1.45: Close Encounters

Content Warning for: brief partial nudity (at the very end)


 

Annette’s failures in the bereavement group led to her spending even more time in her basement. Sometimes, she thumbed through everyone’s old belongings with a forlorn stare. Other times, she grabbed two bottles of wine and allowed it to takes its course with her.

One night, she drank a bottle and reclined against the wall. Annette was familiar with that ritual, but hadn’t grown bored of staring at the ceiling with glazed-over eyes. Even if it was boring, it offered an escape from the tangle of bereavement. Or from the boredom that her life without Bill had become.

Yes, she had to admit it. Her husband used to make life worth getting excited for. But what was it without waking up in his arms, knowing that the day started off right after all?

And, for some strange reason, Annette wasn’t banking on the otherworldly side of her to make up for it.

It started with the room vibrating a little. Twinbrook wasn’t that far off from the New Madrid fault line, so tremors happened with little surprise to anyone. But it intensified, and the room then filled with an irritating hum. It made Annette’s head hurt around the temples. She couldn’t ignore the happenings for any longer, and opened her eyes. The room was flooded with an unknown red light.

“Christ, what is up with that thing?” Annette asked to herself. Once she focused, the sound seemed to be radiating from that mysterious glass orb in the center of the room. While it always hummed, it never hummed enough to hurt her before then. She found it difficult to get up, and it wasn’t just the wine’s fault. It took her a minute to successfully stumble over to the orb.

Annette placed both her hands on the glass. “Come on, what are you trying to tell me?” she choked out. “Just…stop.”

She tried swiping her hands across the orb, as if it was a touchscreen. It took many fumbling swipes, as the alarming sound messed with her coordination. There was one that seemed to work, disabling the siren.

“Alright…30.43346, -88.89386. Ugh, I wasn’t banking on this.” Annette thought, for a moment, that fate or whoever controlled that orb wanted her to be a superheroine. Her. Annette, a tiny and weak drunkard, could save the town. It worked for a joke. She didn’t even have the speed or a special car to get her to the emergency on time.

That was, unless, those coordinates led her to something just next door.

Annette looked them up on her phone. “Huh.” If she knew her geography better, it would have made more sense. That orb, for whatever reason, beckoned her to do a job inside the Twinbrook Police Station.

What it could be took ages for Annette to figure out. Goodwin was still on leave, so her woes inside there were minimal at worst. Did a friend of hers get arrested? Maybe Lolly wasn’t being as level-headed of a widow as Annette hoped she’d be.

And then it hit her: the ring. Annette’s amethyst ring was still in police custody, likely in the evidence room. She never thought that the orb she brought home one day was connected to it. She also never thought that the ring she was obsessed with had magic inside of it either, but it vaporized a man!

Perhaps the orb was more like an alarm clock. It reminded Annette of what she should have done much earlier.

It was late by the time she and Amy got there. Only one cop was there, on desk duty. They found their way to the evidence room while he was grabbing another coffee. He must have been an especially sloppy cop. Everything was left un-secure, from the stairwells to the evidence itself. The doors swung wide-open once Annette pushed.

That bad idea of Annette’s was still on her mind, but she wasn’t going to blow her cover. “I just want…backup. Even if this was easy,” Annette said. “And you always say that you want to have a part in my stuff.”

“It always looks so new and fun!” Amy said. “And this…well, I haven’t been in here before. But it’s with you…I like that.”

Annette couldn’t help but blush a little.

“I like it better with you too.”

Annette dashed to a rolling cart in the middle of the room, and crouched down to examine closer. Amy followed behind her.

“You found it?” she asked Annette.

“Sure thing.”

They found a new ring box for the piece, one that was similar to the one Annette had at home for it. Maybe they didn’t trust whatever power it had when bare. But beyond that, they left it in the open on a cart. For all they knew, a normal human could tap into its power. It seemed like a stupid move. But it also meant not having to rifle through the loaded shelves along the hard brick wall.

Annette slipped the ring on her finger. “I guess that was my emergency. Lovely,” she said, in a flat voice.

“And that’s it?” Amy asked her. Her eyes were wide with fear or worry, though.

“Sure. Not everything I do puts me in grave danger. Maybe you should ask your husband ‘bout it.”

“…I know it’s been tough for you, but is this…you know, something deeper?”

“Dude, it’s just a magic ring,” said Annette. “And I’m doing fine.”

