A Charming Nightmare: Chapter 5

March 04, 2017

            5.

 

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.”

Ummm?

“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.

“If you-”

“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.

“Translator.”

“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.”

I frown.

Catch frowned.

“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.”

“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?”

“No.” Catch.

“Mostly.” Jinni.

“The very finest in elite technologies.” Jammaas. 

“So yes?”

“No.”

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.

“Humph.”

“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.”

“I promise!”

“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.

“Whoa.”

 

____________________________________________________________

 

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.”

“Machines?”

“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?”

“No.”

“What then?”

Unnecessary conversation.

“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.”

“It will?”

“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.” 

“You like?”

“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.”

“The brew.”

“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. 

“Yes.”

“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?”

“A beginning.”

“Study y-something-”

“Original.”

“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.

“Yes.”

“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?”

“Exactly.”

“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.

“Yes.”

“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.

“Malik.”

“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. 

Go away. 

“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.”

“By who?”

“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. 

“Ribs heal.”

“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.”

“What?”

“Do not get caught up in details.  They are always minuscule enemies that create vast wars.”

“Meaning?”

“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.”

“You knew.”

“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.

 

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