Log:Signs on the Horizon

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Signs on the Horizon

"...How do you know? I mean, how do you navigate - where it is you go, to find the whole--..."


Ardis, Franklyn

15 August, 2018

Franklyn and Ardis attend a lecture on the end of the world.


The lecture hall, uncomfortably cool before it filled -- or, rather, half-filled, this being summer and interest only so-so to begin with -- with bodies, is warm now. Through the shut windows, the overcast sky grows orange and too-bright as the sun prepares to set. The tops of the trees that border the small campus sway in the breeze outside. Later this evening, a thunderstorm is predicted.

Ardis sits next to Franklyn near the back of the hall. The scientist has on a black T-shirt with the sleeves ripped out and a Lichtenstein-style print of a vintage romance comic in which half of a couple, weeping extravagantly, hand to mouth, says to their partner, 'You just don't understand me... Or Heidegger!', worn loose with a short, fawn-colored skirt and black boots. She's leaning forward with her chin cupped in one hand, eyes fixed on the speaker.

The fact that the man with stringy hair and glasses at the front of the room has already been talking about ecology for the end of the world -- landscaping, horticulture, species diversity, and so forth -- for an hour doesn't seem to have lessened her focus at all. Some other members of the audience, however, are looking around the room. Most seem to be students or professors at the college. One, a dark young man dressed in a white, wide-sleeved robe, has his face turned to the window and has been staring out at the changing sky for nearly the entire lecture.

Why hasn't anyone thought to open a window?

Not that Franklyn has -acted- on the impulse, if she herself has considered letting the outside world into the lecture hall. She's seemed perfectly content to sit next to Ardis in the back and remain there - poised with a notebook in lap, looking somewhat time-warped in a billowy-sleeved white blouse and long dove grey skirt nipped in tight at the waist. Jewellery? Yeah, she's always wearing some - and that big black bag is by her feet, never far; no, no.

Her attention, though - well... It may've strayed - her notes less frequent now, even if her expression is that of serious, almost troubled consideration. Where is she looking? Well ostensibly at the lecturer as they speak; only her eyes drift - behind them, to the edges of the hall, to the shifting orange light and indigo shadows that creep along, to the windows framing the world which will inevitably end, to the figure in white paying attention.

For a while, Franklyn watches him watch the skies. Something is being said about something - and the pen in her hand moves; automatic writing, a note taken without looking. It possibly has something to do with the lecture - although the association may be... tangential.

The lecture drones on and on. "In terms of threatened biodiversity as a result of horizontal growth of cities," the lecturer is saying, when the glass windows flood with red light, thick and alarming, and the sun at last dips below the canopy of the trees that sway and twist in the wind outside. A wind that seems to grow stronger minute by minute as the evening thunderstorm approaches.

When the sun, swollen with the last light of the day, finally disappears, the man in white stands up and leaves the room. He doesn't stop to excuse himself or look at anyone. No one seems to take any notice of his silent exit at all.

Ardis isn't writing anything down, but she still seems completely engaged by the lecture, posture directed forward in her seat. She hardly seems to blink, in fact, although now and then she does throw a sidelong glance at Franklyn, and at a pause in the metered outpouring of words, she gives her a sly, secretive smile, as if there's something very funny, but too private to burst into laughter over just yet, about being here together.

Threatened biodiversity - horizontal cities - inevitable collapse - blood red clouds.

Franklyn is writing, still; looped scrawling cursive, occasional short-hand and scribbling which would be legible if someone devoted time to really examining what's there. Can she even read her own handwriting? She isn't looking at it - and while she catches Ardis' glance maybe a third of the time, that very private joke is met with an ambiguous, hazy, heavy lidded smile in return.

She doesn't seem nervous - just a little tired, maybe.

Not so tired that she can't focus on the man in white; attention drifting back, looking not so much at his face as the way the light is altering the hue of his clothes. Subtle changes. So wrapped up in observing him, that when the man suddenly goes to leave? Without warning or acknowledgement or the rest of the lecture being over?

Well. If there were those attuned to feelings preset in the audience, they might sense a rather alarming sense of grief emanate around Franklyn. Abrupt, like a flash flood - avalanche - lightning strike. Why? She doesn't even know the man! Why so invested in their absence?

No matter. Besides; on the surface? Hardly a ripple. Franklyn merely recrosses her legs at the ankle, sets her pen down on the notebook page, and returns her observation to the lecturer at the front of the room. Perfectly attentive, perfectly poised.

The stranger is gone for some time. So long that, by the time they return, the lecture is concluding. The world created by the speaker's words, too, is coming to an end. The young man stands inside the doorway, his voluminous robes white against the white wall, and then comes down the steps to resume his seat, not far from Franklyn and Ardis. He looks at them, then at the speaker, and then back out the window. His eyes, deep-set and black, are wet.

It's still warm inside the lecture hall, but outside, the sky has grown much darker. Red turning to violet and soon to indigo as the sun's vast halo of light, too, gradually sinks out of sight and -- soon, perhaps -- out of memory, too.

