Engage 4.09

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I can’t do it. We

Can. Have. To.

The door needs to be blocked from both sides. Even if we could hold it shut, one of us would be stuck out there, unshielded. 

I can.

I don’t know how much more the walls can take.

I can, hold, the outside.

. . .

Whiny. You’ll be in it. Alone.

I can, hold. It.

Shady, you’ll have to hold the inside.

And you. Will.

I’ll hold the walls.

Whiny rolled free of the tangle of limbs where he and Shady had gotten tossed during the last attack. Shady sat up and leaned against the wall, head falling back against the smooth surface with a thunk. Whiny raised his head to exchange looks with the others, and Shady reached out to give his shoulder a squeeze.

Any reason, wait?

Dread?

Better to be ready than late. You sure?

Whiny dropped his head without reply, letting the weight pull him to the side as he fell more than rolled through the doorway, kicking himself the rest of the way across the threshold. Shady slid across on his knees, stopped with one hand on the door. Whiny pulled his legs close to his chest so the door could close, squeezing into the corner where the hall ended, and looked over a shoulder at Shady. Whiny nodded, once.

Shady pushed the door shut, and slumped to lean against it, feeling the returning pressure as Whiny settled against the other side. Shady let the door become a reality for himself, muting the connection he felt with Whiny. He looked up just as Fuzzy

Shattered, exploding into a cloud of millions of shimmering motes, dancing in dazzling diffraction, iridescent effervescence in loose humanoid form that

Scattered, whirling and whipping into every corner of the room, rippling across Shady’s skin like a thousands roiling sparks each stinging and igniting a more intense awareness of Fuzzy, fleeting and fierce, filling the space with furious flickers that

Cohered into a body the size and shape to which Shady was accustomed to seeing Fuzzy, except obscured by a sparkling, shifting shroud that was as much a part of the body as Shady’s own ever present gloom was a part of himself, a scintillating shape that

Shattered in something like an implosion of blinding brilliance which left Shady without any sense of Fuzzy at all, and when he could see again he was alone in the small room at the end of the hall, and the tremors were starting again. Shady braced himself in the corner.

The thundering rush shook once more, but the door held, keeping the room clear of all but the most minute crimson glow at the edges. Shady focused on blocking out what Whiny was feeling, an active choice he had never made. Shady couldn’t escape the very physical pounding as the aether light tested the door at his back, and testing his resolve as a choking sob sounded from somewhere behind him.

The pounding against the door stopped as the light at the edges faded, retreating again, and even through the door Shady could feel Whiny’s agony. In an attempt to distract himself, he began banging his head against the door at his back, concentrating on the sensation at the point of impact, until at the edge of his awareness he began to notice what Fuzz was doing, in the little bursts of iridescence accompanied each little shift in the structure. 

By tracking the dazzling discharge Shady started to discern where Fuzzy was re-arranging the cavern, if not the how of it, collapsing unused space and overlong halls and re-distributing their own aether in thicker tendons throughout the walls, tremors and the subsequent surges fading into the background of his awareness as he tried to follow what was happening to the substrate around him, too much happening all at the same time, strings of shifting, divided and connecting rooms stretching across the vacuum like tendrils weaving over and under each other, cross supporting the new plating covering the exterior, layer over layer, little strands of liquid light binding layers in places, thicker strands connecting joints where adjacent plates met, until a final plate sealed the shell and the tremors were no longer accompanied by the thundering against the other side of the door.

A fractal frost crept across the walls of the small room until it covered every centimeter of the surface. The crystalline coating shattered, dispersed as dazzling dust that cavorted, contracted then consolidated into Fuzzy’s standard form. Fuzzy turned and reached down to help Shady to his feet, and together they pulled open the door. At there feet lay a body, withered and emaciated, wedged into the corner so that his compact, curled bones held the door closed. Shady stumbled to a knee as his sense of Whiny returned in punishing intensity with just the echo of what the other had endured.

Another tremor shook, and all three flinched, waiting, but no toxic tide was forthcoming. After a long moment, Shady looked to Fuzz, and inclined his head toward their immobile third.

Remember that power injection thing you did in the hall.

I mean, I remember it happening. Not sure what I did.

Could we try again?

Shady placed ah and on Whiny’s shoulder, and Fuzzy knelt to place his hand over top. For a moment nothing happened, then Fuzzy’s hand sparkled and shone as the clean light from the well of their depths poured through the two hands into the form curled on the floor. Fuzzy’s head snapped back as the lingering agony seeped back through the connection, but didn’t remove his hand until the shine faded from his skin, and he slumped onto the floor beside the others.

Whiny lifted his head, and Shady help him reposition himself in a more upright fashion, legs not quite straightened but back rested against the wall. The trio sat silent until another tremor came and went without the accompanying flood of fury. Shady stood, and Fuzzy followed his example, the two then reaching down to hoist Whiny by the arms and hold him suspended between them, head sagging down to almost rest his chin against his chest. Shady looked over his bent neck at Fuzzy.

Ah, I was going to suggest we return to the pool, but, ah.

Yeah, things got moved around a bit. Hold on.

