Twig

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Blu
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Twig

Post by Blu » Sun Jun 16, 2013 1:07 pm

A practise fanfic about a Dr Steven Reynolds! PDF for Chapter 1 follows.

Twig

Chapter 1
Garfield was right, you know. Mondays suck. They had been the same for years without fail. Always waking up at six o’clock in the morning, driving across town to work, labouring under the moans and groans of sick patients and demanding bosses at the local hospital. Tuesdays, as well. And Wednesdays. Thursdays and Fridays after that. Saturdays and Sundays were spent at home writing up notes and putting up with tedious phone calls from new employees who should never have made it into their professions in the first place.
Today was no different from any other Monday, during work hours at least. I had finished up the X-rays with Mr O’Connor and was indulging in a steaming cup of coffee in the staff lounge, one eye focused on the computer e-mail system that would dutifully interrupt at the least welcomed times. Dr Johnson, a friend for many years, was sat adjacent, having just finished up whatever duties he had to attend to, and also trudging his way through his hot drink.
“I had to do it, Steven.” He said. “I couldn’t stand his moaning anymore! How anyone can get so uppity about an ingrowing toenail is beyond me.”
“Dan won’t be happy with you just giving out drugs and sending people home. We’re a hospital, not a pharmacy.” I put my coffee down and scrolled through incoming e-mails. “I know what you mean though. That woman who runs the exotic store came in yesterday with a fracture. Fell down the stairs. Honestly, the way she was talking, it was like she thought it was my fault! It’s not my fault she has no coordination.”
Johnson scoffed. “They always need someone to blame.”
“Yeah. Just ask my wife.” We exchanged a forced chuckle.
An e-mail buzzed onto the screen. It was addressed to me: Dr Reynolds, Orthopedic ward.
“Great. My five minute break is obviously going to be cut short again.” I groggily read through the e-mail, just taking enough of it in to find that I had appointments with five new patients. Another was waiting for me in the wards reception. I chugged down my coffee, got up and adjusted my uniform.
Johnson shook his head pitiably. “I feel for you, man.” Somehow, this statement made me feel no better, and I returned a roll of the eyes.
“The day I finally get promoted to a job just a little less tedious can’t come too soon.” I grumbled.
“That’s what they all say. Don’t worry though, something will turn up.”
With that, I left the lounge, put on my hospital face (an irritating fake smile for the patients), and made my to the reception.
Despite my loathing for a majority of the patients I attended to, there were occasionally those who weren’t a complete waste of air. The patient who would be waiting was a friend of my wife, who, according to the file I had read over earlier, had broken his humerus. As I opened the reception door, I spotted him using his one good arm to flip through a gardening magazine.
His name was Bill. He was an older man, sporting receding grey hair and thick spectacles over his aging, wrinkled eyes. He wore a grey suit and a red tie, always appearing so formal, but he now held his left arm in an ugly white bandage. I cringed at the long white-grey hairs that sprouted haphazardly from his ears and nose.
Bill was one of the few patients I could actually get along with. He may have been old, but his lasting position on the town council made him an important and admirable figure.
“Mr Ross,” I greeted. “Good morning.”
He rose steadily to his feet with a smile. “Good morning to you, too, Dr Reynolds.” He shook my hand using his working arm. “I hope you have been keeping well.”
“Well enough.” I sighed and invited him to my office. I proceeded to guide him from reception and through the long office corridor. “What on Earth did you do to your arm? I can’t imagine this was a skateboarding accident.”
“Oh, it was nothing. I just tripped and landed rather awkwardly.” He said, following along behind me.
“I see.”
We entered my office. It was small, perhaps a little too compact, with a window overlooking some dirty alleyways behind the hospital. Files of varying colours littered the floor and the overflowing bookshelf. My desk was lined with pictures of my parents and my wife. Mostly, they were of my wife.
“How is Brenda?” Bill enquired, spotting the picture in the red frame. It was from our wedding day, four years and three-hundred-and-forty-four days ago.
“She’s coping. We don’t see each other too much anymore, now that she has that new office job.”
“Ah. Are you working different hours?”
“No. She just… isn’t around as much.”
Bill gave me a knowing glance. Then he looked away, a little embarrassed. “I’m sure she’s just adjusting.”
There was a brief awkward silence, and I decided that it was time to move on. I read through his files, questioned him about any feeling he still had in his broken arm, and asked if he had ever injured it before. The usual stuff.
There was nothing unusual about his injury, and I assured him that he would heal well, given that he didn’t do anything to aggravate the injury further.
“Well, Bill,” I said as the appointment came to a close. “Just take good care of it and it should be fine. That means no more skateboarding.”
He huffed out a laugh and got up to shake my hand. “I’ll resist the temptation, Steven. Don’t worry about me.”
I smiled, relieved at finally having a bearable patient stroll into my office today. “It was good to see you again, Bill. You can give me or Brenda a call if there are ever any issues.”
Bill nodded and turned for the door. Then he hesitated and turned back to face me.
“Your wife, Stephen,” He started, his face now a little more serious. “If she’s having trouble adjusting to her new job. To your new house… May I make a recommendation?”
“Sure, Bill. What is it?” I perched myself on the edge of my desk.
“There’s this organisation that started up some time ago that operates in the local area. It’s a great place to meet people, discuss anything that needs to be discussed. I go there regularly, and I’m sure you’d both enjoy it. Both you and Brenda.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? What’s it called?”
“It’s called The Sharing, Steven. You should give it a try sometime.”
With that, he left my office. I needed a coffee.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:16 pm

If you wish to read this in a better format, come read it here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/1/Twig


Chapter 2

I entered our house, finding all the lights were off. This meant that Brenda had not yet returned home, giving me both a sense of relief and a simultaneous sense of loneliness. I closed the door behind me and dropped my briefcase on the nearest available surface with a disgruntled sigh. As I walked into the kitchen area I noticed several to-do notes scattered across the work surface. Some tasks I had already completed, some that I didn’t want to complete. I turned on the lights and scrunched up the loose notes, dropping them in the open bin.
Tonight was not a night for those chores. I simply wasn’t in the right state of mind. I cleaned up around the dining table, but that was all I really felt like doing.
A recipe book sat open by the chopping board; something I had planned before I went to work. I searched out the ingredients after turning on the radio. It was good company while the house was empty, providing a distraction from the ideas that would forever pop into my head.
When dinner was finally cooking, I set about putting away my briefcase and changing into some casual clothing. I began to feel just a little less resentful, when I heard the front door open and slam. Brenda was home, and judging from the ferocity with which the door was slammed, her day had not gone too well.
The sounds of a frustrated wife permeated the house as I cautiously made my way downstairs. She was rearranging the things I had “cleaned up” earlier, each instance accompanied with a grunt of dissatisfaction. Her eyes turned up to me, and instantly turned back down, as her shuffling became pathetic attempts at trying to make herself look busy.
“Brenda.” That was more of an acknowledgement of her presence than a sincere greeting.
“Steven.” She responded, expressed in a similarly emotionless manner.
“How was work today?” I asked, propping myself against the dinner table she was messing around with and awaiting the inevitable response.
“Don’t ask. I’ve had this job for three days and I already hate it.”
I looked to the floor before heading back to the cooking area. The concoction was simmering, and I gave it a stir. “I’m making dinner tonight. Chili.”
“And then I come home to find the house in a mess.” Brenda said, continuing her rant. “Must you leave these files everywhere? It’s like you come home and everything just explodes! Then you leave it for me to clean up.” She grabbed several sheet of paper and deposited them on my father’s old rocking chair that sat in the corner of the room.
“Brenda, please,” I sighed. “I have a lot of paperwork to do tonight. I don’t need you moving everything.”
She huffed and sat down in the nearest chair, resting her chin in her palms. “I just need a little space today.”
The food no longer needed stirring. I continued to, anyway. “Was it really that bad today?”
“Yes, it was.” She threw her head back, adjusting her frazzled hair. “If it weren’t for the money… I don’t know.”
Now I stopped stirring and walked over to sit in the chair beside her. “You don’t have to keep this job going, you know.”
“I do, Steven. Without this job, we don’t have the money to pay for Dad’s care.”
Brenda’s father had recently been taken ill, and spent all his time in either a care home or the hospital. Due to the costs of keeping him alive, we had to sell our old house and move into this new house. My salary was good, but not quite enough to keep our old house and pay for Brenda’s father at the same time.
We now lived on the outskirts of town, in an isolated area just outside of the woods that stretched towards the mountains. We had very few neighbours here, the closest being just over a mile away. I actually preferred it this way, because it was always much quieter, save the sounds of wildlife outside.
I nodded acceptingly. “I could talk to Dan at work. He’s a good guy, maybe he can raise my salary if I explain our situation to him.”
“Really? A raise? From Dan? That guy would steal a quarter from a homeless man. He’d sooner fire you.”
I shook my head. “He’s not that stingy.”
She scoffed and got out of her seat, heading for the lounge. “You know I’m right, Steven.” She lowered the blinds over the windows and turned on the lights. “It’s just something I’ll have to put up with until he finally goes.”
Her attention was distracted by an old table clock that sat on the windowsill. It was the clock her late mother had left for her in her will. She never had much else to give. It was about a foot tall, made with some sort of wood, the kind of which I had no idea. It was the only thing in this house that Brenda really treasured. A small comfort that she would tinker with whenever she was stressed.
She played with it a lot more often these days.
It was awkward talking about her father’s approaching death, but it was something that had thrown us into great turmoil over this last year. Since he had been taken ill, things had quickly taken a turn for the worse, most notably our relationship. Everything seemed destined to drive us apart, with only her father’s illness seemingly keeping us together.
There were times like these where I just wanted things to turn around. I wanted our relationship to succeed. Somehow, since we got married, things never went the way we wanted, and we became more strained and alienated from each other. We needed to find common ground again, something we could do as a couple.
It turned out that she was thinking exactly the same thing. “I met with Linda today. She asked about you.”
“She should be minding her own business.” I mumbled in annoyance.
Brenda ignored that and continued. “She knows that we’ve… that we’ve been going through some troubled times. She told me about this thing called The Sharing.”
I remembered that Bill had mentioned this earlier. “The Sharing, huh?”
“She goes there with the other girls from the office. They have meetings around town, usually in the bars and the restaurants. She says that they have a barbeque tomorrow night somewhere near here.”
“And you’re suggesting that we go there.” I assumed.
Brenda shrugged and finally stopped tinkering with her clock, turning her head up to look at me for the first time today. “Steven, we need to do something about this relationship. I want us to try anything that might help. Linda said that it helped her and her husband get back together.”
“That was only because he got himself into a cushy new job. She’s just after his income.”
She groaned. “So this is going to be yet another one of my ideas you’re just going to dismiss, I suppose.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Yeah, but you implied it.” Her angry tone had re-emerged, and she dropped our eye contact.
“You honestly think that some boy scouts meeting will save this relationship? You think that eating at some crappy barbeque will fix everything? You think me talking to your awful friends will somehow make us fall in love again?”
“Fine!” She squeaked, stamping her way past me. “Fine, we’ll just do nothing. This will all just go away!”
“Brenda, just-” It was obvious that she was finished talking, and she quickly disappeared up the stairs before I could respond. She wouldn’t come back down for a while.
Every night was like this. At least, that’s how it felt.
Now that Brenda had left for her room, I was left with my thoughts. I turned off the radio and stood over the dinner. It was ready.
I thought of The Sharing. Bill had recommended it, as had Linda, and despite my disdain for Brenda’s friends and my lack of trust for any of their inane suggestions, I took Bill a lot more seriously. Perhaps the stubbornness I had displayed was just another attempt to show that Brenda was not in control of me. Maybe this new community was the sort of thing we needed to finally talk on a personal level, without the rage and the tiredness accumulated from work and her father forcing every word.
It was too late to discuss it with her now. She wouldn’t allow me into the bedroom, and I would once again find myself sleeping on the sofa in the living room under the watch of her mother’s clock. Tomorrow, I would take her to The Sharing. I would show her that I was still desperately trying to save this relationship.
I stared down at my latest attempt, the food that bubbled in front of me. It hadn’t worked tonight. She hadn’t even acknowledged it.
I took the pan and poured its contents into the bin.
“Maybe tomorrow, Steven,” I mumbled. “Maybe tomorrow.”

