He stopped a lot sooner than he thought. Approximately twelve memory-minutes later, as Floop knocked against the door.
Heye watched, mesmerised, as the pair regarded eachother beneath the moonlight.
The girl, stood just a few centimeters beneath the already few-centimetrees tall Floop. Her shiny hair fell to her shoulders, her skin vivid and radiant, as she regarded him, smiling.
”You’re a very smart guy but you’ve made a single tragic flaw,” she repeated.
Floop scowled, a wall building up inside of him that Heye could feel forming. He began to turn away.
”No, no!” said the girl, hopping over to where Floop now looked. “I thought that was really funny!”
Floop looked at her, squinting.
”Yeah! I wish you would talk more.” She looked up at him, a gentle smile on her face.
Floop looked at her quizzically. Within him Heye could feel an assessment taking place, a weighing. He focused, and could just about make out that Floop was weighing the things she had said so far…
What? Heye realised with a small bump that she had just said a tonne of things that weren’t quotes, not in the slightest.
It was like he was witnessing a normal conversation…
And he realised that Floop was realising this excact thing too. If only there was a way to be sure…
”What’s your name?” asked Floop slowly.
She beamed. “I’m Leah!” she stuck out an open hand.
Psh, stupid question. He held out his hand, not quite touching hers yet, a question that would teach him what he needed to know now ready on his lips. “How… how do you feel about meeting me?”
She grinned without a beat, her hand still out. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while, but I wanted to do it in the best way!”
Floop squinted, assessing. Then the words, clearer than anything so far in his head: good enough.
He shook her hand, then said quickly: “You wanted to hear me talk more? Okay, let’s do it. Let’s go.”
”Anywhere. We’ll walk around.”
He took a step forward and Leah bopped after him, the pair disappearing behind a corner. Heye made to follow them, but was stopped by a force highly similar to the one that had stopped him scaling the tower, except he was still able to walk… a ghostly version of himself stepping forward… harder and harder… he snapped back, like an elastic band clicking into it’s old self.
Message received. Thought Heye. He picked up his hands, and span.
Heye learned a lot about Floop and Leah.
They very quickly started dating, Leah unfalteringly warm and friendly, finding Floop’s both intentional and non-intentional forays into humor entertaining.
Their dates, which would consist sometimes of walks, sometimes a meal, occasionally something more extravagent like a boat journey, would be defined by laughter. Sometimes from Floop, when Leah would break a joke that would make Heye even laugh, watching invisibly from the sidelines. But the laughs were very mostly Leah, giggling away a disarmlingly symetric giggle as their romance petered on…
And yet Heye watched with concern, as what made Leah laugh didn’t seem to be nearly all of Floop. It almost felt like he was operating at ten percent capacity in his replies to Leah. As for the other ninety….
There was no other way to describe it but analysis. Heye could always get the unfaltering wiff of analysis, as Floop seemed to be counting the amount of she said that were quotes, and which weren’t. This scent would be punctuated by another, and ondulating pattern of anxiety as she said things that resembled quotes, and Floop’s circuity would falre up almost as if expecting an attack. And as for when she actually did quote…
But overtime, Heye could feel Floop becoming happier, a far lighter person in the way that he carried himself.
After a while, Floop began mentioning a project. He said he couldn’t say any details, not even what it regarded, or when it would be done, but he told Leah it was important she knew of it now, and that she would really, really like it.
She begged and begged of him to tell her, but he didn’t budge in the slightest, and she resigned to not knowing for the meanwhile.
Heye walked behind Floop, almost struggling to keep up with him despite the height disparity.
The sun glinted off the metal bits in his boots, illuminating his face as he hopped along the rocky trail. The flow of excitement flowing off of Floop was almost enough for Heye to sunbathe in, he couldn’t help feeling giddy himself…
He knocked on a door, Leah looking at him.
”Floop?” she asked, drearily.
He looked at her, a wild grin all over his face.
