“Something was said.”
Someone else laughed a response.
They both looked over at Catch.
He looked down at me puffing out his chest in a sigh. We had been walking for hours. I was almost asleep on my feet listening to the song they were singing. Not a lick of it. I understood not a single thing exchanged. Catch paused, his finger under my chin until I looked up into the sun color of his eyes.
“Adjustments. They want me to adjust you.”
“Hands here and here,” he moved them to each of his shoulders.
“Place a flute sounding comment here.”
Grumble grumble grr grr. Catch touched my skin and the bind melted off my wrist.
“Two steps.” He nodded at my whisper adding pressure to my hands, hold on. In one move the back of my neck was rubbed, over and over again until it burned. Then it was rubbed more, with pressure. My skin seared making my knees buckle, Catch growled in my ear. More pressure and I clutched his shoulders, both of them, my head tried to move away. Catch’s arms went rigid, more pressure to my neck, he was the one doing it. He started talking, singing, and making sound, over and over again. This time what started out as a symphony of instruments were now words. Sentences, grammar, observations, thought. It was all English.
This place talks! This entire place was a crowd of conversation! It made my head spin. He let go and my head fell against his chest. Everything has an opinion! There were more voices than people. It hurts, sound like that, hurts. All of it, the trees rustling, the stream babbling, the wind blowing, all of it, even Catch’s breath in my ear spoke, and hurt.
“Leave it alone Aylin. You will forget it is there after a while.” He had let go, just as I had, I had let go of his shoulders enough to reach back and touch the spot he had burned in my neck.
“Forget what is there?”
“The translator.” A new sound, a light, airy, now-makes-sense voice.
“Yes. Let it be, it will turn into a help instead of a hinder.” The voice explained, against Catch’s unnecessary interaction rumble.
“What does it do?”
“Are you playing naive?” I slapped the back of my neck for good measure that I had gotten the damn mosquito. It burned worse, a crawling that mocked the nape of my neck. Shaking my head I tangled my fingers into the jumbled rat’s nest of a bun I had tied my hair into, now that I had a free hand to move.
“On the short, it transforms anything said into something the other can understand. It has been far too long since my brother and I have spoken your language, I apologize for our rudeness, we do not understand it any longer. The translator will make your experience with us not wasted breath. Your humanity doesn’t speak any languages you will encounter here, in fact to go a step beyond you are very primitive in the way you interpret sound at all. The translator makes sure you can understand everything from the wind to the waves.”
“I can’t hear leaves right?”
“Not in the way we do, not in the way they are trying to be heard. This piece makes all sound more common for your brain to recognize. Changes the format into something you can identify.” The male voice explained whipping a stick through the air to make his point. It whistled, actually whistled, the same tune seven dwarves I saw on TV once tooted while they work.
“How does it all sound to you?”
“Annoying.” Catch, nothing amuses him, nothing is more than a pending migraine in his eyes.
“Like chimes. Our planet is full of little chimes in sound.”
“Why can’t I hear that?”
“Your humanity has never experienced those harmonies before, so you cannot fathom them existing.”
“Oh.” I still don’t get it.
“Is that all it does?”
“That is all I need it to do at this time. What else would you want for it to do?”
I shook my head again.
“It is the same concept as the implanted air piece.”
“You have an air piece correct?”
“If she didn’t dear heart, all of this would also be wasted breath.” The brother laughed, it still echoed, loudly I covered my ears at the translation.
“Not all the air in the universe is made up of oxygen, nitrogen, argon and other things that Earth’s atmosphere is made up of.” That was Catch. An end of discussion Catch.
“So it helps me breathe?”
“No matter the condition. It filters out what you do not require and adds in the things you do.” The lighter airier voice swayed, bending her body around a sapling so it wasn’t bothered by even the breeze off her frame.
“When did I get that?”
“Before what? When? Where is it?”
“Your nose, it works…” He faded in a barely audible unnecessary interaction.
“Who are you?” That, that one, the single innocent question made my captor reached to the same sapling that had been so carefully avoided and mangle it in his palm, flinging it down out of the way and stomp on it with his boot. End of discussion exclamation point!
“I am Jinni,” I had already gathered that.
“My brother is Jammaas.” Too bad I wasn’t talking to either of them.
“And your overly armored ill-tempered companion is a ANZLX256-53 model with all the bells and whistles. Anlox for short.” Jammaas jerked his head back chuckling, he knew who the main character of my questioning was.
“You’re a machine?”
“The very finest in elite technologies.” Jammaas.
I smirked and noted that his pants were on fire. That was after Jinni and Jammaas chimed in with words like mostly, mainly, more parts than organics in that one, ANZLX256-53. Catch reached over pulling something sharp from Jammaas’s belt (why not it was his after all) and swiped his hand over the serrated end. He flexed his bleeding palm in my face.
“Blood not oil. Flesh not wires. I feel pain, have free will, my own thoughts, emotions, and can very well die.”
“Unnecessary interaction.” I shrugged swiping his hand out of my face.
“This place is beautiful.” I changed the subject trotting forward a step or two before Catch could rub my nose in his palm, bad dog.
“We like it.” Jammaas blew over a dazzling turquois covered branch, every leaf hanging from it curved up as if it had been tickled, it sighed, literally. Show off.
“We take pride in being the galaxies dumping grounds. Our home is filled with all the things the universe has discarded, claimed dead, nothing is ever truly dead, it is just resting, tired of what it once was, so we collect it all, fix it all and resend it out into the universe as something new.”
“Sounds like Hinduism.” Two head cocked sideways their back to me. Huh?
“They recycle our trash.” Catch huffed he just remembered I was unbound, and perhaps just out of reach.
“How is all of this recycling?”
He was instantly one step in front of me.
“I won’t run.” My hands flew behind my back when he reached out to snatch one.
“I have heard that before.”
“And that as well.” I skipped back two paces, tripping over a root of something, maybe it was the reincarnation of my old Volvo, who knows, it sure felt like I had hit a car when I stumbled over it. I landed on my ass the same way I used to when getting out of that car on a Saturday night too.
“Better?” He slid a hand under my frame lifting me up on my own feet, my wrist was being strangled.
“Fuckwad.” I winced, tears stinging the corners of my eyes instantly at his touch.
“Nice Aylin. Haven’t heard that in a while.”
“Let her be. She can’t go far, tell me when it is one step too far away from your prim and proper killing machine mouth and I’ll whistle for the thistle to snatch her up.” Jammaas laughed, displaying rows of teeth that made up his grin. Rows. Rows and rows.
“As a leader I have found that people are much more compliant when you are polite to them. So in politeness I ask that you release your package. You will be less of a threat to my forest if we arrive sans hostages.” Jinni didn’t pay us enough attention to look back, it was her world leader tone that made Catch let go of this hostage.
“Everything you see is manmade nature,” She continued ignoring his grumble. “The trees have bits from this or that to make them stand and grow. They don’t need it to rain; they can breathe anything because they are no more than parts of other items. Salvaged goods. Same can be said for the grasses and any life we find.” Instinctively I reached out to touch the smooth metallic structure that would be a child’s dream to climb. Only once it was mentioned could you see the patch work, the tiny welding’s that at first glance were passed off as age lines.
Jammaas and Jinni are not ones for dead anything, including dead air. They filled the void by giving me more information on anything that I would ever need. She had people. Yes, hers not his. He didn’t have any people. She and her sisters were in charge. They agreed to help fix Catch (I didn’t know he was broken…oh wait…we’re talking about stitching you up aren’t we?), they agreed to improve me, Catch was quick to toss in ways allowable for improvement; a shower, clothing, a meal, and a place to sleep. Not improve me, not by any means. For their strictly ordered hospitality they would be allowed to fix him. I didn’t know how could fixing him be beneficial to them. His wound had festered into something that was starting to smell, I was sure that it would not be pleasant for anyone. I knew it was getting worse for me to handle each night, that’s not pleasant, not at all. My comment on this, now that I had my feet, arms, legs, mouth back made all three of them laugh.
“They won’t fix that. The people of Tibbyon fix mechanics.”
“Yes. Remember Tibbyon is a wasteland-“
“Recycling.” Jinni took the time to correct Catch’s rudeness. Not a fan? Me either. Help me run? Damn.
“And you are a robot.”
“I have parts, embellishments.”
“But you’re not a machine.”
“No, an organic life form with added bonuses.”
“Inspector Gadget.” I mumbled.
The v between Catch’s brows deepened. Earth specialist my ass.
“Steve Austin.” Something told me the six million dollar man was nothing more than a tin cup when put next to Catch.
“What your guardian is: is very impressive.” Jinni was just ahead of us sliding her fingers on the air in front of her.
“Expect something less from an Anlox sista’?”
“No, it’s still exciting no matter how many of them you have met.”
“What kind of parts do you have?” We were walking at a steadier pace, the siblings in the lead carefully moving any hanging greenery out of their path. The simple act alone of brushing a dangling sapling out of the way showed how much pride they had in their work. I scowled at Catch, he shrugged his response knowing that I was yelling at him for the way he mashed, mangled and destroyed anything in his way.
“For one thing his Stylist.” Jammaas nodded over to the reflective piece covering Catch’s hand.
“The control panel for everything Anlox.” Jinni added.
“It is on itself its own entity, his link to more than the collective that he has enlisted for. It brings to life everything that they think of, recording everything they do, sending signals to those watching.” Jammaas tried, he did try to explain, he looked over to make sure I understood. I had no clue but nodded anyways.
“I thank you for that last bit Jinni, for incepting our signal.” Catch was sincere with that. She nodded, eh whatever. He tapped out the international sign for what time is it on his wrist. I got it. His mechanics were under the skin. But he’s not a Cylon.
“We’re going to use your arm to do what?”
“Get home. The same idea as when we arrived here.”
“As in I’m going to fall through ice again and you’re going to crack ribs?”
“What he means is his signal is not working, after your arrival here, it was also damaged. We heard his-him and intercepted the wave as a- as something he could use to bring you-as a guide. After that, I don’t know what happened to shut off that signal.” Jinni was trying. Changing her explanation mid-sentence based off the glances Catch was throwing her way.
“Little one, an Anlox such as yours happens to be is not something anyone will ignore if they demand an escape.”
“Escape from what?” That look, I saw it when they had and immediately clamped my jaw tight. Yes, his expression was loud enough to shut all three of us up.
“Right now it’s broken.” Jammaas was almost a whisper after Catch’s full face threat.
“Not broken, just a little on the fritz.” Jinni. She was passionate over the tinker toys that made Catch into number Twelve.
“Same with visuals.” Jammaas tapped just above his temple while he spoke. I waited for Jinni to interpret the obvious to me.
“It goes in his line of sight. He can see all, anything broadcasted through wavelengths. Communicate with it to a single or multiple people. Receive messages, check probabilities. It is their lifeline to the everyday if you will, they live their lives mostly-”
“Via Skype.” I nodded. It’s Google with a side of one infamous social network.
“Right now he only gets bits and pieces. Feeding off of what is around us.”
“A lot of wasted airspace.” Jammaas sighed pausing just behind his sister. They both waited for something to happen before them. Waiting for the curtain to rise to an invisible show I guess. There was nothing in front of us but underbrush and pines. Out of the corner of my eye Catch smiled, he could see the show I was blind to until the whole thing was revealed. Out of nothing came something. An entire village stood at the tips of my fingers, a place that immediately took my breath away.
