I drag him by the wrist through the halls of my ship. He babbles some stupid protests at me. Why must he ALWAYS complain? Be QUIET, obey!
I refuse to be afraid. I am ZIM, and Zim knows exactly what must be done now!
It must be quick. I have to hurry. So little TIME! Yes, human, NOW. Not later.
I shove him. In here. On the table. Now, NOW! Get ON the TABLE!
Rr.. HUMAN! Stop SQUIRMING!
Computer, restrain him and give me the surgical tools!
I won't take this a MOMENT longer!
Now we put an END to this, Dib-thing...
Soon you will be mine.
No Pillows for Dib Redux
revised from the original
by J. Random Lurker, 6/2004
Dib was naked and wholly exhausted. Sweat gleamed bright on his pale skin, on the backs of his subtly scarred arms and legs. Face down on the metal table he breathed slowly, wrestling for control of his mind, feeling his breath pool under his mouth. The chemicals weighting down his veins wanted him to sleep, but he didn't want to sleep. He wanted, -needed- to be alert... something felt wrong, dangerous. Something was lurking at the corner of his mind...
The operating room had been sealed and sterilized, but Dib could still perceive the faded scent of his own blood, a rusty iron mist lingering around him. Medical control terminals scattered about the room glowed and made strange haphazard alien noises, casting eerie red and bluegreen light around the weirdly curved walls.
Zim radiated smugness like the sun, peeling away blood-stained gloves and shoving them into the mouth of a disposal tube. He stepped around to the head of the table, all smiles. "Be pleased to know the operation was a COMPLETE success. A TRIUMPH of Irken technology over meaty stupidity, as I KNEW it would be. I even upgraded your optic implants, and your atmospheric processor while I was at it. Know that you now see and breathe with the might of an INVADER and be well pleased."
"... too bad the only thing I get to look at regularly is YOU," Dib riposted sleepily, eyelids drooping.
His back was beginning to cool down now. His shoulders were stiff and an uncomfortable -stretching- sensation moved all throughout his spine, a dull and constant irritation. Irken nanites were rebuilding him, tearing up the bone marrow in his spinal cord to feed themselves as they changed the nature of his body. Dib could swear he felt them -moving-, a million tiny insects chewing through his flesh. He wanted to struggle; he wanted to scratch SO bad, reach back and dig his fingers into his back until he drew blood, rip the microscopic alien robots out from under his skin.
Zim let Dib's mild insult pass with a disdainful snort for reply. "Status report, human."
Dib exhaled and sank deeper into the metal table. "... itchy."
Zim shook his head, still smirking as he leaned back. "THAT is why you are RESTRAINED, stupid. I won't allow your primate instincts to mess up my magnificent repair work. The nanites I put in your spinal column need TIME to complete their mission. Any stupid monkey-digging around with your hands scratching at things would just make it take that much longer to heal."
Dib made a face. He clung to consciousness, a stubborn sliver of his mind refusing to let go; something was wrong, stirring just beyond his sight. He felt the inexplicable fear surge and hastily, wearily spoke aloud as much to distract himself as to catch Zim's attention. "Why did you do this to me again?"
"Because you were dying." Zim murmured, arrogant-Invader facade cracking to show a hint of genuine worry show through. He laid cool gloved fingers on Dib's forehead. "Go to -sleep-, Dib."
"I can't." Dib nuzzled his forehead deeper into the Irken's hand. His irrational fear retreated a pace at the touch; the chill of the Irken's fingers felt good against his overheated brow. "Mmmn. Don't leave, Zim..."
Zim indulged Dib, stroking his thumb over the boy's pale brow; his own jangled nerves soothed by the human's submissive display. He would never have admitted it, even under slow torture, but he was far from certain this procedure was going to truly solve Dib's problem.
Membrane's Syndrome. A very unique genetic disorder, named after a very unique human who had been the very first to die from it: Professor Membrane. And Dib was a nearly -perfect- genetic duplicate of his father. Now that he had come of age, the disease would begin to accelerate. It would grant Dib superhuman physical resilience and astonishing mental capacity- but at the cost of halving his rightful life span.
Ironic. Stupid. Utterly pathetic! There was no reason Dib should not keep his mind AND his body both, absolutely no reason at all! He was only 19 in human years, still a SMEET by Irken standards! Zim was not ready to surrender Dib, his ONE success, his one real conquest, to -anything-. He refused to even -consider the possibility-. Dib was his until he died, but he was NOT going to die before Zim LET him die! No... Dib was going to live a thousand years, and Zim would be there for every minute of every day of every month of every year of all those thousand years to torment the human PERSONALLY...
Yes. He belongs to ME. And I will POSSESS him utterly.
Suddenly Zim felt... deeply uncomfortable, without understanding why. He only knew he needed to be... away from Dib. Far away. Doing -anything- else but standing here watching him breathe... Zim pulled his hand free, frown returning to his emerald brow. He reached for an air injector and pressed the tip into Dib's neck, firing an additional jolt of chemicals into the human's bloodstream.
Dib opened his mouth to protest- no, don't MAKE me...! but there was no use. It was already done...
