I looked into the Abyss, and it Winked (Part 10)
"I looked into the Abyss, and it Winked"
By Drunkfu with help from Trusting, and Diane Castle
Sometime in 1939
The child before them couldn't have been older than eleven years of age with her petite frame, youthful face, and diminutive stature. She looked average enough, with mid length frazzled brown hair, and a frayed old blue dress. Several small details, however, made it plain as the cute button nose on her face that this was anything but a normal street rat. Her shadow was opaque bellow her and unmoving, solid in ways shadows in well lit rooms were not, and she stood in the center of the intricately carved, rune marked circle cut out of ancient mildew covered rock bearing a look of wonder, and curiosity at the old vaulted chamber she found herself in. The look of wonder on her young dirty face was nothing compared to the expressions on the collection of men staggered around, their breath caught in their throats in surprise, the majority of which she showed little interest in.
Notable among the gasping group were the thirteen robed figures standing at even points distributed about the circle, all holding archaic looking lanterns in one hand with flickering yellow lights illuminating the bloody stone daggers they held in their opposing hand, the crimson on the blades still wet and dripping onto the thirteen crumbled bodies at their feet. Each of them had a look of shock, and disbelief as they gazed as one at the barefoot child when she began to pace around the circle she'd rather abruptly appeared within before their very eyes, stepping out of the shadows that shouldn't have been in the middle of so well lit a circle, shadows which persisted in not only remaining unmoving and impenetrable to the visible eye, but that also followed the child around, spreading across the floor as they did.
Less notable than the robed men were the caucasian blonde adults in the dark green matching military uniforms with flared pants, and red bands on their left biceps, each armed with more conventional weapons than old ceremonial knives. Some had narrow barreled Luger style pistols in belt holsters, others carried at the ready clip fed weapons of a more advanced design, called Maschinenpistole, MP 38 and MP 40's in shaking gloved fingers, their gaze also focused on the seemingly innocent child in the tattered dress and mud stained feet as she knelt by the edge of the circle.
To say the atmosphere in the ancient walled room was tense, would have been like saying in the late 1930's that the Germans were rather miffed at their Jewish population and decided to enquire politely over a cup of tea and schnapps if they could perhaps lessen think their ranks a bit, and maybe go somewhere else.
Oblivious to this density in the air, the small girl with the gnarled brown hair held her scratched knees, and peered down with a tilted head at a point in the carved circle where the still warm blood hadn't oozed through the groove properly. There were several points in the grooves like that. She smiled at the small rock jammed into the groove that had been blocking the flow, that would have completed the ancient eldrich seal, and stood up to beam cleverly at the incredulous men in robes.
It would have seemed that sacrificing thirteen innocent souls and putting on a bunch of silly robes was one thing, but actually succeeding in summoning something from beyond the veil of known reality was something else entirely, especially for those who had never seen such things first hand, and maybe were expecting something completely different.
Or at the very least, something taller. More tentaclish.
She announced to those gathered, looking up with a toothy grin, "There's a mistake right over here, you know."
The group of men seemed to falter, exchanging looks of uncertainty between one another, before one cleared his throat and spoke in a roughly accented voice. "Vas! ... You... speak English? Pardon, but you do not appear as we expect." He gestured vaguely towards the high ceiling,"Ve ver' hoping for something a bit larger, you see."
The young girl seemed to consider this, a stubby finger tapping her small knobby chin. "Yes, I see. But this room is pretty old," she informed them with an air of confidence. "The carvings look like they've worn down some over the years, so you're really lucky that you caught the attention of anything at all!"
Furrowing his brows, the man who'd spoken up before pulled back his hood, middle-aged features creased in a faint scowl that pulled the skin over his growing forehead (or retreating hairline) down tightly. "Ah... this is most disappointing. Maybe you can give help to us, little girl, jah? Ve try to contact with great demon, devourer of heads, the mad one, he who wears the hats of insanity on his brow and who dines at the table of sustenance for all eternity in a moment... Bikucromwee-"
Smiling, she held up a finger to interrupt him, and the soldiers in the background all shifted uncomfortably. There something unnatural about her, other than unnatural way in which she'd emerged from blackness and blood. "You're saying it ALL wrong. It is pronounced more like... Bkcrmwdjvg." As nervous as they were before, the armed men became absolutely livid when the small female spoke the name in a manner one would have thought impossible without a set of lungs and vocal cords completely alien to the human body.
Gasping in realization, he exclaimed in a rush,"So it is you! Ve have summoned you to make pact, great one. You will destroy the enemies of our country, and ve vill make available to you appropriate sacrifices and-"
Frowning now, the four foot tall girl slowly shook her head, interrupting him again. "Nope, that's not me. Though I did meet him a while back. Err, well, it. We had tea, once. Sort of."
He blinked. "Tea...? Then who..."
Showing of her teeth again, some of them now looking disturbingly sharp, the small brown haired mousey girl answered,"Me? I'm no one special. But my friends and I noticed when you started poking around. When you use things like this to try to invite folk from our side here, you really should make sure the wards and markings you use are in good condition, your circles complete. You can't just stumble into an old sealed chamber, kill a few virgins, and expect one of the generally older ones to just pop up and do your bidding like a genie. There's rules, you know."
Startled yelps sounded from some of the men in the back that noticed it first. The girl had casually walked to the center of the circle, and when she'd turned around, her shadow had spread and gone dense in the flickering lights of the 13 flames surrounding her, and had begun to spread like an oil spill from where she'd walked before.
"Most important of those rules being; you should never try to call something over when your summoning circle isn't absolutely perfect. My friends and I have been at this a loooong time, and they're way better at finding holes in circles and ways to slip out of seals like this than I am." She paused, then assured them in a soft voice, "But I'm learning fast!"
The sounds of weapons being raised, and the clicking off of safety mechanisms was sharp in the air but muffled by the exclamations of surprise when the girls shadow grew beyond her small frame and the flatness of the ground, and started to lift her into the air on a dome of onyx. One of the robed figures blanched, and stumbled out of position but a half step, falling on his backside.
The little girl grinned at the man that had shrunk back. "The second most important rule; once you have brought something over, whatever you do, NEVER break formation or back down. It weakens your positioning and protection, and generally doesn't command the sort of respect you're looking for."
When the girl had risen a good fifteen feet into the air, the form of her shadowy seat became more clear. She was sitting on a mushroom of obscene proportions and the coloring of which no one had ever seen with human eyes, colors that seemed several at once and at the same time none at all, more than enough to overload the vision of many of those gathered in the eldritch chamber and cause them to cry tears of blood. The darkness the obscenely large fungus shaded on the ground wriggled like a well of snakes.
"I hope you don't mind, but my friends wanted to play with you, now," she whispered in a sweet voice as the forbidden horrors within the ancient summoning circle surged forth in a hundred ravenous mouths, heedless of any mystical barriers as they burst past the weak point in the circle, shattering wards like so much mystical glass, first overtaking the man who'd backed away, then spreading out like a flood of nightmares to consume the screaming soldiers.
The young girl watched from her perch atop the giant mushroom like growth with a small smile, the friends she'd made in the beyond bounding about the ancient summoning room while broadcasting indescribable glee, melting fascist faces, tearing into human flesh and rending bodies apart as though they'd been paper dolls. A pair of star-shaped tentacled creatures tore across the floor, while a long many legged abomination breathed an acidic gas into the air when it passed, and something that didn't seem like it could decide wether it was here, or somewhere else, but that at times vaguely resembled something feline with an endlessly large mouth full of jagged teeth seemed to phase in and out of existence as it moved, gleefully ignoring gravity as it sailed into the air, vanished, and reappeared with it's endlessly large jaw open wide to devour a man's torso. Gun fire roared in their initial break of the circle, but it had soon died down as the last soldier found himself either devoured or reduced to a pasty substance unrecognizable as being human.
It hadn't taken long for her friends to clear the room of flesh and bone and leave it coated in rather evenly in blood. She slipped off the giant mushroom, landing in a feral crouch on the ground that was now sticky like a movie theater's floor. She could smell the power in the air these amateurs had released, and she could clearly smell and see the essence rolling off the thirteen bodies of women that had had their throats cut while they within the circle, their essence fueling the blood grooves in the floor. Her new friends had been teaching her so much over the years, more than she would have ever been able to learn on her own, and they'd had more fun than she'd ever could have imagined. But things were changing. She was changing. She could hardly even remember what it was like to be human, anymore, and she wasn't sure if that was something she missed.
Pensive, she walked up to one of the bodies of the sacrificed women, crouched by her head, and started to pet her blood soaked hair.
Long after they returned to where they came from, all that would be found in the room would be the thirteen bodies of the dead women untouched save for the cuts at their throats, and the blood of the thirty men who'd succeeded in summoning up hell itself.
Tuesday evening, March 12, 2007
Hell would have been a welcome change from the evening I was having.
The older woman in the comfortably loose navy blue suit had been speaking to the shivering, shell shocked group of near naked girls who were holding grey blankets about their bodies and huddling together, looking far too traumatized to actually care that they were mostly naked, and also me. I was there too. A few police cars parked by the street with flashing lights drew a crowd from the neighborhood that watched men in protective suits go over our home with a fine toothed comb (though with tools resembling anything but), while the police officers that had been driving the vehicles worked to push the crowds back.
"Essentially, this is what you get for eating off world," a man introducing himself as Doctor Deth had said, off handedly, saying the words together that when said apart wouldn't have sounded nearly so odd, in the same casual manner someone may chide you in for eating one of those street tacos in Tiajuana.
"T-tentacles... tentacles, ripping off our clothes, slithering over my skin..." whispered a rather fetching, but frightened blonde girl as she stared off into empty space.
"What...?" I replied ever so intellectually, blinking at the guy. "You're saying... some kind of... tentacles... attacked my sister and her friends because while I was stuck on a different planet I ate a little snack instead of STARVING to death? And really, there weren't exactly any immigration check points on my way back, Doctor." I snapped, "Who the heck are you, anyway?" I wasn't having the best of days.
Yes, as you might guess, I was feeling a bit angry at that moment. My evening previous to this had been shit, when it should have been gold. My big date with the nicest girl I'd ever known? Yah, I'd been sabotaged by Melissa and her friends with a make-over the likes of which Satan (Or Stan as Ecila tells me he likes to be called) himself would have cringed from, but I'd changed into something resembling normal in time. Despite everything I'd done, she turned me down. Now instead of a nice quiet night of brooding to look forward to, cops, and a man with crazy curly eyebrows and a sharp mini-beard had come to my doorstep to protect my sister and her friends from tentacle beasts.
It wasn't really shaping up to be a nice night.
He leveled a look at me that had me wishing I'd talked less, and at the same time made me feel as though I were on the other end of a microscope to him. "Oh, I'm not that Doctor. But the problem remains, you ate alien food. It had spores in it, as they sometimes do. To answer your question, I'm a specialists that has been tracking you and your interdimensional bumbling for a several days, now, with the gracious aid of Officer Stone here, of the RPD. I prefer to be called Doctor Deth at times, and my associate here talking with your sisters friends is the patient and understanding," the woman in question shot a tired glare at the Doctor,"...Officer Stone. I work for the Arkham Research Consortium."
"Well what else was I SUPPOSED to eat? I was stuck in some crazy world where the suns fry you like fast food heat lamps! I'm not exactly experienced at this, and I was hungry! When a crazy 9 limbed starfish offers you finger food, you eat the finger food!" Fuming, I conceded the point,"Unless of course they look like fingers. Then again, if you're at a party hosted by those Donner people down the street..."
Melissa and what few friends of hers that weren't looking blitzed gave me a series of looks that I tried my best to ignore; sanity questioning looks, the sort of looks you get when you aren't certain wether or not you just wandered into the twilight zone, or if you were having a bad acid trip or not.
Welcome to my life, big sis!
"...In this case, you probably shouldn't have. I, and some of my fellow researchers, encountered this a few times when the spores from that particular planet interact with the wild-life and soil of our Earth's environment. Left on its own, it could easily turn into as big a problem as those cane toads that were released in Australia back in the 1930's. Ironically, this species is designed to combat world hunger, where they come from."
"Oh no," I mock whispered in annoyance. "I solved world hunger. Also, on a completely unrelated topic, world hunger solving tentacles tried to rape my sister and her friends!"
Melissa looked over and pursed her lips tentatively. "Actually... that isn't what happened, exactly."
It had seemed to loose interest when it had finally undressed and devoured the clothing off the first two women closest to it, the snaky things made a startling quick advance on the remaining gaping girls, wrapping about their legs and curling towards their unguarded silken unmentionable panties!
Moments later all five girls had ran screaming out of the darkened hallway making half hearted attempts to cover their blatant nudity with flailing hands, but much more interested in getting as far away as they could from where they'd just been as quickly as possible than in preserving their modesty. Frantic to preserve their own lives from the other worldly tentacled terror, they scampered out of the living room and straight for the front door, all simultaneously screaming at the tops of their ample coed lungs.
Schroedinger, the black shoggoth kitten lord, as it sometimes thought of itself with a bemused smirk, sat amongst their discarded pillows and spilt drinks in as calm and indifferent a manner as one would expect from a creature of feline influence, watching with half lidded yellowish eyes as the women went scampering past it. It calmly turned its head, and peered into the flickering light and shadow of the hallway, and raised what passed for its nose into the air to inhale sharply. Yah, it was starting to get the hang of the 'internal organs' thing, and had recently gotten the hang of having lungs and something like nostrals.
The squirming panty devouring tentacles peeked around the corner in turn, though indeed they had nothing resembling eyes, eating up the carpet as it went and making motions towards the passive feline.
The slick black feline creature's eyes widened at the sight of them, and it's small maw opened in a appetizing, fanged grin that spread ear to ear and stretched its face to accommodate all the extra teeth that were now protruding freshly from its gums. It then approached the spaghetti like mess of tentacles at a steady trot, licking its chops with a long black tongue.
Had Josh been in the immediate vicinity, he might have picked up a word the young feline like creature had adopted for its own use mentally broadcasted to those sympathetic and receptive to its thoughts; "Yum!"
The inhuman, claws-across-a-chalkboard screams of sheer mind-shattering horror that echoed out from the Gillman house that night would be the stuff of nightmares for all that heard it, for months to come.
"Yah it... like, stripped us naked, then like, lost interest," commented a brunette girl huddled amidst the group.
Doctor Deth stroked his devilish beard with interest, and commented, "It was only interested in the dead organic material your clothing was made out of. You're lucky it didn't go after your hair. These sorts of things aren't really all that dangerous, initially. The problems happen in the long run, when you introduce them into an ecosystem unable to ballance them out. Even a single insect from another world could cause disaster! Imagine Africanized killer bees on a galactic scale, one little insect wanders in, mates with a queen bee, and suddenly we have acid spitting hive mind intelligent super territorial alienized killer bees demanding citizenship and their own territory."
I snorted, feeling oddly detached from the whole situation. Shoot, I'd seen worse, I'd seen Brazilian strip clubs, and despite the thoroughness of the public education system in California, unlike many of my fellow classmates, I knew that Brazilian was not in fact a really high number, but something of or related to the inhabitants of Brazil. Super smart bugs still didn't scare me as much as seeing another man's ding-a-ling. "Oh, is that all."
