Chapter Eight: Bitten
"W-wait. I'm coming with you?"
I half-dragged, half-hauled Turbo as he skidded on the tips of his heels, trying to resist the futile. My eyes were narrowed in impatient russet slits as I threw the small character forward angrily and watched as he rose to his feet with great difficulty. Turbo panted and glared up at me with livid sun-kissed eyes, sneering when I pushed past him and purposely shoved him with my shoulder in the process. Felix and Veneloppe uneasily looked on at the situation while walking forth, unwilling to interfere with this affair—and me.
"Why not? You're the one who started this mess." I stated flatly. He glanced up sharply at me with eyes of fury, but managed to bite his own tongue and drag his feet forward unwillingly.
"Says bigfoot." He muttered under his breath.
I cocked an eyebrow. "Sorry, what was that?" smart alec.
"Good." With that, I smacked the back of his helmet—causing him to fall forward into a pile of mud. When he pulled away, gasping for breath, I could feel the muddy face glaring daggers into the back of my head. Felix bit his bottom lip and glanced at Veneloppe, who stared at me in shock. I ignored the both of them, strolling past as if nothing had occurred and I was just having a bad day—which, in a way, I kind of was.
"What's gotten into you, Godzilla?" Veneloppe gasped, covering her mouth while she grabbed my hand and held me back. Her eyes betrayed nothing else but fear, but her mask revealed firmness and stability as she gripped my hand. For a nine year old girl, she was pretty strong, inside and out, and it even made me wonder why I was being so testy anyway.
And the truth was, I had no idea.
"Yeah, Ralph…" Felix chimed. "You're not usually like this—you're more… serene. Has something bothered you?" Keep asking—maybe I'd find the answer. But in the mean time, I could only stare at them with eyes filled with confusion and rage, impatient at my lack of knowledge on who I am.
They say that we're never the same person everyday, that we each have a different trait we show between 24 hours. They say that it's impossible for us to be the exact same person we were being the day before, or the day before that, and that we are a new person with the same personalities. But I begged to differ. We have the same dreams and the same lives, and have the same desires. Veneloppe yearned to become a racer. Did she suddenly wake up and decide that it's hopeless? No. I wanted to be a Good Guy. I didn't achieve it, but did I give up? No!
So why was I moody?
Turbo padded up beside me quietly, and I wondered why he would be so near someone who was clearly showing aggression towards him. That was before he murmured, "I'm sorry." I glanced at him in confusion.
"For what? You didn't do anything—I did." A compassionate frown grew along his complexion.
"I did do something. I did something here," he pointed to his heart. "You can't stand being near someone who was once a friend-turned-enemy. You can't stand knowing that they hurt you in your heart, because they were your brother and they turned against you. Brothers are supposed to stay together—not fall apart. I'm sorry to you, too, Felix. I was a coward—" Turbo gave a brief, mischievous glance at me. "—with glasses. I can't believe that I ever let myself go." I narrowed my eyes, but my heart did stitch up a little.
I'm not saying I forgive him; I mean, you don't just forgive someone over a couple of days for trying to murder you. That would take ages. I could see that Veneloppe was thinking the same thing, a sneer curled on her lips as she shook her head and looked away. "I'm not gonna give in to you, Turbo." I growled. "And I sure as heck don't think Veneloppe will, either." I caught a glimpse of hurt flicker in his pale yellow eyes, but I ignored it and scooped up the young girl by my side, who coughed frantically in response.
Only Felix was the positive one. He smiled graciously and gave a sigh of content. "Welcome back." I personally begged to differ with his lack of caution, but hey, what's a Good Guy to do?
I was completely ready to move onto a different topic and abandon the issue at hand, but I snarled at Turbo when he drew near. Surprised, he stepped back, and fell in behind as we made our way through a thick forest of candy canes and liquorice stumps, taking slow steps as we, bit by bit, edged our way around a river of chocolate milk. Small pebble-like mints floated daintily in the milk like pebbles in water, making it easier to cross, even it the high pace of the stream made us dizzy.
"Ah!" Veneloppe cried in zealous joy. Felix and I exchanged small glances of bewilderment and wonder as she frantically leaped up from my arms and waved her own around in solid excitement. "Do you see it, do you see it?" she asked, squealing happily as she pointed far off to the SugarRush sign. Clearly, we did not see it.
But someone else did.
"The racing track!" Turbo exclaimed. "That means we're near the castle. Maybe the virus lives there?" all three of us glanced at him sharply, and then he grew silent. His voice wavered slightly as he said, "I've had my fair share of the virus, if you must know." I shrugged the suspicion off and scooped up the little grease monkey again. Veneloppe whined, and then gave a series of wheezing coughs, glaring at me as she tried to cease her pathetic sputtering.
As Turbo paced in circles whilst his eyes remained fixed on the racetracks, he was glittering with excitement. "Once a racer, always a racer." Felix smirked a tad, his eyes never leaving the excitable small character. I glanced at him, puzzled.
"But you said that Turbo was someone who purified sick people." I protested, quite sure of what I'd heard earlier.
"Technically, I am—was."
I turned around, astonished at Turbo's exquisite hearing. His big russet brown eyes stared straight at me while he lingered back, his arms crossed in disapproval. "Honestly, Ralph. Ask me, not someone who once knew me. I've changed a lot, and so have you." He waved a hand in dismissal. "Anyways, it was like a race. We'd zoom around in race cars, a little thing similar to a gun in hand, and shoot the sick people with a blue light that'd come out of the gun-things. They'd get better. So on, so forth… But if you're wondering, no. I don't know where that virus came from, nor do I've any idea on how it knows me." We couldn't have known it at the time, but Turbo was lying expertly through his teeth.
