A Train of Thoughts
I dream of a vast, great hall
Of two brothers growing up and farther apart
One endowed with power, the other with magic
And both fated across worlds to brawl.
I want to walk up to them, to tell them how it’s going to be
Of the future end to their conflict, of their brotherly reunion
But now I must awake, forget Thor and Loki,
And spend my concentration upon Theology.
My mind wanders to Middlearth
Seeking the peaceful themes of Hobbiton and Rohan
It sees me walking beside Gimli and Legolas, drinking Ent-draughts with Merry and Pippin
Making me believe I was famous forevermore, as in the Fellowship I been chillin’.
O, what it would not give to see dawn on the fifth day,
To hear Bombadil’s tunes, to taste the cold, flaky lembas!
But right now, my mind must return to the present moment
Return to problems unfulfilling, like induction and experiment.
A pause in the conversation turns me to my friends
To Professor X, Peter Parker, and Kenobi
To Fives, 99, Logan, Newt, Steve and Peggy, Hester and Tom
To all my friends, both living and dead; I turn to them to halt my dread.
Many gravestones are the cause of both my misery and my hope
“Here lies Pietro Maximoff, or Harry Osborne, or Stoik or Tony or Boromir.”
Their lives inspire me to go on,
Their sacrifices persuade me to reignite the discussion.
My classmates are searching for the significances of battles
But I search for swords, and bloodstained earth, and gigantic mutilated trolls
Lightsabers, cannons, clashing steel, guns, and more that I associate with war come flying through my head
Disc wars or skirmishes with Orcs mean more to me than battles at Marathon or Adrianople.
The American Revolution pales when compared with the Clone Wars
Charlemagne and Justinian fall far short of Batman and Daredevil
These and more fantastical myths,
Convey more to me than Carroll’s deets.
But our years at college are not of film trivia
History, Philosophy, Theology, and Lit occupy our time, they bind us
Translating a Greek text takes longer than a Tolkien marathon;
Homer offers more stimulating thought than Aquinas,
And classes with Mr Camden are more exciting than late night essays.
Nonetheless, to Doctors Amith and Jay, to Mr Manning, Father Brian, and all, I must turn my attention
Lest I forget that I am here to study fruitfully,
And not to let fantasy become my reality.
Hey There, Delilah
Hey there Delilah.
What’s it like in New York City? Must be exciting to move; I remember it was for me. We’re a thousand miles apart now, but you’re still the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. That photo you sent me just arrived, of you in the white dress, and honestly, baby, not even Times Square could shine as bright as you do. I often sit outside the apartment on the steps, playing my guitar and thinking of you.
Speaking of a thousand miles, baby, don’t worry about the distance between us; I’m always right here if you get lonely. Just a phone-call away
The words echoed in his ears. He could still feel her kiss, still feel her arms around him. She had gone now, rushing off to her house, leaving him alone. It’s what you wanted, he told himself. She can never know. Still, a small part of him cried out for indulgence. She loved him, but she barely knew him, too. But he shook his head. “No,” He said aloud, “I don’t have the right to think about myself anymore. People died the last time I did: I have to protect her.” He sadly snapped his fingers, shutting the blue door.
Ch1 i guess
The chanting of the crowd kept Zora’s adrenaline high. The unfamiliar weight of the disc on her back nagged at her, but after her performance in the hyperball arena she was feeling on top of the world. The orange bristah also had something to do with it. Rob had told her before not to take it before stepping into the arena, but as usual she had ignored his advice.
“DISK WARS! THUMP! THUMP! “DISK WARS!”
“Let’s go,” Zora whispered as her platform melted into the shiny cage. Her opponent was visible at the other end of the box. He was dressed in the same rookie battle gear as her, with a slate-grey colour scheme. He saluted her by pressing the side of his forefinger between his eyes and then bringing his arm down in an arc, stopping to point his first two fingers at her. Zora returned the gesture respectfully, and reached behind her back for her weapon.
The disc fizzed into life as soon as it left her back, vibrating in her gloved hands. The helmet and face shield materialized from out of the neck of her suit, and she crouched down, holding the disc threateningly towards her opponent. Over the shining blue edges she could see him doing the same, apart from holding the disc behind his back. The bell sounded, the crowd roared, and Zora’s first disc war began.