“No! You’ve been saying that for a month, but you’ve just been getting drunk in the basement and dodging…this issue.” Amy took a deep breath and sighed. “I…I’m on your side, no matter what this ring is to you. Or how you feel, but…look, I worry about you. Even Sinbad does now.”

“Fine. I might have been sent to Twinbrook just for this,” said Annette. “It’s a long story, okay?”

“I don’t need that story. I guess I was as curious as everyone else about that ring…after that night.”

“Then we’ll leave it at that. Let’s scram.”

If only the time was right for them to do that.

For the second time in Annette’s day, the room’s lighting changed drastically. But that time, it took on a purple tint. Everything was quiet for a bit, though.

She took a scared Amy by the arm. “Annette, what’s going on here?” Amy asked her, nearly crying her words out.

“If it’s about that thing in front of us…shush.”

She appeared in a beam of bright light, materializing close to some guarded items in the room. Her mystical trappings made Annette look just a bit more normal in comparison. Dark, indigo-tinted skin. Burgundy hair tied into a long, tight braid. A tight, black bodysuit. Colored freckles or scales on their face, and glowing white eyes. She also wielded a heavy, ornate sword.

She muttered only one word. “Humans.” And then she turned around.

“I don’t care what the blue one is. I want the stone on her finger.” She pointed a finger at Annette and Amy. “You don’t know of its power.”

“And they’re official about it too.” Annette rolled her eyes.

“Aren’t you one of those servants?” she asked. Annette almost felt a vein pop in her head as she heard them say that. Especially in that disturbing monotone voice they used.

She snapped at them. “I’m not a servant, I’m my own person! And I can have whatever magic I want to. I can use it against whoever I want to!”

“No cutting our losses here?” Amy asked, with a lot of worry in her voice. “I don’t know how to fight against a sword! You just told us about guns.”

“Easy. I’m just gonna fire this.”

Annette held out her left hand in a fist, with her ring pointed at the intruder. She expected something, anything fueled by her anger. But the ring remained as just a beautiful, unlit weight on her ring finger. She was unarmed against a sword-wielding demon after all!

“Well, shit,” Annette said to Amy.

“Since we’re gonna die, I’d just like to say that I always thought you were really hot,” Amy said, in a rushed voice.

“Since you’re going to die, I’d just like to say that I’ll miss checking you out in the morning.”

They raised up their sword. “I don’t want to take your lives. I just want the stone,” she said. “But this is the last time I’ll ask: will you hand it over?”

Annette drew her hand close to her, for protection. “No! I didn’t sign up for this kind of adventure anyways.”

She drew their sword, ready to strike at the two women. “Very well, then.”

She also made a loud thud when shoved to the ground.

Amy must have caught them concentrated on killing them, as opposed to staying upright. She gave them her hardest push, sending them to the tiled floor. Annette covered her open, shocked mouth. That was a badass move! And to think that Annette had resigned to losing yet another friend that night.

She dropped their sword in the process, and Annette swooped in to grab it for herself.

She held it low, and crouched down to pin the intruder to the floor. “There is a damn good reason for me to have this.” Annette growled out her words. “I’m so much more than a servant. I rule my life! And you’re just following orders, I can hear it in your voice.”

“We’re up against a lot. We need it more than you,” she said.

“And what can you be up against that I’m not?”

Her face contorted and cringed as they choked out their words. “It’s a chaotic place out there. You…you earthlings…well, I thought you knew.”

“Whatever it is, I don’t care,” said Annette.

She started to get up from the ground, while Amy watched on and tried to look confident in the face of possible death. “I’m just concerned with standing my ground,” Annette continued. “And I think this amethyst will really be of use to me.” It started to glow as she finished her sentence.

“Look, you don’t know what you’re doing! And I can just come back!” she said, backing up close to the desk in the room. “We need this more than you do.”

“Sure…sure you do.”

The ring fired a blast that bathed the room in white light for a second. And Annette still had trouble standing up to the vibration and heat that her jewel emitted. But seeing it work again amazed her.

Their adversary, whatever she was, was gone in a literal flash. Smoke and light swirled around where she was standing. The lighting returned to normal, and the strange demon was gone.

Amy cheered in back of Annette. “I can’t believe I actually saw that! That was amazing!”

“I did it, didn’t I?” Annette said to herself. “It was amazing! I…I can use this.”

“Servant or not, I guess if it’s your destiny to own it,” said Amy. “I’m sorry…it’s just really cool to know now! I never thought I’d be on the inside of something so…so beyond us.”

