So, Jade chased off General with a long string of legal babble that made no sense. I mean fled with his cape between his legs and a “Very well, good citizens. I’ll leave you to your mess.”
It might have been the increasingly dirty thoughts which were extra awkward to be around. I liked the threat implying he’d lose his ability to work. That whole money for existing was why heroes pissed me off, they earned money in the same way football stars did. Big names, marketable faces, willingness to do commercials all padded pocket books. I mean, no one threw money at me for smiling. They threw it at me to stay out of their way, like I was a homeless person being bribed to sleep somewhere else
I couldn’t get over the idea that people were being told to simply avoid me and let whatever happened, happen. How goddamn weird could life get?
“When did things change?” I asked.
Jade’s glance trailed around the crowd while her mouth hung open slightly. She ran a tongue along her top lip slowly. The woman blinked a few times as the necklace glowed red again.
“What?” The woman took a deep distracting breath.
“Jade? The No-go thing?”
She lowered her head and blinked slowly. “Two weeks ago. We got it pushed through after god knows how long. After years of lawsuits, fighting against a useless bureaucracy, and comparing your existence to some of the bigger names, we managed to make real progress!” Her words started out slow then sped up in excitement..
Jade stared at the scene across from us. You might have guessed by now that this woman only had room in her brain for two thoughts at a time. One of them was arguing with people and winning, the other should be obvious.
I stared at the camera floating around. It did laps over the crater. Near its edge a man sat with his eyebrows scrunched tightly. He pressed one hand against the ground then strained his facial muscles. Asphalt, dirt, and water started shifting around.
“God with those arms he could really work. Do you think he would do my garden?” Jade asked me without looking up. She wore that same predictor smile where her eyes narrowed in heavy thought.
If a major factor of my life had changed, then by god it mattered. I mean, this story is all about me, right?
“He seems like a nice man. Just ask him if he wants to till your garden, after you explain this no-go thing. I should probably know more about that.” Someone had mentioned it recently, but time from the dimensional hotel stay was still blurry.
“In short it means that they will work around you to minimize problems. The no-go list does not require them to stand down if you’re aggressive towards a licensed person. All card carrying members are required to minimize risk to everyone but you. Which is why a few good men-” she started to trail off then sighed. Her necklaced flared brightly then Jade stopped to pull out a scarf. “Anyway, this lets us avoid about a billion lawsuits. You might actually start making money!”
I bobbed my head and tried to sort out how this made me feel. The designation might help but at the same time sounded like another twist on the ‘anything that could go wrong will go wrong’ aspect to my life. Would my power then start dropping me into hero’s front rooms? Would they claim aggression before kicking me in the nuts? This whole reporter thing might actually work well together but something was bound to happen.
Jade wrapped herself tightly and the fabric covered up about a dozen miles of attractive curves. She put on fake glasses that were clunky. Both made it easier to look at her and not think about other activities. Other people stopped looking over here, until the pair of us could blend in with another other disaster survives. I even looked like a scrawny refugee.
“You realize you’re going to be sued for letting so much scrap metal get away, right?” Jade asked.
The shift it topic made my head tilt abruptly. An eyebrow raised. “What?”
“A company called Dirtiquette makes their living in underground lifeform cleanup, and breaks down the metal for sales. You just made them drive off, so no cleanup.”
“Those mole people did run quickly from my mighty Herald of Failure powers.” And I was damned proud of it. I still am.
“That’s a stupid title. That’s a really, really stupid one. I mean, I’ve seen some stupid names-” she went on a tirade.
“I get it. I’ll find a better one.”
Jade glanced over and crossed her arms tightly. She looked cold, but I had no shirt to offer. I rubbed at my chest with a free hand. The awkwardness of it all went right over my head at the time. Torn or missing clothes were common.
“If you’re really going to be part of the powered world, then you’ll need a real name. Make sure you ask ahead of time so we can clear the legalities.” She sniffed then tapped one foot.
“You know I’d never do anything without permission,” I said while place a hand to my chest.
