Chapter 7-Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand
This was getting pretty strange. I had some of the pieces to the puzzle, but no way to start the connections.
"I… suppose," I respond to her. "If you would like a conversation. I have questions of my own."
I stood a good twenty feet away from her still. She smiles wanly and says "Take a seat, nervewracked voyager. I don't bite."
Unsteadily, I follow her suggestion, taking a seat closer and across from her on a tree stump. "Okay, I'd like to ask the questions."
"I do believe I requested a talk here?" she twiddles a piece of her haystrand-thin hair. "Therefore, I'd like to hold it."
I shrug. "I don't suppose it makes a difference. You and I probably have the same questions and intent."
"I believe so," she puts the harp down gently next to a piece of luggage, with loose strands on it. She then opens her eyes, and for the first time I see them. My own bugged as I beheld the unusual sight. They're actually quite stunning. They're a mix of a bright, glacier blue and a stark crimson, both sort of blended as if they're diagrams of mixing paint colors in a second grade schoolbook. On the left side of each iris is the glacier blue, and the center a deep violet. On the right side is the bright crimson. Hot, warm and cold.
While I'm looking at her eyes in wonder, I notice that she's looking at me as well. I draw back, feeling somewhat embarrassed, and look at her countenance. She has a coy smile on her face; I can see her examining me with a learning intrigue. She looks back up at me, and by now I'm looking back in my senses, and chuckles. "So we're done looking at each other now?"
"What? Oh, yeah, course," I mutter.
"So I'll go ahead and press start," she announces, with an interesting word choice. "I suppose you're wondering why I'm following you?"
"Most of all," I confirm. "And why you bolted from me at Snake's house."
"Oh, yes. You see, it's a bit of a long story."
"We have 7 hours until sunrise," I tell her. "We have time."
"Then I shall tell it to you," she states plainly. "I have a feeling you'll be very incredulous at this, but, hell, you asked for it."
She toys with another strand of her hair, and her eyes wander around the area, distracted as she tells her story. "You see, my life as I know it began 21 days ago. I know I lived longer than this, but I remember none of it. But, when I lost my memory, I gained insight to the future. The power of prophecy.
"My first vision of the future was small, but it was a confirmation. I saw car, careening off of a cliff; it crumpled in on itself until it was no bigger than a moving box at the bottom. The next thing I knew, I was on the street of a town I couldn't recognize, and all around the area everyone looked devastated, as if they had been hit hard by bad news. I pieced together that whoever this man was, his death was a hard blow to his community."
"The next day I turned on the news. To my surprise, I saw a shot of a car on the bottom of the same cliff, crushed into a box. The reporter announced that a Dr. Stewart had been killed in a horrific car accident. He mentioned that his hometown, who treasured him greatly, was shaken by his loss. That was a sudden confirmation of my vision of the previous night."
I nod when she finishes. "I heard of that. He's a good friend of Captain Falcon's, one of the biggest racers in the city. Or, was. Stewart was a pretty famous racer from what I heard."
She nods, focusing back on me. "You see, I had a vision; my first and only long term vision. And it was of you. Well, the first was in the short term. You were in your apartment, talking to a friend of yours. She had said something about Mario being kidnapped. You had said you'd go after him. Is that the reason you're out?"
I nod. "Exactly the reason you're out."
"The long term vision was you talking to her again, in a cabin up on a mountain. All I heard was 'They will literally stop at nothing. The fate of all that we know is in your hands.' And then I came to."
I was silent for a few seconds, taking it all in. "That's… more than I bargained for."
She nods again. "I'd understand. So, anyway, I decided to put my gift to good use. I tracked your mailing address on your website, and took watch on the roof. I played the harp as a signal so that way you'd find me again. When you left, I took advantage of a vision of you in Mute City and eventually found you. I played the harp again there to let you know that I was going to trail you and that you'd be seeing me again. I left as fast as I could because I knew now wasn't the time; not before the mission started. I play here tonight so that way I could integrate myself into your mission. After all, the world could be at stake."
I sigh. "I have a question for you."
"How is it you remember a lot of stuff, like Mute City and Mario and who I am, even? I thought you lost your memories."
"Oh? Continuity error? Well, I should explain myself," she puts a hand under her chin and her elbow on her leg with a short yawn. "You see, I still have my academic knowledge and basic skills in check. I know all that I knew before about other things, like music and celebrities, history and civics. What I don't know is myself. I don't know anything about myself. I don't know what music I like and what celebrities intrigue me. I don't know if I ever played a role in history, or if I am a celebrity even. That last one may be wishful thinking, though," she winks, but then sighs forlornly, longing for a solution to relieve her troubles. "I don't even know my name or what to call myself."
