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No Land but the Land/No Sea but the Sea



Jolyne and Johnny meet between in the space between all the universes

Somewhere in Appalachia; in the cool valley where the pine trees scraped the sky, the air was dark blue like they were submerged in lake water. Gyro laid on his stomach tracing the spiral of a pinecone with his thumb. This is the world’s oldest map, he said, and drew the spiral in the fragrant dirt. Numbers and symbols were scratched there, taking in all he knew.

Johnny tried to draw the spirals. Hand lazy, relaxed, unschooled and unpracticed in his movements, his finger warped. The rocks embedded in the dirt made his drawings bumpy, and he quit quickly in mimicking Gyro as he spoke on. His hand drew confident, messy swirls, five of them littering Gyro’s chalkboard.

“You’re a better spin user than an artist, Johnny,” Gyro quipped.

Johnny hummed and thought about the Atlantic ocean. When they get there, he’d find a seashell, and study the spiral then.

Valentine kicks him into another world and this time, he isn’t swallowed in a black vacuum. There is the rush of nothing, time frozen, and only after it ends does he wonder if he has died. But there is sunlight, flooding the shifting ground that has no idea what it should be: he sees dry dirt, swampland, grass, sand, dizzying as it flutters, a shimmering beat of worlds. The only thing that is sure is that the sun is setting on all of them. He can tell by the bright orange tint of light laying across the earth.

He looks up to find himself again, with another Lucy, but the girl sitting on the ground is neither.

She is made of thread. Johnny watches, horrified, as strands unravel from her body. Slow like vines spiraling across the ground, searching for a new tether on which to grow. She watches her fingers disappear with a calm indifference that seems foreign to her heaviness of her jaw and angry weight of her eyebrows. The expression born on her face is one he recognizes, peering back at him in the sides of glass shop fronts and dented metal cups.

She looks up at him. She is still, like the only fixture able to stay as time around her hurtles forward. Recognition flashes in her eyes and a smile cracks over her face.

“Who are you?” Johnny shouts, spit and blood splattering from his mouth, tears falling over his lips. It’s hard to pull himself up as his hands fist into the shifting ground.

Her smile grows and braces itself, like she is staring at the setting sun and letting her eyes burn on the sight of him. It’s vulgar how she smiles as she dies, and he thinks of Gyro doing the same, and he stops trying to move. He's tired. Defeated by the deaths he’s seen, at every one he’s sure he’s caused, and he wants to lie down. He would let himself bleed dry across the different earths, and let them die slowly together if it has to be here.

“I’m Jolyne,” she says.

He opens his eyes and sees her, and how everything she touches calms down. He has to focus to notice, but it’s not that time stops in her presence, but moves naturally. The ground under her long shadow is wet sand. Particles of it stick to her clothing and her strings, and the edge of sea water drifts in and out of her shade. Her smile is gone, replaced with curiosity.

“Who’re you?” she asks.

“Johnny - Jonathan,” he sputters, unsure why he would give that name, “Johnny Joestar.”

Her body jerks as her mouth tugs one corner up into a smile, and the movement causes her right foot to fall away in a messy pool of thread.

“Do you know where we are?” she asks.

“No. Maybe. Are you ok?”

“I think? Well, I mean, it hurts like a bitch, but the more it happens, the more you stop changing into different people,” she says.

Panicked, he looks down at his hands. They’re the same hands he’s always had. The same body. He doesn’t understand how everything can be different but occupying the same space. Why is she the only one who stays still? Why does she take up space in every world?

“You’re solid. Is this your stand? Do you know Valentine?” he asks.

She shakes her head and her hair starts to fall down in wet, thick ropes of black across her neck.

“I don’t know any Valentines. The world is restarting, that’s all I know.”

“Restarting?” he repeats.

She’s not happy about it. She watches her calf slip from the solidity muscle, into the soft collapse of string.

