Chaper 7 - Alt
Heye looked apon the skies, blue and yellow, black and pink.
The temperature had only decreased as the night wore on, and now his jumper wasn’t even enough. Coated in darkness, he shivered, the sensation of a sharp decrease in temperature littering over his nose as he drew in a breath, the air dying white in swirling clouds as it came careening out of him.
Then he picked up the rope.
The bots had ignored his fingers. He couldn’t even smash them because they were too small. It went without saying that they were far beyond the physics classes he had sat through, too much for him to reverse engineer.
It hadn’t taken him long to realise that his best bet, his only bet, was to try to disable them at the source.
So, wincing, he had ran past the Sokotians, past dozens in agony as he streamed toward the place he had visited the last time he came here. He left the storage cupboard with a large, heavy rope sagging down apon his shoulders. And he had run, unheeding, once again through the Sokotian night. And ended finally staring up at the metal tower.
Holding a rope.
His head craned upwards, its mighty height looming down at him. And a lurching feeling manifested within himself.
But what else was he to do? The front enterance was, as expected, locked, and if Floop was expecting him at all he’d be stupid to go through the excact same way he was caught trying to escape through last time.
What else can I doo? sang Isabela Madrigal inside of his head.
He peered back down a his hand, wrapped tight against the rope. Pictures of the Sokotians agony — which hadn’t ended just because he wasn’t there any more — flooded back into his mind.
What else could he do?
He lugged his hand back, and threw. The rope careened through the sky, juttering as it flew… yes! It hooked onto the antenna like object sticking out of the building. His world seemed to slow as he drew the rope down, drawing two curls around his hands. He tugged, and the mechanism he had created didn’t budge.
Everything is so crazy right now, and I have no idea what my future holds but, it would be so cool if you were in it.
He drew a mighty boot forward and planted it against the metal with a clank as the vibrations ricocheted through the metal plate.
I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a while said his brain to no one. He wrapped his hands tight around the rope, and pulled, lifting his other foot off the ground. His muscles tingled with the excursion, as he now held his entire weight up against gravity, leveraged only by the rope.
This wasn’t hard, right? He lifted up another foot, landed, and tightened the rope, his other one joining behind. And again, and again, on and on it went, as he descened further and further.
I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a while. But I wanted to do it in the best way!
Generally, Heye enjoyed climbing. The few opportunities he’d had to do it, it had come relatively easily to him. There was something undeniably pleasant about a task being purely mechanical — about everything relying on whether he could move his limbs in excactly the right way.
And, of course, it’s all about me. Excactly!
There was something exhausting about the stress of failing with others. Something that put an unnegotiable dent on the quality of every team sport he had ever tried (though the list wasn’t long). But climbing was just him. A challenge that depended on him, was about him, and only mattered to him. (There was no one anywhere who this challenge mattered to. No one! Except, him.)
Not this time…
With each step he took, each tightening of the coil, the air seemed to thin.
He looked upwards, and the tower seemed to almost split in two. And it felt like… like he could feel his heartbeat in his head? No.. no. Something tight… clogging… sucking at it…
A hand raised at lightning speed towards his head, desperate to swat away the horrific invading tube — then he snapped to his senses — Heye pulled both arms downward with all the strength he could, stabalising himself.
He brought his hand upwards to swipe at the tube suckling his brain and tumbled, snapping onto his senses and pulling both arms vertically down as fast as he could.
He was okay.
Finally he reached the first metal spike and the distance of rope between two hands was it it’s shortest point. Shaking, he coiled the rope around the spike, then peered downwards, the world stretching out beneath him. He began to draw up the left side of the rope, and peered upwards, begging there to be another ledge.
Yes, yes, that’s it!
With only a single hand he threw the rope up again, and let out a sigh of relief as it caught against the next hook and flowed downwards toward his hand. And he repeated the process, coiling it around his hands and taking up upwards with him.
It really shouldn’t have been so hard to spot — the the land around the tower was natural but barren. But only now, the air still thinning, the height was sufficient for the town to come inching into view.
And barely, so very barely, Heye could see them, even here. The bugs were completely invisible, but dotted between the brown smudges of buildings were tiny blue spots, so very, terribly still.
Heye looked back up.
No, this wasn’t like climbing.
Not at all.
Occasionally, the very best quote Heye had for an occasion was the precise opposite of what he meant. And as he tried his hardest not to hear the distant rumble of Sokotian screams, his brain was doing excactly that as it said
I’m alone. I’m all alone.
But no matter. No matter! That was why he was here, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that what he was doing? He didn’t have to convince himself it was nothing to him if he felt so moved!
