What if Fox McCloud was real?
It was a question Neils had asked himself many times over. Mostly, he used it to spur inspiration for a new drawing or comic. Too level-headed in speech to be a natural comedian, he used his sketches to tell his jokes instead. Therefore, at drawing he had become quite adept.
But inspiration, being the slippery beast it was, refuses to dive into his brain at this time. So Neils moves to his backup plan. He cups his hand on his chin, lets his eyes glaze over, and enters the disjointed world of the daydreamer.
Before long, his body is sitting in math class, but his mind is walking the streets of downtown Corneria City. Various colorful anthromorphs pass him on the wide sidewalk, going about their daily business as both Lylat and Solar warm the lone human's skin. Neils is given no attention; things are too crowded and people are too busy. The tail of the tiger in front of him bounces and beckons, but Neils does not give in to temptation and touch it. He knows it is a faux pas.
He turns east. He reads the sign and learns he's now on 18th Street. Things are less crowded here, but still no one has time to pay him mind.
Several blocks down Neils encounters a coffee shop with an unusual arrangement of anthros. Cameras flash and people shove slips of wrinkled paper at a lone soul who's just waiting for his caffeinated beverage. Neils would recognize it anywhere; it's a papparazzi ambush. The human laughs to himself and walks through the double doors which advertise some kind of spearmint iced coffee. He wants to see what the fuss is about.
A big-boned fellow, Neils pushes easily to the front of the crowd and sees Fox McCloud. The vulpine is shielding his green eyes from the flashes. He ignores the writing utensils and notebook paper being shoved at his paws. He clearly just wants to get his coffee and get out.
Neils wants coffee, too, so he snakes through the crowd again to get to the counter. He orders a medium caramel latte, pays with several 1-credit coins, and gets to the pick-up line. His coffee will come up right after Fox's. The two exchange a glance. Something about Neils' face makes Fox think he'll listen, so he opens his mouth to talk.
"Neils!" Fox's muzzle moves, but it's not his voice. Still, the human plays along.
"How'd you know my name?" he asks playfully.
"Because I've been your teacher for seven months, now pay attention!"
Neils' daydream bubble poofs out of existence, like a strip of film being burnt away by a projecter, its dying noise only audible in Neils' ears.
"And stop this nonsense drawing, it's only distracting you," Mr. Verderben continues. Neils is about to object, but a cursory glance at his paper reveals he's been sketching 18th Street, with the coffee shop at front right. He wants to be angry with his teacher for interrupting him, like he would on any other occasion, but mostly he is impressed with himself for drawing so well without looking.
Neils tries his hardest to stare at the chalkboard, but his eyes repeatedly slip back to his unfinished cityscape. Within 5 minutes his pencil has returned to his hand, and he begins outlining pedestrians on the sidewalk.
"Neils, what did I tell you? Eyes up before I rip that paper in half!" Mr. Verderben scolds. Neils fumes, but he knows that threat has substance. Why? Because he has done it before. And what a scene that had created. Ended in two punches, a trip to the principal, and a three week suspension, it did.
It's not all bad, though. Neils smiles every time he sees the scars he left.
After another boring, artless hour of geometry, Friday's final bell rings, and Neils is out of there like a dog escaping from the veterinarian. He makes it to his bus through the cool, early spring air, puts his earbuds in, and calms himself with heavy metal.
Once home, Neils is able to focus on what matters most: his cityscape. Six more hours he spends on it, working every sign, every building, every muzzle and tail into its proper place. His music remains on the whole time, but Neils isn't listening. Even after the seventh hour, after his eyes have started drooping every ten seconds, after his eardrums have begun burning from overuse, after he has replaced the lead in his pencil three times, he is still not finished. But that's OK, because Neils knows it will be his masterpiece once the weekend is out.
There is a smile on his face as he crawls under his covers. He drops out of consciousness quickly, and he soon happily discovers that his daydream bubble has revived itself! Revived, and ascended to the higher plane of a true and lucid dream. He's back in the coffee shop. Neils parts the papparazzi crowd like it's the Red Sea. Fox is following close behind, grateful for the human's assistance. They emerge into the fresh air, drawing it in excitedly, feeling like criminals escaped from the gallows.
"Thanks so much, Neils, I thought that crowd would suffocate me," the vulpine speaks.
"Glad to help, Fox. Don't mention it," the human replies with a smile.
