Chapter 1: What Happens in Canada Stays in Canada
As I usually did most mornings, I awoke to the sun trickling through the traitorous curtains that hung in the guest room I had claimed for the duration of my stay at my grandparents' house. I grumbled and rolled over, dragging my multiple blankets over my head and curling up. It was quite a glorious effort, I would say, trying to fall back asleep. But alas I could hear bustling and chatter in the kitchen and a rumbling of cars outside. Groaning about the unfairness of the world to my poor teenage sensibilities, I extracted my hand from the blanket cocoon and fumbled on the side table for my phone, flipping it open to read the time: 10:16am. Ugh, I flopped back onto my pillow and very nearly dropped the poor old flip phone. Well, no point in staying here now. I stretched, effectively kicking off my blanket, scratching the itch on my chest that had been bugging me, fingers catching slightly on a necklace, and promptly rolled out of bed.
Breakfast that morning was like it usually had been for my stay in Canada since late November, it was mid December now. Nanna was already starting to cut vegetables for tonight's dinner, soup, and Poppa was sitting in his recliner, reading a book I was sure he had already read before. I snatched up a piece of carrot to tide me over as I grabbed some eggs from the fridge.
"Now Marie! That's for dinner!" Nanna scolded. I smiled guiltily and ducked my head.
"Sorry Nanna." my grandmother tsked and let me tell you that a seventy-year-old woman waving a knife around is possibly the most frightening thing I have ever seen.
"If you had woken up at a decent time I could have made you breakfast myself." I chucked at her as she huffed about kids these days.
I went around the small kitchen, gathering a pot and filling it with water to boil. The two eggs were set safely aside for later and I turned back to Nanna, scratching at my chest through my pyjama top, a baggy blue top I had stolen from my older brother. "I'm sixteen, Nanna. I can make my own breakfast."
"Hm, but you are also my granddaughter, and if I want to make you breakfast I will damn well do it!" I laughed at my flustering grandmother as she huffily went back to her chopping, not even trying to make good on her statement.
I chuckled and went back to my breakfast, going through the motions until I had two soft-boiled eggs settled happily in my belly. Now to begin the more tedious parts of the morning, hygiene. I had put it off for as long as I could but standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom I began the arduous task of brushing my butt length, copper coloured wavy hair.
I don't really think I noticed it until my chest started to itch again and I had to put down the brush and scratch again, but then the collar of my shirt got pulled down and I caught a glimpse of something that definitely did not belong. I think I was in shock a little, maybe, probably, because the first thing I thought was, 'I am Iron Man,' as I stared at the light glowing through my tanned skin, outlining part of my ribs, from inside my freaking chest! I think, maybe, I might have started hyperventilating because then I had bumped into the linen cupboard behind me, stubbed my toe and almost fell over.
It took a moment for me to calm down, reassuring Nanna and Poppa that 'yes, I'm fine, don't worry' and I stepped back up to the mirror and tugged my shirt back down, half expecting the light to be gone but being disappointed when I found it still there. With a glance out towards the kitchen, I leant towards my reflection, slowly, cautiously, and pushed my fingers against the light. Instant regret. I hissed, the air burning in my lungs and up my throat. Jolts of pain ricocheted around my chest before settling back to where I guessed the light was coming from, a dull throbbing took up the place of the itch from before and I groaned. I rubbed gently around the light, trying to dull the throb but not wanting to risk touching it again.
I peeked out the door, making sure Nanna and Poppa were distracted by their tasks before I ducked back into my bedroom and snapping the door shut. Ok, aright, I am currently a real-life Tony Stark. I shuddered out a breath. Now what do I do? I literally had no idea what I was going to do about this. I glanced towards the door as I started pacing. Maybe I should tell Nanna and Poppa? Or go to a hospital maybe, and have it looked at or something. A glance back down my shirt and the outline of my ribs and light that pulsed with the racing beat of my heart, the thought of doctors pocking and prodding had me shuddering.
I started to fiddle with my jewelry, a bad habit I had picked up somewhere. One hand tugged at my plain silver chain necklace that my brother had given me while the other hand twisted, fingers curling to flick at the woven leather bracelet. Alright so this stays hush-hush, I thought, no need to worry, nope not at all. I let out a slightly hysterical laugh, coughing a little half way through. My mind turned, trying to think of something else, anything else. I ended up flinging my door open and marching to the living room, jumping past the door to the kitchen. A movie, yes, take my mind off of this. Fiddling through the draws I pulled out random movie. Looking at the cover I nodded, Transformers, yes, ok. That will do. I then began to promptly ignore the throbbing in my rib cage. Because I have decided that this is definitely not happening. Nope, not at all.
Chapter 2: Brothers on White Horses
I didn't sleep well that night. The glow of my chest kept me awake, along with the pain, until my tired mind finally succumbed to exhaustion. As such, the mood I woke up in was not the cheeriest. I grumbled and quite literally fell out of bed. I spent some time on the floor, dragging the blanket down with me and rubbing my chest at the memory of pain but I was glad to know that my chest was pain free. Maybe it was all a dream? I looked down at myself, staring blearily at my pyjama top. I barely noticed that it took more time than usual to understand what I was seeing.
I had to fumble out of the blanket to yank down my collar, only to wonder if that was the sound of my world breaking as I watched the pulsing glow. I must have had tears in my eyes, because my vision blurred for a moment before I could blink it away. Maybe I was still dreaming? I pinched myself, finding it hurt but still not quite comprehending, I leant up and banged my head into the wooden frame of the bed.
"OW! God dammit, what am I doing?"
I rolled away from the bed, pushing my hands to my forehead as if to push the pain down. Mumbling curses that I'm fairly certain my mother would slap me around the head for, I lay and thought about nothing. And then thought about how much of an idiot I was. I mean really Marie that was kind of stupid! So I have a glowy thing in my chest. It's not all bad, right? Think positive, I told myself. I pulled my hands down and looked down at the glow. Well, I thought, you can't really see it through the fabric. I squinted. Unless you squint, I decided. I sat up pushing away the blanket. Yeah! And if people start squinting at my chest I can call them creeps and slap them!
Standing up so quickly probably wasn't the best idea, as the black spots appeared around me. Wrapping myself in my blanket I dragged it and myself out towards the kitchen, noticing the DVDs I had left out last night. I should put them away later. The only way to describe my majestic entrance to the kitchen was 'waddling'. Wrapped up in the thick duvet I went around the kitchen and collected my breakfast, cereal today, and grumbling single syllable responses to Nanna and Poppa's greetings.
I tapped my bracelet against the table as I ate, listening to the sounds the little stones on it made as they hit the wood. I put another spoonful in my mouth, enjoying the chocolate flavour.
"Marie, you'll scratch the table dear."
"Hm?" I hadn't even noticed my Nanna standing on the other side of the table. I looked down at my wrist, then back at Nanna. I smiled and blushed, snapping my hand back into my blanket. "Sorry Nanna."
The elderly woman smiled, but her eyes shone with concern as she looked me over.
"Are you alright honey?" I watched her come around to stand beside me, placing a hand on my forehead. "You don't look too good." my frown mirrored Nanna's as she ducked a little to look in my eyes. "Your Poppa and I were planning on taking you into town with us to meet with some friends but if you're not feeling well dear we can stay home."
I smiled at her concern. I can always rely on you Nanna, I thought and smiled up at her. I glanced over as Poppa walked in, obviously coming in from doing something outside, and I shivered at even the thought of the snow everywhere. A glance out the window made my eyes ache at the white.
Turning back to Nanna I opened my mouth to tell her I was fine but paused. I had to stop myself from, once again, looking down at myself. Looking at her worried grey eyes, I remembered all the times she had been there for me and maybe I could tell her what was going on, that I was kind of freaking out because oh god I'm glowing! But then I kept looking, saw the wrinkles around her eyes crease with worry and I hated that, I hated that they would worry if I told them. Nanna and Poppa were old and that much stress couldn't be good for them surely? So I came to a resolution.
I forced myself to look as pathetic as possible, prayed that for once my acting skills would be affective, and smiled at my grandmother.