I ponder this last statement for a bit and ask, "What about 'Strings'?"
"Strings," I reiterate. "You're amazing at playing the harp. The way you move your fingers across the strings is, well, remarkable."
"Strings," she muses, trying the name out. "I am Strings. My name is Strings. Strings' the name, the future's my game. I like it."
"Strings it is, then," I concur.
"Luigi, before you go, I… do have a vision for you."
"Okay… fire away."
"It's… kind of a rough one," Strings says, her eyebrow cocked and an expression hard to determine. An expression that, after a bit of thinking, reminds me of an army captain breaking the news of a death to a housewife and young boy who spent the last year under the confidence that her husband and his father would return home safe and sound.
I suppose that comes from personal experience, though.
"Just… go ahead."
"Okay," she sighs again. "I saw you again, amidst wreckage and whiteness. You were lifting up chunks of wood and concrete, looking desperately for someone. You finally found them; lying limp on the ground. I couldn't see them well, just a fuzzy outline. You stood over their body, breaking down into sobs. All I heard was you saying 'I couldn't save you,' and the sound of a phone beeping a disconnected tone."
I sat there, stunned. Someone I knew was going to die; someone I cared about. And I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. This… couldn't happen.
"No," I whisper, surprised.
"Luigi, I know, it's hard-"
"No!" I shout this time. "This isn't going to happen! Something must be wrong, you couldn't have seen that!"
"Luigi, I did," Strings says frankly. "But you have to think of it in preventive measures."
"I can't, because it just… it can't happen!" I desperately counter.
"Luigi!" she raises her voice to match mine. "Snap out of it! Nothing will be accomplished if you-"
But I'm already leaving the area, hopping over a rock and fleeing, trying to deny this ever happened. To my utter disbelief, she calls back "I'll… see you tomorrow!"
I highly fucking doubt it, I think to myself in bitter anger.
I didn't sleep that night. I was there when Meta came back around two-thirty in the morning. He didn't say a word to me, or acknowledge me sitting there, eyes open, struggling to provide myself with steady breaths. He simply sits there, mask on, doing literally nothing but not sleeping.
It was around four-thirty when I convinced myself that Strings was definitely wrong, that there was no way this was going to happen.
At six-thirty, Snake woke up, stretching his arms and scrambling out of his sleeping bag. He looked at me, bags under my eyes and asks "Didn't sleep well?"
I shake my head. "Bad dreams," I explain with half-honesty.
"My total sympathy," he responds empathically. "Anyway, what are our plans?"
"About a two hour's hike up a nearby mountain trail is an Airship station, sort of like the ones in the Tournament's Rainbow Ride stage. It's an hour's ride up the mountain to the Summit Lodge atop Cool, Cool Mountain. Sort of a vacation retreat, but is an available and welcome rest point for travelers. I figure while there we can rest, recuperate, and I can get in touch with Daisy and give her a progress report."
"Sounds good," Snake grins. "I'd love to get my hands on a nice bottle of Coke."
"Well, if we can survive the trail, we can. It's an easy walk, just strenuous uphill."
"I think I can survive," Meta responds with a thin flippancy.
"I bet you can too. Anyway, let's pack off and head out. If you wanna take any last dips in the water before we go, go ahead. It's gonna be cold."
Before I finish, Snake's buried his head in the stream, and even Meta has his small feet dangling in. I can't help but chuckle a bit.
I can't really say much about the hike. I was uneventful. No landslides, no random Yetis, no avalanche, just us walking an average hike through the snowy woods and having average conversation.
We make it to the Airship terminal at nine o'clock. Meta Knight studies the ships with curiosity, as far as I can tell anyway. I hear him mutter "Hmmm…" under his breath. I wonder what he's thinking; I can't tell his emotion even a minute bit.
We purchase our tickets and board the airship. Unlike the Rainbow Ride in the Tourneys, this one has a roof and window barriers, as well as seats. It's more of a shuttle than the quaint little boat in the sky.
We buckle up. I watch the two others look out the sky. I'm sure they've both ridden in something like this, but not around here. It's rather scenic, and you can see the clearing and the contrasting divide of desert and snow between the two. The Mushroom Kingdom is a beautiful place, really.
The hour's ride goes by quietly; Meta and Snake are both contemplatively observing the view, taking it in. I imagine it's nice to have a change of pace after the adrenaline-rushed day yesterday.
We arrive at the top. I thank our driver, a Kingdom Citizen Koopa with a conductor's hat and short orange hair. We have a pretty decent amount of pacifistic Koopas and other such creatures that prefer to integrate into the kingdom peacefully rather than bombard the everlasting shit out of it; such as the crew of Bandits that are working as spies for Daisy. This is more the work of Peach than of Bowser.
