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Story Time Contest: Hero Edition
7th Aug 2012 at 12:09 PM
Thanks: 38 in 1 Posts
Zoe sat back against a column on the sunken porch of the station building and watched Matt pace back and forth before her. Now that he had her listening, he seemed nervous about talking – which was completely un-Matt-like. He glanced at her, shook his head, and turned away again.
Zoe bit her lip. “Matt?”
He jerked to a halt and pushed a hand through his hair, refusing to meet her gaze.
“Matt, what is it?”
Zoe hugged her knees as dire possibilities rushed through her mind. Maybe he was sick. Maybe he didn’t care about her hurting him because he was already dying. Maybe he was running around naked because he had a fever. Or maybe he was the one starting the fires. Zoe shuddered, then frowned and mentally checked the banked fire in her. While it was under control, she could still feel its smouldering warmth and didn’t trust the restraints to last.
Matt hesitated. He shrugged. A grin crossed his face, wide, a little feral and far too amused, but so much more natural on him that some of Zoe’s tension leaked away.
“I guess the easiest way is just to show you,” he said. And so he did.
Zoe blinked. She was distantly aware she should maybe be screaming. Or at least be shocked. Not just sitting there and watching the big, fluffy dog that sat where Matt had stood two seconds before. It – he – watched her with one cocked ear and a still tail. Then he glanced away, somehow radiating exasperation as his tail thudded against the ground.
“That’s a gorgeous dog,” Zoe said, voice flat. “Its the same colouring and everything.” The colouring that on Matt suggested a constant relationship with his hairdresser was natural and segued into each shade. Zoe picked at a splinter by her hand, careful and methodical. Pick, pick, pick. It caught, and red stained the skin under her nail. She was barely aware of the light stinging.
The dog whined and crept forward, his amber eyes soft and anxious.
Now Zoe screamed.
Matt grinned, all teeth and lolling tongue.
‘That’s better. Not that I want you scared. But it’s better than not reacting.’
He thumped his forepaws up on the porch.
His voice seemed to insert itself into Zoe’s head, like a second, alien thought. Its warm, familiar timbre echoed with an image of running free, the wind through his coat, along infinite stretches of pristine beach.
Zoe froze. She gulped in a painful breath, then slid forward to the edge of the porch. Matt dropped down again, giving her space. She crouched in front him. She reached out a tentative, shaking hand. He felt real – he was soft and warm, almost hot. “Matt,” she whispered. “You’re a dog.”
Despite amusement in the tone, she could sense his seriousness – and see it, as the dog stilled in the echo.
‘I am. And you play with fire.’
“I’m a freak.”
‘So’m I. It’s not a bad thing.’
Matt leapt up and licked her face, a long and sloppy kiss: definitely real. Zoe shrieked, falling back, then laughed. As her giggles continued, edging into hysteria, Matt licked her again with a growl half-warning, half-playful. She shoved him away as she collapsed onto her back.
Zoe gasped in a calmer breath, then another. She stared up at the sagging porch roof and blackened, warped walls. The building looked on the verge of collapse. “No wonder you don’t like cats.”
‘They’re fun to chase.’
“And you don’t have a dog.” She’d always thought that was because his beach house didn’t have an enclosed yard and was on stilts. But it did explain why the interior had no doors, only curtained arches.
‘No. They’re... uneasy around me.’
“Though I still don’t know why you’re naked.” Zoe turned an accusing look on him, as if that was the main problem. Not that he was a dog or that she was... whatever she was.
‘I like being naked. It’s natural. And anyway, clothes aren’t really made to fit a dog. They just get wrecked.’
Zoe pushed to her feet, wrapped her hands into Matt’s shaggy coat, then suddenly pulled away. “Change. Or whatever you do to be Matt again.”
Matt had stretched, ready to obey, but he paused to shoot her a steady look.
‘I am Matt. No matter which form I take. Just like you’re still Zoe even if you happen to be on fire.’
Zoe blushed and shook her head, but didn’t say anything. Matt’s mental sigh echoed in her thoughts, and then he stood before her, a man again. Even though Zoe had been staring, she hadn’t seen the change. A haze seemed to come over him, or perhaps over her sight, veiling him like a misty morning. If his grimace was any indication, Zoe suspected it was her brain’s way of shielding her from the sight of human flesh and bone breaking and reforming.
