I first off I want to sincerely apologize for the work-ethic that I've demonstrated towards the end of the story, inconsistant updates on off-days, less-than satisfactory chapters, etc. The list goes on, as I'm sure the majority of you agree. At any rate, it's been an EXTREMELY long month, and not to badger you with my personal problems, I've recently found out that there is no cure for what I have but waiting until I'm in my twenties and hoping it goes away. Otherwise, I'll be having to take a combination of various pills -like an old person-for the rest of my life. You understand why I've been so out of it. Not to mention all the student-to-teacher meetings and school-things have kept me busy.
Regardless, I want to thank you all for staying with me, waiting it out through the hiatuses, rereading in the chapter-changes and above all, your fabulous reviews/support. Please know that they kept this story alive to become what it is today. Without it, I would have given up a looooong time ago.
(After this, two stories are coming. For more information, please visit my profile.)
"Road to road
Bed to bed
Lover to lover
And black to red . . ."
Musical-inspiration for this chapter goes solely to the lovely and ever-beautiful compositions of Florence + The Machine: Lover to Lover, Seven Devils, and Breath of Life.
"Finally, The End"
"Waking to the glare staining the eye
Hearing the cry of morning's day
Hear we will fail to meet expectations
And from salvation we will abstain."
I looked at the roof. Hours upon hours of listening to my neighbor's quiet mutterings, small nursery rhymes I imagined she thought were prayers. Crazy as these people were, I wouldn't doubt some of their heads were filled with more beauty and content then we could ever have imagined. I found myself wishing I was crazy, now, if I wasn't about to become so already. Maybe I'd already started down the road, and this was the result of some coma-induced fantasy that would only be broken once my subconscious was killed.
Or, maybe, this is real.
And I'm about to die.
I couldn't withhold the shudder. It physically pained me, every move, like my body was already dead and simply was waiting for the more permanent solution. People always said I had the complexion of a healthy corpse. As it would seem, I would not be so healthy by the end of today.
Maybe it was better this way. Hadn't I been so willing to kill myself earlier, to protect my brother, and Zim(God knows where he was hiding)? Why should I have fancied this to be any different? In fact, it might have actually been easier. On me, anyways. I wouldn't be the one to take my life. I wouldn't be the one who ruined any chance the three of us had at winning against Membrane. He would. He'd always be the murderer.
And really, now that I thought about it, I'd already won against Membrane. I killed his project. I killed the closest thing he had to a daughter. How much had he wasted on me? C2-F, his pet-project, Gaz . . . whatever he wanted to call me, really. I belonged to him as much as anyone could own another living, thinking being. And I'd still managed to find an escape.
I could already feel their sedatives- willingly taken, for once- beginning to sink in. I was promised a humane murder. And with this assured, I couldn't help but let my mind wander to the thoughts people have when they're preparing themselves to die.
Put down like a dog, and still so much more thorough.
In these peoples minds, was I anything more than a business venture?
What would be waiting for me, if anything, when I died?
And would Zim, or my brother even, ever find me there?
And finally, inevitably, I began to cry as several large men moving in blurred motion- slowly fading streaks of their former selves remaining where they'd previously been- opened the door and began to head towards me.
(1)". . . I would like to first and aforemost state that I never wanted this for you. Not for you . . ."
I couldn't move. But that was okay.
Where would I go if I could, anyways?
. . . My . . . head . . . hurtsssssss . . .
"No matter what you say, you were always like a daughter to me.
"But it should be said that I never knew how to be a good father, and often find myself understanding why I could never find a woman to assist me in my scientific ventures, to understand the man that I was.
"And it was spefically because something up their had the good common sense not to let a man like me raise children . . ."
". . . But I was foolish, and did not listen. And for that, you suffered. Your brother suffered. The world suffered. Because I was selfish, and I wanted to be a father . . . No, I didn't. I wanted to be like a father to one of- the most powerful creature mankind had ever come across. Your burdern would be my glory. But, as it would seem, it appears as though my actions were the project of both of our undoings . . ."
. . . Don't laugh . . . at me . . .
". . . You never asked for this. I know that. But you were born for this. If I had known this was how things were going to end, I wouldn't have done it. I swear I wouldn't have. And I'm afraid that that promise, and your peaceful, painless death is all I can offer you now. It isn't much, but, there isn't another option, Gaz. If I don't do it, someone else will. You'll be plagued by the city your whole life. You'll never know peace until everyone thinks you've been dealth with . . ."