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:19 pm

Chapter 3: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/3/Twig

Chapter 3
The Sharing was hosting a bi-monthly barbeque for adult members near the river that ran from the mountains. There were a surprising number of people there, a lot more than I had initially expected. I even recognised a few people there, mostly from the hospital. As suspected, Bill was there, and he was definitely one of the more commanding presences at this particular event.
It was not easy to convince Brenda to come after last night’s little argument, but after some gentle encouragement, and most probably out of sympathy for my efforts to re-forge a relationship, she decided to come along with me. When we got to the event, though, it became obvious that we wouldn’t be spending much time together. We were instantly pulled apart by our work companions, finding ourselves standing at opposite ends of the clearing. I would try to find my way back to her, but would be instantly dragged off to greet other acquaintances, most of whom I recognised by face only.
I was then distracted by Marty Johnson. He had brought alcohol.
“Oh, thank God! You are my hero, Johnson.” I said, relieved.
“What’s a barbeque without a few cans?” He handed me a cooled beer from his ice box. “So, is this your first time at one of these meetings?”
I chugged greedily from the can and expressed my satisfaction in an approving sigh. “First time. It was mostly Brenda’s idea.” I lied.
“This is my third meeting.” Johnson said. “Probably to be my last. I came down initially to meet some friends that I knew from college. Have a few drinks, shoot some pool, you know.”
“Don’t you like it anymore?” I asked.
He shrugged. “They changed, I guess. They have different priorities these days. They don’t seem to have time for the things in life that are fun anymore. We used to watch the Superbowl with some beers, go out to the bars and ogle all the women. I can’t stand being around them anymore.”
I stayed with Johnson for a while, but finally felt the need to return to my wife and try to strike up a conversation with her and her friends, several of whom had decided to come along. I got rid of my beer can, forced down a rather rancid burger, and headed over. She was sitting with three other girls on a large bank overlooking the river.
“Steven! Hi!” A voice shrieked. It was Linda, one of Brenda’s more irritating friends. “How are you? Oh, it’s been so long!”
“I’m fine, Linda. And you?”
I blanked as she began rolling through the epic biography of her life over the past few weeks, exchanging the occasional glance with Brenda, who didn’t look particularly pleased with my arrival. After Linda’s exhausting diatribe had finally died down, I sat down beside Brenda and tried to integrate myself into their little group. After five minutes or so, however, I had lost all hope of enjoying myself, and found myself desperate to return to Johnson and his ice box. Brenda seemed to pick up on my disdain, and gave me disapproving looks with every mumbled comment and every awkward sigh I gave.
It became obvious very quickly that this would be another failure. I hated the food, I hated the location, I hated the people here, and I hated myself for hating it all!
I politely excused myself and headed back to Johnson, who was happy to offer another beer. We spent the rest of the night going through awkward conversations with the other guys there, and I and Brenda didn’t talk again. The beer and the burgers eventually began to taste a little bitter.
Two hours after arriving, we decided to leave for home. We would grunt at each other, and that would be the extent of our conversations until we entered the car and stared blankly at the windshield.
“Well,” I sighed. “That was…”
“Awful.” Brenda groaned.
I looked down at the steering wheel. “So, are you interesting in going to any more meetings with them, then? This Sharing group?”
She didn’t reply, and planted her chin on her arm, rested against her door. It was a sentiment I wholeheartedly agreed with.
“That’s a no, then.” I rubbed at my face with my hands and turned on the engine. “It wasn’t quite what I had expected.”
“Everyone there sucks.” Brenda stated bluntly. It was a harsh, childish statement, born more from frustration than anything else, but I couldn’t help agree with her for the most part. “I see you had fun with Marty, though. That’s nothing new.”
I shook my head and began to reverse out of our parking spot. “Can you blame me? I hardly knew anyone else there.”
“What about me, Steven?” She huffed impatiently.
“I tried, Brenda.”
“Oh, great try. You lasted about two minutes before you made it perfectly clear that you didn’t want to be around me.” She growled.
“It wasn’t you who I didn’t want to be around. Linda really grates my nerves, and you know that.” I proceeded to drive down the road, away from the meeting.
“You never liked any of my friends, did you?” She said, barely keeping her voice lower than a shout. “You avoid me whenever we’re out in public. It’s like you’re ashamed to be seen with me.” I could tell that she was holding back tears, and I needed to try to calm us both down.
“I’m not ashamed to be with you. I never was.”
Then she struck a nerve. “You were never to be ashamed to be around Cindy, though, were you?”
I slowed the car and brought it to the side of the road, bringing it to a halt. “I knew it. I just knew that you’d bring that up again! I was not interested in Cindy!”
She turned to glare at me. “I saw the messages, Steven! You think I didn’t notice how you’d leave every night for extra work hours?”
My frustration had turned to anger, and I exhaled heavily through my teeth. For the last few months, Brenda had been accusing me of having an affair with one of the nurses at the hospital, and would often bring it up in heated arguments as though it were some kind of trump card.
“I never had anything with Cindy, Brenda.” I urged.
“So I’m paranoid? Is that it?” She wasn’t going to let me win this particular argument. “That was what you said last time. Am I crazy, Steven? Am I crazy?!”
“Yes!”
A tear rolled down her cheek, and she looked away, out of the windshield. “Just take me home, Steven.” She reached down and turned on the car radio. This conversation was done.
I accelerated and continued on down the road as the sun was setting on the horizon, soon swallowed by the tall trees of the woods as we drove down in the direction of home. We sat in silence, half focusing on the radio, half focusing on our situation.
Perhaps this was the night it had truly ended. Maybe it was a final attempt to rekindle us as a couple, and it had failed miserably. I tried to come to terms with this, but after a while I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I focused entirely on the radio and the road ahead of us.
The radio station was doing a run-down of local events. I was about to change it over to find some music that I enjoyed, when something made us both perk up.
“Local police have closed off access to a large area of woods just east of the town, up to the foot of the mountains, after an alleged gang-related incident.” The radio host reported. “Officers were called to the scene after local residents reported strange sightings. The local police chief has informed the media that the incident had involved gang warfare over the trading and distribution of illegal substances, including methamphetamines.”
“East of the city?” Brenda chirped, breaking our silence. “Will that affect us?”
“We should find out soon enough.” I responded, keeping my eyes glued to the road.
The radio continued. “An area, approximately two square miles, has been restricted for police investigation. Local residents have been asked to remain in their houses until the investigations are completed.”
I shook my head in annoyance. “This is just fantastic… Now we’re going to have the cops snooping around our house!”
The radio was quick to interrupt my rant. “Several people in the area earlier today allegedly spotted exotic animals in the area, including a gorilla and a tiger. The police have assured the public that these claims are unfounded.”
Brenda raised an eyebrow. “A tiger in these woods? Honestly, some people will say anything for attention.”
So we drove onwards for home as the sun finally set and the sky quickly turned to the deep blue of the oncoming night, the cars headlights chasing the slithering woodland road.
It wasn’t long before we found what we had expected to see. We turned a corner and came face-to-face with two squad cars guarding a long crime scene tape that wound around trees to our left and right. A rather chunky officer had noticed our approach and waddled over. I rolled down my window.
“Evening, Officer.” I greeted in my most formal and polite manner.
He placed his hairy hands on the door frame and peered inside the car. “Good evening to you both. I’m afraid you’ll have to take a different route. This area is currently being closed off.”
I nodded. “We heard that there was something going down here, but we live in this area.”
The officer hesitated, then nodded and said, “Could you wait here just a moment, sir?” He made his way back to one of the squad cars and reached inside. He pulled out a map and came back, handing it to me through the window.
The area that had been restricted was clearly indicated by large red lines. Our house, as I pointed out to the officer, was just on the border of the restricted area on the side facing the mountains.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to take a detour, sir.” He said apologetically. “This area is strictly off-limits. I suggest taking the road that follows the river to the North, then head South.”
I looked over the map, taking note of the roads he had suggested taking, but my eyes were distracted by movement ahead and I looked up. In the distance, illuminated by the cars flashlights, was another officer slowly pacing between the trees. He was holding a large automatic firearm.
“Sir,” The officer by our car pressed. “Are you alright?”
I shook off the image and looked up at him. “Um… Yes, officer. I’m fine. Just memorising the route.”
“Good. You just be safe out there tonight, sir.” He gave a curt nod. “If you see anything suspicious, inform the police immediately.”
I was beginning to worry. Just a little bit, though. “We will do, officer.”
The chunky officer returned to his post in front of the police line. I closed the window and looked to Brenda. According to her facial expression, she had seen the armed officer as well.
“Well, then,” I began. “Looks like we’re taking the scenic route.”
The road that winded beside the river added a lot of miles to our journey, but as we drove along and the night rolled in, we came to realise the extent of the restricted area. Crime scene tape stretched and wound through the trees the entire way around. The area may have been two square miles earlier, but it quickly became apparent that the police were expanding their search. Flashlight beams would shine between tree trunks as we passed, and we noticed even more heavily armed officers stood on guard, forming a perimeter.
The police were definitely searching for someone, or something, and they were desperate.
“Must have been a pretty big drug trade…” Brenda commented.
I nodded. “They must be searching out some hideout. Probably some huge stashes of crystal meth hidden underground somewhere. Maybe we should be searching too.” I was never much of a comedian.
The road came to a T-junction, and we turned right to head southwards, keeping the police boundary to our right. “This thing is literally going to be across the road from us.” I muttered.
I was right. We parked up on the road just outside of our house, noticing the police tape stretching between the trees that paralleled our property on the other side of the road. There were no flashlights in the area. No armed police in sight.
We exited the car and were destined for bed (well, our separate beds), when we heard a rather unusual noise coming from the bushes that lined our side of the road.
“Raccoon?” Brenda suggested, staring over at the bushes.
“I don’t think so.” I replied.
The noise echoed into the woods again, a sort of guttural, weak cry. The cry was followed by a high-pitched whine, much like a dog with a bad cold.
“That definitely isn’t a raccoon.” I concluded. “Could you pass me the flashlight?”
Brenda went back into the car and pulled a flashlight from the glove compartment, handing it to me. I turned it on and shone the bright light towards the source of the noise. The noises continued as I crept closer, watching as the bush twitched and bobbed with the movement from within.
I pulled back the foliage and shone the flashlight inside.
“What the…” I gasped.
Brenda bounded over to my side. “What is it, Steven?”
“I… I don’t know.” I continued to stare in awe at the thing that had crawled into our bushes. “Brenda? In the back of the car is an empty suitcase. There’s also a pair of gardening gloves.”
She took the hint and ran off to search the car trunk for the equipment I had specified. A moment later, I was wearing a pair of gardening gloves as she held the partially-opened suitcase. I reached down into the bush, much to the terror of the creature sat within. It flailed and yelped as I grabbed it securely in my gloves and I hoisted it into the suitcase. Brenda quickly zipped it up and looked up to me, wide-eyed.
Distant lights shone through the trees in the distance, and the sound of the police voices filled the air. We took the suitcase and headed into our home.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:51 pm