”Oh my god!” she squealed.
The whole world had just flickered. Heye shook his head, and focused on Leah.
”Is it a machine? Is it a song? Oh!” she squealed, her eyes becoming little stars. “Is it a story!?”
The world flickered again.
”Not quite, my dear,” said Floop through a gigantic smile.
And it flickered.
And it stayed.
Leah was strapped to a chair.
Even in Heye’s ghostly form, the room was cold, and so very dark.
It had happened in an instant: one moment Leah had been happily in her door, the next she was in a dark chair, in the middle of the room, a gross, metallic helmet jutted over her head, coming down over her eyes.
A stream of thick wires rose from the specked out chair, collating in a large mettalic hunk hitched onto the ceiling.
The man danced around the mechanism delightedly. Behind him was a console, wholly dissimilar from the one in the tower, yet overflowing with dials and buttons nontheless.
He ran over to Leah, adjusting the helmet ever so slightly on her head, then brushing her cheeck with his finger as he danced back over to the console. “Try not to move!”
”Floop what is this?”
”It’s what I’ve been working on!”
He pressed another button, and room began to vibrate, an electric energy cackling in the air.
”Yes I know but what does it do? What’s it’s name? What’s it blood type? What does it like to eat??”
Heye would have expected another bracing of Floop’s body, but instead he only smiled.
”It’ll help us communicate!”
”It’ll help you say the things you want to say more. Sometimes I notice that you struggle to say what you mean. I’ve been working on a way to make that way easier for you!”
Leah’s mouth creased with unease, her eyes still hidden under the now-vibrating helmet. “Baby… are you sure about this?”
Floop stole over, bent down and held her two hands, staring right where her eyes would be. “Leah, I am more absolutely positively sure of this than I’ve ever possibly been of anything in my entire life.”
She clenched her lip around her mouth, and nodded. “Okay.”
She gave his hands a squeeze, and he let go, pouring over to a lever.
”Ready!” he called.
He brought his hand down against the lever, the room cackling with a mechanical boom as the sound of whirs and gears filled everything up.
Heye’s heart hiccuped as Leah’s muscles locked, her face turning dead as a tremendous sound of something travelling down a tube echoed off the boom of the ceiling mount.
On and on it went, till eventually Heye screamed uselessly inside his mind stop it! Stop!
And finally, at last, the process died.
Floop’s hands almost seemed to shake as he walked over, his legs quivering, barely carrying it over.
He gently pressed a button on the helmet, the wires popping out of it in an array of knots. The girl beneath perfectly still, he brought up his two quivering hands and pulled off the helmets…
Her eyes were shut.
Heye tore closer, inspecting her face.
And then they opened.
She looked at Floop, expression returning to her face in the form of a goofy, unphased smile, looking at him curiously.
And Floop just stared at her, transfixed, and Heye could only hope, only dream, that it inside the crevies of his mind she was saying—
”It- It can’t be!”
Heye stood still as a block of ice.
She looked at him, almost as if she wanted him to continue for her.
And then she rolled her eyes ever so slightly, ever so casually, and continued herself. “Oh ho hoh ho, ahahahaha, but it CAN be. And it is! I’ve got a new style. And a few new TOYS—”
Floop’s quivering eyes flickered between hers.
”—that are gonna put an end to your,”
Floop’s quivering hands rose slowly to his head.
”happily ever after,”
His knees seemed to buckle, and he collapsed on the floor.
”It didn’t work,” he whispered.
”Once and for all!”
”It didn’t work. It didn’t work. It didn’t work. It didn’t work. It didn’t work—” he began to shake violently on the ground.
”—it didn’t work. It didn’t work. It didn’t work. It didn’t- it- it didn’t-“
Heye watched, mesmerised, as Floop’s steady stream of incredulous whispers started to stutter and devolve into great hiccoughs, his body convulsing on the floor as he heaved great, sobbing breaths.
Floop was crying.
”…it didn’t… it…”
His body quivered as it lay against the stone.