". . . You should've been human. You of all people, a wonderful daughter, a beauty beyond fair human comparison. And Dib, almost a mirror-image of myself, but so much younger. Filled with more morals at his age than I've ever even dreamed of comprehending. He isn't a defect, I know that now. He's his own person, and I shouldn't have pretended otherwise. I shouldn't have abandoned you two . . . Tried to do what I did . . ."
. . . Something brushed my hair. Or maybe my face. Couldn't really feel either of 'em . . .
"Please believe me-." -hic- "When I say that I am sorry. I am truly, deeply, and will forever be sorry, Gazlene."
Something pinched my arm. Just a little. It didn't hurt.
And then I was dead.
(2) It isn't anything like anyone says it is. It's exhausting, to die. Relief isn't immediate. You're still feeling the last bits of your body ebb away, pieces of your soul still stuck in your body. It's a terrible feeling to be in two places at once. Not painful, but it's an awful sensation to be incomplete in two separate places. But it gets better, it really does. Not quickly, but smooth. Slowly. Unhurried.
Because you're already dead.
What could you possibly be running around for?
I felt like crying. Somewhere, and I'm not sure on which part of myself, I was. I could feel it, but it was as though they were only half-there. Like time had screw up, and didn't understand that a tear was a solid object instead of a phantom feeling. I swiped at my face with hands that felt more like a paw, a solid mass, then a five-fingered, intricate piece. But things need not be so complicated in death.
Voices started speaking. A small chorus of them, like the chatter of a small party. Neither friendly nor mean, simply existing, speaking, waiting for something. For me to become tangible. And I knew it was only when I was whole that I would be able to identify their intentions by their voice. Friend or foe, what they were saying to one another.
I couldn't see anything. But images were coming into view, and I thought I saw copper the color of gold.
And then things froze. I was suspended in a paradox, a warp without color, and only one color, and a taste like cotton balls. Unwhole. Vulernable. Unreal.
I wanted this to be over.
". . . Gaz?"
"-Get her on her feet . . .!"
The voices paused.
I felt more phantom sensations. Movement I wasn't doing. And I watched the magnificent color, unseen, start to tarnish. I'd never been more scared. I started struggling. This wasn't right. No, this couldn't be right. I wasn't going to let this be taken from me.
"She's not breathing!"
"SO MAKE HER THEN!"
I started sobbing into my fingerless hands that were mist and rooted myself to the floor. I became more tangible. But still the relief eluded me. I felt pressure on my chest and balls of my feet that did not exist. That were not there. Someone was fighting for me, I realized. For my soul to return, to go back to Hell. To reality.
Didn't they realize I wanted this to just be done with?
How could they do this to me?
"Stop," I cried out. And I watched my words, a flourescent, slightly translucent silver, float into the air and dissolved into stars. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen as they shone. I began to understand why there were so many stars. The breath of angels. Of the dead. The black around it the shadows of doubt, attempting to consume the unfailing stars until they exploded, retired, to let someone else fight another day. So beautiful.
And someone was trying to take it from me.
"Don't you DARE die on me, Gaz! Not after this!"
Go awaaaaaaaaaaay . . .
It's a funny thing, to watch the universe be ripped quite literally from your hands. All of the secrets, the new understandings. I doubted I'd remember any of it. I was suddenly extremely aware of the ringing in my ears that had once been talking, the secrets of the world still pouring into my ears, to quickly, as if in a ditch effort to warn me of something. To prepare me. I understood all of it, and could remember none of it.
The world turned to sand, the color grained and soared away. The stars, my breath, shooting away from me. Meteor showers. How fascinating.
"DON'T DO THIS TO ME!"
I became aware of a continued, rhythmic pressure on my chest. Something on my mouth.
And then I was lost to everything.
. . . So . . . beautiful . . .
Dib moved quicker than I'd ever seen him. And all the while Membrane stood off to the side, his jaw smarting red and puffy from my slap to his jaw via my PAK leg when he'd gotten to close to us. He said nothing. Just watched.
Gaz coughed, violently, wheezing something awful. She sounded like those filthy az-mah-tick children when their lungs began to attack them. Or, something like that. My antennae perked, beneath the hair-net of the scientist's uniform we'd stolen. From the laundry room, of course, piled in with the extras. Nobody would notice a thing.
