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Everything Is Permitted

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It was rare that she heard the name Raven these days.

Not long after Zahara spirited her away from Falco Tower, she had a brainstorming session with some of the Lost to come up with a new name so they could be stealthier about her presence when on raids or riots around Obsidian and not let the grapevine spread the news of where she was to her father.

They’d come up with a variety of potential names from all manner of sources, from mythology to pop culture, as varied as the Lost’s own names, with Tink throwing in random bird names in a sarcastic tone along the way. He’d looked fairly shocked and not quite sure how to react when she responded with an enthusiastic “That’s it!” when he dotted in with ‘Macaw’, and she started to say it under her breath as if to try the name on for size and see how it sounded in her mouth.

It had been an almost immediate shift in language in the Deep End. The Lost were very familiar with adjusting to chosen names, Macaw supposed that no parent would be likely to name their child Batfish or Vanveeteren. Their chosen names were eclectic, but all deeply personal to them in their own ways, and everyone respected her choice with the same fervour.

So then, where were the places she heard that old name? Well, that was more among the other denizens of Obsidian that they met as they scoured ruins for supplies or traded for bike parts. She’d occasionally hear the mutters of ‘Raven’, ‘It’s her, the Falco girl’, or ‘Obsidian’s princess, you sure?’ And it took a while for it to sink in just how much it bothered her, not just for how much she was still shackled to her former life in the tower, not just for the danger of being identified, but something more. Something deeper.

She’d learnt a lot about herself since joining the Lost. Able to express her own style more with the help of Valkyrie and the other Lost Girls, she’d settled on something more distinctly punky, topped off with her mother’s old leather jacket. Then there was sexuality, she’d discovered a lot in the arms of Strat and the others, she thought with a blush. But then there was so much to learn about gender as well, and she’d spent many an evening scouring the books of queer history and theory, mixed in amidst the poetry collections and smutty romance novels in Blake’s little library. And now for the first time, she was finding the language she needed to describe why, when she complained that nobody had ever asked her if she wanted to be a good girl, whether it was just the ‘good’ or both sides of the equation that didn’t fit her.

So much of Obsidian had retreated to the comfort of old traditions, growing more culturally conservative in the aftermath of the Chemical Wars and the Great Earthquake, and not just when it came to the revival of classic cars, the old musical standards on the authorised radio stations, but more rigid adherence to old societal roles. A culture divided into the old and the young. Authoritative parents and obedient children. Gay and straight. Men and women.

Maybe that was why Falco was so fervent in wanting to stamp out the Lost, because they represented defiance of what he saw as the natural order. They were ageless, timeless. Fluid in sexuality and gender alike, and with a family structure all of their own, their pack mentality. A sign that despite all the pressure, there was only so much that Falco’s militias could do, that another kind of life was possible.

So then, where did she fit in the so much wider, and so much wilder world? Some of the Lost were proud of their labels, using them as a badge of defiance and a way to celebrate the clarity that they’d found, but she felt like she was still learning, still discovering new ways to see herself. Did nonbinary fit her as a label? Genderqueer? Was she straight, gay, pan, bi, tri, quatre, cinq, six, sick, lonely, desperate, monolingual, bilingual, cunnilingual, passionate, poetic, hallucinogenic, barbarian, cesarean, mammalian, cornucopian, horn of plenty, plenty horny? Maybe it was all of the above. Anything and everything that she wanted.

There was still so much to learn, but at least she had this space to grow. Without the walls of the tower to confine her. With the Lost, everything was permitted, with nothing out of bounds. And if she could be free to explore forever, then she just hoped she could freeze like them so that she could keep exploring the possibilities until the end of time, until they could discover what happens when the stars burn out.

Until such a time that nobody would be around who remembered the name she’d left behind, long ago and far away.