"Yeah, I'm not feeling to well today Nanna, but you and Poppa shouldn't stop you plans because of me. I'm a big girl, one day sick at home by myself, alone, with no one else there- uh... what I meant was, I'll be fine. I need to call Mom and Dad and Jeff anyway." I could almost feel the plastic of the smile I forced onto my face.
There was a tense moment, and I could swear Nanna was looking right through me, could see the lies I was draping over my shoulders. I swear her eyes pierced through my blanket and clothes and to the light shining past my ribs. It made my own eyes itch
Nanna smiled, and I swore she looked tense before it was swept away. "If you're sure, dear. If you need anything though, don't you hesitate to call us, alright?" I nodded when she paused, her eyes sharp with expectation and I still felt them digging through me. I swear my grandmother is the most terrifying person alive.
I watched my nanna hobble away, glancing back at me as I turned back to my cereal. I was tense, forcing myself to keep up the pathetic look, god I am such a terrible person. My heart beat wildly, the lies burning in the back of my throat, and it was all I could do to nod after Nanna and Poppa as they left. I slumped, all the energy leaving me, and I could feel a buzzing in my chest. It didn't hurt and I tried to ignore it. I pushed my bowl away and leant against the table. I shouldn't have to feel bad, I'm not lying to them I'm just...not telling the truth. Yes, its fine, they don't need to know anyway, they don't need that. It's not even that bad anyway, I reason with myself, I mean it's just a little glowing... Besides I got what I wanted, keeping my grandparents in the dark about the whole being a nightlight thing. I had also succeeded in not having to freeze my butt off outside, so that was a plus.
I rubbed my eyes when they blurred again, blinking quickly to bring back my vision and looked down at my breakfast. I frowned, not really all that hungry anymore. I turned my gaze in the direction of the front door, though I couldn't see it. Maybe I should have gone with them, get my mind off of everything. I mean, it's not like I've suddenly become some shut in cripple, I can do things. No! I have made up my mind! I am trying to be...just normal, maybe finding out what is going on, but I am not gonna let anything change. I am fine, I just need space. Besides, I glow now, and I'm not sure how well the rest of my clothes would hide something like that.
I stood, pulling my blanket and scratching at my temple. I think maybe I'll have a shower, that's a normal thing to do. Yes.
And it was completely normal, until I got soap in my eyes and spent the rest of my shower tearing up and running into the door.
I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom, wrapped in my towel. The steam made everything a little hazy but I didn't really need to see to comb out my hair and get annoyed as it dripped on my legs. I tapped my foot as the dial tone on my phone rang out, grunting as I had to pick up the ends of my hair to drag out the nots. I tugged harshly with the brush, hissing at the sting it caused in my scalp. So focussed was I that I didn't even notice when a voice spoke from my phone.
"Hello? Jeffery speaking."
I dropped the ends of my obscenely long hair to brush a little further up, squinting to see myself in the mirror and muttered a few expletives that would definitely get me a good slap. I brushed a little faster, confidant there were no more knots left.
"MOTHER OF GOD!" oh god I was not expecting that. I grabbed my head for the second time that day and growled and the sting. I was brought to a stop however at the peals of laughter coming from my phone. Instantly I grew red. I knew that laugh.
"Oh no- Jeff! Wha-how long have you been on the phone? Why didn't you say anything?!" no matter how embarrassed I was at knowing my brother had heard me I couldn't stop the wave of relief that washed over me at hearing his voice.
My blush darkened but a smile bloomed on my face as his laugh died down. "I dunno, since you called me? What are you doing anyway?"
And for a moment all my worries just fell away and all that was left was me and my stupid older brother. "Nothing much, just hopped out of the shower and thought I would give you a call. How are things back home? Mum and Dad?"
"Missing us already baby sister?" I could practically see the mocking face Jeff pulled, I muttered insults at him. "Don’t worry you're not missing much. They put up water restrictions like we thought but the dam is full so there's that. Mum and Dad are fine, Mum says hi by the way-"
"Hi Mum! Miss you!" if I shouted unnecessarily at my phone and if I made my brother wince, well that's beside the point.
"Hmf, brat, yeah yeah Mum says 'miss you too'. Anyway, as I was saying, dads' gone into town for a while with some of the guys, turns out he finally settled that deal for some of the cattle."
I laughed and uttered a relieved 'finally!' when I heard about the deal. Dad has been trying to sell off those cows for months!
"What about you huh? How have you been? Having fun?"
Finished with my hair, finally, I pulled my towel a little tighter around myself and grabbed up the phone to wander into the lounge room. I thought back to the week I had already been in Canada, going and seeing some of my cousins that I didn't really know. Begging my Poppa to take me to the few clothes shops in town to buy some warmer clothes, even letting him pick out a sweater for me. The last minute Christmas shopping with Nanna.
I found myself curling up onto the lounge in my towel as I told Jeff about all this, bantering with him as he made mock shocked jabs at me shopping.
"I can do girly things!" I huffed.
"Uh huh, sure you can."
I just grumbled a little, used to his little insults and jibes, not like I didn't do the same to him all the time. I was so consumed by the conversation that the sudden burning in my eyes almost made me drop the phone. I hissed and pushed my palm to my eye, rubbing at it in a hopes to make the pain go away. It didn't.
"Marie? Hey, what was that? You okay?" his concern slipped right over my head and I almost snapped at him, but held it in as the burning dulled and my vision blurred a little.
"Ugh, no… I've just- I don’t feel too good Jeff." my mind slipped with my eyes down to the glow hidden by my towel. Talking to my brother, I had totally forgotten about it, and looking back I wish I could have stayed in the ignorance for a little longer.
There was a pause on Jeff's end, and I could tell he was waiting for me to say more. He would be disappointed.
"Are you all right? Have you told Nanna and Poppa?" his voice was a little more serious, and maybe that was worry I could hear in his voice. And maybe that sting in my chest wasn't just the glow.
I tried to forget about all this crazy stuff that was going on, I don't need that right now! Right now I'm just having a chat with my brother. My eyes stung as they darted around the room.
"No! Uh, I mean yes, I'm fine. It’s fine. I think I'm just coming down with something. Don't worry about it Jeff."
There was another pause from the other end before Jeff let it go. I relaxed the muscles I hadn't realised I had tensed.
"Look, I gotta go ok? Mum's calling, needs some help with something I think. Get some rest and get better ok? Don’t want to be the Grinch on Christmas do you?" I chuckled at my brothers’ pathetic attempt and humour.
"Ok. I'll talk to you later?" part of me (all of me) didn't want to cut the call.
"Tonight. I'll call you after you've had dinner, see how you're going?" I smiled at my brothers concern, it was rare and I appreciated it right now.
"That sounds good. See you later then."
"See you later Ri-Ri." I didn't get the chance to yell at my brother for calling me that stupid nickname.
I listened to the dial tone for a few moments, just playing the conversation through my head and reminding myself to put my phone on charge so I can know when Jeff calls. I let it drop to my lap and my head fall back to the couch and shut my eyes (the burning only lessened a little). I shuddered a sigh, god, things are so messed up. I didn't want to think like this, I wanted to be positive. But I couldn't shake the feeling that things were only going to get worse. A throb from my eyes came, like it was confirming my thoughts.
I opened my eyes again as I felt my phone vibrate. Looking down and flipping it open I saw a message form Jeff. I raised an eyebrow. Opening it a smile spread on my face and the bad thoughts seemed to seep away. There, on the tiny flip phone screen, was a picture of Jeff and my mum. Jeff, tall with copper hair like me and mum and brown eyes like dad, with his arm around our much shorter (and rounder) mother, her own copper hair cropped short at her shoulders and the green-grey eyes I shared with her. They were smiling and holding a little hand written sign simply saying: 'Love you!'
I let my head drop back again, this time with a smile as I put the still open phone against my chest. My eyes slid shut and, for now, everything was alright.
Chapter 3: Blink and You'll miss It
Content and soothed by the talk with my brother and the photo he sent me I opened my eyes and pushed up from the couch. A glance out the window to the icy winds outside made me pause for a moment. I turned and leant to the side to see through the door into the kitchen and to the clock in there. 3:42 pm. I looked back out the window, then to the couch I just stood from. I checked my phones clock. The same.
