Twig

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Blu
Rampant Drunk
Rampant Drunk
Posts: 4650
Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2008 8:07 am
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Location: Behind you

Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Sat Jul 06, 2013 2:44 pm

Chapter 21!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/21/Twig


Chapter 21

Things in the underground Yeerk base had calmed significantly over the last couple of days. The initial panic of being discovered by the human population had died down, and the enormous intake of new hosts seemed to be raising Yeerk morale. Just a little bit, but enough to stop everyone running around panicking about military attacks.
Enough to stop sub-Vissers making awful decisions.
Yarfush had a new sub-Visser now, who seemed to be handling things much better than the last one. Despite being the only Yeerk to escape the ill-fated mission in the hospital, Yarfush went unpunished. They placed no blame on him for how it went down.
I resigned myself to silence the day after the mission. I still had not recovered from witnessing the deaths of the three soldiers. I don’t think I ever will. Yarfush was willing to take the blame for it, and though technically it was all his doing, I couldn’t help but feel that I played a part in their killing. It was a vision that I would take to my grave, and every day, that grave seemed even closer.
The new sub-Visser was clever enough to only send experienced combatants or controllers good with weapons into raids, which meant the Yarfush was relegated to once again wandering the Yeerk base for minor jobs to perform. These usually involved cleaning out host cages, feeding Taxxons and helping to shift human hosts to and from the piers that lined the pool.
I had slowly started to adjust to my new home. That is not to say that I no longer found it gruesome and horrific in the worst possible ways, but the screams no longer seemed so loud, and the sight of distressed hosts became just an inconvenient drone.
I hated myself for adjusting to such a hell. It felt too much like betrayal.
Yarfush was mostly on patrol duty today, which meant circling the vast complex and looking out for any brewing trouble or for any fellow Yeerk in need of a hand. It was mostly uneventful aside from the odd host escaping the clutches of their captors whilst being brought to or from the piers.
As we arrived to the northern end of the base, we approached Station 11. This was where I expected Twig was being kept.
<Do you mind if we search for Twig in the host cells?> I asked Yarfush.
He sighed in annoyance. <Must we?>
<Well, it’s not as if you have anything better to do.> I pointed out.
<Fine, but it is doubtful that we will find him. If we can’t spot him within five minutes, I am moving along.>
So Yarfush took us on the less-than-scenic route alongside the host cages of Station 11. He ignored and avoided the outstretched hands and pleading that was the norm on such walks, but he moved slowly to get a good look inside each cage.
We approached the end of the line. <I don’t believe he is here, Steven.> Yarfush uttered.
<Perhaps you’re right.> I sighed, a little deflated.
<We will check again on each trip. We may find him yet.> He said, and I quietly thanked him for the offer.
But before Yarfush could pull away from the line of cages, something tugged at our eyes. The cell that was two down from the end of the line was holding a large number of hosts, seven at the least. The hosts consisted of, from an initial glance, five humans and two Hork-Bajir. Most of them were lost in the darkness of the shadows, including one Hork-Bajir who was curled up tightly in the corner. We could see very little.
That was what caught our attention. The Hork-Bajir’s silhouette showed only slight signs of the typically large Hork-Bajir blades.
We loomed over cage K-98 to get a better look at the suspect. Yarfush pulled out a small flashlight from his pocket and shone it at the individual. As we thought, the blades across the arms and legs were severely blunted.
This Hork-Bajir was unmistakeably Twig. He was tightly packed into the corner of the cage, quivering and curled up almost like a ball with his tail looped up and over his head. His eyes constricted tightly under the influence of the flashlight. Tears ran down his cheeks. He finally hid his face in his hands.
The humans in the cage were noticing our intrusion, and were quick to make themselves heard by throwing verbal abuse and punching the air in my direction. Yarfush yelled at them to shut up, and that’s when Twig looked up again.
<Say something else.> I asked of Yarfush.
He caught onto my idea and returned some verbal abuse to one of the more rowdy humans. We noticed Twig unrolling himself in the corner, his head cocking at the familiar sound of my voice. As soon as he recognised me, he squirmed to the bars, pushing past a couple of shouting human hosts.
“Steven! Steven!” He yelped.
Yarfush felt no need to hand control over to me, and spoke to Twig himself. “Hello, Twig.”
He stared up at us with sore, watery eyes. “Steven help Twig! Get Twig out of cage! Twig want to go home now!”
Yarfush sighed. “I can’t. This is your new home.”
I cursed him for the lack of empathy present in his tone, but I understood that there wasn’t much else he could say. Nothing could really be said that would make Twig any happier.
Twig grunted and looked baffled. “Twig not like new home. Twig want to go home with Steven and Brenda.”
“Twig,” Yarfush started, a little frustrated. “Steven has a new home, as well. Steven lives in Station 2.” He pointed in our station’s general direction. “Steven lives in a cage much like the one you’re in now.”
The initial hope that my appearance had brought to Twig had quickly vanished. His frightened expression returned, and he simply gazed at Yarfush through the bars like he had been betrayed.
Yarfush decided that this was not a conversation worth having. “Twig, I must go. Be safe.”
“No!” Twig shrieked. “Steven not leave! Not leave Twig again!”
Something tugged at my chest. Again? Did he think that I and Brenda had done this to him? Did he blame us for his suffering?
For probably the thousandth time, I felt sick inside.
Yarfush left with a few brutal final words to Twig. “I am not Steven, now. My name is Yarfush three-one-seven.”
Yarfush turned and began to leave, much to Twig’s despair. We listened to him cry out a loud falsetto whine that soon changed and mutated into a betrayed roar. I tried to drown it out, tried to think it was just another cry from another nameless face, but something told me that I would be remembering that cry for a long time.
We were soon out of range, and Yarfush insisted on excusing himself from blame. <I’m sorry if I came across as a little harsh, but there was nothing else I could really do. There is no way I can make this slavery any better for him. Hork-Bajir hosts are never willing to compromise their freedom. That’s why human hosts are now more desirable to my people.>
<You couldn’t really have made things worse if you tried!> I accused. <You should have let me talk.>
<Drop my control in front of superiors? We would be back to Taxxon egg duty, Steven.>
I sighed, defeated. We had not managed to make Twig feel any more comfortable, and I even found myself with a few new metaphorical knives in my heart, but at least we knew where he was now. That was the only positive, but it was a positive nonetheless.
Three days had passed since Yarfush had last fed, and he was hungry. He reported to the sub-Visser, got permission to feed, and we were soon waiting by the Station 2 drop-off pier. The base, due to the influx of new hosts being brought in via the subways, was considerably busier, so the wait was even longer than usual.
I sensed nerves from Yarfush. He had grown quiet again.
He picked up on my curiosity. <I am quiet because everything else is quiet…> He hummed. <The raids are going well, we have greatly increased host numbers, and we have avoided military attack.>
<That’s good though, isn’t it?> I commented. <Well, for you, anyway.>
<The higher-ups expected more resistance. I suppose it’s…> He paused.
<It’s what?>
He grumbled inaudibly, then said, <I guess there is no harm in telling you now. Do you remember when Howson told you about Andalite bandits?>
<Of course.> I said, slightly bitter that he could simply read my memory as if he had been there with me.
<Well, they aren’t.>
<Okay…> I responded. <They aren’t what?>
<They aren’t Andalites. They’re humans.> He huffed, apparently embarrassed.
I hesitated. <Is this what you wouldn’t tell me earlier?>
<Yes.> He said. <You see, the vast majority of our human hosts have never come into contact with an Andalite. Their view of Andalites comes entirely from our perspective of them.>
I considered this, but didn’t quite understand what he was trying to get at. He continued.
<The Andalites are an extremely arrogant race, and don’t take that as my personal bias. A lot of them truly are, especially those in military circles. That is what we tell our hosts, and that is what they believe. They think that, except for a small rogue band, the Andalites as a race care very little for yours. It gives the hosts little to no hope. It keeps them quiet.>
<And if they knew that it was humans trying to save them…> I began.
<Then the human hosts will begin to believe that they have some hope of being saved.> He finished for me. <Yeerk will save Yeerk. Andalite will save Andalite. Human will save Human. The moment the human hosts realise that humans have some influence in the war, there is a risk of rebellion.>
<So why are you telling me this now?> I questioned. <Surely telling me now is counter-productive.>
<Things are changing, Steven.> He hummed. <The new hosts that have come in since the invasion was revealed are spreading rumours, and other hosts are starting to believe them. There is no real point in keeping it from you anymore. I want you to hear it from me. If we’re going to be spending the rest of our lives together, I want there to be honesty.>
I would have smiled. <I guess I should say thanks. I can’t really keep secrets from you, so I guess it’s fair.>
He chuckled. <Yes, a little fairer. Just don’t tell your cage-mates, okay?>
<I can’t make any promises.>
<I understand. Sometimes, things just slip.> He said, and he made my mouth smile as he brought my body up to the pier. It was his turn to go. <See you again soon, Steven.> He muttered as he bent us down and turned his head.
<Talk soon.> I replied, and I felt him let go. He squirmed from my ear with the normal squelching, stretching motions and splashed down into the rusty water. I was escorted back to my new cage.
B-31, the cell I had been moved to since the war was unveiled, was holding five hosts. I made the number up to six as I entered.
I was fortunate that Howson had been moved to the same cell as me. He was talking to a black haired woman as I arrived, but he quickly turned his attention my way after introducing me to the strangers that now shared the living space.
He must have seen right through me, because he instantly picked up on the emotions I was feeling. “Steven, you okay, man? You seem a little shaken up.”
I nodded, and then leant my head back against one of the bars. “It’s been a tough few days. I’m sure things have been a little different for you, too.”
“They sure have.” He said. “So many new people down here. My Yeerk has been keeping me busy. I haven’t seen any sun in days.”
“Stuck down here, huh?” I chuckled. “You’re luckier than you think you are.”
He smiled a little sourly. “I get that feeling, too. Did you go up to the surface?”
“Yes.” I said, holding back a grimace and turning my face to stone. “Once.”
Howson’s eyes narrowed and he sat down in front of me. “What happened, Steven?”
I exhaled heavily in a groan and rubbed at my face with both hands. Then I dropped them and stared into his eyes. “I killed. Three soldiers. I killed them.”
Howson shook his head, a sorrowful look on his face. “That’s something a lot of us have to deal with. But it ain’t us killing, Steven. It’s them.”
“I know.” I snapped, angrier at myself for my shameless self-pitying. “My Yeerk keeps trying to tell me that, but… it just seems so real, you know?”
“I wouldn’t know.” He admitted. “I’ve never had to go through that. I hope that I never will, but now that we’re in open war…” He shrugged.
The hours passed by as usual, and I spent my time exchanging experiences with those caged around me. I would have to wait longer for Yarfush to return due to the extra workload required to infest new hosts, and I did my best to keep myself occupied, lest I return to my lonesome bubble to dwell in pity and guilt like I so often did.
I was talking to an Asian gentleman, when I noticed the controllers around the lake becoming agitated. Some were yelling down walkie-talkies, with uncertain looks on their faces. Howson noticed it to, and he was stood against the bars, watching as a sudden panic began to unfold.
Suddenly, orders were being screamed. Controllers ran around frantically to obey. There were no escapees putting up any fights, no spats erupting between controllers, and no weapons being fired. Something from elsewhere was sending them into hysteria.
Then I noticed something: The area around Station 1 was being evacuated.
“What’s going on?” One of our cage-mates asked. No one answered. We were too busy watching the scenario unfold.
As soon as Station 1 had been evacuated, a loud rumble began to shake the cavern, and the source of panic became apparent. About thirty feet above the large station barracks was an opening in the cavern wall. It was an entrance to the new subway tunnel that the Yeerks had built to divert trains closer to the pool. Further down that cavern was the last station, where new hosts were dropped off.
The rumble came from the great hole in the wall, and the Yeerks were quick to abandon the area beneath it. That rumble turned to a roar that drowned out the confused screams of caged hosts.
From the cavern it burst, sending loose debris and work equipment through the air. The front end of a subway train crashed through the barriers like some great metal worm, the first carriage bending and dropping through the air and over the barracks, its front slamming down on the rock surface below. The second carriage pushed out the back end of the first as it charged on from behind, causing the train to jack-knife forward. Metal splintered and screeched, sending hideous echoes around the chamber.
The train balanced precariously on the lead carriage, then fell forward, crashing heavily into the sludgy lake. The splash erupted high into the air, tiny Yeerk bodies flailing helplessly, some splatting down onto the pool edges. The rest of the train fell sideways onto the rusty liquid surface.
The train settled. The frenzy began.

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Blu
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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:03 pm

Chapter 22!