"You know, it didn't actually... stick anything IN anyone... did it?" questioned the blonde girl sitting amongst the group, looking around at the other girl's faces for confirmation.
"Well, no, but..."
"It didn't, actually..."
"I sort of wanted it t-"
"It just ate our clothes!"
Doctor Mister Deth smiled once more, probably more amused than he should have been, and explained, "...This particular spore passes through the digestive system of the person that eats it, then when it's out and away from the living organic matter of the host it devours all excrement, and non living organic matter it can find and grows at an exponential rate, especially in our environment where it has no chemical nor psychic inhibitors, nor natural predators."
Melissa blinked, "Then... the weird, um... phallic shaped bulbs on the end?"
"Alien fruit. Not especially appetizing, but oddly healthy and ripe with nutrients. The big problem with this type of plant is its rate of growth. On Earth, it doesn't stop. It can be a real pill to deal with if you don't catch it ahead of time."
My older sister narrowed her eyes. "...I'm supposed to believe an alien tentacle beast hitched a ride in my little sisters bowels and attacked us right when we were having our slumber party, because she didn't flush?"
"I-I flushed!" I insisted, glaring at her.
"Wether you flushed or not is not really at issue, Joshua Gillman." The casual way the doctor spoke my name without me having had to tell it to him made me feel somewhat nervous. These, I supposed, were not your average police officers, or strange doctors helping said police officers. "But the creature isn't a threat anymore. We were around when you came out of the house, and our men responded quickly enough that I don't believe anything will be left to spread. Your parents will, however, have a hefty re-carpeting bill."
"Uh... y-you were watching us? While we ran out of the house... naked...?" the brunette asked testily.
Officer Stone looked unimpressed. "Like it isn't something I've seen."
"Er, of course not!" protested Doctor Deth, looking insulted.
"Right. We looked away," said another officer, dignified.
One of the men in the background wearing the radiation suits, and running his instruments over the house's outer walls muttered something to himself about his job being better than pay-per-view.
Annoyed by the scent of cherry's near my mouth, I puckered my lips and asked, "So what happened to it? Did you burn it out or something? Lure it away with panties into a box with a sigil on it propped up by a stick?"
Doctor Deth folded his arms, and cleared his throat before he informed us, "Actually, we didn't have to."
"You didn't?" I yelped in surprise. After all the huff he made about it being so difficult to stop, they didn't have to do a thing to stop it?
"No, most of the infestation was gone by the time we got there."
The brunette girl perked up. "Ooh, did it fall prey to our virulent human germs, like in the movie with the eye stalks and flying saucers?"
Officer Smith faced the girl. "I'm... afraid not, young lady."
The stoic man put a hand on my shoulder and guided me out of earshot of the barely dressed sleep-over girls, and looked me calmly in the eye. It wasn't the sort of calm look that inspired calmness in the person on the other end of such a look, however, as this man had an edge of crazy just twitching into his obscenely calm act. "Ms. Gillman... you don't mind if I call you Ms. Gillman, do you?"
The corner of my eye twitched, but I gave an indifferent shrug. Strange as it sounds, I had worse things to deal with at the moment than my own gender issues.
"It appears your 'cat' ate it."
I stared at him, open mouthed. "W-what...? Shroedinger? He ate a raving tentacle beast out of the toilet?"
"Down to the roots, I'm afraid."
"That's... disgusting! Bad cat, bad!"
"On several levels. Ms. Gillman, how many other alien entities have you smuggled into our country? Are you even aware of the danger you've been putting your family, the entire world in?"
"W-what!? I wasn't smuggling anything, they tagged along! And Shroedinger isn't that bad...! He's just, well... she, um, it..." I rubbed my forehead in disbelief, looking back up at the man. "...Lives in my backpack, and... eats my... uh, hot dogs... She really ate the whole thing? ...I didn't know she could do that. That's kind of gross. Can you even brush a cats teeth...?" I was imagining Schroedinger was more likely to eat a tooth brush than let a person clean his gaping sickly maw.
A loud gurgling belch alerted us to the presence of a content looking feline like creature that was calmly pacing out of the front door of the house and past several men in full hazmat gear that had backed away from it quickly while at the same time urgently pointed their gizmos in its direction. Most of the officers paused in their work, and the eyes of everyone gathered turned to watch the deceptively slim creature as it tip toed it's way by the women who shrunk back from it, to sit contently at my feet. Schroedinger then proceded to begin licking its paws, seemingly blanch, and start licking my ankle instead.
"Yum food!" I clearly heard it say childishly, the words somehow echoing in the back of my head like it was my own thoughts being said by something else.
Oh, he wasn't fooling me. I know he wasn't being sweet. He was getting the taste off his tongue.
Feeling somewhat ill, I muttered, "Don't you 'yum food' me! We need to have a long talk about eating out of the toilet, Shroe," I said, unsure if I wanted something that just ate toilet noodles sitting anywhere near me or touching me with its tongue. But how do you TELL a creature that could do stuff like that not to? The slick black creature yawned indifferently, and I could hardly pick up any impressions other than satisfaction broadcasting from its little mind.
I just caught the corner of Doctor Deth's face twitching at the sight of the cat. "Miss Gillman, do you have any idea what that is? Is it talking to you?"
Considering the lazy space cat the least of my worries, I gave an indifferent shrug. "A freeloader? Of course, can't you hear it?"
He grimaced, nervously stroking at his pointed mini beard to peer down at the feline. There was something... off about the way this guy acted, the way he moved almost dramatically at times, like there was an echo of something else behind him that no one else left, that was more obvious to me now without my own glasses on. Of course, everything else was looking horribly off to me, too, so it was hard to judge.
"Miss Gillman, that's a Shoggoth."
"...Show goth what?"
"Shoggoth, Miss Gillman. They're... well, it would take a little too long to explain. How long has that thing been following you around?"
I wondered down at Shroedinger, and it looked up at me, and then the man and the older woman with slightly narrowing yellow eyes. "Um. I dunno, since it was born, I guess."
Frowning, Doctor Deth continued looking... disturbed. Worried. "I see. Have you felt anything strange since it's been around, had any thoughts that you thought might be... not yours? Felt the uncontrolable urge to stab someone in the face? Have you started bleeding from anywhere unusual?"
Tilting my head, I scratched at the back of my neck while trying to figure out what he was getting at. Schroedinger was harmless, wasn't it? And I had no plans to start bleeding from anywhere any time soon, if I could help it. Besides, girls bleed in funny places (places I had no intention of bleeding from if I could help it)! Guys just beat each other up and bleed from everywhere else. "Eh, uh. Well I can hear what it's thinking, usually. It's mostly stuff like 'Hungry now', 'wanna walk around now', 'don't bother me, I'm being squeezed between a pair of mammaries and it satisfies my desires for a maternal figure'... you know, animal stuff. Lately it's been saying words though, I'm guessing no one else has been picking up on that."
"You've... bonded with it? Yes, I suppose that's possible, if you were about when it was spawned..." He glanced down at my black cat. "In that case... it's probably safest if we leave him with you. A young one isn't quite as dangerous as a fully developed one, and one that's symbiotically bonded and unlikely to wander too far from its adopted parent."
I started to get the impression something was going on here that I wasn't aware of, and it was something that may possibly be an additional hazard to my health. "Uh. I'm sorry. Symbiotically bonded? Dangerous?" Cautiously I bent down to pick the thing up that thought it was a cat at the moment, and held it out to man. "Hey, if this thing is dangerous, maybe YOU should take it-" just as I suggested this, Schroe seemed to squawk, ooze out of my hands, scramble between my legs, and jumped up to clamp onto my butt with claws and everything else it could grow, giving me the distinct impression that it intended to 'dock' with me, or attempt to do so. "AIEEK! Let go let go let GO you little rat!"
As I flailed and spun around in an attempt to dislodge the little bastard from his attempts at melding with my hind quarters again, the good Doctor informed me whilest Officer Stoned looked like she wanted to be ANYWHERE but here,"Oh yah. My organization has had some experiences with its kind before. if you frighten it at this point in its life cycle, it tends to try to "meld" back with it's mother, hiding in her pouch. They can grow pouches. Aside from the appetites, a bonded young shoggoth is for the most part harmless. It may even die if we take it away from you for too long, and honestly, I'm not sure we could keep it away."
Officer Stone said roughly, "Reckon you wouldn't wanna P.O. the mom of something like that, either."
"Right, you don't want to anger off the mother of one of these things unless you have to. So it may be best to allow the thing to cool with you for the time being."
"Great," I muttered, the feline eventually dropping from my pants to slink off, sulking, back to my room to hide back in my backpack. Or that was the impression of what it wanted to do that I got.
The matter of my questionable alien cat concluded, Officer Stone went off for a cigarette, and Doctor Deth folded his arms once more and broached a new subject. "Ms. Gillman, if I may. As I've said, I work for a research institution that is... familiar with dealing with the kinds of threats you've apparently been encountering on a regular basis this last week. On occasion we also work with the government. I'm unsure if you're aware right now just how much danger you are IN at the moment... we'd like you to come back with us to our headquarters. We can protect you there. We can help you figure out what's gone wrong with you, and how you might be able to survive to see your next birthday."
"S-survive?" I said, understandably worried. "What... I can't just go with some guys that showed up out of the blue! I don't even know if you guys are for real, and not some secret evil terrorist group that goes around tricking impressionable young mutants into their labs! Sure, you seemed to show up in a nick of time to protect my sis' and her friends this time, but... I'd have to talk with my parents, at the very least! Anyhow, I sort of already have someone looking out for me, and uh, teaching me... sort of."
Doctor Deth chuckled nervously. "You're referring to Ecila, I take it?"
I blinked in disbelief. "You've heard of her?"
"Ms Gillman, you're in more trouble than even you realize. Our institution has run into your friend Ecila's left overs quite a few times over the past century."
"W-what? Left overs...? She's been getting take out?"
Doctor Deth tilted his head. "You didn't think you were the first to have discovered what you've discovered, or to have learned as much you've learned, did you?"
Uncertain, I looked back at him, my silence no doubt answered his question better than words could have.
"Our research has shown us that the insane and savants alike through history have encountered her, or those like her. Physics students, math professors, even one of your own ancestors met a cousin of hers. All of them were on the verge of ground-breaking discoveries in the fields of mathematics or mysticism when she would show up, and days later these men would be discovered unrecognizable and dead, stark raving mad, missing their brain, or never be seen or heard from again."
I swallowed nervously. It did sort of sound like something Ecila may be capable of. For all she'd claimed to have done for me, I really didn't know all that much about her, except that she cheated at space-cards, that she had switched out my genitals for a newer model, and made friends with insane creatures that cheated at space-cards worse than she did.
The man's tone turned gentle. "Now, we have facilities back in New Hampshire that could protect you from her and whatever else is out there that you've caught the attention of. We have specialists and scientists that could figure out what's happening to you, and maybe stop it. I know one thing for certain, if things remain how they are, it's only a matter of time before Ecila ends up killing you. Your only real choices here are to wait it out and see how she does you in, or to go with me for protection."
I could do little more than stand there, stunned, smelling faintly of cotton candy and fear, and hardly noticed when my parents car pulled into the driveway and exited their car and to look on in confusion as men in yellow hazmat suits wielding geiger counters started to leave their house and pack up their instruments. The majority of the men that had swarmed our house were already getting back into their vans, while some of the vehicles pulled away.
Things looked like they were finally calming down when my parents came and rushed over to us, hugged my sister and I when they found we were all in one piece, and assured us once they were certain we were alright that we were grounded for life.
I couldn't help but feel like the whole incident had been my fault, somehow. Well, I suppose it had been, indirectly. But dammit, I DID flush! And how was I supposed to know something Ecila gave me would have unimaginable and dangerous repercussions? ...Okay, maybe I should have known.
It had struck me as strange that they hadn't tried to cage Schroedinger up or haul him away with them, after what he'd done. Not that he'd done anything bad, exactly... I mean, he was an alien. She was. It was? At least I think it was, they never really explained that part. The ARC guy however seemed willing to let it stay with me until I decided to go to their main facility in New Hampshire for testing, and for protection, at which point I would have to bring it along. It turned out that creatures of its type were notoriously difficult to cage, and at its stage in development it wasn't considered especially dangerous, at least while it was following me around. The prospect of spending the rest of my life in a lab was a rather grim one, on top of all that.
On the domestic front, however, the events preceding that evening had apparently been enough to warrant a 'Family Meeting'. So long after the last van and police cruiser had pulled away, and after the good doctor and Officer Stone had explained as much as they could to my parents, and more importantly after I had a chance to change my clothes and clean my face of the remains of the girl paint, my father and mother had insisted we all gather around the dining table to discuss our (my) future.
My father held a business card that Doctor Deth had left him, and had been looking at it with a serious frown while mother interrogated Melissa on what had occurred while she was supposed to be looking out for me, and where I'd been, and more importantly where SHE had been while I was away. Waiting for a moment of silence when we'd finished speaking, father said "I think you should go with these men, Josh."
Startled, I looked up from staring sullenly at my knees. "B-but, Dad! New Hampshire's like on the other side of the country! And no one got HURT, did they?"
He smiled at me patiently. "Not this time, so-err, Josh. But what about next time? We don't have the slightest clue what's happening to you, or what'll happen next. You could die next time this happens. Hell, you could explode, for all we know. We thought both had happened, before! And now we can't even leave the house without this... cat you brought in eating things that were destroying our bathroom and ripping apart the carpet? God, none of this makes sense." He sighed, his point made." I did a little searching on the computer, this Arkham Research Consortium seems to be on the up-and-up... I think right now, you going with them is the safest option we have. They have experience dealing with this sort of thing, and we've just been winging it." Adding as an after thought, as though it had little to do with his main point, he said,"Also, they're offering to cover the air fair and cost of your stay. At least in this case, we'd know where you are, and that you were safe."
"B-but Dad...! New Hampshire!" I weakly argued.
"Josh, this is the best option we have. Yes, you'll be far away, but you'll be safer than you are here. I'm not saying you should pick up shop and move there forever, but the least we could do is give these ARC folks a month or two to try to help you out and see if they can..." He made some oddly constructive gestures in the air with his hands,"...fix you. If it looks like it isn't going anywhere, and they can't provide you with the protection from things as you need them, we'll bring you back and deal with things as best we can. As a family."
My guts felt chilled as I slumped down in my chair, defeated. Despite my reservations about being flown to the other end of the continent, it could have been worse, I guess. At least this place is still somewhere on this planet, and I could still end up back home once it was all done. With Ecila, I didn't know what was going to happen next, or where I'd end up, or even if I was going to survive to see the next day.
Mother looked pensive, her lips pursed when she broke the silence. "There's one more thing, dear. While we were... fixing your records, we, err, put in a name change for you."
I squealed in protest, "But MOM! You didn't even ask me about changing my name!"