Jade laughed at my dumb commentary. She was the only one who had recently. I appreciated that more than anything else.
“You better think quickly. They wanted a name on the no-go listing for some stupid reason and kept shoving garbage at me. I told them you said no to Kidnap Victim Number One was out. Along with Royal Fuck Up, Hostage, and Disaster.”
“Those names do all sound like shit,” I said seriously.
The curvy woman kept huffing. Her forehead slopped forward while lips pursed together. She kept eying the future garden plower across the screen as he worked. His arms bulged with muscle. I looked at my own scrawny limbs then sighed. No girl in their right mind would want this frame, assuming they could survive our first date.
“It’s hard isn’t it? Finding someone worth spending time with?” Jade asked. Clearly the Asian had picked up on my thoughts.
“For me. You’ve probably had a lot more luck than I have.”
“I guess,” Jade muttered.
“What about that blonde guy, or the girl, or whatever that was?” I reminded her of the awkwardly stalking threesome plans she had subjected me to. That was just before the whole Wonderland nonsense.
Jade actually paused then moaned quietly. “God she was something. Whew.”
The woman patted her chest than took a deep breath and shivered happily. “Thanks, I needed a happy thought.”
“So all these people are just going let me be?” I turned our conversation away from relationship issues.
“Some. To repeat in case you were snoring, licensed people are required to minimize damage but not attempt to engage. That’s how the no-go concept works. Basically it’s for anyone in a league of their own. Your power, which has repeatedly increased in severity when a direct threat is presented, might be uncontrollable if it ever mutates.”
“Joy.” I closed my eyes. That specific condition she was talking about, a direct threat, is how the bad thing happened. The one from a long time ago that isn’t worth mention. You might ask ‘well what happened that’s so bad?’, to which I’ll categorically respond ‘it’s none of your fucking business, shut up’ without explanation.
Jade knew though. We had been through it once. There were events no one in their right mind went twice.
“Anyway, today’s crisis is averted. We best keep you moving, New York’s been trying to pass the same laws Texas has and I’d rather not give them fuel to overturn my victory.” She pointed towards a spot near the police tape being set up. A bored looking man in a cab stood reading his newspaper. “I’ve got a driver ready to take you to this Alice girl.”
“I thought you didn’t know where she was?” I asked. Jade’s message from a few hours ago had implied cluelessness.
“I know a guy and now I owe him a flavor.” She smiled. “So you pick up this girl but do be careful. The background check hasn’t cleared, and I’m not sure it’s wise for you to be around anyone. By the same token I’m not going to stop you.”
My mind went in slow circles. The idea of meeting The Alice, or her real life counterpart, made my knees unsteady and stomach lurch. My eyes kept blinking as the thought of running like a scared baby hit me. Rapidly behind it was the promise of trying to stand up to events that I used to lay down for. I had done so well with the mole people but it wasn’t easy to apply that same desire for improvement towards girls.
I mean, women are scarier than mole people, by a lot. But she actually wanted me. Maybe a little too much and being needed was so strange that it caused my thoughts to stumble then halt. That idea of being outright desired meant something. Alice had cared enough to find me in a matter of days and travel god knows how far. Even if it was only to confirm she wasn’t insane and that The Alice was real.
Jade kept talking while handing me a shirt and new pair of pants. They must have been hiding in her purse. It was hard to notice what she carried when all that cleavage sat on display. Her bag had lots of objects in it and was comically huge now that I had no distractions.
“Then there are those ideas in that noggin of yours. You haven’t felt this positive about anything in years. It’s almost terrifying to feel repressed hope coming from you,” Jade’s voice turned softer and lighter.
“Sorry,” I shook my head and clamped down on the budding thoughts. No one in their right mind read my thoughts or memories if they could help it. Jade was one of the few who could handle being this close without going mad.
I think she just canceled out the visions of destruction by imagining wanton sex. She might be wired that way. Asking for her background felt inappropriate and I hadn’t shared a lot of my life either. Jade knew every news report and all stuff after we met, but how I had come home and found myself abandoned stayed a private tale.