FanFiction Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/22/Twig


Chapter 22

No one in the base knew what to do. Nothing had happened like this before, nor did anything think it would. Controllers gathered around the edge of the lake to observe the enormous wreckage that had tainted the Yeerk pool. Sub-Vissers began shouting out orders, but even they seemed unsure.
No one wanted to be blamed for such an accident, but with Visser One lurking around somewhere, heads were bound to roll for such a disaster. This idea was something that seemed to cross Yeerk minds, and they were panicking.
Howson and I, as well as a majority of the hosts around us, watched through our bars at the scenes, curious as to what was happening. From our cell, we could see very little. The train had travelled a good distance into the pool, and lay somewhere nearer to Stations 5 and 6. I squinted to get a better look at the reactions of the controllers in that area. They were in a frenzy.
“I pity the guy who let this happen…” I whispered over to Howson. He paid no notice of me, gazing suspiciously at the wreckage.
From this distance, I could just barely see figures emerging from the side of the train, standing above the surface of the pool. I didn’t understand how any human could survive such a crash, but somehow they were unscathed, at least from what I could see being so far away.
Something else was with the humans. Something blue, but I couldn’t see it clearly enough to figure it out.
The controllers in that area began to pay attention to the figures on the train.
I thought they were frightened before. Now they were riotous. The controllers started screaming, loud enough for those of us halfway across the base to hear them. The Yeerks in that local area were the first to panic, but the effect spread out either side like a line of tumbling dominoes. The noise level picked up dramatically, drawing closer as the mystery news spread around the edges of the base.
There was a single announcement that was being passed through the whole base that was causing the distress. It came to us soon enough, sending deep shivers up my spine. “There are bombs on the train!”
No one was silent anymore. From then, all that could be heard were the screams from both hosts and controllers.
I stared at Howson, the only person around who still seemed dignified after the news. He still looked fearful, though.
“Bombs…” He mouthed.
I was still recovering from the feeling of hairs standing on my neck. My hands clasped onto the bars, and I yelled at the nearest controllers, “Get us out of these cages!”
My desperate cry was one echo of a great chorus. The lines of cages around the base were delivering similar messages to the captors. Across the pool, back near the fallen train, controllers were beginning to obey the orders of the hosts. Cell locks were smashed, doors ripped from their hinges.
Sub-Vissers fought for control in the desperate situation, but were having little luck. Controllers were beginning to leave the base, taking any exit they could find.
Our own sub-Visser came into view. He was holding a megaphone to him mouth. “Open the cages! There are bombs on the train! Less than four minutes remaining!”
“Four minutes?!” I yelled to myself, sweat readily pouring from my forehead now.
Howson pulled me by my left shoulder, and despite all the madness around us, he was still thinking rationally, shouting into my ear, “Steven! When they let us free, run for the exit behind the barracks! It will take you on a straight path so you can get out of the blast radius!”
I shook my head at him. “I need to find my wife!”
“Does she know you’re here?!”
“Yes! She’s knows I’m here! She knows my station!”
He nodded. “Wait for her, then leave!”
All around the base, controllers were taking large tools or pieces of metal, smashing cell locks to free the trapped hosts. No one needed orders anymore, the instructions were clear to all: Free some hosts if possible, then leave as fast as you can.
I stared out from my cage and begged a passing man for help. He turned to look, but sprinted off towards the exit. I cursed him and slammed my fist on the cage bars.
It didn’t take long to be freed, though. The sub-Visser had finished announcing the alerts and had found a large set of wire cutters. He moved from cage to cage, breaking locks as quick as the tool would allow. From the other direction, more controllers were breaking cages, but the sub-Visser reached us first. He sliced open the lock and left with a simple message: “Good luck.”
We burst out from the cage, all six of its inhabitants squeezing through the narrow opening. They disbanded, but both I and Howson remained by the cage.
“Get out of here, Howson!” I yelled at him. But he didn’t listen. Instead he took a loose piece of metal from beside our cage and began to aid the sub-Visser in breaking the locks on the remaining cages.
That was not my priority. I bustled my way through a small crowd and found an open space. Brenda would not be able to find me in among large groups, so I had to find myself as much space as possible. As the base quickly started to empty, this task became easier. I shouted out her name repeatedly, hoping to make my voice loud enough for her to hear.
Madness had erupted around the base. There was no real order to the proceedings. People were knocked over as they crammed into narrow base exits, pushing their way through in desperation to escape the blast radius. By now, most cages had been unlocked, and there was no telling the difference between freed hosts and controllers. In such a state of panic, everyone was the same. The medical bays at each station were being invaded by humans in search of emergency supplies. Hork-Bajir were raiding the nursery to rescue the cubs trapped inside. Taxxons screeched incoherently, crawling into small holes they had made in the deep cavern walls.
The noise was lessening as the base became more and more deserted, but from somewhere I heard a familiar voice, bobbing over the remaining screams of Yeerks and hosts.
“Steven!”
I swivelled on my feet and moved my head to see past crowds of humans and Hork-Bajir. “Brenda! I’m here Brenda!”
Then I saw her, tears streaming down her face, running and stumbling towards me. I found myself running as well, and we collided by the side of the rippling pool, embracing in a tight, teary hug.
There wasn’t much to say, except, “Brenda, we have to leave, right now!”
She nodded into my shoulder and disengaged from the hug. “Which way?”
“This way!” It was Howson’s voice. He rushed to our side, panting. “The exit behind Station 2 barracks. The stairwell is wide and straight. That’s our best chance.”
So we ran as fast as our legs could take us towards the station barracks, past groups of confused and frightened hosts and controllers. We shouted to them on our way past, ordering them to follow. They did so without hesitation.
We approached the tunnel. It was the same tunnel that I had first descended when taken by the Yeerks. It was long, but wide and with enough space to charge up unimpeded.
Before we could enter, I heard my name from behind. I turned to search out the source but kept moving, almost tripping over a loose cage door. From behind the barracks came a Hork-Bajir, bounding at full speed in our direction.
Brenda had noticed my distraction, and followed my eyes. “Twig?! But…!”
“No time to ask, Brenda!” I shouted. “Let’s just go!”
Twig had caught up to us as we ascended the rocky stairwell. Our feet stumbled and twisted horribly over the uneven steps, but we were too determined to escape to care. Brenda collapsed once, but Howson lifted her to her feet and we continued on, following the trail of a group of Hork-Bajir who had speeded on ahead.
Suddenly, the ground shook violently, sending us all to the floor. The earthquake was followed by an ear-shattering blast.
We were so close to the exit now. We could see the opening where the fake oak tree had slid aside. We saw the group ahead of us exit and disperse.
Something grabbed my waist as I tried to lift myself, and it hoisted me upwards. I looked down to see a scaly green arm gripped tightly around me. Twig had taken me, and under his right arm he held Brenda and Howson.
This whole time, he had been slowing his pace to stay by our side. Now he was free to sprint. He kicked his feet, and in spite of the extra weight that we added, he zoomed with great speed towards the exit.
There was a huge burst of orange glow from behind us, a fireball blasting towards us as the bombs continued to explode. Twig stumbled and had to regain his composure with each explosion, but we were so close to the opening now.
Unbearable heat began to engulf us, fast approaching from behind. Brenda screamed, but the sound was easily dominated by the roar of the bombs below.
We reached the opening and Twig jumped onto soft grass, just as the heat emerged as a huge fireball that spat from the hole behind us. The shockwave blew us forward, the four of us being flung through the air. I was slammed hard to the ground.
Things went blank. I don’t know how long for.
I woke with the side of my face in deep woodland litter. I groaned, feeling my body wrapped in pain. We had hit the ground with great force, and I had consequently bounced into nearby bushes. I couldn’t feel my right arm from the elbow downwards. It was broken.
With my one good arm, I lifted myself so that I could sit up straight. Holding my sore head, my eyes observed the area.
The ground was covered in bodies. I gasped, partly with a sharp pain in my ribs, partly at the sight of the injured, squirming and writhing people around me. Humans, Hork-Bajir, Taxxons. Some of them were dead.
I drew from my memories. They were scattered, but I started to recall what had happened.
Brenda! Where was she?!
I struggled to get to my feet. My left leg was damaged, but not broken, leaving me limping heavily. I pulled myself free of the underbrush and called out for her to no reply.
“Brenda…” I whimpered. “I’m here Brenda.”
I trudged past the recovering bodies of strangers, searching for any signs of her. Howson and Twig as well.
My eyes caught sight of long brown hair. I stumbled as fast as I could over to it. I had found Brenda. Her body was laid on its back, eyes closed.
Her chest rose and fell. She was alive.
I collapsed to her side in tears, wrapped my good arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. My hand moved up and cupped her head, and I stared down at her.
Brenda’s own eyes flickered and opened up. “Steven?”
I smiled down at her, tears still dripping from my eyes. “We’re okay, Brenda. We’re alive.”
She was in pain, but it didn’t stop a relieved grin spreading over her face. Her arms lifted and wrapped around me, and we embraced, both sobbing on each other’s shoulder. She noticed my arm and touched it sadly.
With my good arm, I lifted her to her feet. She lifted her hands to her mouth and gasped, finally witnessing the scenes around us. I held her again and tried to draw attention away, but she was insistent.
“Twig…” She whispered. “He’s alive. He saved us… Where is he?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
Brenda had suffered bruising and what I suspected to be a cracked rib, but she was more mobile than me, and held me under the shoulders as we trudged around the gruesome scene in search of the Hork-Bajir.
We found him sat up beside the body of another Hork-Bajir. It was dead, but Twig had his hand pressed to its arm, gently nudging it in, perhaps in a naïve attempt to resuscitate it.
He noticed us, but he instantly turned back to face the deceased Hork-Bajir and gave up nudging it. Brenda carefully let go of me and lumbered over to him. “Twig!”
Twig didn’t react, even when Brenda reached out to him to hold his hands.
“Twig…” Brenda whispered, now riddled with concern. “Are you okay?”
He closed his eyes and pushed Brenda gently away. Then he turned to sit facing the other way. Brenda looked bemused and looked to me for an answer. I shrugged, suspecting his reasons, but not wishing to worry Brenda anymore right at this time.
The three of us were reunited, but four of us had jumped from of the base. Howson would be somewhere around here.
I spotted him. He was about fifteen feet to our left, slumped against a large tree. I sprawled over to my fallen cell-mate, but as I got closer, a feeling of dread rolled over me.
His chest was still, and blood dripped down over his eyes. He had collided with the tree head-first. He was gone.
Tears rolled down my cheek again, and I carefully kneeled down beside his body. I checked for a pulse, for any sign of breathing, but it was too late.
Brenda had made her way to my side. Her hand fell onto my shoulders.
“He helped me.” I said mournfully. “He kept me sane in that hell. He was the only one I ever really talked to...”
Brenda pulled me up, and we held each other once again. She comforted me over the loss, whispering messages of hope into my ear. But we had lost more than Howson.
We turned to face the destruction behind us. Smoke billowed from the hole in the ground beneath the fake oak tree. Past that, far into the distance where the town was stood, was a great black pillar that rose steadily up to the sky. The base was gone, and it had taken the town with it. There were the sounds of sirens and screams far off in that direction.
We were lucky to escape the way we did. Our exit took us away from the blast zone, whereas a lot of other base exits twisted and turned, opening above the ground where they base lay. The rock ceiling of the complex had probably collapsed. Not many would have survived.
For minutes we sat and listened. The views of the city were blocked off by trees and hills, but the sounds told us enough of the story.
“What do we do now?” Brenda asked shakily, clutching onto my arm.
Around us, those who were still alive were recovering. They moaned, stretched their aching bodies, inspected and mourned the dead. Some would be controllers, some would be freed hosts, but that didn’t matter anymore. No one would fight. There was no need.
They moved to join us, listening to the scenes unfurl from the town before us.
“I suppose we go home.”

