Tuesday, September 1, 2009

To Oblivion and Back Again (Not A Hobbit's Tale)

There wasn't any decent music playing on the radio, and, coming up on Breckenridge, soon there wasn't any music--or anything--at all. Don't bother with hitting Scan on your radio, it just loops around and around, not even finding static.

My girlfriend was driving, so she tossed her hand out toward the glove-box. "Just grab a CD, any CD. I need to listen to something."

I flipped through the case and grabbed a disc at random. After several fourteen-hour days of driving, you come to know each others music preferences and collections all too well. Without taking my eyes off the mountainous horizon around us, I popped in a disc.

~

The CD player clicked. Whirred unhappily, and then clicked again.

My girlfriend glanced at me as I looked down at the player. "What did you put in?"

"I don't know. Just grabbed at random." I reached out to the eject button, but as the tips of my fingers brushed the grey plastic, the player decided to accept it. I shrugged and pulled my hand away.

A few seconds later, the disc started playing, and it was no sound that should have been in her collection.

"What did you put in there?"

"One of your discs."

"Not mine. I have nothing that sounds like this. Where'd the case go?"

I reach for the case, fallen between my legs to the floor. Upon opening it, I flip to the only empty slot, as the noise coming from the speakers crescendos. At that terrible moment, I recognize it.

"Oh no..."

"What is it?"

"I know this music. I know what disc that was. Shit! Stop the car!"

She pulls over at the next shoulder, the cliff-side pressing close to her side and the drop on just the other side of the road.

I glance out the window to a shape out the corner of my eye. A light brown figure, wrapped in brown leather belts and iron buckles races through the woods below us, flashing glimpses between trees. "No... this can't be happening..."

"Ace, stop whining and tell me what's going on!"

My hands shaking and voice cracking, I show her the empty slot.

"So? What was there? I don't remem-"

"I do."

"Then what?!"

"Your Elder Scrolls install disc."

The form races up the cliff below us, disappearing from view momentarily until it leaps when it reaches the road, landing on the cliff-face above the car. Dust and stone rain down as it scrambles for purchase. A loud clunk on the roof seconds later tells me she didn't make it. The thing... she rolls down the windshield and hood and lays still.

"You have got to be kidding me!"

"Sorry, Kiki. How was I supposed to know your CD player was magical?"

~

We climbed out and rolled her over gently, but she was already gone. I glanced up to where she'd fallen from, and it wasn't very high above the car at all.

"This is bad."

"What, Ace?"

"That fall shouldn't have killed her."

"Then why is she..."

"It only finished her off. Something was after her." I walked carefully to the edge of the road and cliff, scanning for movement. "It's probably still out there. We need to be careful."

My girlfriend nodded. "Okay, Yeah. ...Ace, do you think we're still approaching Breckenridge?"

"I don't know, love. I don't know if she was brought to our world, we were brought to hers, or they're meshed and merged somehow." Easing away from the cliff, I held her. "I'm so sorry."

"You didn't know. You couldn't know. Neither of us knew."

"I know, but I still feel bad. ...You don't happen to have a 'World As We Know It' install disc, do you?"

She laughed, smiling, and shook her head. "Do you think we should... you know,..." she gestured to the body's equipment.

"Arm ourselves?" I think that's an excellent idea. As unfortunate as it is, she won't be needing them and we probably will."

Kiki mumbled a few words and I bowed my head, and then we got to work. The girl was a little taller than my girlfriend but we took all but her slip and underclothes, if not to wear, then to sell if necessary. It was a horrible concept to think of but our clothes weren't made for this world.

~

I built a cairn for her, after Kiki helped me move the body off the road. The sun was setting, so we decided to stay in the car until morning. It wasn't terribly comfortable, but it was safer than staying outside in the unknown.

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