~ 1 ~
First, I heard the whispers. It was a group of people talking quietly only a few steps away, and I recognized them for what they were. If I wanted to concentrate hard enough I could figure out what they were saying. But I couldn't find the strength; my head felt hollow, almost the same as it did after an insertion. It's too soon for an insertion, part of me protested. Was it? Well, if I believed so, then it had to be true. I tended to have a strong intuition, and it was usually right.
OK, let's see what happened. Better take the bull by the horns and get over the worst part fast–it was what the Healers advised, anyway. I braced myself, metaphorically speaking, and started to flip through the memories. I was looking for the most recent ones, whether they were the Host's or mine. I noticed something strange. While I had no problem finding my memories or thoughts related to me, I found no trace of someone else. It felt like no one else had been in there, just me. Great, they put me in a damaged host, I thought, revolted and annoyed, probably one that blew its brain out. I shuddered at the image that passed through my head and I hurried to chase it away. So messy. I didn't have time to fix it, I had things to do. Whatever… somehow I was going to deal with it. And right now was the best time to start.
What body had they gotten me? I didn't remember choosing it like I did before so I must have had an accident or something, although I couldn't remember it either. Head trauma? Post traumatic stress? The Healer was going to tell me, no doubt. I hoped they had gotten the gender right at least; seeing a man PMSing would have been embarrassing even for the Souls.
It felt almost like my old body. I was pretty fond of my old body, and it had helped me during several years and tough times. It saddened me to lose it. Besides, it was still young and in its prime; it was a shame to waste a good Host. This new one felt a little less responsive, like it was recovering after a long sickness. It felt weak–yes, this was the word I was looking for. And I was not weak. See, I had learned this world's language well, and I wasn't ready to give up on this race that easily.
Letting out a small sigh, my eyelids fluttered and I opened my eyes. There were no lights on the ridiculously high ceiling, and the only source of light was coming from a desk aligned on the opposite wall. This room was darker than any healing facility I had ever been to. Even the walls were oddly shaped and had an unusual color. I spotted the Healer, not one that I was familiar with. He was tall and slender, talking with a group of people. One of them, a young girl, caught my eye. She was blonde with big gray eyes and angelic features. I took one look at her and gasped. Now I remembered.
The entire scene played in front of my eyes as if I were in a movie theater.
The young blonde girl approached the cashier, pushing an overloaded shopping cart. She gave the bored woman sitting behind the counter a pleasant though slightly timid smile. "Hello!"
"Hi." The brunette woman sat up at her approach and smiled. "Stacking up for the winter?" she asked, picking up the first of the packages.
"We're going camping for a few days," came the hesitant but still friendly answer.
The brunette nodded appreciatively, seeing the brands of food picked. "Nice… good tastes too…" She stopped from scanning and looked up. "But don't you have a couple of strong brothers to help you carry it? This stuff is heavy."
"They're outside. They don't like shopping as much as I do." The girl giggled and placed a hand over her mouth to keep herself quiet.
"Men." The brunette rolled her eyes.
"Yeah," she agreed. "I like your nail polish," she said after a pause.
"Oh?" The cashier seemed almost surprised that another Soul on earth might find such a bright color appealing. "It's called Pomegranate Gem. You can find it on the middle shelf on the third aisle. You better get a new bottle of nail polish remover too. It takes forever to wipe it off," she muttered.
"I will." The girl smiled. She paid, loaded her bags of groceries into her cart, and left.
The sun was starting to set when the cashier left the supermarket, having finished her shift. The soft warm breeze was dancing in her long, wavy hair. She tossed it back over her shoulder and continued to walk towards her car. A good long soaking in the tub at home sounded like a good idea. At least her feet hurt less than the other day; these new sandals were much more comfortable.
"Oh, hi. Car trouble?" she asked, seeing the blonde girl from the supermarket getting out of a van. She frowned slightly as two, then three, and then four tall men followed and surrounded her protectively. The young girl hadn't been kidding; she did have strong brothers.
"Can you show us how to get to…?" The girl fumbled with a large map.
"Sure." The brunette stepped closer, unaware of the danger. It was too late when she felt the presence behind her. She repressed the impulse to fight when someone grabbed her from behind and pressed something into her mouth.
