Here's to the Broken Kids | Part One | Chapter Twelve
Posted March 9th, 2019 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
Blink. And the black washed away from Xena's eyes. Light flooded her vision, she squinted, shaded her eyes from the light. Stiff material prickled her skin through her jeans. She frowned. This wasn't how she'd imagined dying would be like. It hurt a lot more. Slowly her vision adjusted and the burning faded from her eyes. Automatically her hand went to her arm, her fingers came away wet with blood. She'd ripped open the glue and it hurt like hell. She clamped her hand over the wound with a grimace. She couldn't move her other hand, her elbow throbbed dully. Her vision blurred for a second. When it cleared she forced herself to focus.
Where was she?
Red crabgrass coated the ground underneath her like rust.
Where was she?
Under the grass was red-tinged dirt. It smelled of iron.
Where was she? Where?
The little voice in her head demanded to know. But she didn't recognize anything. She cast her gaze up. The sky was red, the sun bloated and white. The heat was stifling.
"Welcome to Reruna!"
Xena jumped at the voice. She turned her head to see the bright-haired twins standing side by side. They were both grinning. The girl without the chain stepped forward and offered her hand. Xena took it gratefully and Jeanelle helped her to her feet. Pain like glass shards being shoved into her skin spread up Xena's side, and she couldn't bite back a wince. The wild girl frowned and stepped back.
"Khe," she muttered, taking in Xena's limp arm, and the hand she kept clamped over her forearm. Streaks of crimson leaked out between her fingers. "We should take her to Wen Ti."
"Wait," Xena gasped. She felt her eyes go wide. Her heart was striking the inside of her ribs in a crazy rhythm. Her mind was spinning, she could barely get her breathing under control. "Wait, just a minute, please." She took a half-step backwards. The girls didn't move except to exchange glances. Xena squeezed her eyes shut. Pain stabbed her side. Pain throbbed in her dangling arm. Confusion had her head spinning. Spinning and spinning and spinning. Her knees turned to jello. She pitched forward.
"Whoops." Two pairs of hands caught her before she hit the ground.
"Minutes up, let's go." A voice on one side said.
"We're taking you to Wen Ti. She'll get you on your feet."
Xena nodded, but her head wouldn't stay up, so she let it sag, and she let the chain girls hold her up because she couldn't anymore. She hoped this wasn't what dying felt like. Because she really didn't want to die right now. In that moment Xena felt everything drain out from her body, through the soles of her feet, and onto the dusty ground. Black replaced the red, and Xena passed out.
Xena came-to in front of a giant wasp nest. Her head pounded and nausea twisted her gut in a hundred different ways. She was upright, barely, the twins were holding her. She had a spare moment to orient herself, then the pain in her arm hit. She couldn't bite back a yelp, or the scream it turned into. If she had been holding any of her own weight before, she wasn't now. Her arm was on fire. The twin to her left moved, jostling the injury. Agony racked her entire body, she screamed again.
"Don't. Don't, please," she begged. Blood soaked the twin to her left. Her blood? Crimson rivers ran down the girl's neck, drenching her thin shirt. The blood was deeper red than the girl's hair.
"You, go, tell the first person you see tiwnkaze oewtzi," said the twin to Xena's right, "Tiwnkaze oewtzi, okay? Say it."
"Tiwnkaze oewtzi," a new voice chimed in.
A black-haired girl broke off from the group, headed towards the giant wasp nest. Xena didn't catch her face, but the girl wore a vaguely familiar ratty sweater. She bit her lip, gasping around the pain. Sweat drenched every inch of her body, her clothes stuck to her like cling wrap. She shivered despite the heat, she was losing too much blood. She'd been here before, once, she knew what it felt like to have the life draining out of her. She'd been cold last time too. Freezing.
"What did you do to me?" She asked, failing to keep the whimper out of her voice.
"Nothing," the twin on her left said. She said it far quieter than any other sentence either of the twins had uttered in the short time Xena had known them.
"You're lying," Xena said.