Chapter 4!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/4/Twig


Chapter 4
We brought the suitcase inside and dropped it carefully on the living room sofa. The creature was flailing around incessantly within, pressing against the sides and yelping loudly in protest. Both I and Brenda stood side-by-side for a long period, staring intermittently at the suitcase and then at each other.
After a few motionless minutes, wondering what we were going to do with the strange creature that we had trapped in the suitcase, Brenda sighed and started closing the blinds over the windows. I assumed that she didn’t want the attention of any police officers sneaking by and wondering why we were stood looking blankly at a suitcase that was slowly rocking back and forth as its resident struggled inside.
“So,” Brenda finally spoke up. “What is it? It obviously shocked you enough to lock it up in a suitcase.”
“I just want to get a better look at it.” I muttered, looking down at my flashlight.
Brenda nodded and then briskly exited the living room.
“Where are you going?” I asked, rather impatiently.
“Hold on, I’m just getting something.” With that, she disappeared into the corridor. This left me alone with the suitcase that continued to yelp and whine and kick in front of me. It sure didn’t sound like a raccoon, nor did it sound like a dog or a bird. It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before.
Brenda returned, holding a thick hardback book. “Here. We can find out what it is from this.” It was a book on native wildlife that gave basic information on pretty much every vertebrate species found in this part of the country. She opened it and flicked to the contents page. “What did it look like?”
I raised an eyebrow and paused, just staring at her.
She rolled her eyes and repeated, “Steven, what did it look like?”
I pursed my lips, and then said, “Take a look for yourself.” I passed her the flashlight.
Taking the flashlight in her spare hand, she looked at me quizzically, then down towards the suitcase. I moved over to it and slowly unzipped the top without trying to alarm the creature inside. It had grown quieter now, no longer banging on the sides but still whimpering pathetically.
She activated the flashlight and hung over the lip of the suitcase, dipping the light inside. Her eyes went wide and her mouth noticeably gaped. Then she dropped the flashlight on the sofa and fingered through the wildlife encyclopaedia that she held. I stared over her shoulder and noticed that she couldn’t quite figure out which section to turn to. She eventually settled on the reptile section, and brushed through right to the end. She wasn’t satisfied, and grabbed the flashlight to re-examine her specimen.
“It won’t be in the book.” I stated calmly. “I’ve never heard of or seen anything like it before.” I joined her in looking down at the stunned creature that was lying flat, petrified against the base of the suitcase.
Brenda shrugged. “It looks like a lizard.”
“It isn’t a lizard.” I concluded.
I took the flashlight from Brenda and started to examine the body in more detail. The creature was dark green in colour. It had four limbs, the lower two of which ending in chunky bird-like talons, like the feet of some theropod dinosaur. Between them sat a thick, quivering tail, ending in a small stump, looking quite like the chitin-based shell of a beetle.
It had a long, snake-like neck that ended in an equally reptilian head. The upper jaw turned solid behind the nostril, like the beak of a bird. Above them sat two big, red, cat-like eyes, pupils heavily constricted in the glow of the flashlight. I noticed stray tears rolling down its scaly cheek.
But the things most distinguishable about this creature were the large, presumably-keratin bumps that appeared over the body’s extremities. On its legs, arms, head and tail. They were like small, blunt blades, slightly darker in colour than the rest of the body.
I concluded that this creature was definitely not going to be found in the American Wildlife Encyclopedia.
“Is it some sort of anole?” Brenda asked speculatively.
“Does that look anything like an anole?” I snapped in frustration. She closed the book and put it to one side, seemingly reaching the same conclusion that I had.
“Well, what are we going to do with it?” She pressed.
I had no good answer. I put the gardening gloves back over my hands, eager to inspect the creature closer. Brenda clutched at my arm, signalling her disapproval at me handling the beast. I ignored her.
The creature wasn’t too pleased as I lowered my gloves into the suitcase, retracting its limbs and backing away as far as possible until it was almost rolled into a ball in one corner. It froze as I started to poke and prod it. I was intrigued by the blade-like stumps on its arms and legs, so I held them, inspecting them. Brenda watched on curiously.
“Is it me, Steven, or is it crying?”
She was right. The tears I had noticed earlier were freely dripping from its eyes. It would whimper and whine as I moved my hand over its body, its eyes following the gloves every movement.
“Steven. Stop it.” Brenda urged. I relented and pulled my hand away and out of the suitcase. Then there was another awkward pause.
“Coffee?” I asked.
“Please.”
I wandered over to the kitchen and began to prepare coffee. Brenda stayed by the sofa, curiously watching the thing in the suitcase.
As I brewed the hot drinks, I began to ponder what needed to be done. Neither of us had any idea as to what the thing was, where it had come from, or what we should be doing with it. Everything was further complicated with the presence of heavily armed police officers patrolling outside.
I saw a flashlight hover in the distance from the kitchen window. I closed the curtains and sighed, holding the bridge of my nose between my finger and thumb. My body just wanted sleep right now, but I knew that this situation would have to be dealt with tonight.
Once the coffees were made, I brought them into the living room and sat them down on the table. Brenda was still gawking at the creature.
“So what are we going to do with it, Steven?” She asked again.
I sat down on the sofas armrest and rubbed at my face with both hands. “As far as I can see, we have three options. Option one, we put it back outside. We forget that we ever saw anything.”
“We can’t do that.” She sighed. “You think it could last five minutes out there with all those armed police?”
I nodded. It was doubtful that the police would show it the same mercy that we did at first sighting. Nor did it seem likely that the creature was capable of protecting itself on its own, judging from its panicked and pathetic reactions when I started prodding it with a large gardening glove.
“Option two,” I continued. “We hand it over to the authorities.”
“I can’t see that being any different to just leaving it out on its own.” She retorted. “I wouldn’t trust those cops out there with it, nor would I trust a vet to do anything except give it to some scientists to rip it open and take a look at its insides.”
“I don’t think it’s really up to us, Brenda.”
She huffed. “I don’t want to kill the thing, and I don’t want to give it to anyone who’ll just destroy it.”
“Then that’s option three out as well.” I rolled my eyes, annoyed and confused at her sudden empathy for the creature.
She played with the tips of her long brown hair and glared at me. “And did you not consider option four?”
“We are not keeping it.” I groaned.
“So what did you want to do, Steven? You want to go out there and hand over to some guy with an AK-47? Or did you want to kill it yourself? You could break its bones. It would be good practise for you, trying to put them back together.”
“I’m not as heartless as maybe you think I am.” I defended. Despite the familiar tone that this conversation was descending to, I was determined to keep this from being lowered into yet another argument. “Where would we keep it? How would we keep it?”
She glanced back over to the suitcase. The creature inside was now silent. “Well, we can’t leave it in there, that’s for sure.” She paused, mulling over the options. “How about the basement?”
I sighed deeply. “And then what?”
Brenda shrugged. “We keep it until we figure out how best to deal with it.”
“We don’t know anything about it, Brenda.” I snapped. “It could be toxic, for all we know!”
“Oh, don’t be stupid, Steven.” She rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips.
“We don’t know. We’ve never seen anything like it before. It could be something conjured up by some deranged genetic experiment. It could be one of those demons your mother claimed to see on a daily basis.” I said the last one rather more sarcastically.
She bent down and picked up the gardening gloves that I had used earlier.
“What are you doing, Brenda?” I seethed.
Her hands dropped into the suitcase, and after a brief scuffle, she lifted the writhing creature out and held it at arm’s length, gazing at it.
“Put it down.” I warned. “Brenda, that thing could be dangerous!”
She ignored me and continued to look curiously at the creature. She stared, and it stared back. It started to calm down as she held it under the shoulders, its flailing tail slowly drooping and relaxing. Soon, it was no longer cowering, and its curiosity took over, its eyes exploring the room, perplexed by its new surroundings.
Meanwhile, I was pulling at my hair and cursing under my breath, half expecting it to lash out. I drank some coffee in an attempt to calm down.
“It isn’t conventionally cute...” Brenda mused.
I shook my head, not really believing what was happening. “Brenda, put it down. Have you not noticed the sharp things sticking out of its arms and legs?”
She scoffed and looked back at the creature. “Don’t listen to him. He’s just being a ‘cranky pants’.” It replied with a squeak.
“Well, don’t come crying when it starts gnawing at your neck and drinking your blood.” I sipped from my coffee.
“It isn’t a vampire, Steven.”
“Oh, so you’re an expert now. That’s fortunate.”
Brenda bent down and put the creature on the sofa, moving the suitcase to the side. It squirmed and curled up slightly, alert to what was happening around it. It stared at me for a while, but I diverted my eyes to my coffee.
“What do you think it eats?” Brenda asked me.
“Souls, perhaps?”
She sensed my lack of desire for cooperation, and stormed into the kitchen area. I heard the sound of the fridge being opened, and her hand searching through for loose food. I occasionally looked up from my coffee, exchanging awkward glances with the creature, which also seemed to sense my disapproval of this situation.
Brenda returned with a selection of foods on a large plastic tray. She knelt down in front of the creature and held up a small piece of chicken from the tray. The creature showed no interest and stared blankly into space.
After trying out every type of food on the tray, including meat, cheese, lettuce and even a cookie, Brenda gave up in a huff and returned the tray to the kitchen.
“I told you. It eats souls.” I hummed. Brenda took no notice and drank her coffee.
It was then when the creature decided to explore. It crawled clumsily off of the sofa and wobbled around on the floor for a while, before waddling over to the television.
I gave Brenda a look of expectancy, and she guided the creature away from my precious television. Brenda silently acknowledged that this was now mostly her responsibility. This was mostly her decision.
An hour passed. I was sat in my favourite chair, finishing off my third coffee of the night, watching Brenda’s new “pet” making a mess of our living room. She had been preparing the basement for its new resident by removing anything breakable, and putting in a couple of blankets and a bowl of water. If only she could give me this much attention every so often…
“I hope our new guest is temporary.” I grumbled to her as she cleaned up her coffee mug.
“I sometimes say exactly the same about you.” She countered without hesitation.
I grunted, used to such comebacks. “And have you thought of a name for it?” I meant it sarcastically, but unfortunately, she took it literally.
She looked down at the creature, who was investigating a footrest. “I had a few ideas…”
“You aren’t seriously considering giving it a name, are you?”
She glared angrily. “Yes. I am. Is there a problem with that?”
“This isn’t a pet, Brenda. I wouldn’t start getting attached to it.”
“No, you shouldn’t, considering the misery you bring to everyone you attach to.”
I finished my coffee and put the mug down on the table, clasping my hands and leaning forward in my seat. “Okay then. How about Damien?”
“Oh, just shut up.” She spat.
The creature sat up, lifted its beak-like snout into the air, and rose cautiously to its feet. Both I and Brenda watched curiously as it winded its way over to the corner of the room, which was occupied by a large household plant. It tumbled into the plant pot, and proceeded to tear off several branches.
I rose to my feet to voice my objections, but Brenda shushed me, and we continued to watch as the creature sat itself down by the plant pot, squeaked in delight, and began gnawing hungrily at the small collection of twigs it had gathered.
“It’s destroying my plant!” I growled, not at all happy with the damage it was doing.
“Well, at least we know what it eats, now.” Brenda compromised. “Twigs.”
We continued to watch as it indulged itself on my beloved houseplant, tearing off the woody outer layers of the stems it had accumulated. Brenda was cooing in an unusual motherly manner, and I was still mourning the trimming of my once proud décor.
“Twig.” Brenda considered. I turned to look at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Twig? Seriously?”
“It’s better than Damien.” She fizzled defensively.
“It’s awful.”
But it was too late. Brenda had made up her mind, and all I could do was admit defeat.
“Twig.” She repeated.
“Twig.” I reluctantly agreed.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:12 pm