Now here is where any author would take the time to describe what they see in their minds eye. They would take the time to note the color of the buildings, the smell of the fields, they might even bring the reader to look at the black and yellow spider sunning in the corner of a doorway. This is called setting the stage. I’ve read books. I’ve read lots of them, and I can honestly say that after I read the descriptions no matter how outrageous or beautiful they are I never hold that picture in my mind for the rest of the story. I already have it set in my mind. What I mean is I have told you numerous times that the pine trees are purple. How many of you after reading that line went back to seeing Catch and I in a forest filled with green conifers? I admit that even I do. So I could go on for days about the scenery before us about the fact that each dwelling was a soft outline to the background a light color that didn’t take away from the flora and fauna they had built around them. I could tell you that the ground hurt with lingering shavings from projects and was littered with spare parts waiting to breathe again. I could mention that when you walk into any of the lodges it was transparent, giving such and amazing view of their master piece that you could even inhale and smell the mint of the water, yet private enough that you couldn’t see into someone’s individual area and if you went back outside you couldn’t see in at all. I had to do that a couple of times, until Catch sighed. Please excuse her humanity, Aylin is an idiot.
I could waste pages in here telling you every inch of the region, but once I called it a village, you had plucked out of your minds files your own picture of a village and planted it there for the rest of the story. So why waste the paper and ink?
I was bathed, which even if I wasn’t alone (by order of Catch), was amazing, too many hands wanted to be involved in making sure I was comfortable, but if I closed my eyes, tight, tighter I almost convinced myself I was all by myself. I was allowed or rather urged to soak in the mint waters filled with orange smelling bubbles. It washed away everything beyond the dirt and sweat leaving me with new velvet skin that glowed soft, yes, your skin can glow soft, it’s a hue. My hair was tangle free, drying down my back. I had forgotten all about its actual length and color unless it was to tangle it all up out of the way.
It wasn’t until clothes were brought in that I noted what these people wore. My torn wedding dress left more to the imagination than what the people of Tibbyon’s attire did. They didn’t understand my reddened cheeks when I held up the almost sheer dress. The sides cut out so that it was two strips of fabric to be knotted around my chest. The flowing skirt piece went all the way to the floor but I had no idea how it would stay put, it was also missing the sides. One of the women next to me started weaving the fabric around my frame braiding it in random spots.
“It is a pity we can’t dress you more appropriately.” She was musing more to herself, I was just there to absorb the sound.
“A little light in your cheeks to highlight your face would be perfect. A little red in your hem even would pull it all together. Do you think your Anlox would object if I braid your hair?” She wasn’t satisfied and I was so grateful for them for everything. They suck you into their world, lulling you with how calm and peaceful each voice is, how eager to offer you comfort they are. It seemed rude that Catch would put demands on them when it came to me. That he could dictate demands about me at all made my stomach jump in a ‘go get him’ plea.
“I don’t mind if you do.”
“He said you would defy him. He was very specific. No additions, no enhancements, and under no circumstance are we to add red, no color at all.” This last mandate was the one that seemed to upset her the most. She mumbled that it wouldn’t be much of a welcoming if color was not permitted. Her own face was ornate in shades of the red I was not allowed. Maroon patterns were painted, if not tattooed, and underlined with silver streaks that made certain contours on her body that much more pronounced. I bit my lip against ordering her to go ahead and complete me, a list of P’s jumping out the more I looked and her enhancements. Permanent, painful, paralyzing were among the top three. Catch knew these people better than me right? Take his word on not wanting to fit in?
I had a team assembling my attire for the evening, yes, I did in fact need a team. I like to think of them as my pit crew, a few fingers lacing and braiding knots of cloth, two more sets of fingers combing through my hair, a third set tugging and pulling on the fabric to help the first crew. When it was done, after I had been pulled, and tightened, laced, and tied it all made sense. Stunning, beautiful, sense, the dress was something you experienced, not wore. Yes, something on a hanger can be an experience, let the people of Tibbyon show you how it should be tailored.
“It will form to your curves once you move.”
“Yes, the dress itself is a life, you are the accessory.”
“You turn things into organics.”
“Is there anything more beautiful than creating life out of scraps?”
“If this is what the outcome is then I think you did it right.”
“It feels like its holding me, I’m not wearing it.”
“Dresses like this one are described as an intimate lover.” I twirled, the sides opening in a morning stretch, fanning out. It was alive, the feel of something living, using you as their display is new; it makes your ego ten feet tall. I was the necklace, the handbag, or the shoes, just something adding a hint to the cloth. The dress sighed over my hips, it cupped my breasts, caressed a curve over my thighs. Everything, every which way I moved, how deeply I breathed, where my legs brushed it from the inside made the material bend, tilt, sway, flex, live. Lover was definitely the right word, it was feeling my skin, caressing, pulling itself over my flesh.
“Dinner?” I didn’t want to, what I wanted to do was lie down and let the dress completely ravage my body. Instead I nodded, following my newest best friends down the stairs.
Dinner made my mouth water before I even tasted what was put in front of me. I didn’t care what it was, I didn’t try to compare it to things I was familiar with. I just ate anything that was put on my plate. Catch was seated already, drink in hand, his face twisted into something I had never experienced in him before, I’m sure of it, yet.... I don’t know what it was, chalk it up to déjà vu. He was someplace else for a moment, making him soften. I took the available spot next to him knowing the rule that you dine with those you came with, it was an unspoken galactic rule, not to mention that to sit anywhere else I would be farther that two steps from him, and we all remember how that ends. Chances are one look from Catch and the dress would choke me to death. Catch nodded his approval turning back to Jinni and another Tibbyon to continue with their conversation. They were talking about something, somewhere at some point that I would never understand or care about. I still sat quietly pretending to listen, tasting everything, stopping only for a second when Catch’s laugh caught me off guard.
“We will be trading again. Soon.”
“Your goods are sorely missed on Elpis.”
“Among other items you peddle.”
“I might be asking for servitude on Tibbyon in return.”
“I am sure we can fulfill that. For what cause?”
“A family reunion is brimming.”
“I believe we can chaperone that event. Crittle?”
“It is a good place to start your Father suggested such an event during our last council.”
“I was in attendance that day.”
“And seeing as how Father knows-”
“I will hold session with the lowers and send you our fee for such an undertaking.”
“Ahh the Anlox fee, priceless as it may tend to be.” This is where Catch laughed, nodding to Jinni. One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong my head started to throb, in the temples trying to follow their back and forth. The gnats of questions were now more of a swarm than a hoard, or a hoard more than a swarm. I rubbed my temples, focusing on the room, and the people. Yes, I know it’s called staring, but tell me you wouldn’t have when the room was just as tall as it was wide, decorated with wafting blue leaves and the song of wind chimes above my head. The people were mostly in varying shades of red, they were loud and boisterous, each of them carbon copies of either Jinni or Jammaas. I would never be able to single one from another if it wasn’t for the clothing they chose to wear or not wear. I spied Catch watching me once in a while. Still deep in conversation with the ones across from us his fingers grazed my chin bringing me back to our company and the present time, and reminding me that even here on the outskirts of a universe we would never know existed at home staring was impolite.
“This is your next attempt?” Jinni and Catch were mid something, a conversation about me, one can be pretty sure in the way she held her fingers out in my direction. Catch doesn’t talk about me, not to me, he only yells slurs in my general direction. Everything I wanted to know was learned by eaves dropping when he talked to the clasps on his right boot, and even that conversation I was only privy to the one side. He held my face in place with two fingers, shut up and listen.
“Which means you still are approaching extinction. After all this, after so much failure, perhaps it is time for hu-your people to lie down an accept retirement. It has been a long run.”
“The same could be said for Tibbyon when fleeing Ausuria.” She bowed her head.
“Extinction is hard to accept. I commend your attempts. This one’s purpose would be?”
“To see the evolutionary assent of Elpis’s species.” They were still talking in too many riddles for me to get anything out of the conversation.
“It has been a long time since you two were the same creature.” Umm excuse me? Jammaas was seated on my other side, not looking in our direction when he said it. For all I know he could be carrying on a conversation with the salt and pepper shakers.
“If our theories are correct, then almost is close enough.”
“Even if almost is still different?” I said it, to the pepper shaker, quietly, to myself.
“Very perceptive of you little one.” The salt shaker in Jammaas’s hand spoke to me, in his voice. Pressure was applied to my jawline, just for a fraction, long enough for the dress to complain when I winced. I was to be studied? How? Would I still be me after? Me as in whole? As in in one piece? As in not dead? I looked over to him jaw dropping into his palm when I mouthed dead? I was expendable so they wouldn’t what? Die out? Is this what it’s all about? A test subject? Where’s PETA when you need them? Catch let go of my face stabbing the main course they had set on my plate.
“What’s Elpis?” My fingers extended slightly towards the hunk of something he had stolen. Hey!
“Where you are going little one, it is your guardian’s home.”
“Guardian my ass, he’s my executioner.”
Jammaas snorted looking over me to Catch. My stomach is braver, even if full, than my mind. It slapped the arm that was shoving my dinner into his mouth.
“Nothing red.” He shrugged biting off a chunk of the offending food, telling Jammaas avoidable communication in the way he chewed.
“It’s food.” The tone was harsh defending my dinner. It came straight from my waistline something willing to face the bear using a what the hell Catch tone hoping that it wouldn’t land me nose first on the floor. He swallowed and faced me. It was lecture time. I could feel it. His words were inaudible over the way he looked. I focused on appearances over the tone; I may have blatantly stared at him while he berated my intelligence. I couldn’t help it, he was cleaned up. Still in the same clothing he had traveled in, but it had been repaired, polished, dry cleaned. I could make out subtle outlines on the cloak he wore strapped over one shoulder. Shiny black over the dull satin of the fabric, his weapons, his gadgets and anything else he wore that I could not describe or worse off name all gleamed new. Even his features were lifted, more at ease. He was pleasant to look at when you wash away Tibbyon’s recycled muck. Every glitch must have been repaired to make him look so relaxed and give off an air of conceded authoritativeness.
“…and it’s red. There are plenty of other color choices for you to gorge on for your third serving.” Try to insult me, it only makes me want what you stole off my third plate even more.
“But, it’s okay for you? Do as I say not as I do?”
“Screw you Ca-Twelve.” Anyone around us could hear, and in the last second I held my tongue as he had drilled into me every time I used his real name. It’s not allowed. It should have never been. I know telling him to piss off was petty, but most of the best weapons in words are.
“Although I am very delighted that you are so eager to join in our traditions perhaps it is best to listen to your Anlox.” Jinni said to us as if speaking the first part more for her village. Whatever tradition I was being held from it was Catch’s fault not my own. My face threw daggers at him with each bite of my dinner he took.
“No, I have changed my mind. Let her join, it might occupy her mouth enough for a civil evening.”
“Not necessary, thank you for offering.” Jinni shook her head just an inch. It was enough to make that braid do the wave down her spine.
“Please I insist. Let her join. It would be a much more appreciated thank you for all your kindness than what I had to offer.” He was smiling, face full of my meal. Something told me my Anlox really did know best. Just like mother did, I defied that rule too. He set his hand palm out to Jinni asking to borrow her scarf. Jinni smiled a matching one to the Anlox and shook her head.
