The Strange Coincidence
An escape pod drifted towards a nearby planet whose shadowed form glittered with light pollution. From within its single plated round window, frightened dark eyes stared out into the abyss. The lonely space man forced himself to slow his panting breaths as he caught sight of his intended destination. Light emitted from the various buttons of the control panel and lit up his tall thin frame, which was curled up into a shivering ball against the window.
He licked his lips and wiped his mouth, then rubbed his hand against the blood trickling down his clean shaven face. “I never expected that. I should have. Space is deadly.” As if to emphasize it to himself, he rose his hand to gently touch the bleeding wound near his hairline, then brushed his scruffy brown hair upwards. His eyes lit up in momentary amusement, wiping away at the fogged window. “And cold! Very cold. I can see my breath! Wonder if I should be wearing a spacesuit right now. Probably.”
He wriggled his half frozen fingers with a wince and started shoving the fabric of his torn prisoner's robe between his wrists and shackles, hoping to no longer feel the brutally cold metal against his skin. The collar on his neck buzzed and crackled, no longer within range of any familiar signal.
“But it doesn't matter because I'm finally free, and I'll be safely landing in New Holborgon, or 'New Hol', as the locals put it, in no time at all. If I don't freeze to death first that is. If only I knew the landing pad coordinates.”
The ex-prisoner pulled an ornate silver writing pen out of his pocket, his numb shaky fingers barely capable of grasping it. He flicked his wrist and the pen extended several inches, revealing inside circuitry, a tiny screen, and several shiny tubes filled with a mysterious glowing blue liquid. Upon inspection, and just a little bit of admiration, he shook his head and closed it up again, stroking it lovingly. “No, you've done enough for me today my beautiful girl. Saved my life. Weren't for you, I'd be- oh, we're beyond it. Let's not speak of it anymore. Freedom, at last.” He curled up as tightly as he could, lulled by the quiet humming of the life support system within the center control.
Just as the escapee found himself settling into a comforting, dreamless sleep, an eerie hiss broke the serenity and he froze in place, his face sinking in despair. “No.” The sound of a thousand teeth slid together like many scissors closing in sync. He shook his head, swallowing hard. “How can this be?” he whispered to himself, his voice unsteady.
“I thought I'd gotten away from you.”
Old cars crammed the city streets in evening traffic while newer ones hovered above the skyscrapers. Crowds of people shuffled to their destinations, young and old ignoring each other in the type of loneliness one can only find in The Big Apple. Some were rushing about, drink in hand, talking to their ear pieces. Others were walking around with a vacant look, too busy within their own minds to interact with their surroundings. A group of children ran across the road, forcing traffic to a halt, their laughter sweetening the bitter sounds of a filthy old city.
From the second story of an old Victorian style home, a woman of about twenty-two wrapped in a pink bathrobe looked out the window of her bedroom, her green eyes wincing. She sighed to herself, wrapping her delicate bronze arms against her bosom.
“How can people stand to take work home with them? Instead of watching where they're going, seeing the beautiful sunset, they're busy sorting paperwork inside their heads like a bunch of drones! You'll never see me putting a chip in my head.”
She looked back at the paper she was typing up on her very outdated laptop and pouted, pulling her silky black hair into a ponytail. “Welp! Back to work for me as well then! Let's just check this before I send it.”
Send to: Charles G., Nick C., George M.
Title: IFAS Reminder, MEETING TONIGHT!!
Tonight, 11PM, we're meeting at the rendezvous point. Remember, the location is secret, so don't tell anyone where you're going, don't bring anything containing a tracking device, and most certainly, don't bring a friend!
“That means you, George”, the young woman muttered to herself angrily as she clicked the 'send' button and shut old faithful down. “I really should get a pet or something; I'm talking to myself way too much. It can't possibly be healthy. I mean, who does that? Though talking to a pet wouldn't be much better, now that I think about it.”
