~20 minute, unedited free writing exercise. 832 words. (And all of it is nothing but purple prose. Be gentle, I’m hella rusty.)
The tram glides soundlessly in the dark underbelly of the Nexus.
The car in which he sits is empty, save for the incessant buzz of the fluorescent lights, like a swarm of lightning bugs, surrounding him- he can all but feel the pins and needles of their tiny legs tickling his face and neck, crawling gently under the collar of his uniform, filling his body until the white noise becomes him. In fact, if his skin suddenly turned transparent, he would have a belly full of nothing but Christmas lights and fragile wings.
Well. Probably. Maybe that’s why he feels so oddly light in his seat, so oddly still. Not even his ever-restless fingers are drumming their rhythmless beat on his knees and thighs, not even his eyes wander from the blurry regiment of lines that separate each wall panel rushing by on the inside of the tunnel. No, the lightning bugs in his stomach do the drumming for him.
The first time he came, it was a trip fueled by pure curiosity and a bellyful of shitty drinks, when the inertia of her words dragged him back to where he had sworn he would never return, not even if he has to be carried there kicking and screaming.
He couldn’t help it. She had sung odes and spun many a tall tale about that boy, and that despondent, lonely look in her eyes, he just couldn’t resist the nagging voice in the back of his mind. He had to see the face of the man from whom she was never apart, not even in the womb, and without whom she says she feels like half a giant.
And he never even told her that he did. It felt too much like he was stealing something from her. Like every breath that escaped through those chapped-parted lips was somehow also half hers, still in perfect sync even after the months he had spent stranded in time, and neither of them had asked for permission to share. But even so, he had spent a good fifteen minutes there, basking in the bubble of peace that sleeping face drew around itself.
It was strange, as if even the doctors had been sleepwalking, their feet barely touching the ground as they noiselessly floated with their long, white coats flowing like chiffon dresses behind them.
The smooth, gentle female voice suddenly announces arrival to nobody in particular, and Gil flinches, spilling all the courage he has managed to gather, and it scatters like a fistful of marbles all over the metal floor.
The door swishes open with the same soundless grace as the tram itself, revealing the brightly lit cavern of the antechamber separating the sardine-can pods and rows of hospital-white beds from the casual observer, and the bugs now pool in his feet as he takes step after faux-confident step towards the belly of the ark. (He’s not at all bothered by the oil stain on his sleeve that yawns almost insultingly, lazily at the pristine, hospital-whiteness of the Ark’s interior. Not at all.)
He has half a mind to just turn around and go back. He has plenty of better, more useful things to do than to gawk at a boy he has never met but with whose face he’s already so familiar, he could draw it from memory.
Seriously. He could. The stern line of a strong forehead, the hawk-nose that looks like it had been broken at least once before, the swooping lines of those impossibly long lashes- every one feature could have overpowered any average face, but somehow, in their mismatched glory, they all managed to coexist in harmony on this ransom note of a face. (And she dared protest when he asked if they look alike. Bullshit, they’re like blurred mirror images of one another. Well, he understandably more handsome than her, and she, prettier, but same difference.)
Before Gil even knows it, his leaden, bug-filled feet have carried him to the entrance, and then, before he would have had time to search his pockets for one last courage-marble, through it. The rows of fluorescent lights overhead are now a plague of locusts. Harry barely raises his head from the charts and nods in his direction once, but other than that, nobody seems to react to the mechanic suddenly waltzing into the cryo bay.
Nobody, except one patient, with a bright pink spoonful of vanilla pudding halted halfway between the cup and his lips.
Gil was wrong. His eyes aren’t the same light, almost golden brown as his sister’s, but rather dark like fertile Earthen soil, and he finds himself walking towards them despite every lightning bug in his body now buzzing in his head, lifting him higher, higher until his feet are kicking inches above the ground.
It is through a metric ton of that rain-kissed soil and the deafening flutters of a thousand pairs of wings when he finally speaks.
“Good to see you finally awake, Lieutenant Ryder.”