Chapter 8: It Could Have Been Different...

Disclaimer: I do not own Jimmy Neutron

A/N: Welcome to the finale! This story has been through a lot and as I read through it again I saw not only the characters developed steadily but my writing too. All those that stuck through it I'm eternally grateful. (Also, Cindy's phobia is ophthalmophobia, fear of being stared at. Notice that whenever in the series Cindy does get a little nervous at this.) And thank you Blackfire18 for editing my story. Welcome to my conclusion of the events...

Cindy felt strange, like an eerie glow had surrounded her; no sound, warmth, or time. Everything that she could see had a surreal touch, something fake. But then she became conscious of the truly surreal image; a pale face. It was Jimmy who looked out of place; inappropriate there, silent, and... in peace. She hated him; it hurt why it should get peace and not her. He had robbed her of what she had wanted. Why? For what?

Then it hit her abruptly. He loved her and she killed him. Cindy knew that sometime during her life, but she could not and would not believe it. And because of that, this had happened; an overflow of emotions and hate. Cindy didn't know what to think. She only remembered two words; selfish and rigor mortis. That's right, he was being selfish. So why couldn't she?

She may have imagined it, but there was a light reflection of the fragmenting pentagons, weaving near the surface of the water. It haunted her, a memory of and monument of a past life, the beginning of a new. Something pulled her toward it, and she pulled Jimmy up with her, paddling her feet slowly as tiny bubbles trailed after her wake. Breaking the surface, she found rain pounding into her weary eyes. No sunlight had penetrated the grayish clouds. Spotting the raft, she pulled Jimmy toward it, unsure of what to do next.

Instructions were written on the side of the raft, directing how it was to be inflated and proper usage. Once she was able to discern them intelligible, she hosted the sodden cadaver lovingly onto the platform. Cindy then hoisted herself up and looked around. It was a yellow inflatable raft; sort of a smaller version of a child's shallow, round swimming pool except there were loops of rope to grip festooned all around the sides. The raft was enough to fit five people comfortably. The style was old fashioned compared to Jimmy's usual futuristic ideals, so it was probably one of his more dated inventions. As long as it works. Cindy thought numbly, staring at her submerged foot in ankle deep water.

Cindy plopped down with a splash and searched for the sub compartment Jimmy spoke of. She felt the plastic nylon surface for openings; soon afterward she found a flap and zipper concealed behind it. Once she unzipped it, water poured in; Cindy agilely slipped through the opening, gently dragging Jimmy along with her. Then she closed it back and searched around the sides for a drain compartment. The raft was dank and obscured in darkness, making her search difficult and dreary. Feeling the wall and floor of the raft, Cindy felt like she was in a locked trunk and this feeling did not abate until she pulled a plug. Miraculously, the plug only let water out, not in.

The air became stiffer by the second and Cindy grew alarmed at the exertion it had on her body. She tried relaxing into the wall when she felt a tiny protruding annoyance in the small of her back. It was a zipper again hidden under a flap that had caused her discomfort. Revealed by the opening was shelve-less cabinet, holding air tight packed towels and blankets; a first aid kit, food, a heater, filtered water tap, two switches, and a machine mounted against it. The section looked cluttered as if it survived an upheaval.

After flipping both switches and starting the heater, Cindy turned her attention to the machine, blinking as a soft, blue luminescent light flooded the inside of the raft. She recalled that Jimmy had a homing beacon on every one of his inventions. Why would this one be different? The machine consisted of one red button, a bulb, and computerized display screen. She pushed it the button with utmost certainty, which then the bulb flashed on and off repeatedly, and the screen lit in capital letters the word RETROVILLE. Satisfied, Cindy grabbed the vital items, closed the partition, and put back the flap.

Cindy leaned back against a different wall, closing her eyes. It would take some time before the raft heated up, and damp chill had already seeped to the bone. Past injustices to her body cried out, but before she helped herself she turned to Jimmy. She sat him in a dignified, upright position against the wall; after reaching for a towel and freeing it from its container; she dried Jimmy's face softly. She was easier around him now that those frightening, yet striking blue eyes were hidden behind closed lids. He did not respond as she wrapped him in a blanket and rested beside him, her legs stretched in front of her.