“Keep calm, make no sudden movements”, the prisoner murmured to himself, remaining completely still except for his eyes, which were wildly scanning in hopes of honing in on the origin of the sound.
A shimmer from the corner of his eye. He watched in horror as a chameleon flatworm swam through the air of the cozy escape pod. It wasn't heading in his direction; its intended victim was the control panel! It made a swift connection using its long semi-transparent tendrils.
“How did I miss it? The thing is huge! I'm really off today. Well, I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself. First experience is always a learning one. Now I know! Watch out for chameleon flatworms sneaking up behind you. Sneaky fellows.”
The control panel groaned as the emergency power and life support were being drained, and the madman's jaw dropped in offended disapproval, eyes narrowing.
“Rude! I gave you the ship! Wasn't that enough?!”
The Jade Dragon walked into her bedroom closet and picked out an old favorite, her pink and green graphic tee, blue and green bell bottoms, lime green socks and her pink and green polka-dotted headband, shaking her silky black hair loose and wearing the hair tie around her wrist. Never one to follow the trends, she had no idea how well her outfit really fit the times, nor did she particularly care. The times didn't really fit her anyway.
Preparations were completed within three songs of her 'Totally Pumped' play-list and she pat herself on the back for being so punctual. She and the house were clean, snacks were prepared to go out, and she still had an hour before her guests arrived. “You're so awesome at this Nicole!”, she exclaimed to herself as she flopped on the worn cornflower blue sofa in her downstairs living room, ready for a quick nap before her coalition arrived.
“Please recharge. Power is at 10%.” The escape pod politely reminded him that it was not going to be able to entertain that monster for much longer. The lights dimmed and flickered as the flatworm continued to drain it without pity.
“Power is at 5%. Power failure imminent. Please recharge immediately. Life support system is at risk of failure.”
“I know. I know!” The mad genius dug out his strange instrument, biting his lip with a thoughtful frown. He waved the device in front of his face as he thought aloud. “If I connect my teleportation device to the emergency shuttle, I may be able to teleport myself and the escape pod safely within the atmosphere of New Hol using LoS, potentially saving me three days travel-- giving my traveling companion at least ten minutes to devour my frozen dead body once it finishes sucking out all the power! Er, okay, uh, different plan!”
“Warning! All life support systems are now offline. Warning! All life support systems are now offline!”
The man tapped his pen shaped device against his chin in rapid succession. “Think. Quickly now, haven't much more time. Guess the coordinates and hope my as of yet untested, unrefined new teleportation system will not materialize me in space or the atmosphere or in a wall or within another person or in the center of the planet-”
“Warning! Temperature is dropping below recommended life support level.”
“Almost certain death versus certain death, yes! I like this plan. Let's see, rough estimation, New Hol, by the LoS I've already got most of the information, just gotta adjust-”
His calculations were interrupted as he was lifted up into the air by his leg. “Ah! Let me down! Can't you see I'm thinking?!” Even though it was now dark within the small pod aside from a flashing red light, he could tell its mouth was opening due to the horribly offensive smell of its burning breath and the sound of scraping teeth. “Disgusting! You're terribly distracting!” He needed to think faster, to concentrate.
If he got one number wrong, it was death as certain as being a meal, though less practical. “1-31 by 19 by 902520--” He simultaneously struggled against the massive thing, grabbing one of its tendrils by accident and receiving quite the shock, which disoriented him. “Ayee! 3136.0321, 234.264341, 9. Multiples of...Ergh!”
The worm's sharp teeth came close to the madman's head and he raised his arms defensively, as if that would make a difference, causing the chains of his shackles to become caught between the worm's teeth. He tugged in desperation as he felt the charged beast's inhaling breath.
Just as the man's arms were about to turn to jelly from the effort, his chains broke apart, alarming the flatworm, who shocked him again in retaliation while smacking him against the wall repeatedly.
While being flung about, the madman managed to find its tiny eye and jam his thumb inside. The flatworm screeched and chucked him into the opposing wall.