"GO TO SLEEP, dirtmonkey. Obey Zim! I have more -important- things to do than sit here holding your brains in for you while you complain. The last long range scan put a Resisty ship in the area and I don't think that slimy little Vortian friend of yours has gotten the word out to all of them about us yet. You want us to get boarded in your current condition, DIB?"
Darkness was sweeping in fast now, the second injection bludgeoning Dib into a stupor. He mumbled something and pressed his cheek down, flat to the table as the world slid away.
"I didn't -think- so! The computer will let me know if there's a -real- problem with you, so...eh... be sleepy now. That's an ORDER, soldier!"
Zim's tiny boots clicked sharply against the metal tiled floor as he left the operating chamber.
The door slid closed behind him, and as he moved free Zim found that he was breathless- practically panting aloud. His heart was racing, and there was a sick, twisting feeling deep at the base of his squeedlyspooch like he'd eaten foul Earth food -or worse. He felt like throwing up. A sharp pain rose up behind his eyes, brain throbbing against the inside of his skull, and he touched his fingers to his head, shook his antennae out. It was not anything new; as long as he could remember, he'd had such pains, but this time they were different. They came with fresh fear: fear for himself... and fear for Dib.
The human's flesh had been so deliciously YIELDING to the blade... so easy to get inside...
"..c..Computer!" he barked, listening for the tiny blip of sound that let him know it was paying attention.
"Double-security and time-lock to all entrances to the medical wing for at LEAST two hours. NO ONE gets in or out." Not even me. ESPECIALLY not me...
UHM... OKAY, BUT WHAT IF...
"SILENCE! DO AS I SAY!" Zim shrieked.
The computer went silent; the only sounds were of the locks in the door immediately to Zim's left snapping into deadbolts.
Zim's breathing slowly returned to normal; he drew himself upright, the stupid fear withering. He felt better. As he took in a deep breath of the cool, recycled air, he suddenly felt eyes upon him, and turned quickly to look.
Gir was sitting on the floor across the hall, tiny metal hands grasping his magnetic-cone feet, swaying lightly back and forth. His head was tilted up, his round green eyes locked on Zim in a blank, unblinking, unrelenting STARE. His mouth hung open, a slight froth of slushy-leftover and drool on his lips.
"GIR!" Zim screeched, glee rising that he now had something else to yell at. "What are you DOING just SITTING there? Were you SPYING on me?! Stop SITTING and ...DO...eh... something that isn't sitting!"
The insane SIR unit built of garbage giggled crazily. "I BEEN COUNTIN' MAH TOES!"
"But you don't HAVE any toes... AUGH, why am I wasting time TALKING to you! Uhhgh... FINE, Gir, carry on with this COUNTING of nonexistent TOES. At least you can't do any DAMAGE that way... oh! Wait, there IS something you can do. A very SPECIAL mission, Gir. The Dib is RESTING now and NOT to be disturbed. I know how much you LIKE the Dib, so how about you stay here and guard him while he is sleeping? Stay in that EXACT spot and do NOT move until I give you new orders. If anyone bothers Dib, I expect YOU to deal with them. Is that clear?"
Gir squealed, clapping his tiny hands together, then flaring into Duty Mode, chest and eyes flashing from green to red. "NEW ORDERS RECEIVED, MY MASTER!" He saluted sharply, then slumped backward against the wall with an audible CLANK, his whole robot body going slack.
Zim was already gone before Gir finished saluting.
Master is craaaazy.
I'm crazy too! Hee hee. Sure, we ALLLL crazy. Big head boy all tally and moosey crazy too. I like big head boy. Mmhmm.
But Master's also down with the crazy different like... spooky crazy.
Master was doin' somethin' to big head boy. Cut him up like a steak. Cut cut cut cut.... now he's done. Yay!
Somethin' dirty lives in master's head. Like a smelly kitty! He dunno it's in there, but I can seeee it. It's scary. Big greasy teeth like SCARY CLOWN and eyes going spooky like THIS ooooOOOooOOooo.
Don't like it. S'posed to help master be happy. I gets lots of bad stuff in me so master doesn't have to have bad stuff in him. Looots of bad stuff. Fill 'er up with unleaded dooky for master!
Pssst. C'mere. Seeeecret.
Sometimes... eee hee hee... I wanna kill Master. Big head boy too. Cut cut cut. Break spine throat wade red chop chop quick mmMM! Pretty red all over! ...I like red...
Oops! I better count my toes before they run away again! C'mon back to the toe ranch little buddies! One, two, three, FOUR! Master says I don't HAVE toes, but master ain't got EARS, so who's pot callin the kettle black now huh? HUH?!
...hey, what's behind this door?
"How COULD you? How could you possibly DO this?"
Shut up, Dib, thought Dib. But Dib wouldn't shut up. He wouldn't shut up! He just kept NAGGING.
The ship pulsated- stardrives humming ten levels below, the hammering of a massive mechanical heart. Air whirred softly into the operating room from the overhead artificial atmosphere filters. The red and purple walls with their curvy sorta abstractions made Dib feel like he was nestled deep inside a body, tucked inside an organ: maybe a kidney, or a spleen. Painful red heat was building up inside his chest; he was sweating, lightheaded.
