, and they kept up a steady stream of conversation. Ava learned of the Outside, and the Sock learned of Ava’s boundless imagination. Every day they spoke for a little longer, and the closer to the Outside they got, the slower they moved, as if the Sock was reluctant to leave behind its new friend.
Suddenly, before either of them knew it, they were there, on the border between the Outside and the Underside.
“I–“ Ava started and stopped. There was nothing to say, nothing that needed to be said.
“Come with me,” said the Sock, even though they both knew it was impossible.
“I–“ Ava began again as the ground started to shake. The pillars were shifting again, but this time she could see everything. They weren’t just pillars, they were Titans. A giant hand was reaching down, down, down, and the Sock was gone.
Ava went home, there was nothing else to do. The journey back took her only a one cycle of dark and light. She made her way to the Light Strip, and then stepped in. She looked up and spent a long time staring at the dust drifting through the air. She was so full of new knowledge and no longer fearful of the Light, but she felt… empty.
She awoke to a soft humming, like the grumbling of Hoover but softer and less angry.
“The Roomba.” A raspy voice made her turn around. It was Scovis.
“Don’t be fooled by its sound, it’s deadlier by far than Hoover. It can come into the Underside, and you cannot run faster than it. I’ve seen it in my youth,” said Scovis, the sadness of a thousand cycles weighing down his words.
“So you survived,” said Ava.
“I was the only one,” said Scovis.
The humming grew louder.
“But surely we can do it again!”
“No, child. Last time I only survived because the Roomba devoured a Sock and broke down before it reached me, but there are no Socks to save us this time.”
The humming grew louder still, accompanied by a flashing green light.
Ava thought of her Sock. Better the Roomba took her than the Sock. She had done what no Dust Bunny did before. She had crossed the Underside and seen the Outside. She had uncovered the truth of the pillars. She had made a friend. More than that. That was plenty for one Dusty Bunny to experience.
It wasn’t enough.
It was all she would ever get.
The humming was deafening, and wind was whipping around her, tearing at her essence. She saw Scovis fall to pieces moments before she herself was consumed.
Thank you, Sock.
And then there was only the soft humming and beeping of the Roomba.
3 cycles later
It had taken a while, but the Sock had convinced its twin to take the plunge.
“Together,” said the Sock.
“Together,” said its Twin.
“I can’t wait for you to meet Ava!”
They tumbled down the light strip.
“Ava!” called the Sock.
There was nothing, not even the whispering of a single Dust Bunny drifting over the floor.
The Underside was empty.