The short woman pitched my ass and I yelped. My depressive thoughts vanished under confusion. Jade coughed then said, “As I said, legally I can’t stop you.”
“The no-go thing,” I tried to think of happier times in my childhood. Those first few days of high school and watching a football game were both oddly nostalgic. Jade brightened while I rubbed the sore spot.
“I have a license too, and if I don’t adhere to the powers laws then the government can pull my bar accreditation. I like my job, so – I won’t tell you no. Legally I can only advise you that being in this town and having anyone with you is a disaster waiting to happen.” She gave a shaky smile.
“I get it. I know you repeat this stuff before sometimes I don’t hear the first time-” or sometimes people are firing lasers in the background while I’m trying to make a call “but thank you. I don’t have very many people who are willing to stick with me. Even if I tried to bribe them with a paycheck.”
Jade smiled briefly then started walking. Her eyes hadn’t held a hint of predatory expression when staring at me. That bothered me for only a moment, but I believed that friendship had more value than sexual attraction. I still do.
“So after you meet her, then your other friends are a few miles away. Which, for anyone else I would call coincidental, but this is New York, and you’re you. I’m having a few people look at these files he sent, but if they’re even remotely accurate then you can make the trip without interruption.”
“Less talking, more marching. We’ve got things to do.”
Did she, or Ted, have a handle on the timeframe between my powers activating? That felt pretty farfetched. My ability wasn’t that predictable on any scale. Still, Jade hadn’t steered me wrong. In fact she was one of the few people that stuck around me for more than a year without incident. It helped that our relationship existed primarily over the phone.
She kept taking shallow breaths while gazing at people all around. Her eyes ran up and down one man’s form and the smallest hint of pictures skated through. Jade’s powers were a bit worse in person, but at least this way I could tell if she really was engaging in the act, or simply vividly day dreaming.
Every time the jewel went dim I got a new kamasutra position involving passerby’s. The lifelike sensations made looking around impossible and walking awkward. Jade’s imagination was quite intense. Her ability all but forced any thought in the woman’s mind to be projected to people within a close radius. It just also happened to project through phone lines easily enough. Why? Because space science super power magic mumbo jumbo.
“What about you?” I eyed the necklace that kept sputtering in and out.
“I’ll be okay. The car has a backup that will last me until the office or home. Just in case, we’ll be going separately.” She finally gave me an up and down look then stopped. “The last thing I need to do is add hours, and hours, and hours of raunchy sex to our relationship.”
My mouth hung open for a moment as her powers kicked in and the imaginary vision overwhelmed me. In her fantasy I lay flat on a bed. Both arms struggled and the feeling of fuzzy handcuffs barely registered. Jade’s body arced above and it bobbed slowly. Each up and down motion tingled strongly making me grunt repeatedly. Rivers of sweat pooled as she slowly ground her pelvis against mine.
The woman’s mouth hung open as a pant escaped. A deep groan built as her body curved even more. Jade’s hips started shaking rapidly and my eyes rolled as the rest of her tensed up in preparation. Toes curled as my hips drove up in response, then the imagery was gone and I was left staring at Jade’s dreamy smile. It left me feeling like a teen waking from an intense dream.
“Jesus,” I said.
The intensity of that one snapshot left me almost breathless. My hands were reaching out but stopped just short of grabbing a fully clothed woman in an entirely too personal manner. Here I’d just decided that friendship meant more than sex and she blasted me with that. For a moment I wondered if it might be the risk to chase that sudden fantasy down. Jade Heartland’s necklace brightened and she shook off the daydream.
“Sorry Adam. We couldn’t possibly work out. You’re a bit scrawny for my tastes, and I like being your lawyer. It’s provided a lot of opportunities. Even if you were in my strike zone, sleeping together would royally fuck our-” she drifted for a moment “-relationship in every single way possible.”
