On with the third chapter. We get to meet Everdread in this one. :)
-Chapter 3: Water from a Stone-
"You went to the meteor, then-" she asked, standing at the end of the walkway to Ness's house.
He thought hard, "We went looking for Picky and found him near the meteorite. He started talking to a bug, so we took him home. On the way back is when we ran into Starman." Ness figured that the bug wasn't too important, but it was funny enough to mention.
"Named Buzz-buzz," he said with a nod. He was embarrassed for Picky.
"That was the time traveler!" Paula exclaimed. "Okay, where did he go?" She was growing excited, wringing her hand with anticipation.
"He's dead," Ness said with regret. It then dawned on him that Picky wasn't hearing things and was being honest about being sober. The bug mentioned 'Gig', which he now knew meant 'Giygas'.
Paula's facial expression fell and she dropped to her knees, "We're doomed..." she looked up, "Unless...where did the meteor fall? Where is Buzz-buzz's body?"
Ness led her to the top of the hill to where the crash site was. "The bug was about here," he gestured to the skid in the grass where Pokey had trampled it. The meteor was still laying there, glowing hot. It was strange that no one was protecting it or blocking it off, but he was glad to finally get a look at the thing.
Paula got on her hands and knees and began examining the ground. After a solid minute of looking, she found something. "Ness, look at this," she said, hovering above the dead bee.
"Yup, that's him," he said skeptically because he failed to see how this was helpful.
"I'd say," she reached down and pulled something from beneath the bee. It was a uber-tiny belt with a small pack on the side. She pried it open with a pinky finger nail and revealed a pebble, smaller than half a split pea. "I think this is it," she said as she gingerly pinched the rock between two finely groomed nails. It had a strange symbol in the center that was glowing.
"Awesome...so now what?" he rubbed his hands together with anticipation.
"Something's not right. This thing is supposed to fit in your palm," she said holding the pebble in front of her eye.
"Maybe I have to be the one holding it," he suggested.
She gave him a look of annoyance, "We've established this isn't a video game. It's alien technology at work here; this belt must shrink things..." She paused, hesitated some, but then placed the object in question in Ness's palm. After waiting a second, "...that would be too easy wouldn't it?" she said and took the rock back and replaced it in the container, clipping it shut. "Aside from the insect guts, we're on a roll."
"Picky knows stuff about electronics. We could try asking him," Ness suggested.
They gave Buzz-buzz a small burial and Paula agreed to talk with Picky. "Wait, is this the fat kids brother?" she wanted to double check. She saw him nod, "Of course he is. Can you use the phone to call him over? Something about Pokey irks me." When Paula could detect Ness's aura, she could sense the agitation he felt toward Pokey. She described Pokey in the same breath as black coffee, bitter, awful and to be avoided (in her opinion).
"That's do'able," he said and popped out his cell phone. Ness preferred that Pokey not be educated on this whole prophecy deal, he also prayed he wasn't one of the other two boys Paula mentioned. That thought being pushed out of his head, he sent Picky a text and invited him over. They sat at the kitchen table while Picky glared through a small magnifying glass being carefully pinched between his brow and cheekbone. "Anything you can do?" Ness asked hopefully.
"...not a damn thing," he said and let the glass fall into his free hand, "Sorry dude. But I do know someone who may have the expertise I lack." He put the tiny, almost grain sized, pebble back in it's bag. "He's in Twoson though."
Paula raised and eyebrow, "Really? I guess I could swing by and let my parents know where I'm at."
"You're from Twoson?" Picky asked, "Wait, does that mean you didn't tell them you were leaving town?"
She shook her head, "We were at a dinner reception and I took off during. It was closer if I did it from there."
"Why?" Picky continued asking questions.
Ness intervened, "It's complicated-so, who exactly is this guy you know?" This was the thing he liked about Picky the most, his inquisitive nature; but right now wasn't the time to be giving out any answers.
Picky gave Ness a sly look, thinking the other guest was there under the pretenses of some kind of 'forbidden love'. "Fair enough. His name is Orange Kid," he said with pride.
"That nut? Please," Paula scoffed. "He's always creating crazy inventions that are useless to everyone else."
Picky pointed a finger up, "That may be true, but he's brilliant when it comes to electronics. I bet he'll get a kick out of this. What is it exactly?" He held up the miniture bag.
Ness gingerly took it from his friend's hand, "It's a watch...compact watch...from Dalaam," he tried to come up with a convincing lie. Fortunatly Picky stopped prying and offered them a drive instead.
Picky had begun working for a delivery service known as 'Escargot Express'. The business was opened by none other than Ness's older sister, Tracey. A brief conversation with Tracey got Picky the 'go ahead' to borrow his parents car to do deliveries. He would make the deliveries and keep on going to Twoson. The trip was only an hour, though for Paula, it was a several hours.
"He's on the corner. I'll go see if he's home." Picky hopped of out his car and up to the front door. He went to knock but stopped; there was a note taped to the door that had instructions. After a second of reading, Picky went back to the car. "'The genius is in 'session' right now, we'll have to come back. We could go talk to your parents while we wait," he suggested.