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Blu
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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:58 pm

Chapter 23!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/23/Twig


Chapter 23

The air was buzzing with helicopters, like a swarm of seagulls after a burger stand on a hot summer day. They blew over the woods where we stood, causing trees to rustle, and the smoke from the tunnel to engulf us. We watched as they circled the once proud town before us. There were helicopters for TV stations, radio networks. There were police copters, fire copters, and copters to airlift the injured to neighbouring towns. This event was going to be worldwide news.
Meanwhile, we were stood in our little opening amongst a few survivors. They were confused, angry, fearful, but most of all, they were relieved. Most of them were, anyway. Some of them were quick to split away from the group, with intention not to be noticed doing so. Without doubt, they were controllers who felt the need to run off in search of any small Yeerk base they could find, any hint of Kandrona they could feed upon.
This was a huge blow to the Yeerks. A vital, perhaps even fatal turning point. Unless they were fortunate enough to be at a small operational base with its own Yeerk pool, they would have at most three days to survive. After that, they would die, and the host would walk freely again.
So our group of survivors dwindled. There were a few spats in that short space of time, when some of them became suspicious of others. The controllers wouldn’t reveal their identities in fear of attack from freed hosts. However, by the time our group stopped losing members, it seemed as if all the Yeerks had left. We were all freed hosts.
Most of the people in our group had lost their homes. They were residents of the town that was now up in smoke, and they had nowhere to go. They clumped together, and initially decided to head down to the town, the outskirts of which may have remained unaffected. With some persuasion, they decided instead to head to the next town over while the world media and the local services tried to control the damage the area had received.
We had our home nearby, so we remained. We could return home and hopefully find it unaffected by the event, without any now-homeless refugees trying to squat inside.
The surviving Hork-Bajir weren’t quite as indecisive as the humans. They had an entire woodland now to reside in, but the unfamiliarity of the trees and the presence of human military nearby frightened them. In the end, they had no other option but to run for the trees in search of others.
Twig remained by our side, even after invitations from the other Hork-Bajir to join them. Despite his apparent loyalty, he still wouldn’t speak to us, nor did he really speak to anyone. His eyes were eternally drawn to the ground, his tail drooped between his legs like a punished dog.
The three of us slowly made our way home. I had taken off my shirt and Brenda helped to tie it around my arm as a bandage, but my leg was not quite so easy to manage, and Brenda offered herself as a crutch for the journey back. I was numb, but Brenda was now in pain, her ribs aching with each intake of breath. Normally we would have gone straight to the hospital, but now that it was no longer possible, we would have to return home and care for our bodies ourselves until we could readily travel to the next town.
Our conversations were limited, mostly just making sure that we were all able to continue or whether we wanted to take a break. We were too exhausted to talk about anything else. Yes, we were angry, frustrated, saddened, and frightened, but most of all, we were relieved. That relief, for now, made everything else irrelevant.
We arrived home. It looked as if nothing had happened: A couple of lights were on inside, the flora that decorated patches outside were nicely trimmed. There was no car, but that was the only thing that seemed unusual. My keys were still on my person.
I don’t know why, but the opening of the front door seemed like some momentous occasion. I placed the key in the lock, and turned to Brenda with a look of pure satisfaction as I turned it. The door opened, and the warm, cosy air of the inside breezed over our skin. We did not laugh or jump around with joy; we simply stood in the hallway in silent awe.
We were ourselves, and we were finally home.
Brenda closed the front door behind us, and then rubbed her fingers down the mended crack from when the door was destroyed all those weeks ago. She turned her head to me, and she smiled.
I returned the smile. “I’ll go put some coffee on.”
The kitchen was just how I remembered it. Of course, it had only been a few days since I was last in there, but under the control of Yarfush, it became something foreign. Now I could touch things with my own hands, twist the taps on my own whim. I could drink coffee and taste it with my own tongue, and oh how I was looking forward to that!
I poured two coffees and a large glass of water for Twig. Brenda was off exploring the house, making it just the way she wanted it again. I waited for her to return downstairs and put our drinks on the living room table.
Twig was there, stood in the corner of the room where his blankets used to be. I felt a stab of guilt as he stared at the ground where they used to sit, and then searched around for them. He didn’t know that Yarfush had thrown them out, and I didn’t really want to tell him. He eventually gave up, and simply curled up on the cold hard floor.
Brenda arrived in the living room soon enough, but upon spotting Twig, she rushed off to find some spare blankets or pillows. He accepted the new blankets when they came, but was uninterested when she attempted to comfort him. Coming to the conclusion the he was inconsolable, we decided to leave him alone for a while to settle. Of the three of us, he was probably the most dazed from the experience. So much had happened for him in the last few weeks that he had most likely overloaded. We would try again to comfort him tomorrow after he had slept on his own accord.
I and Brenda took our usual places on the couch and turned on the television. We weren’t sitting down to watch another horrid game show or a football game. We doubted that those would be shown anyway, in light of today’s events. Instead, we watched the television to observe just how much damage had been caused to our local town.
Every major channel was covering it, and they would probably continue to do so for days. The centre of the town had been obliterated. The ground above the Yeerk cavern had imploded as the bombs shook the Earth, and what lay above it collapsed into the space created. From the air, the centre of town just looked like one huge messy crater. The major downtown area was almost completely gone. The mall, the banks… the hospital.
Most of the TV reporters stayed far back, going live from the edges of town where they could just about see the crater and the smoke that rose into the air. Others moved in close, and gave us pictures that were a lot more in-depth.
I don’t think they were allowed to show dead bodies close up, but they did so from a distance. The outskirts of the crater were lined with corpses. I saw Brenda bring her hands over her mouth in the corner of my eye. The scenes were desperately tragic.
The area was secured, with only emergency services and the military allowed to roam the affected areas. The police, the firefighters and the paramedics arrived in huge numbers to look for and rescue survivors. Initially, as the reporter described, they only aided the injured humans, but information from other sources arrived soon after the paramedics got to work, and they began tending to the injured Hork-Bajir as well. The rescued were distributed to several hospitals in neighbouring towns. However, the number of injured was much less than the number killed.
Brenda and I watched in silence as the numbers on each tally rose. The reporters on-scene seemed just as tense and fearful as one would expect in such a situation, but they tried to show as much optimism as they could. The event was tragic, but at the same time it was also a great step forward. The main Yeerk base was destroyed, and that meant a great turning point in a war that at first often seemed unwinnable. Reports were coming in as smaller Yeerk outposts across the country were taken by the American military, and these events were becoming frequent.
The Yeerks were out of places to run. Those that remained on the ground would starve to death, deprived of their precious Kandrona, and the TV pundits made that very clear.
There was hope for this war. It was long from over, but we finally had a chance. There would be little to no more infestation of human hosts, at least from what we were told.
One more thing was made clear: The next three days would be hell. All over, people would be hunching over, clawing at their head, pulling Yeerk slugs from their ear. Families would learn the true identities of loved ones, brothers would learn that sisters were not quite their sisters. This caused a great deal of paranoia, apparent in interviews of locals whose lives were thrown into turmoil by the events.
News panellists debated ferociously as to the human race’s next steps. They debated the morality of starving controllers and blowing up Yeerk pools. They debated what to do with the Hork-Bajir who now roamed the deserted streets and the countryside without a home, and what to do with suspected controllers. Everyone knew that this would cause great tensions within the populations, that people would be prosecuted and harassed.
It truly felt like war. Nothing was certain. Nothing was safe.
“Can we even stay here?” Brenda asked me as we watched a FOX news panel discussing the detaining of known controllers. “In our home, I mean.”
It was something that I had been thinking about ever since we got here. We were a few miles away from town, far enough not to be disturbed by the rescue efforts. We were isolated, with no one else ever really allowed. We lived hidden in the middle of the woods.
“We are fine here, I think,” I said. “But we will need to stock up on food. We’ll need a car. And we’ll need guns.”
Brenda nodded, much to my surprise. She had always held an aversion to firearms, and would never allow for one in our house. But she knew better now. We needed protection, because there was no telling where this war would lead. I didn’t intend to spend the rest of my days sleeping with one eye open.
The sky was soon black, but we didn’t feel like sleeping. We stayed in the living room, sharing a glass of wine to celebrate our freedom, whilst keeping the television on to keep up with the events as they came in. More and more Yeerk bases were being captured, and the news stations displayed birds-eye videos of log cabins, large isolated building and caves where Yeerk outposts were being discovered.
We tended to our injuries, for which my profession came in handy. I was able to bandage up suspected broken bones so that further injury would be avoided. Despite such handicaps, we decided that tomorrow would be spent walking to the nearest town and purchasing a new car. We desperately needed one. I would leave the choice of car up to Brenda.
Twig was another thing that needed attention. His injuries were not on the outside, which would make the task of consoling him much more difficult. For the entire night, he was curled up on the floor, his back to us. Thankfully, he took his water, but apart from that and his new blankets, it was all he would accept. He sobbed occasionally, but we left him to mourn alone.
Deep inside, below the overwhelming relief that invaded my mind that night, I knew that the war going on around us wasn’t going to be our only struggle. Brenda and I avoided conversations that would be awkward, but eventually we would have to settle some major issues. She knew of my affair now, and I really wasn’t looking forward to discussing it.
Sooner or later, I knew she would bring it up. I didn’t know what would become of our relationship, and some part of me knew that we would remain together at least until this war was over. But when this war would eventually end - if it ever did - our future was uncertain. Could she still love me? Could she still share a house with me? Had the events of today renewed her trust in me?
Those questions would have to wait.
Before we retired to the bedroom, I stayed behind downstairs. I observed the changes that our house had gone through since Yarfush had resided here. The rooms were cleaner, the paperwork that had once been strewn over our furnishings had been neatly piled away. The house was revitalised, once again habitable.
But Yarfush was dead now, as was Decran. The patient, cunning mind that once accompanied mine had disappeared, but in its place it left a void. It felt like something was missing. Silence sat where a voice used to ponder. It was a bitter, nagging loneliness.
Howson was right. Yarfush was becoming a part of me, and I was becoming part of him. With his demise, a piece of me left. I couldn’t be sure which part of me that was. Perhaps I would never know.
I put down my empty wine glass and headed off for sleep. Tomorrow was going to be tough.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:55 pm