Right. About that?

Wait. . . Ok, got it.

Shady noticed something like a high pitched buzzing that sounded like it was coming behind his eyeballs and Whiny shivered as Fuzzy gave a quick nod. Fuzz leaned the group away from the door to the small room, making space to swing the door shut, which he did, pausing for a short moment as felt the buzzing again like an itch under his fingernails. Then Fuzzy opened the door and stepped forward.

Shady felt Whiny clutch tighter at his arm as he crossed the threshold and when Shady crossed a half-moment later he felt his stomach fall and lurch in at least four different directions before his foot touched down in the remodeled version of the pool-cave. The glowing water was now in the exact center of the space with shelves circling the round room with breaks for the three equidistant circular doorways, through one of which they had entered. The top of the shelves extended deeper than their interior would lead one to expect before meeting the lattice covered wall, reflecting back the light of the pool in the thousands of silvered tacks.

Huh.

I know, right?

You’ll explain this later, yeah?

Best I can.

That’ll do.

Kid opened his eyes to find himself deposited face first on the floor of the parking garage, looking under the car as two feet appeared on the other side of the vehicle, followed by the sounds of a door slamming shut, and the crunching gravel of weighty steps which stopped not far from where Kid’s head rested, and his whole body flinched, grinding his face against the loose rocks.

A more gravelly than the heavy footsteps growled one short sentence, then the footsteps recommenced in the direction that lead back to the door, and the stairway back to the world that had in no way prepared him for this moment, or any of the moments in his short life. A boy could get resentful of the world, if he dwelt overlong on that reality.

Come on, guys. This isn’t where we want to be.

Kid struggled to his feet, collapsing against the hood of the car when his left leg failed to support his weight. He started to pull his pants back up over bruised hips, winced, and leaned against the car as shaking fingers unbuckled his belt, unfastened the button, widening the open to ease the cloth over the tender flesh. Rather than resecuring the fastenings, Kid just held his pants in place with one hand clutched at the front and began dragging his dead leg across the empty parking garage.

Where DO we want to be?

Home, Whiny?

Wash?

Yeah. Got it. The bathroom off Market?

Yeah.

Kid trudged up the stairs, peeked down the alley before creeping out to the sidewalk. A block and a half later Kid staggered around a corner, his left leg still not cooperating, and slumped against the brick wall as he leaned over another keypad above another door handle. This coffee shop had outdoor access to their bathroom, the code always set to a numerical representation of the date of the month and the year, a convenient utility for those who lived without the luxury of indoor plumbing.

Kid punched the four digits and stumbled into the bathroom, turning to bolt the door behind him. The motion activated lights, as though reluctant to be pressed into service after hours, winked into dim luminescence. Shuffling over to the sink, Kid looked at himself in the mirror for a long moment, pulling the collar of his shirt to examine the already discolored bruising creeping up his neck.

Kid spun the knob to the left of the faucet, flicking a look at the reflection of the bolted door in the mirror. Ginger, with a wince as he bent over, Kid lowered his pants, and stepped out of crumpled cloth, taking a stuttering breath. Wincing again, and sharper, now, Kid peeled his underwear away, leaving smears down his leg as he pulled off the discolored drawers. Leaving the stained briefs on the floor, Kid limped over to the running sink, shoving his pants away with a foot.

Kid stood in front of the sink, reaching a timid hand out to test the water, and snapping it back from the heat. He took a longer look at himself in the mirror, and then extended his hand out to hold it beneath the steaming downpour, not breaking eye contact with his reflected self. Cupping a hand Kid reached around to splash the water against his torn and battered skin, washing the amalgam of blood, shit, and semen down his leg to puddle at his feet on the bathroom floor. 

Cup, splash. Cup, splash. Cup, splash.

Kid took a peek and grabbed some paper towels, shoving a fistful under the faucet, and then trying a few gentle swipes, flinching the first time he brushed the raw skin, then staring in the mirror and wiping again, slow and deliberate. Three silent handfuls of towels later, tears twisting knotted patterns down his cheeks, Kid lifted a foot, wiped it clean and stepped clear of the swirled pool on the floor, then raising and cleansing the second.

Kid leaned, and then slumped against the wall, dropping down until his torn flesh touched the cold floor, twisting to collapse onto his side, dragging his pants across the floor to fish his phone out of his pocket. His thumb flung the screen to life.

8:43p Twitch: wher u at

8:52p Twitch: wtf

8:56p Twitch: u ok

Kid dropped the phone to his side, and curled on the smooth floor, pulling his knees closer to his chin.

Can we talk about…

NO.

I meant

I don’t want talk about it, ever. Fuck.

Why did we ever work on remembering shit? Do we have any forgetting tricks?

Not that, Whiny. We don’t have to talk about that. But, ah, about what he said? And just, um, here. With us.

“Not half ath good ath y’ur bitch thithter.”

Sister.

The flicker was quicker, now, and the image produced was clear and strong: the eyes, green eyes like his own, floating above the water.

After a while the motion sensitive lights blinked off, leaving a small child curled in a darkness that was familiar, if not comfortable.

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