”Floop? Baby? What’s wrong?”
He didn’t respond. “It… it…“
”Floop? Hey it’s okay! What’s the matter? It did work…” There was a pause in his hiccoughs as he said. His body became completely still. Tense. “I’m… I’m fine—”
”YOU’RE NOT FINE!” he roared.
”THIS— THIS was supposed to make you fine!” He waved the helmet frantically in his hand. “THIS was supposed to fix you!”
Leah looked at him. “F… fix? But I’m not… broken?”
Floop gave her a hard, ferocious stare.
Leah’s gasped, clearly deeply hurt. She stared at him, seeing him unwielding, and got up, and walked out the door.
Floop craned his neck to look at her, then sunk his head onto the stone, accompanied only by the whirring of the machine.
Floop seemed to notice this too. As if with a dying breath, in a stern croak, he commanded “Machine off.”
”Authorisation?” returned the sound of a machine Heye was surprised to hear. So very robotic, so little effort into making it resemble anything like an actual person. Just the one word almost hurt to listen to.
Floop snapped back, annoyed, “I said what I meant.”
And the machines died.
And it was only Floop.
There was no one in the buildling except Floop, the lady at the register, and a man just coming off another.
Floop held a single paper in his hand, one Heye could not read out the words for. His eyes were tired and baggy, his hair disgusting and messy.
He reached the counter, and placed the paper on the desk between him and the woman, sliding it under the glass.
”What is THIS?” asked the woman. “You think this can hold me DOWN? NOBODY CAN! Not anymore.”
Floop practically looked through her. “The form.”
The woman smiled at him, slowly sliding the form Floop requested under the glass. “We all get what we de—”
Floop snatched the paper off her and walked off. Flooding off of him was exhaustion. Absolute and ceaseless exhaustion.
And something deeper. A terror.
A knowing that at any moment, anyone around him could hurt him so very deeply, so very easily, and he could do absolutely nothing to stop it.
And rushing out of the shop in retreat to the crushing safety of silence and nobody, he tripped.
And Heye could feel a bundle of terror gathering inside of Floop. A ceaseless, frantic terror as the attack drew unstoppably near—
But Heye couldn’t help it. He knew what was so obvious for him to say, what would be so very perfect—
”OI! WHATCHA FELL OVER FOR?”
The Sokotian beat him to it.
Floop exploded, exploding of the ground and furiously stomping directly at—
He looked right at him, marching towards him a ball of anger, as if he was about to murder him.
Heye cowered, “I’m- I’m—”
And Floop passed right through him, blasting open the doors out the building.
”YEAH!” screamed the Sokotian, an uncaring, stupid smile plastered on his face. “FUCKED YOU UP GOOD AND PROPER DIDN’TWE? ME AND MY FRIEND FROM THE FUTURE!” “YOU’LL NEVER EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!”
The doors swang shut behind him.
Heye stared at the doorway.
His insides curdled as he stared at the exit, and shifted his head to watch the other two Sokotians in the room, and remembered every one that had ever driven Floop crazy…
He had wanted to— WOULD HAVE said the same things as them at every given opportunity…
And driven Floop insane…
He replayed in his mind the horrific terror Floop had felt in that moment.
It was him.
It was Heye.
He couldn’t believe—
The door started to shift, as if something was crawling on it?
Was that… a bug?
No… not one. Two… four… dozens…
Suddenly the whole door was a squirming cocophony of bugs, crawling over eachother and spilling over themselves. Heye turned around in horror to see the two other Sokotian’s eyes blacken as they made their way towards him. He made to run, and slipped between the floor. His mouth planted into the ground, UGH! He spluttered, desperate to get them out of him… and the two Sokotians now merely amalgams of bugs piled into him, his mouth swarming with dozens—
Pouring out of his eyes—
Heye tour his head upwards and saw only the tank, and through it a fully adult Floop slumped against the inside of the glass, his eyes ink.