Hmm, I tucked my towel a little tighter. I must have taken longer in the shower and talking to Jeff then I thought. Shifting my weight I decided that now would probably be a good time to put some clothes on. Heading into my room for said clothes I never noticed the missing movies on the floor.
I felt refreshed. Having spoken with my brother grounded me, made the whole glowing thing seem like a distant obstacle: I could see it there, on the horizon, but it was just a speck and not anything I needed to worry about just now. And thinking about it I was kind of upset that I hadn't demanded my brother come with me, maybe then I could- I could what? I shook my head. I just think it would be nice if he was here and I could grab onto his shirt like I did when I was small and afraid of the dark.
"What in the world…?"
I strode into my room, my thoughts cut off and hands fisting into my towel, my still damp hair falling a little in my frowning face. I first checked around the other side of the bed, then under it. In the cupboards and chest of drawers and then around the bed again. My bag was gone. I hadn't bothered to unpack it when I arrived earlier this week and had left it open on the floor. But now it's wasn't there, wasn't anywhere! I looked down at my mostly naked self, and yep, that feels like dread settling into my chest.
I went back to the bathroom in search of the pyjamas I had left there and, thankfully, they were still in their pile in the corner. Without anything else I put the over large blue t-shirt and shorts back on, putting my necklace back on as an afterthought.
That’s when I notice something else.
There, in the mirror, is me. It's nothing new, I would be concerned if I saw someone else there. It might as well have been someone else. In a rush I had my face pushed close to the mirror. No… I close my eyes tight then look again. Nonononononononono. This isn't happening, not again. I stare into the eyes of my reflection in the mirror, trying to make sense of the blue in my pupils. The glowing blue. Just like my chest.
I back up from the mirror, and frown at myself. Then as calmly as possible I walk out of the bathroom, down the hall, and into my grandparents bathroom. Their mirror showed the same thing. I pushed a hand through my damp hair and let out a noise I don't even know how to describe. I went back and forth between the mirrors for a while, falsely hoping each time that I will see myself in the mirror and not those glowing eyes.
It's like the light from my chest has seeped up through my throat and now shines bright and strong from behind my lashes. Ok Marie, calm down, get a hold of yourself! I took a few steadying breaths. So I now have laser eyes. That’s fine. Maybe? Laser eyes and my stuff is missing. I glance at my room. Maybe someone broke in while I was having a shower and stole it? But why would they take my stuff. And oh my god what if someone was in my grandparents' house?! What if they were still there? I tensed and scanned the rooms I could see from the bathroom. Nothing was missing that I could tell and I could practically hear myself screaming that looking for suspected burglars was not in any way a good idea.
I swept through the house, slow and cautious, but with each room I grew more confidant that no one would jump out at me. But with each room I also grew more confused. No one was there. I stood in my room and just looked, my bag wasn't there, the room was clean, it looked like an ordinarily would if I wasn't here. Something is going on here, I know it! Maybe I should call Nanna and Poppa? Nodding to myself I gathered up my phone from the clean made bed, another thing that's wrong, and punched their speed dial. As soon as the ringing stopped the words flew from my mouth.
"Nanna! Nanna something weird is going on, I can't find my clothes, and I think someone was in the house and I don't know what to do."
There was silence on the other end.
"nanna? Are yo-" a series of beeps was what broke through my words. I was so rushed that I hadn't noticed it.
For a second I thought I had gone to voicemail, but no, I would have heard the automated voice, I held the beeping phone to my ear while I tried to figure it out when I realised what had happened.
"She hung up on me." I pulled my head away like I was burned and held the phone like it was a poisonous snake.
Nanna always picks up when I call.
I tried calling Poppa, only to get the same again, and this time I realised that they hung up before they had even answered the phone.
My mind was turning. What was going on? My stuff was gone, the room wrong, and now neither nanna and poppa will pick up their phones when they said they would! I sucked in a breath, then another, and another until I must have been hyperventilating as the world spun around me and black spots hovered at the corner of my sight. My vision cleared and I was leaning against the wall of the hall, a photo frame digging into the back of my shoulder. I grunted, pushing away and glaring at the frame as if it was all its fault.
Something was wrong though and I couldn’t put my finger on it, my glare turned into a stare which turned into a frown. I looked closer at the picture, Poppa was leaning over the back of an empty chair smiling at the camera and streamers and party decorations behind him. Unable to find anything obviously wrong with the photo I looked at the other familiar pictures decorating the hall. The more I looked that feeling of something being no quite right just grew and grew until I had to step back from the wall and take in the whole thing. My glowing eyes flickered from photo to photo, trying to catch something from the corner of my eye.
My eyes flickered, never focusing on one single frame for too long and like an optical illusion I saw something, an extra person in a few of the photos. Me! Sharp glowing blue pupils snapped to the photo of my grandfather and the chair and like an after image I could see myself, young and small, sitting in the chair until I slowly faded away. A quick flick of my eyes at the other photos and in the awkward empty spaces of some I could see myself but they faded fast.
What was going on? What happened to the photos? I jolted away from the wall and back into the lounge room. It didn't occur to me that maybe sitting down would help my shaking legs so I just stood in the middle of the room and starred at nothing. In my head I went over what I knew: my bag and all my stuff was gone, my grandparents weren't picking up and all the photos of me in the hall suddenly didn't have me in them? Nothing clicked into place and all my thoughts just sort of swirled around and around, trying to find ground. My shaking legs gave way and I stumbled and tried to catch myself on the TV cabinet, my feet kicking some of the movies I told myself I would put away. Blearily I noticed there seemed to be less than I remembered by since it didn't really matter I brushed it off as my memory playing up on me.
"Ok-ok calm down. I just-just have to figure-figure this out. I mean there has to be an explanation. Right? Right. So glowy bits and missing things and oh god who am I trying to fool I got no clue what's going on. I mean someone could have broken in and stole my stuff and changed all the photos but that doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s a joke? But I don’t know anyone here. But what if…"
I muttered and started pacing, trying to reason with myself but really what was I doing? I shivered as I started to notice a chill in the house but I couldn't be bothered to do anything about it. I glanced out the window, the sun was setting and I could see clouds over the trees in the distance. The day had gone by far faster than I expected but that was probably because of all the crazy things that have been going on. I could feel a headache coming on so I forced myself to slow down, forced the crazy ideas in my head to stop whirling. I'll get a drink of water, and I'll relax, because everything is gonna be fine. Even thinking that made my head pound.
The glass of water didn't help much but the big leather jacket I took from Poppa's chair and track pants I grabbed from their closet and put on over my pyjamas helped warm me up, and that helped me relax. I went back to the kitchen, steadfastly ignoring whatever you could call the situation I was in, to grab a snack as well, although my stomach turned at the thought of everything except dry biscuits. I was still hungry, having not eaten anything since breakfast, but I didn't think I could eat much else so I just went back to the lounge room, sat down, and stared out the window.
Unlike last time my thoughts didn't turn. I just sat there. What was I to do anyway? All evidence of me being here at all was gone. How was someone supposed to process that? But I still had hope, if hope was the right word, because Nanna and Poppa should be back soon anyway and they would know what to do, Nanna always knows what to do.
So that’s how I spent the next hour or so, just sitting and waiting, until I say the car headlights from the window and heard the car doors. I was just getting up when I remembered the whole glowing eye problem and that staled me enough that I heard my grandparents enter the house, talking to each other about their day. Until they weren't. I was jolted to movement by their silence, and was walking towards the hall to get to them when Poppa spoke.
"We didn't leave any cups out when we left did we dear?" his voice was cautious and wary, not something I often heard from my soft spoken grandfather.
"No. I made sure to clean up." Nanna's voice was the same but there was something about it, something I couldn't put my finger on that made me stand up a little straighter and jitter back a step.
There was movement in the kitchen for a moment, before I say Nanna come to the door to the hall. I was frozen where I stood, just staring. I was about to call out to her and welcome her home when suddenly she was screaming and I was stumbling and words became garbled in the air.