Chapter 24!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/24/Twig


Chapter 24

I never thought the relief would disappear so quickly. The moment my head dropped against my pillow that night, it simply vanished, and a deep mix of negative emotions took its place. My mind up to that point had been distracted by the events unfolding around us, either physically or through television reports, but now there was nothing to distract it. I didn’t sleep a wink.
My mind swirled, replaying every horrible memory that I had witnessed during my time under Yarfush’s control. The whole time it felt as if he was still there, reading and judging every thought that ran through my mind. My body would freeze completely until I realised that I was the one in control.
I saw the faces of the three soldiers I had killed. I pictured fictional families for them, crying themselves to sleep at night over their early deaths. I heard Twig’s betrayed cries when Yarfush turned his back on him. I pictured Brenda, her face being manipulated by Decran’s grasp.
I pictured a future alone when Brenda left me. She couldn’t accept me. She hated me for betraying her loyalty.
It wasn’t just me who failed to sleep. About an hour after going to bed, Brenda suddenly burst out crying, wrapping her face in pillows. I sat up immediately and reached for her shoulder. The comfort I offered eventually calmed her, but she looked at me with eyes drowned in fear. Her hands were shaking.
Such episodes occurred several times that night. And she was not the only one to suffer them.
At about 3 in the morning, just as I was finally falling into some sleep, we were both shocked by a loud outburst from downstairs. Twig was screaming, howling at the top of his voice. We rushed downstairs to find him sat up in the centre of the room, howling constantly at the living room windows.
Brenda kneeled down beside the Hork-Bajir and tried desperately to hush him, but his cries to no one continued. I poured him out another glass of water, though it was impossible to help him drink in his horrified state.
He calmed when Brenda placed blankets over his shoulders, and she carefully leaned his head over her shoulder, gently massaging his neck and shushing him quietly. Then we allowed him to drink the water, and he crawled back to his corner. Fortunately, it only happened once that night. I’m not sure how well he slept, but he didn’t start screaming again.
I knew that this would happen, but I didn’t expect it so soon. The mental effects were beginning to take hold, and by the time I and Brenda woke up for breakfast, we were both shaken from anxiety and lack of sleep.
Coffee was a welcome pleasure to my dishevelled mind, but it would do nothing to cure the grief that circled it. We decided over breakfast to head inland for the next town over. Our first priority was to rent a car from a local dealership. Secondly, once we were fully mobile, we were to gather food and other essentials.
Then we would buy some protection. Guns, obviously.
There was one major issue that we may have had to face on such tasks: We couldn’t run the risk of being suspected as controllers. This would be difficult, considering that we actually were controllers. With both of us having vanished for several days as soon as the Yeerk invasion was revealed, we couldn’t make our presence obvious to the authorities. Similarly, we would have to avoid people that we knew personally.
If they were still alive, that is. What a depressing thought to cross my mind…
Twig was already up and moving as we descended the stairs that morning. He had turned on the television to yet another cable news station. It was unusual, because whenever Twig watched morning television, it was always children’s educational television or MTV. We entered the living room after our coffee to find him flattened against the sofa, eyes fixated on NBC anchors discussing yesterday’s events. He didn’t watch it with us yesterday, so it was a small relief that he had brought himself to do it today. He probably didn’t understand much of what the pundits were saying, but hey, it was progress.
Brenda began preparing breakfast for the both of us, but since Yarfush had thrown out all of Twig’s old things, there was nothing inside for him to eat. We would have to fetch some loose bark later on. I added it to my mental list of things to do and sat beside him on the sofa.
Two of the panellists on the TV were discussing Taxxons who had escaped the base before it had exploded. Twig was showing slight interest, but he seemed equally focused on his own twiddling fingers.
“You sure you don’t want to watch MTV, Twig?” I asked him.
He replied with a subtle shake of the head.
I spoke as invitingly as I could. I didn’t want to appear frustrated to him. “How come you’re watching NBC, anyway?”
“Twig want to.” The Hork-Bajir mumbled.
I sighed and rubbed at my eyes in exhaustion. “Look, Twig, if there’s anything you want to talk about, we’re here for you.”
Again, he was unresponsive, and he diverted his gaze away from me.
My mind recalled my first few times in the Yeerk base, when I would sit in silence in my cell just as Twig was doing now. I remembered Howson and how he persuaded me to properly express my angst. “Twig, if I’ve learnt anything from this experience, it’s that you can’t hide yourself away from people. You can’t isolate yourself, because it helps no one.”
It seemed to work, and Twig looked back to me. “Twig see TV long time ago.” He started. “TV show Hell. Hell is bad place.”
I raised an eyebrow, but agreed with a nod. “Yeah, hell is a bad place, but I don’t think-”
“Twig think Twig go to Hell.” He sobbed. “Twig do bad and die. Go to Hell…”
His large claws raised and rubbed over his torso where the collection of scarred bullet wounds sat prominently.
“You didn’t die Twig,” I reassured. “And you didn’t go to Hell.”
He lay back against the sofa and snorted. “Then Twig think is dream. Twig so confused!”
I noticed Brenda observing us from a distance, deciding that I should take this task on by myself. I shot her a glance that asked why she couldn’t help, but she remained where she was.
“I’m afraid it wasn’t a dream, either, Twig.”
He nodded slowly. “Twig know what Twig is now… Twig is Hork-Bajir. Twig is slave.”
“No.” I said instinctively. “No. Not anymore. You’re back home now.”
Twig let out a small whimper and looked away from me again.
“I’m sorry if you feel like we abandoned you, or somehow caused the pain you went through.” I said. “We want the best for you Twig, and we would never do that to you. You know that, right?”
He forced a smile. “Twig know. Twig just scared.”
“Good.” I smiled back and patted him on the knee. “We’ll get you some food today, and some new blankets.”
He looked to me as I got up from the sofa. “Where Twig’s old blankets?”
I hesitated. “We, uh… We lost them. I’m sorry.”
Brenda expressed her appreciation as I re-entered the kitchen area. We had our breakfast and sat down to watch the television with Twig. He became a little more talkative in that period, and soon was leaning against Brenda and looking up to her as if he were a child again. At least for now, he seemed to be over the worst.
We checked the news channels for updates before we left for the town closest inland in case of any developments that might get in our way. Suspected controllers were now being detained in local prisons for at least three days to starve any Yeerk present. A lot of people objected for cruelty to hosts, but according to officials, there were no other safe options. There was still no decision on what to do with the Hork-Bajir, and reports stated that those freed were congregating in the woods around us. We stared from the living room windows a lot more frequently after that report.
Brenda managed to find an old cane in the attic which would come in very useful for the walk. She had no intention of being my personal crutch for the duration, and so the cane was a great relief to her. I got used to walking with it, and then we set off eastwards.
The walk was long but quiet. Roads through the woods were mostly unused because no one wanted to go anywhere near the destroyed town. A couple of cars past, but they refused to pull over for us. It was understandable in the current situation. Halfway through the woodland roads, we noticed a small group of Hork-Bajir feasting on some pines. They darted away into the dense field of trees when they spotted us.
An hour or so into the walk, we emerged into more open territory, and we spotted large buildings off in the distance.
We soon arrived on the outskirts. The town was almost deserted, which came as no great shock. Those who walked the streets were rushing, looking over their shoulders and glaring at us as we moved along by. Driveways were empty, houses were abandoned, and the only cars around were speeding away from the centre of town for the highways. We began to doubt our decision to come here, knowing that so many people will have deserted homes and businesses. Most would be escaping to places as far away as possible.
We found a small business park somewhere to the north of the area and, like the rest of town, it was largely abandoned. Our luck allowed us to find a car dealership pretty early on, and from what we could see, it was still in business. However, most of the cars had disappeared, and as we walked in, we saw just two staff members. They had just finished dealing with another couple, who rushed off as quickly they were given a new set of keys. From what I overheard, they were heading to the next state over.
We approached the older of the two staff members.
“Hello!” He greeted enthusiastically. “My name is George. I’m the owner of this dealership.”
I was impressed that in days like these, a man could continue with the typical entrepreneur flair. He smiled warmly and shook our hands.
“Hi, George.” I said formally. “We’re so relieved to find a car dealership still in business!”
He nodded. “What better time to sell cars when everyone wants to get as far away from town as possible? We sold most of our vehicles in a single day!” He signalled out the other staff member, who had retired to the back rooms. “Most of our staff left, but I and my son Billy stayed behind. There are a lot of people out there without cars now. They need people like us.”
“Like we do now.” I acknowledged.
It was a pleasant revelation to see that there were still people around willing to lend a hand. George and his son were staying put despite the obvious dangers to make sure passers-by like us could get good transport. It was selfless people like him who restored my faith in humanity.
He showed us around the mostly empty showrooms with the usual dealer grace, but knowing our desperate situation, he wasn’t going to bullshit us into buying the most expensive vehicle that he had. He asked what we needed, where we planned to travel and how much room we would need. I let Brenda do most of the talking, knowing that every car I would pick out would be wrong. That’s just the way it is.
She made it clear to George that we didn’t want a two-seater. We were no longer just a two-person family, and she took Twig’s presence into consideration. In case of another emergency, we wouldn’t leave Twig behind, so our car would need plenty of room in the back. Enough for a giant space lizard, anyway.
Brenda settled with some hideous pile of red garbage. I didn’t expect anything less, but I decided not to make it into a debate. A car was a car, and that’s all that really mattered.
That thing was seriously ugly, though…
“I like it.” Brenda commented, looking at me.
I nodded and turned away to hide the grimace on my face.
George handed us both small booklet on the car model and guided us through some basic information, and when Brenda decided that she wanted it, a big grin shone over his face.
“Oh fantastic!” He beamed. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just go get the form for you to fill out. I won’t be too long.”
George strolled to his office, swinging a set of key rings around his finger. He closed the office door behind him, and left us to admire the monstrosity of a car.
“You just had to pick the car equivalent of Quasimodo, didn’t you?” I groaned.
“It’s big, efficient and cheap, Steven. You’re only one of those things.” She snapped back. “It’s not like we have many options, anyway: This place is empty!”
“That’s no surprise.” I said. “Everyone’s leaving town, so everyone’s getting a new car. It’s no wonder George stays here. He’ll be making a fortune.”
Our conversation was interrupted when George returned from the offices. He handed us a clipboard with a couple of forms attached. “If you would just like to sign these papers.” He chirped. “It’s just to get your details and such. I’ll leave you to sign them while I find the other papers.”
I nodded and took the clipboard, thanking him. He left again for the offices, and I began to fill out the form. It was nothing unusual: Just names, addresses, phone numbers…
Then something stuck me, and I stopped writing.
“Is something wrong, Steven?” Brenda asked, noticing my hesitation while admiring the world’s ugliest car.
My head buzzed with the new realisation that had popped its ugly head up. I closed my eyes and cursed under my own breathe. I had been an idiot.
“We can’t do this.” I mumbled to her. “We have to go.”
She gave me a look of confusion. “What? Steven, we need a car!”
“I know we do.” I huffed impatiently. “But we can’t get one. Not now.”
“Why?”
I held the clipboard up to her and tapped the details with the pen. “They’re taking our details, Brenda.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be an idiot, Steven. Every dealer takes customer details.”
“I know that.” I growled. “And we’ll be on their databases.”
I let that sink in, and I could see the clogs churning in her head. Her eyes widened when she finally came to the same disturbing conclusion.
We left the dealership before George returned, leaving the clipboard and pen beside the car. We took the half-filled-in form, screwed it up and threw it into bushes a few hundred yards down the road.
We were so close to making a really stupid error. Handing our details over to any business meant that our names were still active. It meant that we were still alive and operating in the local area.
Both of us had disappeared for days when the invasion was revealed to the public and that would not have gone unnoticed by our superiors. They would have suspected the truth: We were controllers. We carried Yeerk slugs in our heads.
Now that the state was detaining suspected controllers, we had to be on our toes. I considered how the state could possible identify suspected Yeerks, and it had finally occurred to me.
If our names appeared anywhere, if we signed up to anything, filled out any forms, they would track us down. If we could avoid making ourselves known, we may be considered dead or missing.
Giving our details to George’s car dealership meant that we would have revealed ourselves. We would be tracked, rounded up, and thrown into a prison for at least three days. That wouldn’t seem so bad, but we couldn’t run the risk of losing Twig again, especially with the state still indecisive with how to handle to Hork-Bajir. For all we knew, the officials could decide to round them all up and have them shot or thrown into filthy concentration camps. We needed to be around to protect Twig.
We couldn’t buy or hire a car. We couldn’t buy guns or go to the hospital to get our injuries tended to. We couldn’t do anything that required our identities to be given. We were stranded.
The two of us debated and argued, but in the end we had no choice. Without transport, we would need to stock up on supplies and wait in silence for the war to eventually pass over.
Thankfully, we were still able to gather food and drink, but without the car that we had originally planned to be driving home in, we were limited to three hands with which to carry bags back with us.
Brenda was thoughtful enough to come up with a worthy solution, and we searched around for a shop that sold suitcases. We managed to find a couple, trudged through an abandoned supermarket and loaded them up with as much food and drink as possible. After that, we slunk off home with a great cloud of defeat hung over our heads.

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Blu
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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:19 pm