“I’ll do you one better. At the bottom of the dress’s bust line you will feel something smooth, run your fingers along it.” She mentioned her eyes moving slightly to see that the room was dwindling in conversation about me in exchange for everyone’s glances wandering in our table’s direction. Jammaas chuckled sending a little shiver up my backbone. Catch’s fingers found the spot his skin brushed against mine turning the shiver into goose bumps. The dress I wore flickered in a spectrum of color giving off the appearance that it was waking up, stretching, yawning maybe a little through the colors. Catch slid his fingers under my bust line until he found the shade he was looking for. My dress was a brink of popping red. Catch leaned back in his chair. Hands laced behind his head that ear to ear grin now a smirk in anticipation.
Nothing. Nothing happened, nothing I could see, but Jinni’s smile was still perched on her lips, she nodded her approval to the alien across the table and that was the sign the whole room was waiting for.
“You are live once again?” She continued where they had left off.
“Time was a huge burden on your upgrades I had never seen such intricate technology before, who installed it?”
“Humn” A set of fingers trailed across my bare shoulders in passing, I turned to see them while someone whispered a suggestion in my ear.
“I do warn you against such travel again. We don’t understand the components used enough and I fear if you jump again, you may find yourself lost in waves.”
“I do not need to use experimental passage to return to Elpis. I have sent a location we will be on our way in the morning, by more commercial transportation.” My face went cold as more innuendoes were passed around loud enough for me to get the drift of them drinks were poured into heavy pitchers and offered.
“Then your transmission was received.”
“Aye. No, I don’t believe she would like to see that, but you may offer.” Catch shook his head as something was suggested in his ear. That someone repeated himself in my ear until I blushed bright enough to match my dress. Yes, I did know what that was, and no Catch is right I don’t want to see it. I cleared my throat, reaching next to me to grab his knee, when he tried to remove it my fingers latched onto his hand squeezing. Okay, I get it, stop, make it stop.
“Yes, it seems our forest has noted another visitor among its leaves.” Jinni shook her head as well patting the arm of someone talking in her ear while looking me up and down.
“No, not sure, we are led to believe it could be residual timeline from your contact.” My spine was tickled by fingers. I scooted an inch closer to Catch, refusing to let go when his hand went to make a steeple over his mouth. He made it with my fingers in tow.
“Aylin, we need to go.” He tapped my knuckles against his lips preoccupied. More voices offered to do the same thing, I shut my eyes.
“Stay, I am sure it is nothing. If it turns for the worse we aren’t without knowledge of how to dirty our hands.”
“Malik is relentless, we should be moving on Jinni.”
“And you will after a meal and some rest. You won’t make it far, Anlox or not you are still temporal, and most species I know need rest otherwise she will be less alive to study by your slowed judgment.” Jinni worded things carefully reading my face, I was all but sitting on his lap that is called being horrified. He is the lesser of two evils, I promise you based on the promises Tibbyon was boasting in my ear this Anlox is nothing more than a box of kittens, a fluffy, big eyed box of kittens. Catch rested his hand on my thigh adding pressure to my skin until my leg stopped twitching. You would be fidgety too if you heard all the things the people hear wanted to enlighten me to. Your head would hurt as much as mine when trying to focus on the conversation that didn’t involve bondage and stretching this little one enough to accept my fist.
“She will be fine.”
Now? Or later? Did you say leave? Yes, please.
“You gave them exact coordinates to Tibbyon why extend things here by changing that data?”
Who? What? Where? You do what with what? What is that? I fingered the hem of my bust line, making Catch chuckle.
“They lack for guests. When one does come they usually need something worked on, and they like to enjoy in the other things Tibbyon are known for.” Catch smiled waving off a hovering frame. They were swarming, closing in on new temptations.
“We are a very traditional people, offering ourselves in anyway a visitor might need.” Jinni smiled shaking head to a potential partner for me.
“It gets tiring to bed with the same hundred people after a while. No offense brotha’.” Her sibling paid little attention to her statement he was busy stroking the length of my arm insisting to any other prospect that I was taken.
“The sex with you has become tedious to me as well, none taken.” Claustrophobia was starting to churn in my head. I couldn’t breathe normally with a room of people undressing me with their gaze, carrying on not so quiet conversations on the ways they could satisfy their partners. I shook my head trying to clear away the cobwebs, my vision was becoming unfocused, my seat suddenly was too uncomfortable.
“Why not you?” I was watching Catch, why was I so special? His uniform held faint suggestions of red, he ate everything on his plate as well as my own that was that shade. Why not him? He was turning down prospects left and right. But he was turning them down for me with polite nods acknowledging Jammaas had already taken claim to his intentions with me. No one approached the Anlox offering him their bed. No one paid much mind to him at all unless you count a little fearful when he spoke on my behalf.
“My servitude is my immunity. I am excused from participation every place I go.” Jinni and Jammaas bolted out a duet laughter.
“That is one way of putting it.” He shrugged off their tease, ending the conversation. Jinni ignored the attention we were getting, it diminished on its own, some of them nodding to Jammaas, declaring him the victor. The thought made my fingers freeze. I could force them to close around the cup. Subconsciously my body slid an inch closer to Catch, not that there was an inch between us. He wouldn’t make me follow through with what Jammaas has declared would he? The alien to my right ignored my frozen posture he was deep in new debate. Jammaas was the only one that still caressed my skin, his fingers lingering a victory dance down my thigh was whispering sweet terrifying promises into my ear. Not whispering as it was a mutter that anyone approaching could hear. Catch snickered at some of the more explicit insinuations, just the ones that made the tips of my ears burn and made my lips that much more gnawed on by my front teeth. I never wanted so badly to black out and wake up as Mrs. Gavin James, safe in a paradise honeymoon that he had his secretary conjure up for us. We sat at the table for hours, days, weeks, months, the conversations, the cling of plates and mugs, the chimes, breeze, and cool suggestive glances from Jammaas never showing any signs of ending. My head spun, my body was aching from its position. Where’s Alice and those magic cakes of hers, I needed to shrink my way out of the Mad Haters tea party.
“Come.” Jammaas cool mint breath hummed in my ear. My head whipped to Catch who waved us off. Shaking his fingers free from how tight I had clutched on. I was to get a full lesson of what happens when I don’t mind him. I couldn’t breathe, and there was no point in crying over it, who would listen? I did the only thing I could think of and jab two fingers in his side when I stood. The roar from Catch’s split jawline followed us out of the room vowing that in that moment, Jammaas had surpassed him in the lesser of two count down.
The more private setting the creature had chosen was the same room I had changed in. I was ready to scream, but instead clenched my jaw tight. My fingertips were numb and my body wouldn’t stop shaking. I watched as Jammaas touched the walls in certain places, one dimmed the bright lights, and the other opened up my view to be one of the heavens above. If you add a star there and another below poppet, you have Leo. I was looking for constellations, digging deep trying to find a star, an image to concentrate on. One twinkle that looked like home.
“What do you look for in the stars?” He asked standing next to me.
“Home. I want to go home.” My voice cracked. I knew what was going to happen, and it hurt. It shouldn’t have, I wasn’t exactly cautious when it came to these things. It never mattered before. This time it would remind me about how very alone I was.
“You will not see that here. It has been a very long time since we have shared stars with your planet. I am sorry for such ragged accommodations. Twelve said you wouldn’t mind sharing.” Sharing, sure that’s what we’ll call it. His fingers found the hem of my dress just along the side of my breast. It didn’t linger there, but followed the curve of my hips guiding me closer to his own off colored skin. We paused on the brink my eyes closing waiting for the next step for crash down on me.
“You enjoy causing him pain?”
Who? What? Ooooh, him.
“When it is due yes.”
“All-in, you do not know. That is what stems this anger in your veins. Be kind, flow with this, your Anlox’s binds are more constricting, they are heavier chains than the safe haven he restrains you with.”
I smirked lifting my greying wrist in his line of sight.
“You will heal. He on the other hand will be punished, severely, he will bear the scars of this assignment for years adapting to the handicap of them.”
“One’s numbered as he is.”
“Why?” My smirk frowned.
“For his complete disregard of servitude rules, your-his-how do I? All-in they are a cruel species, the Anlox, the Father, his departed Sister. Survival makes the tamest man into the wildest monster. But even that creature can be controlled, if you are willing to be the existence its nature is starved for.” Everything was all spoken to me right in that brink, his mouth brushing over my own lips with annunciation. I tried to focus on the steps outside the open bedroom door. Everyone wants a peek. That’s what this creature said laughing against my mouth.
My frown turned down further.
“It is called above all else, to them it is above all else. His journey with you has been everything he has planned it not to be, and that is maiming all that they expect him to be. He is full survival mode All-in. Full survival.” This didn’t help at all none of it was making sense.
“They do yes, but I was referring to the stream. The one he crossed, the whole thing, the way you were transported here had never been done before. From what I have seen when repairing him, it has had devastating effects.”
“Do not get caught up in details. They are always minuscule enemies that create vast wars.”
“Till morning little one.” With that he left. There was so much adrenaline flowing through my veins that the ‘what the hell just happened’ reaction to being left alone made it out of my mouth before I realized I was speaking. My feet gave out under me once the blood red dress was whimpering on the hard floor. Yes, it was whimpering, and pouting, look at how it folds and crumbles. I had broken my lover’s heart letting it fall off my body in such a way. I looked all over for something else to toss on, anything that wasn’t red, or living, or from this place all together. My wedding dress, cleaned, hemmed, polished, new. It was still heavy enough to push me onto the mattress hay bed type thing.
A woman’s brain does not work like a man’s, nor does it work how even the species of its skin thinks it should work. I sprawled out to my full length trying to settle my breaths into something more normal. Any normal non-woman person would be relieved that things took a turn the way they had. My breath wasn’t shaky because of what could have happened I was unsteady, over what the hell just happened.
How dare he! What? Not good enough? This is what I mean by we don’t even understand our own thought process. I was pissed, so pissed that Jammaas had courtesy to not carry through with his whispered intentions, choosing riddles over acts. Asshole! It festered quickly spiraling so out of control, it most definitely was inevitable that I slapped Catch with the fury of emotion when he came into the room for the night.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again!” even when whispering my voice can find a way to screech.
“Then you need to listen to me.” He had stopped rubbing his cheek and was poised on the corner of the bed pulling straps off his chest and back. I took a second to calculate how heavy they must be with the amount of guns, knives and lord knows what attached to them…chains. Shaking my head in reminder that he’s the one who I was mad at I stomped my foot in lack of response. Yes, I had gone from being pissed at an alien’s chivalry to this is all your fault! You didn’t even tell me I looked nice, you didn’t make any sort of pass at me, you let him…you allowed him to…he was going to…they wanted to ….you coulda’…you shoulda’…this is all your fault. Fucking Catch.
“Aylin, I am tired. Very very tired and might be able to sleep for the first time since we came together. If I promise to let you yell and terrorize me in the morning can we go to bed in peace?”
“No.” His body slid further on the bed, finding a pillow to rest his head on he closed his eyes.
“There are no explanations that I will be able to find to end this. It is not a debate or an argument, it is-it just is how things are…” he was drifting. It had ignited my fuse on both ends.
“You were going to let them just auction me off!”
“On the contrary, you would have had free choice of them. They were showing off for you.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?” his fingers were trying to rub away the creases in his forehead.
“You were encouraging them!”
“Yes and your point?” I didn’t have one. Watching him yawn and mumble through our fight was infuriating, but my mind was in such a jumble, the adrenaline leaving me exhausted.