She took the first step, like she always did in her practice games growing up. She had been holding the weapon out in front of her with her left hand: now she jumped into the air, brought it back to her right hand, and flicked it forward just before she landed. Her opponent hadn’t been expecting such a quick move, and the disc wizzed dangerously close as he collapsed to his left. He swiveled on the floor and threw his disc with force at Zora, but it was a horizontal throw, easy to leap over. Zora caught her disc and was about to deliver an early killing blow, but she was conscious of the enemy’s rebounding disc behind her. She leapt into the air, spreading her legs at the same time, as the disc whizzed through them and was caught by its owner, who had to quickly use it to block Zora’s swift throw.
Zora caught her disc as it bounced back from the other’s, aiming for the spring in the middle of the cage. She slid to her knees under a wayward throw, hopped to her feet, and thrust herself forward onto the hexagon hanging between their two platforms. She timed her jump fairly well, and she sprang quickly into the air, arms raised, disc above her head for a devastating kill. Unfortunately the man had guessed her move, and instead of waiting for his disc to return he in turn leapt at her. The two made contact in the air; Zora, with more force, knocked the other slightly backwards, but he held onto her tightly, bringing her down with him.
They landed close to the platform edge. Zora knocked the wind out of her opponent by landing on top of him, but he had jumped inside her swing in the middle of their fall, and so her hands were what hit the floor first. She lost control of her disc, and the man, while winded, had the sense to lie on top of her disc so that she couldn’t pick it up. Her left wrist was also trapped underneath his back. Zora could feel his breath on her mouth, she could see the menacing eyes that reflected the resolve she was sure was in hers too.
His disc came racing back, and she was only just able to avoid him hoisting her into its trajectory. It grazed her back, leaving a small trail of sparks that died just as quickly as they appeared. The crowd roared in wonder, and the sound cleared all but one thought in Zora’s head.
She had to win.
This was different than the hyperball matches. There she could lose any number of games, or at least until she lost so many that no sponsor would support her. Here, in the disc wars, each match was a do or die event. Derezz or be derezzed. And she would do her best to survive.
Both the combatants’ discs were lying out of reach. Zora’s wrist was being squashed by her opponent, who began trying to shove her off the edge. He knocked the wind out of her, kicking her in the gut, and she fell over sideways, conscious of her left shoulder striking nothing. He scrambled to his feet and crouched, about to leap at her to push her off. Zora gripped the hard floor tight, praying she wouldn’t fall, and swept her legs around in an attempt to take his legs out. She succeeded with his right foot, and he fell on one knee as she tumbled off the platform.
The crowd gasped loudly, and Zora herself let out a scream as she dangled from the platform by only eight fingers. Her legs were swinging in the air, kicking for something to find purchase on: but there was nothing. Zora looked up at her combatant, who had regained his feet and was just picking up his disc. The crowd was chanting his name: “BILLING! BILLING!”, and, at that moment, Zora thought she was gone. Billing was waving his arms to hype up the crowd, which began cheering louder than ever. He called to her, cruelly telling her that he was going to slice off her fingers one by one until she dropped.
And there, Zora saw her only chance. He turned his back to her, holding up his disc for the crowd, and her window opened. It was terribly risky, but there was nothing else she could do.
Zora’s legs were still kicking, and she was still swinging from side to side. Holding her legs together she increased the swinging, gaining momentum on each pass. Billing turned round and knelt before her, just as she glided off the platform. She could hear the crowd hush as she twisted in the air, and slapped her hands onto the spring.
She had the sense to bring her knees to her chest and to elongate her feet, so she just missed the bottom of the spring by a few centimetres. She whizzed backwards through the air, exalting that she hadn’t killed herself, and saw Billing’s upside-down, startled face for a scant second as she continued onto her second backflip. Zora prayed again that her opponent wouldn’t move fast enough to strike her in the air, and her prayers were answered: he did thrust his weapon forward, but it only scraped her back open a little. Completing her second backflip and still moving fast, she grasped his faceshield to pull him off his feet. It worked like a charm, and his weight slowed her momentum as well. They both hit the ground at the same time: Zora fell hard, but she made sure Billing’s head hit the ground forcibly.
She grasped her disc, which she had fallen in arms reach of, and crawled gingerly to Billing’s side. He was not entirely conscious, woozily waving his limbs and staring sightlessly out of slate-grey eyes. Zora held her disc up, and the crowd roared their approval as it descended.
Zora stood up slowly, indulging in the chanting of her name the crowd had started. The automated loudspeaker blared to life overhead.