"...thank you," says the man at the front of the room. He adjusts the microphone in his lapel, quite without necessity, and concludes his speech. When he invites those in attendance to come up for questions, Ardis turns to Franklyn, gives her a wide, white smile, and says, "I'll just be a minute, if you don't mind... I have a few things I'd like to have clarified."

Franklyn remains still for the duration of the speaker's lecture: poised, apparently attentive, hardly any fidgeting except for the fingers of one hand twisting at the base of her empty left ring finger. Notes aren't taken any further - she just sits there next to Ardis; the sun setting, colours or dusk washed out in favour of the lecture hall lights.

She doesn't notice the man's return, not at first - it's only when the motion of being looked at snags her attention that Franklyn ends up catching their eye at all. Oh.

Where is she? Right, right - sitting next to Ardis as the scientist smiles at her. Line?!

"Mmm? Oh yes lovely, of course - take your time; I'm just going to, like, internally process it all, you know? I'll see you in a little while." Franklyn smiles back at her; vague and hazy, sure, but brightening as she comes back into focus. Fond, albeit distracted. Once turned away, she fidgets with her notebook, pen - busying herself with nothing-actions.

Glancing once or twice to the man in white. Robe. Brief glance down to her clothes - her hands - rings and palm - then bag, as Franklyn sets her things away... Pensive - and suddenly turning to look out the windows away; rustling in her spot, ducking her head, like she's trying to /spot/ something outside in the darkened sky.

Ardis grins, tousles a loose lock of Franklyn's hair, and repeats back to her: "See you in a little while!" She jumps up and heads down the steps to the podium, where she joins the small queue of folks waiting to ask even /more/ questions about the end of the world and how to landscape for it. One of them has brought a little air plant in a glass teardrop-shaped vessel, hanging from their fist by a rustic brown string.

Among the rest of the audience, students, teachers, and visitors are all getting up, gathering their things together, and either preparing to leave, some of them already having passed out the back through the twin heavy wood doors, or going down to the stage to ask questions. As people leave the room, it begins to cool off, little by little, almost imperceptibly.

The man in the white robe, though, remains where he is, head turned towards the window. Perhaps he hasn't noticed that the lecture ended.

Outside, there's nothing new in the sky -- is there? Only the voluptuous, terrifying sunset; the complete dome of heaven dyed red as with blood. And the tossing of the tall trees in the wind...

All appropriately tousled, Franklyn remains all fond-amused-distracted at Ardis' departure - turning back to go about her business, and become another post-audience member. Only... She's not really getting up at first; not to stretch her legs or discover the whereabouts of coffee or woo faculty or co-eds alike.

Franklyn searches for something out that window; finding the red sky and trees twisting in the wind.

When she turns, it's as abrupt as that spike in feeling was earlier; all of her attention zoned in on that man in white. Franklyn is moving - standing, sort of, and closing the short gap between where she was sitting and where the dark eyed man is. Without a word, she relocates herself to the chair next to him -- bag left down by her feet, as Franklyn turns and looks not at him, but where he looks.

Trying to see things from a closer perspective.

"Shepherds' delight." Yes, well, that is sort of a hello. Franklyn's rings glint, as she swoops her hair out of her face and stares out the window, still. "Do you think a tree could grow, without the wind? I think there's something about the pressure, fortifying the structural integrity - so you've got the potential and the ideal, of the tree I mean, you know? But the ideal will not stand, without the conditions that will, in being there, shape it away from its original intention..."

Said so conversationally; like Franklyn is perfectly comfortable rejoining some once-paused discussion with a semi-familiar acquaintance at a dinner party -- not at all some stranger in a strange land, sharing an unedited stream-of-consciousness.

Looking out the window, the red light of the setting sun washes over the young man's face and the loose layers of white cloth that enfold him. When Franklyn steps into the light, the same rich crimson limns the fine strands of her hair and the warm ivory of her face; carmines the drape of her white blouse with its billowing sleeves.

The stranger turns his head toward her. Eyes still wet. He has a pointed nose, thin lips, and broad, high cheekbones. He considers Franklyn, not surprised to see her here or to be addressed, before asking, "Does it matter?"

He tilts his carved face towards the lambent window. "The trees are only evidence." And asks, then, still looking at Franklyn, drawing his hands together, perhaps nervous, or perhaps only shy, "Who are you?"


What a simple answer. Apparently it matters to Franklyn - at least, in this moment. She studies his face - not some harsh prying, so much as a softer acknowledgement of what's there. Meanwhile, she makes a low humming noise of consideration - briefly glancing towards the windows again as she leans down to rummage through her bag.

"Evidence, in what way - of what?" The looking away could be a nod in letting the fellow get a moment of composure, a break from the staring, masquerading as her speedily applying lip balm while ducked down. Over in a mo'. When Franklyn sits back up, she's placing a half-empty travel packet of tissues on the armrest of their lecture hall chair and promptly ignoring it, like nothing's there.

She watches him instead, and takes a genuine moment to consider his last question. "Franklyn." Said after a moment - then a hand extended, mouth widening in a hazy smile. "You were looking at the skies, too. I'm here for the end of the world. Where have you come from - where are you going? How are you holding up?"