She held up her hand. "No, dear... we talked about this while we were down-town."
"I don't remember talking about anything of the sort!"
She smiled weakly."Your father and I did. If we're going so far as to change your registration and everything else so the paper will match the, err, proof as it were, we thought it be sort of a moot point to leave things as they were with your name. If you were going around with a boys name while trying to pass as a girl, it might make people suspicious, and you'd be getting into even more trouble! I saw that black eye you had last week! You're going through some changes, and it's our duty as your parents to ensure that they go as smoothly as possible." Her expression was regretful, but sincere. "I'm afraid that means that Josh wont work as your name anymore, dear."
How could things get any worse?! First they went out and change every conceivable government record there is proclaiming I was female, then they go and change my name? What was left that was actually me? "Mom! You... you didn't even ask ME if I wanted my name change! You didn't even ask my opinion!"
Father tried to interrupt. "Now Josh, we know you've been going through a lot lately, and we're doing our best here to roll with things and make them as easy on you as possible. There's no help book out there for "Your son turned into a mutant and a girl and now aliens are after him!", you know? I DO know, I googled it. There were a few interesting stories, but ah, that's besides the point." Clearing his throat politely, my father said (rather quickly), "Also, the lines downtown at city hall were REALLY long. We didn't want to have to go back if we could help it, and figured we'd hit two birds with one stone, you know?" He sat back, jokingly adding,"Besides, we didn't ask you what you thought of your name the first time, either."
I glared at him and replied with a stale laugh. "Hah. Hah." I decided it was best to rip the bandaid off all at once than peal it off slowly, so to speak, to get the bad news all out as quickly as possible. "So what are you sticking me with now?"
It was obviously a winner, because Dad was wincing, and Mom had on a stoney grin that spoke of great family pride and prestige. "Well, we didn't want it to be too different from what you have now, so you wouldn't have to learn to respond to too different a name... "
My dear sister spoke up then, her hands folded under her chin and her eyebrow raised partially. "Ooh, like if you named him Barbie? So what'd you go with? Josh doesn't really translate well into girlese..." she grinned, wondering out loud,"Joshette, maybe? Joshanne?"
My father grumbled, and my mother tried to look dignified. "We named you after your great Aunt, who passed away last year."
I stared at her blankly. "Huh? I had an Aunt...?"
"YES dear, you do recall last year, when your father and I had to fly to New Mexico for the funeral, don't you?"
My sister and I both exchanged a look, and I suddenly recalled. "Oh, that was the week we got to stay at home alone and do whatever we want-errr, I mean, went to school and did homework and such..."
Mom made a deep sounding sigh, and said,"Josie."
A stunned silence reigned on the children's side of the table, until my sister started to hum the theme song to "Josie and the Pussycats" under her breath to break it.
"Y-you can't do that!" I blurted out as soon as I could find the breath to speak. "That's horrible! I'm going to get reamed with a name like that, mom!"
She shocked us back into silence with a stern look. "Oh, it isn't the end of the world, Josh. Josie is a perfectly fine name. Your Great Aunt had it all her life! There's nothing silly about it, I don't see why you think you'll get teased for... Melissa, will you STOP humming?"
I cringed inwardly.
Melissa did something else that sent chills up my spine, she put a hand on my shoulder and grinned at me. It wasn't even menacing, or anything! I think she was trying to be nice! "Hey, squirt, lets let the parents talk this over themselves. Why don't you come help me pack? I got a flight back to the college tomorrow, and it looks like we'll both be leaving that day."
I whimpered my ascent, and was too overwhelmed to properly resist as she guided me out of the kitchen and towards her room.
"Sooo, how'd the date go?" She asked me with a smirk.
I glared at her, and said simply, "Not as great as I'd hoped."
"Oh, then it must have been the cold."
She stopped to look at me from the corner of her eye. "Yah, you were looking a little... perky up top when you rolled in."
"What are you blathering about? I wasn't perky at all, I was actually quite depressed, and...!" I frowned when the real meaning of her words sunk in, and glanced down at my chest that was, thankfully, no longer clad in a pink mini t-shirt, and shuddered.
So that was it. I was being sent to the other side of the country the next day to get proked at and tested, and my name was Josie.
Actually, it didn't sound all that bad. The horrible cartoon it brought to mind when I heard it aside, I could live with being a Josie, for the moment. Until things went back to normal, you understand! How many people my age really had even heard of that old show, really?
Half-way to Melissa's room I brushed her hand off my shoulder, a thought of exceedingly clever and revenge level proportions occurring to me when I recalled some of the things her friends had jokingly left in that pink purse they'd thrust on me at the start of this horrid evening. "Ah, I'll be right there, I need to get something first."
Wednesday morning, March 13, 2007
"So what's the deal?" I asked my two escorts in the front seat of the rather conventional government issue crown victoria they were escorting me in. "Are we driving to New Hampshire? Because if we are, I need to know how many hours it'll be before I can start asking if we're there yet."
Although a multiple day road trip with a grumpy stocky cop woman and a large intimidating black man in glasses did sound rather awesome to me. Think of the astonishing photo montage I'd have to show for it! Me making goofy faces at the camera infront of those big plastic dinosaurs in the desert with them standing imposingly in the background with folded arms, and then again in the grand canyon with my trying to touch my nose with my tongue while they stand imposingly in the background with their arms cross, and maybe at the Alamo, me crossing my eyes while they- you get the picture.
One of them made a snorting noise, and her face flinched as though she were resisting a smirk. "Not hardly, little Gillman. We need to secure you safe transport, and we need to make sure you're safe to transport before that. In the mean time we decided we'd store you away in the police station."
That didn't sound terribly safe to me, and I said as much, leaning as far forwards as the seat belt would allow, keeping a minds eye on the backpack with the snoozing cat laying on the empty seat next to me. What little lugage I had had been thrown in the trunk. "...Uh, you guys ever seen the first Terminator movie?"
The one driving, Officer Stone, commented, "Can you believe that guy's the Governor of California?"
"Hey, there was that one state with the wrestler, right?" Officer Walters replied. He was the almost smirking one.
"Right guys, fascinating stuff. The point here is, I'm sure I don't need to tell YOU all because you were the ones that convinced me of it, but this Ecila girl? The Terminator would put on a lovely skirt with matching frills and serve her tea and crumpets if she wanted it to happen, and last I remember the police didn't do so well against HIM."
"Kid watches too many movies," Officer Walters sighed.
"Though I admire her taste in films, gotta love the classics."
Officer Stone suddenly had an opinion that she voiced in an idle tone. She was driving, though, I wouldn't have wanted her to start too heated a debate while behind the wheel with me in the back seat. "Here's what I wonder, why give a mechanized killing machine that's supposed to blend in with humanity the most robotic and foreign accent in America? What, they're smart enough to wipe out most of mankind and create robot marvels the likes of which no man could invent with lasers and all that, but they never bothered to think to themselves; hey, if our infiltrating death machines don't talk like everyone else, and if they look like giant ass kicking muscle men, they may not be able to sneak around with a bunch of ratty scavengers trying to survive in the cracks of a post apocolyptic world!"
Officer Walters suggested, "Well, maybe Skynet had parts and software manufactured in Austria?"
I rolled my eyes with a light scowl. "Please, fellas. When's the last time someone or something capable of inventing an end of the world device, time machine, or a super bad ass chrome skeletal robot ever stopped to really THINK above anything more than 'Woh this would be cool'. Skynet's the computer version of a nerdy inventor."
Wait, what was it I was asking again? Oh right.
Allowing a hint of anger in my tone, I snapped at the two well suited fellows, "But that's besides the point! WHY are we going to a police station, and why do adults all gotta be total pains in the butt whenever I try to get any straight answers out of them!"
Officer Walters turned to glance back at me through dark shades, the corner of his mouth budging upwards in something he probably thought was a comforting smile, and not an odd smirk. "Calm down kid... Josie. Calm down, Josie. We're just trying to lighten the mood. The point, is the police station isn't as bad as you think. It's really quite safe."
"Right," the driver agreed, and explained in a bored tone, "In a world where magicians and psychics and super-men are common place, do you really think there wouldn't be any sort of protection against that kind of a thing in the law enforcement buildings? There isn't a safer place in this whole city for you to be in. You'll be in a building full of armed police officers, and secured away in a detention cell built for mutants with protection circles and everything else they can afford on a government sallary. You'll play it cool for a few hours, take your initial physical, then when your ride shows up you'll be in ARC, and NOTHING can get to you there. Or so that Doctor guy tells me."
Officer Walters mumbled under his breath, "Maybe."
I leaned back in my seat to mull over what he'd said to me. "That actually doesn't sound all that bad... wait. Detention cell? You'r sticking me in jail?!"
"Calm down, kid. If it can keep demon possessed killers and psychic dynamos from breaking out, it should do a fine job of keeping this Ecila chick out until we need to move you."
Something about this wasn't rubbing me the right way. Oh, right, maybe it was because they were sending me to JAIL for the first time in my life. It had me more nervous than a kid taking an english test that would decide if he repeats the whole grade over, and has to define the word 'tenterhooks'. What the smeg was a tenterhook, and why would someone on them be nervous?
Chewing at the corner of my lip, I ventured a suggestion,"You know... I could try to just teleport over there. I know I'm not all that great at it just yet but if it gets me there faster..."
The two cops exchanged looks that looked cautious even with one of them hiding his eyes behind thick shades. "Better not, Josie," Officer Walters said to me. "We don't want you to accidently end up on the moon and choke to death. From what we've seen and heard your accuracy and technique when... doing this thing aren't all that dependable."
Officer Stone nodded, and pulled into the Russel City Police Departments parking lot smoothly. "More so we don't know what's watching. The way that Doctor was talking, you could come back after a jaunt with a trail of crazy melting fazed fish people in a congo-line of destruction on your tail. For that matter, you better not go to sleep, either."
I groaned. "What!? I can't even sleep now?!"
"Come on now, we've been cleaning up after your messes for the past week. You do know that whenever you fall asleep you apparently slip out of reality, albite unconsciously, and come back making more messes? Is that something you really want to risk?" The look Officer Walters gave me conveyed his intense personal annoyance on the subject.
"...Well, when you put it like that it does sound kind of make sense. And suck."
"Riiight. And it would suck even worse if before we got you to a safe place where you could pass out to your hearts content, you nod off and bam, there's Ecila Mason leaning over you with a big toothy grin, and she's got you tied down to an altar and is about to do... well, we don't know what she's exactly she'd done to the people in the past, but... you don't want it happening to you. Or so the Doctor says."
They had made a point. I could all too easily imagine her accidently causing the horrible mutilated death of some poor nerd, then turn around and go 'Oops!'
I resigned myself, then. "Sure, okay, fine. Let's just get there. I'll just guzzle coffee until we do."
"But that's part of the reason we're having one of our local contacts here give you a check-up before we try to fly you across the entirety of the United States in a plane. We figure it's worth a quick check up to make certain you aren't going to blow it up if we fly you out there."
They were getting out of the vehicle then, so I scooted over and picked up my backpack to follow. "Huh? What kind of contact?"
"You met him the other day."
"Oh god." I winced, imaging that amused, scientifically detached look, those menacingly curved eyebrows, the devilish little beard. There was my general dislike for being poked and prodded at the forefront of my thoughts just then, and then there was the additional dislike expounding on those thoughts when I imagined the poking and proding being done by a reject villain from Johny Quest. "Not Doctor Deth again...!"
Melissa sighed at the tediously long check-in procedures the TSA forced on anyone who decided to fly. Finally, at the front of the line, she dropped her purse and shoes into a little basket, and set her travel bags on the conveyor belt after. She then stepped up to the metal detector and let a decidedly butch looking woman in a blue uniform run a wand up and down her sides.
Geez, she thought, 5 years ago this would have been considered sexual harassment. Now it's expected.
Still, she'd had a good time visiting home. It was a good thing to know her little brother wasn't dead, and she'd had more fun in the week or so she'd spent at home teasing him than she could have remembered having. The incident with the tentacles in the toilet had been... unpleasant, but at the same time, it hadn't really hurt her, or accosted them in anyway other than eating their clothes and ignoring them shortly after. It had certainly been a memorable experience! Although ever since then she couldn't seem to relax quite the same way as she had on a toilet before all that had happen.
Melissa silently hoped that her little brother turning into a female mutant didn't mean things like this would continue to happen at home, because one brush with alien entities in her life time had been more than enough for her. Other than that incident, she'd pretty much came out on top of her dorky little brother, prank-wise!
She grinned to herself, and enjoyed her thoughts of sisterly superiority as she moved to the other end of the conveyor belt, waiting for her belongings to make it through the X-ray machine one of the attendants intently watched.
Geez, the poor kid hadn't even had a chance to really get back at her the whole time. She almost felt a little sorry for him. A little. This 'turning into a girl' thing had obviously messed him up, usually he'd have snuck in his own little stabs to get even at SOME point. Though, maybe turning girl had taken the fight out of him....
She almost hoped that wasn't the case.
"Excuse me ma'am, is this your luggage?"
"Hmm?" Melissa looked up from her musings, and glanced down at the suitcase. "Oh, yes it is."
"You wouldn't happen to be hiding anything dangerous in there, would you? Something you should have told us about earlier on?"
The dark haired girls eyes widened, and she shook her head. You didn't mess with the TSA. "What? No, of course not. It's just clothes and stuff."
"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to step aside while we look through your belongings. Apparently there's some metal device in your luggage. Did you at anytime leave your bags unattended?"
Melissa paled slightly. "Um, n-no. I mean..." She thought back. Maybe she had set them down once or twice. She hadn't had her eyes on them the ENTIRE time. She'd even been the one to load them in the car and take them out, the only person who'd even TOUCHED them other than her had been the previous day when Josh had helped her pack. "No!" she insisted.
"Your baggage was vibrating, ma'am. You wouldn't happen to have hidden a bomb in there, would you?" he said almost jokingly.
"Vibrating?! Nothing I packed could vibrate! And anyway, don't bombs tick?"
He smirked. "Actually ma'am, throwers don't worry about ticking 'cause modern bombs don't tick."
Melissa scowled. "Sorry, throwers? And how am I supposed to know what modern bombs do and don't do?"
"Just a moment."
She stood by nervously while one of the security guards stood uncomfortable close to her, the other snapped on a pair of rubber medical gloves while he unlatched her luggage, and started sorting through the clothes, piece by piece, with equal indifference.
Melissa felt herself blushing self-consciously when her intimate garments were sifted through and tossed aside by an uncaring security guard, piled on a table for the whole of the LAX to peruse. Well, for that long slow line being sifted through the security check points to see, and more than a few people were watching with noted interest.
It wasn't long before the man who had discarded her unmentionables let out a gasp, and drew back from the bag. Then cautiously stepped closer, scowling intently, before he produced a long, metallic, cylindrical object from a side pouch within the carry-on bags.
Everyone seemed to stop what they were doing to turn, and look at the vibrating, bullet shaped metal vibrator the security guard had held up high like liberties torch above New York Harbor.
Melissa's face turned red when she saw the inscription written in permanent marker on the side.