"Steven! Steven call the police! There's someone in the house!"
The words were like putting cotton in my head. My greeting became molasses in my mouth. My jittering became a stumble but there was nowhere to go this side of the house, just my room, the bathroom and the lounge room. I never thought I would feel cornered here but as I saw my grandfather speaking hurriedly into the phone as my grandmother fumbled around for her husband's golf club fight or flight kicked in. flight was my only option.
I could hear Nanna yelling 'get out! Get out!' again and again. A few other choice words were thrown out there but they flew right over my head as I scrambled towards them and my only chance of escape from this nightmare. My grandparents were old and couldn't move in time as I made a dash for the kitchen, having to push them away to get past. Nanna swung the club and I was lucky it only nicked me on the shoulder as I stumbled towards the door. I could see it was mostly dark outside now, the last threads of sunlight being blocked by the mountain range my grandparents lived on, but that didn't stop me as I burst out into the snow. I had to stop myself from jumping back inside as my bare feet slipped along the frozen ground but the screams still filtering from inside had me moving onward.
There wasn't anywhere that my confused mind could conjure to go so I would up stumbling to the shed, almost falling over the car to get there. My feet were freezing and my hair was everywhere and my head was a mess as my fingers fumbled with the door. It took me a second to remember that the door slid to the side before I fell in, just barely avoiding falling into Poppas old bike.
I didn’t get up. Or close the door. Just shuffle back against the wall and listened to the murmur coming from the house and the soft sound of sirens in the distance. I was shaking with cold and my head was a mess and all I could think to do in the moment was put my head on my knees and try and warm up my frozen toes.
Chapter 4: The Road Less Travelled
When the sirens started getting louder I knew I had to act. Things were crazy and I didn't even think I could form a sentence, let alone get up and move.
Lifting my head, I looked at the open shed door, the soft yellow glow from the house spilling in. All those fuzzy thoughts had turned to needles the moment Nanna had yelled and I could have sworn I heard my heart shatter, glowing or not. Of all the confusion one thing was standing out.
What was going on?
My things? Gone. Photos? Non-existent. And now Nanna and Poppa don't even recognise me. I uncurled from the wall and stared down at my toes as if they would answer my questions. They did not. Squeezing my eyes shut, I rubbed my eyes with the heel of my hand. Ok, relax Marie, there has to be an explanation. Things like this don't just happen for no reason. I didn't think about how things like this just didn't happen, period.
I need to-need to go…somewhere. Somewhere that's not here. I looked back outside, peeking around the shed door at the house. Through the window I could see Nanna pacing, her mouth moving like she is talking. My gut clenched. She looks so worried, and I couldn't lie that most of my heart wanted to go up to her and smooth the lines on her forehead and say "it's me! It's your granddaughter, Marie. Nanna look at me! See me!" But after the mess I had just gotten out of I somewhat realised that wasn't really possible.
I backed away from the door, sighing and scrubbing my hands through my hair, bumping into the old motor bike and fumbling to stop it from falling over and causing a racket. Leaning against the bike I tried to think of what to do now. Going back was out of the question, and I didn't know enough about the town my grandparents lived in to know if there was somewhere I could go. I had no money, and almost no clothes. Looking down at my cold toes, wiggling them a little to get some blood flow, and no shoes. I frowned at my feet and looked around the small shed, I was sure there were a few old pairs of gumboots lying around in here. They wouldn't stop the cold but they'll keep my feet dry. It took a little rooting around to find a pair and they were too big but the sirens that were getting a little too loud for comfort made me forge on.
With my feet now covered, I shot to the door, ready to make a run for whatever I could when a thought struck me, made me freeze as guilt and desperation warred in me. I turned my head to look at Poppas old bike, partly covered in a dusty tarp. I grit my teeth, could I do this, steal the bike? One last glance towards my grandparents' house, hearing the wailing just around the corner. Yes. Yes I could.
I shot out of the shed with far less grace then I wanted. The bike was old and not made for snow and ice but it would do. I stuck out my leg and hopped along as I slipped around the corner onto the road, begging the bike not to fall. I made the turn and twisted the throttle, tapping my foot to shift the gear. I went far faster than was probably legal and managed to catch myself from slipping on ice so much that my legs were starting to hurt. I drove through the town my grandparents lived in, Revelstoke, and tried to make sense of the dark streets. It was only when I realised I was heading out of town and could no longer hear the sirens that I slowed to a much safer speed. I was glad for my helmet, a little large like everything else, but warm and the visor kept the cold night wind from burning my eyes.
I was glad now that I had chosen to take the bike, now that it was running it was warm and would stop me from freezing. I slowed the bike a little more so I wouldn't be caught by more ice and prayed it wouldn't start snowing before I found a place to stop. I would need all my concentration now to stay on the road, so I won't be able to think about the crazy nightmare world I have managed to fall into. Not to mention I don't even have my license yet!
A quick glance at a passing road sign told me I was on the Trans-Canada Highway, not that that meant much to me. I was reminded that I was in another country and that I had no clue where I was going. All I knew was that I was in Canada, that was it, that was the scope of my knowledge. I slowed the bike so I could take a turn, my eyes squinting to take in the road through the bikes old headlight. I was so focused on making sure I didn't fall on the ice that I didn't even notice the car coming from the other way. Fast. And right at me. The loud honking had me yanking at the handlebars, accidentally pulling the throttle and being jerked to the side just in time for the car to slip past me and disappear around the corner. My breath came in ragged gasps and I could feel my heart trying to break out of my ribs as I death-gripped the brakes and skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the road, thanking any god listening that the road was mostly flat.
I just stared ahead, my mind blank for one beautiful moment, then there was rage, pure and inexplicable anger that had me screaming profanities at the stupid driver that almost hit me, at the cold, at my grandparents. I slammed my hands again and again into the handlebars. Tears were hot as they dripped down my face as I screamed at nothing. But my anger was short lived, and I was left sobbing over the fuel tank of the bike. My shoulders were heavy and felt as if the world had settled upon them, the weight of what had happened crashing into my, tipped over by that stupid car.
What was I doing? On some stupid old bike, on a stupid road in the middle of some stupid country. I sucked in a shuddering breath. Everything was insane, like I was stuck in some god forsaken movie or something, but things like that just didn't happen! Did they? I don't know. I don't know anything. What do I know? Well everything was crazy of course! I hiccupped another sob at that thought. I'm on a bike, and the police are maybe still behind me? Because my grandparents….my grandparents didn't recognise me. I sat up and looked around, sniffling and shoving my cold hands up my helmet to scrub away the tears. Deep breath.
I'm on the left side of a road, and I need somewhere to get out of the cold. I spun and looked back the way I came. Only darkness there. Could I go back though? Maybe if I saw Nanna and Poppa again, they would recognise me? Was it because I was wearing Poppa's coat? Looking down at the coat, I could almost imagine the smell of grease and cologne that clung to my grandfather through the helmet. I sighed wetly and pulled the jacket further around me, huddling into it and the bike for more warmth. I looked up at the road ahead, highlighted by the headlight, then back to the darkness. Going back, I risk the same heartache as before. And police, police are bad. Going forwards, I don't know how far until shelter, but no police. And… and if this was all just a misunderstanding Nanna and Poppa will tell the police or something that I'm missing and I can wait, I can just wait somewhere for them to come get me. Yeah. I can do that. Just a mistake and wait for them in the next town.
My resolve found, I turned the bike back to the road, a flash of spite for the driver that almost hit me. I mean what an idiot! Driving on the wrong side… of the… road…oh. It didn't really do anything to look at the road but I did. These people are so weird, driving on the wrong side of the road. I scowled at myself but pushed the bike a little further so I was on the right side, before pulling the clutch in to start moving again.
It had started snowing again. Never before have I hated snow as much as I do right now. Not that I saw snow all that often, in fact it was only on my trips to visit my grandparents that I saw snow at all. But it still doesn't describe my hate for the fluffy white lies. I needed to get rid of the build-up of snow on my helmet, but I was also a little scared to take my hand of the bike. I shook my head in hopes of clearing my vision, but that only made me swerve dangerously and squeal very unattractively. While the wind wasn't very strong, it cut straight through me and I could hardly feel my fingers.
