Alia

Part Nine: Alia's Friend

As I fall everything around me stays the same. I don't think I'm falling fast, but if I ever hit the ground I know I'll be in a lot of pain. Something pulls at my hair. Instinctively I swat at it, but nothing's there. Kayla's gone, Gwen's gone, Ava's gone, the thing that called me its miracle is gone. I'm all alone.

Ava must've dropped me in between worlds. Maybe I'll keep falling forever. That wouldn't be so bad.

Suddenly I smell fresh air and moisture. I quit falling and start sinking into invisible sludge. It's almost up to my knees by the time it stops. The sludge is wet and sticks to my clothes. I wade through it until I bump into something. Reaching down, I touch dirt. Am I in some sort of an invisible puddle?

I climb out and look around, despite the appearance of my surroundings remaining the same. I wonder, except for being able to see myself, if this is what being blind is like. I don't think I've heard anything either, now that I think about it.

I use my feet to test the ground around me, checking how much space I have. I don't feel another puddle so I take a few steps away from the edge.

Now when the wind blows I can hear branches rustle, but there's another sound I don't recognise. It almost sounds like something's being dragged lightly, barely touching the ground. I don't have much time to think about what it could be before the earth under my feet moves, tipping me down a small cliff. Before I have time to get up my vision comes back. I didn't fall down a cliff. I fell into a pit. A pit made by Rachel's bus. I'm back in the forest, near my where my pond used to be.

"No..." I cry, falling to my knees. "No! Please don't leave me here! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please take me back! I'll be good! I'll cooperate! I'll try harder at the tests! I'll do anything you want! Please don't do this to me! I'm so, so sorry!" My stomach feels like it's about to explode with anxiety and terror. I can't do this. This can't be happening. I'm too tired for this to go on. I need to stop.

"I'll get you out of here as soon as you do everything I need you to do," the voice that calls me a miracle tells me.

"Thank you," I reply, though I know even if I do everything it wants perfectly nothing will get better. I need to end this.

"It'll take me a while to get everything ready. Do you want to go to sleep?"

"Yes." I don't want to wake up.

Unfortunately I do, a few feet away from the edge of the pit. It doesn't bother me that I was moved. It doesn't even bother me that my pond's been destroyed. I only feel numb.

"Call the friend you talked to on your way to your mother-in-law's house. The talkative one. I've given him a new name, by the way. It's 'Friend.'"

Was that what the voice did when I was asleep? Rename everything? I hope it didn't hurt my friend. "Friend?" I call. "Could you come here please?" Because he delivers things to people, Friend can here whenever someone's talking to him no matter where he is. His mind must be very busy.

Friend appears surprisingly quick. When he sees me he gasps and covers his eyes. "You're not wearing a dress!"

If anyone tries to make me get changed I'll bite them. Time to pretend I don't know there are laws saying I need to wear a certain type of clothing because of my genitals. I look down and fake confusion. "I'm wearing a shirt and pants... You're not wearing a dress either."

"Y— yes, but— but— but," he sputters. "I can see your legs!"

I see this place hasn't changed a bit. No 'Hi, Alia! What happened a few days ago? That was strange. I've been worried about you.' Only 'Ahhhh! You're not hiding your lower half in a huge fancy blanket!'

"I can see your legs too, but you don't hear me complaining," I snap. I immediately regret it. I don't want to be rude to one of my only friends. "Sorry."

Friend uncovers his eyes and keeps them glued to my face. He wears a concerned expression. "Are you okay? Is something wrong? Everything's alright at home, right? Do you need to talk?"

"Tell him to take you to your King and Queen. Their new names are Scary Guy and Mean Lady, respectively."

The miracle person's naming ability is similar to one of a five year olds. Maybe if I give them candy they'll give me peace."

"I'm fine," I reply out of reflex. "But could you please bring me to... the people in charge?" I don't like referring to them as our leaders. I don't consider them the bosses of me.