"Melissa's Boyfriend" It said. And bellow that,"From Josh with <3".
Clearing his throat, the bulky TSA security guard addressed the blushing college coed. "Ma'am, I'm afraid you can't take this with you on your carry-on luggage. I'm sure someone told you that metallic electrical devices should uh, have gone with your check-in luggage? I think this can be used as a weapon of mass satisfaction, or something..."
"Well," she said to herself, once she wasn't feeling murderous and humiliated, and she was far away from the security office, where she'd lost her dignity. "At least he's feeling better."
Lindsey chewed boredly on a piece of watermellon bubble-yum gum, phone cradled to her ear. "Yes sir, I'll have Officer Stone call you back about that when she's available. She's busy on a case at the moment, I'm afraid."
Working as a receptionist for the Russel City Police Department was possibly one of the best jobs she'd ever had. The pay was great, the benifits were typical for government jobs, and she got to meet a never ending parade of interesting people! Like Willy, the bum they brought in for vagrancy at least once a week, or Crazy Lacy, who'd been arrested at least three times for suspected prostitution and the solicitation of prostitution from a uniformed officer!
Of course, none of the usual customers could have matched up to the weirdness of the past week. Schools being attacked by mutants, residential complaints about tentacle monsters and naked girls running rampant through the streets, and most recently the big waves being thrown around when Officer Stone and the special consultant from some place out east had appropriated one of the high security holding cells and had guards posted, setting everyone else on edge.
She'd been keenly interested on seeing who they'd be escorting, and was more than a little surprised to see a scrawny little girl wearing the kind of glasses Dick Van Dyke would have been burried in, and being escorted around like she was the president. If she had to guess, she would have put her money on the kid being one of those computer hackers. She had that kind of look.
Lindsey watched with curiousity as the men walked the talkative girl off into the detention section of the station, and silently wished to herself that something interesting like that would happen to her, at least once. Being trapped in a room with tall muscular cops wouldn't be all that bad. Exhaling, she snapped her bubble gum and turned her attention back to work.
The ride over here hadn't been all that terrible, but the local police station was for the most part unimpressive. I'd never been to the Russel City Police Station, a fact of which I was somewhat proud of, but I'd been expecting something more... intimdating.
Lord knows our city wasn't all that huge, but I was expecting the place the cops call home to be some giant building with bars on the windows, bullet proof glass and the like. The building was nice, but it was only one story tall and not much larger than the school cafeteria. They did have a nice waiting room with a few snack machines, and a cute looking secretary behind a sliding glass window.
They had an office room behind that with several desks, but nothing big like I'd seen on my mom's detective and law shows on the TV. The room the two men from ARC lead me to wasn't quite what I expected, either. When they'd told me it was a detention cell, I was expecting rows of metal bars and guys banging cups against the doors or something.
Not this room, it was at the heart of the department building with a single mirrored wall I assumed was a one way window, so this was probable also an interogation room, and with three regular white walls, and a simple desk with two chairs in the middle of it all. There was a camera in the corner of the room, up by the ceiling, but that didn't really comfort me all that much. Yay, someone safe in another room can watch me get eaten alive!
"What, this is it?" I wondered out loud to my two escorts, and spotted an odd inspirational poster on one of the walls.
"Oh, it looks pretty normal on the outside," Officer STone said, and she smirked and rapped her knuckles on the wall. "But this type of containment room is fairly typical in stations like this. You could lock a brick in here, and he'd have a hell of a time beating his way out. These walls could take cannon fire. That mirror? That thing's stronger than the walls."
I gave him the weirdest of looks. "A brick?" I guess if you threw one against the wall or something...
"And the mystical seals on these walls are some of the best," Doctor Deth assured me.
I didn't quite believe him, so I lowered my glasses enough that I could get a good metaphysical peek at my surroundings.
The room was WAY more impressive than I'd given it credit for. The walls, ceiling, and floor were covered in sigils and circles and writing that shielded the room in ways that made me cross eyed trying to follow. The effort put into this place had me understanding why they only had one room like this, there was no way they could have afforded doing this to the entire station. They probably didn't really need to, either, Russel City wasn't famous for it's extra-dimensional incursions, or for countless mutant battles in the streets.
Oddly, with all the security measures in place locking this room down tighter than a pearl in a mutated laser eyed cyborg muscle clam, it at the same time gave off a very hospital like vibe. The scent of antiseptics was strong (and slightly lemony), for some reason. That, and the poster felt out of place.
While I did indeed plan to "hang in there" as the inspirational poster suggested, my previous experiences of late with hospital rooms, and that lemony smell of clean, had a way of putting me on edge and clenching my buttocks, on an instinctive level.
It didn't help that everything on this planet, and off the planet, seemed to have a keen interest with invading my hind quarters. Doctors, aliens, cats... I eyed my unmoving backpack with a meaningful look, but Shroe had remained respectfully still for the majority of the trip. No doubt sleeping off his grand meal.
One of my guides gestured towards one of the chairs. "Miss Gillman, if you'd please take a seat, Doctor Deth here can get started on your check up. He was also saying he wanted to conduct some initial tests."
I had nodded dumbly, still dazzled at what I'd stepped into and feeling rather small and insignificant when I moved to sit on the chair, and promptly stopped once I'd edged my butt onto the corner of it and felt my shackles rise (do girls have shackles? If they don't, I must be the super special shackled exception to the rule). "Uh, excuse me, I probably would have asked this earlier back at the house if it wasn't for all the cop cars and people freaking out, but... Doctor Deth? Seriously?"
"Quite so!" the man announced proudly, beaming.
The corner of my eye twitched, and I looked between the two of them, not for the first time having some serious doubts about the wisdom involved in flying to the opposite end of the country to be poked and prodded at after I've been poked and prodded at in my home town. I relaxed, and sat on the chair until I was more comfortable. Schroe' had been surprisingly calm during the majority of the trip. "...Yah, well, alright. I guess it's just a name, it isn't like you used to be a super-villain or something..." The skeptical look on Officer Stone's face when she eyed her companion, and the somewhat sheepish smile on his face, followed by a long awkward pause became a steadily growing led weight on my confidence.
My mouth dropped open. "...You... WERENT some kind of super-villain, right?"
"Come now, let's not resort to name calling! What's in the past is in the past, were in the present now, and we've got work to do. Officer Stone, if you would please give myself and Ms. Gillman here some privacy! I'm going to be doing science!" Exclaimed the dark haired but greying, fairly average looking fit man in his late 40's as he doned a lab coat over his tweed suit, the lab coat acting much like a cape as it fluttered about his form to follow his swift, overly dramatic movements, the man suddenly becoming more animated.
The stern woman who'd been escorting me with him gave a pained sigh, and stepped out to leave without a further word (outloud, anyway, I could tell she was muttering things), and I was left in the room with... Doctor Deth.
I stared at him with a growing sense of dread gnawing away at my innards. The room was of no comfort, despite the inspirational image, as I'd of late become steadily more and more cautious of these medical environments ever since that last encounter I had with my friendly family Doctor, when he'd taken a rubber glove to my crotch. Also, he had cold hands. I think he'd refrigerated them or something before delving betwixt my legs.
Swallowing nervously, I shrunk back into my seat. "So, ah... Doctor Deth, was it...?"
He was busy making a few notes on a clipboard he'd brought with him, apparently with the labcoat, and looked up at me with a crooked, over enthusiastic grin. "Yes! Young Josh Gillman, are you comfortable? Ah, the paperwork says you've had a very recent change in name, gender, and circumstances. Are you enjoying the redecorating? I put it up just for you, this room was so dull when they first showed it to me, and after seeing how polite you were when last I met you, I felt you could use the comforting," He said, nodding towards the single poster of the kitten dangling from the branch. Smiling at me, he confessed, "This is very exciting for me..." his gaze flickered down to the papers in his hand,"...Josie? Good choice, that's a lovely name, I used to have a dog named Josie."
The small talk was oddly comforting... what sort of super-villain has a puppy dog, right? Curious, I ventured to ask him, "Really? what kind of dog was it?"
He finished signing something off on the clipboard with a majestic, over emphasized movement of his arm, and then the good Doctor flashed me that same crooked, overly happy grin, stating,"It was a T-rex, poodle hybrid, Josie. You don't mind if I call you Josie, yes, Ms. Gillman?"
The annoyance at that new name my parents had chosen for me was only a slight twinge compared to the gnawing gaping fear I was feeling at being in the same room with a man who had a dinosaur dog hybrid that he'd named Josie. I found myself staring at him once more, my eyes achingly round. "Uh, no, I guess not...You had a poodle-saurus-rex? How... how did you cross a T-rex with a poodle? It sounds painful, Doctor, uh... Deth."
He gave a dry chuckle. "Yes, with rocket launchers for arms. It wasn't easy, this was back in the day before genetic recombinators were as easy to get as cigarettes at your corner Liquor markets. Ah, how I wish for the old days, sometimes! Things today, so needlessly complicated. If you have difficulty calling me by last name, if it makes you more comfortable, you can call me by my first name."
My eyebrows scrunched together hinting at my prudence, and I wondered if I should even ask. I did, but I wondered if it was wise thing to do. I'd wondered long enough that I realized he was waiting for me to ask, anyway. "Uh, okay. What's your first name?"
Cordially he smiled at me, and executed a graceful bow,"Paine. Paine Deth, at your service. Mister Paine, or Mister Deth is fine, really. Or Doctor Paine, or Doctor Deth."
I peered at him in a way that I felt best expressed my extreme doubt, until he sighed gently, and explained, "No, my parents were not hippies. I had a rather exciting misspent youth, however, where I had my name legally changed much as you had, but I suspect for entirely different reasons. Enough about my sordid past, young lady. We have to figure out what's wrong with you! I assume someone told you about the extensive testing?"
"Extensive testing?! No! No one said ANYTHING about that!" I sputtered. "You said initial testing...!"
"Ah ah ah, there's no need to worry! This is quite standard, and legally required, even, so it's best to get out of the way quickly. All new emerging mutants undergo these very same tests, and they will help us determine the extent to which you have changed! However..."
"However...?" I echoed, feeling my blood decide my face wasn't a very good place to be at that moment, with the grinning doctor looking at it, and all. I think it went to go hide in my butt or something.
"However...!" He exclaimed with a dramatic flourish of his pen and clipboard, gesturing wide with his arms. "You are a special case! In addition to the standard tests, I believe a full and extremely extensive and intrusive study of your body should be made. It's quite extraordinary for a person not of alien decent to have done what it is they are telling me you have done without returning with your sanity completely left behind, and I shall do everything I can to make certain that we, together, discover what that is!"
To my answering whimper, he folded his hands behind his back and leaned forward, teeth shining and bared brightly in the dully throbbing florescent lights. "Ah, do not worry, Josie. I assure you, this will be quite fun! I was half joking about the extensive testing, anyway. This joking puts you more at ease, I hope! Rest assured, the real testing will not happen until you arrive at the main facilities in New Hampshire. For now I shall merely poke and prod at you with various instruments I am in possession of to esnure you do not explode on the way there.."
With another florish, he opened his lab coat revealing an array of gadgets and tools that had a decidedly 60's sci-fi vibe to them. One looked like a klingon's fork, another something like a cellphone with a pointy end and a tiny green screen.
I felt myself snort. "This is another joke, right?"
"Joke? Of course not, a scientist never jokes, Josie," He said to me with a sweet smile.
"...Those are real?"
"Real, and a bit outdated as well, I'm afraid. Still, compared to most tools used by today's doctors these stand the test of time remarkably well! Sadly, they can't work for anyone but myself." With great care he took out the object resembling an old cellphone from a pocket and begin adjusting it.
"What's... what's that one?" I asked nervously, a sound caught in my throat that was suspiciously whimper like.
"This? With this device I shall be testing your blood!"
"What for are you testing it for?"
He leaned over at me, and I had an extra close look at his remarkably intimidating teeth. Speaking in a deep, rumbling voice I sensed was half teasing and half old experience on his part coming to the surface, he said, "What do you got?"
I slumped into the seat in the detention room, sweating like a pig and gaping like a fish while Doctor Deth in the white lab-coat managed to look like I'd disappointed him on a deeply emotional level, disappointed like a FOX.
"Well, this is really, really odd, and a little sad, Josh-ah, Josie. I ran every test, well... not every test imaginable, but ever test I'm allowed to run on you in these circumstances. Lifting the weights I had the nice officers bring in, we discovered you really didn't seem to have extraordinary strength... in fact, you could stand to work out a bit more, a child your age should be in much better shape. I assume the fault of this is too many video games."
Wincing, I rubbed at my shoulders. They were still sore, and I was beginning to regret not taking the coach in P.E. class more seriously when he'd told us how cardio-vascular health could save our lives one day. Given how many zombie movies I'd seen, I probably should have taken him seriously to begin with. In the face of a zombie apocolypse, cardio-vascular fitness was a matter of life and death! Especially if you got put up against those creepy RUNNING zombies.
He noticed my distress, smiled broadly, and produced a black sugarless lollipop with a white skull on it for me. I glared at it until I figured it couldn't hurt, accepted it, and put it in my mouth to take my frustration out on. Once I was crunching noisily, he continued.
"...And you're endurance and the results from your reflex test, ah... were you running the mile in 14 minutes before the change? I understand a treadmill may not be what you are used to, but that was still an exceedingly BAD time."
"It's a... a new record for me," I managed to gasp out.
"Hrm. It's strange, you did say you were male before this, ah, recently?"
Feeling quite flushed in the face already, I didn't have the energy to get angry at what was becoming a distressingly common misunderstanding. "Y-yes, I was a guy until just like a week ago!"
"Hm. VERY strange... usually when a mutant's body changes that quickly, it implies they're an exemplar following a body image template, or a shifter of some sort. Exemplars tend to be extraordinary in human standards in their physical or mental performance. This is why I ran you through so many physical tests. But... I'd say you were far bellow average in the physical aspect for a child your age, and most of your test scores from the written tests I brought came back depressingly low. Given the can test, you could not even crush the aluminum one. Everything except your mathematical comprehension has me worried. I wish we could test your teleporting ability, but I'm told that may be too risky for the moment." The doctor frowned, flipping through pages of test results he'd filled out or printed out with one of his strange machines. "Ah, you told me your eyes have changed color, however..."
I nodded my head numbly, most of what he was saying was going way over my head. Exemplars? Templates? "My eyes were dark brown before, now they're... all black, I guess. I see funny stuff when I take the crazy glasses I got from Ecila off, too, and it's never the same thing. Ecila said I was seeing other worlds drifting into ours."
"Ah yes, your vision is actually quite extraordinary! From the simple tests I ran, it appears you can see energy of magical and extra-dimensional origin, such as mutant abilities, being put into use, when you are not otherwise distracted by what else you may see."