I squinted at the road ahead, trying to make out something, anything, through the heavy snow and dark. Nothing. Only the tail lights of another car that had passed me. They probably thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy! What kind of person rides a motorbike through the mountains in the dark while it was snowing? I tried to sigh, but it just ended up in a shiver, so I made the executive decision to turn off at the next rest stop so I could just curl around the bikes engine and warm up a little.
So I ploughed through the demon snow, hating every second, wanting to turn around and go home before refuting myself and starting the cycle again. It probably wasn't healthy but right now I just didn't care.
When I finally did find somewhere to pull over, it was a little road that curved away from the highway after a bend and wound up do disappear around a slope, away from the sight of the main road. I stopped just at the exit, a flash of caution stopping me, but I brushed it aside, it was probably just a service road like back home. I revved the bike a little more than necessary and jolted forward. I was just going to see if there was somewhere protected a little from the snow as I rounded the bend. There wasn't. I didn't mind much, just pulled off to the side, close to rising side of the mountain, and proceeded to try and uncurl my hands from the handlebar.
My muscles were sore and tight, I must have been clenching my fists on the bar. I stretched out the fingers of one hand slowly and pushed up the helmet's visor with the other hand. I blinked at the change from the tinted visor but continued to stare at my hands. They were a little pale. I flexed them to try and get some blood flow but I felt nothing. I scowled, bad ideas popping into my head, and decided to push them against the sides of the tank near the engine. The warmth burnt. I just curled over the main body of the bike and tried absorb as much heat as the idling engine could spare. It helped a little.
I stayed like that for a while, just relaxing and trying to think of nothing, head resting on the fuel tank of the old bike. Apparently though, I had been so good at not thinking of anything I didn't really notice the wind starting to pick up. When I pulled myself away from the heat I immediately got a face full of snow.
"Ugh! Dammit!" I sputtered and waved uselessly at the snow, slamming my visor back down. "Stupid freaking snow."
I glared around myself, the bike, at the road, the light a little further up, the mountains, and especially the snow. I hope all your snowflakes melt, I cursed it.
I stopped. Wait. My head snapped back to the road and followed up, as it lead away from the highway. A light. Light could mean a building, a building is warm! I pushed forward on the bike, foot slipping a little, and stopped. Should I? Is this a good idea? What if there are people in that building? How would they react? By this point however my body had moved on its own, enticed by the thought of somewhere warm and sheltered.
So I drove up the road, having to go slow and swipe snow from my vision. As I got further from the turn off and closer to the light something started nagging me. It's not quite right for a building, I thought, but I'm in Canada and maybe they have different buildings on their service roads? The closer I got the more I tried to reason away the odd look of the light, the way something seemed to glint, un-building-like around it. I swerved and turned up the road until I was there, right there, and I knew I couldn't reason away this.
I looked up. Up and up and up. I could see another light up there somewhere, it must have been much brighter than the one in front of me. A phone tower. A bloody freaking phone tower! I don't quite know why but I felt as if the tower had personally wronged me in some way. Anger boiled under my skin and I slammed quickly chilling hands down onto the handlebar. I screamed, I yelled and I swung my leg over to stomp towards the tower and kick it viciously with my little rubber boots.
Except I didn't get to the stomping part. In fact I barely got past getting off the bike. As soon as I lost contact with the bike my legs wobbled, I tried to tense, but that only caused me to topple sideways. I tried to catch myself but my legs felt weak, like they didn't even belong to me and I had these strange ghost limbs. My feet tangled and I went down.
Now I would have expected snow to be more soft. It wasn't. I fell through the thin layer that covered the salted slosh of road snow, and I could feel my bones vibrating with the impact. My head slammed back and my neck stretched in a way it probably shouldn't. after the impact however I wasn't so much in pain as I was just sore all over. And I think I might have whiplash. I lifted my head and immediately dropped it. I do have whiplash.
"I hate everything." I grumbled and growled at the world, at my grandparents, the police, the bike, Canada, everything. That is, until I started to feel damp. I had enough sense to know that damp and cold where two things that did not go well together. So I levered myself up out of the road slosh and proceeded to try and fit my legs back under me and make them work. I managed to get to an awkward crouch and hobble my way to my grandfather's bike, but from there I went black.
I needed to not be damp, and looking down at myself I could see salted road snow clinging to my pants and sliding down the leather of Grandpa's jacket. I tried to twist to see my back side but the helmet kept getting in the way and I wasn't quite sure removing it would be the best idea right now. I tried wiping away the snow on my track pants, jumping when wet cloth touched skin, and it seemed to work alight but the bottom half of me was still wet.
I seem to be scowling a lot lately, and I was scowling now, I wonder why? I gripped the bike and turned it back the way I had come, I couldn't see the highway, or even where I had stopped to warm up. The snow was coming faster and the wind was starting to cut at my bare hands. I wonder if the heat from riding the motorbike would evaporate the water in my pants or would it just warm it up. Settling back on the bike I looked back to curse the telephone tower one more time, but stopped. There was a break in the snow flurries, and through them and past the tower was dark. A big, dark hole. A big dark sheltered hole. With likely no wind. And dry. But also is a hole. A cave? I looked at the road again, weighing my options. Does Canada have big animals living in mountain caves? I looked back at the cave. The snow had picked up again and it was hard to make out. How far is the next town I wonder? Or the next stop? How cold and wet can someone get before they develop hypothermia. I look at my pale hands, eyes wide. How much does it take to get hypothermia? I, geeze, ok, I don't have hypothermia. Nope, don't have it. But… nope! Not happening!
Dragging the bike around, I make my decision and head to the cave mouth. I would be lying if I said passing under forming icicles wasn't a little ominous and the dark didn't scare me a little bit. But there wasn't any wind and as I went further in the less snow reached me. I stopped when I reached the ragged end. I kicked the stand down for the bike and decided to leave it running as I huddled next to it on the ground, wedging myself between the back wall of the cave and the bike. I pulled off my helmet and debated taking off my tracksuit pants as well (I still had my pyjama shorts on underneath) but decided against it and just tucked my legs into grandpa's jacked and pulled my arms in as well.
I wasn't going to fall asleep, that's bad right? Probably. So I'm not going to fall asleep. I rest my head on my knees and stare at the snow outside, the wind passing by almost blocking out the sound of the bike. I then drag my eyes around the cave before they land on the helmet. It's old and scuffed up one side from some accident or other. It might have been black once but it looks grey now, in the dark of the cave, the bikes headlight still on. I just stare at it for a while and remember when I was younger and grandpa still rode, pulling up to the house after work, sun glinting off the old helmet. Staring at it though, I slowing noticed my own reflection. Distorted and faded two glowing blue specks gleamed of the plastic. I turned away and went back to shivering and watching the falling snow.
Chapter 5: Hibernation Isolation
yes! new character! i'm sure you can figure out who it is?
It was bright.
Or there was bright.
Distance wasn't something they remembered. Spatial awareness was a distant thought.
But it was bright. A point in space that beckoned to them. As they looked towards it however it became brighter and they felt something.
Pain. They remembered pain. It tore at their being as the light shimmered around them, in them. Wrapped around their middle and pulled, tore, rippedrippedripped apart. Fading, fading, dark.
But it was bright now, inside them. Yes. The bright is inside. The eternal peace and calm of thousands more was falling away as substance returned to them.
Something was calling them. Something important to them.
And they would answer.
I had closed my eyes for a second but when I opened them I could have sworn it was darker. The wind was still howling and snow flurried into the entrance of the cave and I tried to get my bearings and remember what was going on. I huffed and put my face back down, my eyes heavier then I remember them ever being, and leant towards the bike. I was still cold. I frowned, and in the back of my mind I wondered if the expression would just get stuck on my face, and leant away from the bike to look at it.
The engine had stopped. The headlight was off.