Moments later he awoke and scrambled to his knees, holding his precious teleportation device in his weakened grasp. The worm's shrieking cries shook him to his very essence, but he held fast to his calculations. “22 by 157 by 1030350990 by 35.1204! That's my final answer!” The worm rushed him, tentacles and teeth out for his blood.
A bright blue flash of light enveloped the entire escape pod and he was gone.
Nicole's blood ran cold as she awoke to a horrible crash. Then, she could hear footsteps creaking from the floor above. One... Two... Three distinct footsteps. “Someone's in my room.” Gathering her favorite pistol, aptly named Courage, she sneaked up the stairs to stop the intruder.
There was no way she'd let anyone steal her things, useless and junky as they might be! She made her way in the dark effortlessly, knowing every nook and cranny like the back of her hand. She hoped this would grant her some sort of advantage. There was another crash from within her bedroom and she rushed towards it, gun drawn and ready to fire.
A dark figure loomed menacingly in the moonlight of her bedroom window. She shouted, gun pointed at the intruder. “Hands in the air! I will fire! Lights on!” It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the old blaring lights and discern what lay before her; it wasn't at all what she'd expected.
It was a worn and thin young man in a funny looking white robe, broken shackles around his wrists and matching buzzing collar around his neck. He clung tightly, one hand to her bedpost and the other on her nightstand, as he slid to the floor with a half conscious groan, blood staining his unkempt hair and pale freckled cheek, big childlike brown eyes rolling into the back of his head. He was apparently quite disoriented.
In that condition, she found it farfetched that he was capable of harming anyone, but just in case she pulled handcuffs from her nightstand and cuffed him to her bedpost, all while holding the gun to his head. He, after all, appeared to be some sort of escaped prisoner from the looks of it, and escapees are desperate people.
“Who are you?! What are you doing here?”
The intruder's head teetered from one side to the other, unable to properly support itself, his eyes groggy and unfocused. At first he muttered in a tongue she'd never heard before, but then some recognizably English words began to spout from his mouth in between, albeit nonsensically and heavily accented. “1... 14 by 19 by 09.. 2520. Glass irony. Brass mask flask. Ugh. 24 by.. 15..?”
“Glass what? Just what are you going on about?” Nicole narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you on drugs?” Great. He probably is on drugs. Or just crazy. That's my luck. Either way, it seemed to her that he wasn't going to say anything worthwhile, at least for now, so she looked for the way he must have gotten in, also checking for other intruders. She followed a trail of blood, tracking his movements backwards. “The trail just suddenly appears in the middle of the hallway. How did he get that wound? My window's not broken. Still locked even. No obvious signs of entry what-so-ever.” Her painted nails dragged softly against the undisturbed hallway window sill.
Nicole then searched the babbling intruder for weapons or stolen property and pried something from his grasp, perhaps a clue to his method of entry. “A pen? A weird looking pen. Fancy. What is this? Silver? It's heavy. Definitely not mine. Wait, what is that?” She brought the pen up to her nose, attempting to discern the fine ornate writing. It was like nothing she'd ever seen. She also noticed some sort of seal, as though perhaps it opened up. She tried to take it apart to see if it doubled as a break-in tool, but it would not twist or pull.
“211, 45, 2304”, the burglar trailed as his eyes began to focus on her. “04... Huh? That looks just like mine,” he murmured tiredly. This time, his English nearly mimicked hers in consistency.
“That's because it is yours. What is this? It's not just a pen, is it?” She waved it in front of his face accusingly and he followed it with his eyes, not seeming to entirely understand. She merely continued. “It's some sort of break-in kit! And what's with those numbers? Is that some sort of secret code?”
Nicole didn't know if she should expect some sort of answer out of the intruder; it's not like she was trained in interrogation techniques. She gave up and placed the pen in her pocket before she continued searching him with one hand, pointing the gun at his face with the other.
