Land of the Bizarre - Part Three
"Alex, Alex, Alex. Didn't we just have this conversation not too long ago? WAKE UP!"
Like unruly blinds hell-bent on letting the sun in, Alex's eyes sprung open and the nightmare returned to the front of his mind. This ship, the future, that strange woman--all the events of the day rolled through the hazy mist Alex's memory, settling with him as conscious awareness returned.
"Well, well! Lookie who's awake." Mama enormous sausage fingers smacked Alex on his sore shoulder. A hideous grin crossed her face. "Trust you're feeling better now."
Maybe if he just ignored her, she'd disappear. Did that ever work? Not in this lifetime, not in any lifetime Alex lived in.
His eyes darted around the room, unable to find Katlyn. She represented his only link to his own time, and her absence didn't set well with Alex. His ultimate goal of finding a way back remained alive within him merely out of his sense of responsibility to Katlyn. Staying here wasn't an option. Had Katlyn not been part of the picture, perhaps he might consider it if all other choices failed him. But that, he noted with a pointed look at Mama, would be a drastic last choice.
"What's the problem," asked Mama, "not feeling all right?"
"Fine." The room spun as Alex sat up, but returned to its normal, unmoving state almost immediately.
As Mama tried to explain what happened, Alex zoned out. Somewhere on this ship he'd find peace away from these loony bin escapees. That place would have all the equipment he needed to begin again. Top deck, Sela had said. He'd find quarters converted into labs. One of them had to be machine-related.
"Your little friend went off in search of food. After your little bout, you're probably hungry, too." Mama squeezes Alex's arm to hold him steady as he stood. Once more the room tried to revolt. "Give the medicine a little more time. Another hour at least. Then you should be okay."
Nodding, Alex mumbled his thanks and lurched for the door.
Down the corridor, standing at the rail that looked down upon the cargo hold, Alex shook out the cobwebs. Twice in one day he'd been haunted by his brother. That hadn't happened for many years. For about a year after Daniel's bizarre suicide, the nightmares plagued him, kept him up all hours. They faded with time, but now the success of one of Daniel's dreams seemed to have brought back the ghosts.
"There you are," a voice from above called. Standing at a similar rail one level up, Katlyn waved. "One of Sela's minions just passed along our sleeping quarters. Want to take a peek?"
Alex worked his way up the stairs, his strength returning to him with each step. Up top, he walked beside Katlyn as they sought out the two rooms--16 and 18. Judging from the arrangement of rooms, one across from the other, they would be sharing quarters next to one another.
"Ran into Yerik while you were sleeping," Katlyn said. She recounted the experience. Then, "Might be wise to stay away if possible."
Situated in the middle of the corridor were rooms 16 and 18. Katlyn called dibs on 16 before Alex could ask which she preferred. Didn't matter much to him either way as he figured they'd both be identical. The Hilton this ship was not. All the furnishings of home could be found inside--a cot that looked about as comfortable as a bed of nails, a table that wobbled, two chairs, one chair had a leg that had been duct taped on. Alex stared in disbelief. This ship truly remained intact by duct tape and bubble gum.
Leaving the wounded chair to itself, Alex yanked the whole chair out from under the table and took a seat. As soon as his behind hit the wooden surface, the chair collapsed under his weight, leaving Alex in the midst of splintered legs. To make matters worse, he felt a jabbing pain in one of his butt cheeks. He reached back and plucked out a splinter of wood the size of a nail.
Nothing surprised him anymore. He tossed the splinter aside and just sat there, staring at the blank gray walls. He needed time to reflect on his new situation and, more importantly, he needed to put all his efforts into suppressing the scream that built up in his chest, for the walls of these quarters were thin, too thin. To the left would the wall separating room 18 from room 16. To the right would be the wall separating room 18 from room 20. From that right wall, the orgasmic moans of two people that knew how to have a great time violated Alex's thoughts.
Maybe, Alex thought, just maybe his brother had succeeded in traveling to the future and this horrific nightmare is what drove him to suicide.
Katlyn made her way across the cargo bay with a light bounce to her step. At first, the whole tragedy of finding herself in the future had taken its toll on her. The more she thought about it, though, and the more she experienced it, she realized just how grand such an event like this could be. Adventures awaited her; the likes of which made her a pioneer.
After checking out her quarters, Katlyn popped her head into Alex's quarters to see if he wanted to explore, but the withdrawn expression that clouded his face as he sat in a puddle of broken chair made her decide he needed some quite time. That or he was just too enthralled with the lovemaking next door to be disturbed.
At the end of the cargo bay, an archway led into the recreation area. Looking like a cross between a gymnasium and a movie theater, the room was filled with exercise equipment scattered about haphazardly. A huge screen filled one entire wall with several sofas and chairs dotted in front of it. A basketball hoop hung above a minibar. Even from the archway, Katlyn could see the dust settled on the hoop. Several shelves lined the walls, drawing her attention. Each of the shelves were loaded with a wild assortment of weapons, some Katlyn recognized, others she couldn't begin to fathom.
As she scanned the surroundings, a cling of metal against metal drew her attention to the right of the room. A large black man with muscles straining on every inch of his exposed upper body turned toward her, dark eyes scrutinizing her without shame. He stepped away from the weights lining the bench, on a direct course for Katlyn.
"You must be one of the new arrivals," the man said. He draped a towel around his neck, lifting the ends to wipe sweat from his face.
"Guilty," Katlyn said. "And you must be very strong."
"Nothing gets past you, does it? Name's Horus. Katlyn, right?" Horus chuckled, a deep sound that almost filled the open space of the recreation area. He noticed Katlyn's look of surprise. "Small ship. Word gets around very fast. Secrets don't prevail here."
"I'd imagine not. What do you do around here, Horus?"
"Guess you could say I'm Sela's bodyguard."
Smirking, Horus said, "Sela isn't the type of woman to wait for a bodyguard, nor does she think she needs one. Between you and me, she doesn't. I do whatever is needed. Muscle work. I deal with the security matters. You ever kill a man, Katlyn?"
Katlyn blinked. Where did that come from? "No, can't say that I have."
"Shame. A person doesn't know real power until he's extinguished the life of another. Preferably with his bare hands."
"Okay, creepy much?"
Horus's laughter filled the area. It held a much more disturbing resonance with Katlyn this time. "Not the best of first impressions, huh? That's okay. I'm not one for making friends. Consider it an insightful warning. As long as you're here for the right reasons, you have nothing to fear."
Insightful warning? Katlyn didn't like the sound of that. After her talk with Yerik, insightful warning brought about a completely new meaning to her. This conversation was one she wanted to remove herself from at the earliest possible moment.
"Thought about what you want to do around the ship?" Horus asked. "From what I hear, you're pretty handy with your feet. Perhaps you want to tackle the ins and outs of security."
The thought had crossed Katlyn's mind, until she met Horus. She didn't know the first thing about security, but her training might be useful. A physical therapist wasn't likely to be on the top of the job listings here. Now that she'd met what constituted the security force around here, though, her outlook was bleak.
"Not so talkative, are you?" Even Horus's smile took on a menacing expression. "That's okay. You think about it. I, for one, would be honored to have you working with me. There's a lot I could teach a young woman like you."
"I'll keep that in mind," said Katlyn. "If you'll excuse me..."To be continued...