And Membrane wouldn't tell them otherwise.
Gaz looked like hell, to say the least, and nothing like herself. Inspection of her eyes revealed contacts that would dissolve in her eyes, staining it blue, something quickly removed. I'd torn a long, white-haired wig off of her, revealing shaggy, prickly purple hair in desperate need of a trim. I'd ever seen it that long. It touched her shoulders, on the verge of creeping past. But for now it pooled in various places around her head on the floor, an ironic halo of violet. Her wings were nowhere to be found, and I wondered of it.
"Where are they?" I demanded, sitting her up, now breathing, to inspect her back. As I suspected, there was nothing.
"Inverted," Membrane said, without looking at us. He seemed to be watching his tools- scalpels and things- as if pondering using them against us. But we stood well in-between him and his potential 'weapons'- he wouldn't even get close. And he made no move to try anything. "They've folded into her back."
"What did you put in her?" Dib demanded, taking several bags of some fluids after reading the labels and shoving them carefully into the large bag he'd brought. I wondered what they were.
"Poison," he said. "It's painless and quick. You interrupted me though, and pulled it out. If you flush it out of her system, she might wake up in a week. Maybe a month, depending on how weak or strong her immune system is."
Dib nodded, taking several more bags. Even shoving them in the bag I had carried in. He must have had at least 3 dozen by the time I was done, which was kind of impressive. I picked Gaz up, keeping her on her feet and supporting all of her wait. I'd never been more terrified. I'd thought we'd been too late. We'd almost been too late. Dib looked to me.
Then, extracting the weapon from his the back of the pants, hidden by the trench coat, he removed a gun and pointed it at the man who had once been his father. It was no normal gun. It was mine, Irken- and it would leave no traces. As far as the humans were concerned, he'd have had a heart attack. And the body- Gaz's, as far as they were concerned- would have been burned in the incinerator, gone. The poison was gone. Once they didn't find it in his system, they'd know it would have had to have been true.
Membrane still didn't look at us. But the flesh around his goggles crinkled, as if he was trying not to cry. A grown man, reduced to tears. Somehow, I couldn't find it in myself finding joy in it. Just black hatred, an emotion beyond facial expressions. Beyond physical reaction. He was nothing to me anymore. And in my eyes, he was already dead.
"Did you hear it?" He asked. "Any of it?"
"No," Dib said. And I was positive neither of us had any idea what he could've been talking about.
He closed his eyes and nodded, tensing. He opened his mouth, then closed it. His jaw went tight. He seemed as though he was getting ready for something. For his death. His hands balled up into fists, and he bowed his head towards the floor.
"Alright." He said. "Then I won't insult you by saying it now. Go ahead."
Dib took aim. I watched his face strain, clearly trying to take the morals he was so engraved in out of the equation. Trying to forget that, once upon a time, this wasn't his father. That he used to love this man. Even look up to him, once. He'd raised them.
But no, he hasn't, had he. I thought, adjusting Gaz closer to me, more aware of the siblings more than I had ever been. They raised themselves.
Dib cocked the weapon.
He never had anything to do with them.
I watched his finger slip against something, briefly.
And then he fired. Once.
Membrane jolted and then fell to the side, limp, head lolling as his neck- along with the rest of his body- lost control of itself.
I raised my antennae, but said nothing.
"Get out of here with my sister," he ordered, without any trace of the emotions he was feeling. I could hear the strain in his voice though, from his decision. And I wondered what was going through his head. "I don't want to stick around for when he empties his bowels."
I grunted, picking Gaz up under her legs. My face screwed up in disgust at the idea. I agreed wholeheartedly with his decision to leave before that could happen.
And so leave we did.
13 Days Later
When Gaz woke up, she regretted it instantly.
Her body ached, and muscles she didn't even know she had stung and protested at even the idea of moving. Everything felt raw, and she felt somewhat grimy. Especially on the back of her neck, where her brittle, oily hair lay plastered against her skin. Looking around, she realized she had absolutely no idea whatsoever where she was.
An old lady appeared at the door, a tray in hand. Gaz stared at her, trying to figure out whether or not she knew her and if she did, where from, when the woman was met with the sight of her.
She dropped the tray.