Her eyes fluttered briefly and knees wobbled. I coughed, swallowed then looked away until the moment ended. Images of being chased by a knife wielding woman flashed through instead but didn’t help. My head felt confused and pants tighter than expected.
She whimpered briefly as the moment ended. Jade asked, “Do you believe in fate?” like nothing had happened.
I shook my head.
“I do, and maybe this is meant to be. Maybe this Alice girl and the job from Ted have been moving along their own paths in life to finally give you something to look forward to.” Her smile was wider but barely reached her cheeks. “I hope so. But in case your life does it’s normal didoes, breakfast is in the cab.”
I didn’t respond but did take a few steps back. Jade didn’t need to hear my thoughts on the matter. They were simple enough and generally consisted of all the ways this could go wrong. Pessimism was a choice and I needed to be more positive despite the shit storm involving my life.
I mean, the giant holes in the ground inside the police lines were a prime example of how useless positivity was. Goo from the mole men still sizzled. People were inspecting damaged cars and building fronts. The powered guy with bulging forearms across the way worked his restorative magic but it would take days to undo all this nonsense.
Jade took a deep breath and I managed to banish the spiral of fatalism. She was distracting, and the curves filled out her top nicely even with the extra layers of clothing. The woman wasn’t really my type either but each glance helped my mood. I tried not to be too obvious as we walked to the crowds edge. Police officers pushed people back, and the one who had driven me out earlier scowled at me.
“God, I hate going into the field. Okay, enough of this,” she said then took a distractingly heavy breath. “I’ve got to go, now. Call me if you need me.” Jade bit her lip then pushed off through the throng past the police barricades.
The poor woman; she probably didn’t want to have her combination of powers and mental proclivities any more than I wanted mine. Both of us suffered from an inability to simple turn our extras off and balance life. Jade would probably feel a lot better in public if she didn’t need to wear a neural dampener, or didn’t constantly think about sex, or at least had some other ability besides thought projection.
Mine put me through one series of problems after another. Disaster might have been a good hero name, since it described my life. Maybe if I had actually graduated high school without one insane complication after another I could have figured out an alternate name.
I got into the waiting vehicle. The cab driver drove as he was paid to. I hung low in the seat while glancing out the window for impending nonsense at every streetlight and corner sign. When it became obvious that life wasn’t going to shit on me, I switched clothes and used the old pants to scrub at spots. I managed clean up and survive thirty minutes without incident until the driver turned to shout at me.
He rattled off words that barely registered. My mind kept getting distracted by Jade’s intense imagination and mild fear over meeting The Alice in real life, or just regular Alice on this side of fantasy land. She sounded lost and scared on the phone. I felt the same way, so what good would we do each other?
The place in question was a large station. There were four platforms for trains. I think I had been here once during a Flash Dance presentation. They were actually decent people and hadn’t tried to burn down the place around me.
At least I had a shirt. It even had a nice collar and buttons down the front. Jade’s gift made me seem like a decent person. People gave glances and sniffed awkwardly as I passed so rest of me must look like hell. I wandered toward a bathroom to wash myself off some more.
I got inside then proceeded to spend a few minutes scrubbing at myself. People came, judged with glares at my back, then left. Their opinions only made me worry even more. Skin turned pink under pressure. Nails were chewed off then badly smoothed out. I kept rubbing at my face trying to reduce the black bags of exhaustion.
A sharp noise eeped behind me. The bathroom stall walls rattled and someone banged against the wall. Two sharp thuds followed along with the sound of a toilet lid slamming. I looked up and prayed this wasn’t the start of another round of madness.
“Are you okay?” I asked the unknown person.
The person sniffed again. I rubbed at my freshly cleaned face then signed. There were a million ways it could play out and I hoped to remain semi presentable for the first time I met The Alice in real life. At least that way I tried.
“Did you need help? Toilet paper? Do you need me to call the police?” I rolled my eyes at the idea then tried to stay positive. Maybe it was a supermodel that ran inside after a fresh breakup who needed consoling. You heard me, I thought it. I never claimed to be a smart man. That gut reaction briefly forgot that The Alice was ready to murder someone over a song. Real life Alice, if this was Alice, might be equally mad.
