Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 06 - "Falling"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Away From Home Syndrome

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-11-27 - Updated: 2008-11-28 - 1539 words - Complete

A while later, Shades woke up again.

Not as foggy as before, but still waking up in stages. Names and images floated up out of dark waters, things so old they might have been native to his mind, or had been there so long they had decided to go native. An imagery and language unto itself. Shimmering echoes and fragments of his earliest, dimmest recollections, tainted by fictions of fancy and missing pieces of that puzzle people called The Past.

Though the only thing he’ll remember clearly is what finally woke him up. The distant echo of a voice that was and wasn’t Carlos calling him a damn rebel and insurgent and Zero-Fucker (most puzzling of all). That last would linger, popping into his head at odd moments over the next few days. Just the phrase itself spooked him, left him half expecting an attack at any moment. Also, because he felt he should know that cryptic insult from somewhere…

As if he had once had a dream about it or something.

Yet at least this time he was a lot less surprised by his surroundings when he opened his eyes. Not because it was the fold-up, or even the living room couch. Still the same hotel room he only half remembered DJ doodling directions to find. Meaning that his first dream had been more real than he wanted to believe. At least he took some relief from the fact that he was still in the same place he (sort of) remembered falling asleep.

And there were no windows in this hotel room, making him wonder why he had felt the sun shining on him earlier.

His clothes were still on, even his shoes, for fear he would be forced to run before his rest was done. Backpack and his new whip close at hand, in case fight-or-flight should end up entailing both. That afraid of the guards busting in on him while he slept.

Still too logy for real thinking, he found the remote on the nightstand and turned on the TV. If Necessity was the mother of Invention, he reflected absently, Laziness must surely be the father. After flipping through a few channels, he settled on cartoons, seeing as how it was Saturday and all.

Assuming there was such a thing as “Saturday” here, but his mind didn’t dwell for long on that question before setting it aside for the moment. It didn’t take him long at all to settle in, sprawled out on the foot of the bed with the covers thrown over him. Just like he used to when he was a kid.

Even with the door locked, it still felt a little awkward to be watching cartoons at a time like this. Of course, like most of his peers, he had gone through a phase where he abstained from all forms of animation, though when he looked back on it later, the only thing he could think of was the stigma of it being “childish” or some such, always boiling down to someone else’s opinion. Yet after everything he had been through lately, he didn’t particularly care. As he sat there, he became increasingly engrossed in the fascinating spectacle unfolding before him.

John and Arthur would probably love the previously unknown wonders he had found here.

But after a couple episodes, it began to dawn on him just how ravenous he had become. Leaving his jacket and backpack behind in an attempt to look less like any “suspect descriptions” that might be floating around, he slipped out into the hall to find some vending machines. Ruing every dime. He just had to get caught between paychecks; one week earlier, or one week later, and he would have at least twice as much cash in his pocket. Still fearing detection, he heaved a sigh of relief when he shut the door behind him, having gone through his entire errand unseen.

Then he resumed watching cartoons, figuring that if the guards even could find him, they already would have by now, and relaxed a bit. As he chowed down on his vending machine bounty, as well as a few snacks he had packed for the hike he was supposed to be in the middle of, at least according to his watch, he took in these shows (which some enthusiastic voice between breaks informed him, weren’t cartoons, they’re animé), he quickly came to understand what some college student he had once talked to called Away From Home Syndrome. Just a touch of childhood familiarity, and he could now feel right at home, even in another dimension.

Mixed in were also shows that were childhood favorites that he had never missed in grade school, it made him feel more like he was back on the couch at their old home after school on any given day. Tiring of his filthy clothes, he piled them next to the bed, and watched wearing nothing but a blanket. Had even found a couple gumballs from his chase with the guards that had somehow ended up in his jacket pocket. He pulled the covers a little tighter around himself as he shifted to a more comfortable position. It had been years since he had thought of the cats from their old home, but this made him miss the feline companionship of his childhood, made him wish there was a kitten curled up at his side, purring contentedly.

It made him realize it had been a while. Made him feel entirely too at peace with himself, given the circumstances. Made him wish he had a good book handy.

Speaking of good books, he glanced at the nightstand, wondering offhandedly if any Gideons had ever stayed the night in the Twilight Zone. Sixth Dimension— for now he really didn’t care what this Boss DJ called it; he knew he was really in the Twilight Zone. Feeling too lazy to check at the moment, he made a mental note to check the drawer later. For a moment, he wondered what kinds of religious texts he might stumble upon in another world, but such vague musings quickly fell by the wayside in the face of this bizarre parade of comedy, kung-fu action, and fan service, oh my.

Decided it would have to do. After all, he needed to regain his strength before he began his search. So, for a few hours, at least, he was able to forget about his problems and clear his troubled mind.

Finally, Shades got up and went to take a badly needed shower.

After seeing the past and future(?) on TV, he wasn’t quite sure what to think. But at least he was awake enough to think. And well aware that he had a lot to think about.

Looking in the bathroom mirror, he automatically thought of John first. About how easily they got separated. It just happened so fast, made him feel so stupid, he nearly slapped his forehead there in front of the mirror.

The abrupt motion of his reflection made him jump in spite of himself as he remembered his dreams. Looking in the mirror now gave him a bad case of the hoodoos, even as it already started fogging from the shower. Dream or no dream, he knew why he felt bad about John, but now that he thought about it, he was also worried about Amy. Vaguely remembered hearing her voice, something about hash-browns and eighty-six, and having a really bad feeling about the whole matter. Thought for a moment that he remembered having a bad dream about her too. And an ominous premonition that terrible things either had happened, or were going to happen…

…to all three of us.

He splashed his face a couple times, reminding himself not to drag his feet too long. Like it or not, he would soon have to venture forth into this strange new place. Would have to screw up his nerve and see for himself if anyone else he knew had dropped in last night.

“Shades… Help me, dude…”

Even as he heard those words, Shades looked up from his thoughts to see John’s reflection staring back at him, his face a mask of desperation. Shades reached across and wiped away the fog. By the time he removed his hand, the spectral image was gone, if it had ever been there in the first place.

He splashed his face a couple more times before he stepped in the shower.

Even as he washed up, the haze in his mind began to clear, and a plan of sorts began to take shape. First priority, find anyone, anyone at all, he might know from his own world. A close second, keep a low profile, as this was the guards’ home turf, and he didn’t want to fight them if he could possibly avoid it. Third, try to gather as much intelligence about the place as possible, especially this “curse” business. And last, but by no means least, try to find a way to get the hell out of here.

All the same, there were moments when he still didn’t believe this was really happening to him.
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