The doctor wondered out-loud, then, frowning. "It's so strange... with so quick a change, I would have thought it'd be safe to assume you were a high level regenerator at the least." He paused to smile at me, and explain,"It's a common trait in high level exemplars. Their bodies are programmed to look like a certain mold... sometimes the impression is so strong that their body fixes itself extra quickly to fit that mold. A change like this in a week isn't unheard of, but it is exceedingly rare, usually associated with some sort of a burn out. I assumed your body simply healed the boy genes out of you. But it doesn't seem like any of this is the case. No, this is not the case at all!"
He took one look at me still panting as I tried to catch my breath from the hour of physical tests he'd ran me through after some intrusive sampling, and frowned a bit deaper. "That doesn't seem probable. You shouldn't be that tired right now if you were a regenerator... there is one way to test it for certain, but perhaps I may save you the trouble of having your skin cut open. Have you been hurt recently, and recovered abnormally fast? Say, in the past week?"
"Well I... got a black eye a week back, but it healed pretty normally... in fact, I think it's still there a little." Looking up at him I prodded at the slightly purplish skin under one of my eyes.
He continued to glare at me, as though I were a troublesome knot in his shoelaces and he just couldn't quite figure out how to untie me. "Your body changes that quickly, but your eye takes a week to heal... that almost does not make any sense." After jotting down a few notes, or, I don't know, he could have been drawing Icarus on his clipboard over and over and playing hang man for all I could see of it. He asked,"You get a lot of black eyes, do you?"
I shrugged, managing with a bit of control to look a little less annoyed than I was feeling. "I go to high-school, I'm really good in some of my classes, and up until seven days ago I was a scrawny boy. I've had a few run-ins like that. My dad says it builds character."
Doctor Deth's attention turned to the contents of his reports, and he commented while reading, "I believe you will not have a problem being transported to the main facility. In fact, I think the sooner you are within protected walls there the better. The reason I believe you will not have to worry about a mutant burn out, or something unseemly like that is because of your results of a blood test I ran with my special blood reading device. At one time I called it the Bloodinator, but lately I've been leaning more towards initials because they sound so much more... science like, so I've been refering to it as the S.B.R.D., so if I say the S.B.R.D. you will know what I refer to. These blood test results from the S.B.R.D. are quite interesting... do you know what is in your blood, Josie? What your genetics are telling us?"
Having caught my breath to some extent, I had the perturbed sensibility to mutter under my breath my heartfelt annoyance at the doctor's calmness, and what I thought he could do with my genetics and what they'd tell him.
In my version my genetics knew far more four letter words than I believe than were in the Doctor's version.
He looked back at the papers he'd been examining from his clipboard, eyes rapidly skimming through it until something stopped him short. " Oh! Your father may have a point, you ARE quite the character," he joked a bit too late with a smirk. "Now, it is true that when a mutant manifests, often a side-effect or indicator seems to be their eyes changing color in some way. However, your eyes haven't, in fact, changed color. From what we can tell from my personal full body scan-o-tron, that is, my F.B.S.O.T., they are simply fully dilated. Your pupils have expanded so far that your irises are no longer visible. It makes sense, in an abstract way, considering your abnormal vision. Your pupils have dilated so far so that they can see everything they can possibly see. Because of this, I think I have a theory on what may be happening with you."
I looked up hopefully, expecting that moment when everything would make sense, and my life would be put back on to the track of normality it'd been on before this whole mess. Well, you know, relative normality, where the only high point in my day was getting the high score on some overblown shooter game where when you die a horrible gruesome death you pop back up again at the respawn point moments later. Come to think of it, I'd been visiting some real life spawning points lately.
He looked up, and smiled. "It seems you aren't a mutant at all. You don't even have the meta-genetic complex that is so commonly associated with mutants, although these test results indicates you may have a propensity for tourette's syndrome as you age." He paused to look at me briefly, explaining,"That last part was a joke. But I digress... I do not think you've been possessed, or been touched or imbued by a higher being. While you were seeing how many push ups you could do, I had some psychic, and some mystical aura scans run on you for signs of an outside influence. None of them found a hint of anything out of place, which, in a way, is quite helpful."
I stared at him stupidly for a long while, all the while wondering if HE was the stupid one in that room. What the hell else could it have been? If I wasn't a mutant, WHY had my life been turned head on end in a blitz of chaos and cats that wanted to invade my body cavities? Why was I waking up on strange worlds whenever I fell asleep, why was I seeing ghosts haunting our reality, and why was I being followed by some insane, possibly murderous space girl? "What?! That doesn't even make sense! Why would I change this much and... do all the other stuff if I WASN'T a mutant? Isn't that what they do? One day you wake up, your eyes change color, and suddenly you start getting weird powers and change and stuff? ...The last doctor I visited SAID I was one!"
"You watch too much TV, Josie. And from what I read, he was your family doctor. Pediatric studies don't really cover this sort of thing, I'm afraid, and I doubt very much that he ran a test for that specific gene series, nor that he had the equipment to do so. Anyway, there's lots of different kinds of 'supers' out there, although many of them can be less super than the others, so they don't stand out quite as much. Some of them are imbued by beings we don't quite understand, some inherit a magical legacy from their ancestors, some are the results of technology and experiments by less... reputable doctors than myself-"
"Ooh, you mean mad scientists?"
"Yes, I suppose some can be a bit perturbed, especially when you call them names. Some have a specific focus or magical item, such as a power gem that gives them their abilities, or power suits, or are just very good with magic. The point is, there's lots of people out there people assume are mutants when they are nothing of the sort, and you are nothing of the sort. Of any of that, really."
He looked so smug, that I nearly snapped. "Alright, then what the hell happened to me?! Why did I suddenly go from boy to girl in one week, why when I fall asleep do I wake up in giant alien vaginas with squid people and creepy girls with white ghost rabbits, and why can't I seem to focus on anything here without these dam... darned glasses?"
"That's really the question, isn't it...? Its odd that you'd change in such a radical way if you don't even have the genes for it. A great man that didn't exist once said that once you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains must be the answer. From what you've said, you haven't run into any sort of magical item that could have empowered you to do... ah, what it is you are doing, or change you... you didn't encounter anything alien until you actually started to leave this world, and you obviously are not the subject of some radical experiment, you don't seem to have any black outs or memory skips that would indicate alien abduction-"
"You HAVE to be kidding." Although I must admit, while I hadn't been abducted by tiny grey men, I had been feeling especially violated lately. Also, there was something else that was annoying me about this guy. If he had been a super-villain, he was probably one of those preachy kind that talked way too much before they got to their point. Maybe that's why he got an honest job as a doctor for a crazy research organization, he couldn't hack it as a real... super... villain. Okay, I put that thought to rest, I'd prefer if it he didn't have what it took to be a super-villain, honestly. That would be better than being inspected by someone who didn't mind doing all that... evil stuff!
"Oh, you'd be surprised at the sorts of things I've come across in my life of science! But I am thinking this must have something to do with that extra-dimensional entity you have been interacting with, rather than anything extra-terrestrial."
"Y-you don't mean... Ecila? You think SHE did this to me? Well I mean she DID do it to me, but I was changing a little even before she... did the thing to me."
"It's quite possible. We know very little of her after she vanished from civilized society almost a century ago. That seems to be the earliest point at which we have recorders about her. From what you've told us and what we've dug up on her, there's a strong possibility that she's hardly human anymore. Another possibility is that something she serves did this to you, turning you into this shape and gave the ability to see and travel into these other realities. The fact of it is, this could be a sort of magic at work that we have no method of detecting. I've seen it a few times before, the entities you've been encountering have a certain magic or science that warps reality, and makes it as though it had always been that way without any method of detecting a deference. I believe you may be the subject of this reality altering magic. This may explain why you changed, and why no one can tell why or how, and why you seem to be unaffected by any of the decidedly strange things that you have encountered. However, this is conjecture. Once we get you to ARC, they'll have a few experts on that particular subject that can look at you to be certain."
The thought that I was the play thing of some unmentionable and unimaginable horror that I'd not run across yet sent a cold shiver down my spine and back up it again. The thought that Ecila could have been behind the whole thing was somehow even worse, when I thought about it. I had the mental image of a 6 year old playing on their daddies computer and controlling and changing a poor little me on the screen as they saw fit, mashing at the keys. Oh, you don't want a male character? Now it's female! Oops you hit the save button!
Taking that perspective of things, becoming a mutant was starting to look like a much simpler and less terrifying option.
I scoffed,"Unaffected? Do I LOOK unaffected, Doctor Deth?"
Seeming to take the question seriously, he took a closer look at me. "While I understand you are somewhat upset, your insides are not your outsides at the moment, and you seem more than capable at maintaining a conversation with me without trying to rip your own face off, Josie. Compared to most that have encountered what you have, being a little pouty about it is rather remarkable."
He tapped his pen on the clipboard to get my attention, again. "Now, as I was saying, I believe you're under some sort of reality altering spell, but to be certain... oh, I'm seeing you haven't had an aural examination yet, Josie."
I laughed a little, putting a hand to my forehead. "What...? No, I saw the dentist a month ago, my mouth is fine."
A dry chuckle caused me to look up, and instinctively my cheeks clenched when I saw the doctor putting on a pair of rune covered rubber gloves with an audible *snap*.
"Oh my, you misunderstood. No Josie, I'm going to have to have a closer look at your aura. I'm going to have to ask you to bend over and say 'ohm', if it isn't too much trouble."
Just when I was about to scream in horror in a way that I assure you would have been utterly girly and humiliating, the room lit up with red flashing warning lights from behind the one way mirror, and a siren squelched to life the same time the fire sprinklers turned on at full blast and commenced soaking us.
Startled, I forgot my protective hold on the seat of my pants and sat up in confusion.
"Oh dear," the doctor said, eyeing the alarm with a creasing frown. He calmly walked to the door and leaned out, reaching for a phone that was on the wall just outside and picked it up, quickly tapping a few buttons. "Security, please. Yes, what's going on? I'm in detention room, ah, no it is not 2B, B8, actually, with the Gillman girl, and there... well, you can hear the terrible noise, what's happening?"
Silence followed, and his eyes widened. He looked back at me nervously, and nodded his head. "Yes, yes I understand. Alright, I'll tell her." Soon after he hung up the phone, he turned to me. "So, ah... something's happened."
I was already on my feet, holding my backpack to my chest because I was feeling like I needed something to hug for comfort, wether Schroedinger was awake or not (And uh, well, more so because I wanted a little something more between my posterior and Doctor Proctor here). This was grinding on my nerves. I didn't want to know what would be a big enough emergency to make THIS guy sweat, when he was in a big police station inside a supremely well protected room, guards on every corner, and enough shielding to protect us from a cannon blast, but stupidly I found myself asking anyway. "What? What the hell is going on?!"
He laughed politely, his voice shaking. "Well, ah, it seems as though Ecila's... here, now. I actually just got finished talking with her. I think I may have accidently told her where we are."
Okay, I was now very sympathetic as to what was disturbing the good Doctor Deth so very much, especially since the reason this immortal mathematician mangler was here was no doubt because she was after me. "HERE!? I thought you guys said this place was warded, shielded! For Jeebus' sake! How the hell did she get HERE?!"
"That is an EXCELLENT question. I haven't the faintest clue, though. She must have some means of tracking you, even through the most powerful magical and physical wards and protection we had available. It's really quite extraordinary! Although it is a recession, perhaps they've been skimming on the mystical wards... I thought she was the woman at the front desk at first, but it ah, seems I was mistaken, shortly after I told her where we were her voice had changed and she said she'd been waiting out front, and that she was coming to see you."
"Oh well that doesn't seem so bad."
The water raining down on both of us by now that had soaked us to the bone, the blairing sirens, the screams down the hallway, and echoes of a hundred car alarms, , produced an excessively pointed counter-argument to my earlier statement on the exact extent of how bad "that" seemed.
The secretary watched the demure young girl in the brown suit top and long skirt walk calmly into the waiting room through the front door, and smiled at her from just over the edge of the desk she was patiently snapping her bubble gum behind. The two exchanged looks for a moment, and the secretary eventually broke out in a grin. "Aw, aren't you the cutest thing in your little brown suit! Like a tiny girl Mr. Bean! Is there something I can help you with, little girl? Are you here to report a crime?"
Ecila grinned pearly white teeth back at the woman that spoke of great personal care and excessive dental hygiene on the molechular level. "Actually, yes! I heard from a reliable source..." as she spoke, something small, white, and eternally in the corner of your eye, just out of notice, pushed in through the front door after the short girl, sitting beside her feet and out of Lindsey line of sight. "...That one of my friends was here. I'd very much like to visit him to see if he's alright, if that's alright with you!"
Turning to the flat computer screen, Lindsey brought up a search prompt, and encouraged Ecila to continue speaking. "I can look it up, darling. What's your friends name?"
Perkily Ecila replied, "Joshua! Joshua Gillman, ma'am."
"Joshua... Gillman..." Lindsey repeated the name as her fingers typed it out on her keyboard, and patiently read the information that the name pulled up. "Hmm... there is a Gillman here. He's in one of the detention rooms right now, and I'm afraid he's under a lock down! It's odd, I don't see him being charged with anything. Are they expecting you... I'm sorry, what was your name, miss?"
"Ecila Mason, ma'am. I'm afraid you shouldn't be expecting me, as I just dropped by. I really need to see my friend though, it's quite urgent! If you don't want to let me see him, I have some friends who'd like to play with you."
As she spoke, the secretary's eyes grew wide, and her chewing slowed to a stop, the gum falling from her shocked lips. The rather normal, hygienic smile of the mousey brown haired girl had turned sharp, the teeth looking more like a shark's than that of a girl. More worrisome than that, Ecila's shadow had gone solid, and was beginning to spread through the room, flowing like living oil.
Lindsey's reacting was that of pure instinct and training. First, she screamed, and at the same time mashed on the emergency button mounted on the underside of her desk like it was a doorbell buzzer.
Ms. Alicia Ortega had been waiting all afternoon at the police station for the chance to speak to Sergeant Sanchez. Having arrived hours early voicing her complaint in a flurry of spanish words, they'd had to wait until Sanchez was around as he was one of the few spanish speaking officers on duty that day that could take her statement.
The mother of five, Ms. Ortega was a very patient woman, but a woman at the end of her rope, none the less. Her emergency was one of most dire consquences, a life changing event she'd ventured to every option to prevent.
She was an aging woman who's life was all a downhill trip. The last of her sons had moved out recently, and of course, they never visited, her husband was at work most of the day but planning to retire soon, and all she had left was gone.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Ortega," carefully worded Sergeant Sanchez, pen hovering and ready over a complaint form, suddenly uncertain if he'd grabbed the wrong one. "...Could you repeat that last part?"
Ms. Ortega let out a gusty sigh, her hands protectively crossed over a large purse that had been resting in her lap. With a sincere ernest, she said once more "Mis gato, Senior Sanchez. My cat has gone! He does not come home for dinner. You must find!"
Sanchez was experienced enough in his job that it took quite an extensive degree of fucked up to really get a response out of him, and this was no pre-teen mother complaining that her married boyfriend hadn't warned her when he used the coathanger. With a practiced ease, he smiled his best smile at her. "Senora Ortega, you mean to tell me you've been waiting 2 hours to report your missing cat?"
