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Flick picked her way through the crowd, scanning faces and listening to the lilt of conversation as though her life depended upon it. She passed a pair of stubby noondays whose grassy green prisms were shaped like little garden chairs; she passed a dozen bickering midlights whose prisms were shaped like a forest of saplings and motorbikes and humans and street signs and dogs; she passed a shiver of gloam whose prisms were shaped like giraffes and gorillas and supermarket trolleys and small cars; she passed whirlywheels and screamtrains, jugglers and mist-spinners, cobblers and gobblers and dreamers of dreams.


 


“Do-nuts! Get your fresh do-nuts here!” cried a one-legged rainglow, hopping gamely in front of a vat of boiling toil. “Do-nuts! Re-nuts! Mi-, fa-, so-, la-, ti-nuts! Get your hot octaves here, half a stembit a bag!”


 


Flick didn't spare him so much as a glance, delicious though the octaves' spicy-sweet fragrances were. She was sorting through the crowd as calmly and purposefully as she had sorted through Indigo's polished stones, waiting to spot the familiar shape of Loom, or Winnow, or Pitch. There was strength in numbers, and Flick knew that it would be difficult to convince other shadows of the truth she felt in her ink-black bones: there was no difference but distance. Gloam were the equal of the sunshadows. Flick knew it, but she also knew that it was going to be hard to convince people, and much easier with support.


 


She finally spotted Pitch and Winnow together in one of the swingsong cradles, their combined voices powering its movement as it swooped and ducked and arched through the air. Pitch was crooning something low and lovely, while Winnow's sweet alto swooped around the tune in a ragged harmony. Flick watched them, bouncing on her toes and hugging herself with half-stifled excitement. She felt like she was standing on the very edge of the Cliffs of Gloam, about to step off into thin air in the hopes that there was an invisible bridge waiting to support her. It seemed to take hours for them to finally run out of breath and ideas and let the cradle sag back down towards the dust, but it must have been only a few minutes in truth. Flick chewed her lower lip and watched wide-eyed as they helped one another out of the cradle and then reeled across the ground like drunkards, still off-balance from the movement of the ride.


 


“Flick!” said Pitch, sounding delighted. But was it a hey-good-to-see-you-isn't-the-Flare-Fair-great sort of delighted, or a hey-we're-going-to-change-the-world sort of delighted? Flick had no idea. She tugged at her new necklace and tried to read their expressions as they crunched over the gravel towards her.


 


“Did you hear him?” Flick blurted out, as soon as they were close. Her heart was in her mouth.


 


“Sorry?” Winnow slowed down, its eyebrows quirking upwards in uncertainty.


 


“The who with the what now?” said Pitch. His smile faltered as he took in Flick's tight shoulders and the arms crossed in front of her chest.


 


Flick made an impatient sort of humphing sound. “The man!” she said. “The man! Loom's man! My boy's father! Did you hear him?”


 


“Er – well. I heard him snore?” Pitch offered, tentatively. Flick made a mewl of distress.


 


“No, not that! Before the snoring! Did you hear what he said about the moon?” She looked from one of them to the other, her heart racing. “About the stars?”


 


There was an awkward pause. Flick groaned.


 


“Nice necklace,” Winnow said, after a moment. “But you know that all the colours will fade straight to black the next time you're mooncalled, right?”


 


Flick didn't point out that so far she'd only ever been mooncalled once in her entire life. “Forget the necklace! This is important. 'No difference, only distance.' Did you hear that?”


 


“Yes?” said Winnow, and Flick punched the air in delight.


 


“Yes! You heard him!”


 


Winnow's frown deepened. “What? No – I heard you. Just now. I heard what you said. Wasn't that what you meant?”


 


Flick's shoulders sagged. “But – you mean you didn't hear him say it? Think hard. Think really really hard.”


 


“I didn't hear anything,” Pitch said firmly. “Why are you acting like a fauxbeam, Flick? I know it was your first time Otherside, but mostly people don't turn into gibbering wrecks.”


 


“I'm not acting like a fauxbeam!” snapped Flick, thoroughly offended. “I'm just – I – look, are you sure you didn't hear anything?”


 


“He was whispering,” Pitch pointed out. “I didn't know there was going to be a test afterwards. What's the big deal?”


 


Flick sighed. “I learned something amazing. I thought you all heard it too, but – look, guys, the moon? It's just a rock.”


 


They stared at her.


 


“Oookay,” Winnow said, carefully.


 


“You don't get it! I mean it doesn't make any light of its own. Moonlight is really just sunlight, bouncing off the surface of the moon. We walk in sunlight, just like the loftiest longrays.” She took in their thunderstruck faces and laughed. “And that's not even the most amazing bit! You know what else? The stars are all suns. Some of them are even bigger than our own sun! They're just a long way off – but there's no difference. They're all suns, and we get to look at them. Just us, just the gloam, looking up at a million glittering suns every night. There is no difference, only distance! Our teachers were wrong.”


 


Pitch looked deeply worried. “That's – Flick, that's heresy,” he said, in a low voice. “You've got to be careful! The Shadowcorps will take you away if you go saying things like that in public.”


 


“But it's true,” Flick said, frustrated that they didn't seem to share her sense of excitement or delight. “I'm not just trying to make trouble – I've found out something amazing, and everyone should know it. There's no difference, only distance. We're all cast by the same light.”


 


“Except fauxbeams,” Winnow chipped in.


 


Flick rolled her eyes. “Fine, whatever – except fauxbeams. But we're just as good as the sunshadows! We are sunshadows!”


 


Pitch clasped his palm over her mouth and cast a worried look around them. “You're going to get us all into deep, deep trouble if you carry on like this,” he hissed.


 


Flick looked from Pitch to Winnow and back again, trying to find some answering gleam of excitement. They just looked dubious and worried, and Flick tried not to be hurt. It wasn't like they had ever been close friends, but she wasn't expecting them to react like this, not to something so wonderful.


 


“Fine,” she said crossly. “I'm going to find Loom. Loom will back me up. Loom was right there, and heard it all. You'll see.”


 


She didn't wait to hear their reply. Somewhere out there in the shifting mass of shadows was the one gloam who could corroborate her claims, the one gloam who could confirm that she hadn't gone moon-mad, and Flick was going to find him.


 

Photo_on_2011-02-21_at_19.06
Shadowplay: Chapter Four
Flockofwords Released May 18, 2011
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