I untucked myself, shivers wracking my body as I dragged myself up. It must have stalled or something. I mean it is really old. I press my hand to the engine. Luke warm. It must have been off for a while. That means I dozed off.
"Stupid Marie. I told you don't sleep." I knocked myself in the head with a numb hand, clenching fingers to try and regain some feeling.
Dragging myself up onto the bike I had to use two hands pull in the clutch and hold it awkwardly with my palm as I stomped down (rather feebly) on the kick start. The bike sputtered but stayed cold. The sudden movement made my stomach turn and I hunkered down in the bike, groaning as I swallowed thickly. I sucked in a deep breath, chest rattling as I stretched back up, determined to get the bike started once more. I pushed down again, the bike rumbled to life, light flickering and I sunk to the seat in relief.
Only for the bike to sputter a little more, whine, then go dead.
I let myself roll off the side of the bike and curl up next to the wall. The only good thing, I thought, was that my pants weren't as wet as I remember. I lay curled on my side and glared at the bike. It had betrayed me. I took it out of the shed where it was gathering dust and it betrayed me!
"Traitor." I mutter.
Another shiver wracks my body and I rub at my arms, scratching at the goosebumps I hadn't even noticed until now. To add to it all my stomach started growling and I thought about how I had missed dinner. My mouth watered at the thought of food but my stomach turned in protest, so I settled with chewing lightly on my necklace and holding my eyes open.
Laying there in the dark, cold and tired, I couldn't help but compare myself to those sad movies you see, the ones without happy endings. I remember watching one about these soldiers, though I don't remember the name, and these two brothers were just lying there dying, remembering their lives before where everything was simple. That's kind of how I feel right now. Well, not the dying part obviously, but…yeah.
Thinking now, home sounds nice. I tap the stone beneath me and wonder if this isn't all some really, really, vivid dream, if I'm not still lying curled up in bed, sun peeking through the curtains, Nanna and Poppa ambling about the house doing whatever it is old people do. And if it wasn't? (I brushed away all negative thoughts) then Nanna and Poppa will come to their senses and realise I'm missing, call the police and start a search party. I'll be back home before I know it. Just wait until I tell Jeff about this, he's sure to get a laugh out of it, probably tease me till kingdom come as well. I smiled at the thought of this all just blowing over, having my grandparents fuss over me like usual.
My face aches with my grin, so I tuck myself further into Poppa's jacket until I'm just a big ball of leather with feet. After that I just lay and think, try to stay awake on not bite my own tongue with my shivering. I didn't mean to, as time stretched on and it got harder and harder to keep my eyes open, but at some point everything was black and I must have shut them. And then I must have fallen asleep.
They were a him.
He was aware.
Aware of what? He couldn't quite describe. His own existence? His material substance within reality? He was in a half state that he couldn't describe and had never experienced. A dark peace hovered at the edges of his processors yet sharp needles of alertness pricked him.
He tried to bring some sort of order to his state. Trying to access his most recent memory banks was like trying to filter through a backlogged registry, meaningless data broiling around him as he tried to lock onto something. Eventually his banks were cleared and he found what he needed.
The memory stream flashed around him, driving and fighting and you wanna' piece of me?! You wanna' piece?! And then data corruption.
I want two pieces…
Pain. Stinging and burning along his sensory net, focussed around his waist. His legs. He has legs. He has legs? An automatic response would be for him to feel them, but he had no hands to feel, nor legs to touch. Has he?
He swum in this uncertainty for a while, in his strange monochrome twilight, debating his own existence. His thought snapped, no one would believe this! Me! Debating existence! They probably think I'm incapable of existential thought. But who is 'they'?
So he dove back into his memory banks, full of useless codes and files that felt like they took forever to sift through. Names scrolled past him, faces, frames. His sparksparkspark jolted in his chassis and for a klik it was almost like he had a body, limbs and all. It faded fast yet something clung. Not something he was familiar with, a signal of some sort, a weak transmission. It held no words or communication of any sort but it brought those needles of awareness closer and pushed the darkness back a little more.
Something flashed. A familiar sight. A diagnosis scan, progress and results flickered through his vision.
More and more went by. More and more information. His external and internal temperatures were the same. Unusual. And low, very low. He must be icing over at the least.
He still had no grasp of where he was, and his grasp on who he was was loose at best. He settled with simply waiting for now and let the diagnosis run, that same result showing again and again. Deactivated.
Until it didn't
There was a sound. I couldn't pinpoint where it was coming from, or what it was, but it was there. I forced my eyes open, unsure as to whether I had fallen asleep or not. I studied my surroundings; rock, wind, snow. Not what I want but I was accepting it. I tried to listen for the sound that had startled me. Nothing. The wind whistled and a hum echoed through the cave, as constant as the hiss of snow across stone.
Maybe it was nothing.
I rolled over lazily, my back to bike and the cold outside and pressed to the rock there. I rubbed at my arms and sides trying to regain some heat as I waited for the storm to stop. Logically I knew that the night and the storm can only last for so long but it felt like an eternity I had spent in the cold.
I couldn't feel my toes in their boots. I wiggled them but couldn't be sure if they moved or not. I wouldn't admit to myself that I was scared to take off my boots and check. That felt like giving up to me, and I do not give up. I stopped though. What would I be giving up on?
I buried my nose into Poppa's jacket and just inhaled. It almost smelt warm.
"I'm cold Poppa." I said to it.
"I want to go home."
My cheeks were warm and I wondered why. I was crying and there were tears on my fingers as I looked down at them. My shoulders didn't shake and my breath didn't hitch. It was a little anticlimactic really. In fact I didn't feel all that sad. Just tired. Tired and cold. But it can't be too long now surely, before someone finds me and I can go home.
The first thing that came to him was probably the biggest. He had a body. A spark in a chamber that powered his inner workings, a processor that calculated his thought streams, and engines that rumbled in protest. It took a moment, just taking it all in, he felt his fans invert, pumping warm air to heat his systems.
He had no sight however.
Nor was his sensory net online. It was like he was floating. His directional workings couldn't tell him which way was up, but it wasn't like that dark void he had been in before.
The longer he exist there, the more his memory banks seemed to recover. Whole files and entire streams slipping back into place in their proper folders, and with each one his sense of self grew stronger. All the while the thoughts of the peaceful dark slipped further away.
Until there was nothing.
Until there was jazz.
NO, I want TWO pieces!
Searing, burning pain! His whole frame jolted, the reboot stuttered to a stop (caution: full reboot unsuccessful). He heard a rumble, the feel of small stones bouncing off his armour brought snapped is sensory net online at last, but there was still so much still off. Half of his systems offline. Navigations, communications, transmissions, weapons. He would need to see a medic if he wanted to get those back online.
He let himself lay (because he was in fact laying down) and his systems settled. There was something covering him and a quick scan showed it was a human covering of some kind. Humans. Earth. The allspark.
You wanna piece of me?! You wanna piece?! NO, I want TWO pieces!
His memory of it was a little corrupted and scattered, but he still knew.
Designation Jazz had died.
The next time I had enough sense to think I wasn't even sure there was a difference between asleep and awake. I didn't know which was which and which one I was currently experiencing.
For a moment there was a groan, then everything shook. Or I just thought it shook. I tried to be startled when I heard the bike crash to the ground behind me but my body just wouldn't move that fast. Dust was kicked up, I squinted and rattled out a weak cough, shuffling around as I tried to sit up.
Then the rock moved. I tried to scream but the sound was a haggard squeak. What was happening? An earthquake? My back bumped against the wheel of the motorbike and I grunted as I fell in my odd sitting shuffle, my arms still tucked into my jacket. I couldn't quite coordinate them to put them through the sleeves and was contemplating just taking the damned thing off.
After the initial shake and my brilliant dodging of falling stones there was silence. Silence and stillness. Except that whirring. I looked blearily over to the cave mouth. Does snow make whirring noises, I wonder.
And then I started hallucinating.
I must be, I thought as I looked back towards the rock wall. It was quivering. And moving. Shifting slowly. Right now I had no thoughts other than that this was a very strange hallucination. There was fear of course, but I didn't quite feel the need to run away, even trying to shift my legs was too much work right now.