Annette then chuckled to herself. “Destiny’s kind of crap anyways. It’s why Harwood was roped into this. I had no choice but to befriend him to get this ring. But…but I have to have you in on this. I chose to have you as a part of my life. I…I chose well.”

“Wait, really?”

Annette turned towards Amy, albeit slowly.

“Look…you weren’t bluffing when you said that you thought I was hot, right?” Annette asked her.

Amy gave her a serious look. “Well, were you?”

They answered the question simultaneously. “No.”

Annette touched her friend’s shoulder. “I never really wanted to bring it up. Like, I’ve been taken for this whole time,” she said. “Well, until now.”

“I just…it confused me,” said Amy. “I always thought that I didn’t like girls that way. And then I had a hot dream about…uh…I guess you changed my mind! I just didn’t want to say anything, and then Sinbad happened, so–”

“It’s fine. Being friends worked out.”

“Have you ever kissed a girl?”

“Have you?”

They answered the question simultaneously. “Not yet.”

While Annette leaned in for it first, Amy didn’t pull away and puckered up like her landlady did. She didn’t ask Amy what kissing another woman for the first time felt like. But to Annette, it felt so strange kissing someone so…equal to her in size. There was no standing on tip-toes, and no pawing at someone twice as wide as her.

She also could have gone with the stereotypical “women are so soft and nice” thing instead. Which is true as well.

Amy pulled away, with a sly grin on her face. “You…you’re great, that’s what.”

“Worth turning bi for?” Annette asked. She got a nod in response, before they collapsed into laughter.

“Is…is everything alright down here?”

Standing in the open doors was the cop on duty that night. No one that either Annette or Amy knew had any experience with him. Was he a Goodwin or a Dudley? Whatever it was, he seemed more shocked by Annette’s new sword than by two civilians in the evidence room. His eyes were locked on the big weapon.

“She was fighting an alien baddie. We didn’t expect it to be in here either,” Amy said, saving the night. “Can you let this one slide?”

“She does look like the kind to fight an alien,” the officer said. “Just scram before my new boss gets here.”

It was glorious exiting the station, to the sunrise of the new day. Such a start was the best one that Annette had it ages. Everyone lived, and she had two close encounters that she never expected. Going back home would feel great after that.

Back home, to where Annette was still alone.

Where Amy had a husband.

Where they either had to fess up, or leave their romantic feelings at the door.

It made Annette feel sick when she thought about what she did. She curled up in her basement again for hours on end, beating herself up over giving Amy a kiss.

How else could she move on? It was the only thing she did to move on since Bill’s death. Annette still hadn’t cleaned out their room. She hadn’t done much at all in or out of the house. And she couldn’t even bring herself to apologize to Amy and Sinbad for what she did. She was the one who leaned in for a kiss first, after all.

Annette even feared who was bounding down the stairs.

It turned out to be Sagebear, who ran into the storage room much faster than an ancient dog her age should run. She had her long pink tongue hanging out, and her floppy ears bounced with each step.

Yes, it warmed Annette’s heart more than anything. More than even a kiss.

She hugged Sagebear, burying her face into the dog’s velvety grey fur. “I’m sorry that mummy hasn’t been here for you,” she whispered. Much like how she could spend hours wrapped in Bill’s arms, Annette could spend a while with Sagebear’s paws over her shoulders.

If only that time could be spent alone.

Sinbad must have followed the dog down the stairs…or let her in. Annette swore she was getting better at locking the cellar behind her. But there he was in her storage room, standing far away from the boxes.

“Yeah, she told me,” he said. “It’s cool.”

“It’s cool?”

“Look, I’m the guy who spent years cheating on her with my dad’s ex. You just had a kiss.”

Annette walked up to him, sniffling a little. “I…I’ve never been alone in this town. Not until now.”

“Yeah, I’m kind of a different person. But-”

She buried her face into her hands. “I don’t know what to do now! I thought…I thought it would help, but I’m still alone.”

“Christ, let me finish! I was thinking…maybe Amy and I can help,” Sinbad said.

“Explain.”

Sinbad took her by the shoulders. “Alright. I know that you spend a lot of time down here with my dad’s journals, and you’d think I’d hate to be like him. But I’m not him. And maybe I…I can make his awful polygamous setup work. At least I have the guide on how not to do it.”

“Wait…you’d do me?” Annette asked. She almost wanted to laugh.

“I’ve done worse…it was a rough youth…look, I’ve run it by Amy. She’s fine with it, and I’m fine with it, and I know you don’t wanna be alone.”