Chapter 5!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/5/Twig


Chapter 5
Wednesdays sucked almost as much as Mondays. In fact, if it weren’t for the calendar that faced me from over my office desk, I don’t think I would be able to tell the difference.
The first few hours dragged on like any normal workday. Five appointments scraped by, each more infuriating than the last, and by the time the sixth appointment came around, I was about ready to jump over the desk and strangle him, if it weren’t for the great big cast in the way.
“I recommend an appointment with Dr Neville.” I said, finishing up an advice slip and handing it to him. “I’ll send a message to reception and they should be able to arrange another appointment for you.”
“Can’t I just see him now?” Mr Thompson demanded.
I held back a scream of frustration. “I’m afraid Dr Neville has a busy schedule. You’ll need to wait a few days while he makes room for you.”
“But what if I fall again in the next few days?” He whined.
“We can only hope.” I muttered under my breath.
“Excuse me?”
I stood and reached forward to shake his hand. “I’ll make sure that your appointment is as soon as possible, Mr Thompson.”
He got up and completed the handshake. “Thank you very much, Dr Reynolds.”
I helped him out of the door and closed it behind him. Thankfully, that was my last morning appointment, and I had an hour or so to sort through files and arrange further appointments.
Or I could go to the lounge and fall unconscious for an hour.
I decided that some clean-up was necessary, and I moved some files around, adjusted the items on my desk until the room looked slightly less like a nuclear disaster area. Dan always demanded clean offices. Maybe if I was chasing a raise, obeying such a minor order was probably a wise choice.
After that, I slinked off to the staff lounge and poured out a large coffee. The television that sat perched in the top left corner of the room was blaring. It was some daytime talk show where they brought on families or couples who wasted the only screen time they would ever get by shouting at each other, and generally making asses of themselves. The remote was nowhere to be seen, so I accepted that I would have to put up with it.
About five minutes into my well-earned break, Johnson strolled in.
“Morning, Reynolds.” He greeted.
“Hey, Marty.” I returned. “Just signed in?”
He nodded. “Yeah. No appointments for twenty minutes, though. I thought I would drop in for a coffee before the nightmare begins.”
I sat forward and teased my coffee. Johnson finished brewing his own and seemed to be watching me curiously.
“You okay, Steven? You look a little…” He hesitated.
“Pissed off?”
“Shaken.” He surmised. “Didn’t get much sleep, huh?”
“Not a bit.” I sighed, chugging back a huge gulp of my drink.
Johnson pondered for a moment, and then sat in the seat opposite to me. “Is it Brenda?”
“It’s a lot of things, Marty. Not only is my marriage disintegrating, but I no longer enjoy my job, I no longer have any fun, and now we have…”
He raised an eyebrow as I paused. “What do you have?”
“We have armed cops patrolling outside of our house.”
“Oh yeah! I was going to ask you about that. I heard that there was a big investigation in the woods where you lived.”
“Yes.” I sighed grumpily. “Before I came to work today, there was some guy with an automatic weapon stood on the opposite side of the road. He just… watched me.”
Johnson looked troubled. “They say it was some drug bust. Didn’t you ever notice anything suspicious?”
I shook my head. “I never saw anything. I never would have guessed that the woods in front of my house were home to some underground mafia base.”
“That’s why you couldn’t sleep.” Johnson summarised.
It was, for at least some part, true. The thought of stepping outside and getting turned into bullet-ridden Swiss cheese was something that had haunted me all night. I only hoped that the police investigation would be short-lived. “Yeah. That’s why.”
I diverted my attention to the television and watched as some family received a verbal battering from the eccentric host.
“You watch this crap?” Johnson scoffed, looking bemused.
“I can’t find the remote.” I mumbled.
Johnson sighed and put his coffee down, beginning a search for the lost remote. “I can’t stand daytime television.”
“Nobody can.” I noted. “It’s punishment for people who can’t be bothered to get a job. They get stuck watching stuff like this.”
Then something caught my interest. The host was addressing the family - some scruffy looking degenerates - about some affair that the father had with another woman. The tagline was what interested me:
DNA evidence will prove that you really are my son.
Johnson returned and stood beneath it, holding up the remote. “Found it.”
“Marty, wait…” I interrupted. He looked down at me.
I narrowed my eyes at the screen as the host went over the results of the DNA analysis, and I suddenly grabbed at an idea that floated through my head.
“How do you think they do that, Marty?” I asked him. He blinked at me suspiciously.
“How do they do what? Convince people to make fools of themselves on national television?”
“DNA tests.” I said. “How do they do the DNA tests?”
He gazed up at the television and seemed more interested in why I wanted to know. “You have something you want to tell me?” He asked with the slightest smirk
“It’s not like I have some kid of undetermined origins, Marty.” I snorted, rolling my eyes. “I just want to know how they do it.”
“Well, they get a DNA sample and… look at it? I don’t know. I’m no expert in genetics” He shrugged and looked disinterested. “Can I change the channel now?”
“Sure.”
The rest of the day went a little smoother than usual. The patients were a little more patient, and the file work felt more like normal work, rather than the drawn-out death sentence that it used to feel like. My mind was too busy thinking about DNA tests to really dwell on the negatives that surrounded me.
When my work hours were done, I stuck around a little while longer. I ventured to the other end of hospital, to a small laboratory on the top floor.
I knocked on the door and was swiftly invited in. Dr David Yates, an older man, was stood over several test tubes. He wore a long, stained lab coat, thick spectacles, and his grey hair had receded to leave his head bald on top.
He smiled as I politely entered through the door. “Steven! What can I do for you?”
We went over the general pleasantries that started most normal conversations. I watched as he occasionally added chemicals to test tubes, placed colourful beakers in large whirring machines and typed complicated notes into large computer spread sheets.
“Listen, David. I came here to ask a favour.”
“Sure, Steven.” He gleamed his usual welcoming smile. “Whatever you need.”
“Could you possibly do some DNA analysis for me?”
He stared at me questionably. “What kind of DNA?”
I hesitated, not altogether willing to tell where I would be getting a sample. “It’s, uh…. It’s a hamster.” What else could I say?
Well, pretty much anything. Too late now, though.
“A hamster…” He muttered in disbelief. “And why, may I ask, do you want me to analyse its DNA?”
I spoke the first thing that sprung to my mind. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. “I want to know who the father is.”
David stared at me like I was a man just released from the mental institute. In fairness, I felt like one. “You want to know the hamster’s father…”
I shrugged and searched my mind for an excuse. “It’s Brenda’s idea.”
“Of course.” It was plainly obvious that he didn’t believe me, but he grudgingly continued. “Okay, Steven. I can do the analysis for you for the right price. You just need to bring some skin or hair samples from each hamster to me. I’ll perform the necessary magic and you’ll have whatever strange answer you want.”
I nodded, but then I hesitated. “Wait, each hamster?”
“Yes, each hamster. I would need the DNA of the hamster in question, and each possible parent.”
I had not really thought this through. Maybe I should have paid more attention in Biology class. “Well, I only have the one hamster.”
“Then I’m afraid I can’t help you find the father of your hamster.” David said glumly.
I looked down at my feet, feeling a little defeated.
David leaned against his workstation and tipped his large spectacles. “What is it you really want, Steven?”
“You mean you didn’t fall for the hamster story?” I sighed, feeling like even more of a buffoon. “Okay, I suppose I should tell you. I found something in the woods yesterday. Brenda and I can’t figure out what it is.”
Now David looked intrigued, narrowing his eyes. “What does it look like?”
“Nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
“I see.” He said. “Well, if you bring a sample, I could check it for matches on an online database. I could find out the species for you.” A smile appeared on his face. “Doubtful I could track down the real father though.”
“I’m sure I can deal without. Thanks, David.”
He reached into a cupboard below his workstation and withdrew a small plastic tube. Then he took a marker pen and wrote down a few numbers and symbols on the side. “Put the sample in this tube. Do not mix it with anything. Make sure the lid is tightly secured, and then bring it back to me. It will take me a few weeks or months, but I will get back to you with your answer.”
“Weeks or months?” I asked, sounding unnervingly similar to one of my own patients. “Does it really take that long?”
“I have priorities, Steven.” He huffed. “If I find the time, I will do it, but I’m a busy man, and it is not a simple process. If it is as interesting as you imply, however, I’ll get it done as soon as time allows.” He smiled warmly, and I smiled back.
“I think you’ll be very interested.” I assured as I took the small tube and placed it in my pocket before heading to the door. “Thanks, David. I’ll see you soon.”
He sent me off with a wave and went back to working on his line of test tubes.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:39 pm

Chapter 6!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/6/Twig


Chapter 6

I returned home a little later than usual. The Sun was fast approaching the horizon and dipping below the trees as I pulled the car into the driveway, having driven the extra few miles around the police border. I retrieved my briefcase and my coat, but before I could make my way inside the house, the sound of feet shuffling over fallen litter breached my senses. I turned to see the armed officer, stood at the exact same spot that I had seen him in this morning. His cold eyes followed me as I circled my car.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I approached him. “Is there a problem, officer?” I asked, sounding perhaps a little more bitter than I wanted to show.
“No problems, sir.” The bulky officer responded. He was nearly a clear foot taller than I was with a face like steel. I decided against provoking him, and kept our conversation civil.
“Is there any particular reason you have been watching our house all day?” I questioned.
“It’s just a precaution, sir.” He stated robotically. “I am here to ensure your safety.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Safety from what?”
“That is classified information, sir.” His expressionless face showed little for me to work on.
“Classified, huh?” I crossed my arms, trying to assert some authority. “I think I have a right to know why I have an officer with an automatic weapon stood outside of my house. Haven’t you arrested all the bad guys yet? Are you protecting us from raccoons high on meth now?”
“If you have any issues, sir, you will have to take them up with the sheriff.” He sneered.
“Yes. I think I’ll do just that.” I huffed. With that, I let him be, and took my things into the house.
Brenda had already arrived and was beginning preparations for tonight’s dinner. By the looks of it, we were having chicken. I got rid of my works things and performed my usual routine of planting myself onto the sofa and switching on the television.
“Would it be rude of me to ask you to do something useful, Steven?” Brenda pressed from the kitchen.
“Like what?” I groaned, unwilling to move.
“Moving these damn files off of the cooking surface would be a good start.”
I reluctantly obeyed and returned to the kitchen to rid the surfaces of my stray files. I should have been used to it by now, considering that this specific series of events had occurred near enough every day for the past five years.
“How was work?” I uttered whilst dumping the stack of papers on a free surface.
“A little better.” She sighed, slicing up a carrot. “I didn’t have any bosses screaming down my ear, and only five customers abused me over the phone.”
After clearing up my stuff, I caught a glimpse out of the kitchen window to see the armed officer again. He was staring right at me.
I felt a sudden chill up my spine and I quickly diverted my gaze to the floor. “Brenda?”
“Yes, Steven?”
“That officer across the road… He’s been stood there all day.”
She seemed to sense the tension in my voice. “I know. I tried to talk to him earlier. He says he’s here to “protect us.””
“That’s exactly what he just said to me. Now he’s staring at us through the windows.”
Brenda turned with a raised eyebrow, and then she moved to the window to investigate for herself. “You’re right, he is.” She granted him a middle finger, then closed the blinds.
I couldn’t help but smile at her reaction. “You just flipped off an armed man. Brave.”
“What’s he going to do? Arrest me?”
I shook my head and sighed deeply. “I get the feeling that it was more than just a drugs raid.”
She shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. He didn’t give me any information.”
“I’ll phone the authorities later. See if I can get to the bottom of this. We can’t have G.I. Joe standing there all night watching us through all the windows.”
Brenda returned to her workstation. “You think they’re after Twig, don’t you.”
It was a thought that had crossed my mind several times today. The creature’s appearance on the night that the police had arrived was enough of a coincidence. “It’s possible.” I sighed, feeling strangely uncomfortable talking about it. “I’ll talk to the police chief tonight. Depending on what he says, we may have to give the thing up.”
She nodded, and a defeated look spread over her face. My hand reached down into my pocket, and I pulled out the small plastic tube I had been given.
“David gave me this.” I said, showing the tube to her. “I thought we should get a DNA test done for it. If it stays, I want to find out exactly what it is, and where it came from.”
Her eyes focused on the tube, and she took it in her hand. “How would you do that?”
“We’ll need to take a skin sample. I’ll give it to David, and he’ll put it through a bunch of machines and computers to find out its species. Don’t ask me how it all works, because I don’t know, but I trust him.”
She seemed to accept the idea. “We’ll do it after dinner.”

