A while after Lindsi went quiet, I took my hands away from my face and cautiously straightened up, opening my eyes. She was lying on the floor, the air hazed with smoke so I couldn’t see too clearly, but I knew something was different, even if I wasn’t sure what. I ran over and knelt down by her. The smoke made me feel like coughing, but I couldn’t actually feel it, so I just tried to stop myself holding my breath and did my best to look her over. I tried to roll her towards me first, but my hand just went right through her shoulder. I felt like screaming, but I got up again and stepped over her, knelt down… and got another shock. I jerked back, hands up in an instinctive reaction. Her face was blue! Not just airless blue, either, the same softly reflective dark blue her biosuit was.
Lindsi? Lindsi, are you all right? Wake up, Lindsi!
I tried to shake her, but again, my hands went right through. I put a hand in front of her face, but I couldn’t feel her breathing, because I couldn’t feel anything. In the end, I just pretended to rest a hand on her shoulder and sat there. There wasn’t anything else I could do.
I don’t think I was there too long, but it felt like forever. I brought Lindsi here, and now she was, if not dead, changed into who knew what. The Ship asked me to, I know, but it had all gone so badly wrong! What was her sister going to do? What were her whole family going to do when she didn’t come back? I felt like it was all my fault, and there wasn’t even anything I could do about it.
Lindsi stirred, and I sat back, looking at her worriedly. At least she was alive… but what had happened to her?
Are you all right?
She paused, as if she was thinking about it. “My head hurts, and I feel sort of strange, but I think so. What happened?” She opened her eyes, and I was relieved to see they were the same grey they were before. At least that and her voice hadn’t changed. She looked right at me, focusing right on my face. “Who are you?”
I only realised right then. She saw me — she’d been hearing me, speaking to me!
You can see me!
“Of course I can. You’re right in front of me.” She sat up, slowly, lifting a hand but not touching her face as if afraid of what she’d find. “Is — did…?”
She was afraid she’d been hurt and couldn’t feel it, that something had happened to her so bad it didn’t look like she should be able to see. I saw fear building in her grey eyes, but what could I say? ‘No, you’re fine, it’s me, I’m dead.’?
It’s okay. You’re all right, I think.
Lindsi touched her face, carefully, but I saw her relax at once. There wasn’t anything wrong, not anything she could feel. I didn’t know what to say to her… about what had happened to her. It was a moment before she said anything again, a quiet, relieved pause.
“What happened? Why all the smoke?”
The Ship brought you here. I didn’t want to tell her it had used me to do so. I was afraid to tell her that this was my fault. All my fault. It said we had to stop it from being destroyed. Then it said someone had noticed, and… and then everything went crazy.
“Crazy?” She paused again for a moment. “I remember. The machines all started up at once, and… I guess I fainted or something.” She managed a faint, embarrassed laugh. “I don’t normally faint, honest.”
It — it wasn’t that. They did something to you… you’re different.
“Different how? What did they do?”
I don’t know. It was my turn to pause, embarrassed. I was scared. I closed my eyes.
“Fair enough, I suppose.” She smiled at me. It looked a bit strange on her dark blue face, but it was a smile. One she might not have given if she knew it was my fault. “So how am I different?”
Look at yourself. You — you’re blue. Like your biosuit. And your hair’s silver.
“I’m what? You’re joking.”
I wish I was, Lindsi. I really wish I was.
Lindsi stood up, waving the smoke away from her face. The walls in here might have been reflective, but with the air like this, neither of us could have seen much. She headed for where I guessed the door was, and I followed her. Oddly enough, she was dead on, reaching out to the touchpad and resting her hand on it for a moment. A click and a hiss, and the door opened again. We stumbled out, a cloud of smoke following us like a dying breath, and looked at one another as the door closed behind us.
I nodded reluctantly. Really.
Lindsi didn’t say anything to that, just crossed over to look at herself in the nearest reflective surface. It was curved, a cover on something, but it was enough to show colour. Enough to show almost bluish silver hair framing a deep blue face. She yelped and jumped back like she’d been stung, and I don’t blame her.
I nodded again, more sadly this time, but didn’t say anything. Lindsi patted at her neck, feeling for the high collar of her biosuit. It wasn’t there. There wasn’t even a ridge to say it had been. She scrabbled at it anyway, then down the front of her body in the hope of finding the fastener for the suit, but that was gone too.
“It’s — it’s fused to my skin! Help me!”
She struggled with her own body as I stood by with my hands held helplessly out towards her. Even if I could have touched her, there wouldn’t have been anything I could do, though I didn’t know it then.
She knelt down, after a while. Knelt down and cried.
That was how her other name came about. Lindsi the Fused. Kneeling in the Medical Bay, crying, the Fused didn’t look anything like what she would become.
I tried to put a hand on her shoulder. Tried, and completely failed, but she looked around at me as if she’d felt it.
“Thanks.” She sniffed, ran a hand through her newly silver hair, and stood up. “I’d probably be in even worse trouble if you hadn’t been here.”
That bit deep, but I managed to hide it.
What are you going to do now?
“Well, first of all, I have to get back home. Kima’s going to be worried sick about me. Though I have no idea what she‘s going to think of this.”
I managed to smile at her, just a little, and she managed about the same. And that was how we went back — back to the Dome, and back to her family’s run-down little house. I tried to stay behind her: I didn’t want her seeing me passing right through things, after all.
We got pretty close to her home before she thought to ask me where I lived.
“Say, where are you heading?”
Oh… I didn’t have anywhere to go, but I couldn’t tell her that. There was so much there was no way I could tell her. My home’s not far from here. It was true, too, actually. In a way. The place where I used to live was pretty close by, and that was all I had.
“All right.” She started to turn away, hesitated, turned back. “Listen… can you — will you come back here tomorrow?”
I nodded. Sure.
“Thanks.” She smiled, relieved, happy. “I wouldn’t want to be in this on my own.”
I smiled back. I couldn’t do anything else.
She turned and walked off, and I watched her go. Kept staring long after she disappeared around the corner, too. I didn’t want her to go. I almost wanted to follow her back to where she lived, just so I could think about her, about what we were going to do. So I didn’t have to think about me.
I couldn’t do that, of course. There wasn’t anything I could do except turn and head for where my own home used to be. I didn’t even know if it’d still be there, or if there’d be someone else living in it. Didn’t know what I’d do if there was, either. I tried not to think about it, but I couldn’t help myself. I kept remembering my home, wondering what would have happened to it, imagining all the different things that could have, the people who might be there. Who would they be? Would they see me? Of course not. They couldn’t even know I existed. I could walk right through them and they wouldn’t know anything had happened at all.
I just kept on thinking like that, my thoughts going round in circles, my feet taking me through the streets without me even really noticing, running on automatic like the Ship’s mechanisms. I turned into the doorway, lifted my hand to a handle I couldn’t feel, and then I stopped. I stopped because there wasn’t even a handle there.
Was I in the wrong place? I couldn’t even remember where I’d been walking. All I knew was I was standing in a doorway, a doorway with the door half off its hinges and hanging open, and when I turned and looked around, this whole end of the street was like that, like nobody had lived here for a long time. This couldn’t be my home! It couldn’t be!
But the more I looked around, the more I stared down that old, ruined street, the more I looked from house to house… the more I recognised this place. It was… it really was. My home…
I tried to lean against the wall, but my shoulder just blurred through it, and I sat down instead, resting my head on my knees. I wanted to cry again, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything.
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.