"I'd rather wait untill we have an answer. I'll probably be grounded the second I get home, and I'd like to know one way or another about this belt-watch...thing." She pulled her legs together, flattening the dress over top of them.
"As the closest person to an adult here...I have to ask why." He was eighteen, apparently that counted.
She slouched in her chair, "They're busy running a successful daycare. Not to mention I'll be grounded to my room until fall when I go back. I'm going to do my thing, let them do theirs. We'll talk later."
"They run a daycare, and you're worried about talking to them? I figured they'd be good with kids," Ness suggested. He couldn't help but take notice to how unfriendly Paula had been this whole time. If her parents were so great, why was she so caustic the whole time?
"They're interested in little kids. You know, one's that don't have opinions and can't talk back. Please, let me wait. Crack one nut at a time." She closed her eyes slowly but immediately opened them again. She had seen something out of the corner of her eye. "He's done."
Picky looked over to see a guy with orange sunglasses and matching hair coming out to the front step. He waved them over as he brushed dust from his shirt. The three friends entered the house and noticed it had an interesting smell. "Welcome. What brings you here?" Orange Kid said and checked his phone. He flipped it shut and stashed it back in his pocket.
Picky introduced his friends and followed it up with, "We have a gadget for you to look at."
Ness handed him the small belt. "We found this thing, it's maybe a watch...from Dalaam..." he said, unsure if this guy was going to be able to tell him flat out 'no, this is no watch'.
The orange one took the device to his work bench and swung in a large, overhanging magnifiying lense. "Leave it with me. I'll tinker and see what I can do." They let the genius get to work and headed out to the car.
"Did you smell that?" Ness complained as he shut his door.
"I bet it was drugs," Paula folded her arms in the back seat.
"That was gasoline," Picky mentioned and fired up the car.
"Wasn't any kind of gasoline I've smelled before," Paula rubbed the end of her nose, the smell was really strong and it stuck around.
"Yeah, the guy's into some pretty heavy stuff. He's cool though," Picky drove off and made a left, then an immediate right. He looked around while waiting at the stop sign for a rather round lady to pass, "Hey," he said. "There's a bazaar. Mind if we check it out?" He saw Paula and Ness shrug.
The bazaar in Burglin Park could be a shifty place, but on regular days it was where Paula hung out with her circle of friends. It was just the usual junk shops, food stands and hemp jewelery. "She's not here today," Paula said with a hint of sadness.
Ness picked up on this right away and decided to dig a bit deeper. "Who?"
"A friend of mine."
"You don't need to know that...but no. It's a girl. She usually sells bracelets and tea...and plays her guitar." The person she was talking about was a bit older, so she acted as a mentor to Paula. She was an only child, and not having someone to turn to was something she didn't enjoy.
"Does she know about the aliens?" Ness kept the questions coming.
She glared at him, "Shut up. This place carries rumors like a grocery bag in the wind, you don't know where the information is going to go."
"...does she?" Ness asked quieter.
Paula rolled her eyes and sighed, averting her vision she said, "No...I was told not to say anything to anyone. I only made that mistake once. I can just tell those who are involved." Unfortunately Paula was unable to tell her friend about the visions; and she was reluctant to tell anyone else after how the first person she mentioned it to handled it.
Ness glimpsed Picky several feet away, eying some seasonings. "What about him? He's trustworthy, and he's helping us."
She shook her head, "He offered a drive. Not quite what I mean by 'involved'."
"What about Orange Kid? He's going to wonder what the hell we just gave him," he said and caught something out of the corner of his eye. It was a pile of bananas, and he was starving; but without money, starving he would stay.
"No. I'm trying to think of a way to convince him it's not from...you know," she said and darted her eyes up and back down quickly.
"Oooh...so many secrets." Ness was instantly reminded of his mother, sneaking and equivocating things all the time, trying to keep Ness in the dark about her life. He sighed, because now he was doing the same thing with the 'Giygas' situation. With all the rules in place, it looked like he wasn't going to be able to tell her anything, even if he could find the words. While the thought of his mother was in his head, he turned to Paula again, "Shouldn't we go see your parents?"
She huffed, "Yeah..." she said and sat down on a bench.
"...well?" he queried.
"Well, what? I told you I'll go see them when we hear from Orange Kid."
It was obvious she was stalling now. Ness got the feeling, it wasn't just about getting grounded. "Are they strict or something?" he asked and sat next to her.
"Don't talk to me about my folks. It's complicated," she said, quoting Ness from earlier.
It was complex. And while they weren't lying to anyone, Ness felt the equivocation was enough to be considered a lie. "Alright," he let it go. Why was it complicated for Paula? He watched the girl with the blond hair twirl a lock around her finger in a cliché manner. He smiled. Though she had been gruff and short with him since they met, it was kind of nice to see a different side of her. Even if it was only slight, and only for a second, it was a weak representation of her girly side. It was a side he would have to learn to exploit next time she got on his nerves.
"I want to go to the theater first...then I guess I'll pop in on my mom. Dad's probably buried in paperwork." She got up and paused for Ness to follow.
