Nothing's rad forever.........................
Despite everything on her mind, Isabel couldn’t help but crack a smile at his antics. As unreliable as Flipflop seemed, she was learning she could count on him to lift her spirits, albeit mostly at his own fumbling expense.
Flipflop glanced up from his slump as if he’d felt that new thought’s warmth. After a blink or two, he shared her smile, though he sheepishly returned to face the floor.
Eightfold said something like that, Isabel thought to herself. That she could feel my feelings when we were together, thanks to something special about me. It didn’t seem very special to Isabel, to be an open book like that, and she didn’t know what she’d done to deserve it. She’d only just met Flipflop, so it wasn’t born from what she’d had with Eightfold... the bond she’d taken for granted until it was far too late. Isabel found her fists clenched once again.
Suddenly self-conscious as to what emotions he might be eavesdropping on, Isabel shot a look back down towards Flipflop
“I was a fool to underestimate art,” he said. “It’s bliss and burden both, an ode to hell below and heaven high. Your silent scorn has taught me the error of—”
Isabel attempted to put a finger to Flipflop’s lips. This yielded dubious results, given their relative heights, Flipflop’s Lowly Worm-shaped head, and the fact that turtles hardly had lips in the first place. Flipflop was silenced by the gesture all the same, however, as “lowly worm” described the spirit’s self-image just as well as it did his silhouette.
“Listen... I’m glad you’re getting a lot out of it,” Isabel said patiently, “but I really don’t care about my dad’s stuff either way. I’ve just, like... got a lot on my plate right now, y’know? And I dunno if you can even call most of this junk art, let alone antique—half of it’s just here because it’s haunted. See?” Isabel sculpted an extra hand from spectral energy and let it drift along the shelf behind her. It passed through object after object until it touched a little pot labeled “NOT FOR SALE,” which teetered back and forth until she steadied it. “My dad collects possessed stuff. It’s his thing.”
“Oh,” said Flipflop. “Why?”
“Um.” Isabel scanned her surroundings. The shop had been partially transformed into some sort of subway bodega within the world of her spirit trance, but its strange contents sat unchanged upon the shelves. “I don’t really know. Just because, I think.”
Flipflop nodded sagely, as he did at most things that he didn’t understand. Then he suddenly perked up, whirling to face Isabel with an intense, hopeful expression. “Say, Isabel... you don’t suppose your father could have collected one of my sworn brothers, do you?? Or my grand and benevolent teacher?”
Isabel raised an eyebrow. “Like, here in the shop? Um, I don’t know if... I mean, he just combs yard sales for this stuff, I’m pretty sure.” Flipflop’s determination gave her pause. She’d always been so selfishly incurious with Eightfold... the least that she could do was hear him out. “But, um, your sworn brothers... they’re missing? And you’ve been... looking for them?”
“Ah.” Flipflop bowed his head. “How rude of me. You declared us friends nearly one whole day ago, and yet I haven’t shared my full life story...”
Isabel had to wrestle her lips shut to hide her smile.
“You see... my sworn brothers and I weren’t always sworn or brothers. When we first met as stray spirits on the bustling streets of Baxborough, the form our friendship took was a performance arts collective.” Flipflop beamed, his eyes bright with nostalgia. “I danced, Hiphop made music, and Switchswatch made, like, really sick skate decks and t-shirts and stuff. It was rad
“That does sound rad.”
“It was so rad...” Flipflop sighed. “But nothing’s rad forever.”