And instantly, the woman flickered out of view to reveal a face all too familiar to her.
Quicker than what Gaz was currently capable of adjusting to, Gaz found herself engulfed in one of the most consuming hugs she'd ever experienced in her life. An unnaturally featured face burried itself into her neck, cheek pressing against cheek, and bodies against each other just as tight, the arms securing her their. It shook and shivered, as if crying, sending those vibrations into her own body.
She'd never felt more . . . connected with someone.
Somehow she managed to find the strength to return the hug, tilting her head down to cry into the shoulder and touch his shoulderblades. He quickly turned his head, kissing her hair, her neck, her cheek- anything he could immediately touch without distangling them from their embrace. It lasted several minutes before he took a deep, shuddering breath and pulled away, to capture her face in his hands. And it was first time Gaz could remember having seen him so happy.
"Zim has missed you." He croaked, his voice cracking embarrassedly. Neither cared to point it out.
"I missed you too, Zim," and she was surprised to find that she had. The shaking, the hole that only two people could fill in her chest was almost gone. Filling, flooding, without her consent. She couldn't have cared less at the moment. "How did you find me?"
The moment was broken in two with terror.
"Your brother found you," he said, stroking her hair, preparing himself for the conversation about to happen. "He only pretended to have lost his memory to gain Membrane's trust, and locate you. How are you feeling?"
She grimaced. "Exhausted. And like I haven't bathed in days."
He flashed a wicked grin. "You can't. You've been unconscious for over two weeks."
"Where are we?"
Zim's antennae rose. "You don't recognize it? Albeit it's been cleaned out, thanks to your father's doing I assume, but I thought you might've at least recognized the shape of the room . . ."
He trailed off, letting her look around and examine the area more thoroughly, rubbing up and down her arms slowly with his hands. Anything to keep his hands on her. To finally stop torturing himself with the idea that he was already too late. That she'd never wake up again. He couldn't help but smirk as her eyes lit up with realization, shock, and maybe just a bit of resentment for not having realized it earlier.
"This is . . . my room," she said, eyes peering around. The walls were cream now, emptied, with nothin but her book shelf, desk, and bed remaining. Like someone intended to use this as a guest room. Probably exactly what her father had intended it to appear as, actually.
Zim nodded, playing with her bristly hair again. She really did need to wash it. But he hardly minded at the moment. "Yes. We've brought you home."
Things began to slowly to form an image for me. And questions began starting to appear in my head.
"Zim," I started, tensely. "Where is Dib? And Membrane?"
He averted his gaze.
She roughed grabbed his face, forcing it back to look at her. "What happened?"
He sighed, lifting his hand to brush hers aside. It fell away easily, considering that sharp movement had actually hurt pretty bad. She was careful not to let it show on her face. Zim rubbed her arms with his hand, massaging the muscles subconsciously as he talked. For obvious reasons, Gaz made no move to protest.
"Membrane has had a stroke," he started, watching her expression carefully as he spoke. Her lips fell apart, staring. He stopped speaking, allowing her to let that sink in.
"I . . . That's not possible," she insisted, confused. "He's a perfectly healthy little bastard, and extremely meticulous about his health. How could he have-?" And then she noticed Zim watching her. He knew something.
And he was waiting on her to decide whether or not she wanted to find out what had really happened.
Gaz pressed her lips together. Zim waited.
She looked down.
"Guess he missed something," she muttered, averting her gaze.
Zim nodded. "It would seem so. He . . . is in a coma, currently. As far as the doctors can tell, he's lost his ability to speak coherently, and may have lost some of his intelligence. He'll have to be supported the rest of his life. Nurses, the whole bit. As soon as he's recovered enough, Dib is going to send him to a private home on the East Coast, where his children can visit him." He ran the tips of his fingers over her face. "Dib is currently taking care of Membrane Industries, for the moment. With adult supervision, of course."
Gaz's brow rose. "What adult? I thought you said Membrane was in a coma."
"Oh, he is," Zim assured her. "I'm speaking about your grandmother, coming all the way from Virginia to ensure her grandchildren are well taken care of."
"Brilliant," she said, sarcastically. "But my grandmother is dead, idiot."
"On your father's side," Zim corrected. "But nobody has heard from your mother's mother in, well, years."