Yes, he thought, as he heaved another mighty step, the creaking smile on his face blocking out the icy winds peneatrating the crevaces of his clothing. What did it matter, as long as it was here? As long as he took another step?
Yes. He needn’t worry. There was nothing that needed thinking. He planted another quivering foot against the metal, and another, and another.
Was he not going where he needed to go? Were the steps required to alleviate the planet of the qualms it faced not being carried out, as he raised his foot?
His speed picked up.
A part of him was aware of a cold whispering past. But that was outside.
A part of him was aware of a twitching. A spasm inside of his arms.
A part of him was aware of an exhaustion building… growing…
He’d do it. He’d scale the building and get in through a vent. A door, a grate, anything.
And he’d see the Sokotians smiling faces and they’d say “thank goodness you’re okay”.
And he’d say “thank goodness you’re okay”.
Like Mary and Sam were supposed to say…
His mind returned to the only quotes from the Sokotians he hadn’t understood. He replayed the memory in its bizareness, then shook his head clear of the confusion, focusing on the task ahead. On climbing the tower now.
Because there wasn’t that much to do, right?
His hands… the ropes… the pressure…. repelling more and more gravity…
The twitching was stronger now. He tightened his grip on the rope, gritting his teeth. But then he laughed, as he realised how silly the whole thing was. What did he think, that he was going to fall? Did he actually think for a moment that that was a real possibility?
Ee hee hee hee, oo oo oo oo, a aa aaa, WHAT A PLAN!
He giggled. He was so close now, he could feel the familiar metal tiles begin to curve beneath his feet. Within reach was the top of it. Only a few more steps.
He heaved, and landed.
Heaved, and landed.
Heye had taken a normal step, and found his foot stopping halfway through the air. He had been almost in a trance as he finished the vertical trek, and was thoroughly broken out of it as he directed his full attention onto the phenemon.
He effortlessly drew his foot back into the air, his arms still straining against the ropes to keep himself from falling.
He did not want to fall from this height.
Slowly, he manovoured his right foot towards the place where it would naturally go, merely further above his own. And it passed through the air…
And it stopped!
He pressed his toes against… a force? Something was preventing his foot from passing… through…?
He pressed harder, and found whatever it was not remotely respond to his level of force. His foot merely did not continue through the air like every other step before, and pressed against absolutely nothing as though there was a slate of perfectly transparent glass.
An onlooker would have noticed the quivering in the ropes increase, as the silohette drew back it’s foot and in its place drew out a hand.
And it died! And it died inside of me because it was half a million ants and half collapsing star!
Fingers outreached, Heye carried his quivering hand, blood pooling in the ends of his fingers from the pressure of the rope, and… touched it? His fingers stopped against the nothingness identically to his foot, but there was nothing there. It didn’t even feel like anything.
The world felt colder.
A cold he knew he had always felt barraged against him, filling every crevice with a terrible, terrible isolation from everything it wanted. A gust of wind attacked, knocking him sideways, his foot slipping off the metal and careening in the air as he spun. AH! His other foot came off, and his stomach dropped to his shoes as he grasped onto the ropes for dear life, dangling in the air for a terrible, terrible second.
He spun, and planted his feet back on. Shaking.
The boy stayed, his belly in his shoes, his heart in his mouth.
He almost died!
And for what? He raised his foot and booted the air ahead, it predictably being stopped by the wall. He tightened his grip and slammed his side against it, as if to crash down a door, but it gave not the slightest.
Who the fuck built a fucking obsidian glass fucking diamond wall horizontally against their ROOF!?
Heye’s breaths were heavy, as he stayed, maintaining his own weight.
And they picked up, as he stared at the nothingness blocking his way.
And an anger rose, cartwheeling inside of him in horrendous furious flips.
Then it dawned on him.
Floop did this.
Floop did everything.
Floop wasn’t stupid.
He had let them in the first time.
He had only kidnapped Sam to draw Heye nearby.
That’s why it was so easy to get in the first time.
Floop had robots and squids and freaking nanobots. He could stop people from entering his tower if he wanted to.
Maybe this forcefield had been up the whole time! Maybe it had been up for years!
And he thought about what Floop had wanted.
About what he had already done.
And he craned his head, his stomach dropping as his periphal vision allowed him a peak of a drop that was many, many times his height. A drop enough to kill him.
The wind wisped through his hair as he craned his head, the vision of the town in the distance reaching his eyes. He couldn’t make out any shapes any more, but that didn’t mean they vanished. That didn’t mean they were any much less there.
Heye’s armed burned.
Flashes of the bots crawling into his every crevice came back flooding to him. He twitched, then was stolen once again by the memory of Sam and Mary in Mary’s little room.
What had they even said to eachother?