Chapter 25!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/25/Twig


Chapter 25

We returned home late in the afternoon. While Brenda sorted out the shopping, I left the house with a large carrier bag and gathered some food for Twig. I brought it back for him, just as Brenda was preparing some soup for our dinner. We weren’t going to be eating too ambitiously for a while, so we needed to adjust. Vegetable soup was a good start, but I knew it wouldn’t fully fill the hole in my stomach.
Twig scarfed down the bark the moment it was set down before him. Eating something other than damp sawdust lifted his mood considerably, but there was still a sense of great inner pain that radiated from him. I sat with him until dinner was ready, watching the news reports come in, since he refused to watch anything else.
“Humans scared.” He summarised as we watched another panel discussion.
“Well, there is a war going on.” I pointed out.
He looked to me. “What happen after war, Steven?”
I shrugged. “If we win? I don’t really know. Perhaps we try to live normally again. Brenda and I could get new jobs, maybe a new house…”
Twig paused, and his eyes focused again on the television. “Humans talk on TV earlier. Talk about Hork-Bajir.”
“Oh yeah?” I perked up. “And what did they say, Twig?”
“One human say things about Hork-Bajir. Say bad things.”
I sighed. Twig often came up with such little things to worry about, but this was a new one. “I wouldn’t worry about it, Twig. People are panicking. Some are bound to say stupid things.”
“Twig stay with Steven and Brenda?” He asked, and I saw the fear returning to his eyes. “Twig be taken away again?”
I shook my head and smiled at him. “They won’t take you away. Humans aren’t Yeerks.” I reassured him, though deep down inside I wasn’t quite so sure of myself.
To my surprise, Twig saw through it. “Steven say to Twig before: Some humans bad. Not all football players. Not all singers. What if bad human comes?”
I shuddered inwardly, but I had to keep him reassured. “Twig, we will do anything we can to protect you. Believe me, we’ve sacrificed enough already to make sure that you are safe.”
“Thank you.” He smiled, finally looking a little more certain.
“I’m sure humans will come to accept your people,” I said. “You just wait and see.”
We finished our conversation, and I left Twig with the television to check up on Brenda. She was just finishing up the soup and serving it into two dinner bowls. I sliced up some French bread and helped lay out the dinner table.
Brenda was suspiciously silent, and as we sat down to start our soup, I began to understand why. This was where we would host the talk that had been hanging on our tongues since we fled the Yeerk base. She dipped a slice of bread in her soup and sighed.
“So…” She began. “We finally have some time to talk.”
“I guess so.” I replied.
She let go of her bread, letting it sink to the side of the dinner bowl. “I want to say thank you.”
“Thank you?” I raised an eyebrow. “What for?”
She smiled. “For helping us to escape the Yeerk pool. For speaking to Twig. For… being there for me last night.”
I didn’t really know what to say, so I took a sip of my dinner instead, keeping my eyes locked on her.
“I don’t know quite what happened to you in the last few weeks.” She continued. “Perhaps I don’t want to know, but… you’ve changed.”
I didn’t really feel in the mood for soup anymore. I set down my spoon and pushed the bowl away. “I don’t think anyone can remain unchanged after that.”
Brenda nodded and looked me firmly in the eyes. “I thought I was going to die in that place, Steven. I thought maybe we would never see each other again, and…” Tears began welling up in her eyes, but she was trying to hold them back. “Sometimes that made me happy. I remembered our last moments together. I remember you trying to get us to leave, and I… I was too stupid to realise that perhaps you were being serious. I was too stubborn to believe you.”
“Don’t blame yourself for that, Brenda.” I said. “You had every reason not to listen to me that night.”
She wiped away a tear to gaze at me with narrowed eyes. There was something that she didn’t quite believe or understand. “I thought we were over. I thought we could never be together again. But then Decran came. She took me home, and you were there.”
“It wasn’t me, Brenda.” I said. “That was Yarfush.”
“I know, I know.” She sobbed. “But I didn’t want to see you as one of them. Decran only made things worse.”
A tinge of anger filled me. Perhaps I was fortunate to receive Yarfush. Decran never struck me as the kindest Yeerk around.
“I didn’t feel much different,” I told her. “I couldn’t stand seeing you used like that. I couldn’t stand Decran’s gloating. I wanted to rip that slime right out of your head. I wanted to…” I stopped myself and let it hang.
“Then when… that night.” Brenda said solemnly. “The wine night.”
I nodded, but that all I could muster.
“You were having an affair all along.” She muttered sadly. “I had started to believe you when you said you weren’t, but I was right all along, wasn’t I?”
“I…” Something clogged my throat, and I tried to rub it away.
“How long?” Brenda pressed.
I couldn’t bring myself to say, and I sat forward on the table, arms crossed in front of me.
Then something seemed to spark in the empty void that occupied my mind. I needed to tell her the truth. If we were to remain together, there needed to be honesty.
“A year.” I admitted ashamedly.
Brenda covered her eyes in her hands and began crying. I wanted desperately to comfort her, to wrap my arms around her shoulders, but I knew it would bring her no satisfaction. Eventually, she pulled her hands away, but her eyes remained glued to the table.
“Why, Steven? Why did you betray me like that, for a whole year? Why Cindy?”
“Times were tough.” I said. “You know that as well as I do. We had just moved house, I couldn’t stand my job, and you…” I hesitated. “I didn’t think you loved me anymore.”
She released another sob, but to my surprise, her hands reached forward on the table in front of me. I moved my unbandaged hand forward, and we held each other, our eyes finally meeting again.
“I did love you, Steven. I did.” Her lower lip quivered. “You just frustrated me. You weren’t the man I married anymore. You used to be so fun, and you were ambitious and trusting. Then you got your new job, and the money started to go elsewhere. You changed, for the worse.”
I felt tears of my own roll down my cheek, but I wasn’t ashamed like I would have been before. I let them drip. “How?” I asked sincerely. “How did I change?”
“You lost all the fun. You didn’t want to do anything anymore. You just wanted to sit in front of the TV. You wouldn’t spend any time with me. You became so bitter and hateful. Suddenly all the world was spiting you. Nothing was good, everything was an annoyance.”
All I could do was nod. She was right. For so long I simply lost interest in having fun, or doing things for the sake of others. I had become a sarcastic, sour man, and I knew that all too well.
“I hate to admit it, Steven, but Decran was right when she told you that I couldn’t stand being around you. You weren’t the person I loved anymore…”
“I know.” I conceded. “And I’m sorry.”
“And then the whole Cindy thing…” She clasped her face in her hands again and spoke through her fingers. “I lost all my trust in you.”
My hand retook hers and clasped them a little tighter. I didn’t want to let go. “And now? Is there anything left between us?”
Her reddened, watery eyes caught mine for the last time during that meal. “I don’t know.”

Dinner was finished in a contemplative silence. Our minds were such a cruel mix of emotions that we couldn’t decipher them enough to express ourselves. I wanted so desperately for her to trust me again, but our revealed secrets had driven us even further apart. Helping her to escape the Yeerk base and being there for her and Twig in the aftemath had simply confused her. Could I really be there to protect her?
She said that I had changed. I knew that I had changed all those years ago, but had she seen further change in me? Had my experiences over the last few weeks altered my person? Had Brenda found something new in me that could make her trust me again?
My affair had really upset her, but my honesty in explaining why I felt the need to search for love elsewhere was something else she seemed to appreciate. I couldn’t really tell if she hated me for it, or whether she felt reassured that I had gotten over it enough to explain my actions sincerely.
Either way, it wouldn’t matter. We were stuck together for an unknown period of time now. We only had each other and Twig for company. This was no time to be alone.
We were sat in the bedroom later that evening, sorting through piles of fresh laundry. Chores nowadays were suddenly a welcome comfort, and we heartily indulged them enough to share them.
We talked a lot about nothing’s for a while, and Brenda put on a brave face, but there was always a hint of sadness in her voice. She was still churning dreadful thoughts in her head, but like me she realised that in times like these, there was little point in separating ourselves further.
“Are you going to sort out dinner tomorrow, then?” Brenda asked during the conversation we were having.
I grinned. “Maybe we should let Twig make dinner again.”
“Bark curry?” She retorted. “No thanks. You may be shocked to hear this, but I think you’re a better cook. Just a little better…”
“Maybe if we actually taught him, instead of letting him pick up his recipes from commercials, he could cook something bearable.” I suggested. “And just a little better?”
She shook her head and finished folding some clothes away into the bedside drawers. “We can’t really afford to have him ruin our meals. We haven’t got enough food in the house to waste.”
My smile faded. “How long can we last on what we’ve got right now?”
“If we don’t get bombed or raided by police offices, one or two weeks. After that, we’ll have to head into town again.”
I sighed heavily. “I’m not sure if we could just go over to the next town. The place was basically dead today. No one will be there in two weeks. Everyone’s heading to Nevada and Oregon, and there’s no way we’re getting to those places.”
She considered, and then stared at me slyly. I knew what she was silently implying.
“You want to steal goods?” Then I paused and mulled it over. “Sounds like a good idea. We may even be able to find a car.”
“Who’s going to stop us?” She asked. “Who would care?”
“The police.” I suddenly realised. “The military and all the others. They’re still around you know, looking for Yeerks. You don’t think they would arrest us?”
Her eyes dropped, disappointed. “You’re right.”
I finished up my share of this particular chore and stared at her across the room. “It’s risky, I know, but maybe it’s our only option.”
She looked up again, quizzically. “What?”
“We’ll go next week.” I smiled. “I’m sure we could get away with it if we’re careful, and anyway, we can’t go on without food. Either we give it a try, or we revert to Twig’s diet of bark and souls.” I joked.
Her confused expression flickered to a brief smile, but then she blanked and looked away. “We can’t go on living like this, Steven.”
“I know,” I agreed. “Do you think we should just hand ourselves in?”
She glared in return, perturbed by the idea. “We can’t. We have Twig. I can’t stand the thought of losing him again.”
I held out my hands defensively. “Don’t worry, I wasn’t suggesting we throw him out or anything. All I’m saying is that sooner or later, we’re going to need to do something about this situation. We can’t live out the rest of our lives scavenging through bins and stealing cars. If this war ever ends and we somehow win, people will come back. We won’t even be able to scavenge anymore. Someday, we’ll be taken in for the required three days.”
“Things may change by then.” She mumbled, though her words sounded doubtful.
“We just have to hope, I suppose.”
Brenda narrowed her eyes at me again suspiciously. I ignored it, and we both made our way downstairs. On the way down, we discussed how we would spend the rest of the week, and as we entered the kitchen, our options came down to either spending the rest of the days sitting around aimlessly, pitying ourselves, or just sitting around aimlessly and wasting our eyesight on the television. With no car, we were almost completely isolated, so it came as no surprise that there was nothing to do.
We turned the corner to the living room in the midst of discussing tomorrows dinner again, when we noticed Twig stood in the centre of the room, gaze fixed to the glass panel doors that led into the backyard.
Staring back at him was another Hork-Bajir, about ten feet from the doors. Brenda and I froze.
“Twig?” I whispered, announcing our presence. He turned his head to notice our arrival, then swivelled back to stare at the stranger outside.
No one really knew what to do. As far as I and Brenda knew, this new Hork-Bajir posed no danger, so we couldn’t really justify shooing it off. It was hard to tell quite what was going through Twig’s mind, and even he seemed flustered.
The strange Hork-Bajir was the first to make a decision. A goofy smile appeared on its face, and it strolled in Twig’s direction.
Right into the glass door. It bounced off with a thud and appeared dazed for a few seconds. It shook its lizard head and approached the door again, with a little more caution this time.
Twig joined the approach, and the two stood inches apart, separated by the glass door that lay between them.
The new Hork-Bajir smiled, and twig smiled back. Then, from out of nowhere, three more of the fearsome creatures bounced down onto the lawn outside. They exchanged a few inaudible words with the first Hork-Bajir, and the four of them bounded off to the nearest wall of trees.
Twig’s hands pressed to the glass, and he twisted to get a better view as they left. Within seconds, they had vanished from sight.
He remained at the doors for the rest of the day, even after we headed to bed. That night, he moved his blankets and water bowl right up to the glass, and slept under the moonlight. He was still there the next morning.
I thought we had a lot of hard decisions to make. Maybe Twig was going to make those decisions for us.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:48 pm