“No,” a clearly female voice said. There was a soft shy tone to the words. That wavering tone reminded me of the girl on the voicemail. This might not be an axe murderer or supermodel. It might be a person in between.
You guys heard it earlier, right? Jade had said ‘this is New York, and you’re you’. That was true and still remains true or else I wouldn’t be telling this story. My life existed as one long series of improbabilities overwhelming common sense. So, I took a shot in the dark.
“Alice?” I whispered towards the sobbing voice on the other side.
“Sometimes. But go away,” she whispered. Our nearly empty stall carried the sound wildly. The tone felt familiar. The lack of outright denial helped. I stepped closer and risked knocking on the stall door. If it was The Alice, or Alice sometimes, then this was going to get weird quickly.
“My name is Adam,” I said then took a slow breath. “I just want to make sure you’re okay. I heard the crashing.”
The other person sniffled. The more I listened, the more obvious their feminine snorts became. You wouldn’t think that sobbing men and women sound differently and sometimes they don’t. This clearly was a girl. It’s all in the nasal after tone. Try listening to a few hundred people on their worst days of their lives and then tell me everyone sounds the same.
Maybe she just stood out. I tried hard not to sound desperate but couldn’t keep my arms from shaking. Soreness from this morning’s long haul made me uneasy. Ab muscles gave sharp pains. The wounds of my back were barely covered by bandages that had been in the cab. Each item made me unease. I tried hard not to recall Jade’s far too realistic daydream.
“I’m looking for someone, a girl named Alice. My lawyer, Jade Heartland, said I might be able to meet her here. Do you know her?” I tried to replay every moment that life had thrown something terrifying in my direction. There were a lot, and none of them prepared me for talking to stalker girlfriends in a men's bathroom stall.
Despite General and Jade’s attitudes, I had tried to take the courses. Step one was always trying to create a connection between you and the other trauma victim. Then use that to move them out of their current peril.
“Jade’s a good friend. She called in a favor to find this girl for me, to help us.” I paused for a moment and tried to figure out how insane this sounded. On the scale of one-to-my-life, it rated an eight. “Jade even hired a cab so I reach her quicker.”
I stood there waiting. Someone came in then started pissing while groaning in relief. He gave me a glance then left without washing his hands.
“She was nice sounding.”
“Are you Alice?” I asked. “She left me a message asking to come find her.”
“Yeah. I’m her. Sometimes I’m Alice,” then the woman trailed off. She took a shuddering sigh then kicked from what I assumed to be frustration. “Can you come in here? I, I don’t want to talk through the wall. Not like this. Not to you. Not to you Adam.”
She repeated herself a lot.
“Do you want to open the door? So we can talk?” I said without the slightest bit of confidence.
“No,” Alice responded.
I stood there staring at the closed stall. There was a figure inside but clothing blocked most of the view.
“I’ll crawl in underneath,” because that wouldn’t be awkward “okay?”
“Okay,” the quiet voice came back after a pause.
Looking back, I can see that we were both really mixed up about this first real life meeting. Is that weird? At the time I felt flushed and couldn’t connect two thoughts to each other. Still, forward was the only want to go.
I pulled myself under the stall wall awkwardly. Wet spots got on the fresh shirt but they were secondary. My head banged into the toilet paper mounting and I winced in pain then looked up at a huddled Alice. Her eyes were wide and hands pressed to her face. She sat on the toilet lid with legs tightened up. Alice had a sloppy roll of tissues pressed against a cut forehead. Yellow markings lined the side of one face from fresh bruising.
She looked like a crumpled up version of her Wonderland self. That threw me off. We both stared at each other. The Alice was scrawny but god damned scary. This girl gave up a different vibe altogether. Blonde hair, slightly thicker shoulders, legs that were obviously once toned. It was like she had been a cheerleader or something then got hit hard by drugs or super powers.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” she echoed.
