More AU stuff.
I've a lot of old story ideas scattered across my hard drive. This is a draft of one I came across again today. I suppose it's a bit like the TV show 'Once Upon a Time', that my niece and cousins all love now. Although I started this a while ago, but this chapter is as I wrote even though I had a whole plot lined out. Anyway, Disney didn't invent the idea of transplanting characters like that, so I'll present it anyway. Maybe I'll carry it on sometime.Back To Reality
The hand reached up to the black and purple sky, as if trying to catch and hold on to it. But it was so far out of reach, and as much as you willed wouldn't come any closer. The hand crumbled, becoming dust, and the sky faded.
Then, the title music played again.
Outside the screen, a young fair haired woman sighed in disappointment, before glancing up at the clock… almost one a m… she supposed it was just as well.
With a few clicks she exited the game and shut down the computer. Once she had, she became aware of how eerily quiet it was in the little bungalow all by herself. There were times when she missed all the noise and bustle and constant activity of her old foster home. But she never missed anything else. She knew things were better now, even if it was lonely sometimes.
She'd thought about getting a pet for company. But she was out too much to look after a dog, and did she really want to become an old woman with lived with a bunch of cats? Anything smaller would have to be kept in a cage… for some reason, she'd always felt what seemed like a sickly allergic reaction to even the thought of keeping any living creature like that. She knew it was silly.
She went to the window, drawing back the curtain slightly. It was a clear night, with all the stars and constellations and other galaxies winking down on her, beckoning… but all so very far away.
Moments later she went to the bathroom and washed and undressed. She lay in her bed, turned on the lamp, and read a page from a book of thoughts:'Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.'
She wondered if she would have the same dream, again. She said goodnight to the toy raccoon sat opposite her, and went to sleep.
The next day started almost exactly the same as the day before, and every day. She got up, washed and dressed and brushed her hair, turned on the television to listen to the news while she made herself breakfast.
Nothing much happening in Irongate. Someone had stolen an antique telescope from the museum, and there was a circus in town, apparently. She'd never liked the circus, or clowns. Clowns were just anti-comedy; they sucked all the humour right out of everything. She really didn't like clowns.
After breakfast, she threw some scraps out for the birds and left the house wearing a plaid skirt and blue coat and scarf, stopping at the store on her way to the bus stop. She was the only customer, and the clerk was on his cell phone, again. At the counter, he gestured for her to wait, and she did.
She waited and she waited, then she looked at her watch. If she waited much longer, she would miss it. There was no sign that the clerks conversation would be ending any time soon, and she thought about just leaving. But now she was at the counter she felt committed to buying these things; sandwiches, milkshake, and a book of crosswords.
"No way? Really?" The young man, probably in his late teens, chuckled. "She didn't?"
Apparently, 'she' did. The fair haired woman was starting to fidget and shuffle on her feet. She knew the boy probably didn't want to work here, and maybe he was just saving up for college or something else, and he had to deal with complaints all the time from people who expected him to love his unrewarding minimum wage job… but she had her own unrewarding job to get to, and the time was fast approaching when she would have to either leave or say something. Both choices seemed rude, and difficult.
"Okay… gotta go," he hung up, finally. He looked across the counter at her, sucking in a breath to ask how he could help, presumably… but then the Imperial March started playing. "Oh… hold on a second," he pressed the answer button and turned away again. "Yeah?"
The young woman was about to give up, but then another customer came in, or rather, pushed. "'Scuse me," he said, not really giving her much choice as he forced his way to the counter. "You mind? I'm really in a hurry…"
"I-I," the faired woman gasped, then lowered her head. "No… i-it's fine…"
The man ignored her anyway, pushing the bell several times. "Hey!"
The boy looked at him, then said, "I'll call you back in a minute," he hung up again and leant on the counter. "Yes, sir. How can I help?"
The man bought a paper and cigarettes, before the woman was finally able to pay for her goods as well.
"Sorry I kept you waiting," the boy grinned.
"I-it's okay," the blonde smiled sweetly, "I could… tell you were busy."
She had to run to catch the bus, which she did just in time. She sat at the back, next to the seat with the stain (no one ever wanted to sit on the stain), staring out the window as it went through the town and out the other side, into the woods. There was a flock of doves that burst through the canopy, then disappeared into the horizon. She fell back, starting to dream of what it would be like to fly with them, then pinching herself to stay awake.
"Airhart," the professor said when she arrived in the university. "You're on time, for once."
She curtseyed. "Y-yes sir… sorry, sir. I-I mean… not sorry for being on time, obviously… I-I…"
"Just… start going through last night's data. Okay?"