Heye had never considered this before, but he realised then that it’d be rather easy to recall every conversation he’d had on the planet so far. He might even be able to quote them verbatam.
But trying to recall their conversation under the room felt… different.
As though he had made to grab something — made to plant his foot against the final step of a great staircase and miscalculated, feeling the terrible coldness as his theoretical foot slipped through the air.
His hand had made to grab, and found nothing…
A heavy gust of wind wipped against him, smacking him against the wall.
But Heye was far too enveloped in his thoughts to notice, even as he came closer to death then he ever had before.
But look at how much FUN we’ve had! Look how much you’ve both grown!
Which was more likely? That the Sokotians didn’t only speak in quotes, or that he did actually hear what he thought he heard — something he didn’t recognise?
Of course the latter…
And his conciousness once again clicked into the present, remmebering the forcefield that was preventing him from saving the hundreds of creatures in agony not a kilometre behind him….
But just as how his fingers grew cramped as he couldn’t let go of the rope, he just couldn’t let go of what had happened…
He supposed that that was how the whole trip should have been, really. Why would he deserve to be able to remotely understand the language of the alien world he had been transported onto?
And yet, it was only then that he had felt not just like an other-worldly guest, but a like an outsider, too.
Had they locked him out of it on the interaction on purpose? Was that was it like when they finally stopped humoring his presence? Could they have done this at any time?
Agh! He clenched his eyes shut and shook his head. What was he talking about? He didn’t have any claim to the private conversations of Sam and Mary. They’d known eachother for years prior to the seconds he had had with the two of them together, and the minutes he had had with each of them alone.
And it had been so intimate. That much was clear, even thoroughly in the absence of Heye’s object-level comprehension. Whatever they were saying was enough to bring tears to their eyes…
Wait a second.
Floop was wrong.
Floop was wrong!
He was so very totally undeniably wrong and very much definately incorrect!
A smiler wider than anybody’s broke out onto Heye’s face, creasing his eyes shut. He beamed up at nothing, an incredible light spreading through all of him, melting away all sensations except the excillerating joy.
Quote therapy was OKAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The burns in his arms were gone, replaced with a frantic buzzing, as though every bit of energy in the universe had been channeled into his muscles. He needed to release it! He grabbed the ropes and slammed them down against the wall, creating great waves along them, his insides overflowing with tremendous, uncontainable glee.
But then he heard the hiss of a scream.
What Floop was doing to the Sokotians was already terrible.
What Floop had inexplicably failed when tried to do to him was terrible.
But if quoting was okay…
If quoting was okay that made it even worse. It meant there wasn’t even a shadow of a hope of his actions being neutral.
And all because Floop had made the wrong metaphor?
And though the giddiness in Heye’s heart had melted away the fatigue from his muscles, the ropes weren’t nearly as malleable.
Instantly Heye retained his focus. Though it was hard — he tried to package it into a corner to let himself think.
He needed to get in there.
But how? He wasn’t getting past the forcefield. He hadn’t the slightest idea how it functioned, and there wasn’t the slightest clue of any switches, dials…
Did he have any comparative advantage with any of Floop’s tech? Did he remotely know any intrinsic… vulnerability? Weakness?
Another tearing sound.
Heye gripped even tighter.
He began to analyse the metal plates he was leaning against. It was hard in nothing but the Sokotian moonlight, and his phone was probably lightyears away.
Nothing. No latches, no gates, no buckles, no switches, no nails……
He looked downard, his stomach churning slightly at the fall.
From this angle the whole thing looked… familiar?
We’ve been here for a while, haven’t we? said a mental voice.
Why yes, said another. Yes we have.
”I for one am starting to get BORED,” Heye yelled into the night. “And boredom is something up with which I will not put!”
The air began to fizzle, and looking upwards this time Heye could notice purple specks popping up in the air. He collapsed into adoration for their beauty…
And the another thread came loose.
Why wasn’t it working?
Was he too quiet?
”I FOR ONE AM STARTING TO GET BORED,” Heye yelled into the night. “AND BOREDOM IS SOMETHING UP WITH WHICH I WILL NOT PUT!”
His body tingled all over, a decisive energy fizzling through the air now. But it still wasn’t enough. And he only had so much time until—
He arms span widly as he fell backwards through the air, spitting with a ferocious desperation, “FOR ONE TRILLION YEARS I’VE BEEN—”
And the energy collected into a certainty, a purpose, spinning around the falling boy with a thunderous crack!
And all his montemum came slamming against the ground twenty seconds too early, the floor unapologetically metallic.
And everything in his vision vanished, replaced instantaneously with — darkness. Of a room he recognised.
Two eyes stared directly at him.
It was Floop.