He was supposed to be asleep. The drugs had worked, hadn't they? Even though he fought... he was asleep now. He was dreaming.
Yes, he -had- to be dreaming, because there was no other way that his younger self could be sitting there. Sitting there frowning at him, perched like a crow on the edge of a console with his little legs in his little black boots and that little black coat and the bland-face t-shirt that he used to love so much.
Dib hadn't worn that outfit in years. He'd outgrown it.
The hallucination cocked his head, eyes caught in wide circles of despair and confusion behind his glasses. Overhead light glinted off the edges of the oversized plastic lenses, making them glow faintly. Come to think of it, all of him was glowing, white with fuzzy edges. He spoke, high and thin and disgusted. "What kind of monster -are- you?"
Dib pushed himself off the consoles to the floor and glowered bitterly up at the man he had become. At everything he'd done and failed to do; at his naked captive helplessness, his battle scars, his lean long frame, the taste of Zim's mouth in his memory.
Even though he was furiously angry there was an appealing softness to the hallucination's features. Lines were missing from his body; he was incomplete, small and pale, an unfinished work. He was a proto-Dib, an unformed soft-dough Dib.
"You ran away with Zim. With ZIM! Our mortal ENEMY! You let him take over the Earth, and you didn't try to stop him! WHY? I was the one who was going to SAVE the Earth FROM Zim! I would NEVER have..." His little body vibrated with the intensity of his feelings of betrayal. "...never... And what about Gaz? and Dad?"
Dib could taste the disgust that his prior-self held for him- true loathing, outright contempt. He felt helpless in the face of it; he was seeing out of both places, both perspectives simultaneously; dizzying, confusing.
Gaz had always been bitter, and cruel, and cold to him. She had disowned him at their father's funeral. Told him she had no brother, moved to another city, even thrown away their family name to start her life over again. Membrane had never been there for him, in grief or joy, and then he was dead, and Dib had never had the chance to say any of the million things he really wanted to. He could only whisper his regrets to his father's grave, and only the autumn wind gave reply. He'd left then, with Zim, for the infinite promise and danger of the stars, and had never looked back again.
Which one was the true Dib? The child? The man? Were EITHER of them who Dib had been meant to be?
I'm drugged, he reminded himself. I'm not thinking straight.
"That's true," his hallucination answered, "but that's no excuse!"
"I don't have to justify myself to you. You couldn't see the bigger picture then, and you're not seeing it now. I CAN. That's the difference between an adult and a child!"
"You're not an adult! You gave up your RESPONSIBILITIES so you could run around FUCKING Zim," the hallucination retorted, the expletive sounding all the more savage from a child's mouth, "You're not me! You're not the person I wanted to be. You're not even HUMAN any more, now! You're ... you're IRKEN, you're SLIME, you're HORRIBLE! I was a -hero-. Sure, I got stepped on, sometimes I felt bad, but I NEVER gave up!"
"I want to STAY ALIVE. You win wars by STAYING ALIVE. YOUR way, no matter how NOBLE or PURE you think it was, would have made me DEAD years ago! Zim would have killed me, and what DIFFERENCE would it have made for the world? NOT ONE. Face it, Dib, WE WERE GETTING NOWHERE!"
"BUT YOU STOPPED TRYING!"
Both Dib and his hallucination began to weep.
"Why are you dragging all this up NOW?" Dib screamed from the table. "Nothing I do now can change the past, and I don't regret what I've done, so why are you HERE? What do you WANT?"
Dib found the strength from somewhere to reach his hand a little toward the hallucination, despite the fact it pulled on muscles that hadn't healed fully yet and the pain made him want to scream and he could feel things being torn open fresh under his skin. The hallucination gave a quiet sniffle and closed the gap, ran to him and slipped close, under his fingers. Dib mussed the black sweep of the child's hair. The young Dib pushed his cheek into Dib's hand and wrapped tiny hands around Dib's wrist.
"Listen to me. You're in danger. Your -best friend- Zim is going to try and hurt you soon, and you won't be able to stop it. That's why you're hallucinating now. It's all been arranged, to make you helpless so you can't resist when it happens. He'll crawl inside your head, and he'll take your mind away. There won't be a Dib any more, not either one of us... it'll just be ZIM, forever and ever, until the end of the world." He raised miserable eyes to his future self in utter soul-anguish. "Is that really what you want?"
Dib's throat caught as the hallucination vanished.
There was something in his hand. He tried to focus. Wetness, nuzzling his palm... small... cold and smooth... huge gleaming eyes peering up at him from the floor... shining white and silver...
For a moment, he just couldn't make the connection; didn't know where he was or what he was doing. Trapped in a chemically induced haze, the world slid off his grasp like an egg broken over oil. He ran his tongue nervously over his lips. God, it was so hot. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open, the darkness was tugging him down...
Why was Gir looking at him like that, with watery pools at the bottoms of his eye-lenses?
His eyes were so bright...
More to come. Hope you like this new version; amazingly this time there are even LESS pillows than there were in the first one, making the title EVEN LESS RELEVANT! XD