The stranger must not understand what the tissues are for, because he doesn't take one. He doesn't take Franklyn's hand, either, although he gestures, one hand laid flat over his heart, the other raised in polite refusal, to acknowledge its offer. "Yasin," he introduces himself. He speaks in a deep voice with a distinct and peculiar accent, as if English were not his first language, nor yet his second, but perhaps his third or fourth... Or more, even. As if to counter its effect, he pronounces each syllable with exacting lucidity.

"Evidence is a quality of the surface," says Yasin. He looks at the speaker with his little crowd of questioners around him, all of them ahubbub with their thoughts and comments and clarifications; their petites théories. Back at Franklyn. "Like the end of the world he describes. This episodic, accidental ending..."

"Do you believe in it, Franklyn?"

Franklyn doesn't seem offended - not in the slightest - at the declining of her hand. She merely twists her wrist, wriggles her figures in the air - a stretch, an ambiguous gesture akin to turning a door handle or stroking a sound wave. Leaning back in the lecture room chair, she stretches her legs out for a moment then draws them in, crossed at the ankle - hands clasped together, resting on her lap.

A nod after the introduction - then a brightness, as that curiosity of hers is piqued; Franklyn has a particular affinity for accents, after all - and Yasin's? It doesn't fit neatly anywhere. Intriguing. She smiles gently - eyes drifting around the crowd as he looks their way, then back to meet those dark, damp eyes.

"Believe in what; an end? Yes. As he's described?..." That smile grows tense, twisting at the edges - almost apologetic as she glances over to the front of the hall. Is Ardis there, posing her questions? Franklyn breathes in deeply through her nose, cranes her neck to the side, and shakes her head slowly. "You don't, either?"

Bright look - Franklyn's hair sweeps back over her shoulder as she turns to watch Yasin again; a clearer aspect to her eyes as she leans in to listen. Curiosity - mouth opening, but questions? Held back. Just. With probable effort.

Yasin answers, "Of course not." He folds his hands together again in his lap, dark and smooth against the scarlet-lit white panels of his robe.

Below, Ardis and the student with the air plant are talking to the speaker about something. The former gestures deftly as she elaborates her question, whatever it is. The little crowd of people around the podium grows tighter.

Looking at Franklyn, sounding as though there were nothing more urgent in all the world than the answer to the question that he's about to put, Yasin asks, then, "What /do/ you believe?"

There is a glimmer of amusement in her features as Franklyn listens to Yasin's succinct answer, watches him fold his hands together - taking in his mannerisms, meaning, melancholy... The sadness and urgency. Ah. It leaves an impression on her, like a fingerprint on clay - small depressions, subtle mark.

Franklyn looks away - down to where the cluster of people crowd the podium - her breath held, as she makes zero attempt to rush over and answer Yasin's question. She did hear it, correct? Hands twitch, and her finger resumes twisting the bare skin at the base of her ring finger.

"In this moment?" Eyebrows raise, and her lips compress as she sighs - eyes turned to the ceiling, then the windows are she speaks. "...We're an anomaly, you know? It's both a miracle and disgrace that you and I are having a conversation at all; everything around us, expanding - cooling - heading towards an end -- it's as natural and inevitable as our own decay, and what? What do we find? People, desperately clinging to this strange blink of consciousness, trying to pause it - not wanting to move - but not even really, appreciating?"

Franklyn makes a pained expression, then shakes her head - lifting her fingers, brushing the air aside like she was dismissing her words. "That's not right - it's close, but--... The answer isn't very clear. Very expressible. What do I believe? That time is a sphere, we see as a line. It isn't either, or - start or end - just... State of perpetual becoming. Frightening to us, but essentially? Indifferent."

A beat, then Franklyn almost laughs - moving to press her fingertips to her temples - giving Yasin an apologetic glance. "In this moment." Melancholy smile - then an uptick of almost sceptical curiosity. "Why?"

The tears on Yasin's face have long since dried, but their promise remains in the depths of those black eyes. He looks at the window again, where the sunset continues to bleed out as the hour grows later, as Franklyn thinks through her answer. Each word seems to carve the outward signs of isolation and grief deeper into his features.

"Indifferent," he repeats. He looks back at Franklyn, jaw tight. "Then what is the difference between what you believe and what has been put forth here tonight? That the universe will and must end, by its simple nature, one day, without intention... With no love... Like a machine which runs down..."

Yasin looks at the knot of conversation by the podium. The speaker is bringing up different visuals; different maps of the Earth's surface, upon which changes in the atmosphere, the water, the land, are plotted. "I ask because to me, it seems that these men are lost." Faintly, his thin lips curve upwards: a dark, rueful smile; not without its strange mirth. "As am I. About you, I was not sure..."

When Franklyn settles down into watching Yasin again, the tightness of his jaw and damp dark of his eyes, she reacts in reverse: a softening to her features, a brightness to her eyes - not keen, so much as open. Absorbing the last rays of sunset through the windows. Focusing in on the sad, strange man she's found herself sitting near.