“If Jammaas didn’t have manners you would be sleeping in the hallway!”
“I might still, listening to them all couple would surely be more peaceful than listening to you at this moment.”
“What to ask of Jammaas? Yes I did. There would have been no polite way to turn down their invitation for a welcoming. Jammaas and I agreed that as the brother of their respected he would have to be the one to win you. He would be the reason for you to leave before you were in the midst of their full traditional celebration. Even if they don’t care if such things are out in the open, they would respect your need for privacy. No one offended, no one scorned, and as Jinni suggested a full nights rest as the outcome. So far every detail played out as should be except for the latter one.” I threw myself into a chair when he held out his hand for me to go to bed. No way was I hopping in bed with him. Catch chuckled and spread out his full length. Made no difference to him, he was determined to sleep whether I stewed in anger or not.
That night, the déjà vu and all his comrades made an appearance in my dreams. The hallway kept getting longer with every step I took and I cried in urgency as the door knobs vanished every time I reached for one. I couldn’t find it. I had no clue what it was, but I knew it was right there on the other side for me to remember. I was running from darkness as well, a darkness that would surely swallow me whole. I saw Barrette, my grandfather, my hero, and world renowned astrologist, but couldn’t name the cluster of stars he pointed at. I saw Gavin, but his name wouldn’t form farther that the tip of my tongue. I was sweating, kicking, talking to them each and cursing at the doors. When one swung open on its own revealing its mystery I screamed. My body jolted me from sleep, out of the chair and straight into bed with Catch. The rest of the night was dreamless enough that even now I couldn’t tell you what it was behind door number three, but just trying to remember it makes my face grow cold. Looking back on it the thought that I needed an Anlox to protect me at all times including slumber was unnerving. The realization that he not only could, but did keep me safe from my subconscious each night to this day is only reason I relax ever at all.
“Aylin time to get up please I need you to move.” His voice came into my lifeless slumber enough that I reached back feeling his features close to my ear. My fingertips trailed down the length of his jaw to feel each muscle strain, go further down to feel his shoulder hover over mine, those muscles were rigid as well. The length of his arm outstretched, my fingers grazed to his wrist. He was extended beyond my reach. His other arm, still wrapped around my midriff was bent straining to pull me closer to him. The pressure of his hand on my chest and the rumble that vibrated from his own into my back made me open my eyes. The hollow hole of a barrel floated so close to my face that my eyes went cross focusing on it. I inhaled, forgetting the next step in breathing.
‘-ll up!’ is how he would have finished his sentence if a whole new slur of profanity hadn’t trampled the original syllables. I think it was cursing, no matter if you spoke the language or not, cursing has its own pitch that everyone in the galaxy can understand. Catch had found himself tangled in some sort of living rope. It snared him upside down; not too far off the ground that I couldn’t see the canary brightness of his eyes or the stressed, tight lipped strain on his face. He withered and struggled against these confines; the vines working in a quicksand kind of theory, the more you fight the more they wound themselves around you. The first vine had snapped his ankles together, the metal clasps of his boots clanging a shotgun of sound. This and the perpetual upwards-by-your-feet motion not only made my nose happy when he face planted into the dirt, but it’s also what started involuntary reaction to fight. Flight had been smothered when his feet were no longer able to feel the ground. By now, past the slurs and growls, beyond the wiggling and flexing to find a way out, the vined rope was wrapped around his legs just past his thighs all because of those bright ideas one has in anger. The knife Catch had so politely held against the soft parts of my neck was suddenly on my side of the argument cutting into his own thighs. The whole scene was comical from my stand point.
“Aylin, cut me out!” he snarled. A good person would, a nice person could, an obedient person should, but I was an American. Better than that; I was a fed up, tired, dirty, and hungry New Yorker. I didn’t, instead I pushed him, making his body sway in the mint breeze. Oh please, like you wouldn’t have?
“Oh no honey, I don’t think so.” He swung to me again, and again I starting pushing him away again and again. My own body moved forwards and backwards, when did this happen? Meh, his binds were surely more restrictive in the moment than mine. In a bold move for Earth humanity I touched his arm through the liana, rotating his hand, watching it nick his skin with his blade, and in the same rotation give myself more slack on my leash. Your move buddy boy.
“I am to die in an experiment, remember?” I focused solely on unwinding the invisible string.
“I didn’t say you were supposed to. You’ll die sooner here if you don’t cut me loose!”
“What kind of experiment?” forward Catch, push back, Aylin. I was swinging him back and forth back and forth, adding insult to injury.
“Why do you always have to be so impossible, why can’t you just let things happen the way they’re supposed to? Its due to people like you that we even need to- Damn it Aylin!” My fingertips vibrated off the rumble in his chest when I pushed. He was wiggling again. The vine was creeping upwards passed his chest.
“I would stop moving if I were you. Even this idiot can see that it’s not helping. What type of experiment?”
“One to save us.” I had to have him repeat himself his responses were mumbles now that they came from a locked jaw.
“Is busy cutting off your foot?”
“Left strap. Cut. Me. Out.”
“Nope, not. Satisfied. With. ‘To save us.’” I know by now you’re screaming run bitch run, my leash didn’t have that sort of slack, just enough for me to stand a couple of paces away, and like a chocolate lab I couldn’t figure out how to take the damn thing off. Not to say I wasn’t bracing my foot against his chest and pulling back with all my might by then, the accomplishment was slits in my wrist beading with blood, and one very stop-it snarl from Catch’s lips. I’m pretty sure I was leaving cuts on his wrist to match mine. Giving up I pushed him away and let my sarcasm add the extra enthusiasm to that shove. I stopped paying too much attention to my game, getting a little bored with the non-progress of my interrogation. Rhythm in our situation told me he had swung forward I reached out to give a little heave, but the starfish of teeth hissed lashing out at my fingers, putting us back into our roles in one surprised and frightened yelp. I jumped back. Way back, until I was stopped by a tree trunk. Trying to regain the upper hand I leaned against it giving the dirt under what was left of my fingernails my full attention.
“Aylin please. Cut just above where the tree has my legs.” The sincerity in his voice hinted towards surrender in a come here little girl I have some candy sort of way.
“What is this experiment? Why would you even offer your services knowing that someone would die?!” I flicked nature off my shoulder, and stared down at the rest of my dress. It was imperative that I work on pulling at the seam strings right then. The swinging growls only added to things that were making my eyes sting. I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry…
“Cut me down, if I have to get out of here myself you will learn the full extent of the services I provide.”
“Nope.” I was wounded. I was tired and achy and wanted to hide under the blankets. Catch didn’t care, or rather he didn’t notice, he began to chuckle. A mean mocking sort of sound at my ‘the sky is falling’ revelations. I was stolen so I could die. Someone that they didn’t know, someone that wasn’t their family, their non-mothers and Father, their brothers or sisters, their friends, the guy in the cubical next to them. I was taken because I was disposable. That's why he laughed; he knew before I did, my mistake. He had the advantage that the only part of me he could see without straining his head was my legs, which worked for me. I could let my revelations fall leaving clean streaks down my cheeks. These particular vines move quickly, shocking you with rope burns in their speed. Once I realized that his laugh was from the fact that they had found claim to my own ankles and calves holding still was not in the cards, no matter how much I knew it wouldn’t help anything. The sapling wound itself around me tightening over my chest and shoulders, pulling me further against the trunk of its host tree. I bit my lip so not to scream and waste what was left of air before it made it to my neck.
Then sound, awkward noises, words, I think? I was deaf to it all but the sound of it. A third party had joined us.
The voice snickered all around me. It echoed through the leaves, the branches, it was rumbled as an echo through the ground. Something pulled on a loose lock of my hair, tucking it behind my ear. By this point I had stopped fighting the vines, but still shook, the plant had curved lightly around my neck making it impossible to do anything but look straight ahead. Every little girl sense screamed to close my eyes. I wasn’t about to fight that either. In front of me I felt a puff of cool breath, and heard Catch full out roar.
A lighter flute of a sound came from my left, cooing in tone, humming lightly in reply to its deeper companion.
More things were spoken, one in soprano, so soft and light that even if yelled it was a whisper, the other, was an echo, an afterthought, disturbing the leaves with its vibration above us. Things were touching me, petting, stroking, two, then four, hands. I felt my exposed skin being caressed and soothed, it was the same velvet softness that I used to linger in when trying to get out of bed each morning.
Catch’s own calmer collected self now joined the others, in a language I have never heard before, a combination of sonnets our ears would never be willing to recognize as words. I opened my eyes in recognition of my name being said by the number Twelve and stared straight into a pair of onyx ones. Not onyx like one thinks, not pure jet black, but a sunburst stripe of white, tan and brown. No threat or malice in them, making it easier to look beyond the stare.
The two voices carried the same eyes, the same lanky build that showed off clean defined muscle tone of two arms, two legs. Almost human, from the auburn hair that was braided behind them to the missing noses, missing ears, double rows of teeth, and soft velvet pale tan skin. Ok, so maybe not human-like at all, but not quite little-green-men-like either. I assume the one closets to Catch was male solely based on his more boxed off contours. That, and perhaps add in there when he talks it sounded like Zeus himself had spoken to you from the halls of Olympia.
His back was to me as he addressed Catch, a lullaby is how my captor responded, back and forth, back and forth. It showed that first impressions could be wrong. That braid, was a braid but not like you or I would have pictured. His hair traveled down his back, a mane. Think of how a horse’s mane goes down its neck and in between its shoulders. It was attached to him.
“Place words here.”
He was still touching. Sometimes with fingers, other pats were with something extended from his hands over Catch’s body, things started to drop collecting in a crash and clink in front of where he was swaying. Disarmed, he was being disarmed.
“Jammaas, an agreement…” That I understood that was Catch speaking in English, Earth English. That sentence fell into a low purr of a growl rumbling in his chest when Jammaas (it could have been his name, or his race, or a very polite go to hell in their language, not sure, but in the way Catch paused, I’ll use it as this creatures name) returned his sights to me. The two Jammaas’s (?) were feverishly talking, so fast, finishing each other’s sentences in one quick blur. I couldn’t keep up with any of the sound it was a symphony in conversation between them with undertones of a third voice. Catch’s rumble grew a little louder behind us. Attention whore. I’ll gladly give them back to you. One of them was still speaking to me like she might her childhood baby doll. Adjusting, rearranging parts of me that weren’t covered by vines. She spoke incomplete words. Half ideas, half thoughts, half-
My body quit trying to keep up with who was touching what anymore as they fluttered around my legs, my arms, turning my head almost painfully from side to side.
“Jammaas.” Catch was struggling against his confines again. Neither one acknowledged the sound Catch was growling. That’s right buddy, all about me.
“Jinni?” Catch still complaining almost moaning over his own words, his and her names, I was right, I had to be, right? They were enthralled obsessively taking notes and bouncing off the others ideas. It’s deduction, I still can’t understand it, but the hand gestures, the interruptions, well to me it looked like a day in my office, watching the powers that may be all in a tiffy over ideas. The boxed off one threw his head back every one of those teeth exposing themselves to me. Did I say there were two rows of them? I lied try three or four or four thousand. Out of them came a sound, a surprised howl as if it had resonated from the depths of a cave.
“Jammaas, Jinni, your assistance is with me.” Catch had their attention now. He spit out a mouth of something disgusting, standing his full height behind them and pulled back further on Jammaas’s braid staining the clump of hair in his grasp red, bright red, blood red.