They stand outside for a moment, watching the pedestrian and vehicle traffic go by, unsure of their next actions but not too worried about it. Neils sips his iced coffee and is pleasantly surprised by its taste.
"So, are you headed anywhere specific, or...?" Fox asks, attempting to restart the conversation.
"Not really. I'm just out enjoying the weather and the people."
"Heh, I wish I could still do that. You've seen what happens to me now."
"Yeah," Neils chuckles. "Is it always so bad that you require help getting away?" They unconsciously begin walking eastward on 18th Street, able to use the power of the crowd to blend in once more.
"Thank God, no. I have no idea what got into the public today. Maybe it's the dual stars," Fox muses. That turn of phrase reminds Neils' subconscious of the full moon going on that night on Earth. Or maybe it already knew and it used the dream to convey the message. He doesn't know; dreams are weird.
"Anyway, the sooner I can get back to the Great Fox, the better."
"You're not a big people person, are you?" Neils asks with a knowing grin.
"Not particularly, no. But you never really miss privacy until you lose it."
"Ain't that the truth. There are a few people I know who I wish would just leave me alone." He thinks of Mr. Verderben, and how ironic it is that his name can be translated from German as meaning 'doom.' "You're not one of them, though."
"Yeah, we should meet again sometime. Hell, I'm on my way to the base now, why don't you just come with?" the vulpine offers. Even if it is just a dream, Neils still wants to see the inside of an Arwing, and maybe call Falco a prick to his face, just to see how he reacts.
"Sounds like fun. How far do we have to walk?" That question was, of course, excluding the five or six blocks they've already walked.
"It'll be a little while, but like you said, the weather's nice."
"Alright. I guess that's fine." Neils sips his coffee again. It's down to about half full now. That doesn't bother him too much, though; for God's sake, he's about to fly in an Arwing!
They approach the next cross street in a contented silence, both just happy to have like-minded company. However, Neils hears a distant screeching sound and becomes concerned. He searches around frantically for the source, but he can't find it through the crowd. Unbeknownst to everyone, the road has become forebodingly empty as well.
"Hey, Fox, you hear that?" Neils inquires, hoping the vulpine's canid ears could pinpoint the noise better than his human ones could.
"Hear what?" He's oblivious to it. Neils stares at him unbelievingly, but as far as Fox knows, he's telling the truth.
Neils knows the sound certainly exists, and that it's getting louder rapidly. The multitudes of people walking down 18th Street part on their own cognizance, giving the human a clear view of the intersection a few steps ahead. Then everyone and everything, including Fox, freezes but Neils. And with no warning but that of the omnipresent, permeating, excruciating noise, Neils sees two cars drive at incomprehensible speeds into the intersection.
It's truly a spectacle when they collide. With an impressive blast and a colorful explosion, 18th Street becomes host to pure devastation. Neils can't move, nor can he take his eyes away. It's the most artful thing he's ever seen.
Momentum takes center stage. The burning husk of a chassis keeps going forward, since it did not collide exactly head-on with the other vehicle. Neils sees it fly. It grows to encompass his entire field of vision. With a last second realization, he knows it's the end.
Neils darts to a sitting position, breathing heavily. His blue eyes, wide and unfocused, take in his Earthen room with disbelief. His mouth is dry, and his brain is still simulating the taste of fire. However, the sound continues. It's still as loud and permeating as it was in the dream it ruined. His whole house shakes as if affected by the San Andreas. Neils feels as if he's going out of his mind. The world is ending, and the human's gonna die.
Then, it's not so much. Like a kidney stone, the noise and the movement eventually passes, albeit painfully. Neils' ears begin aching again, not ready for another round of aural abuse. He barely notices, though; now he's more concerned with finding the source of such a hideous sound. It's not easy. Big-boned to begin with, not to mention his still-sleepy body, Neils groans as he moves over to a window. He raises the shade.
On his front lawn, his eyes find a small aircraft silhouetted by its own rising flames. One glance tells Neils that it's totaled; there are far too many pieces broken or bent far out of line for it to be salvageable. Plus, both of the wings are not even visible. Instead, they are abruptly truncated just past the tall, blue cannon housings on both sides. Small tendrils of black smoke slither upward out of tiny gaps in the cockpit glass. Neither did the street's concrete fare well; the whole block would probably need to be replaced.
Neils, at first, writes it off as just another Arwing crash, and is just grateful that the sound has stopped. The human returns to his bed. He is nearly fully under the covers again when the significance of what he has just witnessed hits him like an explosive shell.