"Is that what you heard me say? No; I mean, it ends - as we know it - but is perpetual; like running a finger along a sphere, or some shape I can barely comprehend. You know," Here her voice grows quieter, and she leans forward - hand gripping the armrest as she studies Yasin's face, speaks swiftly; "Sometimes? Hearing lectures, like this? It's as if they /want/ the end, as quickly as possible; to experience it themselves, to rush it, and for what? To be there? To stop it? To know they were right? The hubris - eh?"

Tangent expressed, she mmphs and leans back again - fingers weaving through the air again, gesturing as she speaks. "Love."

Cue sigh.

"I could be lost. Actually? It's likely I am - I don't have some set destination in the stars, not that I can see. Not clearly. Am I upset, about being lost? Sometimes. Right now - in this moment - I am fine. The next, I may not be - that's probably part of being lost - but... Do you keep looking, too?"

"But the world does end," says Yasin. He looks back at Franklyn as her expression opens; as the bold bottle green of her eyes sharpens and grows brighter. "Every night, when the sun dies, the world, too, passes away. In anguish and in terror, I weep for it. I pray for its rebirth. Do you not feel it?"

He turns over his hands, still folded together in his lap, and looks down at them for a moment. Heat stands on his high cheekbones. "When I saw you, too, look out the window, and when I saw your face, I thought that... Perhaps..."

But he lets the words die on his tongue. The heat, too. Raising his head again, Yasin regards Franklyn with the same unsettling and unfamiliar look of rather uncanny, perhaps nevertheless tender grief. Outside, the winds breathe in; blow harder, and make ragged the wild trees of the mountains beyond the tame square of this campus. "Enough. I see you do not believe what I believe. And perhaps you cannot. But still I think that you sense, as I do, that at the end there will come... Not a slow, bewildered avalanche of partial truths... But something much more profound. The whole truth. Truth itself..."

Yasin pronounces the word 'Truth' as if it were not a common noun, but a proper one. A name. And not the name of a concept or an idea, but of something -- or some/one/, one might almost say -- much more intimate, much closer to heart, much longer and much more intensely known and loved and longed for, than that.

Brightness. Franklyn becomes brighter still, as she listens to Yasin - moving, fidgeting, some internal energy emerging in the animation of her fingers as they tap at the air, her eyes as she studies his face; ready to interrupt, holding back, then doubling back as she blurts out; "But why don't you /love/ it? Of course I feel it - we're left in the dark, and it's staggering; but it shows us the flip side -- don't you ever go walking, at night? No moon or anything - just dark - and it feels like it goes on forever, and there is the illusion of nothing - but there /is/ something there - even if it's just in us, that spark, a knowing; dawn will break, again and again, just like dusk - readying us, to be hidden then exposed again. Isn't that rebirth? I don't---"

Deep breath. Franklyn could, and probably would, go on at length -- instead, she adjusts how she sits, recrossing her ankles and listing to the side, brushing her hair back, moving a little closer. If she senses the wind outside? No attention given - she remains watching Yasin like he was the only other living thing for miles.

Then she reaches out, and aims to touch - if not take - his hand.

"I hope so."

Nothing more, to say about Truth?

No. Why would she have to try and explain anything further. It'd probably sully the feeling, the thought. So she sits there, bright and bittersweet and - for the moment - silent and still.

Yasin smiles. Although the expression of his lips is mirrored in his eyes, their foundation of black grief is not attenuated by the smile, but heightened. "I spoke to you of the sunset," he says. "I said nothing of the night."

When Franklyn attempts to take his hand, Yasin lifts it and shows her his palm: stop. "I cannot," he tells her. Gracefully, however, he continues the motion of his hand by reaching into a fold of his robes and withdrawing a small block of paper, old and creased and badly laminated, about the size and shape of a book of tickets.

Though his fingers obscure most of the cover as he takes the book out and turns it over in his hands, its faded border, once a startling, vivid shade of green, peeks through the gaps. "'I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake,'" says Yasin. "It is said."

As that bittersweet stillness fills the bright, open spaces in Franklyn's eyes, in her posture, he looks up at her again and says, "Yes. In answer to your question... I am lost, but I am looking. But I have perhaps the advantage of once having been perfectly at home. I know the way I wish to walk. I have even the compass still, there in my heart. Only the stone has corroded, and the magnet no longer responds as it should... The needle sits frozen, and does not spin."

Impulsive, whirling, unrestrained, animated. Franklyn is a minor rapid of energy, poorly contained; water falling over stones. The differentiation between dusk and night? Has her brightness spiking -- a flustered 'oh, of course!' which is then, almost immediately, met with that: 'stop'.

Oh. Oh... OH! A different kind of 'oh!', as her hand slides back into her personal bubble and that brightness turns a shade of embarrassed. That movement may be transforming in another graceful gesture on Yasin's part, but Franklyn's body is still, but she's rolling her eyes towards the ceiling - legs and hands kept as she remains poised in that chair - gaze turning, looking; suddenly aware of the lights of the room, the chatter of people by the podium, the movement and presence of other living things.