Though the air had become easier and warmer to breathe, there was a hollow emptiness in her that she could not describe, neither hunger or pain, that quaked. Soon her entire body began shaking. Her hair was plastered to her face and sweat ran down her temples. Cindy had a fever, yet she felt chilled to the bone. It was like a dream she thought that she would wake up from, in due time of course. And if she began to understand she wasn't going to wake up, the pain would come back with that much more force. Shivering, Cindy drew her legs up to her torso and rested her head on Jimmy's chest. There was no heartbeat. Her mind would not tell her that but her senses heard. They heard the lack of sound.

"It going to be a long trip, long as Sheen would call summer school." She whispered to Jimmy. "You can sleep though. And when we get back, we can tell everyone what happened. They would be so pleased how heroic you were. Wouldn't that be fun Jimmy? Yeah, Jimmy?" Hours passed like this. And her warped mind began to believe. She would try to feed Jimmy, talk to him. When she got no responses she would try to stand and start shouting at him, then crumple sitting in a side position, back facing Jimmy. She hurt herself in a way no one would understand by doing this.

Then she cried on Jimmy's shoulder, begging him for forgiveness. She was drawn into herself so far that now, Cindy would never find her way back. Now and forever lost.

Fifteen days later a raft hit Retroville shore. Out stepped not the face of an ingénue girl, but of a husk, dried and without life. All but a few would be able to say who that face belonged to, and one of those hung around her shoulder. Cindy, her eyes flashing, dangled off the edge of the raft, her left leg hanging useless, her right arm wrapped in a crimson tourniquet. By just looking at the arm, you could see it too, was dangling, unable to respond to will. A hideous infection festered on the arm grossly...

Cindy breathed through her mouth, taking in her first breath of black night air. She could not smell as good as before, but the air was not as stagnant in the raft. Hopping down, she made her way slowly down the avenue. She was carrying a decayed body close to her heart, like a child would a doll, and limped at a sickening pace. Not many people were up and about, and Cindy did not encounter anybody to her relief. She managed to traverse all the way to a certain clubhouse where it stood in thought and reminisced. Cindy then fumbled with the body and managed to pluck a hair, holding it to the DNA scanner. The door allowed access after reciting a pleasant greeting, and she walked slowly through the opening.

Cindy soon found herself in the deserted lab of Jimmy Neutron, and there she placed the body tenderly on the ground. "Soon Jimmy, soon." She mumbled in blurred dialect, almost soothingly. Cindy had found what she was looking for, the famed time machine. Entering the date and pulling the lever, she shuffled inside the booth holding her breath. There was an electric blue flash, and Cindy was whirled through a vortex of time and space.

Jimmy was working on a new invention, a watch exactly, that would be almost as powerful as his own. It would have a more girlish appeal than his, because he was giving it to a girl. That means no lasers or weapons of mass destruction. He was nearly finished with it and was going to wrap it up when his time booth flashed electric flows of blue. He sat up excitedly. Someone was going to visit him from the future or his past. Maybe even himself. He was naturally surprised when he saw who it was.

"Cindy! What are you doing here?" He exclaimed, breathless. It was Cindy, but her once dazzling emerald eyes had lost their spark, her frame sagging and shaking. She was in mortal danger.

"Ji...Ji...Jim-Jimmy?" She said distortedly. "JIMMY!" She screamed and half-ran, half-staggered toward him, but fell onto his lap with a small thud, pulling him into a bear hug. She weighed considerably light for her size. He pushed Cindy off him and held her shoulders, arms fully extended. She stood there, grinning ear to ear, looking woozy and thrilled at the same time.

Cindy had so much she wanted to say to him that no words came out. She just felt so happy to see him there, alive, animated...her eyes shined. Things could go right finally. She inhaled deeply and asked, " that for me?" She pointed to the unwrapped watch. A tag lay nestled beside it, her name written in scrawled blue letters.

"Ah, yes it is. I myself came back from the future a while ago to give tips on making it. I said it would be life threatening if I didn't." He gave a lopsided grin. "Is that you wearing it?" Jimmy pointed to her watch.

