My Ranking Points
If it’s bad, blame Ella.
Lyra locked up her bicycle, stuffed her new synths into her backpack, checked on her confidential bank extortion and government corruption files, and ambled into Torvehallerne.
She shouldn’t stay too long this side of the København. She did have a few friends in Christiania (friends that her mother would certainly never approve of), but the sun was already shedding flecks of crimson as it fell behind the river and the wind was already spitting at her hair and scurrying in gooseflesh down her neck.
It was nice like this, though, she thought as she ordered some falafel from the outermost stall and clambered onto one of the benches along the riverside. Lyra had decided that she needed to be alone sometimes. She loved her friends, sure. She loved her family, kind of. She would never publicly admit that it was overwhelming, but…
Her falafel arrived.
These were the moments she craved. The air charged with a dozen languages and a thousand spices, her favourite city framed by glimmering waves. No one asking her for help or mocking her or judging her or praising her. Just…her. Where she wanted to be.
Lyra inhaled her salad, much to the dismay of the two gulls below her. Of course, in an hour, she’d be cycling back across the bridge. Back to her house with her folders and her books and her friends and her family. Back into the district where politicians sat around oaken desks and decided who or what they were in the mood to ruin that day. Lyra’s brows furrowed.
Some sort of break. She needed a break. What would they do if she just went somewhere? Another city, another country. Bring a friend or two. What would her parents do? It’s not like they cared about how she did at school. Not like she was properly needed until she was eighteen. She had a year. A year was enough. She could figure herself out. Go somewhere else and figure herself out—
Lyra jammed her headphones down over her head, yanked out a mini-keyboard, and ran her fingers over the keys. At least it drowned out the gulls. Some part of her hoped it might drown out everything else.
Then the world started to spin.
The voices of tourists sweltered and burst into a thousand more, voices from a thousand countries, a thousand cities, stabbing through her ears with such force that she was thrown down onto the stones. Except she wasn’t sure if they were even stones anymore; the river lurched and bled out into a crackling whirlwind of light that bore down on Lyra, driving under her feet, flinging her through what felt like air but couldn’t have been. The stalls dissolved into the light, becoming specks of a thousand colours, before even those colours dried, leached out, and were swallowed. Lyra wasn’t sure if she was dying or if her friends from Christiana had slipped some of their signature products into her coffee, but she clutched her backpack, ******* her eyes closed, and curled up inside her woollen coat.
She landed on stones. But they were not the same stones. There were the calls of birds but definitely not gulls.
Lyra opened her eyes.