“Combatant Seven: Victory. Round Two: Combatant Three versus Combatant Seven.”
The light pixels crunched under her boots as Zora turned to face her new opponent.
“The sun shines on the fields,
And crops grow in its heat.”
I stopped walking, and smiled in the early sunlight. I had wondered if I might find her here.
I whispered her name softly. I found myself wondering how much she had changed in five years.
I told myself that I had left of my own accord, on her seventh birthday. But in truth, I felt I no longer belonged there. The rest of her family had grown colder than ever toward me, and for some time I had been detecting rejection in even Aurora’s pretty eyes. So therefore, on the night of her seventh birthday, I quietly took off down the dusty road.
And up that same road I was travelling now. I felt that, somehow, she needed me; that the clock was ticking, and I didn’t have many more moments to spend with her. So I decided to come back, to see if we could still share the same connection, before we ran out of time.
I stepped off the road now, crunching my way through the thick scrub and bending down to pass through the old hole in the fence.
And there she was. Aurora Summers. As pretty as ever.
My goodness. I had been away far too long.
“The sun shines on the fields,
And crops grow in its he-eat.
As he walks down the ro-oad.”
She was singing again. That song, those strange three verses, over and over. Nobody knew where or how she had learned it; in fact she had probably been born with the words inside her head.
Aurora looked up now, and her eyes dilated in pleasure. “Hello,” she spoke, and I smiled, asking her how she was. I received neither smile nor answer in return, and looking closer I discovered traces of tears on the girl’s cheeks. I reached out to wipe them clean, but I then remembered how Aurora liked her personal space, so I withdrew my hand. Aurora sniffled, and resumed her singing.
“Been ’way too long to see, her grow.
He laughs and play-ays, all day-ay.
But all too soon the night appears.”
Trying to cheer her up, I picked Aurora some wild blossoms to tie in her hair. Some time passed, and she was laughing again, like she used to. I had always been able to make her laugh. We had yellow corn for lunch, plucked from one of the many such fields her family owned. The juice slid easily down my throat, and the skin of the kernels became stuck in my teeth. I saw Aurora smile, and I could see she was in the same predicament.
“Walking through the field, after her…”
She insisted on singing. Her mother complained that it wasn’t good for her; however, I had always believed the opposite, and so I let Aurora sing to her heart’s content. Although I never got her to explain why she always sang the same three verses. Never had I heard her sing anything else.
“He’s too blind to see,
And deaf to hear…”
The sun was lower now. Aurora beckoned me, asking me silently to escort her home. I grinned and jogged slowly on behind her.
“The night veiling…her face.”
Her orange hair billowed out as she skipped in the light of the sunset. The purple flowers in her tresses appeared like miniature rainbows when the light caught them. Aurora paused momentarily to pick something up and slung it over her shoulder.
This puzzled me, for upon closer inspection it appeared to be a hunting bow. Aurora had never been a physical person, more often than not shirking her duties on the farm and spending that time with myself. Nevertheless, there before my eyes was a real bow! I opened my mouth to ask about it, when she began to sing again.
“The target looks over, green fields,
And cries at its, existence.
As the archer be-hends down.”
I was flummoxed. I had never heard this verse before! The tune was the same she had been singing forever, albeit a little slower than normal. Her voice sounded forlorn, almost miserable. I caught up to her to ask her about the new verse, but she spoke first.
“I’ve been singing the same verses over and over, because it wasn’t yet time for the rest of the song.”
“And, that time is now?” I asked her. She halted, and looked at me with her big blue eyes. Sometimes I swear she could see right through me.
“Tick, tock,” she said, and bounced away.
“Hold on!” I cried, catching up to her again. “Tick tock what? Why did you say that?”
She skipped on as she answered. “Time is nearly gone.”
I inquired further, but she ignored me and started singing again.
“Her breath inva-ades, the co-old.
Her light breaks through, the ni-ight.
And cold will ki-ill…the war-arm.”
Suddenly, she stopped still, head cocked. I heard it too.
Her mother’s cello.
Aurora’s mother always played the cello when she was upset. The sounds emanating from the attic window of the Summers house were quick and screechy; very unlike any way Mrs Summers had ever played before. The large number of hired men about the place, and also Aurora’s small half-sob that she let loose when she saw her little garden, further heightened the feeling of general distress that lay over the whole little vale. Before this morning I had never seen tears on my little Aurora’s face. Something was definitely wrong.