I remembered everything in a flash. There hadn't been an insertion; they had simply kidnapped me. They'd kidnapped me! I couldn't hold back a whimper as liquid fear invaded my system in a rush. I wasn't used to that. But I also hadn't been kidnapped before, I was sure of that.
"No, no, it's alright. We're all friends here." The blonde girl hurried to comfort me, reaching out with her small hand but not finishing the gesture. She took a small object from the Healer and aimed it at her eyes, making the silver behind her irises glow.
"See, I'm like you." She smiled. "And so is Sunny here." She gestured towards an older brunette girl with a mass of curls framing her small round face that stood behind her. She didn't say anything about the 'brothers' surrounding them. One look at their wary and suspicious faces and I had a feeling they didn't feel the same way about me as the blonde girl did. I could only guess they were humans. That made me wary too.
"We're not gonna hurt you," she repeated like I was deaf, but she had such a nice smile that it was hard to hold a grudge.
"What… happened? Where… am I?" I stammered, confused.
"We want to talk to you about your host," she said.
"My… host?" I couldn't help it; the wariness slipped into my voice and I winced. That only made the men more suspicious. I couldn't identify which ones had kidnapped me. I had seen them only briefly in the parking lot with the sun shining from behind. However I could count, and the number fit the men in the room, except for an older man with white hair and Santa-like beard and a young boy in bad need of a haircut. There was also another girl, tall with long, straight black hair. That one scared me. "What about my host?"
"Can you hear her?" the blonde girl asked, leaning forward slightly. Her body language betrayed her. The answer had to be important to her.
But hear her? What kind of question was that? "Umm…" I had to stop my eyes from narrowing. "No… why?" Wrong answer. Or perhaps it shouldn't have been followed by a question.
"But that's not a foreign concept to you, is it?" The man with sun bleached hair jumped at the opportunity, and his question sounded more like an accusation.
"I… uhh…" I hesitated but continued with a weak voice, "I have heard of such cases." It was better to tell them the truth. Maybe they knew about such things, since they asked.
"But she doesn't speak to you?" the brunette girl with straight hair asked.
"No. She never has."
She sighed and shook her head.
This made me continue. If I was considered damaged goods, who knew that they might see fit to do to me? "I had dreams for a while in the beginning," – her dreams, but I didn't feel the need to specify that – "and then they just stopped." My voice was somber, and I lowered my eyes. I cringed upon seeing the hand with bright red fingernails. Yes, it was my body I was wearing; I had that confirmation now.
"Do you know why?" It was the first time the Healer had spoken.
I raised my eyes. "She chose to… vanish… for good." I was hard to find the right words, and there was a chance they might not understand.
"How come?" The young boy watched me with curiosity.
"Her partner died." It pained me to think about that episode. Some might think it had brought me peace, but it was far from that.
"Oh, I'm sorry for your partner," the other brunette girl, the one with curly hair, said with compassion.
"No, it was her human partner. I guess she saw no reason to live without him." I shrugged carelessly, but it was far from what I actually felt.
There was a gasp from someone standing behind the line of tall men, and I saw a top of brown hair as the man headed out of the room. He disappeared through the exit. I caught a brief glance of his face before he left, and the sudden pain that stabbed my heart made me wince. The older man looked back and shook his head, but didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry," the blonde girl murmured.
"That's all right. It was a long time ago." I wasn't keen on telling them how long exactly. Humans didn't take kindly to first wave of invaders.
"There's no point in trying then," the dark haired man with striking blue eyes who stood close to her said.
"I guess not," she sighed.
Try what? My eyebrows furrowed and I wished someone would explain to me what was going on.
"But that doesn't mean she can't stay?" The boy looked up at the adults for approval.
"Well, she needs to rest for now and then we'll see if she likes it here." The Healer smiled. "What's your name, by the way?"
"Star… light." I hoped the hesitation had passed unnoticed.
"Hi! I'm Wanda, or Wanderer if you like." The blonde girl gave me a friendly smile. "This is Doc," she nodded at the Healer, "Ian…" the blue eyed man, "Mel…" the scary girl, "Jared…" sun bleached hair, "Jamie…" the boy, " Sunny…" mouse-like features girl, "Kyle…" huge like Ian, "and Jeb." She listed everyone around, and they nodded in return while I committed their faces to the memory.
"Welcome to our home, Starlight." The old man – Jeb – grinned.
- Author's note:
Thank you to my wonderful beta readers. If you read it, please review.