Matt shrugged, holding out his arms. The pain seemed only temporary. “Well?”
“How is this possible? How... I mean, you can’t just change into an animal,” Zoe whispered.
“I don’t ‘just’ change. It takes concentration, practice, levels of awesome ordinary people don’t have.”
Zoe actually glared, and Matt laughed.
“I don’t know, Zoe. All my family are like this – shifters. I knew a girl when I was a kid who could tell you the history of any mechanical object she touched. We’re special. You’re special.”
He came forward, arms outstretched, but by the time he reached her, he was a dog again. He head butted her midriff.
‘You’re not alone.’
Zoe ruffled his ears, scratching his head as if he were any other dog, then stopped with another blush at the un-dog-like gleam of amusement in his eyes. “Sorry,” she muttered.
“I’m not special,” Zoe said over his mental chuckle that echoed with sunny days and playful wavelets. “I’m...” she trailed off. The idea that she wasn’t alone in being a freak... that was amazing. Her mind grappled with it, turning it over and over, but couldn’t quite grasp it. Not yet. It was too big. And it didn’t change anything. She was still dangerous.
Matt sensed her withdrawal, or saw it in her face, and slipped back into being a man. The quick change back and forth and its accompanying pain didn’t seem to bother him at all. It must be worth the hurting.
“You were going to go once you told me,” Zoe said before he had a chance to speak. She looked up, caught the expression on his face. “It doesn’t change anything. I still—” She couldn’t say it.
She hadn’t started the fire that killed her family. No. But her being there had made it worse, had fed the flames that danced and burst around her. She had wondered, daze like, through them. If not for her, the fire mightn’t have spread so quickly and so hungrily. They might have gotten out. They might still be alive today.
“Zoe,” Matt started to say, but his words were lost in a sudden roar.
Zoe staggered, almost falling, as the ground shook beneath them. Matt dropped form, finding his balance on four legs instead of two. In the distance a wall of flame clawed at the sky in groping orange and thick, oily smoke.
“What was that? Is that the Labs?” Zoe stared at the horizon – the flames didn’t look likely to disappear anytime soon.
The grimness in Matt’s tone was reinforced by the forbidding images scurrying behind it: a storm tossed beach, waves pounding the hard sand while wind lashed the grey waters into a frenzy.
“Now? But...” Zoe realised there wasn’t really a ‘but’. Someone starting fires didn’t follow any rules, let alone hers.
‘Now. What are you going to do about it?’
Matt challenged her.
“Me?” Zoe gaped. “What can I—” She flinched as another explosion deafened them, reverberating through the air. “Do... do you think they meant it to be like this?”
Matt shrugged, a very odd gesture on a dog.
“They can’t have. It must have just gotten out of hand. It must have,” Zoe mumbled, trying to convince herself. “They must be sorry they—”
Matt shook as if shedding water, cutting her off.
It’s too damn late to apologise.
He took two loping strides, then paused.
‘You could help, you know.’
“I can’t help anyone. I can’t even help myself,” Zoe said, honest in her distraction when she mightn’t otherwise have admitted it so blatantly.
‘Yes, you could, if you wanted to. Don’t just hold back your fire, Zoe. Control it. Control this fire.’
Matt tossed his shaggy head in the direction of the building flames.
‘I think you can do it. You just need to believe that.’
Then he bounded off across the scorched ground. Zoe stared after him, blinking back new tears. Matt had always had more faith in her then she did, but...
It took her a few minutes to fully realise he was bouncing happily after a boiling fire and possibly an arsonist with no concern at all.
“Oh dear,” she said lamely. She hesitated. She ran after him; she couldn’t let him get hurt.
Current Plot Point:
Previous Plot Points:
Mysterious Past, Heaven Only Knows
Word Count: 1541 words / 14 pictures
CC Used: Allowed only (I think!) – LBF skins, Aikea eyes, poses, OMSPs, Time/Weather mod, Chaos effect emitter
It feels strange not to be pushing the word count, but I didn’t feel like I needed to use it all this round. I actually added in rather than the normal cutting/paring back.
(Just noticed that on my second monitor, the flashback picture appears mostly white. I hope people have decent monitors and can see it!)