“Can you take me to see your parents, please?” I asked my little companion. “I need to speak with them.” She nodded in silence and lead me by the hand into the house.
“Been ’way too long to see, her grow.
He laughs and pla-ays, all da-ay.
But all too soon the night appears.”
“Aurora? Is that you?”
“Thomas is here, Stella!” the redhead called happily.
“Oh no, Rora,” Stella groaned, sticking her head out the door. “Why did you have to bring him back?”
I said nothing. I was used to this attitude from my little friend’s family. Aurora asked, “Where’s Daddy?”
Mr Summers came down the stairs at that moment, wiping his tired face with the old red handkerchief he always wore around his neck. His tired eyes lit up when he spied his daughter, and he gathered her into his arms.
“Where have you been, Aurora? I haven’t seen you all day, sweetie.”
“I was out playing with Thomas,” she answered, and pointed to where I was standing.
Her father sighed. “Well, Thomas, I appreciate you being here, but now is a really bad time. The Rangers have been threatening to attack the farm all week, and even with the hired men we don’t stand much of a chance against them.”
“I’ll help you,” I declared. “I can shoot a gun.”
“Thomas will help us,” Aurora echoed, looking at me gravely.
Her father shook his head and sighed. “Honey, listen…”
An explosion interrupted the talking. Glass shattered and mud splatted the side of the house as shouting came from outside. Aurora’s father yelled up the stairs for his wife and rushed downstairs, followed by his two daughters and myself.
“Stella, Aurora, stay inside! You hear me?” Stella nodded, but I knew Aurora would not obey. She was singing again. I could barely make out the words above the battle sounds that were coming from the other side of the door.
“The target looks over, green fields,
And cries at its, existence.
As the archer be-hends down.”
The ground shook again, and more sounds came from outside, drowning out the frantic shouting: drums. Drums beating steadily. One-two-three-four-five; one. One-two-three-four-five; one. It was the Rangers. Nobody who fought them came out on top, barely a few even survived any of their raids. The Summers farm was well defended; Mr Summers had made sure of it when he bought it, and had added on to its defence over the years, but nothing stood in the way of the Rangers.
“Her breath inva-ades, the co-old…”
I looked at Aurora singing, as pretty as ever, despite the death and destruction that was threatening the vale. She had been right before, I realised, about the ticking clock. For I knew there was nothing much we could do against the Rangers. Aurora and I had only a few precious moments left together.
And I knew I was going to protect her until my last breath.
“…And the cold will kill…the warm.”
As soon as Aurora handed me a gun, things started to go hazy. One minute, we were inside; the next, we were crouching in the mud, Aurora and I, there together. As we always had been. I couldn’t remember a time when I did not know her.
She was singing again, a new verse this time.
“The red corn never saw again;
The eyes that watched were soaked…”
Time slowed, and I felt a cold bullet pass through my shoulder. I swivelled around and shot at him. Three bullets, each of which should have been fatal.
But they were not. The Ranger paused, probably from confusion, and aimed his rifle at Aurora, but one of the hired men finished him off before he could pull the trigger. I turned back to Aurora.
“My gun…it’s not working! It’s useless!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll try my bow and arrows.”
And try she did. Using her weapon, Aurora took out five Rangers, singing softly all the while. Her father, crouching in a hole, spied us hiding behind a shed, and called out for his daughter.
“And cold will ki-ill…the warm,” she sang as she looked at her father. He called her name again, and she stood up, starting to run towards him. I heard a squelch from behind me, and began to turn around…
A shot rang out, loud and clear…
I watched Aurora fall to the ground…
And everything burst into light.
It was a piercing bright light, like the harsh orange of an early dawn. It emanated from where Aurora fell. A reddened corn cob hit the toe of my boot as I fell over backwards, shielding my face like all the other people nearby, Rangers and farmers alike. Cries of pain and fear now dominated the battlefield, but I discovered the light did not hurt my eyes.
“Her light breaks through…the ni-ight…”
I followed her voice, crawling through the dirt, as the drums ceased. One moment more… then the brightness faded away, and I could see my Aurora.
At least, she appeared to be. I could still hear her voice, singing that same tune, but it seemed I was the only one. Mr Summers was cradling his daughter’s body, Mrs Summers was crying brokenly over her cello strings, and even stoic Stella was weeping. They did not even listen to me when I tried to explain that Aurora was not dead, that I could still hear her; not even a single glance did they spare me.