I panic, it’s just a flicker but enough to make me bolt straight up abandoning any sort of dignity I had tried to preserve throughout the night. I was alone. My hands felt next to me confirming this. Still warm though, Twelve had left. At the end of our makeshift bedding were my clothes, stiff and heavy with the smell of smoke, filthy with wear, but they were dry and mostly whole.
Biting my lip I twisted and squeezed back into them. Every part of me screamed for mercy. The fire was out, replaced with something cold. I shoveled every last cold, sour morsel down my gullet and wiped my mouth with his shirt wishing for a toothbrush, a hairbrush, a shower, toilet paper (at which point I severely eyeballed the black t-shirt), or even five more minutes to convince my still sleeping legs that it was time to get up. My whole frame groaned when I stood, twisting my head in all directions. Run? My hand lifted to reposition the rat’s nest in the back of my head. Something yanked me back down making my knees sting from the collision with the ground. Kneeling I pulled my arm out in front of me. It jerked slightly back the further out I reached the more forced the tug became. Light gleamed off a puddle on the sheet. My hand reached back carefully, the puddle rippled. Water? I yanked, the liquid made a wave jerking back in one jolt I was scooted closer to it. Leaning back on my heels I grabbed my chained wrist with the free one and used my body weight to break the connection only to oomph landing forward on my stomach.
“You chose the way this is played out last night Aylin. Don’t look so surprised that you are still bound.” This is when he steps into view. He seemed at little on edge, more eager to get along with life.
“We need to move.” He carelessly slapped the back of his hand in the liquid. You’ll have to believe me when I say it became solid, in a splash that caressed his skin a winding a spider web of metal weaving in and out of his flesh. The markings on his arm shivered a ripple of maroon and the whole contraption seemed to fade into the background of these markings. In the same motion he claimed back the fabric I was using as a napkin covering anything else I might find to hit.
“We are not far from Tibbyon.” Nodding was all I could do, anything else was going to be shut down, my nose couldn’t handle another why can’t you be compliant smack.
I walked as quickly as I could without running, he grumbles annoyed slurs about my lack of urgency and tugs on the connection between us each time I pause to take in this place.
This is the part where I can tell you a little about me. Well, not me so much, I’m still boring. Average height, honey you’re too thin weight, boring knotted blond hair, and completely common green eye color. None of it real, none of it truly mine, my height (the one I had put on my driver’s license) was based off the cute pink Steve Madden’s I wore to the DMV, my weight is all the hard work or a trainer from hell, hired by Gavin, because I wasn’t a size four. I am now. Thanks dear. Hair Revlon number five that I swipe Gavin’s Mastercard every six weeks faithfully to have touched up, nails that’ll be $110.00, eyes, well, on any normal day their blue. The same shade Hitler used in his perfect human posters, my choice. My genetic greener shade reminds me of my mother, and trust me no one wants to think of her. Too bad I didn’t think to pack any saline solution along for this trip.
What does matter about me is that every sound in my current location reminded me of where I came from. Constant reminders of them, my home; every whisper the breeze carried sounded like Barrette’s laugh, or my father’s sigh when he sank into the recliner. Even the rustle of the pines made me think of Gavin and the bustle of his work through the phone or the rustle of the sheets when the calls ceased. The whip back and forth of saplings being mangled by Twelve or the crunch of blue fallen leaves under my feet reminded me of the streets in New York. That’s it. All you will ever need to know about me is them. How I ended up here, where I jumped from, the actions that led to me being in the right spot at the wrong moment, even any tidbits about my Facebook profile page isn’t worth the key strokes. As long as you know the streets of that city, its expectations, and people then you know me, inside and out.
Being dragged by his leash was shaky in spots, what spots? All of them, I may or may not have mentioned that somewhere between the church roof and falling into water I lost my shoes. It hurt, with every step I took the ground crunched under my toes. We had abandoned snow and ice a while back, this was underbrush, leaves, sticks, and rock. You get the idea, not the right color pallet of the whole thing (purple trees, blue underbrush) but you get the idea.
We did stop. Three more nights to be exact, but I felt the sacrifice of time was worth it. Once the perimeter was secured and the the fire lit Twelve and I would live under the agreement that I didn’t need the cuffs. Okay he decided that, after the first night, not that first night, but the first night of the three.
“Does your nose still hurt?”
I nodded, I think.
“Remember that when I remove the bind. “
I nodded again, I think.
I watched him unclasp the x’s from his chest and remove the shirt underneath them.
“As you noted the other night, my jump here wasn’t graceful. I will admit I was a little proud of your skill to seize opportunity, you completely caught me off guard, and because of your antics I now have multiple broken ribs, not just one cracked one.”
“Oh.” Umm what sorry? No, not happening, my nose won’t let me apologize. The swollen left eye from my broken nose says fuck you.
“Actions like that will keep you alive in this world. These worlds, in fact it is my being impressed with you in those actions that keeps you alive from me.” He shrugged and groaned tapping his fingertips on various rainbows of skin tones, blue, purple, black, grey. It went perfectly with his eyes, those were bright yellow almost glow in the dark. Did I mention that yet? His burned their own sun at the moment when his metallic fingers grazed the dark spot leaving behind a sliced line down the kaleidoscopic of bruising. I swallowed, hard.
“Two ribs, when I say, your hand needs to slide in and with your palm push in and up with all you have.”
I cleared my throat. I stared. More. And then some. Bone and skin was a shattered vase of parts poking out where he had cut himself. I did that, go me.
“Full force in and up both ribs.” Breathe in and out. This is not the worst thing you have ever been asked to do. Hell, it’s not the worst thing you’ve been asked to do this week.
“At the same time?” I would rather watch you suffer I would rather smell the infection, watch black and blue turn green.
“If I have to go through this twice I am afraid your neck as lovely as it is will be snapped. Both when I say.”
This is the part where a whole mess of what the’s flew out of my mouth. What the fuck are you, what the hell is this place, what the, what the, what.
He leaned forward bracing both hands around the trunk of a pine and began counting down over anything that I was trying to shout out. On cue, and yes I will admit I did find a little enjoyment in causing him pain where he had caused me frustration, I punched through the jagged slash of skin and did as he instructed, throwing all my weight forward and up.
The feeling of flesh ripping and skin suctioning to your arm is something you will never ever forget. It is nothing like they tell you on the behind the scenes shows. It does not sound like a cantaloupe being tapped. Cantaloupes don’t snap and whip. It does not feel like mushed Jell-O, nope not even cherry Jell-O. Not unless you use too much powder and too little water and then freeze it for consistency, even that’s not right, it’s not slithery enough, even if it makes a great party favor. I am sorry but they never tell you that the smell alone of one’s insides is enough to make you second guess eating another meal, ever.
The only way you know you’ve done the deed is by the sound of your patient. The grunts will turn into short breathed cries building into a scream that hits harder than the smell. In my case it was followed with what I was sure would give children everywhere renewed faith in the boogeyman. This creature shrieked its mouth opening both in width and length in a precise line from the bottom lip to the base of his chin. A star fish of skin and teeth. I will mention here that after he fell at my feet silently limp, I got sick, and I screamed, crab crawled as far away from him as better judgment would let me, and I huddled hugging my legs, shaking and crying.
See also: Cobra a various species of venomous snakes, most of which when disturbed, can rear up and spread their necks in a characteristic threat display.
See also: The frill-necked lizard who when threatened gapes its mouth, exposing a bright pink or yellow lining; the frill flares out, displaying bright orange and red scales.
See also: Predator a fictional extraterrestrial species featured in the Predator science-fiction franchise of 1987, characterized by its piranha-like teeth on the upper jaw and dryer.
“That sound. Please stop it.” An alien creature ranked Twelve does not pass out; he only pauses, for a second, or two, or thirty three, but who’s counting. I was shaking, quivering against what I just saw in his jawline. By the time he squatted in front of me the whole display was nothing more than an erased pencil line down his chin. I asked what that was. I think I asked anyways with the way he spoke cooing me in sonnet about evolution.
“Not everyone looks or acts like you do. Close, very close, but even close is just an almost meaning still different. When evolution takes over it is not always to make you pretty.” You know those chords that we women are always striking in men, they sound like middle C on the piano. For the first time, including when he had a gun under my chin, not excluding when he had me pinned face first in the dirt I was scared of him. Truly terrified. This annoyed him, hurt him rather, I think, I really do believe that it annoyed him how hurt he was by my reaction.
By the second night he gave in, anything if it meant I wouldn’t shy away when he reached out to help me over a barefoot troublesome area, or flinch when he spoke, or follow exactly two steps behind his pace. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see was that jawline splitting open enough to rip my face clean off. I could hear it too, the sound tearing flesh would make. My steak dinner never made a sound like that.
On the second night he unclasped gear, pulling off his boots and setting them very carefully in front of me.
“There are far too many things out there that will frighten you Aylin my genetic makeup should never be one of them.” Frozen I watched him put his boots on my feet and latch every strap. Too big, I can step out of this big.
“Go. Not too far…please.”
It took about five apprehensive minutes before I was happy to be a free captive. If there is such a thing, it felt great to move where I wanted to when I wanted to, with no one around to comment on my lacking of anything, no puppet string pulling me this way or that. Twelve never came to find me, no matter how long I was gone, he said the boots made enough noise for him to keep track of me at all times. It also helped that my better judgment kept me just out of eye sight, by five paces in each direction that is all nothing more. For three nights we shared a makeshift bed, me laying in it, watching the stars twinkle into sunrise, him squatting a breath away watching sounds. This place is filled with them, sounds, noises, things that go bump, you name it its here. Outside of the conifers, underbrush, and the scattered fragments rusting into soil we never saw any sound though. I did see him, for two nights, talking out to the wilderness about the Never Never Land he was so desperate to get back to.
“What?” By our third morning he learned that if he sat real still I would get over my fear of his evolutionary features enough to dress his wounds. Excessive contact is what I was told when I first suggested he sit tight. Yes, well, Earth humanity thrives off of unnecessary interaction, sit. I ripped the tulle off my dress in long strips covering areas that were festering. I was getting exactly what I asked for that first night. Infection was turning his skin a jaundice shade of yellow.
“Catch what?” His fingers grabbed my wrist pulling me away from padding his side to his line of sight.
“I don’t know.”
“Then why say that?” Did I offend him? No the word wasn’t an s, or d word, I’m pretty sure he had used the f predecessor a couple times since we met.
“I just do. Always had. Every morning when I wake up.”
“Before I wake up?”
“I’m asleep.” I frowned it’s my ‘who’s the idiot?’ expression.
“What do you dream about?” He rolled his eyes to counter my frown.
“I don’t know.”
“But you say that every time?”
“Yes?” My cheeks flushed, burning red, spreading the shade from them to my ears, through my lips.
“I don’t know, I’m pissed off most mornings and say that.”
“And you don’t recall anything of when you were asleep, what set off your anger.”
“Most people don’t.” Lie. I remember. Each and every dream.
I shook my head adjusting the knot I had tied around his torso.
“All I know is that when I wake up I’m pissed off, I feel behind, frustrated and completely fuck it all.” That’s the truth, honest to god truth, I can’t make it fast enough down the tunnel, I can’t get the door open in time, I can’t figure it out, find a way out, see it, I can’t catch anything, fucking catch, catch it, all his fault, catch who? Catch what? Those I don’t know the answers to.