Friend's eyes widen. "Sure, of course, but, uh, are you sure you're okay? Are you hurt? You can talk to me if you want to. I won't tell anyone. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I'm completely fine," I reassure him.

He doesn't look convinced at all, but nods anyway. "Okay, I'll be right back." He leaves and comes back way too quickly in a vehicle. I can't remember what kind it is; they're constantly making improvements to these vehicles and every time they do they give them a new name.

He motions for me to get in and I do. "Would you mind driving at a speed where if someone was hanging from the vehicle their skin wouldn't be ripped off their bones and their organs wouldn't fall out and the only thing left of them wouldn't be a bit of skin and blood on the rope?" I ask. I don't like those vehicles and I really don't like how fast Friend got here.

"Yeah, sure," he replies way too casually. I tighten my seat belt and grip the sides of my seat. "Oh, by the way, something really weird happened last week. Like, super weird. So, I was having an okay day. I had to deal with unaddressed letters again. Thirty two of them. Seriously, how hard is it to write a name and address? I just— I wish I could understand why they think I'll magically know who to give it to. Then again, if I could understand their thought process I'd probably be able to figure out who to give the letters to. That's it! Maybe they think I'm a mind reader!" He laughs. Does he not realise he's telling me the exact same story he started to tell me before I left? Maybe it's a trick to get me to tell him what happened.

At least his story's distracting me from the vehicle's flight. I do wish he's look straight ahead and not make so many hand gestures, but I suppose there's not much to crash into in the sky. I shiver at the thought of the vehicle suddenly stopping and plummeting down to Earth.

Friend continues. "Anyway, I decided to deliver the letters that were actually labelled before sorting out the rest, blah, blah, blah. Boring work stuff. I'll just skip to the interesting part.

"Later that day, I was doing my job, minding my business when I noticed this woman marching straight towards me with a determined look in her eyes like she woke up and decided she was going to kill me. She was pretty tiny, but I was sure I wouldn't stand a chance if she was armed. That woman was scary! I tried to put on an understanding smile and not run away as she approaches me. Then things get even stranger. She's carrying a purse, and she reaches into it and I swear, I was ready to start running for my life if she pulled out a weapon, but no. She pulled out a dead chicken. An actual chicken corpse. Not a new one either! It had been rotting for a while, and I could tell because I could smell it, because she was waving it in my face like it was a white flag, except I was the one who wanted to surrender and get out of there! The chicken smelled so bad. I can still smell it.

"Oh, and that's not even where the story ends! She started going on a rant about how lazy I am and how I never do my job and how my pay should go to her pet chicken! I'm not even sure she knew it was dead! She then tells me she leaves shopping lists on her front porch every week for me to pick up so I can do her shopping for her! That's not my job! And I was waiting until she was done yelling to explain that to her, but halfway through a sentence she stopped, looked at the chicken, muttered 'Oh, right, I gotta take Mr. Fluffers to his vet appointment,' and ran off!"

I hope we're almost at the destination. It feels like we've been flying forever. "Huh. That is strange," I reply, hoping that was the end of the story.

"Yeah, it really was! Oh, and something weird happened this morning, too! I was sorting through letters when I got the strongest feeling someone was watching me, so I looked up and there was a girl staring at me through the window. Her hands were pressed against the glass and she just stared straight at me. She didn't even blink. And her eyes were lime and I'm pretty sure they glowed. I've been watching a bit too many horror films lately, so I walked over to the window, shut the blinds, closed the curtains, and hoped she went away, which, in hindsight, would never work in a horror movie.

"It didn't work in real life, either. As I was walking back to my desk I heard glass shatter. She broke the window. I turned around and saw her roll through it. She stood up, covered in glass and cuts- her blood was lime!- but then she just started healing herself somehow! All the glass was pushed out of her wounds and they closed up like nothing happened! And she says 'You're the delivery boy, right?' and I nod because that's close enough, and she smiles this huge, crooked grin and becomes a lot more cheerful and she's like 'That's great! You must be used to unreasonable people and nonsensical requests! So, where can I get a stabby stabby stabby stabby stabby stabby knife?' And I'm really freaked out, but I ask why she wants a knife and she scoffs and rolls her eyes and says 'For stabby stabby stabby stabby stabby stabby things, of course.'