Chapter 26!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/26/Twig


Chapter 26

They were everywhere. Charging across the grass, leaping from the tress. There was a thud as one hit the roof above us. We stared from the safety of the living room, watching with awe as they invaded our previously lonesome backyard. Within just a couple of hours, there were too many to count.
“Twig,” I started. “Did you have anything to do with this?”
He was stood to my left, hands pressed longingly to the window. Sheepishly, he replied, “Maybe.”
“What did you do?” Brenda spoke up from my right.
“When Twig in cage, speak to other Hork-Bajir.” He said, eyes closed as he searched his memory. “Hork-Bajir ask where Twig come from. Twig say come from Steven and Brenda.”
“Not literally.” I felt compelled to say.
“Say Steven and Brenda protect Twig. Keep Twig safe.”
“Well how did they know where we live?” Brenda asked.
“Twig tell Hork-Bajir about Steven and Brenda. Hork-Bajir see Twig yesterday through door.”
“The one who nearly smashed our door, huh.” I nodded. “So what? They think we’re some sort of sanctuary now?”
Twig dipped his head and twiddled his toes. “Twig sorry.” He said meekly.
Brenda and I exchanged a smile, and I patted Twig on the shoulder. “No need to be sorry, Godzilla. We just need to go outside and explain the situation.”
I reached down and opened up the double-doors that led into the back garden, and we cautiously made our way out.
We walked out about ten feet and noticed that Twig hadn’t moved. He remained stationed beside the opened doors, a look of uncertainty plastered on his face.
It struck me, and the situation brought a huff of laughter. Twig, in the whole two years that he had lived here, had never passed through the doors into our backyard. His nervous expression was his way of asking me for permission to leave the cramped safety of the home.
“You can come out, Twig.” Brenda invited, holding out a hand for him.
He cautiously exited into the backyard, but as his tyrannosaurus feet touched the soft grass, all the anxiety seemed to drain, and he giddily bounced over to us.
All around us, Hork-Bajir were present. The one that had hit our roof was not alone, and at least five were gathered up there sharing out slabs of pine bark. Others hung in the trees that engulfed the medium-sized, isolated grassy area we called our land, steadily beginning to notice our arrival.
We were all a little nervous, to say the least. Our land was infested with seven-foot space goblins, and we were stood out in the open in the middle of them all.
But I had learnt enough about Hork-Bajir to know that we were in no real danger. We were surrounded by bark-eating pacifists.
Within seconds, the same Hork-Bajir who had walked into the door yesterday dropped down from a nearby tree and approached. Twig stepped ahead of us to greet it. Noticing two head blades, I assumed that the new Hork-Bajir was female.
The two came face to face. “Hello, Nat Kutuk.” Twig greeted.
“Hello, Twig.” The Hork-Bajir known as Nat yipped eagerly.
Then the female dipped her head forward in Twig’s direction, her head blades pressed towards him. He looked baffled, glancing back to us for reassurance. We both shrugged.
Nat lifted her head, and then snorted out a little laugh. “Twig live with humans so long. Twig not Hafku.”
“Hafku?” Twig asked, confused.
“Hafku kiss.” Nat taught. “Hork-Bajir say hello. Hork-Bajir Hafku. Kiss.”
Twig jumped from one foot to the other nervously, and then looked to us once again for some help.
“Don’t look at us!” I snapped, actually amused by the situation. “You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.”
“Twig see kiss on TV before.” He mumbled, not at all confident in tone.
Before we could advise against it, Twig reached his hands forward, clutched Nat’s head and leaned forward. His long tongue poked out and he forced it into Nat’s snout. Her eyes went wide and she froze in place, bamboozled by Twig’s actions. A few seconds into Twig’s rigorous routine, she politely pushed him away and wiped at her tongue with her hands.
“What TV channels have you been watching, Twig?” I asked. “Maybe I shouldn’t ask…”
Nat was equally shocked by the unfamiliar gesture. “What Twig do?”
“Twig kiss…” He squeaked, sensing her aversion.
Nat began to laugh in the odd Hork-Bajir manner. “Not human kiss! Hork-Bajir kiss!” She moved her head forward again and touched her head blades to his. Twig was curious at first, but quickly relented.
Once their little greeting was out of the way, Nat turned to us. Twig smiled and pointed to us individually. “This Steven. This Brenda.”
“Hi Nat.” We each said, and then I added. “No need to kiss. Please.”
Nat smiled warmly and chirped back a greeting. “Twig tell Nat about Steven and Brenda. Nice humans. Kind to Twig.”
Brenda nodded. “We found him when he was a baby. We took care of him.”
“And that’s why he kisses like a human. A human with issues.” I informed. “He’s never really been around Hork-Bajir before. At least, ones that weren’t in Yeerk cells.”
Nat nodded and gifted a smile to Twig. He looked to the grass shyly.
“This Steven and Brenda home?” She then enquired, pointing to the house.
“Yep. That’s where we live.” I replied. “And this is our backyard.” I gestured to the open area around us.
Nat cocked her head and repeated, “Backyard? This also human home?”
“Sort of, yes.”
She became clearly embarrassed. “Nat not know. Steven and Brenda want Hork-Bajir go?”
My initial reply was going to be yes. These Hork-Bajir had unrightfully invaded our property, and they would undoubtedly cause some structural damage. However, something in my head stopped me and made me reconsider. My eyes trailed to Twig, and then to Brenda, who was waiting on a decision from me before she gave her own opinion.
“We will discuss it.” I said to Nat while staring to Brenda. “You can stay here until we make a decision, as long as you are careful with our property.”
Nat accepted this and rushed off to get the Hork-Bajir on our roof back into the trees. Brenda and I exchanged a few words and opted to return indoors to talk it over. Twig joined us, much to our curiosity, and then proceeded to watch the Hork-Bajir from the living room.
“I thought you were going to kick them out.” Brenda said as we entered the kitchen. “That’s what you would usually do. They’ll damage your precious lawn.”
“Things aren’t that simple, Brenda.” I grunted, beginning the process of making coffee. “You want one?”
“Sure. Double caffeine, I didn’t sleep at all last night.”
“You as well, huh?” I sighed. “We’ve been through a lot, so it’s no big surprise.”
She sat down heavily at the dinner table and rubbed at her tired eyes. “And now we’ve got hundreds of Twigs in our backyard. If Twig’s screaming the other night was anything to go by, we won’t stand a chance of sleep. A lot of them probably have PTSD.”
I ignored her as she continued to talk, staring down at the coffee I had started to pour. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I began to think of Yarfush, and how he would have dealt with this situation.
My usual instincts would lead me to simply getting rid of the Hork-Bajir to stop my property getting damaged. I used to take the first short-sighted option available, not bothering to look for any sort of better solution. I would always avoid confrontation or risk.
But Yarfush was different. He saw past initial instinct, and with his wit would come up with a smart solution to the problems that faced him. He didn’t cower away from the promotion that he had promised me. He asserted himself to my superiors and walked away with something successful, something which I could have never found the initiative to do. He could walk out of a hospital full of opposing soldiers without consequence, return to the base and explain himself to the higher-ups without repercussion.
Yarfush was a very clever Yeerk, and cleverness was something I needed right now. I needed to see through the skin of the situation and observe its inner workings. I needed to find the opportunity that would work and run with it.
Something clicked.
I brought the coffees to the table and sat opposite to Brenda. “I think I have a solution.”
Brenda raised an eyebrow. “Let me guess: We eat Hork-Bajir when we start to run out of food?”
I shook my head. “No.”
She smiled. “Okay, I’ll be serious. What’s your idea?”
I bowed my head to ready myself for her reaction. “We hand ourselves in. We go to the next town over and give ourselves over to the authorities.”
Brenda grumbled. “We talked about that, Steven.”
“I know we did, but now things are a little different.” I said, indicating to the backyard. “If we hand ourselves in, take the required days of confinement, Twig can be with the other Hork-Bajir.”
She shook her head doubtfully. “He’ll get rounded up and taken somewhere, I just know it. Who knows what would happen to him…”
A smile crept to my face. “Yes. That’s why we give him our house.”
Her eyes bolted up to me in disbelief. “What… Give him the house?”
“For as long as we are gone.” I said. “We lock the front door, make the place look empty from the outside… He can hide here in case anyone comes along to take or harm him. No one’s going to look in a human home for a Hork-Bajir.”
Brenda lifted herself to sit up straight, running the concept through her head. “But he’ll be alone. We can’t leave him again, not after how he reacted last time. He’ll think we’ve betrayed him again.”
I still couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. It was like some unexplained inner satisfaction produced by a cunning, insightful presence within me. “We let him stay in the home, and we let him bring his friends, too. He doesn’t have to be alone when he has a Yeerk-base-worth of Hork-Bajir out there.”
She shook her head, still reeling in scepticism. “But the house will be ruined. They’ll trash the place! Our home looked like a mess after Twig was here for just a year. What will happen when the place is overrun by that many fully-grown Twigs?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Brenda’s eyes narrowed, that suspicious look returning. Then it changed, and a smile took its place.
“You really have changed.” She whispered. “You really, really have.”

We went over some specifics for the next hour or so. The front door would be locked, and all the windows at the front of the house closed and covered so that no passers-by could see inside (Passers-by would be extremely rare, if not present at all, but we would have to make sure just in case). The doors to the backyard would be open so that the Hork-Bajir could enter and leave as they pleased, and one Hork-Bajir would be posted there to inform of the rules and regulations for the temporary hotel.
Most things smashable or easily breakable would be moved to the attic, save for a few things like the television and the piggy bank which they could use for entertainment (It was amazing how much entertainment Twig could find in a piggy bank with a few loose coins inside). Electrical appliances were also removed and plug sockets hidden from sight to avoid any curious Hork-Bajir connecting itself to the mains.
Twig was to be in charge of cooking. We would leave behind some pasta, rice and maybe a vegetarian pizza or two. He would be able to experiment as he pleased, as long as he didn’t set the house on fire.
We knew that the house would suffer considerably under the temporary ownership, but we didn’t really care. What mattered now was our safety, and from what I could foresee, this was the only solution which would ensure safety and happiness for the three of us. If any human approached the house, a lookout would inform Twig, and he and the other Hork-Bajir in the house would hide, close blinds and doors and pretend no one was home.
We went over the rules, and all the while Brenda would be watching me with that same suspicion, but now it was always accompanied by a smile.
I felt so different, so assured of myself. Confidence began to flow through me, the same confidence that Yarfush would radiate when he made any risky decision. The same confidence that would allow him to overcome his uncertainty and to make the decisions that mattered.
This decision mattered, and now it was I who was making it. It felt unusual, but it felt good as well.
Not only was Yarfush able to expertly cope with difficult situations, he was also insightful. He was right when he said Twig was kept here like a slave. I didn’t quite believe him at first, but seeing Twig’s behaviour and actions once we had escaped the Yeerk base helped me realise what he meant. I remembered when we first escaped, when Twig declined to go off with the other Hork-Bajir and opted to walk back home with us instead. I remembered when he wouldn’t leave the home just an hour earlier this afternoon when we opened the doors to the backyard.
We were his masters, and he was the obedient slave. His isolated behaviour over the last couple of days was originally thought to be the mourning of his memories under Yeerk control, but I began to suspect something more sinister. Perhaps it was his Yeerk who had told him, or maybe he realised it with his own insight, but he knew that while the other Hork-Bajir would run to freedom, he would simply move from one master to the other.
Not only would my plan protect him from any ill-intentioned humans, it would grant him his freedom. For the days we were gone, he could play amongst those of his own species and swing in the trees of the woods behind our home. He had never done such things before, and now we were letting him off of our metaphorical leash.
Together, we finished up our plans, and then we brought Twig into the kitchen to explain.
“Steven and Brenda leave Twig?” He whimpered, sadness present in his tone.
“Just for a few days, Twig.” Brenda explained. “We need to do this. We can’t survive unless we have a car or medical services. The only way to get those things is to go through the detaining process.”
He opened his snout to speak, but I continued Brenda’s explanation. “We won’t leave you alone Twig. You have the other Hork-Bajir.”
“But… bad humans come. Take Twig. Take Hork-Bajir.” He whined.
“You’ll have the house, Twig.” I said. “You’ll be able to hide if any humans come. You and your friends can be safe here.”
We went over all the rules with Twig. At first, he was unsure of what all of it meant and how he could possibly live in the house without us around, but when we started explaining the rules of where he could venture, I noticed his mood change. We told him that he could go outside, he could travel to the nearby stream that trickled from the distant mountains to drink, he could run off to find more Hork-Bajir and bring them back to the community that would undoubtedly grow from here. He could be with Nat and kiss her in whatever way he pleased, so long as she wasn’t too repulsed.
He realised the same things that I and Brenda had: He was no longer a slave. I saw it in the unhindered smile that he gave us as we finished explaining our rules and ideas to him.
We cooked ourselves an early dinner: a vegetarian pasta dish that was void of any ingredients Twig found undesirable or didn’t settle well with his stomach. The three of us ate together over wine and bark-infused rum, and we rejoiced in the family that we had.
After dinner, we packed a couple of things and said our temporary goodbyes. We couldn’t imagine what we would return to in a few days. We didn’t care.
Twig had been granted his freedom, while, for a few days, we would lose ours.