The stone was moving. Folding away like fabric, and as I watch it flutter and fold away I realised it was. And there was something underneath. I couldn't saw what it looked like, nor what colour it was. There was no way I could describe it through the dark or through my hazy thoughts. I should probably try to run. Was I safe where I was? What is it?
Then there was blue
Jazz wasn't sure what he was expecting. Having realised he had, in fact, been dead, kind of made all your expectations moot points.
He had let himself settle before pulling off the strange human covering. He had tried accessing their World Wide Web network but he wasn't able to. He would need that to be checked as well.
A little longer and his optics flickered to life and his visor lit blue. He scanned his environment. Still Earth then. He was surrounded by some sort of stone, he had no name for it. Turning his helm, ignoring the grind of dust in his gears, he looked towards what appeared to be the opening of the cave he was in. The side of the earth he was on was currently not facing the sun and these odd frozen flecks of water seemed to whirling around.
What a strange planet.
It took him some time to actually realise he was not alone in this little cave he had found himself in. He focused in on the creature just in time to see two glowing blue flecks shutter and a small fleshy body slide to the ground.
It was slumped beside one of their two wheeled vehicles, he hadn't bothered to learn about them, too focused with the sleek things humans called 'cars' as he searched for his alt. And it was very small. Jazz didn't have much to reference what with being unable to access the human network, but he had met those two humans before, Samuel and Mikaela, so that would have to do. If Jazz were to guess he would say this one was a female, and it was young, although he couldn't pinpoint an age. Again, he hadn't done as much research as he probably should have, seeing as he hadn't thought to be on the planet for as long he seems to have been.
Lifting a claw (primus he needed a new paint job) he gently nudged the she-human. It seemed to be asleep. Jazz wondered what it was doing here, as he had concluded that this had been his tomb. A quick scan however had him confused and a little concerned. Were humans supposed to have such a low temperature? A quick reference to his scans of Mikaela and Samuel showed that no, they were not.
Now Jazz wasn't fond, per say, of humans, but he didn't dislike them. He was mutual about them really. But he would be lying if he said he said he wasn't worried about the one in front of him. He nudged it again in hopes that it would wake up and be able to tell him what was wrong with it but the she-human didn't move. In reference, its breathing was much too shallow and its core temperature was far too low. Of course Jazz had realised at that point that humans do not have very good heat regulation.
The cave they were in was too low for him to even sit up, so Jazz conceded with rolling onto his side, pinching up the strange cloth that had covered him, and proceeded to awkwardly wrap it around the human before he gently pushed the little thing closer to his chassis and the warm air he was pumping through his systems.
So Jazz stayed where he was and wondered what it took to kill a human as small as the thing huddled under his claws.
He wondered how he would feel if it died.
Chapter 6: Waking Up In Dreams
next chapter! jazz is just the most fun to write.
Waking up that morning was strange. I woke up exhausted and my bed felt like concrete. I groaned as a flicker of sun shot through my blinds, rolling over and tugging my blanket over my head. My blanket felt awful too. I heard some muffled rumbling and my brow crinkled, must be a car outside, I thought. All in all, I was having a very bad morning.
It only got worse when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
Eyes still shut, I grumbled a "Go 'way Na." and tucked further towards the warm spot on my bed and curling against the wall.
It took a while for me to realise my bed at my grandparents' house sat in the middle of the room, and I couldn't touch the walls from either side. Confused, I cracked my eyes open. It was harder than expected to keep them open, burning with how tired I was. I gazed at the underside of my blanket, the dull and mottled grey-brown being the first marker that something just wasn't right with the bed I was currently in. Clenching sleep-weak fingers into it, I also realised this was not my blanket at all. Rubbing my eyes with the heel of my palm to try and wake myself up a little, I studied the blanket some more. What is that?
Sitting up a little in hopes of getting a better look, I studied the blanket in the sunlight. Is that canvas? I wonder as I push myself up more, the not-blanket falling my shoulders and letting a sudden rush of cold wrap around me.
"Oh sweet baby Jesus!" I yelp and jump a little, all my inexplicably sore muscles protesting.
A little more awake now I looked around. The realisation of what had happened hit me, in the same moment I realised I was not curled up in my bed, or next to a cave wall, but something big and metal and warm. Pivoting towards the sunlight, I stare in astonishment at the 3 segmented beams of metal caging me in, one more like them folded up above me. All four connected to some sort of large piece of machinery that I traced, growing more apprehensive and fearful as I eventually came to a stop meeting a glowing blue panel.
It stared, I swear it stared, down at me. My mind ran blank and instinct kicked in. I froze. I didn't keep trying to see it, I didn't try to run. I had always been taught that when faced with a predator you never, ever run, running makes you prey. Oh god what do I do?
My entire world was crumbling down to the now. The emotions from last night were washing everything else away, and leaving me with only this moment to live because I wasn't strong enough to deal with that right now. Heck, I was barely strong enough to stay sitting up like I am right now, and as such my arms faltered and I fell to my elbows. My sudden movement made the thing jolt, another large…thing shifting closer. I flinched. It stopped.
Then, God, then it spoke.
"You a'right there lil' thang?"
I shouldn't have answered, I was stupid and oh my god it just spoke! How do you even respond to that?!
"NO~!" the word trailed and I shuffled back a little because it was going to kill me now. I should have just stayed quiet! Stupid stupid stupid! And then, just to make myself look even worse, my shoulders gave out, dropping my head painfully to the ground.
I hissed and groaned, hands gripping my skull, tired and now in pain with some crazy machine monster right there. There was a flurry of sound above me and suddenly I felt myself being propped up, warm points holding up my back and one more gently touching at my head. My eyes widened and I slowly looked up at the screen on what I can only presume was this thing's face. It was closer now and the blue glow of the screen was pulsing softly. I dragged in ragged, stressed breaths, and just held still, and one of those warm metal bars continued to pet my hair softly (which, by the way, was really, really weird).
"'Ey now, calm down there lil' thang! I 'aint gonna hurt ya"
I tried to slow my breathing, take deep breaths, Marie. Staring up at the speaking machine, I tried to think of something, anything. It doesn't have to be an escape plan, I think to myself, just some sort of appropriate response. But how does someone respond to giant robots patting your head?
"Tha's right. No more worryin' about an' hurtin' yerself. I'm not so sure how ya' humans work, I only met two of ya to be honest, but from what I seen ya pretty fragile lil' thangs." it said, tilting it's massive head and seemed to focus entirely on me.
I wasn't dead. That was a bonus, I thought, looking up at the thing. My pausing had let me think for a moment and as it spoke it made me think more. It said it didn't want to hurt me, and maybe that caused me to relax just a little bit. Bit still…talking robot.
I flinched again as the thing patting my head moved away, and as I watched I decided they were claws, the claws slowed but still lowered to pick up the not-blanket that had been abandoned in the stress of giant talking robot and held it out to me.
"As I said, I ain't so good with humans, and I don't know much about ya, but I'm pretty sure ya don't do cold well."
I stared up at the blue, then down to the canvas not-blanket. I hadn't even noticed the chill creeping up on me, cold air breezing in from the cave mouth. Keeping my eyes on the machine I reached out for the not-blanket and wrapped it around myself. I was surprised when the thing suddenly seemed to perk up, that blue screen thing brightening, and a strange hum coming from its…chest? It seemed proud with itself anyway.
The large grey robot almost vibrated and I worried for a minute as to why.
"No' a problem lil' thang!" it chirped, which was odd seeing as it's voice was fairly low.
I turned my stare to the canvas and debated with myself for a moment, flicking my eyes over my shoulder to the snow built up outside. I continued to push away all my current problems and turned my full attention, sort of, to the thing before me and mumbled out my name carefully. If I was going to have to deal with this then I was not going to be a 'little thing'.
"Whatcha' say lil' thang? Ri? What's a Ri? Some human thing?"
The constant wondering on human things was a little disconcerting but, "My name. It's Marie."
"I see! Well then lil' Marie, it's nice to meet ya. I'm designation Jazz."
