Foursquare is flustered, and the Cave Girl tells her story:
Foursquare’s reaction to being kissed was sort of hysterical. He was glad to be kissed by a pretty girl, a little intimidated by being kissed by a pretty girl who was taller and probably stronger than he was, and mostly worried about what his girlfriend was going to say when she found out about the whole thing. Foursquare seems to get kissed quite a bit (it’s part of the job for a superhero who is always rescuing people) and although Iowa is a smart and cool person who understands this, it still gets on her nerves sometimes.
But we managed to convince the Cave Girl that Foursquare was taken. She called it having a lovemate, which sounds close enough to going steady, which Jack and Iowa absolutely are in spite of the occasional superhero stuff. She seemed to take it pretty well, especially after he promised to help her adjust to being unfrozen and learn how to get along in the modern world. That would include introducing her to a bunch of new people, some of whom would definitely be single guys.
The Cave Girl was amazingly calm for somebody who was having an extremely strange experience. Part of it was probably her personality—Pounce said she was sort of Zen, while Lee thought she was simply practical, more so than most people. I think she was just glad, so glad to be breathing and talking and eating grapes and cold moo shu pork, that anything else was just a detail.
Of course we wanted to know how she’d ended up in the sideshow in the first place.This is what she told us, written down as quick as I could in my notebook:
“So Toestabber and her friends want hear story? Is simple, but strange. Am hunter. Not often woman hunt, but I big and strong, not have babies, so can go. Men not like to hunt with woman, say she bad luck. So I go by myself. Is winter, much cold, but I set traps, catch small things with good fur. If leave too long, wolf steal, or coyote, or fox, or wolverine. Bad idea go out, sky look like much snow, but I am fast, home before storm.
You make guess. I not fast enough. Lost in blizzard, hide under bush, fall asleep in snow. When that happen you die.” She shrugged, like this was an ordinary thing that just happened sometimes, which I suppose for her it was. This made us sort of sad, and she smiled at us. “Not bad way to die. Not hurt, not scary. Everybody die sometime.
“But not everybody wake up in strange place! Not move, not see, just light and dark, ice cold, strange sounds. This scary. Much, much scary. I glad fall asleep again. Happen over and over, many times. Less scary, begin watch and listen. Some sounds words. Some sounds music—learn word for that. Learn words many things. Each time wake, understand more words. Learn am in tent. Learn days long, nights short. Each time wake in summer. People walk, people talk, say strange things. Am in ice. Am frozen. I frozen girl live in cave. How they know we live in cave? We did, in winter, cave in hill where strange thing happen.”
Mystery Hill! We looked at each other, completely amazed. It had to be—there are lots of caves up there that’d be decent to live in. Could the name be that old? But the Cave Girl (she really was a cave girl!) was finishing her story.
“I want to talk, say words I learn. Want to walk in word outside, see how strange. I sleep long, long time. Before I just want not wake up. Now I want be free. But nothing I can do. Then girls and boys come, Toestabber and her tribe, drag me away on blanket. Little knife makes small hurt. I feel. I hear more and more, see a little, then wake up in cold water! Is big surprise!
“But is still woods. Still smell same, still look same. Girls and boys wear strange clothes, give me strange clothes, but clothes are clothes. Food taste strange, but taste good. Strange words, but still mean tree, water, clothes. Handsome man still handsome, still want to kiss. World not same world, but still world. You understand?”
We sure did. We’ve all read plenty of science fiction. But apparently you can understand time travel perfectly well without it.