Thoroughly frustrated, I stomped into a bathroom to wash myself. Aurora’s voice still rang in my ears, the unknown meaning of her words haunting me.
“The red corn never saw again;
The eyes that watched were soaked.
Save for the one who still can hear.
The one they all…forget.”
Hang on. Was she singing about me? I cocked my head, listening for more.
“Time is gone.
Now look ahead…”
And I did. I looked ahead of me, into the mirror.
There was nothing there.
My…goodness. There was nobody there. Was I even real?
I swallowed as I recognised the truth. No wonder I could not remember a time without Aurora; no wonder I could not recall those five years apart from her; no wonder her family had never paid the slightest attention to me. And that would explain why I could still hear her after her death.
I was not real. And, like Aurora…my time was up.
“Time is gone.
Now look ahead.
The clock has stopped…
Goodbye, my friend.”
"She's gone. We should go too."
"But... we can't. We can't just leave her like this... we can't le... her pixels, on the floor, we have to... burn...oh, it burns. Rob, it burns, it burns, it burns..."
Trisk and Rob helped their friend stand up. His limbs were shaking badly, his face covered with luminous tears as he cried over his sister's death. "It's too late now, Kylen. You did all you could: you literally gave up a leg for Zora. Now it's time to move on, you do not want to follow her path now."
"But don't you see?" Kylen cried, turning his anguished face to Trisk's. "Zora's the one who always follows me! She does everything I do after I've done it first, she's followed me everywhere since we were progys, I even told her ten minutes ago that she would be fine! AND NOW LOOK AT HER..." He bit his knuckle, moaning in despair.
"Hey, hey, hey. Sshh mate, they'll hear us!"
"We HAVE to get out of here!" Trisk whispered fiercely.
"I did everything first..." Kylen mumbled. He hung limply between Trisk and Rob. They held his arms, otherwise he would collapse. The pain of losing his sister and his leg within seconds was enough to get anybody down, and Trisk found herself blinking away tears of her own.
"I did everything first... except derezz. Zora derezzed before me. Why did I let it happen? Why didn't I try harder... she followed... I could have... but Zora..."
Kylen trailed off like before, but Rob sensed a tensing in the arm that he held. He caught Trisk's eye and jerked his head backward, communicating that they needed to get out of the area quickly. Trisk saw and nodded, but then Kylen resumed speaking coherently.
"Zora derezzed before me... Guys. Zora derezzed before me! No, no, no, I'm not going mad, she WANTED to go before me! And now she's waiting for me, and I have to go to her..."
"Hang on, just hang on, dude!" Rob couldn't believe his ears. "You don't mean you want to... self-rezz?"
"No, Rob, I NEED to self-rezz! Zora still can't take care of herself, I have to go save her! Don't you see? It's the right thing to do!"
"Alright Ky, that's enough," Trisk said firmly. Herself and Rob started pulling Kylen with them.
"NO! NO! WAIT! LET ME GO! YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO!" Kylen screamed. He struggled against them, but the two had firm grips on his arms, and Kylen was already weak from loss of pixels. They dragged him away while he pleaded and wept for them to derezz him. Trisk was crying too, and even stoic Rob's eyes were damp before the rain started. Kylen's last sight of his sister was a little pile of blue pixels and a broken metal disk.
* * * *
"So. The mission. Was it successful?"
The thug kneeling before Char'dn swallowed. Char'dn watched his Adam's Apple bob nervously. "It... it was a success, m'lord."
"Then bring the girl to me."
Mannind gulped again. Lord Char'dn certainly didn't waste his words. "My... my uh, my lord..."
Char'dn straightened visibly. "What have you done?"
"Please... f... forgive me, your, uhh, lordship," Mannind stuttered, clasping his hands fitfully. "I... I... derezzed her."
A collective sigh of astonishment rang through the audience, and Char'dn's eyes opened wide. "Have you forgotten that Zuse wanted her alive?"
"No m'lord, I didn't forget," the big man replied. "She intentionally got in the way of a death throw that was meant for one of the others... her brother, I believe. There was, um, nothing to be done. She was derezzed in seconds."
Char'dn stood up swiftly. His aqua and black robes billowed about him as wind began to blow from some unseen corner. He glided slowly down the steps until he was a pace away from the big assassin. Mannind looked up at the other's face, young but hard as steel, with the flowing black hair and pale skin that marked him as one of the Biyedandar Family. Right now though, the young lord's light face was darkened by rage. It scared Mannind enough to plea for his life.