Cindy had not noticed she was still wearing it. It would not have helped her regardless because it was mostly destroyed in the fiery flames of the explosion. "Yup. Perhaps you should make it nonflammable too." She suggested. Jimmy nodded his approval and waited for more. Cindy gave him a look that said when I say perhaps I mean do it now. Jimmy pursed his lips and set himself back to work on it. Cindy rolled her eyes and squinted into nothingness.

The whole course of events changed by making a watch inflammable, how ironic it is to be prepared. She thought. Then she realized Jimmy had come from the future to make sure her watch was made. How many times and things could have been changed to Jimmy's liking? How many times may she have repeated this incident until she got it right? Is anything she knows permanent? This is why she disliked Jimmy using the time booth. Though he was a decent person, too many ifs get in the way.

Well, this should resolve the whole problem. Cindy sighed. This time I'll be able to contact help and this would have never happened. Jimmy would still be alive and... She stopped short. If this entire thing could have been revoked why didn't Jimmy do that in the first place? She knew he was off handed sometimes but this? There was something seriously wrong. There was something more Jimmy knew and she didn't.

Heh heh, he always knows more than you dummy. Old Cindy returned with a vengeance. She shut her out and posed strenuous concentration. Maybe he didn't want to stop the rocket incident. But if he didn't want to, he knew I would still have a disorder. Besides, all he said was he wanted to stop my parents death and I wouldn't let him so...oh. OH! Jimmy was such a jerk! He made her go back in time. That sly, cunning dog! She didn't give him enough credit. But for all that pain, helplessness, nervous breakdowns, despair; she felt like strangling him all over again then go back in time to see that same charming face smiling at her.

Cindy shot a glance at the diligent working Jimmy hunched over at his desk. Jimmy was...something special. She gazed at him with guilty eyes and swayed, rocking from toe to heel. She wondered what the thoughts of a genius were.

Jimmy caught her gaze in the corner of his eye and turned to look at her. Ignoring her had become the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. He knew that there was nothing he could do for Cindy's condition but it pained him to think why she would come here and impose on him like this. She wasn't the same anymore.

"Jimmy?" She asked, her voice strained.


She rubbed her arm. "I...I'm sorry. I know you meant best for me. I now understand the tendency you have to make things better." Cindy looked at the ground, unsure where this conversation will lead. She felt ashamed to even be in his presence. As for Jimmy, his mouth had turned suddenly dry. "You know what? Forget the watch." She drew herself to full height, trying to bolster the confidence that had failed her so many times before. "Just invite me to do something and take it from there. A ride for instance. I can guarantee you I'll say yes." Cindy said, trying to put a straight face.

Jimmy looked like someone sternly going to disagree but how could he argue with the experts? "But Cindy, what happened? Why the change of heart?" He looked aghast.

"Enjoy it now because you'll have a hard time finding it later, Nerdtron." The aghast look ebbed away. She had that familiar playful mocking tone again he grew to know and love. And though Cindy had a smile plastered on her face almost as lopsided as Jimmy's, it was a fitting one. A smile neither smug nor scheming, but pleasant, which gave Jimmy hope that someday he could find it again, not needing an invention to induce it or impress it. It became possible.

"Thanks Cindy." He said throwing the gift into a nearby trash can. "Are you going to be okay?" Jimmy asked. Cindy thought that was a stupid question, but then she had her second revelation that day. She mumbled a bit then whispered a bleak "bye". Jimmy nodded his head, his exotic blue eyes imprinting her on his memory. She didn't know if she imagined it, but those eyes glistened as he left the clubhouse with one prolonged, backward glance and into blinding sunlight.

Cindy did not know what would happen next, but had a vague idea. And it seemed true enough when her body flickered and began to diminish into a hazy, indistinct outline. If Jimmy succeeded at his undertaking, Cindy Vortex would cease to exist. Everything that happened, the rocket ship imploding, the cave, the drowning, and the raft; would never happen and neither would she, the person she had now become.

Many people in extremis would say their life flashed before their eyes. That would be similar to a dream. And her life after the crash would be like a dream. All the pictures, randomly assorted, would be put into some kind of plot, except with her missing from it.

And in this dream like world, it is there that Cindy never woke up.