The stillness was just temporary, obviously.

Though the flighty bittersweetness remains as she finally looks back to Yasin. His hands she shouldn't touch. The book.

For a while, that book is studied; but midway through listening to him, Franklyn attempts to focus - back to his eyes, her own expression dimming with a softer kind of interest. Trying to follow. Perhaps struggling. The mention of home elects a pang of pain, or grief, or possible envy -- although it's washed away as she tries to get a sense of what Yasin is saying to her.

"...How do you know? I mean, how do you navigate - where it is you go, to find the whole--..." She can't quite bring herself to say it. Why's that? Doubt, some crisis of faith, embarrassment? In lieu of other words, Franklyn compresses her mouth into a small, rueful smile - apologetic, but not so much that it masks out that questioning demeanour.

Franklyn's wave of embarrassment seems to embarrass Yasin, too, although the careful turn of that small, battered, cheaply-made book in his hands, the downward cast of his black eyes, lashes a thick shadow above the deliberate bones of his face, hides it some. He does not seem offended by her question, however. "To the source, Franklyn. 'We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in themselves...'"

For a long minute, it looks as though, whatever he is thinking about now, perhaps he will not return from it. Outside, the wind grows stronger. The sky darker. The smell of ozone so keen it begins to make itself felt even through the thin panes of glass in the windows.

Then Yasin lifts his head again and says, "When I was a child, and I first left home, I brought nothing with me to the Master's house. Not even clothing. But when I learned I must leave his hearth, too, and begin to travel and seek knowledge farther and farther from home, in the very places most likely to draw me off of the straight path, where I might lose my way... Another child of the Glowing Hearth gave me this book to carry with me."

His hands still as he studies Franklyn. "It was never beautiful, and is not now. But I have voyaged with it next to my person for these many years."

Will she be embarrassed for embarrassing Yasin in turn? Possibly - if it's caused Franklyn additional discomfort, she's not looking away from studying his face as he looks down, speaks to her. Something in what he says, about the source, that has her taking on an almost wistful expression - dreamy - far away...

Silence stretches on.

There is no rush from Franklyn to end it. Where the windows shake subtly in the wind, her attention drifts - looking at the darkened air outside, letting her eyes lapse out of focus as she breathes in deep. If the ozone has an effect on her, it's not evident in her expression - although she does move; touching, twisting at her ringless finger.

The motion doesn't stop, as Yasin begins his story - and Franklyn turns to him, when he talks of leaving home. While the green of her eyes might spark as she watches him, it's not with the brightness of before - it's a damp haze, dew on moss. Grief. At what, it's impossible to stay - but she sits there, drawn back and quiet.

Even when she speaks; "Because of what it says inside -- or because your friend, they gave it to you? Are you - even if you feel lost - exactly where you're supposed to be?" So many questions - but conviction? Franklyn is curious, but she is not sure of herself. She tries to smile, thin and slight - then dips her head in the direction of the book. "What does it say?"

Down by the podium, the little band of intellectuals are all looking at... What appears to be some kind of moss. The murmur of voices travels all the way up the banks. Then a volley of laughter, in which Ardis's deep voice stands out.

Yasin's hands tighten on the book. 'Book' is a bit of an overstatement of the case. It's clear that this book, although perhaps produced in large numbers, is more or less a homemade affair. Cheap paper; tacky font; bright colors; the pages stapled together for a binding. Laminate grown milky; grown creased...

And yet...

"The book was a gift to my friend," he says. "From his mother. And from my friend to me. It contains a selection of verses thought to be helpful to travelers... Verses to protect travelers."

Yasin looks up from the book in his hands at the damp shine of Franklyn's green eyes. His own expression, intent and almost painfully sincere, fills nakedly with sorrow as from a well upon the sight.

"Yes, you are right," he says, then. "I have carried it for Dembel. But also because... These words have been veritably pronounced by the Master of the World. Each syllable is holy. A strange and beautiful miracle, terrible, the grace of which we are humiliated and honored to receive, though we cannot understand it. And because... It is a frightening thing, is it not, Franklyn? To travel and to seek. And perhaps not to find..."

What's that? People enjoying a shared experience and erupting in mirth? Franklyn barely clocks the hubbub down by the podium -- Yasin, for better or worse, has her full attention. When his hands tighten around the book, for a moment she looks worried - concerned perhaps, either for his feelings or the delicateness of the book itself. Possibly both? Perhaps, to her, they are intrinsically linked.

The sincerity of his expression seems to shock her - but Franklyn doesn't grow embarrassed as before; there is an entirely different kind of feeling, closer to curiosity without falling over into some objectified fascination. Is it also compassion? It might be compassion. For his feelings - the difference - the similarities - the honesty - the rawness.

"But it's the travelling, which counts -- the movement, the action; to, to keep open, right? Because..." She struggles with her words a bit, and fidgets; brushing her hair aside, glancing to the windows again. Darkening skies outside. What was she going on about? Franklyn doesn't get lost, so much as consider where she is.