"Um, sir, please, would you spare me? I, I have a family too, you know: what will happen to my wife and..."
Char'dn gave a sharp nod to the guards, and two lightsticks were shoved through Mannind's chest as he was still speaking. The words turned into an electronic gurgle, and the assassin fell in tiny pieces at Char'dn's feet. The lord glared at the pile of pixels a moment longer, then instructed his servants to grind the assassin's remains into the ground.
Not pausing to enjoy the spectacle, Char'dn threw off his cumbersome robes and raced away, not even bothering to see if his bodyguards could keep up. He sprinted through the rain to where he knew she would be, hoping that he could still give her remains an honourable purge.
Zuse will be very angry when I return without her. I spoke of her so much to him that he thought she could be the one to restore order. I made a mistake, sending someone else, a failed assassin. I should have gone to her myself. Maybe then I could have found her alone and taken her quickly. The Family would have been terribly angry, but that would have been better than derezzation.
He suddenly skidded to a stop, hair soaked, eyes wild. It was too late. The girl's pixels had fallen into a puddle, and most of them had now evaporated. A small, rising puff of steam wafted from the remaining handful of blue pixels. Char'dn fell to his knees on the wet cobblestones, and reached out to touch the broken disk, now dull and blank. Lifeless. Of all the people who might end up dead, she had been perhaps one of the indispensable ones.
Well. She’s gone now, and I should go too. I will need to call the Family and apologize for my failure. And then Zuse will likely have me killed. I deserve it, really. I was too scared to see her again.
Char'dn stood up, still holding the two pieces of the disc. He swallowed, and lifted two fingers of his right hand in a horizontal V sign above his head.
"Goodbye, Zora," he whispered, as her last pixels evaporated.
The Other Side
I held her limp form in my arms. Eighteen years, three houses, and the many hundreds of hours she spent with me, all leading to this moment. Blackie's death.
I could still remember bringing her home for the very first time: Bridget drove the car while I held the box that contained the two kittens. Both were black, with an equal small splash of white on their chests, but their names were produced from the fur that came out of their ears. Blackears, or Blackie, and White-ears, or Whitey. Having grown up with as many kittens as siblings I knew how to care well for both pets, and within a year Bridget and I were owners of fairly polite, albeit sometimes willingly naughty, cute, and cuddly kitten-cats.
Then, Bridget became pregnant. We were so excited to have our first child, and so was Blackie. Whitey took no notice of her mumma's expanding belly, but Blackie was incredibly concerned. Often I would come home from work to the sight of Bridget resting in our rocking chair with Blackie kneading her stomach ever so gently. Sometimes the cat would snuggle up next to the human and lean her head against the belly. The first time she felt a kick she was super worried, and started meowing in Bridget's face: the poor thing was so concerned for her mumma, and it was very cute to see. The first day after Bridget delivered our child I snuck Blackie into the hospital to see him. Her reaction was priceless. I set her down on the bed, and she walked ever so slowly towards the sleeping child, never taking her eyes off him. She sniffed him all over for five minutes, and then she started wailing at Bridget and I, trying to convince us to give her the baby! She even tried pushing herself between Bridget and the baby, so she could cuddle up close to him.
Once home, Blackie was for a time our new baby's, George's, closest companion. When George was around eight months old, Blackie herself became pregnant, and within three months gave birth to three kittens. She was a good but strict mother, and her three little balls of fur were eventually given away, and Blackie was spayed, because both Whitey and Bridget were also now pregnant, and my modest wage couldn't afford more babies. I hated to do that, as kittens were a part of my childhood; but I was an adult now, and children were the new kittens. Whitey gave birth to four babies of her own, but turned out to be a shoddy mother: Blackie even took better care of them than she did. Once they were given away Whitey was spayed, and shortly after we lost her for three days. I found her body in the ditch on the third day, hit dead by a car, and buried her in the backyard.
After the spaying, Blackie was different. She was more cranky, more naughty, more difficult to handle for Bridget. But the cat was still the same sweet ball of benevolence to our children, with our little girl Amelia joining the party. Throughout the next several years, Blackie was incredible with the children, and she never said no to a cuddle from me. Sometimes when she was feeling extra naughty, she would jump up on mine or one of the kid's shoulders while we were eating, trying to steal our food. She was technically a small cat, and she never became fat, although sneaking table scraps to her was never an offense: I in fact began that tradition.