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Fri Jul 12, 2013 2:06 pm

Chapter 27!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/27/Twig


Chapter 27

We were away for seven days, a whole week. We left home and walked ourselves to the nearest police station on the first night, where we explained to the chief that we were ex-controllers. He accepted our story and told us that we would have to go through the standard detaining process, which involved being driven to a prison hundreds of miles away.
The prison had been mostly emptied of convicts, who had been moved to neighbouring detention centres. The place we were taken to was now being used to contain suspected controllers like ourselves, the high security of the prison utilised to prevent escape from anyone who actually turned out to hold a Yeerk slug in their head.
Because very few people here were actually proven to hold a Yeerk, the prison staff were to treat us not like convicts, but as guests. We were incredibly thankful for that. The service wasn’t fantastic, but we didn’t expect much from a prison in the first place.
Brenda and I were allowed to share a cell, but cell doors were kept unlocked, so we were free to walk the complex as we pleased. We met a few new people, and even one or two who we knew previously, before the war went public.
The detaining process wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Yes, we spent most of the time staring at gruesomely grey walls, but we were treated like normal human beings. Our injuries were treated by proper medical staff. I was determined to do most of the work on my own arm, and even helped with other peoples broken bones.
Perhaps the best thing about it was that we were able to talk. We didn’t argue, we didn’t fall into dreadful silences, we just talked. Brenda seemed a lot less stressed now, and I allowed her to express her feelings to me in a way that I hadn’t done for years. I listened to her concerns and told her honestly what I felt were the solutions. I told her mine, and she wondered where the drastic change in my attitude had come from. She joked that the Yeerk was still in my head.
In some ways, he was.
So for the next four days, we resided in the prison, wasting time by playing ball games outside and talking on the inside. We grew closer in those days, and by the time we were allowed to leave, we actually felt that we would miss the place. The time we spent together was precious, and we were beginning to feel a tether developing between us once again.
We were released on the fifth day into a strange place that we had never visited before. The streets were busy with refugees from the coast who had escaped the cities and towns most affected by the war. Hotels everywhere were full, so we had to travel further north to find a place to stay for the night. We found a quaint little place on the Oregon border hosted by a lovely old couple who fully understood our situation. They said that we could stay as long as we needed to get back on our own two feet.
The prison had offered to drive us back home once we left, but with our house invaded by Hork-Bajir, that wouldn’t have been wise. Instead, we would spend the sixth day finally searching out a new car with the limited cash we had. We took a bus into the nearest business park and found a second-hand car dealership, and I let Brenda roam. I sat down for a coffee while she looked for the ugliest car in the showroom. She didn’t let me down, and after about an hour, she had picked a car that Hades himself would have been proud of. It was a ghastly shade of yellow and it had the face of a constipated pit bull. She loved it.
Now that we had served our sentence, we were able to sign all the necessary forms, and we finally had a car. It was hideous, but it had wheels and an engine, so I couldn’t really complain. What I could complain about was being told that even though she bought it, I had to drive it.
Despite that, it was a good feeling to be driving once more. We took our new vehicle around town and picked up some essentials and some snacks for the long journey back. We even treated ourselves to a nice restaurant dinner. After the last few weeks, I felt we had deserved it.
We stayed there for one last night, and the next day we had breakfast, paid our hosts, and drove home.
The traffic was, unsurprisingly, all heading in the opposite direction as we drove along the highway towards the coast. As we got closer and closer to home, the number of cars on the road dwindled, and soon there were more police and military vehicles around than anything else. We were entering war territory. That became more obvious when we were pulled over by the highway cops just a few miles before we pulled off onto the back roads.
The officer who questioned us was suspicious, and was quick to ask for evidence that we weren’t under Yeerk control. We displayed a certificate that we had received before leaving the prison, and that seemed to satisfy him, but he strongly urged us to turn back and find somewhere to stay for the night. When we told him that we needed to head home, he reluctantly let us go after a long safety lecture.
We returned home as the sun was just dropping below the tree tops, and drove our new car into the empty driveway. As we exited, we could already make out a big difference to our home.
All around us, leaping between the tall trees over the road, were great hordes of Hork-Bajir. They retreated from our presence, but one remained. It threw itself onto the road to our far left, and lifted its head high into the air. “Who are humans?!” It shouted.
“Steven and Brenda.” I replied. “We’re home.”
The Hork-Bajir grinned and jumped into the bushes that led to our backyard. Brenda and I moved to wait outside the front door. Soon enough, it opened to a familiar face.
“Steven and Brenda home!” Twig beamed. Before we could offer our own words, he pulled us both close into a tight embrace. Too tight. I tapped him on the shoulder to make it clear, and he dropped us apologetically.
“Hi Twig!” Brenda smiled. “Did you miss us?”
“Miss Steven and Brenda a lot.” Twig admitted. “Take long time. Think maybe not come back.”
“Well, we’re back now.” I said. “Let’s see what damage you’ve done.”
Twig’s face crawled from a look of utter joy to one of nervous guilt. “Okay… Steven and Brenda see home… Twig try. Twig really try. Mop floor, clean windows and-”
“Twig,” I interrupted. “Can we just see it?”
He nodded slowly and moved out of the way of the door to let us in.
The first thing to hit me as I walked through the door frame was the smell. It wasn’t a familiar smell, but it wasn’t particularly pleasant. It certainly smelled like alien lizards had been camped in there for a week.
Then my eyesight took over and my shoulders slumped. Brenda gasped at my side. The place was, as expected, a complete mess. Uncooked pasta was strewn messily over the flooring, intertwined cunningly with piles of loose change, their origins unknown. They were joined by flora of various kinds: pieces of chewed bark and loose leaves and dirt. Holes randomly decorated the laminate flooring where toe claws had dug into it. The walls were covered in scrapes where blades had caught.
Twig was now hiding himself behind us, tail tucked firmly between his legs. “Twig try…”
I could have been angry, but I had prepared myself for such a sight. This is what we expected, having allowed the Hork-Bajir into our home. The house wasn’t quite built with them in mind.
“It’s okay, Twig.” I smiled to him and rested a hand on his shoulder. “We can get this cleaned up.”
The uncooked pasta continued and increased in frequency into the kitchen. We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw no signs of fire or any singed Hork-Bajir, but the smell of Twig’s experimental meals almost made me sick. I didn’t really want to ask what he had been cooking. Pasta and rice bags and pizza boxes lay over the worktop, emptied and slightly chewed. The pizza boxes had been ripped in half - Hork-Bajir obviously struggle to open cardboard boxes properly.
All my coffee was gone. Well, most of it. What remained was now at the bottom of a broken kettle.
I shook my head at the nightmare that our home had become.
“Where are the others?” Brenda questioned, curtailing my misery. “All the other Hork-Bajir?”
“Here.” Twig said, guiding us towards the living room.
We entered, and were again shocked by the sight. It was full to the brim with Hork-Bajir. They lay across the floor and the seats. They sat up around the walls. All over, they were huddled up together to the point where floor had become non-existent under green limbs. It was like some nightmarish opium den.
Dozens of heads turned up to us, falling silent at our presence.
“Steven and Brenda home.” Twig chirped.
Suddenly, the room erupted in a chorus of greetings, and we found ourselves surrounded by a wall of the beasts, eager to thank those who had lent them shelter.
It was a bit overwhelming, but Twig was quick to spot it and helped to disband the Hork-Bajir. They went back to resting in front of the blaring television.
On the living room table, in the middle of the pit, a couple of half-eaten pizzas topped with various pieces of bark were stacked and a couple of bowls of water stood. Puddles of liquid printed over the chewed wood and dripped silently to the laminate floor. The walls of the room were even more scraped than those in the rest of the house. Obviously, this was where most of the Hork-Bajir resided.
The television was set to a cable news channel. Reports were still pouring in that detailed the on-going war, and the Hork-Bajir seemed determined to get as much information as possible. They knew that any moment now, something could come through that would greatly affect their lives for better or worse. The volume of the TV was excessively loud, and plenty of red, slit eyes followed the reporters on-screen.
Twig looked embarrassed. “Twig tell other Hork-Bajir rules. Hork-Bajir follow rules. Sometimes scratch walls or floors, though…”
“Again, don’t worry about it, Twig.” I said. “We expected this.”
He smiled and once again hugged us, though not so tightly this time. “Twig miss so much. Happy Steven and Brenda back.”
We accepted the affection and brushed ourselves off when he finally put us back down. “We’re just happy you’re all safe.” Brenda said.
“We’ll need to have the place empty soon, though.” I mentioned. “The place needs a damn good clean.”
Twig took note. “Hork-Bajir will go back outside soon. Let Steven and Brenda clean.”
I wanted to inspect the place a little more. I stepped carefully between the bodies of Hork-Bajir who slept on the floor and pulled myself closer to the window that overlooked the backyard. What I saw outside made the hairs on my neck stand. I was getting used to that feeling.
We thought that the backyard had been invaded before. Now it was no longer a backyard at all. It was a campsite for what I suspected to be all the escaped Hork-Bajir from the destroyed Yeerk base. The scene was overrun by the flashes of green skin and blades. They lay upon the grass and danced up high in the trees. They had set up a large bonfire from branches and dried weeds and grass in the centre of the opening. It was ashes now, but piles of Hork-Bajir lay huddled, asleep around its remains. It was a sight from some epic work of fiction, something out of this world.
Brenda had caught up to me, and her expression was of a similar vein. “Oh my God…” She managed to whisper. “It’s like every single one of them found their way here…”
“Sure looks that way.” I agreed. Then I turned back to Twig. “There’s, uh… a lot.”
He nodded with a toothy grin. “All want to come. Want to be safe.”
“Did anyone come to the house?” I asked him.
“Someone knock on door on first day.” He said. “No one answer. Pretend no one home. Humans go away.”
“Good.” I smiled, relieved. “It’s great that you’re safe.”
“Steven and Brenda go for dee-tay-ning?”
I crawled away from the window and made my way back over the sleeping aliens. “Yes. We got it all done. We have a car again, too.”
Twig seemed please, but he never really took any notice of our old car, so I didn’t imagine it meant that much to him.
Once we were back to the living room entrance, Twig decided to re-introduce us to one of his friends. On one of the smaller leather seats, Nat was sat with a glass in hand, leaning against the arm rest.
Brenda and I swapped a knowing smile as Twig sat beside the female. She gazed up at us. “Hello Steven. Hello Brenda.”
We said hello back, and she informed us that she had been sharing a lot of the house responsibilities with Twig, perhaps explaining why the cleaning was a little below par, even for Twig.
“So you and Twig have been spending a lot of time together.” I said suggestively, giving Twig a sly wink. He didn’t seem to understand.
Nat said yes and took a long sip from her drink. It was a glass of bark-infused rum. It was then when we decided to explore the rest of the house.
“Twig,” I spoke. “I think maybe it’s time you started taking everyone outside. We need to start clearing things up.”
“Okay. Twig move Hork-Bajir.” He agreed. “Nat come, too.”
Nat replied by farting unashamedly. I started to think that maybe not letting Hork-Bajir drink white rum would have been a wise decision.
“She’s a great match for you, Twig.” I observed.
We retreated upstairs, away from the Hork-Bajir room.
“Well, at least the place is still standing…” I compromised.
“It’s going to be a hell of a job to clean.” Brenda grumbled. “But Twig is safe. That was the point, right?”
“Yes. That was the point.”
I opened up our bedroom door, and we walked inside.
We froze at the sight of two Hork-Bajir on our bed, doing something only grown-ups do. We walked back out.
I broke an awkward silence that ensued. “We need new bed sheets.”
So instead of retreating to the bedroom, we retreated to the spare room, which over the last few years had become a storage room. It was free of Hork-Bajir, so we sat on the old single bed after removing some cardboard boxes.
“So…” I began.
“So…” She agreed.
I sighed deeply and rubbed at my cheek. “We finally got it done. Twig is still here. We have ourselves a car.”
“That’s true.” She smiled. “Your idea worked, I guess.”
“There’s always a first time for everything.” I joked.
She nodded and played with her fingers, turning her eyes away from me. “Steven, I don’t quite know what happened.”
“What do you mean?”
She paused, then, “Before all this went down, I really, really didn’t like you.”
“Thanks…” I groaned.
“You used to be so self-centred. You didn’t care about how other people felt. If something inconvenienced you, you refused to do it, or you didn’t put any real effort into it.”
“That’s not true.” I defended. “There was one thing that I put my effort into. I wanted to keep us together.”
“I know, Steven,” She said. “But you can’t just concentrate on me and expect me to fall for you again. I hated your attitude to the things around you, not just your attitude to me.”
I nodded, staring down at my legs. Suddenly, I felt contact on my right hand. She was holding me.
“I don’t know what happened down in that Yeerk base,” She spoke gently. “But you haven’t been the same since. You… You’re more like the man I married. You don’t just give up and take the easy way out. You listen to me. You try to make things better, even if it makes things a little harder for yourself.”
“A lot of things happened in the base.” I concurred. “Some things I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
She used her finger to guide my face towards hers. She was smiling lightly.
“There are some things I won’t ever forget. I won’t forget the way you treated me for three years. I won’t forget what you did with Cindy. Those are things that I can’t ever forgive you for.”
I nodded my head slowly, feeling a little cornered.
“But there are other things, too. I won’t forget how you saved me from the Yeerk base. I won’t forget how you comforted me and Twig on the first night back. And I won’t forget this last week. You’ve managed to keep us safe. All three of us. Sure, in the end, no one came for Twig, but there was always that chance. You protected us, something which I thought I couldn’t trust you to do before.”
“So, does that mean…?”
She chuckled. “It means that we’re going to have to move to a new home. Together.”

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Re: Twig

Post by Blu » Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:04 pm

And finally, Chapter 28!

FanFiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9396469/28/Twig


Chapter 28

The war ended. Just days after we returned home, the earliest reports forging the rumour spread like a disease through the media. Information was hazy, and considering the sources of the reports, that wasn’t at all surprising. The battle was being fought somewhere outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. It was like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Battles had been raging on the ground not too far from where we lived, but now the battlefield had moved, and the media had no real idea what was going on. The world was already devastated when the rest of our town was finished off by the Yeerks, something which Twig had neglected to inform us about. I chastised him for that and thanked my lucky stars that we lived far enough away that out house didn’t fall victim to the brazen assault.
The reports showed a town completely flattened. Nothing remained. Everything of the town I had known for years was gone. We had to get out of there as quick as we could before our luck ran out.
In the end, we had no choice in the matter. Military personnel arrived at the house while we were starting the clean-up and we were forced into a truck that took us as far away from the wasteland as necessary. They were orders, not options, and we were taken in spite of our protests to a crummy hotel a few towns away.
Our eyes were glued to the tiny television set for the next couple of days. All media attention was now focused purely on some made-up “countdown to Armageddon”. Reports were fuzzy and speculative, and for a prolonged period, no one was allowed in on any details. We lived in confusion and panic. Brenda sat in tears, frightened for Twig and the other Hork-Bajir we were forced to leave behind. I held her and told her it would all work itself out.
I was sat with a coffee and some tabloid on the morning the rumours broke. My attention became totally engrossed as the words “surrender” and “victory” began to become more and more frequent. Brenda quickly arrived at my side, and we held each other, kneeling just feet from the screen. Soon, the rumours became fact. The main ship that had been orbiting Earth had been taken, the Yeerk food supply now in human hands.
We didn’t quite know how to take the news. In the end, we poured another coffee and tried to find other news sources that would back-up what we had already been told.
The rumours were true. We had won. Humanity was victorious. However, details on how exactly the Pool ship was taken took a little longer to be provided to the public.
After the news, we demanded to be returned to our home, but it took another day of waiting before the authorities reluctantly allowed us to travel back. When we finally got there, our escorts noticed a “slight issue” and told us that we may have to return to the hotel. We knew what they meant, and we told them that we didn’t mind the Hork-Bajir presence around our house. They had been left there the whole time, and despite the danger, they had remained. The escorts were suspicious, but thankfully they didn’t ask too many questions, and dropped us off outside of our home.
The Hork-Bajir were pleased to see us. They, including Twig, were locked outside when we were taken away, and had not been informed of the recent events, nor could they get inside to check the TV. Twig embraced us even tighter than last time, and we apologised profusely for our unplanned absence. We made it up to him well enough with the news we brought.
The TV was turned on. He and a few other Hork-Bajir joined us in the living room as the news was given to them. What followed was an incredible reaction as the news spread quickly to the aliens that dwelled in the woods behind our house. The cheering was rapturous, and we watched from the house as the Hork-Bajir took the revelations with unhindered glee. That night, we joined them outside for the celebrations over a large bonfire and a feast. It was heavily biased to a more bark-centred diet, so I and Brenda made ourselves some vegetable soup and dined alongside them.
The night of joy soon became a night of remembrance as the drug-like effect of victory withered and mourning for the lost took its place. The war had taken families, parents, children and friends. That struck home all too pitilessly.
We retreated to our new bed sheets, but we didn’t sleep at all that night. No one did. The emotions were too thick, the memories too vivid. I gave up trying, and from 2AM onwards I crept back downstairs and watched as the media continued to postulate events.
The days following were harsh. The Hork-Bajir’s victory high was cut short as their uncertain future crept over them. Our own predicament was troubling enough, because the devastation of our home town, coupled with our nearly-destroyed home, meant that we would have no choice but to move to a new home as soon as possible. We had no jobs, and hence no income, so our first priority was to move nearer to civilisation. This task was made more difficult due to lack of funds, and we couldn’t simply refurbish and sell our home to make up the money. No one would buy a house so close to ground-zero.
We decided to wait for the government to finally decide what to do with the Hork-Bajir, who had now congregated from all over to our woodlands. Now that the war was done, the authorities could move their attentions to such matters, and debate quickly came to the forefront of the news media. Public perception would be largely influential in the decision, and at first they were understandably sceptical. However, when more information with regards to the Hork-Bajir was released to the masses, the scepticism rapidly changed to sympathy. Coupled with that, a mysteriously well-read Hork-Bajir from a colony previously unknown to us gave a number of heartfelt interviews to the nation that finalised public opinion. The government agreed to host the Hork-Bajir until further developments were made. The news came as a big relief to our woodland residents.
Of course, this meant that the Hork-Bajir were to be accounted for across the nation. Military personnel arrived in the area and formed perimeters around a large section of woodland. They didn’t like that our home was in the centre of the new Hork-Bajir home, so they herded the Hork-Bajir further south, about a mile from where we lived. We were again separated from Twig, who was tearfully dragged away and told that the government required him to move.
The extra space allowed us to make our plans. With our limited funding, we would move to a nearby city that was still operational and reside in a small apartment until we found jobs and made enough money to once again live in a nice house.
However, we didn’t quite find ourselves in the right state of mind. We knew that moving away would separate us indefinitely from Twig, and neither Brenda nor I wanted that to happen. He was family now, and we didn’t want anything to get between that. We visited him daily, meeting up at the perimeter border with permission from the military forces present. He thought that we would leave him for good, but we assured him that we would stay with him wherever he went.
Things between me and Brenda were improved beyond anything I could imagine. She had finally found some trust in me, and that made all the difference. The constant arguing dramatically decreased in frequency, and with the lack of jobs, we were able to spend as much time together as we needed. Most of our time was spent cleaning up the house to make it liveable again, and during the nights we would pour out some wine and talk about all the things that had happened in the last few weeks. We laughed, we cried, we had yet more awkward silences, but it was so much more comfortable now. It felt like the first years of our marriage again.
In the following months, we moved into a small apartment in the next town over and got two low wage jobs to keep ourselves afloat. We were still close enough to the woodlands to keep visiting Twig, but the travelling was a lot more difficult to keep up. Eventually, our daily visits became bi-daily, then weekly. We felt awful about it, because Twig was still so attached to us. He cried every time we left, and it broke our hearts. We were thankful, though, that he was steadily coming to grips with Hork-Bajir life and culture, and we noticed him taking a greater interest in Nat as time went on. Perhaps soon, he would begin a family of his own. Brenda, despite the difficulties that stood in the way, was determined to be around to see that family develop.
Nearly a year had passed since the war had come to its climax. The world was still recovering from the effects of the war, adjusting to the concept that we had not been alone in the universe this whole time. The “Andalite bandits”, only one of which was actually an Andalite, were praised as the saviours of the human race, and till this day, they still reigned as the most talked about celebrities on the planet. Most of them, anyway.
I finally got to see an Andalite. They were a strange sight, much like hairy centaurs lacking mouths and utilising two extra eyes, all finished off with a horrible scorpion-like tail. Their technological and cultural influence quickly spread, and they were soon becoming a regular sight on the television. They worked closely with the U.S. government, and managed to get a small tourist organisation placed, which meant that places like Washington D.C. were teeming with them.
They were just as arrogant as Yarfush had mentioned, and that quickly became obvious when Andalite war-princes began performing interviews for cable news stations and appearing on guest panels. Public opinion of them bordered somewhere between appreciation and irritation.
Opinions on the Hork-Bajir were more positive, likely due to their inoffensive nature. The government worked with Andalite authorities to resolve the problem of what to do with them, and they decided in the end that the isolated groups would be combined and given a new home, its location yet to be determined. Our government pressured the Andalites into fixing the Hork-Bajir’s home world, claiming that it was ultimately their fault that the Hork-Bajir ended up on Earth, and that if they wanted to stay on good terms, they would do us that favour. The newly-emerging facts of the war didn’t shine well on the Andalites, and though they never accepted blame, they were willing to compromise to keep from losing their reputation as saviours of the galaxy, so they eventually relented.
Let’s just say that we humans had things that the Andalite desperately wanted. Namely, food. It came as a shock to everyone how easily the Andalites were swayed with the promise of home cooked bagels or apple pie. When we promised food and the continuation of Andalite tourism, they were willing to compromise almost anything.
Eventually, the presence of alien species on our planet became the norm. Andalites began appearing in soap operas and TV sitcoms, the Hork-Bajir found themselves as the focus of various documentaries and charity appeals. A great memorial service was hosted by the American government for all those lost in the war, either free or under Yeerk control. There were considerably fewer human casualties, but by now the world population was accustomed enough to our alien allies that they felt it necessary to honour their fallen as well.
Things were soon starting to grow tense again between Brenda and I again. We were frustrated with our new low-wage jobs, and we often took our anger out on each other. Determined not to damage our relationship further, we gave up waiting for Twig to finally be relocated, and searched out permanent jobs in some major city somewhere.
Then we had to cancel. Just as we were about to move to Oregon, where I had been offered a suitable job in a hospital in Salem, the government decided on where to move the Hork-Bajir. They were headed for the Southern border of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and the process of transporting the Hork-Bajir began with immediate effect.
Brenda and I met Twig the day before they left, and we promised him that we would follow. By this time, he had finally fallen for Nat, and the two were a couple. He wouldn’t be alone on the long and arduous journey north, and we told Nat to keep his hopes up. We truly intended to keep our promise, and as soon as we arrived home, we began job-searching again.
It didn’t take long at all, and we finally found something. Now that the Hork-Bajir were moving en masse to Yellowstone, the area was going through a great shift that involved the creation of a lot of new jobs. That included medical centres specifically designed for Hork-Bajir. A lot of staff from local hospitals were being trained to handle the Hork-Bajir and would be moved to the new centres, which left some hospitals in need of new staff. I sent in a résumé, and within the week I was being offered an orthopaedic position at a hospital in Jackson, not far from where the Hork-Bajir would be residing.
We found an apartment situated nearby. It wasn’t big, nor was it entirely comfortable, but it was better than what we had been living in for the past year, and it was good enough to live in while we got used to our new environments and our new jobs. Brenda applied to a few office placements in the local area and was quickly snapped up by a small up-and-coming company who required the extra staff.
So we moved, and the first week was spent acquainting ourselves with our new home and the change of climate. I introduced myself to my new office, preparing myself for the long days of work I would soon be suffering and meeting up with my new work peers. It was very similar to where I used to work, much to my distress, but by now I was eager to start. I preferred the mind-numbing boredom of work to the constant fear that the war brought. It was a comfortable irritation.
Twig was hard to find, having been moved to Yellowstone weeks before we got there. Before he left the woodlands, we told him to stay near the borders of his new home, and sure enough, that’s where we eventually found him.
It had taken us a long time, but we were finally reunited. That night, the three of us found a secluded spot, and we ate a picnic together that Brenda had prepared. Twig was overjoyed at our arrival, and he couldn’t resist the urge to cling onto us like a lost child.
After telling him where we lived, he moved to a tree that was as close to us as possible. He may now have been living among his own people and adapting to that new lifestyle, but he had grown up with us long enough to develop some distinctively human habits and characteristics. Every Sunday, he would crawl in through our apartment window to watch football. He knew that he would never achieve his dream of playing for the 49ers, but watching their progress pleased him to no end.
There was one dream that he did achieve, however. On those Sundays when he arrived in our apartment, he would talk endlessly about the times he would stand before his friends and lead them in a chorus of abysmal pop songs. Sometimes we would return home to find him sat in front of the television, taking notes of new songs to sing as they appeared on MTV. He was still awful at singing, of course, but the other Hork-Bajir seemed to view him as their equivalent of Pavarotti.
Something else happened for him as well: Nat moved into his tree. After a while, she began to join him on Sundays as he came to our home. She was never that interested in football, but she was too enthralled by Twig to care.
Things had finally settled down after four years of struggles, stress and slavery. Once again, we were happy. Not Disney “happily ever after” happy, but satisfied happy.
Brenda and I even had similar work shifts. No longer did she have to work till late and over the weekends. We had Saturdays and Sundays free to spend doing what we wanted. On this particular Sunday, we walked the periphery of the Hork-Bajir territory. It was a scenic route over hills that looked down over the edges of the park and over to the distant mountains. It took us over a particularly large hill that gazed down over open Hork-Bajir land, where tourists came to take pictures as the aliens would gather below to harvest bark. On Sundays, this area wasn’t quite so busy, so we took up a blanket in the mid-afternoon, sat under the cool sun and watched the activity below. Tourists came and went, taking pictures and admiring the views, but we remained.
We remained for a reason. This was in clear sight of Twig’s new tree. He noticed us after a long day of harvesting and caring for the trees, and approached us with that goofy smile that was so typical of the Hork-Bajir. He jumped the fence that kept out the tourists, and swallowed Brenda up in a gentle embrace. He gave me his best attempt at a formal handshake.
“Hello Steven. Hello Brenda. How are you today?” He asked in his most human tone.
“We’re great.” Brenda stated. “And you?”
“Twig happy!” He yipped. “Twig and Nat find big new tree. Bark so sweet. Taste very good!”
“We’ll have to try some.” I joked.
“Twig bring tonight for football. Steven and Brenda like.”
“I wasn’t being serious, Godzilla.” I rolled my eyes. “We’ll stick to lasagne, if you don’t mind.”
He laughed, and then scratched at the back of his neck. “Bring Nat, too?”
“Of course,” Brenda said. “She’s always welcome.”
“Just as long as you both stay away from the white rum.” I added with a grin.
Twig smiled warmly at us both. “Thank you.”
Later that night, after football had finished and we had eaten our dinner, Twig and Nat fell asleep in a bundle beside the television, while I and Brenda sat in each other’s arms on the sofa. We talked as best as we could over the snoring that resonated from the two napping Hork-Bajir.
We drifted into some pleasant silence, and I thought back to all that I had been through. Times had been tough, and the memories would plague my soul until the day I died, but a lot of good had also come of those last few years.
I remembered that empty feeling in my head that I felt on the night I was freed. The feeling that a part of me had left when Yarfush died.
I was wrong. Nothing had left me. Those spaces in my head had been there for years. Yarfush, Howson, and all the other victims of the war I met simply made me realise that those voids existed. Parts of me that used to be were gone.
Howson was right all along. Yarfush became a part of me. He became the part of me that had been missing for so long: the man who felt no fear of confrontation, the man who took risks and came out the other end victorious. He showed me how to be that man again.
So that night, as we dozed off into blissful slumber, I said silent prayers for them. For Howson. For Yarfush. For those who had made me complete again. The slave and the master, the expressive and the assertive.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel like sleeping. I gave Brenda a gentle nudge and she smiled up at me.
“Coffee?” I asked.
“Coffee.” She agreed.

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Re: Twig

Post by gh astly » Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:10 pm

Just finished reading this. You did an awesome job, Adam!
Animorphs: The Abridged Series. Post there so I'm not lonely.

So just shut your face and take a seat, 'cause after all, we're just talking meat. And music?

Well, it's just entertainment, folks.