We both sat there. I had no clue what to say, other than this was a terrible place to get to know someone whose alter ego was a knife wielding stalker. Or a walking catastrophe magnate. People kept coming in regularly which made breaking our silence even harder. After we went no where for awhile, I leaned over and peeked out to make sure we were alone before talking.
“We should probably leave the men’s bathroom? And get that looked at?” I ended up phrasing it as a bad question. Girls still confused me. My entire high school career, the place where this sort of stuff is vaguely figured out, had ended up being boned in a bad way.
“No! No! I can’t go out there,” she exclaimed while fluttering hands wildly.
I hung my head down and tried to understand but no good reason came to mind. Alice might not have really wanted to meet me. Maybe she did, I couldn’t tell.
“Why?” I asked while bunching my cheeks tight.
“It’s not you. It’s, there’s mirrors. If I go by them, I might not see me. I might see her. I might get lost again. I can’t. I just met you. I can’t go there and be her.” Alice’s head whipped around sending blonde trusses spinning.
And there was the weird. There were two choices. We could stop and talk about every single question regarding The Alice, while she felt trapped in the men’s bathroom. Alternately we could escape this place and maybe venture to somewhere more comfortable. High traffic areas like bus stations worried me anyway.
“Would a blindfold help?” I offered.
She nodded, and we made that happen. I tore at bits of cloth and ruined my old pants. They were bound around her head loosely. Alice clung to me the entire way out. I can’t say it depressed me at all. I walked slowly in case insanity struck first and ruined the happy moment.
It helped that Alice didn’t try to stab me like her counterpart. It helped a lot that under it all she looked pretty. I didn’t meant to be shallow, but there had been a lot of visual horror in my life. The Underdog, a giant blank unicorn’s dong, two ugly mole people making out and their giant pink thonged Jabberwocky, each one served as a bit of mental trauma.
Best of all, she seemed desperate to like me. I’ve had a lot of time to think about those first few days, and I can say that our relationship changed a lot, but that initial obsessive want is what really got my attention. In the place I was, I needed to be needed.
So she clung to me, and in a way I clung to her clinging. We exited the building past a few odd glares and overzealous security guards. We moved past those people onto the roadside where my yellow chariot sat. Even then Alice didn’t take off the blindfold made of torn up shirts.
She asked questions, silly rapid fire things like when was my birthday. Or about my family. She even threw in a question about my favorite food and prior pets. Each one felt weird but I answered them with simple responses. Occasionally she would pause and by the time I felt brave enough to respond Alice had started with another series of topics.
I think conversing made her happy. Maybe she wanted to know that I was a real person and not some fevered dream. At some point a soft snore filled the cab. The cab driver stayed quiet but drove on through the hell of New York, out to New New York, which was the same as Old New York but with cleaner buildings, then on beyond that. At last the driver told me this was our stop, and that the two of us should exit, post haste.
The address we arrived at wasn’t a business. It belonged to a large building that looked to be residential. I eyed the doorway and wondered how stupid I could be. With my powers, venturing into public housing was a cluster fuck waiting to happen. Technically, venturing anywhere came with an excessive amount of risk. I had gotten to the point where even squatting on the toilet for a shit came with issues.
Anyway, I carried the tiny passed out blonde upstairs. The concrete steps were a bit less risky than any elevator, plus it gave me time to run away in terror. My arms nearly gave out and there were frequent pauses to rest against the wall. Through it all she snored softly.
I managed to reach the right floor and door as advised by the stack of papers Jade had left behind with breakfast. the passage sat grey and heavy like a small bank vault. Behind it would be piles of gold or empty dreams where the delusional believed hope might be housed. I cradled Alice while wondering how such a thin bundle of trouble could be so tired, then knocked on the door.
The door opened and a million worries flashed through me. Then it was Ted’s face, without a pristine anchorman suit or bank robber costume. He looked at me then at the person bundled in my arms.