Dinner was often eaten in near-silence. We usually avoided talking about work or about our personal lives, and there was never anything else to talk about. Sometimes we ate separately. But tonight, there was much to discuss. We acknowledged each other’s paranoia of the armed officers that patrolled our house. We talked about our new resident.
We discussed our upcoming anniversary. That was a depressingly brief talk.
Once dinner was finished, the plates were all cleaned up, and some other minor chores were completed, we made our way down into the basement.
Brenda had left the lights on since this morning, and the single light bulb in the centre of the ceiling gently illuminated the small, grey room. There was a washing machine and an old chest of drawers lined against the far wall, and various other broken or ancient appliances were messily dotted around the floor. The room was cold, but Brenda had brought down a small heater earlier which was slowly giving the basement a more bearable temperature. A small bowl of water sat beside a pile of blankets in the corner beside the washing machine.
“What kind of sample do we need, again?” Brenda queried.
I shrugged as we approached the pile of blankets. “I think we should pull off a scale.” I reached into the chest of drawers and searched through the maze of power tools and nails for something to make the job a little easier.
Eventually, I found a small pair of tweezers, just as the doorbell rang from upstairs. I handed the tweezers and the plastic tub to Brenda and left to see who was outside.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I moaned as the doorbell rang again. I opened it and came face to face with a short, stumpy officer. He wore a police chief’s badge. “Oh, hello officer.”
“Good evening, sir.” The man with the bushy moustache spoke in a raspy, throaty voice. “Police Chief Harris.” He held out his hand to shake and I duly shook it. “I’m here to discuss the investigation. I’m sure you have noticed it.”
“It has crossed my mind, yes.” I glanced over the police chief’s shoulder to notice that the armed officer was still there, still staring directly at my home. “I noticed the armed guys.”
Harris followed the direction of my stare. “Ah, yes. I hope you understand that it is for your own safety.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” I said, holding back my anger. “What is it we’re being protected from, exactly?”
He turned back to face me. “My men are stationed here to watch over the investigation, and to ward off criminal accomplices who wish to hide evidence…” He blinked at a small notepad in his hands. “… Mr Reynolds. We apologise for the disturbance, but it is a necessary precaution in such an investigation.” A smile appeared from beneath his bushy grey moustache. “May I come in, Mr Reynolds?”
I hesitated and looked back, into the corridor. The door to the basement was still open. “Uh… Sure! Please come in, officer.”
I made sure to guide him towards the kitchen area, casually closing the basement door as I passed. The chief entered the kitchen, and I pulled up a seat for him to rest his portly frame in. “Would you care for a drink, officer? Coffee?”
It was perhaps a stupid decision to allow him into the house while Brenda was tending to the creature in the basement, but I didn’t want to raise Harris’ suspicions. He nodded to my question, and I began pouring some coffee.
“How long do you expect to keep up the investigation?” I asked him, genuinely curious.
He sat back, causing the chair to creak dangerously beneath him. He placed his hat on the table. “We are packing our equipment away as we speak, Mr Reynolds. We will be gone by the morning.”
I set the coffee down by his hat and took the seat opposite his. “Oh, that’s good news. I was starting to think you’d be here forever.” I attempted to get a chuckle. It seemed to work.
“No need to worry, Mr Reynolds. As I said, it is necessary procedure. We have tried our best to avoid disturbing your household. I hope that there have been no issues concerning my men.” He wrapped his fingers around the mug. “Oh, and thanks for the coffee.”
My hands clasped on the table in front of me. “Actually, I and my wife were a little concerned about the man placed in front of our house. He’s a little too… watchy.”
Harris nodded. “I shall speak to him. We don’t mean to make you feel awkward.”
The conversation continued in much the same manner. The police chief seemed very apologetic for the police presence in front of our house, and I soon felt convinced that our paranoia was simply that: paranoia. He detailed me on a few of the more public details of what had been going on, and assured me that the area was now safe.
Then the conversation shifted again to something that made me sweat just a little bit.
“This is a lovely little place you have, Mr Reynolds. I always wanted to live somewhere like this. Somewhere out of the way.” He smiled.
“It has its benefits.” I stated.
“You must get a lot of animals around here, as well. A good place for hunting.” He slurped at his coffee and then let loose a small huff of laughter. “One of my officers told me about some lizard he claimed to see a couple of days ago. A really big lizard, he said. I told him he was just imagining it, of course.” His face grew more serious. “You haven’t seen anything strange, have you, Mr Reynolds?”
I paused, unsure of what to say. Should I reveal the creature in the basement?
No. I feared Brenda’s wrath more than I feared lying to a police officer.
I smiled. “Apart from my wife’s cooking?”
We exchanged a laugh, Harris’ serious gaze loosening.
“No.” I continued. “I haven’t seen anything strange.”
Harris accepted the lie and finished off his drink. “Good.”
There was a sudden bang as a door opened in the hallway. I bent to look over Harris’ shoulder in time to see Brenda marching towards to kitchen, the small creature buried, curled up in her arms. She noticed my eyes widening, and she also noticed the chief, whose back was fortunately turned towards her. She darted behind the nearest corner, just as Harris twisted to see where the noise had come from.
“What was that?” He asked, shuffling to get a better view.
I got up from my seat, now eager to see him leave. “Oh, just the wife doing her chores.”
He joined me in getting up from his seat, quickly dismissing my wife’s appearance. “Well, I had better be going now. Thank you for your cooperation, Mr Reynolds.”
“Thank you for explaining the situation, chief. We appreciate the help.” We shook hands and I led him to the front door.
He stepped outside onto the drive and turned back to face me. “No need to worry about my men anymore. We’ll be gone by tomorrow morning. And, Mr Reynolds?”
“Yes, chief?”
“If you see anything strange around, be sure to give the station a call.”
“Do my wife’s friends count?”
“I’m afraid not, sir.” He grinned and soon departed. I closed the door behind him and breathed a big sigh of relief.
Brenda reappeared moments later, carrying the creature into the living room. “What was all that about?” She shouted over her shoulder to me.
I followed her and sat beside her on the sofa. “That was the police chief. He says they’re finishing up the investigation tonight. They’ll be gone by morning.”
She stared down at the green bundle of limbs in her arms. It was asleep. “That’s good.”
The plastic tube and the tweezers were laying on the arm rest beside her. She had not yet taken a sample. I reached over and took the instruments, unscrewing the lid of the plastic tub and taking the tweezers in my right hand.
“Be careful, Steven.” Brenda warned, but I didn’t care. This thing had caused enough trouble already, and I wasn’t in the best of moods.
I squeezed the tip of the tweezers around one of the larger scales on the creature’s tail and yanked as hard as I could. The creature jerked awake and let loose a gut-wrenching scream as I tore away the scale and dropped it carefully into the plastic tube.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:50 pm

Chapter 7!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/7/Twig


Chapter 7

The chief kept his promise, and by the next morning, the armed officers and the police tape had vanished. Apart from Brenda’s new pet, things had finally returned to normal.
On the day the police left, I dropped off the creature’s scale in David’s laboratory. He was not around at the time, so I left the plastic tube on a desk where I thought he would be likely to find it.
I didn’t hear from him over the next couple of days, but it didn’t really matter. I was enjoying a quiet weekend where I wasn’t glued to the dinner table sorting through appointments and patient files. I actually had some time to myself. Almost, anyway.
Brenda was free for the weekend as well, and we spent Saturday roaming the mall in town, looking for ways to waste our well-earned money when it could have been better used elsewhere. Her father was showing small signs of recovery in the hospital, and so Brenda decided to treat herself to new lipsticks, shoes, and whatever else that women feel compelled to buy.
Sunday came quickly, and we had nothing planned. The weather had taken a turn for the worst, pouring with rain, with the weatherman predicting it would continue into next week.
That didn’t stop Brenda from sending me outside to collect sticks.
I returned after two hours, pushing open the front door with a hand full of cold, dirty sticks. My clothes were soaked, dripping water heavily onto the doormat.
“Is it still raining?” Brenda asked.
“No, Brenda. I thought I would take a detour through the car wash.” I grumbled, dropping my stick collection into a designated basket by the staircase. “Couldn’t that thing eat something more appropriate? How about cheeseburgers?”
She ignored my bitter remarks and took the basket into the living room. I relieved myself of the soaked clothes and changed into something warmer, before returning to set myself down in front of the living room TV.
Brenda had dropped the basket full of sticks beside the sofa, and the creature was already busy gorging itself, ignoring my presence completely. It still seemed a little bitter since I almost ripped its tail off the other day, and my unwillingness to really bond with it didn’t help either.
I didn’t really want to bond with it anyway. It kind of freaked me out.
However, it received an undue amount of attention from Brenda, who was almost obsessive over its well-being. I didn’t quite understand it. The creature wasn’t exactly cute or cuddly, and Brenda had even been accidentally cut a few times by its vicious blades. Maybe it had simply awoken her maternal side.
I was busy watching the Sunday football game when I felt something tug at my jeans. Two big red eyes were gazing curiously up at me. The creature had obviously finished its meal and needed someone to annoy.
“Brenda? Could you tend to this please?” I summoned to the kitchen where she was making herself busy.
She leaned against the wall that separated the two rooms, munching on an apple. “You’re a grown man. You tend to it.”
“It’s your demon pet, Brenda. Your responsibility.”
“I think you two need to start bonding.” She smiled deviously and walked over. Putting her apple to one side, she picked up the creature under the armpits and dropped it carefully into my lap. One of the blades on its left leg dug uncomfortably into my thigh.
“Ow! The little…” I seethed, but the creature adjusted to a more comfortable position and smiled goofily up at me.
Yes, the thing smiles. It’s kind of creepy.
“See? She likes you!” Brenda cooed.
I raised an eyebrow, keeping my stare fixed on the creature in case it decided to slit my throat with one of those wicked blades on its wrists, “It has a gender now?”
“I had a gut feeling.” She grumbled, frustrated at my continually sarcastic tone.
“It must have poisoned you.” I commented. “You mean you actually went to the trouble of… checking?”
“No. You could check for yourself if you want.”
“I’d rather not.” I said, grimacing at the beast on my lap. “Maybe it’s a hermaphrodite.”
Brenda shrugged and sat down beside me. The creature instantly decided that Brenda’s lap would be more welcoming and crawled over, though not without digging its claws in dangerously close to my groin.
For a while, and much to my annoyance, Brenda thought it was a good idea to play a few baby games with the creature. It was both disturbing and sort of sweet to watch as Brenda indulged in a game of peek-a-boo. The creature seemed curiously child-like, laughing in its unusual way whenever Brenda would reveal herself from behind her hands.
I was slowly beginning to develop an interest in its reactions. The way it sounded and the way it moved. It was almost like a human child, if you ignored the fact that it was green, scaly and covered in dangerous blades.
I even found myself counting the blades. There were three blades on each arm, two on each leg, two on the tail and three on the head. In just the few days that it had been living here, its blades had grown and sharpened, and its overall height had increased by about an inch or two. This brought an obvious question to my mind.
“How big is this thing going to grow?”
She narrowed her eyes. “You know, I never thought of that.” Then she paused in thought.
“Those blades are getting pretty big, Brenda. I’m not sure if I you should be handling it so carelessly.”
“Twig isn’t going to hurt me, Steven.” She growled, rubbing her fingers over its elbow blade. “At least, not on purpose.”
“An accident could be just as bad as an attack.” I warned. “Especially if it continues growing.”
Brenda shrugged it off and continued disturbing the silence with her high-pitched baby talk to the creature, which seemed mildly amused. “Don’t worry Twig. He’s just being Mr Cranky Pants again. Isn’t he Twig? Isn’t he Twig?!”
“Wig!” It chirped.
We froze and stared wide-eyed at it.
Brenda stammered, look to me, back to Twig, and then back to me again. “Did she just…?”
I simply shrugged, taken aback by its outburst.
Brenda regained herself and stared hard at it. “Twig? Say your name, Twig. Twig.” I noticed a slight grin on her face that seemed to want to appear, but she was just managing to hold it back.
The creature cocked its head and contemplated for a moment, before it barked again in its guttural tone. “Wig!”
Both I and Brenda couldn’t quite believe what we were hearing, and we stared at each other for what seemed like minutes, just as the grin that had threatened to appear shone brightly on Brenda’s face.
The next few minutes consisted of Brenda repeatedly encouraging Twig to say its name. Nearly, anyway. It seemed to struggle with ‘T’s’, but the utterance of the most part of its name was a major revelation for Brenda. For me, it simply increased my curiosity, and for those few minutes I was fixated on it. I didn’t know quite how to react.
Brenda eventually calmed down, but the grin remained on her face. “She talks, Steven! She talks!”
“I know.” I said, showing little enthusiasm.
She gazed down at me, still holding the confused Twig in her arms. “You don’t seem very surprised about it, Steven.”
“I am.” I assured her. “I just… I mean… What the hell is that thing?”
Brenda’s grin loosened as she appeared to snap back to reality. Her eyes focused on Twig, and she muttered, “It’s a mystery.”

