Newcomer: Chapter 7

       Mike White / Science Fiction
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Newcomer: Chapter 7
A Serial Flash Fiction Novel

By: Mike White
Copyright 2017 Mike White
Smashwords Edition
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover Image by Torley under Creative Commons


“Agares has gone.”

This was the first thing that Cali heard when she woke up. She was indoors now, in a bed, but it was strangely quiet.

There weren’t any other people in the room besides her, as well as BlackBox and BlueBox the crows, who looked really out of place in a room clearly designed for housing a number of humans.

It almost looked like a military barracks as there were a number of cots hanging from steel frames all around the room. She was in a cot in a single frame right near a window.

The crows were on the first stack of cots, 5 high, with one crow on each of the posts facing her form the side.

“What?” Who’s Agares? And where is everyone?” Cali asked. She couldn’t help but feel crestfallen. She thought she had made friends.

“They didn’t leave because of you,” BlackBox said.

Strangely perceptive for a crow that seems to find humans unreadable, Cali thought.

“What makes you say that?” Cali decided on saying instead.

“The Not-Human,” The crow replied in that tinny robot voice it had.
“What?” Cali asked after she waited an eternity for him to explain.

“Huh?! That makes no sense BlackBox.”

Cali wasn’t sure whether BlackBox was saying that was his name, his designation, a nickname, or something else entirely, but he (she?) didn’t comment on it either way.

“This is ridiculous. Why aren’t you just tell me what’s going on? Where did everyone go? Can I follow them? Maybe they’re not too far ahead! Hurry, where did they go?

The two crows just sat there staring at her. Clearly there was some kind of miscommunication going on-

Or something. Why was she even talking to crows anyway?

“The Not-Human said to tell you wait,” he said.

“The Not Human? Who the hell is that?”

It might have been Cali’s imagination, but it looked like the two birds looked at each other. Were those helmets telepathic too?

Cali rolled her eyes skyward, suddenly wishing she could see the sky.

“Why is no one telling me what’s going on? Why am I seeing creatures that shouldn’t exist? Why was I hearing voices in my head before? How did I come to be in the woods? Why are you all crows that can talk? Who is the “not-human”? Was that what saved me before when I got knocked out? Why is the world like this? How did it get that way? Oh god, I’m going to be sick.”

Cali couldn’t breathe, and she ran the length of the cots looking for a door, and finding one, which was good, because otherwise she was seriously considering jumping out a window. The crows jumped up and flipped out as Cali flung open the door and ran out into the room beyond, which had strange equipment in it, but she didn’t care because there were no people, nothing except inanimate objects and more crows with boxes on their heads.

The world felt runny and sweltering, like hot soup, like running paint, unable to keep its shape.

Muddy and unreal, thing inside made any sense and she was sick of it.

So Sick.

Of it.

She practically kicked the door out of the equipment room open, making it into a foyer, and considered slamming the door to the outside open with her shoulder she was so desperate to claw her way out of this place.

Fortunately the door handle turned when she twisted it, and she ran outside into the free air.

Maybe there were more abominations out there, but she didn’t care.

Cali ran free in a small town in the forest, empty of people. She spotted a pond to one side, just on the outskirts of the town, and ran for it. Something familiar, that’s what she needed. Somehow the town was much warmer than the forest had been, despite being inside its own, new forest. She threw her bag beside the pond and just dove right into it.

The water was cool relief, and she swum downward with her arms and legs, until she was near the bottom of the pond, looking up. This was its own different world, less surreal and simpler than the one up there.

Her clothes moved around her as she kept herself on the bottom, clingy and oddly warm. She wanted to take them off, but felt too embarrassed for the moment, even if there were only crows to see her, and they probably didn’t care.

If only I’d gone with the other people! Cali thought. I miss people so much. Here I am, finally able to talk to people where they aren’t going to pity me, or look at their watches every 5 minutes, wondering when they can get out of that awful hospital room (join the club!), finally real friends, equals again, and they all run off the first chance they get!

Was it her? Was she too strange, too eager?

Cali let her mind blank for a little while, her hair swaying above her head and the world narrowed down to just this underwater space and nothing else. It was hard, since there were so many questions, and she was so frustrated.

Having a second chance at life was starting to feel like it was snatched away because that chance was in a world that made no sense. It was just like the way she was now, staring up at the surface of the water above her in the pond, being able to see the way out, right there, but there was no way to move toward it.

Freeing herself from one cage, her ruined body had merely created another, namely the inscrutable universe she found herself in.

I just want my new life, she thought. The Do-over the universe was giving me. What, now it’s going to take it back?

What I have is mine now, universe, she thought. It’s like I can feel you trying to change your mind, to pull it back from me. You’re trying to degift me my second life.

But you can’t have it back! It’s mine, it’s mine!

In her previous life, not a single thing had ever felt like hers. When you must depend utterly on other people, as a crippled girl, after a while you can’t even imagine having pieces of your mind to yourself anymore. Everyone bringing you hamburgers at the hospital, paying for bills, dragging your useless carcass here or there wants to know all about what it’s like, whether they say so or not. And you can’t escape. Without feeling crushed under the guilt of ingratitude.

It was no one’s fault, but Cali began to feel like she didn’t exist, and never really had.

The last time Cali had tried to float underwater like this, after timing her wheelchair-assisted escape to the small hospital rehab pool for months, three nurses had dived in to drag her out.

It had been two minutes and thirty seven seconds. She’d counted.

That’s how long she’d felt free in her entire life.

After that, they had put her on suicide watch. Apparently it didn’t matter that she’d tied rope from her arms to the pole on the side of the pool. She’d been playing to pull herself out!

In her mind, the surface of the pond morphed into the roof of the hospital rehab room, and then back to a cool day above a pond, with budding green trees reaching out with their branches to a blue, blue sky.

The images went back and forth, merging one into another and back again.

In effect, Cali felt like she was seeing the roof of the hospital being destroyed, the tiny immersion pool busted down from the inside, free water and air washing away her old prison.

Cali then realized that somehow her backpack had found its way back onto her shoulders without her noticing, that even though it was clearly a cool day outside and she was sitting in a pond, she wasn’t cool at all and the water was shifting back and forth from cool stream to bathwater, and oh yeah-

She’d been floating under water for minutes upon minutes, and somehow she was still breathing.

“Huh,” Cali said at the bottom of the pond, though it mostly just came out as a faint noise and a whole bunch of bubbles.

She giggled a bit at the feeling of all the bubbles sliding up past her ears, face, head, and finally hair as they spiraled lazily toward the surface of the pond.

It’s not like it’s crazier than anything else that’s happened, Cali thought.

Suddenly she felt the intense need to feel cool air on her skin, so she swam back up to the surface, kicking hard with her legs and stretching high with her arms so her fingertips were the first thing to breach the surface, and a cool breeze moved across her dripping arms and she felt the most vivacious chill of her life and smiled despite herself.
Never would it be possible to feel that in the hospital.

“You can’t breathe under water, human,” A crow said near her face, almost making her jump out of her skin. Instead she just smiled at it. The crow was sitting on a log that was drifting in the pond.

She dubbed it ‘Candy Cane’ because the box on its head
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