His eyes focused on her, fully cognizant. “Uh, what? Oh, hello! You're a new face. What's your name?” She rolled her emerald eyes, pressing the barrel against his head with a menacing look. “What did those numbers represent?” The crook smiled cluelessly, but politely as he stared at the gun, then at Nicole, raising an expressive eyebrow. “Why are you touching me with that? It's cold.”
“Oh, I'm so sorry house... breaker-inner! Let me just warm the barrel up for you”, she spat, her cheeks coloring at her poor choice of wording.
The charming young man smiled infectiously. “Yes, I would like that, house-liver-inner. I'd like it even more if it weren't pointing at me to start with.” He paused and frowned thoughtfully for a moment. “Oh, and sorry to drop in on you like this,” he added in amusement, eyes sparkling.
“But why?! Why did you break into my house?! You're in huge trouble. I'm going to call the cops.” Nicole was starting to lose it. This guy just wasn't taking her very seriously. The man attempted to move his arms and then looked up at his wrists, bound with new shackles, then let out a knowing sigh before he continued. “Trust me, this was an accident. I must not have had the exact coordinates. Please, let's not involve the authorities in this matter if we can.”
“How could you possibly break into my house on accident?!”
“I accidentally materialized inside your home. I know! It's a miracle I didn't die and hard to believe but--” Nicole stared in horrified disbelief at her captive. “What sort of nonsense is that? Materialized?! Do you honestly expect me to believe you just materialized inside my home on accident?”
“Yes”, the nutcase murmured ruefully, pitiful large eyes aimed straight at her. “You see, it may have been a malfunction of the Portable Interdimensional Teleportation Device. A new design of mine you see. Small, fits into your pocket. Shh, don't tell anyone.” The home owner did not look pleased by his answer. “The what?? You're insane. Great, a nutcase broke into my home.” He lost his smile, looking away sheepishly. Nicole rolled her eyes at him again, sighing, and then she relaxed, lowering her pistol. “Your forehead, what happened?”
“My forehead? You know, I don't quite remember myself. I hit my head a couple of times. Do you mind uncuffing me? I'm getting a cramp in my shoulder.”
The young woman shook her head firmly and then looked closely at his eyes to check for brain damage. “Maybe when you hit your head something messed up your brain.”
“That's possible.” The burglar's eyes focused once again upon her youthful face and they locked gazes for a few moments, each taking in the details of the other. Nicole noted that his eyes were a rust brown, speckled with gold. They were so warm and yet something about his look was icy, galaxies away. It nearly made her shiver.
To him, her eyes were such an unnatural color, like nothing he'd ever seen. They were like living emeralds, glittering with wild heart and soul, adventurous and courageous. Her scent wafted into his olfactory senses and it was like nothing from his recent memory. It was sweet and inviting, yet untamed, matching her face in consistency.
The light within Nicole's bedroom flickered and for some seconds was left in complete darkness before returning, causing both parties to look around.
“A power outage? Now? Are you kidding me?” Nicole searched for a flashlight within her nightstand. The home invader's face grew serious. “Do you normally have power problems? Flickering lights?”
“Well, no. Not even in most storms, even though my house is still running on power lines-- Wait? Why am I telling you anything?”
“Because I asked nicely probably.” The unusual criminal made his best at shrugging his shoulders. “Shut up, you! You're not fooling me. I won't let you go.” Just at that moment, the power gave out and darkness covered them.
Nicole growled a curse under her breath and shone the flashlight right into the perpetrator's eyes. “Don't you dare even think of trying something”, she warned. “I know how to get around in the dark.” The escapee tightly shut his eyes and turned his face away. “That's quite a useful skill. By power lines, do you mean wires?” Nicole huffed. “Yeah, what of it?” The young man smiled brightly, looking up. “Brilliant, quaint system you've got here. I didn't know anyone used wires.”
Nicole could feel her face flushing and was thankful it could not be seen. “Plenty of people still use wires! Not everyone switched to solar panels just yet you know.” The man laughed as if she'd said something absurd. “Solar power! That's pretty quaint too! Since when was New Hol in the dark ages?”