When Blackie was seven years old, we all moved house, to be closer to my wife's grandparents. Blackie was incredibly crabby in the new place, especially since we had recently acquired a new cat, a fluffy grey-and-white female called Princess. Princess was allowed to have loads and loads of kittens over the next few years, and Blackie never liked one of them. As She go older she became picky, and a little bit senile. She sometimes didn't eat her cat food, wanting instead the "people food" that we humans were eating, and her love of hotdogs increased every party. But I eventually was able to work my job from home, and Blackie was very happy about that, for I was the only one who treated her right. The young kids paid 90% of their pet attention to Princess, her kitties, and our new cocker-spaniel, and Bridget never had time for her anymore, what with homeschooling and cooking for six kids. She was cranky and crabby towards everyone else, but with me she was as sweet and cuddly as the first day I held her. Her days now mostly consisted of breakfast in the morning, going outside to go to the toilet in the grass and wash herself a bit, then begging to be let inside and sit on my lap until dinner. Some nights I even snuck her in bed between Bridget and I: the wife didn't approve, but Blackie appreciated it very much.
Eventually we moved again, when Blackie was around sixteen and George was just fifteen, and I became a gardener at a tiny university in the suburbs. Blackie loved it there so much. For the next two years, she roamed the university grounds at will. The majority of the students were dog lovers, unfortunately, but Blackie didn't care: so many times I would be walking around doing my job, and I would see the cat stretched out on a blanket in the sun with a student or several. She would even creep into the lecture halls, and the lecturers quickly grew to accept her as part of the audience. It was not uncommon for a student to suddenly cry out in the middle of a lecture because Blackie had dug her claws too deep while kneading, but the lecturers didn't mind too much as most of them had cats of their own. One of the students who had graduated only a week ago had broken down crying when he had to say goodbye to Blackie.
That's what I felt like now. Crying. She was still breathing, but barely. Old age had been cruel to her: she had not been able to jump for a year, and these past few months it had been difficult for her to walk. And now, she was dying. There was nothing the vets could do: death is natural, and it had finally caught up with my old friend. The children had all said their goodbyes and left us together, Blackie and I. Together till the end. The poor thing was licking my hair now, a sign of ownership for a cat: I nudged her and patted her gently.
"You're a good girl, Blackie. You always have been. My favourite cat in the world. You have been a sister to my kids, and a wonderful, pretty, amusing, funny, and crabby seventh and first child to me. I can't thank you enough. You have to go now, but death is not parting us: I will always be here with you: I'll remember you forever. You'll always be my cat."
Somewhere through the eulogy she had gone still, and I dissolved into tears.
Lizzy ran. She ran because he told her to. That wonderful, stupid old man, who looked so young. She ran from the machines as they screamed "EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!"
"Need...to get...the sonic..." she panted as she ran. She ran past gravestones, barely registering the names: River Song, Rory Arthur Williams, Clara Oswald. Pale hands with eyes on their palms reached out to grasp her feet, and Zoe let out a sob. She knew she could never dance through them all.
Suddenly there was a wooshing sound, and she stood next to the TARDIS. Beside her was a young man with silver hair. "You didn't see that coming," he panted heavily.
"Pietro! Help me find the Doctor's sonic!" Lizzy cried. He nodded quickly, and she pushed her key into the door. It opened, and at once Pietro disappeared from her sight, zooming and dashing all over the inside of the TARDIS. In ten seconds he reappeared in front of her, holding out the screwdriver. "Why is it bigger on the inside?" He asked her, but she shook her head. "Get me back to the Doctor, now! He needs this!"
Pietro nodded, and in three seconds Lizzy and he were standing behind the Doctor.
"Hahaah!" The Doctor cried, putting his arms around us. "And this is why you should never let me talk, Davros! Unlike your very old self I have many friends, and they never, EVER, let me down!"
"I have no need of FRIENDS, Doctor," Davros retorted, his aged form slumped in the Dalek chair. "My children do my every bidding without question. And, unlike your human friends, my children do not easily die! Daleks! Exterminate the Doctor!"
The surrounding Daleks repeated Davros's words, and moved their weapons to target the three figures.
"Got a plan?" Lizzy murmured. "Because I am a teeny bit frightened."