“It’s the least alone I’ve ever been in bed, I’ll give ya that.”

Annette fell into his arms for a hug. “I’m glad you’re becoming less of a shithead. Imagine if this happened right when I first met you.”

“Yeah, imagine that…”

She might have been the happiest about having a proper bed again. I gagged a bit when she narrated her story. She dived into a sea of hedonism and outlandish sex toys, and had a weary nostalgia in her voice when describing her biggest dildo. Was it healthy?

I then dropped that question. But if Annette had one good argument, it was that she was no longer alone.


 

A/N: Gonna ignore the biggest question this chapter will raise. Are we alone in the universe? The answer may surprise you!

The coordinates given to Twinbrook’s police station actually are those that roughly coordinate with the real-life police station in the real-life D’Iberville, Mississippi. I don’t have any set state borders for Terrebonne in mind, but the fictional state encompasses the southern halves of Louisiana and Mississippi, at the very least.

In terms of geographic location, D’Iberville isn’t too outlandish to be this world’s Twinbrook. It’s right near Biloxi, which could be the counterpart to any “bigger” city in the story. (Ditto marks because Biloxi is not that big; my hometown is about as big as Biloxi at ~44,000 people, and we’re a suburb)

So I mentioned Amy referring to herself as “straight” in Chapter 4, which is definitely not the case right now. She figured out her orientation later in life, like many people do in this heteronormative world do as well (maybe with some help from her openly bisexual husband?). At least I can explain away that plot hole. :p

Edit 2-12-2017: Hey, pronouns! From Annette’s perspective, I have no idea why I thought she’d use they/them on her invader. Mostly because others from later chapters get she/her pronouns like human women. Sorry guys. Diamanda was hardly nonbinary representation.

22 thoughts on “1.45: Close Encounters

  1. I’ve been thinking on this…I’ve decided Bill was cruel. I’m not entirely sure if I can forgive him. If he wanted to end his life, better to do so away from folks rather than after they’d pleaded with you to live for them, and live with them. Even if their arguments fail to sway you…don’t shoot yourself in front of your wife.

    That said, I’m glad this chapter is getting some happiness back for Annette. She deserves a lot of happiness for how shitty Bill was to her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I thought the same about Bill the more I thought about that chapter. He didn’t plan it to be in front of Annette, but especially after her offering to do anything he wanted (and she wouldn’t take that promise lightly)…fuck that guy. At least in that moment. 😛

      I consider doing Amy to be a considerable way to make up for it, though. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve always thought he was really selfish. For a while, it seemed like it was his selfishness that made the dynamic between him and Annette work–because she just wanted to give and give almost to the point of giving too much. And that seemed to be fine with Bill.

        I can’t be mad at him right now, though–I guess because he was in pain. I’m mad at Harwood. And Shark.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I do agree that Harwood and Shark both acted out of complete selfishness (the former knowing that his completely preventable death would break everyone’s hearts, and the latter spending years dragging everyone through his problems, with his suicide being just the biggest final act in that). But they also had the dignity to do the act away from everyone’s sight.

        Bill might have been trying to think of his family, in a twisted way, but Annette’s probably gonna have way more nightmares about him shooting himself than her finding some bodies.

        You’re right about it being a relationship fueled by selfishness, in a way. I tried thinking about what Annette saw in Bill, and it was a rather minimal list. He’s her physical type, made her feel less lonely, and she can spoil him for ages. Most of the people she had a more platonic dynamic with are a little more…independent. Even with Chapter 50, it’s clear that Annette and Amy have the dynamic of just being good companions for each other. And that Annette instead wants a lot from Sinbad instead of the other way around (she wants his talent in criminal pursuits, the connection he provides to Harwood’s past, etc.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • The line you wrote about spending hours in Bill’s arms really hit the mark, to me. It seems like so much of their relationship was that entwined, interdependent thing–the pulling from the other to complete themselves. She allowed Bill to be completely selfish like a two-year-old, and given his non-existent childhood, I bet he needed that at some level. He allowed her to nurture unconditionally–to be able to be the good woman (lover, mother, forgiving, accepting, giving all to him). It’s an unsustainable type of relationship–if it works, both will outgrow the roles, since it’s based on the wounded parts of each. At the same time, there’s obviously a deep healing and nurturing available. I can see why Annette would need four arms to hold her to try to ease the pain of missing those two arms of Bill’s.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not to mention that Annette is far from complete, even after her time with Bill. It’s probably because she’ll live forever and he won’t (with the reverse, I think Bill would be needy and distraught too without Annette, albeit in a much different way), but Bill got his nurturing trophy wife. Annette is absolutely a wreck without something distracting her. Whether it’s another relationship with any number of people, the thrill of group sex, obsessing over others’ problems, or facing the chaos of the universe and learning more about it, she’s the more needy one by far. And maybe Bill didn’t see that. She’s great at putting on the act of being a badass in control, but I have the authorly authority to say that she’s as pathetic as he is and even more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah! It really comes through in the writing, too! I like the idea of “facing the chaos of the universe”–at least that’s a mystery that could last for even an immortal’s lifespan! LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I hope this goes well for them. Starting a sexual relationship mostly just to cope with her loss could later lead to problems… especially since it’s with people she’s stuck sharing a house with. Well, at least they are friends and have already been through a lot so maybe they can work things out if this goes south in the end. We’ll see, I suppose. Also, alien/demon/something-person! Let’s hope attacking them like that isn’t going to come back to bite them. Well, actually, for the sake of excitement, let’s hope that! 🙂