"Nothing intentional," the twin on her right corrected. That twin had the chain around her waist.
Her breaths were coming shorter and faster with each passing second. She gasped, her mouth gaping. It felt like she was exhaling more than she was inhaling, and the air was heavy and damp. Gauzey film settled over her eyes, and with it a fog on her body. No matter how many times she blinked she couldn't clear her vision. She sucked in a shallow breath of stale air only for it to vanish before it ever hit her lungs. She gasped again with the same result.
"Wen Ti!" Jeanelle, the twin on her left, moved forward, wrenching Xena's arm. She didn't have enough air left to scream. The pathetic breathless whimper that she managed stopped Jeanelle in her path, even so, pain ripped over her body. The only clear thing in the fog.
Bits of a hurried conversation reached her, muffled by the sound of her own straining heart. She didn't understand a single word. A short blob appeared in front of her, too blurry to have a face. She wheezed, her eyes rolling.
What a stupid, stupid idea it had been to skip school.
She spiraled, just like before.
And the fog got thicker.
And her heart got louder.
And the air got as thick as sawdust crammed down her throat.
And she was... fine. Fine?
She blinked, the film over her eyes cleared away, revealing the blob in front of her. The blob was a shriveled raisin of a woman, with skin like crumpled paper and two giant corkscrews spiraling out of her bald head. The corkscrew woman pinched her lips and scowled, her too-large pink eyes narrowed into wrinkly slits. She smacked Xena's face and barked something Xena couldn't understand.
"Ow, what the hell!" She hissed, jerking away from the corkscrew woman. Her arm didn't hurt. Her shock vanished when rolling her shoulder didn't result in the same screaming pain as it had moment earlier. It didn't even feel bruised.
"English! A human, bah. No wonder you are in such bad shape," the corkscrew woman scoffed. "Come, inside, the suns are too much for you."
Inside the giant wasp nest there were seats made of small bound trees and uneven walls that looked like a less baked version of the outer wasp nest walls. A few steps into the shade it hit Xena that she wasn't just hot from her drug fever anymore. It was broiling... here.
"Where am I?" she asked.
Jeanelle, still supporting Xena, turned to smile at her. "We brought you to Reruna."
"And it was damned stupid of you, you itok, ztewi, reklz zmalones—"
"Wen ti!" A tall, pale woman appeared from one of the many tunnels leading out of the room they had all gathered in. "Lnagwze." Her interruption earned her the wrath of the corkscrew woman. She was shouted back down the tunnel. Jeanette whistled, long and low. Her sister made a noise of agreement, and guided Xena to one of the tree seats.
"I want to go home," Xena said, easing herself into the seat. Her knees were still watery. She wasn't bleeding anymore, but she hadn't gained back any of the blood she had lost. "I want to go back, please, take me to the hospital."
Jeanelle and Jeanette exchanged worried glances across the room.
"We can't take you back," Jeanelle said, running a hand over her left horn. Her red eyes darted between Xena and the tunnel that the corkscrew woman had disappeared into. "Humans aren't built for teleportation, if we tried taking you to Earth right now it would kill you."
The wind was knocked from Xena's sail for the umpteenth time that day. There hadn't been much wind to knock in the first place, but it was still a shock.
"What about her. Isn't she human? She's fine." She pointed to the black-haired girl who lingered by the door. That girl, Xena could swear she looked exactly the one from the junkyard. The one who stabbed Sam. But her eyes were wrong, cold blue instead of green. Another twin? The girl was biting her nails, shrinking into her hoodie. Xena recognized that posture, she maintained it in school.
"Don't worry. Wen Ti can heal you and we will take you home. We just can't right now," Jeanette said, offering a lopsided smile. Out of all the people in the space, she was the calmest. She leaned against the wall, tapping her foot absently. She said something to Jeanelle in their language that raised a blush on Jeanelle's cheeks.
"How soon can I go home?" Xena asked. Jeanelle, blushing furiously, patted Xena's head and walked away without answering.