“New Hol? What are y--” Just then, a horrible crackling noise shook the black house and the lights of several neighboring homes and the street lights went out, rendering everything even darker. Nicole whipped her head around at what she thought was the source of the noise. “What was that?”
The captive man frowned, eyes gaining a fearful glint. “That was a bad sign. Don't be angry, but I think I may have accidentally brought a stowaway.” The young woman frowned. “A stowaway? You mean there's more than one of you in here?”
“No, not more than one of me. Nothing like me.” A scraping noise echoed, shaking the house, and it gradually became clearer, as if it were coming closer. “Dangerous, deadly. A chameleon flatworm.” The man's serious tone and grim features led Nicole to question her own sanity because she very nearly believed him. “A chameleon what??”
“A chameleon flatworm, the scourge of space. Stows away on spaceships and uses their power to procreate. If it doesn't kill you by electrocution, you have to hope to freeze to death or suffocate from the life support system failure before it eats you alive. Haven't you ever heard of one before?” He sounded incredulous.
Nicole harshly whispered as she shut her bedroom door and shone the light at him again, “of course I haven't! You're talking aliens! Don't be ridiculous! Aliens don't exist!”
“What?? How can you say such a thing?! Of course they do! Now let's get one thing straight; that wooden door is not going to keep it out!” The captive man struggled. “Do you mind uncuffing me? I'd really like to be uncuffed, right now!”
The home owner snorted. “Yeah, and have two dangerous maniacs running around in my house? No way mister, you just stay right where you are!” She blew at her bangs in nervous frustration as she held the flashlight and pistol at the ready, aimed at the bedroom door.
The madman's eyes grew wide with fear as he struggled in vain, shaking the entire bed. “I really insist you uncuff me right now! Please! Uncuff me before--” Nicole waved her hand and shushed. “Be quiet! Just shut up! I'll protect you against whoever this person is!” Nicole narrowed her eyes, steadying her breaths in concentration. “That's just it; it's not a person! And that gun won't do anything to harm it!”
“Just watch me”, Nicole hissed coolly. There was a bang at the door, then another, a crunching noise similar to a thousand pieces of chalk grating against a chalkboard, and then bash! As the door came down, nothing was revealed but utter darkness.
She kept at the ready regardless. The young man strained his eyes, knowing it must be there. Without light, it blended in seamlessly, but he could sense its electrical field. The invisible foreboding steadily made its way into the room, Nicole none the wiser as it headed straight for her. “Don't move! It's right in front of you!”
A glimmer from the flashlight fortunately revealed it and Nicole fired upon it, adrenaline shooting through her veins. Were those teeth? What little she had glimpsed looked like a monster from her darkest nightmares. It can't be true. The chameleon flatworm hissed in retaliation, its gaping mouth threatening to swallow her. She dodged, rolling towards the captive man, his eyes glinting in the starlight, his face something akin to absolute terror. “What is that thing?!” She searched her pockets for the key in a panicked rush, but did not find it and the alien was coming straight for them. She tried to break him free by force in a hopeless attempt to save him.
The man grunted as his arms were tugged, hands too big to slip out of the cuffs. “Ow ow ow ow! That's not working! Where's the key?!” Nicole whimpered shamefully. “I may have dropped it! I'm sorry!”
“Dropped it?!” The escapee hopped onto the bed to avoid making contact with the worm and Nicole ducked underneath. “I know! I'm sorry!” She watched as the chameleon flatworm's tendrils searched for her underneath. “I know it's a little late now, but I believe you!”
“Better late than never I guess!” The escapee attempted to break apart the bedpost, but it was too solid. He could feel the flatworm's close proximity, but it was ignoring him. Nicole's voice wavered. “I'm terribly sorry for all of this!”
“Oh, you know, no hard feelings”, the stranger said with surprising sincerity, despite his panic.