There were pages and scrolls of graphs and numbers. She spent the morning going through them, looking for patterns or anything that had changed. There was nothing. It was all the same as it had been the day before, and every day.
Evening came. She sat in the bus shelter, waiting. She had decided to borrow some books from the library, since she'd read all the ones at home several times. A horror and a detective novel, a book on astronomy, and one on ornithology. She needed some more hobbies to help pass the days, and to get out and about more, and, who knew, she might actually meet someone… she rested her head against the glass, dreaming again. She knew she was dreaming…
The sleepy blonde jumped and squeaked. She blinked several times, bringing the real world into focus. There was another woman, late teens to early twenties. About the same age as her, but with short red hair and a scar over her right eye brow, dressed in biker leathers. The wide eyed blonde wondered how this woman got that scar… a fight, maybe? And what did she want with her?
"Relax," the redhead said, sitting next to her. "I ain't that scary looking. I know, I know; you're on your own, a girl in leather with on her face starts talking to you, you might start making assumptions… but really; I'm not bad," she said with a child-like grin that seemed to mask the scar for a second. "Vivacious, maybe, but not bad."
The fair haired woman sat up straight. Although startled at first, she saw the smile, and, although perhaps equally irrational, she really didn't feel threatened. "I-I'm sorry," she sighed, "it was rude of me…"
"Look at you; all thin and blonde and pretty… and good mannered. That could all be really provocative to some people, but… like I said, I ain't bad."
"There… just isn't usually anyone else here, at this time."
Silence followed. The blonde leant over her books, while the redhead drummed her fingers and puffed her cheeks, slowly blowing. "So, er… nice night?" The redhead said at last.
"Yes," the blonde agreed.
"Kinda quiet, though."
"I… I-I like it. It's peaceful."
"Right. So… what's your name?"
"Um… A-arla. Arla Airhart."
"Imogen Winthorpe… pleased to meet ya."
Arla tentatively shook her hand. The bus seemed late. And then more drumming, and puffing, and Imogen making a few popping noises with her cheeks… then the redhead suddenly jumped up in her seat.
"Okay; that's enough small talk," she said, "the thing is, kiddo, two whole universes are gonna be destroyed unless you remember who you really are then help me put everything back in the reality it belongs to."
The blonde nodded, slowly. She'd often yearned for her life to be more interesting, but she wasn't sure she was quite ready for this. "T-that's a… bold way to start a conversation with someone you've just met."
"Yeah, well… there's no way of telling how much time is left. Do you," Imogen reached out to touch the blonde, but then seemed to think better of it. "Do you really not remember anything?"
"I'm sorry. I-I don't know what you're talking about. How do you think the whole universe will be destroyed?"
"Oh… two," Arla smiled and nodded patiently. Where was that bus? "Sorry."
"Energy can never be created or destroyed, right? It only changes its form."
"So the total amount of energy and stuff in the universe is always the same. But, see… we got sent here, from our reality, but nothing went back the other way. So now, there's this imbalance, and the two universes are tugging on each other, trying to fix it. But if they don't stop… everything will just be ripped apart."
"And… h-how do you know all this?"
"Because you told me. You just don't remember."
"So… w-why is it that you do?"
"I don't know," Imogen fell forward, resting her arms in her lap. "I didn't at first, but then it all started coming back. Maybe 'cos my father's Bhaal… I don't know."
"Baal? A-as in the god of Ekron… Baal Zebub?" That bus was really, really late.
"No; different god entirely."
"Well… t-that's a relief, I suppose."
"No. Listen, I… I remember my life. I-I remember my school, the other children, my parents, before they disappeared, my foster home… i-it's over twenty years of memories. But, I-I don't remember ever talking to a god, o-or even a demi-god, about the end of the world. A-and I think that's the kind of thing I would remember."
"Your memories aren't real. I mean… they are in a sense; this reality was changed when we arrived. But we really don't belong here. We need to go back to our own reality, or everything will unravel."
"It's very hard to accept. I'm sorry, but… m-maybe you should see a doctor? Just to check there's nothing wrong with you…"
The redhead threw her hands up. "I don't need a doctor, Aerie. I need you. Just try to remember… you used to be a healer."
"I… my name's Arla. I'm a physicist, here at the university. So, trust me; the universe won't rip apart. A-at least, not anytime soon… probably…"
"Did you ever think about being one? A doctor, I mean."
Arla answered with a shy, nervous smile. "I'm… really not much of a people person…"
"Well… have you ever thought you were different to other people? Like maybe you saw the world in a different way to them?"
