The thing sat still and silent on Sandie's couch, swathed in the oversized black shirt and faded jeans of some long-ago boyfriend. Its white hands rested, motionless, on Its denim-clad thighs while Its expressionless eyes stared through the wall into nothing. It had not moved in more than half an hour, not even to breathe – which only made sense, Sandie thought, since It had been dead and rotting the last time she had seen It.
On the other hand, it was hard to be sure that this visitor was the same one that had shattered her window. The faces were so different, and this one was not dripping, but the voice in her head was the same. It felt the same, what few flashes she had gotten from It.
But after a few minutes, It seemed to have given in to exhaustion and fell into quiet muttering that filled the back of Sandie's head.
She tried to help. She dug up old clothes and helped It to dress, a process not dissimilar to trying to clothe a rag doll. She asked what It needed, both aloud and silently, mind-to-mind, but It was sick and weak and could not answer.
I'm developing a habit, she thought as she called Mike.
"I'm not really sure how to explain," she said in response to the worried voice on the other end. She gave the thing on her couch a skeptical glance. It still had not moved. "I just think you should come see this. I need… a second opinion, I guess."
"Come see what?"
"Just come, please?"
Mike grabbed his keys and hung up.
Sandie sat down again. There was a heavy wooden candlestick on the floor beside her chair, but it had been fifteen minutes since she had looked at it and longer still since she had reached for it. The only potential threat in the room may as well have been a statue, for all the threatening It did.
Its eyes did not move, but Sandie could feel It considering her. Quiet. Speculative. She shifted uncomfortably. It wanted something; that was obvious, but It seemed to have chosen to make her guess.
"Look," she told the side of Its head, "I don't know why you came to me, but I'll do what I can. I mean, within limits, you know? But I'm going to have to know what you want before I can give it to you. I'll try, don't get me wrong. I just need to know what you want."
The body sagged, slumping sideways against the arm of the couch while the mind inside curled in on Itself. They were separate, Sandie realized; the body was only a vehicle for Whatever was driving it. Keeping muscles locked, a torso sitting upright, eyes open – it took too much effort.
She half-stood and touched the cold, white cheek. Dead. Sandie snatched her hand back and tucked it up against her ribs, trying to get rid of the disgusted tingle in her fingertips. There was a dead body sitting on her couch.
Something flickered behind her eyes, and Sandie jumped. It was like a memory, but hard to translate, couched as it was in a framework of frequency and tone and amplitude.
a dying rumble shivers through her core, shaking her on the deepest level imaginable. it disrupts. there is high frequency – bright – and low frequency – dark.
Sandie blinked. Reality was still there. The couch, the body, the new door, and the sheet of blue plastic folded neatly in the corner, all were plainly visible. But there was more than that.
she hears rock, air, intense heat, and something shrill, something wrong. it beats against her and makes holes, skips in the beat. dissonance. she runs from it, but it is not really running; she floats, compresses, snatching at the air and pulling herself away.
It faltered for a moment. The Thing inside the body was resting. Sandie could sympathize; it was a bad memory. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to figure out what she was seeing. Feeling. Whatever it was. She thought she should have been a lot more alarmed than she was.
It stirred again.
she wanders, alone. there is complete silence. the sensation is unpleasant. the silence is unfamiliar; perhaps the silence has not always been, but she cannot remember a time when it was not. somewhere, there are others. on the edge of consciousness, there are sparks, low notes, vibrating. they are unfamiliar. they do not touch, do not mesh, do not synchronize, do not harmonize. dissonance.
they are confined. small bodies, small minds, trapped inside small bodies. physical. material. they clash with one another. they feel, but they cannot feel her. they clash, resonate, vibrate in conflict with one another. they touch. little animals, flesh and blood.
she finds one, circles the mind like a moth around a candle flame. like a candle flame, the mind is small and bright. she is dim. soft and vast. unconfined. the little animal does not even know she is there. disconnect.
there are many attempts. no communication. failure.
a discarded shell. empty, no mind inside. just a shell, untended, decaying, abandoned. she borrows it, but only with reluctance. it is badly damaged, and she has no template, no way to repair it to normal specifications. it is time for research. scan. resonate. she searches for the average, the norm, compiling a composite understanding of hundreds of specimens. there is one mind in the distance, bright but broader, capable, compatible. maybe there is no need for this expenditure – it is costly, too expensive, and there is too little reserve, not enough energy to repair the vehicle. it is preferable to attempt communication with the anomaly.
"You mean me," Sandie said aloud. "I'm the anomaly." She could feel herself in the memory.
"So, are you here for my brains, or what?"
failure to communicate.
Her head hurt, somewhere deep inside her skull. The body on her couch did not move. She checked her watch, but it was still far too early to expect Mike, as much as she would have liked some moral support.
"Failure to communicate, my ass. You broke into my frigging house. I thought you were going to kill me or something." She wanted to be angry, but It was still pulling greedily at that corner of her mind, and the most she could manage was pragmatism.
failure to communicate. template formation successful. repaired…
The thud and whirl of a jazz band pounded for a moment in Sandie's head, and she gripped the arm of the chair hard to keep herself from falling. It was the sound of elation and sustenance.
"You eat feelings. You ate their feelings and… de-rotted? So why did you come back here?"
discontinued. you hear. you will help.
"You mean the bar closed. The people went home…" She had said that she would help, and she regretted it. She pushed her hair back into a ponytail and fished a rubber band out of her pocket to secure it.
"I know a bluegrass bar that might be open. I'll drive you, you do your do, and then you go away. I don't know what to do with you."
Mike arrived to find Sandie struggling to stuff a dead body into the backseat of her car.
"We're going clubbing," she said.
"Oh, Christ," Mike said, and he meant it.