“Yeah. I dunno. It’d be a lot to explain,” she says, her breathy laugh sad and bitter. When she looks up at him, the feelings stay, but her eyes blaze a wild spring green, the sun-touched color of tight fisted plant buds, curled in on themselves, ready to explode with the life of flowers and fruit. It's jarring, and Johnny can't look away from the flames in her eyes.

“But you said you’re Jonathan Joestar, right?” she asks.

He nods, but corrects, “Johnny.”

“Right, yeah. Johnny,” she says, and her name in his mouth is like a bell. He shivers.

“I’ve got some, like, old, old ass relative named Jonathan Joestar. I can see him, too,” she says.

“Right now?” Johnny asks, and looks around.

Her shadow stretches, massive, taller, wider, until it can’t possibly be what her dying body casts. But it is there, laying across the still ground beneath it. Johnny kicks his legs and wishes he were sitting in it, just to enjoy the calmness her presence brings this place.

“I’m having a different conversation with him. He looks like my dad, and, I guess, I look like him too. You look a bit like us but you’re…new.”

“I don’t understand,” he says.

She shrugs. Her shoulder drops like the arm of a sweater, the stitches hanging where her seams were once strong. Pain twitches her face but she keeps staring, in awe at him, or Jonathan, or them both.

“I think you’re my old great-whatever-grandpa. I mean, fuck, you’re a Joestar, that’s - and you’re here, so maybe, I’ll be here too. Again. With Dad,” she babbles, and squeezes her eyes shut, choking on a laugh. “Sorry, I’m just - I’m dying.”

“I know,” Johnny says.

He doesn’t know what else to say. This valley between all the worlds is illuminated with a light that shifts from blazing gold and into orange, red, and nothing is spared in the fire of color. He wonders when he will get back.

“Can’t you use your stand? Maybe, you can…,” he trails off. He can feel seawater cool on his legs again, lapping into the spaces behind his knees.

“Stone Free? It’s like, made of strings. My body turns to string,” she says and looks down. Her legs end at her knees. “I can’t do anything now.”

A string reaches for Johnny. It spirals, jerkily, across the ground, as if it were just born and learning how to grow. He knows the feeling. He wants the world to stop spinning and he reaches out, his palm, up to help the vine grow on his fingers. It coils erratic and confident. Johnny remembers the spirals drawn in the dirt, and wonders. There are spiraled maps that made his world, not ruled by golden spins; but drawn, as unprincipled and unpredictable, as a fingerprint.

“You’re remaking the universe?”

She stares, blank, as she thinks over his question. Her smile spreads warmly across her face; saltwater trickles down her cheeks.

“I dunno. But I like the idea.”

She sniffles, crying. Her smile warps as the line of her bottom lip drops from her skin. It is clear that she is sad and alone and dying, and Johnny feels the tears come, boiling his lashes and hissing through his teeth. He can't cry now, for himself or this girl.

“Who are you, really?” he asks.

Jolyne just cries, hiccuping out laughs, unsure how to feel as her emotions shift like time around her.

Johnny pulls himself to her, but he can only go so far. Her right arm has fallen down from her elbow, and her hand is mostly there, her palm raw and bleeding. He rests his hand on top, and each string carries her heart beat, thrumming against his calloused skin.

This space is not in Valentine’s control. He never appears. The land keeps flickering between two oceans, two coastlines; the white-tipped waves shifting the same in each. The water he knows is iron blue, the cold Atlantic spilling onto dirt, pooling across the infinite corpses of Gyro Zeppeli and horses’ hooves. The other reflects the strange light of a sun he can’t see. Dolphins arc out, and butterflies fill the sky. Corpses float in the water. A hat drifts by.

There is something noble in the way she is dying, in the violence of it, and how gentle those butterflies flutter their wings like her eyelids. Johnny feels the admiration flow through him. Her hair starts to shift like everything else. The green color leaks from her wet hair, streaming down her remaining skin, turning into the pink of tongues and flower petals.

Her hand is wet with saltwater.

“Do you like the ocean?” he asks, concern bubbling from his mouth; no one should die in a foreign place.

She breathes, “yeah."

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