The following weeks went by smoother than I had imagined they would. Brenda’s composure and mood had improved dramatically, as had my own. I had started plans for our five year anniversary, something that, just a couple of weeks ago, I presumed would pass by almost unnoticed, but Twig’s arrival had somehow distracted our attentions from each other, and the new focus helped us cooperate more effectively. In dragging us apart, it had brought us closer together.
Twig continued to grow at an alarming rate, and in just those few weeks, its head stood level with my pelvis. Its blades, worryingly, grew as well, but Brenda was too attached to it now for me to even consider asking her to give it up. And even I had started to bond with it.
Its range of vocabulary was what shocked us the most. We would never have imagined that a lizard-blender hybrid could utter anything other than a mindless grunt, but it could now speak about twenty words fluently. Granted, they were all monosyllabic, but it was a damn fine start.
David had not gotten back to me yet on the sample I had sent in, and since finding out that Twig could speak, I sensed that any analysis he performed would mean nothing. Brenda and I felt certain that this creature was not something that would be found on any DNA database system, or anything even similar.
Brenda thought that maybe the creature had come from somewhere in outer space. Of course, that was a ridiculous suggestion.
Twig was now allowed to roam the house as it pleased. That was not my decision, but Brenda couldn’t stand hearing the continuous whining that occurred whenever we put it back in the basement. It was still never allowed to venture outside, however, and we were adamant that it never would be, despite its protests.
Letting Twig roam around the house kept it happy, but this also had its downsides. I bore several cuts where there had been accidental collisions around the house. We had decided about a week ago to file down the blades on its arms and legs to make them a little less sharp, and this had helped slightly, but didn’t stop the occasional scrape from cropping up. However, the biggest downside was when Twig would sneak into our bed during the middle of the night. I would wake at 3 o’clock in the morning, feel something tug against my pyjamas, and look down to see its lizard head poking up out of the blankets between us. It was something straight out of a nightmare. Brenda thought it was adorable. I thought it was dangerous. Thankfully, Brenda agreed, and she tried her best to encourage Twig not to enter our bed with us from then on.
Twig’s blankets and water bowl were moved into the living room, and its food basket was beginning to fill with bigger and bigger sticks. We had since accepted that we could no longer have friends or family come to visit us, and we would instead have to travel every time we wished to socialise. Neither one of us really cared about that.
It was the night before our anniversary, and the three of us were sat in front of the television watching some dreadful game show. It was strange after the last year of so to be sat in a comfortable silence, watching awful programmes together like a normal married couple. There was still the occasional argument of course, but there definitely wasn’t as many as before. We were still not what would be considered a happy couple, and we sat a distance apart on the sofa, but things were getting much better.
I was leaning against my armrest, and Twig was curled up against Brenda, eyes still blinking and focused with great interest on the television. The game show soon came to a close, and the commercials began.
The commercials were Twig’s favourite aspect of television. It perked up as a familiar beer commercial popped onto the screen.
“Beer!” Twig alerted us.
Brenda gazed at me suspiciously. “You taught her beer?”
“No, I didn’t. Twig learns more from these commercials now than it does from us.” I stated. “If Twig were to learn words from me, its entire vocabulary would be made up of Eat, Sleep and Misery.”
“Sleep?” Twig asked, sounding disappointed.
“Yes, Twig.” Brenda cooed. “I suppose it’s time for you to go to sleep.”
Twig released a throaty grunt and pulled itself from the sofa after a brief (and careful) hug from Brenda. It slithered past the table and collapsed messily onto the blankets. “Sleep.” It concurred.
Brenda followed and tucked Twig cosily into the pile of blankets. Then she faced me, a warm smile residing on her face. I smiled back. It was one of those warm moments that we had been dearly missing over the last year or so.
Twig shuffled in the blankets and his slit-pupil eyes gazed sleepily up at me. “Sleep.”
“Goodnight, Twig.” I felt compelled to say. Then I too rose to my feet and walked into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water.
“You know what?” Brenda began, following me into the kitchen. “I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow.”
“What’s important about tomorrow?” I joked, grinning to make it obvious.
“Did you book the table at the restaurant?” She enquired, ignoring my poor attempt at humour.
“I booked it this morning.”
“Good. I’m going to bed. Are you coming up soon?”
I nodded. “I’ll be up soon.” With that, she left for bed, leaving me in the kitchen stood over my glass of water.
My mind wandered for a while, quietly summing up the events that had transpired recently. Things with Brenda may have gotten a little better these last couple of weeks, but there was still a definite tension whenever we brought up conversations of work or our financial position. Her father may have shown signs of slight recovery, but we all knew that his days were numbered, and that his death would be the real test of our relationship, no matter how many anniversary meals we could tolerate out of some mutual politeness. Twig had merely provided a buffer, and allowed us to connect on a more indirect level.
For now though, the future was just that little bit brighter, and I was going to treasure that as much as possible before all hell broke loose.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Sun Jun 23, 2013 2:38 pm

Chapter 8!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/8/Twig



Chapter 8

I had booked us a two-person table at one of the fancier restaurants on the west side of town. It was often busy, but it never too crowded, and I had arranged to have us sit on one of the more pleasantly situated tables that stared out over the sea through a glass wall.
It was busy there today, but it was a pleasant, comfortable sort of busy. We were welcomed with a smile and brought to our expensive-looking table by a well-groomed French waiter.
Our menus were given to us after we were sat down, but we were soon distracted as a large bottle of champagne and two glasses were delivered, assumedly a gesture to customers on anniversary visits. It was poured out for us to taste, and once the waiter had received our approval, he filled the glasses and left.
It was not often that I was pampered like this. Brenda and I only rarely went out to restaurants, the last time being our previous anniversary. My latest restaurant visit was a stag party for one of my hospital peers, and even then it was a scummy little restaurant on the bad side of the mall.
Tonight had to be something a little special to ease the tension between us. Perhaps getting drunk on champagne would be a good start.
Brenda was admiring the view. The Sun was teasing the edge of the horizon, throwing roads of golden reflection over the calm waters past the beach. She spotted a bird of prey hovering overheard, drifting gracefully in the direction of the mountains.
“It’s beautiful.” She breathed.
“I thought you would enjoy a sea view.” I said, treating myself to a few sips of champagne.
We ordered some dangerously expensive food, coupled with luxurious desserts and preceded by unusual and exotic starters. I mourned the great expense, and knew that ordering an extra side of duck liver pate would be nothing more than a desperate show that reigniting our relationship was worth more than money.
But money was not a triviality nowadays, and trying pathetically to impress Brenda by throwing it away for the sake of a few polite smiles was something that pained me.
Despite my concerns, I was determined to enjoy this evening, and to sit down with Brenda for a couple of hours without starting another argument. Besides, neither one of us really wanted to start shouting in such an establishment. Things would be kept civil.
By the time the starters had arrived, we had settled into a meaningless conversation about Twig, the only thing that really didn’t cost money in our lives. Of course, we kept our voices a little lower than usual to avoid people taking too much notice.
“Are you sure it was wise to let it free around the house unsupervised while we’re out?” I asked.
“Would you stop worrying so much, Steven?” She huffed in reply. “Honestly, all you seem to do is worry about everything.”
“I’m just concerned.” I defended, slinking behind my champagne glass.
She sighed and finished her starter. “Look, I know that we’re going through a bit of a… stressful period. But obviously you can afford this meal tonight, and we’ve been able to pay the living costs. Well, barely... Things aren’t as bad as you think.”
There went my hopes of not discussing our financial issues tonight.
“And how do you expect us to pay for your father?” I choked a little. This was territory I had been determined not to enter.
“You mean his funeral?” She concluded. “We don’t have to spend too much for that.”
I paused, feeling guilty. “We shouldn’t be talking about this now.”
“Well, when else are you going to talk about these things?” She glared. “We hardly see each other, and the only times we’re home together, we’re either looking after Twig, or you’re too tired to discuss anything.”
I was willing to compromise. “I can make some more time if you wanted. These things need to be discussed. We just can’t do it here. Not tonight.”
She bit her lip and averted her gaze. “Steven, I talked to Rodriguez, my boss, today.”
I perked up, putting down a chunk of my starter that was headed for my mouth. “And?”
“He’s been running low on staff, and he needs to ration out the extra hours.”
I closed my eyes and breathed heavily. “You’re getting extra work hours.”
“He’s also promised to increase my wage, Steven.” She squeaked, as if it would make me feel better.
I grew angry, though not necessarily towards her. “So now what? Am I not going to see you at all until the weekends?”
She shook her head. “I’ll be working Saturdays as well.”
“Great…” I mourned, rubbing at my temples. I pushed my starter aside, no longer in the mood for it. “Just great.”
“I’m sorry, Steven.” She whispered. “But we could do with the money.”
My hands instinctively pressed my glass to my lips, and I welcomed the comfort of the alcohol. She was right that we needed the money, but what would this means for us as a married couple? We always thought that our relationship problems were partly caused by spending so much time away from each other. Now it seemed as if we would have to spend even more time away from each other. It felt like some metaphorical final blow.
I wanted to make her reconsider. I wanted her to give Rodriguez a large middle finger and tell him just where he could stick his extra work hours. But I knew deep down that without the extra income, her father’s funeral and steadily increasing fuel prices would eventually cause us major difficulties. We may have to move again, perhaps into some grubby flat in the city. We wouldn’t be able to afford small luxuries such as this fancy restaurant meal. Twig… I didn’t even know what would happen to Twig.
My mind clung to the idea of a promotion. Perhaps a desperate (yet dignified) appeal to Dan could earn me a raise and a job that didn’t solely require making X-ray and bandaging appointments to irritating patients. My skills and education in osteology could be put to a much greater use for a much better pay. I was wasted in my current office job.
I discussed this in detail with Brenda over our main meal, and tried my best to sound optimistic, which didn’t quite come naturally. She would nod and agree with my plans, but I could tell that she was still troubled.
Thankfully, the more champagne we drank, the lighter the conversations became. We deliberately moved on from the awkward conversations about our future and focused on the past. We reminisced of old times, both before we were shackled and the couple of years afterwards when we still held that spark. Times when we would travel hand-in-hand to places we had never seen before. Times when we would do things together that we had never done on our own. We even talked (quietly) about the time that we made love on my office desk during my lunch hour.
The evening ended better than it had started, and we left the restaurant in the pitch black, full of food and ready to return home for a small glass of wine and a good night’s sleep. A taxi had been called to escort us home.
We returned just past 10 o’clock. We’d had enough champagne to make us giddy, but we were still sober enough to pay the taxi driver without any issues and walk the last few yards to the front door without tripping over bumps in the road or outstanding tree roots.
I unlocked the door and barged my way in, closely followed by Brenda who instantly started sniffing out Twig.
“Glass of wine?” I offered. She agreed, and I headed for the kitchen. I took a half-full bottle of wine from the rack beside the fridge and searched for two glasses.
As I walked past the opening in the wall to the living room, I caught sight of Twig sat in front of the sofa. Before it was a mangled block of wood.
A mangled block of wood?
I searched the nearest windowsill and felt my throat tighten as I noticed Brenda’s treasured clock missing.
Twig noticed my presence and shot me a big cheerful grin, as if it had done nothing wrong. A small rectangular piece of wood was clutched in its reptilian claws.
Brenda entered the kitchen. “Have you seen Twig?” She asked.
“I… Twig… Maybe he’s upstairs.” I stuttered, trying to divert her movement back into the corridor.
She forcefully pushed past me. “I’ve checked upst-” Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She simply froze in place.
Twig’s wholesome grin faltered and morphed to a look of confusion. Brenda snapped from her frozen state with a shriek and dropped forward to the clock’s remains scattered on the floor, picking up one or two pieces and bursting into tears.
I snapped right then, and marched to the confused beast that sat beside Brenda’s mourning body. Twig stared up at me, still in a state of confusion, and I grabbed it by the base of the tail and practically threw it across the room towards its blankets.
“You stay there!” I bellowed at it, and then I was down by Brenda’s side. She was gradually pulling loose pieces of wood into a pile before her knees. Tears dripped onto the main bulk of the clock, which was decorated haphazardly with chew marks. Half of the roof of the clock had been completely torn off, and the main body had been vigorously scratched, splinters and little pieces of wood hanging off and dropping to the floor.
I shook my head in anger and fetched the dustpan and brush from under the sink to mop up the loose splinters. I collected up all that I could find and placed them on the dinner table, sighing and rubbing at my temples. Brenda needed a little space to get most of the tears out of the way, and when they started to slow, I helped her up off the floor and embraced her closely, letting her rest her head on my shoulder.
“It’s alright, Brenda,” I whispered. “It’s alright.”
Together we took the main box of the clock and the loose roof and placed them on the dinner table with the rest of the loose bits. Brenda sat herself uneasily in one of the chairs and sat staring at the broken clock, tears still rolling down her cheek. I sat beside her and investigated the clock for damage. Most of it was simply scratching of the wooden surface, the occasional appearance of teeth marks on the edges where the roof section was removed. The roof section itself was damaged where it had been ripped from the body. Thankfully, and perhaps miraculously, the clock face and the mechanics inside were pretty much untouched.
The once proud and attractive clock had gone through a disastrous facelift.
Twig had not reappeared. That was probably a wise decision, on its part. Throwing it across the room by its tail may have been harsh, but I was certain that the message was made clear.
We shouldn’t have left it on its own for so long, and now we had paid the consequence. I heard it whine from the other room, either out of pain from being thrown or by the shock of outburst of anger that I had unleashed upon it, but I didn’t care. My wife’s tears meant a whole lot more to me right then.
Brenda’s tears began rolling more vigorously again as she rubbed her fingertips down the roughened sides of the clock. I removed myself from my seat and embraced her once again, providing her a shoulder to cry on. After a few sobs, she turned and wrapped her arms around me, and we stood in a prolonged hug.
“We’ll take it to a specialist.” I assured her over her shoulder. “It isn’t unfixable.”
She replied with another sob and held me even tighter.
I gasped at first as she gripped me around my stomach, her hands held firmly against my shoulder blades. It was unusual, and at that moment I came to the realisation that we had not embraced like this once in over a year.
I had missed this feeling. This closeness. I found myself smiling.
“We’ll get it fixed.”