He gave a shout to Picky to let him know where they were going. He waved them on. Paula was silent as they walked up the street. She held her arms loose and stuck them in the pockets of her dress. Maybe attacking her weak side wasn't such a good idea, she was obviously having some issues at home. No one asks to be born into misfortune or freaky alien prophecies, she was probably as overwhelmed as he was.
Out in front of the big theater was an older man. He wore baggy, green parachute pants and a floral print top. On top of his head was a fedora and right below, a pair of round black sunglasses. He took a step towards them with a casual swagger that suggested he knew them. "Paula," he knew one of them, "Your folks are looking for you." His voice was rough; being a chain smoker had that effect.
"Probably. Ness," she glanced at her new acquaintance, "this is Everdread. He's a friend of mine."
Ness looked the guy over, his countenance suggested he was some person of importance. Not because it looked like he chummed around with MC hammer and John Lennon, but rather it was the over confident smile coupled with a gold tooth right up front. He shook the man's hand. "Are you two going to elope? Is that why you took off?" Despite his demeanor, he sounded caring as he joked with her.
Paula flipped, "What? No way! I only met him today, we're hanging out. Right, Ness?"
He decided to play into it, "Yes, dear." This earned him a cold stare from the blond girl.
Everdread laughed out loud, "Ha ha, glad to hear it," he cocked his head backward slightly, as if to point at the building behind him, "Looking to go in?"
"I'm broke. I came to look at the billboards and drool over the runaway five," she said and glanced behind him to see the billboard. It was the Runaway Five this week, then the Mario brother's concert was going to be shown the following week.
The concert was a compilation of all the songs in the Mario games from the last twenty years, done in the style of classical and new age techno music. Ness's eyes brightened, "I have to go!" he said and got close to the window, pressing his noes on the glass. He memorized the date and price. "And it's right around pay day for mum, I can totally get my allowance this week."
"Let me know how it is...I'll be even broker when I go talk to my parents. I bet they'll even recall some of my past allowances. I took off from the banquette last night," she smirked at Everdread.
The older man nodded, "They were saying."
Paula looked shocked, "When were you talking to them?"
"Last night. They came pounding on my door, assuuming you were with me," he said, sounding kind of hurt. While there was a huge age gap between them, Everdread was very respectful of Paula, she was like a daughter to him. He recalled the knock on the door, at one in the morning, from her parents. They were fuming. He told them where to go in respects to their 'right' to search around his place for their child. The line 'maybe if you listened to her' was thrown around more than once. "I think I convinced them it wasn't me because I agreed to help them look. I've been asking around the market ever since. I know how much you like that Runaway Five band, so I figured I'd check here too. I'm glad to see you didn't run off with the group."
She nodded, "Good call. They'll be leaving soon; I wanted an autograph by the way, there'll be no joining the circus for me." Paula pondered if she would get a chance to meet them. "...I should go talk to my parents..." she said suddenly, "Before they alert the press and begin a search party. I'll catch up with you at the bazaar!" she said and took off running back the way they came.
Everdread reached into his wallet and emerged with two tickets. "I was going to use these to convince her to come home, but..." he handed them over to Ness, "You can tell her you bought them; earn you some points," he snickered and bumped Ness with his elbow. "Good on ya'. I hate to ask because we don't really know one another, but could you make sure she sees her folks before she runs off again? Paula's a good girl and she needs them in her life."
"Really?" Ness said and looked down at the tickets, "Sounds to me like she's better off." He planned to give the tickets to her, but he wasn't interested in earning any of these aforementioned 'points'.
"You only know half the story, bro," Everdread slapped him on the back and continued on his way. He seemed like an alright guy but his lifestyle put him at a disadvantage for becoming a trustworthy name.
Ness recalled hearing people talking about Everdread in the bazaar, and how he was involved with 'sketchy' doings. He laundered money and worked with smugglers, so he racked up a bad rap with the locals. At least the locals on the outside. The people who loved him, loved him a lot. Taking one last look at the tickets, Ness shoved them in his pocket, unsure if he wanted to attend with Paula. Pawning them for money crossed his mind but he didn't act on it, they technically belonged to her. All Ness had to do now was locate Picky. He went back to Burglin Park to look around and found his friend buying spices from a man in the corner of the market grounds. "Yo," he said and caught his attention.
"You're back; where's Paula?" He said zipping up his goods in an over the shoulder bag.
"She's gone to talk to her parents...and-uh," he said awkwardly. Ness proceeded to produced two tickets.
Picky lifted the left side of his hair, for his bangs were many, to get a better look. "Where did you get the scratch for those?"
"I didn't," he said and explained how he got them. Polishing the explanation off with, "If I do this...is it considered a date?"
"I'd call it...kind of like, an on-the-spot-blind-date. You'll have to let me in on how it goes," he smiled.
Ness quivered, "The word 'date' is still in there. I haven't done this before, is there some kind of etiquette?" His first date was going to be with someone who frequently spat venom, he feared for his safety. She seemed like the pushy type.
Fun Fact: If you look for anagrams in the word 'Everdread' it spells 'revere dad', which is where I got the idea for his character.