    Also, I really like your Author’s Notes and the insight they give to both the background research behind the chapter, and to you as well. It’s interesting and a nice addition.

    Also also, that pic with Annette and Amy looking at the sunrise is really gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you think I’d fret over creating an entirely new non-human race just as a one-off? 😉

      While it might not be the optimal setup for Annette to launch herself into sexual depravity (doing two of her friends might only be the beginning), I think there is enough trust and good feelings between the three to make it work out fine. Especially because I’ve made it a point in recent chapters to strengthen the idea that Annette is a beneficial force in their lives more and more.

      That was the last pic to shoot for this chapter, and what a last pic it was!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Of course you wouldn’t do that. 🙂 Let’s now hope that the non-human person betters their fighting skills and their awareness of their surroundings for the future. I mean, they went down really easily. Or then Amy was just really, really lucky for not getting a sword in the face when she moved in to push them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This chapter makes me really happy–Sinbad has become almost a hero to me, and Amy’s been all kinds of awesome forever. When I saw your spoiler screenshot in the Writers’ Lounge, I felt to happy inside! I just love seeing Annette smile again, and she and Amy were incredible fighting “them”! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved shooting that scene! And that’s not the last you’ll see of “them”. Their easy “defeat” here was deliberate and not me writing myself into a corner at all (but maybe a little).

      And the second spoiler screenshot of Annette looking a little miffed doesn’t necessarily come from her new partners.

      I like writing the “reformed” Sinbad a lot. He might have been an insufferable prick, but I like how the transition to him being the best guy for “tough love” and to admitting his goddamn flaws is going. It’s not to say that having kids is the best cure for all fatal flaws, but I think becoming a dad helped Sinbad more than anything. You can’t be a prick around a little cutie pie like Julian, now can you? 😉

      I love writing scenes with Amy, because they always end up feeling good and pure. A rare feeling in the Eight Cicadas writing room. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, Amy is so amazing! And maybe she is also some of the reason that Sinbad has become so incredible. You know what else? There’s this sort of cyclicity or paired quality between Shark and Sinbad (which both you an rednenemon bring out), and so it’s interesting to me to see that Sinbad has been able to grow up after his dad’s death. Those times when he and Annette sat down in the basement reading the journals, maybe those times helped him to come to a sort of acceptance of who his dad was and move on. It’s like he’s decided not to be the wounded son anymore. And you know, I’m guessing that accepting one’s parent’s faults makes it easier to accept one’s own. Sinbad’s traveled from being one of my least favorite characters (that is, the kind of guy I’d want to stay miles away from) to one of my favorite (meaning that I’d enjoy a conversation with him, and if he were a neighbor–who liked me ok–I would feel a little safer). Really fine writing and character development in all of this to be bringing out such depth and truth!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard to draw the line between where Nessa and I collaborate on ideas and where we come up with our own. I want to think that we both just happened to come up with the common theme of “Sinbad becoming a better person thanks to the power of love” on our own, but who knows.

        Though him using Annette’s help to reconcile with his past is my true, independent thought, and you’re right. I think Sinbad still has a lot of grudges he holds, and some of them are fine to (I don’t think he ever has to forgive his mum, even if he now knows that she was driven over the edge by being left to raise him herself). But I wanted him to improve somewhere, and it just had to be in regards to a character I quite like. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

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