The Lodge itself is pretty well engineered. The vents inside pump pure oxygen like you'd see in a hyperbolic chamber. It keeps your breathing steady in the climate and even energizes you for ski runs.
We walk inside the nearby lodge. Snake's saying something about getting a cheeseburger and kicking his legs up and Meta Knight makes an even-toned quip about doing the same if he had any legs. I'm not really paying attention; I can swear I recognize a figure in the corner of the dining room sitting at a laptop on the table. The others don't really notice as I walk over towards the figure stealthily, trying not to make a fool out of myself if I'm wrong.
About halfway over I grin as my suspicions are confirmed. The figure is green, with a large tail with small scale plates on it. The woman is wearing a red business suit made up of a long skirt and button-down shirt, and her blazing, spiked red hair is visible above her large round nose comparable to a bowling ball; her own words, not mine. She looks up on her own accord, and then her large, green eyes recognize me from the remaining distance. She slams her laptop shut, scoots her chair out and then walks swiftly towards me. Before I can say anything, she wraps me in a large hug and a jovially growling laugh.
"Luigi! It's freaking terrific to see you here!" she says mid-laugh, squeezing me.
"Ah, Melanthe. The feeling's mutual," I reply, squeezing back lightly.
Melanthe is one of the most important people in my life. I knew her since birth; literally. She's the forty-five year old chief of the Yoshi Tribe ten years running, and will be for life most likely. Thirty years ago at the fresh age of fifteen, she spearheaded an underground effort to save myself and Mario from Kamek as babies, who was trying to kill us in order to protect a thirteen year old Bowser from us after his Magikoopa prophecy predicted us having many victories over him. That was the year that Kamek urged Bowser to start his revolution against the Mushroom King.
In short, she's the reason I'm alive. I'd say I owe my life to her, but she dismisses those claims saying that having me around is reward enough. She's become a sort of another motherly figure to me.
"So, what brings you here, Mel?" I ask.
"Oh, business, business, business," she replies lightly. "Having a meeting with some people of business unions. Trying to work out these conditions going on in Firemelon Bay; the workers have been given a hard time and I wanted to hear from them first hand. Hence, I invited them here to meet with them. They're preeeetty pissed at us. But, hey, I understand. I'd be pissed too."
It's also worth noting that Melanthe, as a leader, is regarded as one of the best by her people, and that's because she listens to them. She's fiercely protective of her fellow Yoshis and the interspecies immigrants that come to her tribe.
"Well, best of luck to that," I reply.
"So, sport," she replies with a smile, "what brings you here?"
I try to sidestep the issue a tad. "Well, my friends and I are here on a sort of mission." Before she can ask what it is, I add, "Would you like to see them?"
"Bring 'em over!" she responds with a grin.
"Snake! Meta! Over here!" I call. Snake brings his tray over and Meta, carrying nothing but a sheathed Galaxia over his shoulder, takes a seat at the table.
"You two!" her grin gets wider. "I sorta kinda remember you guys from the tourney! Snake, right? And… Mister Mystery!" she points at Meta with a devious grin on her face.
"Meta Knight," he replies coolly.
"Same difference!" she is unaffected by his words.
"Nice to see you, Mrs. Yoshi." Snake says, extending a hand out.
She takes the hand but cordially corrects him. "Whoa, dude. Mrs. Yoshi was my mother. And the biggest differences between my mother and I is that she's married and I'm still as young as ever. Call me Melanthe; don't be shy about it."
"Melanthe it is," he replies, a bit sheepishly.
"So, Luigi, what kind of mission are you guys on?" she asks, flipping open her laptop. "Oh, and I hope you don't mind me jotting a few things down; I'm a record-breaking multi-tasker. If only I had more arms."
I sigh, knowing she's going to flip when she hears this. "Well, uhm… how do I put this…"
"Mario's been kidnapped," Meta states it frankly.
Melanthe freezes in time, no longer typing at lightspeed. Her expression is one of shock. She slams her laptop so fast that I worry that she broke it. She looks directly at me and mouths "You're shitting me."
I shake my head.
"I know, Mel, I know." I grab her hand.
She takes a breath with a growl, slams a fist on the table, and then regains her cool. "Okay, does anyone have chump change I could use?"
"Why do you ask?"
"I left my phone at home. I need to use the phone booth here and tell Milde to cancel my appointments for the next month or so."
"Mel, you've got a whole nation to attend to. You can't risk it-" I start, but I'm interrupted.