"...You're right." She say after a moment, nodding. "It is frightening." No more trying to explain, or unpack the situation, Franklyn just concedes. Turning back to Yasin, she opens her mouth to say something-- then? Then she really does look uncertain, torn. Fingers twist at her empty finger, then she swallows hard and glances down a the book in Yasin's hands, biting her lips back. Considering. Struggling? When she looks up, she speaks; very quietly. "Is it, possible... For it to be read aloud - or, or is it a text which is only read?"

Because they are - of course - two very different things.

Yasin looks as though he does not quite understand her question. He smiles, a little, though, in spite of the confusion and lingering melancholy in his large black eyes. Leans towards Franklyn.

"Why do you ask?" he inquires, softly. And smooths the ruffled cover flat -- a futile gesture -- with the tips of his fingers. "Of course, one may read from it aloud. After the recitation of ta`awwudh and tasmiya..."

Franklyn's unrest persists - Yasin may be smiling at her, but she seems preoccupied with her own uncertainty. As the crumpled cover is smoothed, she turns to watch the creases remerge; gnawing on the inside of her lip, while humming to herself in lieu of an immediate reply. Nervous. She's a little nervous.

Eventually, though, she looks back up - studying Yasin's face, his dark eyes. Her own? Concerned. Heavy, and suddenly weary - the weight of the day pressing on with fatigue, fought back but only just.

"Because I'd like to hear the words, even if I cannot understand them." Hands fidget, twisting at her fingers still as she continues, voice tightening; "Because I'd like to experience how it feels, even if I don't know what it means."

Franklyn compresses her lips again, looking apologetic and anticipatory - uncertain, but searching Yasin's expression for some indication of... Anything? Anything. It's like the rest of the room does not exist: no podium, no patrons, no moss and no conversations about the end of the world.

No, and no wind, neither. At her response, Yasin laughs. Not mocking laughter, but a low, startled, pleased sound; rather soft. He flattens the small, plastic-coated booklet with its lurid green border out again. Then he holds it out to Franklyn to take. It hangs, a squarish set of stapled papers, from a corner pinched between the tips of his index and middle fingers.

"I will recite for you," he answers. "A little. But I do not need this book for that. Indeed, I think it is better that you keep it, Franklyn. You look as though you could use something to protect you on your way."

That odd, sad smile is still there on Yasin's face when he says, "As could I. But what is in that book, I have also inside me. Listen."

After Franklyn takes the little book, Yasin folds his hands together once more, closes his eyes a moment, and then opens them again. He leans closer still, so that the sounds coming from him cannot be heard by those below. No more distinct than the conversation they were having just seconds ago.

In a quick, measured murmur, he recites a few sentences, evidently long-learned and much-used. Then Yasin begins, in a voice that sounds as if it were coming from faraway, almost without relationship to him, as if it had been descended from some other place and were only passing through his body, to sing. At first, he seems to be looking at Franklyn's face. But as the words continue, more and more, he seems to be looking /through/ her -- Without, somehow, quite losing sight of her... The deep shadows of his eyes fill with a dark and trembling light, as the air ripples on the hottest of days; as moving water breaks the sunlight into fractions that dance and shudder in curves.

The singing lasts about three or four minutes; the span of the last three verses of the booklet Yasin has put into Franklyn's hand, as well as the longer, holier book from which these excerpts derive. From the verse of the Sincerity, to the hundred and fourteenth verse; the verse of Mankind. This last comes out quieter than the others; scarcely above a whisper, before the fluid sounds reach their end in a long, drawn-out 's,' the susurrus of which takes a long time to quite fade away.

Laughter. The first few notes - so unexpected - have Franklyn blushing a tad; ready for embarrassment or dismissal, because... Because why, Franklyn? She's wrong, though; and in studying Yasin's damp, dark eyes and pleased expression. Oh. It takes her a moment to even recognise that he's offering her the tract -- jolting after it's offered, reaching out to gently take it in her hands, careful not to brush Yasin's fingers. Still studying his face.

Studying everything, really; accent, mannerisms, the gist of what she's being told.

If one were really looking -- really, really looking -- they may note a very faintly expressed glimpse of... Well, it's a twinge of envy. In spite of herself - hastily pushed back, along with any obvious displays of embarrassment and guilt at the thought of accepting something from Yasin, and still coveting what she doesn't have.

Just a twinge. Focus up, Franklyn...

Focus on the song.

Sitting there with her hands in her lap folded around the booklet, at first Franklyn merely observes; poised, attentive, good attempt at person audience member protocol. It's just as Yasin really sings, Franklyn really begins to listen: she cannot understand the words, but she can understand the feeling. Can't she?

Somewhere along the way, Franklyn's eyes haze over like sea glass. She is here, she is somewhere else. So caught up in what she's experiencing - imagining - that when Yasin finally finishes, there is a brief and complicated flash of longing on her face, a note of panic. 'Don't, no!' mimed - only while her shoulders may've drifted forward, Franklyn's kept herself from reaching out and attempting another physical faux pas. Just. Instead, she compresses her lips, studies Yasin's face for a moment, then nods.