"Ah, don't worry Liz. I've always got a plan. Though sometimes they tend to be a bit rubbish!" He yelled the last part as he pointed the screwdriver at the ground; a jagged crack materialized as the Daleks fired; Lizzy screamed as they fell down into a building. There were parts of smashed concrete and roofing scattered everywhere, and Lizzy saw two people looking astonishingly at the three of them.
"Where did you come from?" the Asian woman asked. The massive guy with her yelled a name and brushed past us to dig frantically at the pile of masonry that we had fallen into.
"Is somebody under there?" Pietro asked with his Sakovian accent.
"TURBO!" yelled the big man gleefully.
"Mack," came a weak reply from under the masonry. "I think...I think my legs are broken."
"Oh my God!" Lizzy cried. "It's you! Fitz, Mack, Agent May! Oh my God..." She covered her mouth with her hands. "Doctor...did we just kill Agent Fitz?"
"Like I said, Lizzy," the Doctor said sadly, "some of my plans are rubbish."
Lizzy gasped in dismay, and broke down crying when Mack lifted off a heavy rock to show the piece of roofing nearly cutting Leopold Fitz in half. The Doctor rested a comforting hand on my head. "The night's not over yet, Lizzy," he said, and the TARDIS formed around the two of them. He ran around the controls fiddling with them, but Lizzy slumped down and sobbed wretchedly. Leopold James Fitz...she had seen him from another universe. She had seen them all: Director Coulson, Melinda May, big Mack, Daisy Johnson the Destroyer of Worlds, and...Fitzsimmons. Jemma Simmons, oh how would she feel, how would she bare the news of her husband, dead in a flash...
"We killed him, Doctor." Lizzy said woodenly. "We killed Fitz."
"I'm sorry, Lizzy," he said quietly, coming over to sit next to me. "It was the only way..."
"To break the paradox?"
"Yes, to break the paradox. And Lizzy, I know you've been through so much, but please, hold on tight. You can do this, I know you can!" He kissed her on the head, and held her face in his hands. "My impossible girl," he whispered, and smiled at her.
And then, Lizzy fell.
She didn't just fall through air: she fell through scenes, and fell slower every time someone died. She passed Boromir , riddled with arrows, Aragon kneeling by his side. She passed Chuck pressing the bloodstained carving into Thomas's hand; then Newt, covered in black blood, whispering "Thank you" to Tommy as the knife stole his life away; then Teresa, she too falling into fire after saving Tom. Lizzy's tears fell more frequently each scene she came across. Kanan Jarrus, Fives, 99, Chirrut, Baze, Bhodi, K2-S0, Jyn and Cassian, Amy and Rory, Shrike, Wolverine, Ru and Finnick, Maul and Anakin...
It went on and on. Lizzy was crying so hard she could barely breathe. All of a sudden, she wasn't falling anymore: she was sobbing on the ground, her wet hands already covered with dust and tiny rocks. She raised her head, and her sobbing reached a crescendo.
It was Fitz again. Her saddest moment...of course it would be this.
"I think my legs are broken."
"No, Fitz!" She howled. "You're going to die! And it's all my fault!"
"No, no, it...it isn't your fault," he said, turning his head. "Loo...look at me."
Lizzy heaved in deep breaths as she crawled closer, and took his hand. "You sound...so Scottish," she blurted out, and her tears increased.
"Look, death is like...its like before I was born, I...that's what my mum used to say to, to me..." he trailed off, no more words to say. His hands were trembling badly: Lizzy held them tight. "Jemma should be here, not me. It should be Jemma."
"Shoosh, shh, Jemma would only worry, and Ma...and Mack can tell her once I'm, er...gone..." His eyes were glazing over. Lizzy wiped his dusty face clean. He wasn't even crying: he was peaceful, almost happy. "Liz...Liz. Lizzy, can you do one, one thing for me?"
"Yes, Fitz, of course, of course: anything!"
He paused to look away, then looked back into Lizzy's eyes. "Wake up," he said, and stopped breathing.
"NOOOO!" Lizzy bawled, curling up into a ball and holding Fitz's hand.
"My...my legs are broken..."
"...um, no they're not," Georgia said. "Wake up, sleepyhead! We'll be late for work!"
Lizzy uncurled herself slowly, opening her tear-crusted eyes. It was morning. All the crying had been in the dream...at least, she thought so until she saw her soaked pillow.
"I'm...coming, Georgia," she said quietly.