"Luigi, that is one of the most important things to me in this world," she starts firmly. "But it doesn't hold a candle to you and Mario. You two are practically my Godchildren. I'll be Goddamned to hell and come back with a sno-cone before I let anything happen to you."
With a pained, determined look, she goes on. "I ask again, do you have a half-coin?"
I dig in my pocket and pull out a coin that represents a half-coin, the equivalent of a half-dollar. It's basically a small coin that is made out of a less valuable substance. She accepts it and says "I'll be right back."
…sound of a phone beeping a disconnected tone…
The words from last night give me a visible jolt. Fearing premonitions, I tell Melanthe "Be careful, alright?"
"I'll try to be careful around the menacing phone booth," she gives me a wan grin. "Don't worry about me."
I sigh, realizing how foolish I look. "Long night," I explain half-heartedly.
She gives me another hug and says simply "You know I love ya, right Weeg?"
"Course," I say, slightly embarrassed. "I love you too, Mel."
She lets me go with a smile and walks towards the nearby phone booth. Fearing some sort of teasing from Snake that probably wouldn't happen anyway, I get my own phone out and dial Daisy's number.
As predicted, she picks up on the first ring. "Yo, Weeg, what's up?"
"Hey, Dais. There's a pretty big change of plans going on."
"Oh?" she sounds concerned. "What happened?"
"I don't know how, but we got a ride from Meta Knight, and his ship was destroyed right out of the sky. We abandoned ship in the Dry Dry Desert,"
"Jesus Chirst," she gasps. "Where are you now?"
"Well, Snake, Meta and I made it through the desert and The Transition Clearing, and now we're at the Cool, Cool Mountain's Summit Lodge, regrouping. Unfortunately, it looks as if we're going to be on our own for a lot of the way."
"God help us," she sighs. "Well, what else did you find out? Anything on our perp?"
"A bit," I reply. "We pieced together that an extraordinary force is likely behind this, I heard one of his lackeys call it 'The Almighty Ones.' "
"Whoa," I hear a thump that sounds like her dropping into a chair. "This is getting to be deeeeep shit."
"I know, I know."
"Luigi, I'll tell you what. You focus on getting Mario back, and I'll focus on getting a group together to go undercover and find out more about this 'Almighty Ones' group."
"Through a princess' connections," she responds, the gears in her head undoubtedly running at hyperspeed. "I know quite a few people who would be good warriors and agents. I'll get a band of powerful fighters together and we'll handle this."
"Wow, thanks, Dais," I chuckle. "This is great."
"Hey, it's the least I could do," she laughs. "And it's hella exciting. Anyway, I'll check in with you in a few days. You stay safe, alrighty, bro?"
"I will. You too, okay?"
"Will do," she says with a sigh. I respond with one as well. I think we're both feeling the same; it's always a bittersweet occasion when you know that this is the last time you'll talk to a dear friend in days, a brief respite from the battles and trials. And there's that nagging feeling that it could be the last one ever, a fear that you try and push back like a skeleton in the closet, but never really goes away.
"Alrighty, good luck, Luigi," she says, with a rare use of my full name.
"Same to you, Daisy," I say, knowing that we're trying to drag out the conversation.
I wait until she hangs up before I put my phone away.
With another sigh, I walk towards the cafeteria, getting some food.
I look over the cooler of sandwiches somewhat near the phone booth, and I can hear Melanthe's loud, boisterous voice through the old-fashioned booth. "-yes, Milde, I know it's sudden, but this is a personal emergency that could affect the world… what do you mean, overdramatic?… yes, I need to leave ASAP. Give the worker's group my sincerest apologies and a rescheduling date, and ask them, for God's sake, not to start a riot."
I laugh at my godmother's way of handling politics as I pick a cheep-cheep fish sandwich. It's there that everything goes to shit.
For it's at that moment that I hear it. A large, rumbling sound that strikes fear in my heart. I don't even have the time to shout "Avalanche!" before it hits the lodge. No amount of engineering could ever have prepared us for it.
In ten seconds, it's all wrecked. Somehow I survived without a scratch, only God knows why. Maybe a window or the sky roof made it an easy escape. But the entire lodge is scattered and disassembled beyond recognition. Wood, concrete and glass are the majority of the wreckage but there is some equipment as well. I see a stove burner and vent pipes a little bit away.
I notice Snake unsteadily rise to his feet a distance away, and Meta floating above the mess with a few wing-flaps. I don't know how on earth anyone could have survived that. But we did-
I frantically look around for any sign of her, throwing concrete and wood out my way. Anywhere. And I find it. The phone booth, with chunks of Plexiglas broken off, is a good twenty feet away. I leap over the wreckage as I approach it. I find a five coin in front of it and pick it up on a whim.
