39. We.

The gun was a point of contention between the two. It was more of a philosophical question for the pair. A classic dichotomy, where Enk wanted to run away from it very, very quickly, while Innogen wanted to run away from it in the opposite direction.

“It’s a gun.” Enk asserted, as if that made his point for him.

Innogen tilted her head birdlike as he spoke. It was a long-internalised mannerism of the family. Somehow, they’d learned that you don’t just blurt out your opinion at someone when they’re being an idiot; you let them be an idiot for a bit, and signal your disapproval with head gestures and narrowed eyes, suggesting that you’re the mature one. Growing up had always been that awkward race towards claiming the label of maturity.

Maturity, however, could go hang in the face of fear.

“I mean, it’s a gun,” Enk repeated, louder, flailing his arms out by his side. When that didn’t work, he pointed down at it – and even as he did, he leant away, like the gun was possessed of some personal animus, some need within it to act.

“It’s an empty gun,” Innogen said, a lesser of her two points. “And I don’t think it can hear you.”

Enk felt his cheeks flash hot at that, mentally scoring one for his cousin. It wasn’t frivolous: he knew she was doing it too. “That’s not my point,” he blustered, and rolled on as he circled. “That means there’s someone else in here, with a gun!”

Innogen turned that birdlike head tilt down to look at the gun on the floor. Then she looked up at Enk, narrowing her eyes, then looked back at the gun. Enk. Gun. Enk. Gun – as if that repetition could force him to reconsider what he said. Enk caught it only a moment later, when she started the cycle once more, “Well, who had a gun! At least one gun!” The thought connected, “Who’s to say they don’t have another gun?”

Innogen didn’t facepalm, per se, but she rubbed her temples with her fingertips. “Kay, kay, okay, Enk? Enk? They might have a bazooka and an attack dog. They might be twelve feet tall and made of sharks,” she said, wriggling her fingers as he leant towards her cousin.

While you’re making your point, it’s not helping me be less scared, Enk didn’t say. Ten minutes later when he thought of it, he thought of it very, very hard and bit his lower lip and puffed out his cheeks in exasperation behind Innogen’s back, and wished he’d thought of it earlier. That was the way of all arguments within the family, really – with Enk always wishing he’d had it in him to be the smart, clever, dynamic person he could be in the back of his head all the time.

Innogen’s path through the bowels of the machine pulled Enk along, side passages ignored. She’d won the argument, and the confidence in her step drew them further in… all without ever saying the trump argument that Enk knew he couldn’t fight:

We’re Witches.