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:11 pm

Chapter 9!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/9/Twig


Chapter 9

Two years had passed.
Many things stayed unchanged. I remained in the same dull hospital office, and Brenda was still struggling with excessive hours typing away at computers and phoning unwilling customers somewhere deep in the town. We were still clinging on to our marriage, despite the depressing lack of time spent in each other’s company. We put it down to dependency on our incomes and our willingness to keep a hold of our home on the outskirts of the woods.
I never really got the courage to talk to Dan about a raise. I tried my best to appeal to him without sucking-up, but Brenda was right, the man was amazingly stingy, and nothing I did could garner his sympathy for my cause. He knew of our difficulties, but was unwilling to hand out just that little bit more money to help us through the rough patch. Brenda had threatened to “discuss” it with him, but I’d had enough first-hand experience with an angry Brenda to know that no man, no matter how uncompromising, deserved such an oral obliteration.
So we saw each other briefly for six days of the week, perhaps an hour or two per day, whilst we were both away from work. It was only Sundays, when we were both home all day, that stopped us from becoming complete strangers. However, Brenda was often too exhausted to go out anywhere, and she would spend most of the day doing minor chores and reading dreadful women’s magazines.
With our combined income, we were able to pay all our bills without trouble. We were also able to pay for Brenda’s father’s funeral. He had passed away the previous year after his long fight with cancer. With the extra money coming in from Brenda’s new role at the office, we were able to afford a fitting funeral; one worthy of her father’s bravely fought battle.
Just as importantly, his death was not the end of our marriage, as we predicted. We had found other things to keep us knotted together.
Brenda’s beloved clock that her mother left behind had been fixed. The week after it had been destroyed, I had taken it a specialist in town to get the roof section reattached and the chew marks smoothed out, or new bits of wood integrated into the bodywork. The specialist was curious as to the origin of the strange teeth marks, but we managed to convince him that the clock was attacked by a stray dog. At least, he gave us the impression that he was convinced.
The clock, still looking very slightly worn, was back on its old perch, standing proud over the living room once again.
But of all the things that had changed over the last two years, Twig was the one that had changed the most. We never really knew how big it would become, and during its first year here, it had a major growth spurt. Thankfully, that spurt slowed and had recently come to a stop. Twig now stood at about seven feet tall when standing on two legs. This became an issue when Twig had to find somewhere to sleep, but nowadays it usually lies down in front of the sofa during the night. When lying flat, its length is even greater, and from tip to tail, Twig almost connected the walls on either side of the room. It made for a good footrest in the mornings before work, though.
The blades over its body had continued to grow to unnerving sizes, and we had to resort to filing them blunt to avoid accidental losses of limbs. The three blades that used to be stumps on its head swooped forward into large green horns that had left the odd dent in the ceiling where Twig had stood up too fast.
However, despite its rather fearsome appearance, Twig was an extremely and curiously gentle creature. It wouldn’t hurt a fly. (Please excuse the terribly overused and clichéd expression.)
Twig now had an extensive but limited vocabulary range. Overall, it had the general intelligence of a small child, and seemed destined to stay at that level. Unlike a small child, though, Twig was not an obnoxious little demon. It was generous, kind-hearted, and, best of all, quiet.
We felt terribly guilty for Twig. Since we had found it two years ago, it had never once been allowed outside of the safety of the house. We feared it being seen by hunters or by campers, either to be shot or turned in to local authorities. Twig would often be found watching nature programmes on the television, or gazing longingly at the trees through the kitchen window. Twig hid its sadness at being held practically a prisoner very well.
One of the hardest parts of it all was having to convince Twig that it wasn’t human. It would watch sports and music videos on the TV and become convinced that those were things it could eventually do. We knew that deep down inside, Twig understood that it was different from those people seen on the television, but that it desperately wanted to be part of it all.
Despite my original scepticism and dislike of the creature, it had proved me completely wrong. We no longer considered it a pet, but part of the family.
Though, we still had not discovered its gender.
It was a Sunday, the one day of the week when the three of us were together long enough to have a conversation. I had just prepared dinner, and we were sat down at the circular dinner table, doing what any family does at this time of day: Eat and pretend to be interested in what everyone has to say.
“… So I was thinking maybe a Ford. Then I thought the Chrysler might be a little cheaper.” Brenda rambled.
“Brenda,” I groaned. “We are not getting a new car. We don’t need a new car. I like the car that we have now. Could you please stop talking about getting a new one!?”
“It’s disgusting, Steven!” She grumbled. “The thing smells like old gym socks.”
“I’m trying to eat…” I sighed, putting down a fork-full of lasagne. “Could we not talk about gym socks?”
She sat up straight and did that weird thing women do that somehow brings about automatic victory in any argument. That strange look that was a warning to all males that debate was not an option, and any attempts at compromise were futile.
“For God’s sake…” I sighed in defeat, and decided to move the subject along. “What time are you home tomorrow?”
“Seven.” She replied. “Have you planned dinner? I won’t have time to make it.”
I shook my head. “I have a lot of paperwork to do this week.” I turned my head to look at Twig, sat at the table to my left. Instead of lasagne, a few slabs of bark (its favourite food, we had found out) sat on a plate in front of it. We had tried to feed Twig a variety of human food, but it never mixed well with its stomach, usually ending in disastrous results. “Twig, you’re going to have to make dinner tomorrow.”
“Twig make dinner.” It agreed. “Maybe pasta.”
“Pasta sounds good.” I said. “But you have to remember to put something with it this time. A sauce, maybe.”
“Twig remember.” It smiled, something that, had we not known Twig, would send us running, screaming for our lives. “Twig use recipe this time.”
It would be difficult. Twig could barely read.
I exchanged a smile with Brenda. It was useful having a third person in the house now to perform the chores that neither one of us had the time to do. Twig was only too happy to offer its service in performing mindless chores. I suppose it kept him/her entertained. Even Twig quickly became frustrated with daytime television.
A couple hours later, once everything had been cleaned away, it was time to put the football on the television. It had become a Sunday ritual for both I and Twig, and it was nice to finally have someone to watch it with. Brenda never approved, and always walked off in a rage, displeased at our lack of constructive activity for the duration of the games.
I was beginning to be convinced that Twig was male. It was almost as eager to watch the games as I was. The evidence became yet more convincing when Twig began drinking alcohol. That was something I did not foresee.
Of course, Twig didn’t drink beer or anything like that. Twig enjoyed white rum, infused for about an hour with several tiny pieces of bark. It was a strange pleasure, but one that we were happy to provide. We never let Twig have too much, though. Rum mixed with a walking blender was not a pleasant concept, but Twig’s body was large enough to absorb a small amount without seeing the effects that alcohol brings.
Tonight’s football game was mildly entertaining. It had always been a pleasant getaway from work and patient files, and a good time to bond with Twig. I often had to explain who was winning, because he/she couldn’t count much higher than eight. Even then, Twig would have to use its fingers.
Brenda was huffing loudly to attract our attention while she was tending to the living room flora.
“Brenda watch football?” Twig offered.
“No, thank you.” She grumbled. “Good to see you helping with the house work, Steven.” She seethed, darting her eyes at me in anger.
“We’re watching the game!” I replied. “Is it too much to ask for a couple of hours to do what I want to do?”
She growled and put her tiny watering can down. “So football is more important than keeping our house respectable, obviously.”
Twig summed up my upcoming response with a monstrous belch, and then looked away, a little embarrassed. How that came from bark-infused rum, I would never know.
“Twig,” Brenda sighed. “Please stop drinking that stuff. It’s not good for you.”
“Look, Brenda,” I interrupted. “The game is about to finish. I promise I will do the rest of the housework when it is done.”
She simply shook her head and stomped out of the room. Twig looked guilty.
“Twig help Brenda?”
“It’s alright,” I assured. “It’s just something I’ll have to deal with. No need to worry.”
The game finished minutes later, the result being of no surprise. I put away the cans of beer I had accumulated and took Twig’s empty glass. I returned from the kitchen area to see Twig looking downhearted.
“You okay, Twig?” I asked, sitting down beside it.
Twig gazed at the ground as it twiddled its Tyrannosaurus toes. “Twig okay. Twig just…”
“Twig what?”
“Twig want to play football. Twig want to sing like people on TV. Twig ever do those things?” Its slit eyes looked down at me, already suspecting the answer.
It was always hard to have this discussion, but it was something Twig brought up often. “Twig, you honestly think you could play football?” I asked, tugging lightly at one of the blunted elbow blades. “And you sing like a dog being run over by a steam roller.”
Perhaps I could have put it a little better, but I was never much good at comforting. I reached up to pat Twig on the shoulder. That was the best I could do for now.
“Is Twig human?”
I sighed heavily and diverted my gaze. I hated such awkward questions. “You… Well, no, Twig. You’re not.”
“So what is Twig?” Twig whimpered.
I turned back to look it in the eyes. “We don’t know. Not yet, anyway.”
It was obvious to both me and Brenda that this line of questioning would not go away any time soon. It was heart-breaking, but at the end of the day, there was nothing we could do. It wasn’t as if there were any other creatures like Twig around here, nor could we let it try out for the local football team or enter a cooking competition.
“Look, Twig… You may not ever be able to do those things. You may not be able to go outside. We don’t know if you’ll ever meet anyone like yourself…” I spoke as gently as I could. “But you’re an important part of our family now. We can’t let you do those things because we don’t want to lose you. Humans aren’t all football-playing chart-topping role models, you know. A lot of people are bad.”
Twig just nodded and looked back down at its toes.
“Okay then.” I said, hoping that my words would be enough for now. “Why don’t you go do something to cheer yourself up? Then go have a shower. No offense, but you stink.”
Twig smiled warmly. “Thank you, Steven.”
“No problem, Godzilla.” And I returned the favour.
Twig left the room in search of something to do, leaving me to search out Brenda and carry out whatever mindless tasks she insisted on being done. I found her upstairs in our bedroom, putting away some fresh laundry.
“You took your time.” Brenda grumbled in frustration.
“Twig was having another “moment”.” I informed her.
“Again? I thought she was over that by now.” She sighed and threw me the basket full of dirty washing, just as a ringing noise echoed from downstairs. It was the phone.
“Could you answer that while I sort these clothes out?” I requested.
“You answer it, you lazy b******!”
I mumbled under my breath as I dropped the basket and headed back downstairs. “Do the laundry. Answer the phone. For God’s sake, make up your mind!”
My hand caught the phone and hoisted it up to my ear. “Hello?” I grunted.
“Steven! It’s David Yates.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise. David was the last person I expected to be calling. “Ah, Hello David. How are things?”
“Good, Steven. Really good!” His voice was beaming, almost as if he was speaking with a permanent smile plastered to his face. He was energised. “Steven, do you remember that sample you dropped into my office?”
I paused, eyes blinking open wide. “Yes. Yes, I remember it.”
His phone was briefly away from his face, and I swore I heard him whispering ecstatically in the distance to himself. He returned to the mouthpiece. “Steven, you have to come see this!”
“Calm down, David.” I chuckled. “What have you found?”
He seemed to congratulate himself over the phone again. I had never heard him so excited. “It’s… I found… I can’t really explain over the phone. You have to come to my laboratory.”
“Can’t it wait till tomorrow, David?” I felt a smile slowly creeping onto my own face now.
“But… Okay, sure.” I could sense him calming down. Just barely. “Come in during your lunch hour tomorrow. You will not be disappointed.”
“I’m sure I won’t” I nodded to myself. “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
“See you tomorrow, Steven.” I heard him getting excited again before he hung up his phone.
Had it really taken him two years to analyse Twig’s sample? Judging by his unmistakable glee, he had found something astonishing, which, after I had gotten to know more about Twig, came as no surprise. The creature was definitely not something normal, and maybe it had taken all this time for David to find that out as well. He hadn’t even seen Twig, after all.
I felt a rush of excitement, and after I put the phone back down on the receiver, I rubbed my hands together and grinned widely. Finally, some good news to look forward to.
I repeated the news to Brenda, who was equally excited. We agreed, however, not to tell Twig until we had learned what David had found.
Maybe now, we could finally find out what Twig was.
Brenda handed me back the dirty washing basket and sent me to the basement to finish off the chores. I was actually in a good mood now, which made the task a whole lot easier.
The basement lights were on, which meant that Twig had likely made its way inside. I lifted the basket so that I could see my feet as they moved down the bumpy concrete steps, but I froze halfway, catching ear of a strange, yet familiar sound.
It was a low huffing noise, coupled with the sound of lightly pounding flesh.
That sound was all too distinct.
I dropped the basket from my eye line and caught sight of Twig, sat on a blanket, one hand making an unmistakable motion. Twig stopped, noticing my presence, a great look of embarrassment spread over its face.
“Brenda!” I shouted casually back up the basement stairs. “Twig is definitely a male!”