A serious look and a nod from the aged woman was her only answer.
Remarkably, Sergeant Sanchez didn't groan, nor roll his eyes, and he certainly didn't start to tune her out. Shirking this woman wasn't going to do anyone any good, and there was something about her that reminded him of his own grandmother. He carefully wrote her name down on the report and asked her in a concerned tone,"Alright, can you describe it to me?" He asked again, his thick dark eyebrows furrowing,"Ms. Ortega, are you alright?"
"Madre de dios!" uttered the woman under her breath, her eyes turning wild, her hand reaching up to grasp tightly the rossery dangling about her neck. She grasped it so tightly that the raised impression of the tiny two inch tall Jesus on his cross left an indentation in her palm.
Questioningly, the Sergeant cast a glance around the bustling office space but found nothing immediate out of place. There were some guys they'd picked up for being caught intoxicated or high handcuffed to some chairs against the wall that were starting to bug out and yell, but that was normal. Just the same old sites he saw every day, a mess of papers, coffee cups, computer monitors, a few secretaries, a mousey brown haired girl in the window of the waiting room. When he looked back to Ms. Ortega she was already out of her seat and backing away with a fearful look upwards, as though she were waiting for the roof to cave in at any moment.
"Ms. Ortega?" Sanchez asked, more worried than he had been before. He was on his own feet now, a nervous hand drifting towards the drawer he kept his service pistol in. Something about the look of complete terror in the old mexican woman's face set his nerves on edge.
"El diablo se acerca!" she stammered in a rush, still grasping her rossary tightly, far too tightly to drop. More than a few of the officers in the room, Sanchez included, were staring at the woman oddly as she broke out into a furvent prayer. "Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos santificado sea tu nombre venga tu reino hágase tu voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo danos hoy el pan de este día y perdona nuestras deudas como nosotros perdonamos nuestros deudores y no nos dejes caer en al tentación sino que líbranos del malo!"
Sanchez tried to move closer to her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. He hoped desperately he wouldn't have to restrain someone's grandma because she went crazy with a bunch of cops around.
When he got near she fumbled with the rosary in her hand, nearly dropping the beads, and she backed away to the door to the waiting room while murmuring, her eyes locked on Sanchez's, "Su Dios no te abandonará, pero hay que recurrir a Jesucristo de Nazaret. Él es la puerta. Él es el Camino a la Salvación. Madre de dios! ejecutar a todos, sálvese quien pueda!"
She left before he could stop her, or even think to try and stop her, and soon as the door closed behind the franticly fast mexican woman the ceiling exploded in a flurry of sprinklers, and alarms heralded a bewildering chaos into the halls of the Russel City Police Station.
Recruit Thomas rolled up the newspaper he'd been reading in the bathroom stall and flushed with a satisfying finality. He'd reached for his pants right when the sirens had started blaring and the fire sprinklers in the restroom had gone off and done a fairly good job of drenching him and his brand new uniform.
"Son of a bitch!" cursed Thomas, and he reached down for his belt and pants where they were pooled around his ankles, and pulled them up.
What was strange was that his pants didn't cooperate. Perplexed, and growing steadily more wet under the continued indoors downpoor, he glanced down at his feet at his trousers, expecting them to have snagged on a hook or a bolt from the toilet seat or the like.
Instead, what he saw was a pair of pale deathly white hands reaching out from under the stall door and grasping at his pants legs. He was so shocked that when the disembodied hands yanked hard, he let out a shrill girlish scream that he would later be thankful was drowned out by the emergency sirens and showering of water, just as the ghostly grip vanished with his pants, underwear, and belt, pulling them all out from under him.
In an instant he was standing on top of the toilet, blubbering, and waiting for a continued attack from the ghostly enemy. Gradually this assault did not happen, and he came to the realization that he was trapped in the stall with no means of escape.
More importantly, with no pants.
Pitifully, Recruit Thomas asked the empty room in a pleeding tone,"Uh, g-guys? Is this a joke...? ...Guys?"
"What the hell is happening!" asked Sergeant Sanchez, trying to get his bearings in the sudden torrent of chaos. Screams were heard and echoed throughout the building, every single cellphone and landline in earshot sounded like it was going off at the same time as the horrid sirens, and he was pretty sure he could hear every car alarm in the garage all the cruisers were parked in fighting to be heard over all the other noise.
"There was a girl!" a frantic secretary blurted out.
Sanchez recognized her, she was the girl that had been watching the front desk. She looked panicked now, and was probably as sad a sight as he himself was after having the fire sprinklers dumping on him for almost a full minute. Nothing should have been able to set off everything at once like it was doing. There wasn't any fire he could see, and most of the electronics in the room had already shorted out. A fact that didn't seem to stop the phones from going absolutely crazy. The few people manning them were frantically trying to answer the lines but every call disconnected the moment it was answered, and another soon replaced it.
The secretary was pointing back towards the waiting room. "She... she wasn't human! She smiled at me and all her teeth turned funny and sharp like a sharks, then the room got dark a-and she VANISHED then all this stuff started to happen!"
That sounded like a breach of security if ever he'd heard one. Now if he could just figure out where it was coming from!
Sergeant Vicks had been in the security room with his partner Wedge watching the monitors, particularly the one pointed in the detention cell where the spooks had taken the little girl, when all hell had broken loose. Almost immediately all the monitors had flickered off, then the one pointing towards the regular jail cells had flickered on. There should have been at least a few guys in the cell the camera had been pointed at, but instead it seemed suspiciously empty, and a small girl in a pale dress was crouched in the corner, her back to the camera.
Well, there sure as hell shouldn't have been a little girl in that cell. Sergeant Vicks snapped at Wedge, who was trying to get someone on the radio, or the telephones, or something to figure out what was happening, "Hey, Wedge! Poke your head in the holding room, there's some weird shit going on, and it looks like a kids stuck in there. Might be that girl we're supposed to be watching."
Wedge was starting to look somewhat soaked, as much as Vicks was, and nodded to Vicks before giving up on his attempts at finding an outside line. After he left, Vicks chewed at his lip, trying to imagine what could possibly be happening. It felt like a mutant attack, things like this didn't happen normally. It could have also been some outrageous prank, but he was willing to bet no one would have risked damaging as much equipement as was at stake here for the sake of a simple joke.
Time went by and Vicks realized Wedge hadn't returned. He waited another minute, before cursing under his breath, taking out his sidearm, and stalked towards the holding cells.
"Wedge! Wedge, where the hell are you!" he called out as soon as he got there. The few guys they had being held back here were all there all right, but somehow they'd all managed to break out of their cells, crowd into one and close the door back behind them. The cameras pointing towards the cell they were hiding in was shorted out, but the one active one pointed towards the empty cell he'd seen the little girl in was still running.
He approached it, and quickly spotted Wedge hiding under the bench in the cell, his eyes wide with fear, the little girl he'd seen earlier standing not far from him, her back to both officers.
"Wedge!" Vicks barked,"Get out from under there! Why the hell are you hiding!"
Wedge looked at him, but didn't respond.
It was like he couldn't hear him, or he was just so damned scared he couldn't think to speak.
Angry, Vicks walked into the cell to check on the girl. "Hey, kid! What are you doing in here? You aren't supposed to be back..."
Vick's face went pale when the hand he'd reached out to touch her shoulder with passed through her like she wasn't even there, and just as she faded from sight the cell door behind him slammed shut, locking him in.
Vicks swiveled to turn around look at it, slowly lowering his sidearm to the point at the ground.
The sprinklers that had drenched the room I was in continued without any sign of stopping, and more to the point, was gaining in its volume of annoyance as I sat there under them in the supposedly super protective room. Neither the proximity nor the loudness of the strange noises outside the door foretold anything extremely promising.
As Doctor Deth opened the door to the detention room to step outside and meet with the escorts from ARC, he stopped in his track, a scream of terror piercing over the sound of the warning sirens themselves, gunfire echoing down the hallway in short sporadic bursts. I watched him swallow audibly, and quickly close the door to his back, flashing an uncertain smile at me.
"Well?" I asked frantically. "Safe room? You said we were going to be safe in this room? Shouldn't we NOT leave the room in case something weird picks us off one by one like stupid sorority kids in a slasher flick?"
A bout of nervous laughter from the Doctor did little to reassure me the way that perhaps he thought it would. "Ah, perhaps that is not the best thing to do at the moment, yes. It may be more prudent to wait in here... we have the good Officer Stone and her partner outside guarding the room, and the finest security system in this state... well, this city, so we should be alright until they tell us to-"
A pair of surprisingly girlish screams from just outside the door cut off Doctor Deth, shadows passing through the cracks of light around the door he was attempting to bar with the mass of his body alone.
He let out a small whimper, and whispered,"Or, perhaps not... oh, what I wouldn't do to have my poodle-rex with me right now!"
The means by which these yet unseen invaders gained entrance into this for the most part "secure" police facility became very apparent to both of us, when the very door and wall behind my would-be protector rippled with black shadow and violet light, and with hardly enough time to grasp his clipboard to his chest, the door behind him slipped open and he tumbled out into the hallway, a gaping grinning maw that seemed oddly feline opened under him (mind you, a grinning cat was one thing, but a grin without the cat was something else entirely and quite horrible a sight to behold) and swallowed him up in a single split second, vanishing an instant later with a fading grin.
The door swung open slowly giving a wide vista of the decidedly empty hallway, the water pooling on the ground now and reflecting the red strobing lights quite disturbingly.
I stood there in the room staring at the space where he'd been moments before, and felt blessed in the smallest way that I'd gone to the bathroom earlier to fill that sample cup for the Doctor's medical examinations, and thus had very little fluids to empty.
"Josie!" The Doctor's voice called out to me, and I blinked. A glossy black automatic pistol went sliding through the wet to stop just before the empty doorway.
"Josie, quickly, grab this gun to defend yourself!" his voice insisted.
I swallowed hard, and creeped to the edge of the room, my eyes locked on the gun. I had to get my hands on that thing, it was a matter of survival! There was no way I was going to keep running and hiding and letting fate jerk me around! But there was also no way I was leaving this room, I was no fool.
When I got just to the edge of the door frame I reached out with one hand towards the pistol. It wasn't that far, just a foot away from the nice safe protected and super armored detention cell I was determined not to leave for any reason.
My slim fingers outstretched, my finger tips just barely touched the handle when a hand reached right out of the wet carpet under my arm and pulled me out of the room, and out of existence itself.
Once Ecila yanked me back into something like reality, I fell back to get away from her, and found myself clawing through the darkness in a mess of small stark white sharp edged rocks on top of something that felt like a wet sponge.
"Where you going?" the girl asked me, standing implacably in place, darkness shadowing her form all but for the two square reflective surfaces of her glasses that obscured her eyes in a way I did not find comforting.
Not wanting to find out how she was going to do me in, I scrambled away from her, caught in an awkward and indecisive moment where I wanted to get away from her really really badly, but didn't really want to turn my back on her and let her pick me off like a movie monster from behind. They do it from behind, you know! "Get away from me! I know what you're planning to do, and I'm not gunna go along with it! Just get away from me! I aint gunna let you kill me!"
She laughed dryly, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose, still not making an effort to move towards me. "Josh, first of all, 'aint' aint a word, you could have easily said 'am not'! And secondly, that wouldn't be very helpful of me, would it? Why would I go to all the trouble of rescuing you if I was going to kill you in the end, to let you die on a lonely world of death and stagnation from which there is no escape? Really, does that sound like something I would do?"
I stared at her in disbelief! "What?! WHAT rescue!? Those guys your monsters were killing were the ones rescuing me from YOU! You were planning to kill me and eat my brains or something! They told me all about you!"
She laughed again in a slow, measured, equally dry chuckle. This time she removed her glasses and polished them on the end of her sleeve. "Josh... first of all, as you would say; 'dude, what?' It's extremely rude of you to call my good friends who went to all the trouble of coming to help me rescue you 'monsters!'" She chided me with a slow "Tch tch tch!" and followed it up with a disappointed sounding, "How ungrateful."
I glared at her and felt the urge to point out,"So you're trying to tell me you weren't trashing the place, and that something didn't just EAT the Doctor guy that was trying to help me right out of the floor! That was a raid, not a rescue!"
Scoffing at me, Ecila folded her arms after putting her glasses back on her nose. "Josh, you're misunderstanding things here. My friends always spit after, they rarely swallow. And if they were trying to protect you, why were you so frightened! I couldn't let you be captured by those scary people!"
"Well I was scared YOU were coming after me, and the guy was running some weird tests-how would YOU know or care about my mental state?"
"Josh, you may not know this, but when normal human folks are hurt and frightened they sorta give off this... I shall call it a "yummy-ness" that, um, my friends find very appetizing, from their heads."
"So they WERE eating those guards!"
"Shush Josh, that isn't important! They would never eat a guard! What is important is that you were scared and hurt, and I came to help, Just like I always do! When you fell off your bike and had your boy parts resembling something that looked more like italian food, where was I? Helping! When you finally figured out how to move out of your world but accidently blew some stuff up, where was I? Helping!" Imperiously she put her hands on her hips, and glared down at me. "So...! Yah, per our contract, I'm allowed to come running to the rescue with an appropriate response when I picked up that you were in distress! And you're looking pretty distressed at the moment!"
I took notice of my moment of dis-dress then, blushed, and zipped up my pants while I was at it. Huh, must have left the fly open from earlier. "Okay, so you lojacked my brain. What about all those other people those guys told me you killed, huh? What about them? And how did you GET to me through all that stuff?! They had some kinda crazy walls and magic and things!"
For a moment, it almost looked as though she was at a loss for words, until I realized she wasn't really, she was staring at a smudge on my cheek. The next thing I knew, she'd licked her thumb and was rubbing it off.
I grimaced, and turned my face away from her. "Well?!"
She pursed her lips together in a thin line, her often relaxed gaze turned focused, and I knew in that moment she wasn't letting anything else distract her from the conversation. It meant something to her. "That's a trade secret, Josh. Also, I can't teach people to swim."
The corner of my lip twitched insistantly, though I should have been used to her random manner of changing the conversation. "Really. I think I've seen it done."
"Don't be ridiculous, Josh, it was obviously an analogy!" She made a soft "ahem" sound. "Now, imagine there's a line of people, and they all live around a lake infested with giant, um... super 4th dimensional pirana, but they don't ever think about it until they turn around and say to themselves 'wow there's a lake!' Then suddenly they accidently slip inside, and realize 'wow, there's a lot of water, and I'm drowning in it!' What then, Josh? I'm not a life guard. I wanna try to save them, but I can't teach them to swim while they're drowning. They either sink, or they don't."
I was almost speechless when she reached out and poked me with a finger square on my solar plexus,"You don't sink anymore, Josh. I figured out how to stop you from sinking. Your great uncle figured out how to stop you from sinking, and I helped finish it."
Okay, despite all the things she'd done to me, I had to admit... it was hard to imagine her going around killing folks, now. I mean, going out of her way to do it intentionally, I could see her doing it accidently our out of indifference. Also, she did have a way of inspiring great misunderstandings in those around her.
