She saw him falling, but he was still too far away – she was concentrating on his head and the way it bounced off an exposed tree root – and she winced as she watched his head bounce.
She was by his side within moments, feeling for a carotid pulse. Checking his neck, then pupil responsiveness. Getting him onto his left side, putting her jacket under his head while she watched his breathing
Then Anton was there by her side, though clearly now more confused than ever. “Where is boy?” he asked in his heavily accented English.
But she was looking past the burly Russian, looking for Mike – and she spotted him running off the boat with her ‘go-bag’ – which contained everything she might need to treat Henry in a crisis just like this – and he was by her side in seconds. She opened the bag and handed Mike a pack of alcohol swabs while she asked him to clean up the skin around his port. She took out an IV bag and handed this to Anton, and she told him to, above all else, hold it above Henry’s head. She hooked the line to the port and then set the flow-rate, checking his heart rate from time to time while the fluid stabilized his electrolytes.
“Okay, let’s get him to the boat,” she said after a few minutes, and both Anton and Mike helped lift and start to carry Henry back to Time Bandits.
Only now there was a small band of thugs on deck, and it appeared that several had already been below – ransacking the interior by the looks of things scattered around the deck.
“We need to get this man below,” she said to one of the man-boys standing by the gate in the lifelines.
“Mange moi, beetch!” he replied as two other hoods came over to join their leader. “Dees ees my boat now, so fuck off!”
Taggart’s eyes flickered a little, but they did not open…
He was sprawled out on the white road, staring up at the ringed blue planet as his fingers clawed into the fine sandy soil…
“Why…why am I here again – now?”
He pushed himself up to a sitting position and looked around, fighting off nausea and disorientation as he looked around these now almost familiar surroundings.
‘Yes, there they are. The shadows. The shadows and that brilliant white place in the forest…’
He heard cries in the air now, almost like birds but more like feral cats…weird, screeching calls – that seemed to be reacting to his return to this place.
Then one of the shadows was over him, holding him fast to the sandy dirt, yet as he looked through the spectral form he saw that this shadow had substance.
Almost humanoid, yet the skin was an iridescent matrix of textures that might have been scales, possibly even feathers, and while the creature within at first seemed more or less androgynous he began to make out a startling pinkness to the iridescent shimmer along the edges of the creatures’ scales/feathers.
“Pinky?” he asked as he looked the creature in the eyes.
The creature reached inside his mind: “Yes.”
“Is this you? What you really look like?”
“There is trouble. I feel I must intervene, but to do so I must use your form once again.”
“Okay – what’s the problem?”
“There is great danger to you if I do. You may not survive, Henry.”
“I understand,” he said as she sent images spiraling into his mind, images of thugs and of a terrified Dina. “We must do what we can do.”
“I will do what I can for you after, but it may not be enough. I wanted you to be prepared for what may happen.”
He reached up and put his hand on the side of her face – but then she seemed to physically swoon from his touch, rocking from side to side and the iridescent edges of her scales/feathers began pulsing brightly in concert with the movements of his fingers. Her androgyny melted into pure femininity and what he felt was unmistakable; he took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. “I understand, my friend. Let’s go…”
Dina was by his side again. He was resting on the bench, his breathing ragged, his flesh a waxy-sallowed sheen when the change began.
Muscles redefined before her eyes, the pinkish aura began pouring from his skin again.
Anton shook his head: “This too fucking weird,” he muttered as Mike stepped back and Dina placed her fingertips on Henry’s carotids. Moments later Henry was sitting up and looking at the rag-tag assortment of trash on his boat.
“Take this thing out of my chest,” he said to Dina, his voice now an odd, almost synthetic version of the original. She struggled to remove the line even as Henry stood and began walking towards Time Bandits…
One of the thugs pointed at Henry as he approached and the leader returned to the gate in the lifelines, this time pulling a small pistol from his coat pocket, letting it dangle by his side as Henry came close.
“Leave now,” Henry said, “and I will allow you to live. Remain here and you will cease to exist.”
The leader was staring at the vibrant pink aura radiating from the few visible patches of Henry’s flesh, almost mesmerized by the sight – until Henry’s words registered – then the pistol began swinging up until the barrel was leveled at Henry’s face…
Dina saw the boy’s finger contracting on the trigger in slow motion, then primer detonation followed by a bright flash of light, then the pistol simply disappeared – and with it half of the boy’s right hand.
Henry raised his right hand and made as if to squeeze the air in front of his face – and in a mirror reaction the boy’s body began to implode in agonizing horror, his shattered body falling to the deck in sundered stillness. One of the other thugs took out a killing knife and dashed for Henry, raising the blade as he came: Henry raised a finger and lifted this assailant a hundred meters into the air, then slamming this body down onto the ancient stone tow-path – with gruesome results.
“Leave – now, and you will live,” this Henry said quietly to the remaining boarders, and no one doubted the wisdom of fleeing when they heard this last warning. “Leave everything,” he added, but one of the thugs kicked Clyde as he started to leave and Henry responded by sending this boy into the upper reaches of earth’s atmosphere, leaving the remains to burn-up on re-entry. He walked over to Clyde and placed his hand on the pup’s ribs, sending radiative warmth into the bruising bones, then Henry collapsed onto the deck beside Clyde…his eyes wide and his body now very still. Vast pink tendrils wrapped him inside a cocoon of swimming light as Dina rushed to his side…
He opened his eyes, looked up into Pinky’s.
“You know, for a benign alien you sure have a helluva a mean-streak.”
“I could not bear to watch them hurt you and your friends.”
“I am no longer an impartial observer, Henry Taggart. I have feelings for you I can no longer deny.”
“Feelings? What do you mean – like love?”
“I have known of this word, but the meaning was never clear to me until you reached out to me.”
“And now you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Does this trouble you?”
“No, not at all.”
“I know you can not love me,” she said quietly. “You do not know me. But perhaps one day this will change.”
“That is the nature of love.”
She felt urgent cries reach her and looked at Henry once again: “You must return now. Be strong, and know that I will be there with you.”
He nodded as pain washed through his body, then overwhelming weakness came for him…
Dina was kneeling over his inert body, hooking up the IV to the port once again then injecting adrenaline; she took her light and checked his pupils and shook his head.
“What do you need?” Mike asked.
“Bring a mattress up here, would you? I’m afraid to move him now.”
“Where is boy?” Anton asked – again, and Dina simply shook her head.
“I have no idea, but I suspect Henry knows…”
“What is going on here?” Anton sighed.
“You need to talk to Henry…”
Mike asked Anton for help getting a mattress set up on one of the cockpit seats, then they moved Henry, hanging the IV bag from the cockpit enclosure in the process…and a moment later Rolf reappeared in a blinding flash – sending Anton into another stumbling back-flip over the rail and into the canal…
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.
Recommended side trip: Foo Fighters 2008