"Thank you." Little intake of breath - complete with hesitation; awkward, uncertain, then rolling onwards blindly. "Where are you going, now you've..." Eyes dart to the group of eager minds over by the podium, then Franklyn swallows hard and glances back to Yasin, "..." The paper of the booklet crinkles softly, as her fingers press around it and her voice tighten away to nothing.

The feeling changes, with the meaning of the words. Now joyful, affirming; now haunted, plangent with knowledge, or perhaps foreknowledge. Now dark with warning. A kind of call, which comes from deep within the hidden sources of the heart, and yet is not personed there, but is prior to such things; whole in itself, but possible to glimpse only indirectly, by watching faithfully its winking reflections... And imagining.

But the song ends. The feeling passes... And then there is only the hall, with the questions down at the center winding towards their end, too. And the black windows looking out on the approaching night, whose certain thunderstorm, not quite yet arrived, rattles the glass panes in their frames -- once, as if in warning.

After he stops singing, Yasin looks emptied, scoured clean, as if in those few minutes, he'd poured his entire self out without hesitation; without a second thought. But there is, still, a kind of pilot light, the possibility of rebirth, in the shadows of his deep-set eyes as he looks back at Franklyn. For a little while, it looks as though he may not quite remember how to speak...

But then Yasin smiles again. A small, rather tired, exposed-looking smile, but sincere. "Back to Middlebury," he says, and begins to look, begins to sound, rather amused. "Perhaps you think I only pray? I study, too, you know. I work." He casts a glance at the window, rather secretive, before returning his attention to Franklyn. "Of course, those are also prayers."

The feeling passes - for whom? Because the expression of those feelings may've stopped, but Franklyn has absorbed the joy and anguish, light and dark, wondering and knowing, and all the briefly glimpsed sparks of life reflected in Yasin's singing -- and now she has to sit with them and process it all in her own time, if at all.

If she doesn't just drown in the meantime.

"Buuh?" Very articulate, Franklyn. She blinks a few times - silent observation of Yasin's post-performative transformation interrupted by suddenly remembering she's technically in some sort of conversation. Where does she keep going? No matter. She's here - hand lifted, sticking to the creased cover of that booklet before it raises to push her hair behind her ear; once, twice, thrice.

"What? No, of--!" So quick to defend herself. Franklyn wrinkles her nose - then puffs out a breath - then bends to the side, considering before laughing quietly and dipping and swooping her hair over her shoulder as hands start to gesture, weave through the air. "Intention, isn't it about intention -- if we call it work, or study, or resistance, or prayer... Besides, /besides/," Her hands slow, palms pressing on her knees as she leans forward, eyebrows raising - eyes wide, earnest and glistening as she studies his face, "We are something different, to everyone we see - just a few facets, maybe a few more if a person really looks - so we have to appreciate, adore what we're allowed to see shine - because no matter how much we look, we're never going to get..."

The leaning forward stops, and so does Franklyn: as abruptly as walking into a wall. After a moment, she's turning to look at the booklet in her lap, then down at the gaggle of academics below at the podium. When she resumes, her voice has gone all airy again; "...If you are ever in Fort Brunsett, find the Green Door."

Yasin looks at Franklyn. For the most part, his gaze has averted itself to a greater or lesser degree, even when he directed his attention to her, until now. That black regard has a fresh immediacy; almost as if, without moving at all, he had at last returned the politely deferred contact of her grasping, gesturing hands, and had taken them in his own to steady them.

Although keen, there is nothing cold in his eyes. Rather the opposite, in fact. And when he speaks, his voice, although still bearing its freight of sorrow, sounds gentle and warm.

"Yes," Yasin answers. "'Actions are according to their intentions.' But, Franklyn... If you accept partial truths, and do not dare to seek -- to demand -- the whole, then do you not behave just as they do?" He indicates the small crowd of intellectuals at the podium, talking about landscapes for the end of the world, arguing over this or that plant; this or that molecule.

Once again, he smiles, just a little. The dark, fine skin at the corners of his eyes creases slightly. "It seems to me that you have the heart for more. And, yes, if I pass there, I will look where you say."

Oh - oh... When Franklyn takes a moment to consider and senses Yasin's steady look, there is a moment's pause before she looks to him -- without smile, but without defensiveness either; there is a raw, uneasy kind of openness there. Embarrassed? Not exactly - there is no shame there, but there is a quiet, sheepish acknowledgement of... What? Everything? Her fatigue, inconsistent energy, eagerness, curiosity, ignorance. Her very presence here at all, sitting with Yasin under the artificial lecture hall lights as the night settles in outside and the windows rattle to remind them of their bubble.

For a while, Franklyn merely sits there - musing Yasin's words over. Settling down. Hands folded over the booklet in her lap.

"Maybe. Maybe." She glances briefly to the podium - breathing in deeply, sighing out slowly - then turns back to Yasin. Then, she attempts a smile - slight, but not vague. Just soft. "I guess I have to go find out. What other option is there, really?" That smile tightens somewhat, then Franklyn mmmphs and animates.