"I gave her a knife. I— I didn't know what to do and I didn't even think about it, but I gave her a knife that was meant for someone else and I was supposed to deliver, but now she has it! And I tried to show her out, but I turned around and she was gone! So, I've been worrying about that for most of the day." Friend lets out a nervous laugh. I hope he's done talking now. How can he talk so much without running out of breath?

Was that Rachel he was talking about? It sounded a lot like her. Why would she be here? Why would she need a knife? A stabby stabby stabby stabby stabby stabby knife? Where's Noname?

The vehicle comes to a stop. I didn't notice we were close to landing. "Well, here we are!" Friend announces. "I actually drove past this place while I was talking and had a little trouble finding my way back, but hey, we're here now." I'm not getting into a vehicle he's driving any time soon.

"Thanks!" I reply and get out of the vehicle. As soon as both my feet are on solid ground my knees give way and my vision is flooded by dark green and purple splotches. My energy's completely drained. How fast was Friend driving?

I hear him get out of the vehicle, so I assume it's safe to use to help me get up. I've managed to stand with all my weight against it by the time he comes around the other side.

Friend frowns in concern. "You don't look well at all. Are you sure you don't want me to take you to the hospital instead? Or at least to a doctor? Yu don't seem 'okay.'"

"I'm fine," I try to answer, but it comes out more like a soft "Im fuh."

His frown deepens. "I don't think so. Can you even stand by yourself?"

I push away from the vehicle so I'm balancing on my own two feet, but as soon as I let go I fall over.

Friend helps me back up into a standing position, supporting all of my weight. I try to take a step forward and nearly face plant. "We're going to a hospital."

"No."

"Alia, you're deathly pale. You can't walk. You can barely speak. Nothing you're going to tell them could possibly be more—" He stops talking when I make myself fall out of his grip. "Alia..."

"No."

"Please."

No."

Friend shakes his head. "Fine then! How are you going to get there?" He gestures across the street to the building where Scary Guy and Mean Lady's offices are located. It's not too far away. I'd probably be able to army crawl across the street, and then the distance to the entrance is about the same as the width of the street, so it would be like crossing the street twice. However, since there are no other vehicles or people in sight, I think the best idea would be to cross diagonally. There's a lot of stairs leading to the entrance, but I think I'd be able to pull myself up them, and the door opens inwards so I'd only have to lift myself up enough to open the handle and fall in.

I start elbowing my way forward. It's slow, but I manage to get more than half way across the street before Friend gives up. "Fine. I'll help you speak to them if you promise to go to the hospital after. Okay? Just promise."

If I go to the hospital in this state they'll probably send me to my husband's house to rest. I'd prefer to die from whatever's affecting me now. "I dunbt neeeed yur hulp."

"How about I help you now and we'll talk about going to the hospital later? What's your problem with the hospital? Is there a bad doctor there or something?"

I let him help me up and support me. We walk in silence, but I can sense his annoyance. I hope before I'm gone I get the chance to explain myself to him. I don't like my friends being mad at me.

Friend flies up the stairs, through the doors, and planks me onto one of the chairs in the lobby. Since he's approaching the receptionist desk I decide to close my eyes for a while. I'm exhausted.

"Hi. May I request an audience with the King and Queen?" I hear Friend ask. "And could you please make it urgent? I'm not sure how much longer my friend will last."

"Yeah, sure, I can do that." the receptionist replies. "Is she okay? She looks like she needs medical attention."

"Don't mention the hospital. She might roll away, but" he lowers his voice. "If she falls asleep get someone to take her there."

"Um, yeah, sure."

I open my eyes and focus on keeping them open. Friend sits near me and opens a magazine. "I hope whatever you're planning is worth it," he mutters.

I don't reply, only stare at the spot where the wall opposite from me touches the floor.