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Blu
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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:13 pm

Chapter 10!

Fanfiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/10/Twig


Chapter 10

For perhaps the first time in my whole life, I was looking forward to Monday.
My good mood meant that the morning passed by much faster than usual. Even my patients seemed to pick up on it, and that made it pass even quicker.
I couldn’t really explain why David’s mysterious discoveries had made me this happy. Maybe answering a question that had been on my tongue for two years was a relief that I desperately needed. Something that had plagued my mind for so long would finally be dealt with.
But then there was something a little deeper. The slightest hint of worry of what David’s findings would mean.
The hours quickly passed, and when my lunch hour arrived, I didn’t head to the staff lounge to exchange meaningless pleasantries with Johnson or drown my sorrows in coffee. I headed straight for the laboratory on the top floor.
As soon as I knocked, the door flew open, and David was standing there, a big grin on his wrinkled face. “Steven! Come in, come in!”
I followed his inviting outstretched hand and strolled into the small laboratory. A couple of computers on a messy desk flashed some complicated programme I couldn’t even try to understand. Several empty mugs were planted around the room, as were a few loose bits of paper and empty food wrappers. David had been in this room for longer than usual, perhaps the entire night.
He pulled up a seat for me, in front of the computer screens. “Please, sit down.” He offered, his face still gleaming.
“Wow, David,” I chuckled. “Did you win the lottery or something?”
“No lottery, Steven.” He replied, sitting down in his own swivelling chair. “That sample you gave me two years ago…”
I clasped my hands on my lap. “You analysed the DNA?”
“Yes. I’m sorry it took so long, but it turns out that I needed more time than usual.”
I raised an eyebrow. “So… What did you find?”
The smile broadened over his face. “Nothing.”
An awkward silence filled the small laboratory, and I stared at him in disbelief. “Nothing…” I repeated.
He just nodded, his smile not fading.
“Nothing?” I continued, now a little disappointed. “Not even…? What about the species? Where did it come from?”
He shrugged. “No idea, Steven.”
I sighed, frustrated. Obviously, David was seeing something that I couldn’t. “Okay, David, I think you’ll have to start from the top. I don’t exactly know what ‘nothing’ means when it comes to genetics.”
“Well, Steven,” He began, adjusting his glasses. “Every living being on this planet contains DNA. Humans, Guinea Pigs, Trees, Single-cell amoebas. And every living thing’s DNA originated from a distant common ancestor.”
I nodded politely. “Okay, I’m with you.”
He continued, “So the DNA of every creature is connected, and we see that quite clearly when we compare it from two different species. Hence, why we say that humans and chimpanzees share over ninety-five per cent of their DNA. We also share a lot of DNA with Cacti, and spiders, but those are more distantly related.”
“Okay…”
“Basically, Steven, there are certain strands of DNA that are universally present among certain types of animals, and allow us to test species relations, evolutionary events, etcetera… After I finally picked up the sample that you gave me, I did some general observations and concluded that it was some kind of reptile, but nothing native to California. I initially concluded that this was just someone’s house pet that had gone missing.”
I nodded, trying to keep up with his rushed, excited speech. “But it wasn’t?”
He shook his head. “I decided to take a closer look. I took it to the University of California to extract the DNA and analyse it… Do you know how we analyse sections of DNA, Steven?”
“I never paid much attention in genetics.” I admitted.
“Okay then. At first, I attempted to analyse the mitochondrial DNA. Specifically the COI gene, which I thought I could use to identify the species. It’s a relatively new way of doing it, a method still being perfected, so I put it through some more tried-and-tested methods, but…” He spread his arms. “It didn’t work.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What do you mean?”
“In order to analyse a section of DNA, that section needs to be amplified. In order to amplify the section, little synthetic molecules called primers are introduced to the DNA molecules. The primers are made to combine to certain sections, and from that, the desired genes are multiplied. I won’t bore you with the details…”
“Please don’t.” I grumbled.
“So I and a couple of colleagues put the sample DNA through a typical PCR process, but it didn’t go as expected. I expected certain sequences of DNA to arise, but they didn’t. It was as if this creature of yours was missing large chunks of DNA that most other creatures have.” He paused. “Then I analysed the sections that I managed to get, and I compared the sample DNA to DNA gathered from a large variety of species from across the world.”
I sat up in my chair. “And?”
“Nothing.” David repeated. “No matches. From what little DNA I recovered from the sample, nothing compared. Nothing even came close.”
“So what does that mean?” I asked, baffled.
His huge grin returned. “I don’t know, Steven. All that I know is that whatever this creature is, we have never seen anything like it before, at least, on a genetic level.”
“Let me get this straight…” I groaned. “It’s taken you two years to find out that you don’t know what it is?
“Yes, and no. I don’t have the faintest clue of what it is. Don’t you see how that is a good thing?”
I thought about it, resting my chin in my palm. “You think it’s something not connected genetically to any other creature?”
“I’m damn sure.” He grinned. “A completely independent being. Something that did not evolve like we did.”
“It couldn’t be some sort of hybrid?” I asked, probably displaying my ignorance a little too willingly.
“No. It’s not a hybrid. Listen to me, Steven,” He urged, his whole body shaking with adrenaline. “This creature did not evolve from any Earth creature, nor does any human have the technology that can create such a complex biological machine…”
My eyes narrowed again. “You think it’s an alien, don’t you.”
He cleared his throat and tried to restrain his excitement. “I don’t want to jump to conclusions yet, Steven, but I can’t see any other logical explanation right now.”
I sighed, not knowing quite how to feel. Was David right? Did I have a space alien living in my house?
Maybe he was just going senile.
“You mentioned colleagues.” I reminded. “How many? What did they think?”
“Just two or three. They were only there to help with sample preparation and the PCR process when I wasn’t around. They don’t know about the results. Not yet, anyway.”
“Not yet?”
“I sent the results of the analyses to them this morning.” He explained. “I’ve asked for the information to be kept confidential for now.”
I nodded, a little more relieved, but David was looking at me eagerly. He wasn’t quite done yet.
“I want to publish this, Steven.” He pressed. “This could be the highlight of my career! This could be absolutely huge!”
He looked at me pleadingly. He wanted my permission, but I was too busy fighting different ideas and possibilities in my head. This was all too much. I could give up Twig’s DNA and allow it to become scientific knowledge, or I could put two years of David’s work to waste and deny him his breakthrough.
David picked up on my inner conflict, and stared at me curiously. “Is something wrong, Steven?”
I picked myself up with a deep breath and tried to hide my uncertainty. “I’m fine, I was just wondering…”
“I will make it worth your trouble.” David smiled. “You passed the sample on to me. I won’t forget that, if this becomes as big a breakthrough as I suspect.”
That clinched my decision. For now, at least.
He continued, his pleading look briefly returning. “I was wondering whether this creature was still in your possession. If I were to publish these results, I would need evidence that it hasn’t been fabricated.”
A lump rose into my throat. “Yes. We still have it.”
David smiled again. “Oh, wonderful!” He was almost bouncing in his seat. “Could I ask you to bring it round for me as soon as possible?”
I shook my head, lowering my eyes to the floor. “I can’t do that, David.”
His childish excitement dropped instantly. “You… You can’t?”
“I can’t bring it in, David. It’s not easy to explain why…”
“Then may I come to your home, Steven?” He compromised.
I stuttered, wondering just what kind of hole I had dug myself into.
He continued to press, “Steven, I must see it.”

As soon as I had finished cleaning up my office at the end of my work day, I met up with David in the staff lounge, signed out, and walked him to my car. David was eager to ask questions, still as excited as he had been earlier, but I had spent the last few hours mulling over each and every possibility. My previous excitement at discovering David’s results was misplaced. Having David analyse Twig’s DNA, it turned out, was a dreadful mistake. I could see no easy way out of this situation, and I was either going to betray David, or betray Twig. The sudden change of mood was beginning to make me feel sick.
David was growing suspicious as we drove away from the hospital and towards home. “You aren’t sharing much information. Any particular reason?” He asked.
I was driving with one hand on the steering wheel, the other hand rubbing my forehead. “David… I don’t think anything I can say will prepare you. You’ve just got to promise me that you won’t tell anyone what you see, got it?”
He gave me a sideward glance, his chirpy optimism dissipating into a mixture of confusion and worry. “I need to know why, Steven. What should I expect to see?”
I sighed. “I… It’s… Please, just make me that promise, okay?”
“Okay, Steven,” He said, sounding annoyed. “I promise you, I won’t say a thing.”
“And you won’t just run away screaming, right?”
He hesitated and faced me directly. “What the hell am I going to see, Steven?!”
“A giant, walking blender.” I grunted.
“Please be serious, Steven.”
“I am.”
We reached our home in the woods and I took the car into the drive. David had gone from being a bouncing, ecstatic man to a nervous, confused wreck.
I don’t know how I do it, sometimes. It’s a gift.
I made some observations of the local area to make sure nobody else was around, just in case David did in fact run into the woods screaming. Meanwhile, he was admiring the house, commenting under his breath on the unusual and beautiful location.
As I took him to the front door, I stopped him and gave him one final chat.
“David, remember not to-”
“I remember,” He interrupted. “No running, no screaming, no exorcisms.”
I nodded. “Good. And remember that he won’t hurt you. He’s extremely gentle.”
David blinked. ““He?” Is it a male?”
“Yes. Strangely enough, we found that out yesterday. Please, don’t ask me how. It’s something I’m desperate to forget.” I cringed at the memory.
David smiled, though he still appeared to be shaking with nerves. “All right then, Steven, let’s see your mystery creature.”
We entered through the front door to the smell of something cooking. That meant that Twig had started dinner, and would likely be found in the kitchen. I led David in that direction, but held him outside, turning my head around the wall to see Twig tending to a boiling pan of pasta. The radio was on, and he was singing along (terribly) to some dreary pop song.
I took in a deep breath as I prepared myself for the worst, letting David enter the kitchen.
His face said it all. His mouth drop about a foot, his eyes widened behind his thick spectacles, and all the colour from his skin drained, leaving him completely pale.
“Twig.” I called to the creature. He stopped singing and turned around, revealing Brenda’s pink baking apron pulled tightly over his front. His reaction was much the same as David’s, and the wooden spoon he held dropped from his scaly claw to the floor.
Together they stood, still as statues, eyes fixated on each other. It was up to me to break the ice.
“David,” I began. “Meet Twig. Twig, this is David.”
David tried to force his way past me, back to the front door, but I blocked him and reminded him of his promise.
“Steven,” He quivered. “That is… it?”
I had to hold him to stop him from falling from shock, as his eyes darted over Twig’s equally shaking body.
The reaction from Twig was not surprising. Apart from me and Brenda, he had never seen another human being that wasn’t made of pixels. He was brave enough, however, to utter a few words. “Why is strange human here, Steven?”
That was the final straw for David, and his body collapsed into my supporting arms. The shock had knocked him unconscious. I groaned under his weight, but kept him upright.
“Twig? Help me lie him down on the couch, would you?”