The small racer kicked his foot into the dirt, eyes lowered as he stuck his hands in his pocket. "So, in conclusion, that's how I know how to race." Felix crossed his arms in concern.
"Ah… But, where did this thing come from?" he inquired, rubbing his arms as the dawn gave way to chilly afternoon air. I just thanked our lucky stars that it was the weekend, and the arcade was closed on both Saturdays and Sundays, or else we'd have our game unplugged for sure! Turbo apparently had the same thought in mind as he attempted to answer Fix-It's question.
He fiddled anxiously with his polished crimson-and-marble white helmet as he glanced around, biting his lip fearfully. While he did so, Turbo answered nonchalantly. I noticed that both times he answered anything about the virus, he refused to look any of us directly in the eyes. "As I said, I really don't know. I doubt that it can just find its way into our game systems—there'd have to be a very, very complex reason." I was suspicious of his behaviour, but said nothing, because he had a lot to worry about.
Veneloppe didn't buy it, and clearly she'd had enough of his ramblings. She leaped out of my arms and strolling towards him furiously, a finger pointing accusingly at his face as he raised his arms in innocence. "You're a liar!" she shouted, her face just inches from his own. Turbo was dreadfully afraid, as he just seemed to let his knees buckle from beneath him. "I saw you, you sour piece of candy! You were talking to that stupid virus. You told him to come after me!"
Her voice became raspy as she coughed and pulled herself away, careful not to sputter on his face. Then she hardened and deadpanned, "Why do you think I'm so sick? That thing pounced on me and bit me here!" Veneloppe gestured to her throbbing right arm, her russet brown eyes narrowed as she pulled up her sleeve to reveal very large teeth marks. Turbo, gobsmacked and horrified at the mark, reached out with timid fingers to gently touch it, but Veneloppe smacked his hand and jumped away immediately.
Her eyes glimmered with defiance, but anyone could see now that she was absolutely terrified of Turbo. Shaking as she coughed out another series of ill sputterings, Veneloppe pointed a trembling finger towards him and whispered, "Stay away from me." Her voice was no longer contamination with venom as tears stung her eyes, and she turned away, quivering with dread.
She began to sob and angrily wiped the tears away with her right hand. Her dull raven black hair hung in her face while she brushed that away, too. But every time she fought back the waterworks, the harder they pushed to come out. From behind her, a hand reached down and gripped her left arm gently. She yanked it away, furiously gritting her teeth as she cried, "Stop it! It hurts!" Turbo quickly kneeled down and put both his hands on her shoulders, soothingly spinning her around to greet his face. And I swear, when Veneloppe stared into his eyes, there was anything but anger in her own.
She flinched away, wincing from his hands, but he refused to let loose. Instead, he cupped her face securely and whispered, "Do you trust me?" I could tell from the look on her face that she was startled by the sudden question, but slowly relaxed. Turbo carried on, lifting her arm carefully for him to see, and this time, Veneloppe only bit her lip and gasped at the pain. Her arms stiffened drastically when he softly rested his hand on her wound, causing her to yelp in pain and freeze like ice. Turbo smiled softly and smoothed the hair from her face, murmuring pacifying words. "Chillax. That's all I need you to do for me." Searching her eyes, he added, "Do you trust me?"
Veneloppe, to his disappointment, whispered, "I don't know. Should I?"
"That's up to you, kid." Turbo replied, "But do me a favour and just… hold still." His hand still enveloping the wound, he closed his eyes and uttered a few words. His hand lit up like the forth of July with a glimmering cerulean light, the luminosity seeping into the bite marks and—to all of our amazement—sealing the injury and healing it. For a second, Veneloppe was blanketed by this light, and her green-tinted pixels immediately transformed back to their natural color. Her sickly form shot back to a healthy state, and her eyes filled with enough energy to fuel a race car.
Astonished, we all stood there like statues—except Turbo, who stood up and stalked away dismissively. I began to call out to him, and Veneloppe too yearned to thank him for his work, but Turbo interrupted. "Whatever. Let's go, fellas." Something about his aura said that he wasn't too happy about something, but I decided to leave it. I mean, personal thoughts are better left inside of you, to avoid subsequent conflict. At least, when it comes to Turbo.
Veneloppe tugged anxiously on my hand as we walked after him, Felix attempting to squeeze out a conversation from the worn-out racer, only to widen his eyes in shock as Turbo murmured something under his breath. The little girl by my side bit her lip and glanced up at me fearfully. "Is something wrong with him, Ralph?" I shook my head in confusion. I really had no idea, but from the way Felix was now intensely whispering to him, the situation had to be dire.
Turbo slumped over in exhaustion, his eyes drooping in utter fatigue. Something sickly came off his in waves, causing the hairs at the back of my neck to stand on end.
Moments later, Felix dropped by my side and hissed in my ear (or at least, from his height, he tried; I bent down to help). "Ralph! You know what he said about the healing-guns and whatnot?" I nodded—his voice turned grave. "Okay… apparently, the only cure is someone's generosity to share their own life force. The guns transmit their health and life force to someone else, and they loose a bit of it, leaving them tired. But get this: at the end of the game, the characters' are regenerated in life-and-health wise. But…." I swallowed hard for what came next.
"His game is out of order… and it can't give his life force back."