“When you are foul you yell at my name.” He chuckled, shaking his head, he muttered too, something about some things never change.
“What never changes?”
“How did you come by knowledge of my name?”
“Asshole?” His fingers dug into my arms shaking enough that I involuntarily nodded yes as his reply. I was no longer amusing, you can see it flicker over his face, yes its cute, okay now it’s annoying, okay fine please stop, hey…wait a minute…
“You don’t have a name, you have a military status.”
“I was named when-it was given to me early in childhood. Please don’t use that word again.”
“What word? Your name is fuck?”
“No that’s me.”
“Catch. Why can’t I call you by your name?” This is new. I like new. New is a paper cut, or a sliver, a thorn. It’s a thorn in Catch’s side.
“I was never to have one.” Each of his answers only woke a thousand more questions.
“You weren’t supposed to be named?”
“No. The woman who was in charge of my earlier years decided that until my status was determined she would not call me as all other Madyre’s do.” He growled. I ignored the threat handing him back his shirt.
“Why? Madyre is that like a mother?” He frowned still fixated to the sky, I was judging by the frown his whole face turned into he was deciding on how much say. It looked like he was reading some invisible agreement, his eyes moved back and forth scanning over invisible pages of something. The fine print, he’s reading the fine print on judgment, better judgment, I can see it.
“A Madyre is assigned to you when you are-when you are an infant. They will care for many of us at a time until we are old enough to-until it is determined on where we are in line, in ranking. We are considered acolytes until we are selected.”
“So you are taken from your family? And given to what? An orphanage? Selected for what?”
“No, we have no parents to begin with. Selected for what and where in life we will be.”
“Everyone has parents, whether they know them or not.”
I thought of my parents Engels and Joy. Not a perfect pair in anyone’s eyes, including their own. The best thing they ever did for each other was when I was nine and my mother finally slammed the front door, and Engels did nothing to stop her, how could he? I was the only one home, alone, at the age of nine, for days. Three of them if you care about specifics.
“Not us. Not anymo-ready?” Nope, nowhere close.
“Why shouldn’t it have been?”
“It individualizes me.”
“You’re not an individual?”
“No Aylin, I am not, I am one part of a collective.” He motioned up, as in time to get to getting.
“A collective of what?”
“I became an Anlox. A direct server and guard to our Father.”
“Father as in a God?”
Catch glanced over his shoulder shaking his head not understanding.
“Religion? The bible?”
This time the head shaking had a frown added in the mix.
His head moved sideways, curiosity meet Catch. I think he may have more lives than even you.
“Jesus Christ Superstar?”
“Church, you know up, down, up, peace be with you, down, kneel, jazz hands.”
The little v in between his eyebrows formed.
“Father, son, and the Holy Ghost?” I was grabbing at straws, how do you explain to a flesh and blood superior being about a superficial being we are all told is…in a nut shell…it’s sort of like…because I said so now shut up.
“Our Father has no son.”
“Who art in heaven?”
“We have no ghosts either.”
“Hallow be thy name?”
“I thought you knew Earth humanities.”
“Is he red and large?”
“Who is that?”
Who was that? Ooooh.
“Leprechauns or aliens.” I tapped the tip of his nose.
“God, religion is someone, someplace we go to when we don’t know the answer. He gives us them, in faith.” Catch was listing off holidays based on their characters, and then some. I wouldn’t drop it, I was trying to make a supreme being with a face understand and put a face with something we didn’t have one for.
“Buddha, no wait he’s the fat rub my belly one, Vishnu?”
“Your era has too many fictional characters. How do you keep them straight? We have all our answers. We don’t need his help. So no I am not a servant for your God. Our father is living, breathing, and very much explainable.”
“You serve a man then.”
“I serve a man, a home, a planet, and others who might require my services. I do whatever is needed of me for the survival of our people.”
“Be all you can be? Military.”
“Military humph.” Even with his back to me I could hear his sarcastic grin spread.
My question blew out, a puff, a what then? puff of air.
“More like guardians. Peacekeepers.”
“How many Add-lux are there?”
“Annn locks. One thousand.”
“Out a thousand you’re twelve.”
“Yes, for now.”
“You started out as number one thousand?”
“No. Four twenty six.”
“Shouldn’t you have been number one thousand?”
“I was raised in a home with twenty other acolytes. My home of twenty was one out six other homes of the same amount. Add to that the seven hundred and sixty already in service at that time.”
He smiled tapping my nose with his finger.
“Take in life math, retiring from servitude math, how I excelled at certain things, and other infinitesimal factors, like speed, strength, intelligence level, qualifications, understandings, willingness and you are placed in line where you should be, when compared to the others. So take your eight eighty and subtract four fifty four.”
“Four twenty six, so you’re average, plain Jane un special.” He was bragging at his placement, I poked that bubble by just offhandedly mentioning how there were four hundred and twenty five better soldiers out there. This time when his temper flared out from the jaw I forced myself to stare it down. I forced myself further reaching out to cup my hand over his revolutionized jawline. This shocked the hell out of both of us.
“How do you get to number one?”
“With each death of an Anlox we are shifted and repositioned to a lower number, more responsibility, and more status.”
“I hope they pay well.”
“Money is a rarity for our kind.”
“Really?” I tried to picture a world with no money, no quarters or pennies to toss around and jangle in the bottom of my purse. No dollars torn and scribbled on with follow George at www antics. How would they get everything they needed? Food, electricity, and yes in my own vanity at that moment a ninety dollar swipe of my Visa manicure and Evo’s.
“We still have a system in place. Bartering for instance is very common in our universe. But no, I have almost no need for money. Everything is provided in my title. My space, food, anything I feel is necessary in order to better serve the ones I am assigned to. If you require my services then you will for the most part take on my needs as well as the needs or goods discussed before I am hired, for the greater.” He had a knack for saying just enough to keep my mind one step ahead to the next assault of questioning. Catch smiled unnecessary interaction. It keeps me moving. Catch was talking, answering and turning my fish tale into a whale hunt.
“So you can be rented?”
“Yes, no-not so much anymore.” His smile from a plan that finally agrees with both of us turned to something of a disapproving grimace. I had offended.
“But you were hired to collect me.” I added in the sarcastic drawl.
“Yes.” He paused scanning the area before making a right turn. In all my dealings with life turning right is never ever ever a good way to go. I took no note of our change in course, I was on a role, and I promise you from now on I always note a right turn.
“A little more specific? The ‘Father’?” and yes I did in fact make the quotations in the air and add bold italics to my voice when I said father, he didn’t catch my cynicism the first go around, let’s try it again this time with more oomph.
“Yes, him and Vintage head of science, and your sponsors, my sponsors, anyone who knew of the project. Whether you survive it or not is not my issue. I was sent to collect you that is all end of discussion.”
“I’m a project? Like part of a science fair? Doesn’t your type usually beam up cows for that probing shit?” I was trying to keep the heat in my tone to a minimum. Those chords we hit in men so easily, they sound like middle C on the piano its mate in sound when a man hits that same chord in a woman is a flat B. He ignored my irritation by making another sharp right.
“Catch,” I used his no name in vain, as often as I could from that moment on.
“I am a person. First you drug me. Then you bring me to a garbage dump, with nothing to eat or drink, I don’t even have shoes! Now you’re telling me that I am some sort of you’ll probably die experiment? Worthless, expendable. You can’t ignore that you can’t just end of discussion that!” I rambled further until I was on the brink of screaming which by the way the brink of screaming is squawking. And mind you it is raised in pitch and more annoying than chalkboard scrapping to everyone including the one in the act. Catch wheeled around strutting in heavy even steps to me his face scrunched in a scowl, his voice came out the color red as heated as his words. There was something else in his grasp, one of those shiny bits that make me nervous. This one was long and serrated and brushing against my throat. Worse yet the seam in his jaw was on the verge of ripping my face clean off the bone. Seeing it was still less painful than his free hand that had dug into my arm making sure to leave bruises as deep as the ones he had branded on my wrists. I jerked away so hard it brought tears, my fuse made me sidestep him moving to the right.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Ask Vintage, she is just like you, a real talker. Now shut the he-” I had to, I couldn’t help it, I smiled as our right turns caught up with Catch.
“Okay and where are my clothes?” Or to go one further step crossing that line to my second voiced thought.
“And while you’re at it can you tell me where yours are?” If you think about it, the answer is obvious. As in this is obviously the most moronic question you could have at this moment. If you aren’t thinking it yourself his face wears that very statement. We will refer to it as the ‘Aylin’s being an idiot’ face from this moment on. I’m not one, you be me for a moment and see things the way they are in front of me right now. Let me introduce you to our story teller, the one who one day soon will kill me. He wears ‘kill her’ as an expression right in the crease between his eye brows, it’s the mate to ‘Aylin’s an idiot’.
Everything seemed elongated slightly, a little off, more graceful. Dark hair, a slit from bottom lip to chin was slighter than an erased pencil line, long nose, thin I am not amused pout in mouth, and eyes. Holy mother of god eyes. Yellow, they reflect back like the strays in China town’s alleyways. They, like his mouth, his expression, his whole demeanor, say ‘I am not amused Aylin Marie.’ Trust me, it’s terrifying. It stands out darker than the bruises on his skin, deeper than the patterns carved in maroon up and down his entire left arm.
His clothes (from what I could see when he nodded over my shoulder) were plain Jane, black from head to toe, except for black glistening lines that ran x’s across his chest piece front to back, which I learned were rather useful in holding things (what things? Try a gun or two or twelve I didn’t bother count them, you can, they’re displayed in a row to my right. He pointed over to those as well, not because I asked, but to show that if I ran he could spend an hour or two killing me repeatedly in many different ways.) The hand motioning over to our hanging laundry was covered in rings. Not rings exactly but more like silver finger overlays with sharp points at the knuckle that bent when he flexed them, all connecting in spider web thin lines making a bracelet at his wrist extending up mid fore arm. And unlike me, he had shoes, boots that held that mirrored image of silver from his hand on them in buckles that ran up, passed his calf and stopping just above his knees, they were under the branches standing attention on their own.
No none of that is right, none of it, you can’t feel this moment, right here, right now, you can’t see the intensity and intimidation that even a pair of boots hold especially when you know who they belong to. Let’s try again, in a more us, more human nature type of visual description.
How’s this, his whole being is a wet dream to those who praise the Gods of Master Chief, Cloud, Altaïr. Yes, I have had enough men in my life to learn that those names are more important than any found in my America history class to boys with toys everywhere. Deny it, go ahead, when I said Altair you instantly saw the Brotherhood, the sword and the stone, you immediately saw what I had in life before me. Right now you’re just wishing I had skipped the whole descriptive paragraph and said Chris Redfield.
“Your people don’t have the ability to maintain your own body heat. I believe you call it hypothermia?” My fingers immediately took a death grip onto sheet on top of where I was sprawled was the only thing keeping me from blushing. He was way too naked and way too skin touching skin close to me.
I cleared my throat, when he talks it resonates through you, tickling every bone in your body until the hairs stand up on end. It’s not as nice as it sounds, I promise. He scowled and in an almost self-conscious motion removed his arm from around me and rearranged the sheet to be not only over us, but in between us as well.
“What are you?”
“I on the other hand can regulate core temperature.”