"Well that's because she doesn't exist, genius," she scoffed. "And where the hell are you going to get an old-." It clicked. She gave him a look of complete disbelief. "Oh you've got to be kidding me."
"Zim is entirely serious." Zim grinned, and suddenly, the elderly image from before flickered back into view, making kissy faces at her. "Now reward me with a kiss!"
Gaz looked horrified, using her remaining muscles to shove him away from her. She had never been particularly fond of the disgusting wrinkles the elderly adorned, and seeing one attempting to persue her- even if she was well aware who it really was- was a sight she could have done without. She was forever mentally scarred.
He laughed as he fell off the bed, even through the pained grunts when he landed on his PAK. Gaz huffed in irritation, watching him shimmer back into his real form as he practically cried with laughter on the floor. He was so ridiculous.
"You're such a pain in the ass!" She snapped, laying back down on her side, her back to him. "Now shut up or get out, I need to sleep. I'm exhausted, and you killed any energy I might've used to bathe myself. Jerk."
In truth, Gaz really did need sleep. But more than that, she needed to figure this out, and let the new truths of the world sink in. Their world had been fixed. No longer was she going to be in a cage, or have to worry about Membrane. She was free. Dib was free. And Zim was, well, he was posing as her grandmother but he was free too, she guessed. Free to cross-dress, but, whatever. He'd probably done weirder.
Slowly, the bed moved, and Gaz felt herself scooted over and Zim curl around her, gently. She smiled, sighing contently and closing her eyes, feeling his gloves run through her hair. She doubted he'd be doing that if he didn't have gloves on, and she'd hardly have blamed him, but it was still nice nontheless. And she was about to start when she felt something thin pulled over her head and a small object fall into the hollow of her throat before sliding past her collarbone, towards her chest. She opened her eyes, slightly irritated, peeking down.
Gaz could hear the smile in Zim's voice. "I thought you might have wanted that."
She breathed quietly, staring at the little skull looking back at her. Returned to the owner that had forgotten about it. And it occurred to Gaz then, as she held the little thing in her hand, curling her fingers tightly around it and burying her face into Zim's shirt. He didn't at all seemed surprised, more like he'd been waiting for it really, as she began sobbing into his chest, fingers burried in his uniform and blankets alike as she cried. Cried. Something she'd never been able to do before. Now she could. The freedom to cry, and not be worried about dying anymore. Not worry about them dying.
This was peace.
And she couldn't have wanted anything else.
It had been decades.
And he'd felt every second of it.
A stroke. They all said it was a stoke, and he knew it wasn't. Some suspected something, but how could you fake a stroke? Surely they were just being paranoid. But he knew. He knew Dib had chose to keep him alive, instead of kill him. And whether it was to spare his life or make him suffer, he accepted this vacation and punishment with the grace and dignity that it befitted.
He deserved this. There was no doubt about it. He was no wicked man, but he'd been acting like he was for years, and had been waiting for the move that would ruin him for years. And what a wonderful move it had been. He deserved to not be able to take care of himself. To have to let others take him around in a wheelchair, wipe him, feed him, clothe him. All the humiliation accostomed with the handicap. He was once great. And now he festered in immobility and disability.
Karma certainly dealt its cards well.
It should be pointed out his children never visited him. Of course, he'd seen Dib a few times, about a month after he'd been sent away. Because that's really what it was; a clever ploy to keep him out of the way. Remote, unable to speak, without any way of communicating besides dumb gestures. He could never manage the articulation it would take to relay such a plot to his caretakers. Even now, an old man, and dying- or so they told him, he could scarely trust anyone these day, not that it would matter in the end- he barely came to terms with it. Bested by the children he'd never been a father to. The inhuman creation of his, his daughter, running free with resentment. Gaz had never come to visit him. He never expected her to.
Dib, as was said, did come to his house. But it was never for pleasurable family conversation. He could barely hold conversation, let alone a pleasurable one. Especially not to his son. Not after everything he'd done. No, Dib had come, kicking the help off the property completely for several hours, to explain what had happened to him. That his was permanent. That he'd never leave here again. That Gaz was fine- just in spite of you, you filthy son of a bitch- and Zim was posing as their mother's mom, taking care of them. That Dib had inherited Membrane Industries because someone had found his will- that Membrane never actually wrote- and the business was doing well. That the public thought of Membrane as a crazy, poor old man who'd let his latest project consume him so that when he killed it, burned it, the stress had finally triggered an oncoming heart attack.
