So sorry for leaving you guys hanging for so long. I had some conflicting ideas on the last chapter and how everything would end. I probably should have clarified that it's more of a prologue than an ending, which is why it's so short. Honestly I didn't expect it would take me so long to finish.

I've learned about myself that I'm way better at smaller works than larger ones. So I plan to try and do strictly one-shots in the future. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me (and to the recent reviewers who gave me a kick to get moving!) I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as I have :)

Chapter 10

The fire had nearly a day to smolder itself into obscurity by the time Dib returned. Standing in the field eyeing the twisted wreckage of Zim's once-majestic ship elicited few inqueries from his mind, demanded few reasons why he felt he had to return. The most convenient answer was obvious—he'd stolen a truck, and the farmers deserved to have it back. But the excuse was awkward even to the part of him that wanted desparately to believe it.

He came back because...he had to. Because the familiar had been turned unfamiliar, the comfortable wicked. And, somehow, standing in the smoking remnants of wickedness put it all into perspective.

He sighed, gravel crunching beneath his feet as he turned to survey the smashed barn far in the distance. He'd parked the truck along the outside wall. Hopefully the farmers weren't too spooked to come looking for it. He'd been expecting to see an entourage of government agents swarming the corn fields, all staring intently at strange reading devices clicking away in their palms, but no such luck. Only part of him was surprised. A small, deflated, nearly dead part.

"So what do I do now?"

He spoke to no one in particular—the wreckage, maybe. Or Zim. He wasn't sure if Irkens believed in the afterlife, couldn't remember enough of his encounters with the alien to know if it had ever been mentioned. Maybe they believed in nothing. Or maybe Zim floated only a few feet away, a little green ghost, transparent fists quivering in comical rage just the way Dib remembered him. The way he was supposed to be.

A chuckle left his lips, dryer than the dirt beneath his feet.

"I'm screwed, aren't I?"

Not surprisingly, he didn't receive an answer. The wreckage didn't so much as shift, and if ghost-Zim did exist somewhere he wasn't interested in talking.

A breeze rustled Dib's hair as he glanced down the road. He hadn't given much consideration as to how he was going to leave—further testament to the fact he had nowhere to go. His cellphone had been discarded some hundred miles back, another piece of litter on a backwater highway. There was no one to talk to; no one to call. One step forward and he was walking aimlessly in a random direction...west, he thought. The gravel made rhythmic crunching sounds beneath the soles of his boots.

His mind danced in contrast to the steady rhythm of his pace. It spent time in his childhood, then at the party, Zim's base, college, adolescence, Zim's ship, then his childhood again; there was no method to how it wandered and Dib was content to leave it. He reveled in the simplicity of the situation minute after minute, step after step. It was a refreshing hiatus to a mind accustomed to constant activity. The horizon stretched before him, unfathomable—much like the mystery his life had recently become. Dib was so accustomed to order, control; it was terrifying and liberating to be freed from both structures at once.

Did Zim do me a favor?

The thought leapt, unbidden, to the forefront of his attention. Carefully, Dib examined the question. He puzzled every angle, projected his might-have-been future along the course he hypothesized it would have taken, then rewound and settled it firmly atop his current situation. Was he so much worse off? Or better?

He had always pictured himself successful, rich, happy. He would probably never have married or had children—his own experiences soured his desire to inflict a scientist/father's attention upon another human being—but he would have been famous. He would have been powerful, in a sense.

Dib stopped.

He would have been his father.

Now what was he? A nomad wandering a broken path. Some half-written script that had never been finished.

Dib turned. He could still see the smooth curve of the purple wreckage poking from the earth surrounded by hundreds of crushed corn stalks. It was a shame no one was around to see it, he thought. Actually, more of a waste. This was, after all, tangible contact with extraterrestrial life—and no small sample of it, at that. Not some blurry picture. Not some half-crazed conspiracy theorist sputtering about monsters from the stars. This was real and metal and science. It flew in Earth's atmosphere, it generated power to fuel its engines...

Excitement clutched at Dib's heart—the first flicker in a dead soul.

I could make this work.

All he had to do was get one colleague to look at it. Just one person to consider the possibility, a friend or a research associate. He was respected now...they would listen to him. Pieces of the wreckage would be nice, but it would be even more impressive to have some of the technology...

...or a body...

Dib turned back towards the crash site, his feet moving faster. Before long he had broken into a run.

A body would be undeniable proof. If he could get that...he'd be famous. Rich and happy and famous. And, someday, humanity would thank him.

They would all thank him.


If you haven't noticed, every chapter in this work is named after an appropriate song. And none are more appropriate than the one the last chapter is named after. If you're bored and have the time, I'd recommend looking up the lyrics to them and having a listen. Feel free to email me if you need help with the artists.

Thanks again for hanging in there. After all, stories are nothing until they are read :)