I grumbled at the addition in front of my name but I wasn't going to argue with a robot that was more than four times my size. I had to stop for a minute however, the name it called itself striking a cord of recognition somewhere in my mind. Frowning I studied the machine, Jazz, a little closer, taking in the faded grey paint, the heavy weld marks around its middle, the blue of the screen (a visor maybe?). Finally my eyes came to rest on the small, worn, scratched paint of a red symbol on what I could only presume was its chest.
I knew that symbol.
I sucked in a deep breath but it was like I couldn't get enough air. Eyes bulging and breathing fast I tried to explain this away, a joke, an elaborate hoax, SOMETHING! I could faintly hear a voice buzzing around me but it was too late. I was gone.
Jazz had really thought that things were going well. That is, after the little she human had stopped falling over herself. Marie, Jazz reminded himself, the human had said her designation was Marie. He tilted his head curiously at the human, it must have glitched.
"Ah, come on now, an' you just got out of stasis too." he grumbled
He fumbled with the human for a moment, still holding her up. He wasn't so sure as to what to do with her. He could just leave her on the ground but he really did want to get up and move and he wasn't so sure leaving the little thing here by herself was the best idea. So, scooping Marie up in his digits Jazz proceeded to fold and wriggle his way out of the little cave tomb. The noise he made doing so wasn't the best either, a loud crunch that Jazz was sure shouldn't be happening sounded, so logically he chose to stubbornly ignore it.
Now standing outside he scanned his location. It was mountainous and tall organic structures grew all around, everything was covered in a layer of the frozen water flakes and looking down he found his pedes buried in the stuff. Lifting them to get a closer look he saw also clods of damp earth clinging to him.
"Aw scrap! That is so gross! Ew ew ew!" Jazz tried to move away from the disgusting organic muck, raising his glitched human a little higher into the air, but found that the more he tried to hop away the more the substance seemed to get on him.
Settling now closer to the tall organic pillars that he had no name for he vented his intakes. This was the worst! Not only was most of his systems down, he had no way of getting information on all of these earth…things! Engines grumbling unhappily he turned his processors back to the human, Marie. Jazz had seen glitches before, was well acquainted with them actually, and knew how to deal with them. In a cybertronian that is. Was it the same for humans, he wondered?
"Maybe I should put ya down?"
Scouting around for a decent place Jazz decided to just put her by the cave opening. A quick swipe with his claws cleared away the white stuff to reveal stone.
"There! Now I jus' need to wait for ya' processors to fix 'emselves up an' ya'll be righ'." gazing down at the human in his shadow he pondered for a moment, then turned to look up at the star this planet orbited, then back at the she human.
Jazz stepped to the left.
Little Marie now sat propped against the stone wall, wrapped in the cloth covering and bathed in sunlight. Jazz nodded to himself. He had done a good job looking after this human! They needed sunlight right? Sunlight was good for organic things?
With his human recovering from her glitch in the sun, Jazz decide now would be an excellent time to try and determine his location and investigate his surroundings.
When I finally jolted out of my faint my first thought was that I really needed to stay awake longer. My second thought was that I was insane. I was in some deep-set hallucination where my childhood cartoons have come to life in the form of giant robots.
I blinked slowly at all the white surrounding me. Snow? I was leaning just outside the cave, wrapped in the not-blanket. Was I right? Was it just some nut job dream? My eyes darted around, trying to catch a glimpse of grey metal. There was nothing. I stood slowly, as if going too fast would lead to a barrelling mass of metal to come rushing from the trees. My hope that I was going insane instead of the alternate was crushed a little by the large imprints in the snow, large flecks of mud scattered all over.
I clenched my hands in the mottled canvas and tried to work this out. How was this possible? I mean the likelihood of 'Jazz' actually existing was literally zero! Of anything like that existing! They were cartoons! For a moment I felt like I was in some B rated movie, one of those weird 'lost in space' ones, except this wasn't space. I was lost in my own life. Thoughts flickering back to two days ago and the throbbing I had felt in my chest.
Reaching up I unzipped Poppa's jacket and pulled down my pyjama shirt (oh man I was still in my pyjamas too) to look at my chest. It was still there, only it looked a little duller, and was it me or was the skin on my chest a shade darker? Reaching up to touch my cheeks, I wondered if the glow was still in my eyes too. Probably.
Grumbling and cursing and maybe a little hysterical I paced, knees shaky and a headache sneaking up my neck. Not to mention it felt like my stomach was eating itself.
"'Ey, no, woah! Calm down lil' thang! An' I really thought we were gettin' 'long." I very nearly tumbled my way into the questionable safety of the cave if I hadn't suddenly transformed into a deer in a speeding cars headlights.
I was a statue as I stared up at the blue visor of the massive freaking robot. If this was real, and just seeing 'Jazz' again is tipping my thoughts, then nothing could ever prepare me for how big giant robots actually are. Like this thing could step on me like a bug and would hardly even notice! I took deep breaths to try and steady myself because this was happening and oh dear lord.
"-ang? Marie? Please, don't glitch again."
That's right, yes, robot.
Luckily the robot picked up the slack. "Ya 'right now lil' thang? Not that I don't like ya but I really should be findin' my way back to tha' others ya know? Or probably ya don't know but an'way. But I hate to leave ya if ya can't get by."
This was far too much and far too weird and far too soon. The concept of "Others?" was really the only thing I got from that. 'Others' implied-
"Yeah. Ya don't need to worry 'bout them though lil' thang. I mean, Prime will get a shockin' an' Hatchet will pop a bearin' no doubt but ya don't need to be fussin' 'bout them. Lil' thang?"
No. nononono, I don't accept this. My thoughts tilted back to full rebellion of this happening.
"Oh god, oh god, this isn't real, it can't be real. This is some, some crazy joke and you're not real-"
"And I'm dreaming. Any moment I'll wake up back home, and everything will be fine." I paced, dragging fingers through hair and only getting more frustrated by the knots because it had been left loose throughout this whole ordeal. I kept pulling though, the pain grounding me.
I happened to glance back towards the cave however. And hitched to a stop. A human mind can only take so much strain, so much information, before it just snaps under the pressure. I might have been laughing. I'm not sure. It was like all this weight on my shoulders, well it didn't disappear, it was like it had pulled away from my holding strings and proceeded to just spin and spin and spin. I was dizzy and nauseous and anxious, my palms were sweaty and I was just laughing and babbling because this in front of me was the straw that broke the Marie shaped camel's back.
"Poppa?" I whimpered, wavering and wet.
Poppa's bike, more of those memories about the bike flashed, his bike was destroyed. In turn that was what destroyed me.
I just screamed, screamed and raved and tumbled to the mangled bike. Hovering about it, I was too scared that if I touched it, it would fall apart. Fall apart like my entire world was.
"Ah, tha' was what tha' sound was. I'm real sorry 'bout tha' lil' thang, I didn' mean ta-"
"SHUT UP! Just shut up! This is-this is all your fault! YOUR FAULT!" I was furious. Enraged and upset and maybe a little insane with confusion and conflicting thoughts.
"Now tha's hardly fair-"
"FIRST the freaking light bulb in my chest! Then the eyes!"
"I wasn' gonna say nothin' but-"
"and YOU!" I spun on the machine. At this point I had no rational thought, only hysteria. "I-I could accept one, one is a fluke, a crazy coincidence. But then you had to say there were others! Freaking OTHERS! 'Prime', you said. 'Ratchet' you said. What next? Are you gonna tell me I'm in some crazy alternate world?! That this isn't some crazy dream?! That there are such things as Decepticons as well? Huh?! HUH?!"
I could barely see through my own tears and my throat was hoarse. I hiccupped and sucked in short cut breaths. I tried to look at the robot, at 'Jazz', but it hurt and I didn't know why. So I didn't look at him. I just shudder and turned to wander back to Poppa's bike, the mangled mess that it was, and crouched next to it and wrapping my arms around myself like I was trying to block out the world (I was).
"I neva' called him 'Ratchet'." it's voice wasn't the same as it had been. There was something wrong and that made me tense.
"I think, human, you had betta' explain from tha beginning."