He'd nodded throughout the story, the easiest reaction he could do without any assistance. And he never looked at Dib, too ashamed of himself to look the boy in the eye. He no longer wore his starch trench coat and goggles. It was bad for him, or so Dib insisted, and too complicated for the help to put on him every day. He was to wear polos and sweats from now on, as naked to the world as he'd ever been.
"You brought this on yourself," Dib had said, as a parting. And then he'd left. Twenty minutes later, after a severe talking-to about informing Dib if his father looked like he was recovering, the help had returned to their job. The initial awe of caring for the infamous, formerly great Professor Membrane had warn off quickly.
There is no glamour in whiping the crap off of a grown man's ass.
So now Membrane sat, the help making lunch in the kitchen, looking out at the bay. For a prison, it was awfully beautiful. Dib had released a brand of automatic wheel-chairs, that moved only with the need of a flip of the switch. And supposedly, ever the dedicated son, he was also attempting to design a way for the disabled to speak with easy typing capabilities. But at the rate Membrane was dying, he would be long dead before his voice would be heard. It made perfect sense, of course. He hadn't seen Dib in over twenty years now, but even still, the boy would never be stupid enough to give the man he'd ruined a way to tell his story. Not that Membrane would, he was content in serving out his punishment. But the risk still would've been far too great to leave to chance and assumptions.
He was mulling over thoughts of his son, the greatness that he was that surprassed him, the wedding he had not been able to attend between he and his wife some ten years ago when their was a knock on the door.
He grunted, with a funny tone. The help was already heading towards the door, a woman, by the name of Sheila. She had three kids, and had become very fond of Membrane, as he had her. Funny he should find such a consistent woman in his life only when his whole life depended on her.
"Oh, Ms. Membrane! What a wonderful surprise! Please, please, come in. Mr. Membrane, your daughter is here! As is your mother-in-law!"
He grunted, shocked, eyes widened with surprise as he turned his chair around as fast as it would go. And of course, his caretaker was not mistaken. Not that he'd expected her to be. Gaz was a demeanor and face hard to miss.
It was almost uncomfortable, being in the room with someone like her. Membrane suddenly felt every bit of his age, the wrinkles, the sag of worn flesh, as he stared at an unmarked, perfect face that radiated beauty. An old woman with a cane, ancient even by his standards, waddled in, glaring at the man. For a brief moment, he wondered exactly who she was. A twinkle of red in her eyes reminded Membrane of the exact identity of the creature in his home posing as his children's caretaker. And well, really, s/he was a better caretaker to his children than he'd ever proved to be.
"I just finished making tea," Sheila said pleasantly, conversationally. "And I baked a cake yesterday, to celebrate this wonderful weather. What can I get you, Ms. Membrane? Do you need any help, Mrs. . . ?"
"Laciter, dear," the old woman said, stiffly, smiling tightly, eyes crinkling in that charming way only old women can manage. "And no need to serve me, deary. These old bones have served me better than my good-for-nothing son-in-law over here." She said, teasingly gesturing to where Membrane sat. But the man did not miss the severe look he was given when they met eyes. There was no humor in the woman's. "No, dear, my granddaughter and I would like to have a word with my son-in-law over here. Why don't you take a walk, hon'? Maybe take some of this nice food and have yourself a little picnic on the beach. I'll have my granddaughter give a shout when we're done here. Okay?"
Sheila nodded, cutting herself a small slice and taking a mug with her outside, snatching a blanket from the basket on the porch. She understood. She had been here most of the times Dib had come, and before Membrane had worked high-profile jobs in the disabled department. Families like the Membrane's were always very particular about their privacy, and as she intended to keep this well-paying job, she made to move to argue with them. She noticed they made no move to speak as she left.
The door shut behind her.
Membrane sat against the window, patiently. The woman, suddenly having lost any effect of crippling age, strode easily past Membrane, shutting the curtains behind him and putting the blinds down on any of the windows in the room. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing as Gaz locked the door behind her, setting a device down on the table. The woman sat next to her, took the device, and hit the button.
Instantly, the elderly woman was the creature that had broken his wrist so many years ago. That had snarled in his face with murder written on his every feature. Membrane suddenly considered himself suddenly incredibly lucky he was simply disabled now, and not mauled to death. But now, while the murder was not in his face, it was in his eyes. Waiting.