Suddenly, Ecila turned and strode off ahead of me at a brisk pace while I scrambled to keep up, not wanting to get left behind, but still wanting some answers.
It was odd to see her turn so focused, and motivated all of a sudden, so I withheld my usual scathing remarks and sounds of annoyance for a significant amount of time. I had much to be annoyed with, too, to be honest. For one thing, I was still wet, and for another I'd taken notice of where she'd actually brought me to as a dim circular light distantly above my head in the starless sky illuminated things dully, and decided we were on a world composed of pure squishiness. It was like walking on a giant purple brain that stretched on infinitely in every direction, to be honest. A giant, dark brain. With annoying white pieces of wood and rock that kept cutting into my feet. I could barely see the crazy girl ahead of me!
"Okay, where the heck are we?" I finally asked.
"Well... it doesn't really have a name, technically... but if you wanted, we could make one up! I've been fiddling with something that randomly assigns consonants together into strings for just such an occasion!"
Sighing, I further questioned her. "Okay... WHY the heck are we here?"
She glanced back at me with a smile on her face. "Oh, you're going to be really happy with this one, Josh."
"And that's because....?"
"Because I'm going to finally give you some answers! Answers that I found out, myself, while HELPING you, not putting you in a dorky white room with bad men with guns!" by her tone I imagined she was implying that the ARC members and police men she'd gone through to bring me here hadn't, in fact, been helping.
"Wha-? Well, you could have done that sooner," I chided, pausing in my step to pick some weird white rock from between my toes.
Turning, she folded her hand behind her back. "Not really... I couldn't until I did some background research, first. See, Josh, were not the first that can do what we can."
"We're... not?" I wondered out loud. It was easy for me to imagine that I'd been one of the only one's (or at least the only one other than Ecila) to figure out the mathematical means to traversing worlds, to have discovered the means to use or own minds to conceptualize impossible ideas and equations, spells, really, that let us travel to unimaginable places. Though, the ARC guys had already told me I'd been wrong about that. Still, if other people had figured this out, you'd think the world would have known about it. It was still possible she was killing folks off before they COULD tell...
"No, we're not!" she chirped back at me.
Giving her that troubled look, I nodded my head slowly, and leaned forwards to finally learn what all this trouble was about.
And I kept waiting, until I realized she'd zoned out again, staring off into space. Mumbling, I reached down for a particularly long and arching bleached white stick and prodded her with it. "So, we're not...?" I echoed, hoping to get her back on track.
"Eh, oh. Um. Right, we're not. But yes, I mentioned them earlier when you suggested I went around killing folks! Err although earlier on, some of my friends were a little more wild than they are right now, and they might've eaten a few rotten seeds, but that isn't what's important right now. See, it took me a while to find this place, but I did it! And here we are!" She made a wide sweeping gesture with both hands. "Welcome home, Josh!"
I wasn't moving anywhere, but I almost stumbled. "H-huh!? What the heck are you talking about!? This isn't my home!" My head swam with possibilities. What was she trying to tell me? That my ancestors were aliens? That I might be part demon? That this was some horrible possible future where all that was left of my world was sticks and fleshy ground?
"Not AS such, but kind of it is. Sorta. More of your kind is here than anywhere else, really." She cast a reasonable gaze over the dreary purple landscape that my own eyes were finally adjusting to, in all it's squishy glory.
"My... my kind...?" I gasped,"You mean like... aliens? Or demons...?"
Blinking, she turned back to me with an arched eyebrow. "Demons, Josh? You're hardly a demon. If I put you in a little girl's closet, they'd think you were some sexual predator maybe, but definitely not a demon."
"...Nice, Ecila. Okay, so... you're saying... we aren't the only ones to travel like this... so, this is what, like... some home for people like us that go all spacey?"
"Ah. Very close, Josh. No, this place is specifically for your kind. Not humans, the Gillmans!"
"Welcome to the Gillman family grave, Josh!" She exclaimed again, and threw her arms wide in that cheesy game host sort of way, and about the same time I suddenly realized what all those funny white pieces of wood and rock were.
She'd made me walk a half mile through a squishy purple field of bones. Bones possibly belonging to previous Gillmans.
"What!?" I stammered again, realizing I was repeating myself. God, I hate it when I do that! "No, wait. That's... ugh..." I dropped the stick... well, bone I'd been prodding her with quickly, and rubbed my hands off on the back of my pants. "That's disgusting! These are the bones of my ancestors!? How did so many get way the heck out here? I'm not sure that makes sense."
Smirking at me, she folded her hands behind her back. "How do you think, Josh? Same way we did. Your family line has a long, long, longer than you know history of interacting with other worldly things, and traversing spherelessly through the spheres!"
My eyes widened as I looked across the dimly lit field of bones... some of the larger, rounder objects I'd mistaken for large rocks, I soon realized were in fact skulls. Though, the majority of the bones here were cracked, broken, or turned to dust with age.
"That's.... impossible...! Unless... so, they're like you and me... you're saying my family's a long line of inter-dimensional travelers? Like a... like a space Indiana Joneses, going out into the cosmos and doing great things, exploring, adventuring, then coming back here to let their remains lay with the rest of the family...?" My eyes danced with dreams of awesome proportions, of potential. Could it be? Could such a profound and important a legacy really have fallen on my slim shoulders?
"Naw... hey, remember the other night, when your mom didn't want to cook so she ordered a pizza?"
"Y...yeah? What, you were watching that too?" I responded, not really wanting to know how she knew that. She probably watched me get dressed, too, hiding in the bushes outside my window.
Leveling a finger directed at me, she chirped in as happy and indifferent a tone as she's ever used,"That's you!"
The corner of my eye twitched. "I'm... pizza?"
"I'm not pizza."
"You think you're not, but you are!"
"...Why do you think I'm a pizza?" I asked, a little self conscious about any possible acne I might have sprung on my face over night, or just lately.
Clearing her throat, Ecila composed herself in a professional manner, and explained. "Well, I don't know EXACTLY why you are..."
"Aaaand...?" I prompted, knowing the way she tended to get distracted.
She blinked at me, and put her hands down straight at her side to help her focus and keep on topic, or maybe she was planning to shoot me with invisible finger guns. You never really knew with her.. "And... you see, turns out your forefathers have been feeding, um, something for generations farther back that your recorded history. With them. See, this thing gets hungry, and it can't really move. Well, it can move, it's just lazy. Not a lot of the outer-folk can get to where you are without a ton of effort and elaborate planning, there's rules, you know?" She grinned faintly at a memory, and continued.
"But lots of things get hungry out in the other places, really, and you guys, humans really, are sort of a delicacy. So, this one strikes a deal I think with your ancestors... or, maybe one of them called out to it to make a deal, or maybe somewhere down the line someone who really knew what they were doing cursed someone, or maybe it's just amazing coincidence... but however it started, I can't really figure out the why... but, you're basically inter-dimensional pizza, Josh. It doesn't happen to all the men in your family, but I think it happens often enough, but NOT often enough that it kills the family line out forever. Every third generation or so one of the guys in your family will have the brains, and the trail to figure out the stuff you figured out, and they usually end up here. I think it calls out to them, maybe. Most of them get here, but some get picked off on the way, because the outerverse really isn't that safe a place! They dial out for Gillman, Josh, and the Gillman comes to them in 30 years or less. "
"Where IS this, anyway!?"
"It's its stomach."
I nearly choked on my own words, feeling the urge to now run and hide very soon, and there was nothing big enough around to hide from it. "You... you brought me to the stomach of the thing that's been eating my ancestors for thousands and thousands of years?!"
"You're a name brand out here, Josh!" she said cheerfully, trying to help.
"Take me back!!!" I screamed, looking around anxiously and trying to concentrate enough through the overwhelming fear that was chewing at my nonexistent calm, ready to risk blindly casting myself back into the void of the interstice if I could just formulate the plots in my head.
"Heeeey now, you don't gotta worry, you're safe now," Ecila said as she found me ducking behind her fearfully.
Hey, I may be a boy in a girl's body, but I've never been quite what you would call courageous in the face of the stomach of something that had a taste for, what looked like hundred's at the very LEAST, of my family folk.
"Screw that! You said this place EATS my family! I'm my family! Get me out of there!"
"Tut tut Josh, have heart! Stiff upper lip! I told you, if you'll remember twenty seconds ago, it eats the men of your family. You're no longer a men of your family!" To make her point, she poked at my rather more squishy than it should be chest.
Perhaps I was a little slow that night, or day, or whenever it was wherever I was, and maybe I was a little distraught at being shoved into a place that has made a millenia out of eating my esteemed and noble ancestors as they brainlessly flung themselves into the void of its belly, but it took me a while to figure out what she was implying. "...I'm a girl."
"But... I wasn't born a girl, so something..."
"Oh you are SO right!"
"...Let me finish!"
Making a disgruntled 'hmf' sound, she folded her arms. "I thought you'd like to hear something positive. Considering where we are."
"...So... no, I'm sorry, you continue," I decided, rubbing the side of my decidedly fried brain once she'd ruined my train of thought.
"Alright... It's hard to tell for certain, but your family's been snack food for de-.... well, it's kind of racist to call them demons, really, so for whatever this big fat lazy thing is that we're currently slowly digesting within for a long, long time. Your kin-folk are veeery appetizing and nutritious to the folk out here, it seems. Like, more so than a normal person. You have abnormal tastiness, Josh, and it's hereditary."
She paused to smile at me, probably waiting for a pleased look on my part. When nothing resembling being pleased on my facade was forthcoming, she continued. "So, The last person from your family that almost became a snack for this place was starting to come up with a way to not be eaten because he figured he was going to be, I think, and he left what he could figure out of it in that journal you were reading this past week. Then MY ancestor, well, cousin I suppose, ran into him, and they both sort of died or... something." She explained the last point by waving her hand fritteringly into the air. "And then you and me came along before or after, depending on your point of view, and I think you figured out your great Uncle's equation in your head, or read what he'd had set up before he could, because obviously it didn't work for him, and then I got you to sign the book-"
Both of us went still when she mentioned 'the book', expecting some kind of a voice or another to interrupt us. After a while, we realized nothing was really listening, and she continued.
"...And I think that finished the... um... I guess you'd call it a spell, or an equation, or a spellquation, maybe? But it helped protect you for sure and probablynotinexchangeforyourimmortalsouloranythinglikethat."
The last part of what she said sounded important, but I couldn't quite make it out, so I thought about what she had said that did make sense. "...Which turned me into a girl."
"RIGHT! Which turned you into a girl! I think the spell protected you be girlifying you so the whole Gillman family curse deal wouldn't eat you up too and lure you off. It seems your male ancestors have rather consistently ended up out here, but there always seems to be another male heir that managed to pass down the family name, and the family genes. But never a female! So the spell just changed the one thing about you that would prevent you from becoming space chow. It told the universe you were a girl now, so you were. Also, I think it made you a bit more... solid." She paused to poke at my shoulder. "Yah, you're definitely not as squishy as normal people. You're protected in more than one way, like your fixed in space-time, which is why your head didn't explode when I introduced you to my friends. Sometimes when you talk with the folk out here, they tell your brain how it should be, but your body just says 'nope, I'm a girl! Girl power!' It must have been a really good spellquation."
Standing up in a more composed manner, I rubbed at my temples, as being around Ecila had a way of giving someone terrible head aches. Her logic did that, not some kind of weirdness about her that was telling my brain to be weird. She was just that annoying to listen to. "So... so if I do find a way to turn back into a guy, I'll die or get eaten by space sharks. If you turn me back into a boy, then I'll end up here, and this stuff will eat me."
She considered my words, and nodded slowly. "Probably. Unless it's all coincidence, ya know. I mean, you aren't being eaten at the moment, so... I suppose the spell curse contract thing is probably skipping you over, you know, in theory."
"Bugger it all...."
"It's not all bad! If this deal works how I think it works, you're going to be having a baby brother soon!"
"Smeg it all!"
"Josh, manners! We're in a cemetery, here! Show some respect for the dead! On that subject, do you know how baby brothers were made? I did some research while asking some friends, and the answer might suprirse you!"
"...I'm going back to the detention cell. Please don't eat any more people around me," I muttered, depression having calmed me enough that I could think straight, contemplate and understand the right equation and crack in reality that would let me out, turned around to slip out of this horrid joke of a reality and back into the interstice.
By the time I returned, finding it not all that difficult to slip back into where I had been, discovering Ecila had left a bit of a trail through reality for me to get past all the mystic wards and armored hallways I'd walked through to get there in the first place (in fact, I hadn't even noticed most of them, and was starting to understand what Ecila meant when she said she'd just gone around), Doctor Deth who had been apparently not eaten, and who'd clamed he'd just slipped into the basement somehow was in surprisingly good health, aside from looking disgusted and intrigued at the same time by the mucus dripping from him.
The sirens were finally off, but the place was still very, very wet.
A quick peek outside the room assured me that all the other guards and cops I'd assumed had been ripped to shreads were mulling about and looking disgruntled. By the time I'd ducked back into the room Ecila was standing there quite peacefully, rocking back on her heels and smiling brightly at Doctor Deth.
The poor Doctor was just staring at her, like a mouse that had just tripped over a cat's tail, but in this case the mouse didn't know the cat was a vegetarian, see? Yes, that's an appropriate enough analogy.
Wrinkling up my nose, I turned to Doctor Deth and said in a tone that sounded sullen even to my own ears,"I think she needs to explain some things to you, Doc. From what she said, things aren't the way you guys thought they were. Mostly."
"Right!" chirped Ecila, holding up a finger briefly to get attention she already had. "I'm really sorry about all this, I thought you guys were torturing my poor charge, here! But as you all wanna help my little Joshy too-"
"Ah, actually, I believe he's going by Josie, now," interrupted the Doctor with a slight slur in his speech as he dripped muccus and water. I wondered if being swallowed by extradimensional entities and then spat into a basement got you drunk?
Ecila took that in, looking at me with a curious expression. "Yes, yes, you know... he would make a good Josie. Okay, little Josie here-"
"...Not that little..." I muttered.
"...While being extremely rude and interrupting me at a moments notice, needs some instruction! The spellquation she has on her tells the universe she's a girl now-"
"Ah-haaah! I thought it might have been a spell of reality altering possibilities! Where's my note-paper..." interrupted Doctor Deth again, while patting himself down for something that wasn't either dripping water or covered in goo to write on and with.
"Geez, is Josie's rudeness contagious? Anyway, it makes her less appetizing than she would be, and destiny defying and all that, but she still might meet a horrible and tragic but really impressive death in any number of infinite ways, so her schooling is VERY important."
"Schooling?" Questioned the doctor with a thoughtful frown, still not looking quite like he trusted her automatically, but maybe like he would be willing to consider negotiating with her and her friends seeing as how they seemed to be ignoring the well established laws of reality, and the very walls their fine government had built, as though they were a suggestion. "Perhaps we can come to some arrangement, once we've had a long talk with you. And assuming you didn't kill anyone while you were 'rescuing' him. Her."
