C7: Chapter Six – Lost on Earth
Nico could only see the outline of a body on her front stoop. She tried turning her head to one side, then the other side in an attempt to gain a better perspective, but it was no use, she simply couldn’t determine who, or what, was outside her door.
“Who is it?” she asked softly. Her voice sounded strange, almost hollow in pitch and she felt a peculiar squeezing in her stomach.
She placed a hand flat against her abdomen and nearly forgot about the person on the porch as the peculiar sensation persisted. She tried to decipher what she was feeling – fear perhaps?
“Hmm, that’s an interesting emotion,” she muttered quietly.
“Nico, it’s Bob,” his voice hissed through the door. “Let me in, we need to talk.”
Nico placed her palm on the doorknob before pausing. How did she know it was Bob? What if it was the messenger trying to trick her? Was that even possible? First, she wasn’t aware of any trick to turn a person’s voice into someone else’s and secondly, how would the messenger even know about Bob to begin with?
Her fingers curled around the handle and she slowly turned the knob. Taking a breath, she eased the door open a few inches and peered out.
Nico recognized the slightly overweight, slightly balding, slightly-older-than-middle-aged guy standing on the other side and with a relieved smile, ushered Bob into her house. She gave the outside a hurried, cursory glance before shutting and locking the door behind him.
“Thank J’tis, it’s only you,” she said as she faced him.
Bob cocked his head in confusion. “Thank…who?”
“Nothing,” she said over her shoulder while walking into her bedroom. “I need to change out of these clothes; I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Right,” Bob called after her.
Nico peeled off her wet clothes and stepped into a pair of loose-fitting jeans and a pastel t-shirt. She left her feet bare. She padded back into the living room and sank onto her sofa.
“Wow, that was fast,” Bob said with surprise.
“When women say they’re going to be back in a minute, that usually means half an hour.”
“Ah well, I’m not like other women.”
“You could say that again.” The couple stared at each other for long moments before Bob cleared his throat and sat on a nearby, high-backed chair. “Look,” he began, pausing to gather his thoughts before continuing. “I’m not sure where to go from here. I mean, this is so… you’re so…” he grunted in frustration and ran a plump hand over his scalp. “I think I might have done something… I made a mistake. I wasn’t thinking.”
Nico’s back straightened and her stare changed from slightly amused to wary and alert. “What do you mean?”
“I emailed a Code Green to my colleagues,” he said, his expression apologetic, his voice coated with regret.
“A… Code Green?” Nico repeated with confusion.
Bob’s fists clenched and he explained through gritted teeth. “It’s code for ‘something is off, weird, strange,’” he quickly corrected himself. “And I’m recommending they take a closer look, see what they think.”
“And what do they think?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard back from them yet. Which is sort of… disappointing,” Bob said.
“Why is it disappointing that you haven’t heard anything? Maybe they…” Nico suddenly stopped and her face lost all remaining color.
“Say, are you alright?” Bob said while pushing himself out of the chair to sit beside her.
Nico’s eyes remained on the chair that Bob vacated; in fact, she didn’t appear to realize he had moved at all.
Nico, said Anakin, he is close.
Three blocks away.
Nico jerked back to awareness and moving at a slightly inhuman speed, she grabbed Bob’s hand and dragged him to her bedroom.
“Hey, wha – what are you… where are we going?” Bob sputtered in surprise.
“We have to leave, now,” hissed Nico as she released Bob’s hand and stuffed her feet back into her damp sneakers. “He will be here soon.”
“He?” Bob squeaked. “Who’s he?”
“The messenger,” Nico responded and raced to the kitchen.
“The… what?” Bob repeated and stumbled after her. “What are you doing? Where are we going? What the hell is going on?”
“I can’t explain right now,” Nico said while shoving four water bottles into a canvas tote bag. “You will need food,” she said absently as she threw granola bars and a tube of Pringles potato chips into the bag.
He’s on your street, Nico. Get out!
“Who’s coming, Nico? What’s going on?”
“They have come for me, Bob. I can’t let them take me. Not now. Not before I figure out what I’m going to do.” She began racing toward the back door. She paused, the bag slung over her shoulder, her hand on the doorknob before she realized that Bob wasn’t behind her. She turned.
“Are you coming?”
Bob chewed nervously on his lower lip. “They couldn’t have figured out what was going on so fast, Nico. I’m sure it’s nobody. I just sent that email an hour—”
“Not your people, Bob.” Nico said, her voice surprisingly steady, “my people.”
Bob’s lips formed a slight “O” shape and before he could utter a sound, the front door began to jiggle.
Someone was trying to break in.
Anakin, he’s here! Nico screamed silently.
You have no choice, you must fly.
But what if someone sees me?
What if he catches you? Anakin shot back.
“Bob! I need an answer!” Nico yelled and her human shape began to melt away. She stretched and spread her beautiful wings. Her blue-gray skin looked slick with moisture. “Will you help me or not?”
The front door shuttered and groaned as the being on the other side of it began to throw its weight against it.
Nico threw open the back door and held out her hand to Bob. “You must trust me,” she said.
Bob stared at her and then looked back over his shoulder to the front door. There was a long, jagged crack down the left panel
“If he catches me, I will be forced to return, Bob. I will likely die. I cannot escape this without your help.”
A low, inhuman sound screamed through the house.
“He is agitated. Messengers are not very quick, but they are persistent, and when agitated, quite dangerous. We must go now!”
Beads of sweat broke out on Bob’s forehead and he visibly swallowed. Hand shaking, he reached for Nico.
Chapter six by Karen Maxwell