"Membrane." Gaz said, gesturing on slender hand, nails painted a dark crimson. "I trust you remember Zim,"
He nodded, making a strangled noise with some effort. It was the best he could do to substitute for a greeting, or a hello. Zim's lip curled, and an expression he couldn't quite deduce appeared; something between disgust and pure loathing. But contained, somehow. Reeled in, and hiding how much he wished he had killed me. Gaz looked expectantly at Zim from the corner of her eyes, as if awaiting something. Impatiently.
Zim parted his mouth, and Membrane half-expected him to jump out and eat him. But instead, his strange tongue flicked in the air, as if tasting it. He inhaled deeply, taking a deep breath, antennae flicking briefly around. Gaz waited and said nothing. For obvious reasons, neither did Membrane. With finality, he shut his mouth, apparently satisfied with his findings.
"I smell death on you, old man." He announced, the sneer kept from his voice with impecable skill. "You haven't got long. You do realize this?"
He jerked a nod. Old men, especially men once great like him, know well when they're dying. And indeed, Membrane was ready. Waiting for the moment when he'd find out what was beyond this world and the confines of this damaged body.
Gaz nodded in return, gesturing for Zim to leave. He stood, shooting Membrane a warning glare, as if he suspected this whole 'stroke' thing was all just an act. That at any moment he would jump up with a gun in his hands and kill her. The ring that glittered purposefully unnoticed around her left ring finger insinuated why he was so protective of her. Membrane chose not to mention it. Or try to, really. How would he have brought it up?
Zim strode over, and Membrane shrunk back instinctively. The alien paused, a smirk slowly widening on his face before slowly reaching back, towards the unnoticed pouch on his back. Membrane's eyes widened.
"Zim," Gaz snapped, severely.
The movement was quicker than.
Zim reached forward, attaching something to Membrane's head and neck, a single wire joining them. He crossed his arms expectantly.
"What- Are- You- Looking- At?"
Membrane's eyes started at the robotic voice that vocalized his opinions, his demands. The clipped, toneless, emotionless question that was not a question, but more of a statement.
Zim turned towarsd Gaz, as if for approval. As her face showed no visible signs of disapproval, he left, briefly leaning down to kiss her on the forehead hand resting on her shoulder, before exiting. But not before pointedly opening the curtains to the backyard's porch. Membrane saw him sit on the porch, once again the old woman he pretended to be, his back to them, but obviously unable to hear whatever conversation they were about to have.
"That's not permanent," she warned, pointing to the device. "As far as the public is concerned, those don't work yet. But we're close. They'll come out the day you die. A tragedy; Dib couldn't give his father a voice, but at least he could do it for the world, right?"
"Why- Are- You- Telling- Me- This."
She shrugged. "Just thought that you should know. So as not to get your hopes up."
The room remained silent.
She sighed, looking up at the roof. "I've wanted . . . to talk to you . . . for a while, now. Although I can't understand why. You're an awful human being, and I've hated you ever since I saw you last. And tha was over twenty years ago."
"I have some questions about me that I haven't ever been abe to answer myself. Dib hasn't, either. Zim tried, but he couldn't figure everything out either. So you're going to answer them. Because you've nothing left to lose. And I know you wouldn't withhold it from me because . . . You said you were sorry."
"I wanted to ask you about that, too," She added. "About your apology."
"What- About- It?"
"Did you mean it?"
Membrane nodded. "Yes- I- Did."
She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. Her head angled towards the ground. "I believe you."
He wanted to say "thank you", for some reason, but chose not to. Instead he chose to say nothing, but offer a small smile. By the look on her face, it was grotesque, and he quickly stopped. She turned her face away, resting her chin in her hand. She looked at Zim, the old woman sitting on the porch, tapping the cane impatiently against his thigh. Membrane waited.
"Why did I stop aging?" She demanded abruptly, turning her head towards him one more. "I'm thirty-six and I pass for twenty-five, max, easy."
"You- Were- Designed- To- Never- Age." He explained. "If- You- Wish- To- Continue- Normally- In- Society- You- Will- Have- To- Use- Your- Husband's- Technology- To- Fake- It."
Gaz frowned, but nodded. "I figured, somehow. Is Dib the same?"