“Mister Millard. You made it. Welcome to home base.” Ted’s smile reached one cheek briefly before fading. He had bags under his eyes while wearing a simple t shirt and jeans. The man clutched a steaming mug close to his face.
We didn’t shake hands, but I felt relieved at seeing he had made it through the car crash. He didn’t even look hurt.
“Come on in. Bring your friend over to the couch. She looks ragged.” He backed out of the doorway.
“Okay.” I stepped inside. The ceiling went up quite a ways and there was a loft. Along the wall ornaments hung, but not the Christmas kind. These were trophies from all sorts of superhero battles. Many were carefully staged and on display. A lot were even recognizable, though from well before I started being part of this world.
“Who’s the lady? I ask because it’s improper to drag an unconscious woman around.” Ted frowned then took a sip from his mug. He didn’t have any accents and managed to sound uninterested with a flat tone. “She’s not the same one from your viral video this morning. Though they look similar. Is this your type?”
I ignored the casual awareness of my ongoing drama. He might be able to access the red camera orb. It floated around scanning Ted’s room. Once again I hadn’t caught how it followed me along the cab ride, but it sure as fuck did anyway. It made so little noise and seemed to have an endless power supply.
Ted gestured to the couch for me. I took the hint and slowly navigated Alice’s unconscious body over and laid her down. “Alice. That Alice, from before. She found me in real life then called Jade. Somehow she was in New York. I found her in the men’s stall. She has a cut, I think. It needs to be cleaned, and maybe some clothes. I need clothes.” I keep babbling for a while before it occurred me to me that not one ounce of sarcasm had escaped.
“She’s breathing. That’s good. If that girl we met in Wonderland is a reflection of this one’s mental state, she probably needs solid rest.”
I nodded then took the blanket Ted offered. He still retained his mug. I took a second look around. The items in here looked valuable, or at least well beyond my meager ability to replace. Even with this whole no-go nonsense and whatever money that might save there would be no way to replace enough if a freak tornado to some other plane struck.
“Is it safe here? I can leave if,” my words trialed off. Being inside someone’s house after so long adrift bothered me. There were so many signs in here of personal space. Such as pictures of family members, posters up on the wall, or plates that weren’t made of paper.
“It’s probably safe enough for the moment. At least according to the wonder duo, they’ve got a bunch of information you may like to see.”
“Adam?” Alice woke abruptly and tried to get my attention. Her head flopped to the side.
I looked at Ted and asked, “This information, what does it say?”
“It basically says we have about four hours,” he leaned back and shouted through a double doorway that had black curtains hanging in it. “It was four hours right?”
“Right! Maybe three and a half!” someone shouted back.
There were at least two people in the other room. They chattered back and forth but couldn’t be heard clearly.
“There you have it,” Ted said with indifference. His expression had barely changed during this entire exchange. “Maybe three and half hours before something bad happens again.”
“Adam where are you?” Alice’s head lifted weakly again.
She needed rest and maybe food. The poor girl probably needed a place to feel safe. That episode in the bathroom spoke of monstrous psychological issues. Jade’s warning about being around anyone else made me worried. For years my life had been running from one disaster to the next. I asked Ted again if he we had time before something bad happened. He nodded.
“Can I have a few minutes to talk to Alice? h, and if you have mirrors, can they be moved? She doesn’t like mirrors.”
“Sure.” Ted shrugged. It took me a moment to really peg the unchanging face. His moved slowly. The fingers around his mug were loose. That wasn’t indifference, it was tired, and I knew tired.
He dimmed the lights, picked up two objects and tucked them under an arm, then walked through the back sheets between rooms. I sat down slowly and tried not to let my leg shake. This whole situation felt more unreal than normal. Crazy stuff was one thing, but real human interaction belonged in another category entirely.
“I’m here Alice,” I whispered. My shoulders were tight. Both hands hurt and toes had curled tightly.
She cracked an eye then took a sharp breathe. Alice’s entire body tensed and legs drew up under her butt. I gave her a bit of space and sat down on the chair nearby. The woman gave off a skittish squirrel vibe. Tiny, ready to run, her eyes slid around looking for objects and exits. I kept my hands relax and open despite the desire to bundle myself tightly.