I break in the glass with my foot, and it falls onto Melanthe but doesn't hurt her any further. There's a large gash on her thigh, tearing through her skirt. Her face is somewhat bloody and her arm looks crushed.
"Mel!" I hiss, shaking her non-crushed shoulder rapidly.
"…P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way-" she mutters, dazed.
"Melanthe! Snap out of it!" I plead.
Her eye lazily creeps open and she says "Lui…gi…" She tries to move, but fails. "Am I alive?" she says, a bit inebriated but pleading all the same. She sees the money in my hand and chuckles at the irony and the song, and she adds weakly "…or thoughts that drift away?"
I nod, torn up inside. "Does summer come for everyone?"
Can humans do what prophets say?
That's when I get motivated. I try to lift her up, and somehow I succeed. Gingerly, I lift her out of the booth, tilting her so I can move her large tail out of the booth. I unsteadily walk over the wreckage, searching desperately for solid ground.
Can humans do what prophets say? I refused for what Strings said to pass. I would not do what she said would happen. I wouldn't stand there as my godmother died in front of me.
"You're going to live," I promise.
"Undoubtedly," she weakly chuckles.
Can humans do what prophets say? She insisted on my way out that I take preventive measures, to make sure this never happens. And I'd fight to my last breath to make sure that happens.
Can humans do what prophets say? As I carry Melanthe out of the rubble, her breath slow and blood seeping out despite my best efforts, I decide that I would not do what the prophet says, but that I would as well.
A/N I was super eager to get this up. The coy, mysterious Strings is introduced and so is the boisterous, cheerful Melanthe. I think I'll clarify a few things about the latter; the former is to be in mystery still.
Melanthe is not an OC; I gathered the emotions and aspects of Yoshi as we know it and put it to my own interpretation of more realistic proportions, and created what I see our hero Yoshi as being. I know Yoshi's referred to as a male but I just couldn't un-see a badass woman Yoshi as the character. Yoshi's my favorite hero of all time; without his dedication there would be no Mario, even putting up with the crying fits. (I did make Bowser a bit older to fit in with the previously mentioned storyline.) And the thing is, for the most part Yoshi didn't know that Mario was going to be the ever-loving savior of the kingdoms. He (or she XD) did it because it felt like the right thing to do.
Also, as a voice actor, I would totally choose an unlikely person for her- Ellen DeGeneres. Come on this would be so great! She's got that same energy as Melanthe- I took a big influence from her to begin with. She's got the upbeat cheer, but it'd also be interesting to see her play Mel's intensity and anger, qualities not oft found in Ellen's work or in Ellen herself. It'd be a cool thing to see.
So, yeah, that's Melanthe. When you'd normally see Yoshi in a story of mine, you'd see Melanthe. To me, she is Yoshi.
And now, for the first time in, like, forever, I get to answer viewer reviews! Yay!
Eggplant Witch-Naw, I wasn't teasing you or glaring at you with a sneaky grin. It was actually a pat on the back for being observant. I had plans to bring that back up but you totally noticed it. Thumbs up.
WrathDraconian- Yeah, totally love the informality. I guess it makes sense to say that since I can't exactly publish this as a book (copyrights out the ass) this is a personal project, one that I'll print out and keep as a souvenir through the years. So I don't pay as much attention to tradition and write for myself (and you guys) more than anything.
Araceli L- …was the tense screw up in chapter 5? I realize I did in four but in five? O.o Also, as far as the POVs go, it for the most part will follow scene changes, but not always; sometimes it's good to see through other's POVs. I chose Snake for those chapters because I wanted to shape his character up a bit. Also, I'm seriously glad you liked Chapter 6, especially because usually action scenes can be a bit of an Achilles' heel. That review made my week. XD
Star Gamer-Well, wait no more, my state-the-obvious friend. *elbows playfully*
So, yeah. Chapter 8 will be up soon. A bit of a change of pace for a bit. Also, for those who are wondering, this is going to be a 16-18 chapter story from the looks of it, and then there's going to be a book 2 to give more streamlining- this was all going to be one book but it'd be a freaking big book, as the unnamed part two will be the same length as the first. And due to my tendencies to oversize chapters 16-18 isn't even set in stone.
Either way, read, reviews, and enjoy! Also, if I calculated correctly, approximately 300 different people have read this story, and there are nearly 750 or so views! Wowwee!
P.S. The literary work that deserves my kudos this week is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. My god, I loved that book a lot more than I thought I would.
Also, look up the song "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand" by Primitive Radio Gods. This is 90s gold.