"As soon as Wen Ti stops lecturing Zeri La," Jeanette said, smirking at her sister's discomfort.
"You might want to get comfortable, Wen Ti has big lungs for such a tiny person," Jeanelle added. A stifled quiet settled over the room, punctuated by Jeanette's tapping foot. Wen Ti the Corkscrew Woman could be heard shouting down the hall, carried by banging and clattering. Where those corkscrews real? Xena looked at the horns on either of the twins' heads. She had assumed that those were fake, like a homestuck cosplay or something. Color contacts, hair dye, really well constructed fake horns. People on their way to conventions wore all that and more around the city.
"You're aliens," she said. Demons was the first word that came to mind, but she opted not to let that accusation drop. Although demon freaked her out about as much as alien.
Jeanelle tilted her head, considering the statement, "Not quite."
"We're more like..." Jeanette started, then twirls her finger in the air as if fishing for the right word.
"Dimensionals." Jeanelle finished.
"Yeah, we're dimensionals. People from a different dimensions than yours."
"And this place is another dimension?" Xena rubbed her thumb across her left thigh, suddenly worried. She could not stay here forever. She didn't have her pills, and, more importantly, she had no way of communicating with her parents, with Sam. For all she knew, Sam could be dead. She pressed her thumb harder into the soft flesh of her thigh, tracing the roadways carved there.
The sound of scuffling footsteps drew her attention away from her racing thoughts. The twins both whipped towards the door, and in an instant the tension in the room skyrocketed. The black haired girl stood with her chin held at an odd angle, and swallowed with extra care to avoid putting any pressure on the knife blade pressed to her throat. The person who held the blade there was not someone Xena recognized.
They were sporting a white leather jacket over a white t-shirt and white track pants. White leather gloves hid their hands and white sneakers clad their feet. The only color on them came from an electric blue tuft of hair that stuck out from under the white motorcycle helmet they were sporting, and of course from the silver knife they were holding.
"Hey!" Jeanette snapped. Her voice cracked over the room like a physical thing. She snatched her chain from her waist.
Jeanelle jumped to action too, flames springing to life up her arms.
Xena remained frozen in place. She and the girl locked eyes with each other, her chest puffed short and shallow and her eyes welled with tears. The person with the knife took a step back, dragging the girl with them. The blade split her skin, drawing a sliver of blood, and all at once the girl's eyes rolled back in her head. She pitched forward, her throat pressed against the knife, but the mystery person, moving impossibly fast, jerked it down and away from her neck. In the same, fluid movement, the mystery person caught her in one arm, and hauled her upright. A crash exploded from the tunnel, attracting the attention of the mystery person and both the twins.
The girl sprang to life. Snarling and twisting she ripped herself from the mystery person's grip and wasted no time booting the mystery person where the sun didn't shine.
Several things happened at once. Or at least, nearly at once. A swirling chasm opened in the floor in the center of the room. Wen Ti and a ghost of a woman came spilling out of the tunnel and stopped dead at the vortex in the floor. The mystery person, unfazed, shoved the girl into the vortex. They lingered just long enough to take a grey ball from their belt, pull a pin, and toss it high, then hopped into the vortex themselves. The vortex closed, punctuated by the clang of the grenade landing on the floor.
The twins recognized it an instant before Xena. Jeanette threw herself at Wen Ti and the ghost woman, Jeanelle leaped the opposite direction—towards Xena. She plowed into Xena, arms snapping shut around her, momentum carrying them to the wall.
Not more than a heartbeat later, the wasp nest exploded. A wave rippled out from ground zero, a plume of fire and shrapnel shot up. The blast wave shoved Xena and Jeanelle through the crumbling wall. Xena's ears popped, leaving behind shrill ringing and nothing else. She gasped, her instincts took over, and she curled tight into a ball with her hands clamped over the back of her neck.
She fell. Shrapnel thumped to the ground all around her. Bits of cinderblock and smoking plastic. She cracked her head on a chunk of wall, rendering herself unconscious for the second time that day.
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