She let out a deep breath, relief. She shuddered and nodded, muttering something he couldn't hear. It sounded something along the lines of 'Thank God', but she continued before he could ask. "What was my original function?"
Membrane's eyebrows twitched. The equivalent of him raising his brow. "I- Told- You. To- Serve- The- Human- Race."
"That was it?" She pressed, glaring at him carefully, analyzing his distorted face and the expression it held. "To make the world a better place?"
Membrane waited a second. Gaz was right. He had nothing to lose. "Pride. It- Was- A- Matter- Of- Pride. Glory." His eyes bore into her. "To- Create- A- Creature- Beyond- Compare. To- Own- It. To- Be- Like- A- Father- To- It."
She held her hand up, to stop him. "Before you killed me, I heard you. Talking. To me or yourself. About what you did, and why. Was that real? Was that really you, or my brain hallucinating as it shut down, and prepared to die?"
He paused, and she imagined his eyes looked curious.
"It- Was- Real."
Gaz closed her eyes, letting her hands rake through her hair at the sides of her hair. She buried her face in her hands, quietly contemplating, without any sense of helplessness. A decision was being made. And his actions thus far would be a part of it.
"My wings." She finally announced, eventually. "Matured, several months ago."
Membrane stilled, completely.
"They- Chose- A- Final- Color?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
She removed her coat, reaching behind her back. Several clicks, the noise of her shirt being undone, were heard. She pressed her hands to the shirt, keeping it covering her front, but closed her eyes, and dipped her head down, a peaceful expression on her face. At that moment the sun glittered in through the window, warm, inviting, and pale from the morning cloud-overhang. So beautiful. And so terrible at the same time.
Tears sprang to Membrane's face as he watched them unfold, more graceful and delicate than he remembered. Like an early view into death; of what was going to come. Of what was going to come for him soon. Slow, beautiful, inevitable death.
They made eye contact. Gaz's face softened into surprise, eyes widening as his tears reflected in her eyes.
. . . So beautiful . . .
. . . So . . . . beautiful . . .
"Thank- You." He said, over and over again. "Thank- You."
And, slowly, a small smile began to appear on her face, the tears in his eyes finally spilling from hers. An Angel, crying. So few would see this. And he was the last to deserve it. But her expression was so pained, rather than awed. Like it hurt to cry. For her to be crying in front of him.
(1) This was hard to write. Membrane's feelings. I originally had him apologizing- in person- to Gaz, but somehow, this seemed more appropriate.
(2) I've never wanted to kill Gaz so badly. Not that I don't love her, I really preferred this ending, but I got really into the death description. Of what comes afterward. Stars being Angel breath, shooting stars the product of a soul returning back to the Earth and all that jazz.
Gaz's final wing color is up for interpretation. As Membrane noted, he felt it was a personification of his future, what would meet him after death. I got all religious again there, sorry. But I tried to avoid any specifics as much as possible, to keep everyone in the loop as much as possible, regardless of your beliefs. Avoiding offending people and all that.
So, anyways, it really just depends on you're opinion of Membrane at the end of this story. He's thoroughly and completely sorry, and willing to admit his mistakes and except his punishment. He's dying and been disabled beyond repair for over 20 years of his life. But is that enough to redeem him? Or should he burn for the wrongs he's been doing for his whole life?
Then there is the other factor. Gaz's personality. As a character in IZ, and demonstrated consistantly throoghout the story, she is no saint. But she's not the same person she used to be, with her ability to love and accept, the freedom of making her own path instead of the bitter pressure of her old life. So take that into account to.
Membrane/Good Guy & Gaz/Good Guy = White Wings
Membrane/Bad Guy & Gaz/Bad Guy = Black Wings
If you believe only one of each, you must then decide which one you find to be most dominant, and let that be your choice. Or maybe just whatever one you find cooler-looking. Personally, I believe her wings would be white, for my own reasons, but as I said, that isn't set in stone. Let me know your own opinons, arguments for/against, and justifications in the reviews! I'd love to read how this story affected you!
I want to thank you all for staying with me throughout this monstrosity of this story. And give you a little poem to show my appreciation (I've been in a poem-mood lately).
"Across terrible oceans, and rivers wide
Under clawed roots and the highest of tides
Hold my hand, even when it's hard
Through the shit and into the stars,
Walk with me, friend, into the Devil's den
And I will lead you back home again."