Skirt is smoothed, hair is swooshed, smile becomes hazy and distracted as she starts checking her bag exists, and all of the other actions that prelude departure. Mid-way through readying to exit stage left, Franklyn pauses though, and .looks. back at Yasin. Suddenly serious, still. "Whatever it is-- wherever you go, I mean; it's alright, and... Thank you. I'm... It's-- this--" Her lips twist, and she attempts another smaller smile, a shorter sigh. Eyes brighten, lips compress, and in lieu of saying anything else... She just nods to him.

Outside, with an almost perceptible sigh from the dark sky, too, as its full, groaning clouds at last begin to release the long-awaited rain, the air grows wet and cold. Drops of water strike the windows and glow in the greenish blare of the fluorescents. To the glass the rain clings, clings; afraid to break up and go nodding down the brick walls of the building.

"Thank /you/," says Yasin, with the same quiet sincerity. "If you had not been here, the world would have ended in still more loneliness this evening." He stands, makes Franklyn a little bow, palms pressed flat together, hands a dark, straight line against the cerement whiteness of his robe. "God keep you, Franklyn. Good night."

He walks out of the hall. No one seems to look up at the soft noise of the doors shutting behind him. Perhaps because almost everyone has finished asking questions and joking now; even the lingerers. Several of them have begun straggling up the steps towards the door, too. At the podium, Ardis says something to the speaker, leans in to write something on a piece of paper that he's holding -- his lecture notes, perhaps? -- and then turns around to follow the others back up towards her seat. She gives Franklyn a cheery wave.

What's there left to say? After Yasin speaks to her, Franklyn remains silent - only this time, it's a comfortable silence. No rush or bustle. No wanting to say something, no holding it back. She just sits with his words, almost smiling to him, nodding again before he departs.

And left alone, Franklyn just ... sits. Nothing more expressed. No outward display of anything, beyond her eyes tracking Yasin as he exits. Free from that task, she turns to look at the windows again: dipping her body to the slide slowly as if to remove the glare from the lecture hall lights - freeing up the windows to reflect nothing, save the inky black expanse of the exterior.


Eventually there is movement, and Frank reanimates after the cheerful motion of Ardis' wave. Ah! Action: she smiles and waves and moves the booklet carefully into the pocket of that dove grey skirt; shoulders dipping and hair swooshed and broad smile parting as Franklyn chatters on, rings glinting as she gestures through the air:

"Marvellous, right? I'm dying for a drink - smoke - anything - can we stay a while? Oh c'mon, we can find someplace and if you don't want to drink that's alright but if you -do- let's make a thing of it and cancel all plans - every single one - and I'll get a room, I'm sure there's /something/ suitable in town, you know? And we can worry about driving in the morning and-- oh, oh, where do you think they're all going?" A vague gesture to some of the other Inquisitive Academics who're departing en masse, "They look like they know where to drink, let's ask -- anyway, anyway, tell me what you found out! You all looked so engrossed; what's the bottom line, what's your feeling on our whole god damned extinction, eh? I want to know /everything/."

A pack of Lucky Strikes has materialised in Franklyn's hands as she stands, adjusts her big black bag on her arm, and beams at Ardis.

Ardis looks where Franklyn is looking, then back at the young woman in white as she climbs the stairs. When she comes back to her seat, she asks, "Had a good conversation with Diallo? He comes to lectures like this sometimes, though I couldn't tell you why, since he never seems to like them."

The scientist grins and reaches for her bag, into which she deposits her notes, tossing them in so that they thud! lightly against the bottom. She starts to field Franklyn's barrage of questions one at a time, lobbing an answer to each back to her with an easy, casual manner, as if they were playing tennis. "Yes, I enjoyed it. Of course we can have a drink! And yes, let's stay the night, too. Why not? It's not as though there's anything to rush back for."

Ardis plucks her coat from the back of her chair and starts to shrug into it. "Come on, Francium! We'll see if any of the others know where to get a drink that doesn't taste like sawdust and I'll tell you all about the world I'd like to leave for the cockroaches and the butterflies to enjoy after we're gone." She laughs, deep-throated and rich, before she slings her bag over her arm, too, and reaches for Franklyn's hand.

'Diallo'? Franklyn glances back towards the door Yasin exited - nodding slowly to Ardis, moving to preemptively tap out a cigarette and place it to her lips. No direct answer - just acknowledge that she indeed did have a good conversation. Maybe she thinks it's inconsequential to explain further - for all the focus, it's like it doesn't matter to her.

As if.

Question tennis, she can resume: outerwear gathered, Franklyn sways and tilts and gestures and chatters; "Marvellous! Wonderful. Excellent -- what're the chances of finding a throwback with a heart shaped tub? I'll die if it's baby pink - like actually die, on some level, it'll be perfect. I don't even care if there's mould and cockroaches! You can tell them the good news about the end of the world." Laughter chimes and she's gliding forward, Franklyn moves out and takes Ardis' hand -- suddenly bright, bright, bright.

"Let's go!"