“Adam? I met you, right? I didn’t imagine this, or the other me. The her. Alice?” She mumbled each question slowly then opened her eyes a bit wider. “You really like corn dogs?”
“You’re not imagining it,” I said then nodded jerkily. “And I do like corn dogs.”
“Then I’m not crazy?”
That question felt unfair. You out there have been viewing my life. What right did I have to weigh in on anyone else’s life? I mean, aside from heroes. I judge the hell out of them for existing. You’ve heard me do it. But calling Alice crazy would have been the pot calling the kettle black.
“I can’t even begin to judge your sanity. I’m just saying you didn’t imagine any of it. I’ve been to Wonderland. I’ve been there, many, many times.” That I could admit.
“It feels like I’m always there. Always. Fighting those, such nasty things. Monsters. They ask me questions and hurt me. I’m so sick of it. I’m sick of not being in control.”
“I understand,” I said the truest god damn thing I ever had, to her. I think that was when Alice started to really mean something in my life. That moment right there, when I realized we were both living through our own versions of a never ending hell. Bounced around by powers we couldn’t control.
“I really do,” I said again after a few minutes. My face felt wet. The new shirt got a fresh later of ick as I tried not to let exhaustion break me down.
She didn’t hear me. Alice was dead asleep on the couch again. Her face looked work and thin. The girl’s body carried the same scrawny weight my own did. Both of us stressed beyond belief to the point where it tore at us physically.
My own eyes started to drift closed. All that walking, the events in central park, then this. I didn’t know how to process anything and my mind shut down due to overload.
Ted knocked on the wall softly to get my attention. I could barely make him out in the dark doorway.
“Come on, we should talk while the world’s calm.” He glanced down at a wristwatch that glinted on his arm. “We’ve got, around an hour to explain some stuff, make sure you’re on board then go get you outfitted.”
My forehead wrinkled in confusion. I pulled back and raised an eyebrow then said, “An hour? Okay?”
“You slept. We’ll talk to the wonder duo then head to the bazaar. There’s the off chance this can go really, really bad. It could also be really, really good. I’m not sure. It will probably be both.”
“What?” I wiped away a bit of drool that had crusted. My head dipped and eyelids drooped. That brief moment where my eyes closed had really been a lot longer.
“Oh don’t worry, we’re going to get it all on camera,” Ted said then smiled widely.
21 Earth Standard Years
Generalized Ratings as follows
4 - (Moderate/Low)
5 - (No Upper Education)
6 - (Extremely Limber)
5 - (Average)
Eaisily Distracted, panicked, tired, confused, twisted and used
Other items of note
Easily confused, often unaware of events around her, sleeps an excessive amount, looks nothing like her alter ego short of being caucasian, misses her parents
Alice has powers, but what they are and their extent is actually undefined. We know that she is able to project an ID version of herself into alternate dimensions all flavored like a ‘Wonderland’ where she battles monsters and demons made from imagination. It is possible some of these creatures actually exist in reality or there are connections between the two planes.
As for Alice herself, she seems to live an oddly mixed life. On one hand, she clearly suffers from delusions that may extend beyond the time as ‘The Alice’ but it is possible that she’s seeing and connecting to more otherworld bubbles than any normal person does. No one has been able to get a clear answer out of her and there simply hasn’t been time for a full workup. Since The Alice and Alice primarily impact realms outside Earth standard, no one has dug too far.
Alice’s parents adopted her at a young age. They’ve been dead since her powers kicked in and something reached out from the other dimensions to kill them. She doesn’t know this, and only a psychic reading of the site after even brought up the possibility.
By then Alice had checked herself in claiming insanity and spent most of her time sedated. Since then there have been no reappearance of creatures not belonging to earth.
She likes to sing pop songs under her breath and has been known to dance to them wildly even while heavily sedated. No one is quite sure why her body still responds despite the drugs.