“Where are we?” I waved my hand out, logical, think Aylin, think, stay calm, breath, in and out, in and out, think, be calm, calm, don’t panic. Two steps, I think I can manage two steps, maybe three if I kick him before moving.
“It was the fastest way to raise your temperature, and I didn’t stay terribly dry either. Any colder and your heart would have stopped.”
“What the hell is all of this?”
“You are also a primitive version where I am more advanced, you still feel things like fear, which wants you to run. But above that fear me removing your articles makes your modesty the most prevalent emotion. Even to that of death, assures me that you will not stray from this very spot, making my task just about effortless.” To prove his point he attempted to lift the sheet and show all my secrets to purple fucking trees, I snatched it wrapping the fabric so tight around my skin it hurt.
I cleared my throat.
“One step Aylin, half of that to be honest.”
Okay, panic, just a tad bit.
“You will get one step away from me, which is what you are thinking correct? Bashfulness or not, run as far as you can from this thing? Those are your thoughts in this moment correct?”
Verbatim, but I’m not telling him that.
“If you choose to test this theory I will be forced to make all of this unpleasant for both of us. Me more so than you, seeing as how I would have to start all over, again.” To make good on a threat something was laid on my chest, barrel nipping the base of my throat. I swallowed, hard, it kissed the soft v in my collar bone. Tears stung instantly in recognition. Even if it didn’t look like the colt 45 my father wore it was still as cold as that gun.
“Where am I?”
“Very far from home.”
“Where?” My voice cracked, the gun nipped.
“Judging from the garbage I would say we have landed on Tibbyon.” I swallowed again, the gun pecked my flesh, the lump in my throat grew until my voice was less than a whisper. Panic a little more, it’s okay; it’s my moment, panic.
“Where is that?”
“Fifth planet in the Hermes solar system.” Aylin dear, sweetheart, it’s time to wake up you’re going to be late for work again. Please wake up, please. The gun weighed more than an elephant resting on my chest. I couldn’t inhale. I was frozen, dog’s nose cold, I couldn’t run, not half a step.
“That is an unnecessary interaction.” The sting in my eyes burned lines down my face. Sensing a change in the mood canary yellow eyes was on his feet rummaging through things. There was light, firelight. It gave me opportunity to stare at a deep purple wound, on him not me. It spread from his ribcage up to the curve that separated torso and arm trailing down to all the places your health teacher would talk about openly. It made any movement stiff, his body did not hold the firm mask of ‘I’m better than you’ that his features favored. Hope, that’s what I named it. Hope, if I punched that spot, the darkest of the area I could escape. Take the gun and run, naked through a purple forest, with no shoes, no idea, and no way of making it back in time for the I now pronounce you part of my day. Panic, a little bit more, we’re almost at terrified rage, it’s okay honey. It’s your wedding day, panic if you want to.
He came back to his spot under the sheet, this time holding a steaming cylinder in one hand, fabric in another, and adorning pants. In a rush of what can only be explained right now as Holy Hell I snatched the cloth from his other hand ripping it over my head, pulling on it until it stretched over my bent knees. I hugged my legs to hold the material in place.
“Not amusing. Hand it back.” His, his shirt, not mine. I dug my toes under the hem pulling against the fabric further until they were covered. Works to keep the monsters under your bed out right? Nothing can touch you once you’re under the blankets right? It’s the law, I know it is. My head cocked to a side wiping my nose on the sleeve. If anything I was hell bent of stretching his shirt into something completely ruined.
“Humph.” My body tried to move on its own into a more pounce ready stance, pounce ready to act out on a theory. But, unlike the plan of hit and run the deed of sitting all the way up without his shirt uncovering my toes, and holding balance accomplished nothing more than pinpricks forming in my vision promising another round in syncope.
“Still one step, maybe two, but that is all you will get.” This time to prove his threat he pulled on his arm, mine jerked forward until dignity was a thing of the past forcing me on all fours my nose seconds from kissing dirt. Okay, fuck panic, fuck terror, fucking scream, and kick, and bite, and...and…and…and. He rotated his wrist and my hand was inching closer and closer to his, my body sliding forward until I was on the ground at his feet, face scrapping the leaves we had been resting on. The binds that hold you are real, just like the edge, the cliff, the ledge, they are there, a reminder that even if you can’t see them, there is no escape. Hope and all its family members were gone in one great big you’re going to die here moan.
“You would call this my insurance policy.”
“Please.” I give up, give in, done, white flag, it all coats your skin in instant depression.
“I like that phrase. Insurance policy. It means you are bound. Completely submissive to what I need.” This thing smiled. I hate when he smiles.
“Stole my clothing without a snag?”
“I don’t need to hinder your quest for modesty. It is more of insurance that two steps are all you can take.”
Whisper, whimper, mutter, fumble why, whatever it was, I made a noise.
Clearing of throat.
“Please.” I managed to roll over on my back and hold up my hands.
“You talk in your sleep.” His wrist changed direction in rotation unwinding mine enough to let me move, the force is not on my side in making him shut up, but at least the spots had subsided. I had more slack, given it by him when I stopped crying and started breathing more even.
“That is an unnecessary interaction.” I mumbled, it’s what I do when the situation is out of control, out of my control, I mumble. I also talk in my sleep, mutter, and even rant in my sleep. This I knew. Gavin (the reason for the twenty thousand dollar Vera Wang lawn ornament over there) would wake me, just as my father and grandfather had before him. Two of the three were at least kind enough to tell me that my nightly ramblings were keeping them up. They were nice enough to tell me it was inaudible nothing could be made out of the murmurs and rants. Nothing to be said about the thrashing. Two of the three loved me.
Gavin and I on the other hand would spend hours not speaking in doctors waiting rooms.
Presque vu (from French, meaning "almost seen") is the sensation of being on the brink of an epiphany. Often very disorienting and distracting, Presque vu rarely leads to an actual breakthrough. Frequently, one experiencing Presque vu will say that they have something "on the tip of my tongue".
The diagnosis held ocean green walls,
It smelt like a life sentence,
And is cured by pink pills named Klonopin,
That don’t work.
Jamais vu (from French, meaning "never seen") is a term in psychology which is used to describe any familiar situation which is not recognized by the observer. Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before.
That diagnosis is whispered thru a deeply scared mahogany chair,
It smells like burning plaster after the fire trucks have left,
And is cured by yellow pills called Sabril,
They fail at anything more that cluttering my night stand.
Déjà vu is the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined. The experience of déjà vu is usually accompanied by a compelling sense of familiarity, and also a sense of "eeriness", "strangeness", "weirdness", or what Sigmund Freud calls "the uncanny". The "previous" experience is most frequently attributed to a dream, although in some cases there is a firm sense that the experience has genuinely happened in the past.
Winner winner chicken dinner,
The hands of Déjà vu are weathered and full of age spots,
But fills my nose with a breeze,
There are no pills, everyone has it, some more than others, and I’m happy,
Because it means I can still chase the Cheshire cat in my dreams.
But, that’s me, not this, and I’m the boring number in the equation, the left over denominator. Plus this creature didn’t pursue a conversation in my sleeping patterns, he was annoyed by it. You talk in your sleep was a statement. One that in tone alone said “stop it.”
“You really were an imaginative cluster of timeline weren’t you?” He nodded over to wear my dress shimmered against the fire glow.
“Meaning?” Small bites, let’s take small bites and see if we can catch a whale with it.
“It is not required for this meeting.”
“Communication, it is not required of me to communicate with you, on your level or my own.”
“Your only requirement was to abduct me.”
We’re sorry nothing matches your search inquiry, please try again.
“Take against my will.” I was running out of synonyms, and patience.
“All suggest a ransom. No, there is no ransom for you. I have done none of these things.”
“Again this is another unnecessary interaction.” This he had said over and over again, so much that when he started with again I finished the sentence right along with him. It was his mantra, for each question I asked. Where are we? Unnecessary interaction. Who are you? Unnecessary interaction. What are you going to do with me? Unnecessary interaction. Sometimes he spiced things up a bit. Why me? Superfluous communication. What the hell is going on? That one I said with my whole body jerking my arm back until his felt the jolt.
“You were forlorn on the roof. Willingly stepping off into death, I prevented that from happening. You should be grateful, not so inquisitive over our situation.”
“I’m not, why did you-“
“Why did you?”
“Needless collaboration.” That one I may have voiced to my own hissy fit. It’s what his glare growled down to me. “Who will give me answers?”
“What is a Vintage?”
“A Vintage is a person. She will answer any and all of your inquiries as she sees fit.”
“So still on a need to know.”
“You will get your answers.”
“What do I call you?” Let’s try simpler. We as a species love to talk about ourselves, it is our favorite topic. That can be said for anyone, canary eyes or not. Right?
I’m sorry we did not understand your request please try again later.
Please try your search again.
“What you are called?”
Google, this thing was one big ol’ Google search engine. Too bad I was typing in Bing font.
“If you were in a crowd and someone wanted your attention how would they address you?”
Did you mean unnecessary interaction?
“What are you?”
Your inquiry has zero results may we suggest redundant collaboration?
“Damn it!” I screamed. Up to purple pines. Let it all belt out.
“Twelve.” It puffed, chest flared out, a tight lipped mouth sent out a puff of air carrying sound. We call this holy hell shut up, it looks a lot like hurt, which if you at home are keeping score it wears as Aylin is an idiot.
“You’re a twelve?”
“No. My acknowledged reference is.” A pout of hurt made the crease between his eyes deepen into aggravation.
“That’s not even a name. It’s a number telling you where you are in line. I meant you’re an alien.”
“Depends on where you are looking from.” What does that even mean? Oh, I get it I suppose that from where he’s standing, lying, leaning I was the alien.
“Are you going to kill me?”
“I hope not.” With that being said I sat up, moving to the very edge of anything keeping my lower dignity covered. Hope not? Hope?
“What are you going to do with me?”
“Deliver you to Vintage.”
“I promise that I am not the evil you see.” He turned so the dark side faced me. There, kick it right there, once, hard, full force, it will give you at least two minutes.
“Your pants are on fire.” He looked down frowning. My finger reached over and tapped the pistol now sitting in his lap.
“You need protecting, from us, from others who want you, but most of all you need to been protected from yourself. That is what I was hired for.”
“To be my kidnapper body guard?”
“That later part. I specialize in Earth style humanities. I am to protect you from any possibility at all times.”
“You specialize in Earth.”
“Your manual on us is outdated.” He smiled, nodding.
“Severely, I’ll discuss it with the author at some point. Still I was the only one available that knew how to handle your breed specifically.”
“Meaning?” Finish that sentence with what exactly? Could you please toss a hand on my hip and a growl in my voice to add the punctuation. I can’t. Shackles, fabric, on your marks, get ready, yep my hands were full.
“I speak the language.”
“All of them, most of them, I can say enough in each Earth language to be understood. Earth humanity has far too many dialects for one species. So obscure that way.” Stop here for a moment, just a short pause I promise. He can’t speak English, not in the way you or I do. Not in the way the ladies that do French tips do, or the way the driver curses. When this number twelve speaks English, he sings it, jazz style, it vibrates off your bones making even your hair stand up and pay attention. But it’s not perfect, it’s not broken, it’s more of a feeling in tone alone which way the conversation has turned than the actual pronunciation, no, there’s more to it. Pronunciation, sometimes there was none, at all, he just sounded the letters letting them fall into place, that’s what happens when you have never heard a word properly spoken. It’s a thicker accent than Russian.