Strange circumstances seemed to be my life's special theme ingredient, of late. I wasn't sure how Ecila had convinced the men who had been convinced she was an interstellar menace that she was in fact the opposite, but the fact that none of her "friends" had actually eaten or killed anyone had probably helped her case somewhat. There had been some discussion with her over the damage she'd caused to the police station, but apparently the doctor from ARC had friends in high places, and favors to call in, and by the time I'd been flown out to the facility in New Hampshire Ecila was apparently on their payroll.
Eventually, everyone (but myself) had come to the same conclusion that I needed exceptional schooling, and that there was only one place that I could go to get it.
I'd never heard of a school called 'Whateley Academy', but I was almost certain that going to a private school wasn't something my parents would have approved of. However, when ARC offered to foot the bill for it over a conference call with them, it suddenly became a more appealing option. I had to admit that I wasn't all that thrilled about going to a private school, until they described it to me.
It was a school. For mutants!
Sure, I wasn't technically a mutant, apparently, but it sounded amazing! This was the sort of place you only read about in comics, or watch on cartoons! And now, I was headed on a train towards this place!
I had to admit, I was a little excited. It would be nice to excel in a subject at a school and not have to worry about getting picked on for it, or singled out to do the homework of every jock that didn't want to get kicked off the football team, or whatever. The ARC people had even told me that they'd arranged for private tutoring for me from someone who was an expert of sorts on the extraordinary areas I'd been to and the alien magic I had for the most part teaching myself, which didn't sound all that bad either. Maybe with a little more study, and someone who wasn't bat shit insane (like Ecila) teaching me, I could actually fall asleep without waking up half naked half way across the planet!
Which I had.
Thrusday, Midnight, March 14, 2007
I'd been running up till that point, my bare feet touching warm sand and rocks, feeling my way through hard desert weeds and dry plants that clawed as I brushed past. I was aware of being quite tender and exposed like a walking open wound that didn't want to feel, or heal, that just wanted time to rest. But I didn't have time to rest and heal. I'd been pulled out of my space, out of my own time, my whole identity and gender yanked out from under my feet. I knew I was half asleep and half awake, but couldn't do anything about it.
There was something in my mind that told me I was weak, and I was helpless because I was a girl now. But that wasn't all true. I was nearly the same way when I was a boy, the lack of my usual gender had just rubbed my identity raw and left me confused and grasping. I was me, though. I wasn't some helpless screaming girl, or awkward and struggling boy who vents himself in the digital world.
Well, I mean, I wish I could say this was the moment where I turned bad ass and realized I had a metaphorical gun that could take down anything that stood in my way, but it wasn't.
It was the moment that I realized I was me, and I wasn't going to let what body I happened to be stuck in stop me. I punched her, hard. I wasn't sure exactly who she was, but my instincts told me she didn't have my best intentions in mind.
Her head hardly flinched, but she touched her cheek with a shocked expression, and I realized as I came out of my dream state that I'd just smacked Ecila.
"Josh, if you didn't want to use the girls bathroom, you don't have to. Its a bush, it's both!"
I blinked at her, and looked around when consciousness returned to me in a slow trickle. I wasn't in the ARC research facility... nor was I at a school, or home. I knew I should have been at the facility, though, going through test after exhausting test. I couldn't tell exactly WHERE I was to be honest. It looked like the brushy sparsly vegitated deserts that spotted Southern California, but something was off. The plants didn't look quite like what I was familiar with seeing, and the few trees I could spot under the dim lights of a star filled sky were fans of stern resolute dark wood with an even layer of green at the very height of them. It was night time, and the ground was still warm from no doubt a very hot day.
I took a step back and found myself bumping my back against a solid wall of ridged stone, spun around, and was facing a rust red monolith of stone near twice my height, weedy growths atop it hinted at the top of the strange stone platue being topped with some tough spirited plants.
"Well?" Ecila said, looking at me expectantly.
"What...?" I responded, too tired to think of anything more clever to say, while I rubbed at my knuckles.
"Well, you said you needed to go to the bathroom, and here it is!" Just then, something white with two long ears just barely crossed the corner of my vision, and before I knew it Ecila was sporting a pair of something that shared the outline similarity with a rabbit's ears. She looked up, and pursed her lips. "Oops. Gotta go, Josie, duty calls! You can find your way back, right?"
"N-no! Wait, I'm not sure where I am!" I gasped, exasperated.
"You got a lot of practice you need doing Josie, you can't just sleep walk through realities. And you need to study your geography!"
I scoffed at her. "I study plenty, but I don't exactly got built in GPS!"
"...Gonad Moose Syndrome?"
"...No. I... you... I don't know where I am!"
She smiled. "Okay, okay, calm down. This is..." she raised a pair of fingers up to her neck, as though she were checking her pulse. "Ah. You people call this bit of land Africa. This is the Oldupai Gorge, or Olduvai if you aren't keen on spelling."
"A-Africa?!" I squeeked. "H...how did I end up here!"
"I'm sure I don't even know! Now, can you find your way back? I'd love to baby you some more Josie, but there's this corn beast back at the office and you know those things wont shuck themselves! Not anymore..."
I groaned at her in something that sounded assuring, and she vanished in a purple flash of light. Gradually, I recalled where I'd been the previous evening. Once the dust had settled, I thought it'd be safe to sleep, and even with wires hooked up to my head and a dozen cameras and devices the likes of which I couldn't comprehend pointed at me the facility's doctors and scientists had rigged up to try to determine why I seemed to be more proficient at transporting myself while asleep than when I was awake, I hadn't had much of a problem crashing.
You know, crashing as in you fall asleep rather quickly, not the sort of crashing that woke me from my slumber when I landed on a rocky gorge floor far enough away from both the Research Consortium and the school that they wanted me to attend.
But I was getting better at this traveling thing! Sure I apparently did it way better in my sleep, but I'd managed to do it awake several times already now, and not just with Ecila looking over my shoulder. With a deep breath, I started to fill my mind with equations and long impossible formulae. After many long minutes of staring at the rocky outcropping I'd stumbled into, I stumbled into it again, but this time flashed out of reality in the same violet light that Ecila herself had vanished in moments before. The trick with navigating the insterstice was extremely tricky, and despite my attempts at trying to aim myself back to ARC itself, I found myself being vomited into the streets of Berlin in my pajamas. Not the one in Germany, thank god, or the one in Massachusettes (which was two more Berlins than I knew about existing previously, I was learning geography first hand!), but apparently a third and seperate Berlin nestled within the cool sparse lands of New Hampshire!
Prudently, I decided I'd avoid attempting further dimensional jumps to reach my goal for fear of ending up somewhere even farther away - I was fairly sure I was within 100 miles of my target, and that was as about as good as I'd ever managed to aim my jumps on my own. Instead, I wandered barefoot and in my knickers to the nearest police station I could find to attempt to contact the Consortium.
As you might imagine, I was fairly exhausted by the time they'd heard from me again and the cops at the station had brought a rather dull set of clothes for me to change into, and had set me on the train to Sky High with the promise that the remainder of my modest luggage would be waiting for me at the Academy. I had more problems than I could count weighing down on my mind; a new school to start at, and not a friend in the world or a familiar face waiting for me. The idea of going to a school for people with super powers tickled my inner nerd like nothing else, but it was frightening at the same time. Another problem was sleeping. If I fell asleep on the train, would I wake up in the same spot? Would I ever be able to get to this place? It wasn't until I'd napped a good half of the bumpy ride away in a state of almost sleep but not QUITE, because, this was a REALLY bumpy train ride, that I noticed who I was sitting across the isle from, that I indeed had not wandered off in my sleep again.
When I spotted Suzan sitting across from me, reading with a pair of dark sunglasses on, I just stared at her in disbelief long enough that she glanced up from the magazine she was reading, and said in an amused tone,"You know, it's rude to stare, Josh. You must have been tired, I've been watching you sleep for several hours, now."
"A-actually, it's Josie now..." I murmured weakly.
She regarded me with a small smile, and I was just wasn't sure how much she knew about what I'd been through. I assumed she still thought I was some kind of cross-dresser. "Yes, that does suit you better."
I was more than a little surprised to see her on the train to mutant-ville, but it all suddenly made a dawning sense to me. Back in the labs, the doctor's mentioned that some of what I could see was some mutant's energy in use. I'd seen her hands glow in the same way I had in the lab long before I'd known what it meant, and I'd seen a few of the news shows that had tried to summarize what had happened that day I'd vanished from the school in a fiery blaze of not-so-glory, where an unknown mutant had put out the flames. Now, we were on a train, together, on the other side of the country, headed to a tiny out-of-the-way town with a somewhat secret mutant school built near it. So she was either into rustic hill-billy towns, or she...
"You're a mutant," I said in a low whisper. There were other people on the train, after all, and I didn't want to blow her cover, as it were, if it turned out not everyone on the train knew about that particular stop on the roster.
She tilted her glasses down enough that I could see the unnaturally bright electric blue of her eyes. "Don't go telling the whole world, now," she whispered back, her tone almost sad, if I hadn't known better.
It was oddly comforting to see her again, but I didn't want to bother her anymore than I probably already was. Worrying about that, I was having trouble thinking of what to say next, or if I should even say anything next. "Um... so, thanks for helping me out," I finally stammered.
She blinked at me and said quietly, "Oh? You recognized me...?"
"You know, back at the school, when Mister Maxwell tried to drag me away?"
A dawning look crossed her fine features. "Ah, right... when I 'helped' you... sure, no problem." She glanced out the window uncomfortably, and asked in a quiet voice,"So... I'm guessing since you're here, and I know you must be a mutant too... you're going to that school."
I edged a little closer the isle so I was nearer to her, and wouldn't have to worry about anyone overhearing. "You're going too, right? That's great, I thought I'd be all alone! But I guess going to school like this I probably shouldn't worry in the first place, you know, super heroes and stuff... It's nice to see you out here, I was a little worried after what happened. Though, I was a little too worried to go out in public very much, myself, after what happened."
Suzan gave a hollow laugh, as though it didn't mean that much to her anymore, and glanced towards me with a distant look. "Me too. None of my friends would talk with me after that, I guess Ray told the whole school what I was..."
She didn't seem like she appreciated the situation we were in as much as I did, so I decided to illuminate her some. "Have you heard about this school, though? It'll be great!" I assured Suzan with outstretched hands, beaming. "A school for special people, like us! Super heroes, and super brains! I, err, We'll finally be appreciated, and no one will pick us on because we're different, or smarter than them!" My eyes glimmered with hope and grand expansive dreams of a wedgie-less learning environment.
"That's weird. Aren't you usually more cynical than this...?" she said in a guarded tone, then squinted at me. Then she leaned in closer, her expression more suspicious,"Ah, you aren't wearing make-up today."
"What?" I said, suddenly feeling nervous.
"You were wearing make-up the last time I saw you."
My face flushed with embarrassment, my insides gaining a nervous chill,"I... I'm not! I didn't, I wouldn't!" I insisted, trying to look away.
"You were!" she insisted right back, smirking. "I saw you when I was shopping a few days back." Then added, as an after thought,"...Looked nice."
"I'm didn't-! Oh you liked it?"
Friday, March 15, 2007
I settled into a seat in the back row of desks by habit. It wasn't that I was particularly trying to be 'cool' by sitting back there, but generally if you didn't have anyone behind you contemplating the back of your head for a full hour and given the time to think about ways they could mess with you, or poke you, or shoot spit balls at you (though I suppose here they could shoot plasma balls if they wanted at this place), the less chance there was generally that someone was going to be bothering you. Also, I was wearing a dress. Yah, it was the school uniform for... girls, and I apparently had no choice in the matter, so the less people I had staring at me in it the better. Not that people actually stared at me in a place like this, not with some of the amazingly hot babes I'd seen in my brief tour. I dare say one or two of them actually put Suzan to shame, and where we came from, she was easily the hottest thing around.
I eased into the chair, set my books down on the desk, leaned back, and grinned to myself. Despite the dress.
I couldn't help it. Ever since I'd started at this weird school, people had been showing me up at every turn. Everyone was stronger, faster, smarter, more... everything than I was. As super powers went, I felt somehow cheated, as odd as that sounds coming from someone who didn't particularly want them in the first place. Better to have no car than a big fat broken bus parked in front of your house all the time, right?
Well, this class promised to change all that, for at least one class period a day, five days a week. For you see, this was math class. Here, I could shine. Here, I would be the clever one, the smart one, the fast one! It was my luck, too, that it had opened up just as I'd joined the school. The counselor had said it was one of the most advanced mathematical courses they'd ever offered at Whateley, and that I'd been lucky to show up when I had. With this class, and the one after it, "Mathematics of Quantum Neutrino Fields", I was really looking forward to my education, for once!
Sitting there with my arms folded, I smirked, and waited for the rest of the seats to fill up.
I kept waiting.
More time went by, and I eyed the clock on the wall as the hands ticked and tocked, and still no one, not even the teacher filed in.
Had I come to the wrong room?
Grimacing, I took out my class schedule and double checked my courses.
Class: Advanced Hyper Dimensional Non-Euclidean Mathematics [Warning: This class could cause insanity]
Location: 2-B (or not)
No, this was the place...
Just then, the door swung open, and my head jerked up hopefully.
"Gooood morning class! Well, it's morning somewhere, and apparently it's also happy hour somewhere in the world! Woh, where's all the students? Is this 2-b or not 2-b? Oh! Hi Josh-ack, I mean Josie!"
Nononononono! I slammed my head down on the desk with an aggravated frustrated groan, then hit it again a couple more times. Suddenly, I had the impression this math class wasn't going to be the fresh spring breeze in my day that I thought it may be.
Painfully, I ground out a greeting between clenched teeth, my face squished against the cheap polished wood desk top,"...Hello, Ecila."
"Ah ah ah!" she corrected with a broad grin and a digit in the air, suddenly sitting on the desk across from me. "In here, you can call me Professor Instructor Mistress Prognosticator Mason!"
I sat up with my hands in my lap, and my face a curious red color from smashing it against the desk. "What the h....heck are you doing here?! This is for students! And a teacher! And you aren't either!"
She gave a wry chuckle, fixing her glasses in a way that caused light to flash across the lenses and briefly obscure her eyes in a way I found menacing. "Oh con-trarey my frarey, or however it goes. When I showed up in the administrations office asking about my favorite student in the world, they all but forced me to teach this class for them! They said it'd help them keep better track of me, or something! They must really like me here, to want to keep tracks of me, huh? I gotta admit, they got great tea."
My jaw dropped. "You mean... you mean YOU'RE the teacher!?"
"Correctamundo! Right on the first try! You get extra credit! Isn't this great, Josie? Now we get to spend ever MORE time together during the day, and I can teach you all sorts of neat stuff! Isn't that great, Josie? Josie, why are you crying, Josie? Oh well, tears might actually help you in my first lesson. Start collecting them, and by now you'll see on the board I've written down 'Pn'nglui mglw'nafh Cthuhlu R'lyeh wgah'nagi fntagn' while you blinked. In five sentences or less, I want you to tell me at least one translation error, why or why not this may be true, and your favorite color."