"Yes. All the time," the blonde nodded. "I-it's… just paranoia. Everyone gets it, e-especially when they're young."
"What about wishing you could spread your wings and fly away?"
"I-it's... hardly an original metaphor, is it? E-everyone wants to escape the world, sometimes. But instead... w-we've just got to stay and somehow deal with it," Arla reached out, smiling and putting a hand on the redhead's shoulder. "O-Okay?"
Imogen snorted, but smiled back, nodding. "Yeah. You're right."
The blonde turned her head at the low hum of an engine. "This is my bus," she sighed, gathering up her things as it pulled in. "I-I'm sorry I… I can't help you. But please, think about what I said?"
The blonde nodded assuredly as she climbed on board. And then she was gone.
Imogen, or Imoen as was her proper name, remained seated a moment, before she stood and started off determinedly into the cool, quiet night. There had to be a way to make her remember… why was she the only one? At least, so far.
Yo-yo's were good. She found it relaxing to watch the shiny pink plastic bauble spin up and down on a piece of string. There were lots things about this world that she liked… and some things she didn't. But none of it changed the fact that she had to go back, or both worlds would cease to exist; there was really just no question of right thing to do was. But she needed help… needed others to remember. Maybe she needed to think back and figure out what it was that had made her remember…
She froze. Whether it was her demigoddess senses, or just woman's intuition, she knew someone was watching her… just about a houses length behind. She slowly turned on her heel. It was a thin old man holding a cane, in a dark suit and a red scarf. Impeccably groomed, probably very expensive. He looked at her with cold, grey eyes, and she looked back. Did he know her? She didn't recognise him, from either of her lives… not until he spoke. And then she shivered.
"So," he said, "the child of bhaal has awoken…"
There was a jailer… a dwarf, slumped drowsily over a table littered with steel tankards. Crying and screaming from one of the nearby cells caused him to stir, squeezing his temples as he lifted his head.
"Shuddup!" He cried back into the murky shadows beyond the bars. But the crying continued. "Ye know what'll happen if ye don't," he stood and turned, hurling a tankard at the cell. As unlikely as it was, it slipped through the bars and clattered on the unseen wall. "Shuddup!"
There was a rustling and fluttering from within as well, then a moment's silence. Then a long, pained scream, and more crying.
The dwarf growled in frustration, taking his club. "Thassit… I did warn ye…"
He turned from the cell, back toward the stairs that led up from here. A dirty, half-elven girl with one eye stood at the bottom, holding a basket.
"Wassat?" He asked.
"She won't be worth anything if we don't feed her, me lord," the girl bowed, "none of 'em will."
"Aye," he nodded, squeezing his nose. "Ye… ye can talk to 'er, right? Make 'er stop 'er hollering? It's… given me a headache."
"I'll try, me lord."
"Get on with ye, then!" The dwarf stood aside and urged the girl down the corridor.
It was dark inside. She knelt down in front of the cell, picking up a small piece of bread from her basket and holding it out between the bars.
"C'mon," she beckoned, "you've gotta eat."
The rustling of chains being dragged across the stone floor, and then a small, pale face appeared. Another girl, elven, fair haired and blue eyed, but also dirty. She crawled forward on all floors, out of the shadows, the long white feathery wings on her back slowly and gently beating as she took the bread.
The servant girl smiled. "Listen," she said, "you've gotta stop making so much noise. They'll only hurt you again."
The winged girl spat. "I don't care!"
The half-elf looked toward the dwarf, drowning himself in drink, again. "They'll… hurt me too," she explained, "I said I'd get you to stop."
The fair haired girl tilted, then lowered her head, her eyes watering. "All… alright," she said, "I'll try to be quiet."
"Thank you. I… I know you're scared. And probably confused. I'll help as much as I can."
"Why… why am I here? I… I did nothing wrong," the winged elf sobbed, but quietly.
The first girl smiled sympathetically. "I know. None of us did."
"I just… I just want to go home…"
The winged girl fell forward, leaning on the bars as her chest and shoulders heaved. "Will I… will I ever see momma again?"
"I don't know." It was an honest answer, if not the most comforting one.
"What is this place?"
"This place? It's… it's a place where people go to be forgotten. They'll try to make you forget… who you were, where you came from… your momma. Everything about your old life. But… you've got to remember. It's important. You've got to stay strong and don't ever let them make you forget who you were… Aerie…"
Arla awoke, falling… but then she was sat upright in her bed.
It was just a dream. That red haired young woman had put ideas in her head. It was just a dream.