“Just enough to take me.”
“There were no words spoken. You came with me willingly.” Why? Why the hell would I do that on the happiest day of my life? Okay that’s a lie, but still why would I do that? I asked.
“You will do anything I asked of you once you had ingested enough.”
“Enough what exactly?”
“Unnecessary interaction.” My mind was groggy on the whole thing before the first ledge that sat on top of the cathedral. I had tried to think of how we exactly met, how our situation came to be, but all I remembered was thinking about the man on the moon. I stopped. What happened before that? Barrett was saying something. We were in the hotel sharing breakfast with my parents, my friends, my hired hands working on knotting my hair and buttoning my corset. I could still taste the sweetness of the little cakes the bellhop had delivered moments before, they were wrapped simply, no card just a note vandalizing the lid on the box
‘No more than two.’ I recalled thinking how nervous Gavin must be to have such hurried handwriting today, my mind wandered further to the details of the scribble on the box. No swooping curve to the t, Gavin would have drawn the symbol for two not taken the time to write the word out, everything seemed to be written in bold italics, and scratchy not his usual gracefulness. The message itself didn’t raise any suspicions; Gavin could never put his meanings into clear words. The tiny hand decorated pink and white frosted cakes told me the note was meant in endearment, or that I was getting fat, but that would have been also an I love you. Trust me, if it meant he was looking at my backside and not the attendant’s it’s an I love you. My mind went blank pretty much after the first bite until my sudden need to take a leap of faith. Two plus two is….Twelve.
“You drugged me!”
“I made it easier for you to follow. I overlooked your love for sugar, you didn’t follow the directions. I was specific in having an exact amount noted on the box.”
“I’m not fucking Alice! There is no eat me drink me, damn it!”
“I do not know an Alice.”
“Not the point here, you did kidnap me, you…I didn’t…why?”
“We should both breathe easier knowing you stopped at what I presume was four? The drug makes you easier to persuade, Malik had also counted on me using it, I knew this, took a calculated risk by ignoring his presence, it makes his job easier as well, between them both you were willing to follow me, and more than eager to follow his direction stepping off the side of a building.” Malik? Who? Who is that? What? Why? Fucking Twelve!
I thrashed out kicking him the darkest grey spot in his side and tried to scurry to my feet. The howl was the only warning I got. Less than that even, when the sound didn’t hit my ears until my mouth was full of dirt, nose started to trickle, and he was kneeling in the middle of my back pulling my arms up, out, and from behind so far the only way they could move in anyway any further was if they snapped. He stopped a millisecond before that happened.
“Why do we always revert back to the same beginning? Why can’t you for one time be compliant?” He was growling in my ear, breath so full of heat my face started to burn. This is where I stopped, limp, and felt hope flee out of reach, naked, through the forest screaming bloody hell as she went. My mouth puffed out a whimper, I could taste blood.
“Crying doesn’t make the situation easier on either of us. I tell you what I can, what is allowable. Accept what I hand you Aylin. These beginnings are as hurtful to me as they are to you, I promise you that. Just once, please, just once don’t be you in the situation.” I wanted to ask, my mind was crying out to know why? Who? What? How do you know? My body was churning from having the wind knocked out of me. He rolled me over on my back standing as he did so.
“Nice Aylin. Haven’t heard that one in a while.”
Side note; he was wrong I made it three full paced steps.
There is a ledge, which is another word for edge, lip, cliff, sill, or in this case cathedral roof top. Remember this; there is always a ledge, even if you can’t see it. Keep in mind that we are forever teetering on it, one step away from falling. Be willing to step forward and fall, forever and ever fall, amen. Take a chance, chase a thought, and follow a breath over the edge and see where it goes after it has touched back on the ground. My grandfather has been quoted calling these ledges quixotic endeavors. He has equally noted that I am what Charles Dodgson envisioned when dreaming of his white rabbit. As proof, I am standing at the beginning of such an endeavor, my toes dipping over the roof’s gable into morning’s breath. All I can think of is that ‘one giant leap for mankind’ spiel Neil Armstrong said years ago and how right he was, one small step. That thought will be all the coaxing needed to take it.
Vertigo, derived from the Latin verto, “a whirling or spinning movement” is a type of dizziness, where there is a feeling of motion when one is stationary.
This is what you feel seconds before,
It’s sky blue,
Smells like sulfur,
Tastes like the tang of a peach’s skin,
And sounds like the cat laughing as he holds your tongue.
Claustrophobia from the Latin claustrum "a shut in place" and the Greek φόβος, phóbos "fear" is the fear of having no escape and being closed in not to be confused with its antonym claustrophilia. It is typically classified as an anxiety disorder and often results in a panic attack.
This is the feeling during,
It’s traffic cone orange,
Reeks of a wormy night,
Sounds even colder.
For as warm as the tar covering the rooftop was, the water at the end of my Neil Armstrong small step off the rooftop was that much colder. The shock had left my mouth open, water rushing straight down my throat forcing my jaw to clamp shut, it took everything in me to stop thrashing, and ask myself if there is any other outcome to stepping off a rooftop. Other than falling, other than landing, other than spla- other than this. There shouldn’t have been water, I had looked down, there was no water, not like this, nothing larger than a bird bath in my way. I had made sure. This is…this…well it’s not how one dies, not at all what I had thought would happen when I stepped off the gable. My face was being rubbed raw by the thin layer of ice. Ice? I had looked, twice, no water and in July’s heat certainly no ice. The whole picture can only lead to one thought in any rational man’s head, wake up. But I am not a man, and no woman (according to any man) is a rational species, case and point instead of the rational thought of ‘Oh. My. God. I’m drowning’ my only thought was how I had made sure it was a clear jump, no water, no people, nothing but asphalt. My mistake, I can’t even do death right. I sighed, sighing underwater instantly turns into drowning.
A shadow slid across the surface brushing away the snow. Just in case you were un aware, wiping away powdered snow sounds like scraping your dinner plate to the fishies below. One glimpse and the panic deepened his features into something almost menacing. Something scratched my shoulder and tangled into the mess that was my hair, holding me in place. I could make out air slice, the shadow reached back and instantly whipped forward colliding with ice. Just so you know ice snaps; it snaps, crackles, and pops when being struck.
Another snap, another hand fished for my arm. I would have reached up to guide him to it if I still had feeling in that limb. Shadow howled, roared, or screamed. I’m not sure, I can’t hear shit right now. But I saw it, frustration is a full body tantrum completed with the volume signified in puffs of frozen air. Someone should listen to him yell so the sound wasn’t wasted breath. This is the moment where my mind frowns, furrows my eyebrows and asks ‘who the fuck are you?’ A warning; my mind is an inopportune creature all on it’s own.
His free arm reached through the opening, clutching enough fabric to lift me closer to the hole, forcing the ice to vibrate in urgency. Above me the crouched silhouette looked behind him. My fingers had mini seizures. I couldn’t feel them or anything below mid-thigh. My mind heard nothing, but my teeth were chattering loudly enough to make any car crash dull in comparison. My face was shrinking against bone. I could feel the pores tighten. The blurb of shadow was talking, I blink and focus. He repeated. I shook my head to clear it.
“Le…ar-s…up…” He nodded behind him, I think. I blinked trying to focus on the lines closer to me, the veins in his arms strained to hold us still. His arm dipped, it twitched, I shifted further with the current, my eyes focused up. Everything came into view from the contours of features to the color scheme that made them into expression. My inopportune mind screeches ‘what the fuck are you!’ It’s an entire body convulsion until it lets go. You would call it fear or worse, at this point is when something actually starts to cut into your flesh, either that or the frostbite has finally sheared through my wrists.
I blinked and he was gone, there, gone, sliding, that had to be it, the current was pulling me down. You can make out the dragging, the scuffling above, it echoes as a very harsh melody of violins through water, ping, ping, crackle, ping. Another crack, another part of me, my neck this time, I think, was grabbed at pulling me closer to the ice.
“Breath! Arms up! One, two…” three was never heard. Neither was his plan. All I could make out was the rushing of water fighting to get passed my body. I closed my eyes letting water carry me back under, with him rushing to be ahead of the current. I heard him, the infuriating noise of someone scraping their nails over a stain on fabric. My eyes closed and gave in to the pins of suffocation. The water ahead roared in applause when something soft thudded against something solid. I didn’t feel hurt I also didn’t feel my body bend down. I didn’t feel the warmth of air or the even warmer grasp that snatched each of my outstretched arms. I heard him though, clear as day screaming. I exhaled…wake up dear you’re going to be late for work again.
Listening to anyone tell a story about you can be fun. Especially their little additives to make the group gather in closer and hang onto every word. They can make it seem so unbelievable if you weren’t there to testify the truth in it. Listening to this particular story reiterated was not amusing. It was nothing like turning a minnow into a shark as most epic fish tales do. He reiterated in such a matter of fact, nonchalant way. I had to hear it again.
Sorry, step back a notch to before hearing this epic tale became the only thing I could do. Once I had opened my eyes, the figure that went with the fairytale scared me enough that all I could fathom was the quickest way out of dodge. Run, run Aylin, don’t look behind you, death will hurt less if you don’t see it coming. His appearance suddenly made any thoughts I had up there on that roof top vanish. Actually seeing death scared the hell out of me.
He repeated his recollection again, I couldn’t hear it again. How could I? Seeing the features without ice obscuring the view knocked the wind out of me. I’ve never seen such a commanding presence in one person. He was an entire army rolled into one body. Run Aylin, stranger danger. The third time go around in this fishtail verbatim and my capture was annoyed, adding punctuation in puffs of air after each syllable commanding that you listen. You can still see the sound, the voice, wisps of wind leaving his mouth, I thought of a horse snorting in January.
Focus. If he has to repeat himself again I’m pretty damn sure it will be to your decapitated head.
That story goes like this; there was a miscalculation in events, which leads to an unscheduled stop (growl very spoiled child like at this spot) in unforeseen ice, toss in some random numbers here, in a place that we were never to drop in, and carry the two. Under the ice is the blasted river of minted waves. Mint? No that’s not right, it’s not thick enough, and the air here was just that thick , I can smell the Vick’s vapor rub scent of water on my skin, in the air, collecting as muddy underbrush around me.
“Ahem, grumble, grumble…” In any language it means pay attention. When he let go it was because opportunity knocked. Behind us was a waterfall. A shattering cascade of water. Lying across its wake was its massacre of nature in rusting trees that wore more red and orange than purple these days (purple? Ah yes I see them now, look up, you’ll see that the conifers here are indeed a very judgmental shade of violet). One in particular had rooted into the land in such a way that it was bent across the water. It hung there low enough that this creature could brace his weight against it while waiting for me to flow with the current into his opened hands.
All of this happening on the mouth of a ledge. Like I have said before and like I will say again; there is always a ledge. He reached down as my body arched with the flow of gravity until he had enough tension between us and the line (I’ll get to that in a minute) and yanked (yes, yanked with more force than a grizzly uses to slap dinner out of the water. Same idea though. I, just like a trout, have the bruises to prove the abuse.) I was saved, dangling, yes, literally, dangling from this tree’s branch, a caught fish, hook, line, and sinker, the end. But let me add in here that I am the one to give the visuals to the story. Listening to this re-calling of events made it as interesting as my cell phone’s user guide. Now, that being said can anyone guess my reaction? You know the thing that comes as a result to action?