He bolts back upright, and this time he rises all the way to a stand. Luckily, he remembers to put on a shirt and athletic shorts from his drawer; as pertinent as the scene was outside, it was important not to attend to it in only boxer shorts. He sprints to the front door, dodging various pieces of furniture on the way, and then makes it outside.
The sun shines bright this Saturday. A warm breeze kicks up his bedheaded blond hair, but there is no time to enjoy it. The Arwing's pilot needs his help! And Neils is excited to be able to give it.
He searches for a safe spot to climb onto the wreckage. As the human finds it, other doors on the street begin to open, and neighbors of various sizes exit their homes, also curious as to what the hell is going on. Neils makes it onto the downed aircraft, while all the people watch it just like it was their normal Saturday morning television. Except, perhaps, with more jaws on the ground.
Carefully, Neils walks with balance to the cockpit while the Arwing groans unsettlingly beneath. His view of the pilot is completely obscured by smoke. The human's level of concern jumps up a few notches, and the icy ball in his gut grows a few notches colder. Neils realizes that he can't waste time.
And he doesn't. With thick fingers, he digs his hands into the gaps where smoke continues to leak through. Ignoring the glass' burning hot temperature, he lifts with all his might. Two moans sound, harmonizing as well as fingernails on chalkboard and crinkling styrofoam, one coming from Neils and one from the cockpit's hinges. It opens slowly. The trapped smoke billows out rapidly, forcing the human to shield his mouth from the toxic carbon cloud.
With his other arm, he fruitlessly attempts to wave away the blackness. It doesn't want to move. It prefers to go at its own pace, uncaring of any living being it surrounds.
Precious seconds pass. It's time that Neils' mind uses to make up worst case scenarios. He tries to shove them away with a quick, tight shut of the eyes. Then, after a virtual eternity, the opaque smoke becomes translucent, and translucent becomes transparent, revealing the figure within.
It shouldn't have surprised Neils who the figure was, but it does anyway, in an existential sort of way. Every last detail on him is correct, from ears, to fur, to clothing, to tail. There is just one problem, though; the guy's not moving. His eyes are closed, and his neck muscles refuse to hold up his head, leaving his muzzle pointed downwards thanks to gravity.
Once again, his head leaps to worst case scenarios. His very visual brain is a double-edged sword here, as the same process that allows him to see his daydreams in such detail allots the same qualities to his nightmares.
Neils bends into a squat, pulls out two fingers, leans over, and starts feeling for the carotid artery. He attempts not to distract himself with the sensation of the orange and white fur, but it is admittedly difficult.
His own heart pumps harder. The human feels nothing. He can't detect the artery's movement.
Neils laughs nervously. He thinks maybe, just maybe, the carotid artery is in a different spot on anthros, and he just doesn't know where. That's fine. There's another way to check, a much more foolproof method. He knew he'd find it then, as long as he keeps his balance and doesn't go headfirst into the cockpit.
The human pushes the pilot's muzzle to the side and leans in, ignoring the dancing sparks coming from the remains of the aircraft's controls. His left ear carefully makes contact with the furry's chest. Neils asks the gods for silence. He asks them to quiet the birds, the trees, the winds, the cars, and everything else. And above all, he asks for life.
He waits. And listens. He listens for at least thirty seconds, and probably more.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Decibel level: Zero.
Neils slowly turns his head back to face the anthro. The human's eyes hold an indescribable combination of pain, confusion, and disillusionment. The furry doesn't react to Neils' silent pleas.
Neils sluggishly begins to stand, without any complaint from his body. His eyes shift their focus to somewhere far in the distance above the anthro's head, to Suburbia framed by Arwing cannons. His hands wind up on his hips after much indecision. His mouth is shaped in a contorted frown.
Life likes to throw screwballs; this is just fact. But Neils growls and grunts in emotional pain as he realizes he's just been thrown the biggest, most fucked-up screwball of them all. Fate has stomped all over the dreams of the dreamer, the prey it loves the most.
He stands there alone for a couple minutes more, eyes unfocused, and body unmoving. Some sirens begin to approach, but Neils is not remotely concerned about what could happen if the authorities find him standing on an alien wreckage. He is too busy coming to terms with two simple facts. Neils knows that Fox McCloud exists. He also knows now that Fox McCloud is dead.
"Well, fuck," the human says, then he goes back inside.
A/N: Yep, I just did that. Plane crashes are deadly; this is also just fact.
Have a good day!