Chapter 83 – Interlude: Alice.

Upper Bridge Technical College, Setalite City East.
3:03 PM, Thursday, October 1st, 2015.

Alice Wroth returned to her seat feeling equally proud and embarrassed; Mrs. Rile clapped her hands together several times before calling the next student up.

“Nice one,” Emily Liddell said, voice slightly hoarse. “I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat.”

“You’ve finally fallen for me then?” Alice smiled, batting her eyelids. “It was bound to happen eventually.”

Emily snorted, reaching out and knocking her book off the table—Alice caught it before it could fall, smirk firmly in place. They quietened down while the boy that had taken her place at the front started singing and clapped when he’d finished.

“How’s your throat?” Alice asked.

Emily groaned, slumping back into her chair.

“Still hurts,” Emily sighed, “I’m supposed to be going in on Monday—I’ve already resigned myself to coming out of surgery sounding like a frog.”

Alice reached out and touched her wrist, and Emily snorted again.

“I’m sure it will work out,” Alice said, squeezing her arm. “But if it doesn’t, at least your voice will match your appearance—”

“Bitch,” Emily laughed, twisting her arm enough to pinch the skin of her wrist in retaliation.

Alice squeaked and retrieved her arm before she could pinch it again, eyeing her warily. Emily looked pleased with the caution and turned back to the front, clapping as the boy scuttled off stage, grinning.

Another girl was called up, and Alice turned back to Emily.

“Hey—the thought just occurred to me,” Alice nudged her shoulder, “If you do turn into a frog, I know a foolproof method to change you into a prince.”

“Uh-huh,” Emily smirked.

“I’m serious,” Alice doubled down, trying not to smile. “I read it in a book—that means it has to be true.”

“I don’t think that applies to fairy tales, Alice,” Emily said wryly.

They fell silent again, listening to the girl sing, and once she’d finished, they gave the customary round of applause.

“Did you get the new strings for your guitar?” Emily asked, fiddling with her pencil.

“I’m going tomorrow,” Alice said in answer, “There’s a new music shop that just opened up that I wanted to check out.”

“A new one?” Emily murmured, faintly interested, “Which side of the channel?”

“West-side,” Alice said, “Want to come with me?”

“Well, I’ll need to find something to play,” Emily sighed, “Which is a better look for a frog—Drums or violin?”

Alice pretended to give it some serious thought.

“For someone with your reputation?” Alice said, straight-faced. “A flute.”

“Idiot,” Emily laughed.

Wroth Residence, Setalite City West.
5:06 PM, Thursday, October 1st, 2015.

“I’m home,” Alice said, pushing the door open hard enough to make it bang against the wall. “What’s for dinner?”

The look on Karla Wroth’s face could have set her on fire—and Alice started laughing almost immediately.

“If that’s how you’re going to greet me from now on, daughter,” Karla said scathingly, completely unimpressed. “You’ll be eating the back of my hand.”

“Sorry, you know I’m just kidding,” Alice smiled. “How was your day, mum?”

Karla shook her head in exasperation and returned to unpacking the groceries she’d clearly picked up on her way back.

“Today was a mess,” Karla sighed, “I’ll never understand how people manage to hurt themselves in such strange ways.”

“Yeah?” Alice said, sitting down at the kitchen bench. “What happened this time?”

“This morning, a boy came in with the handlebars of his bike impaled through his stomach,” Karla said, turning to put the milk in the fridge. “He’d gotten in an accident while crossing the street.”

“Ew,” Alice said, wrinkling up her nose. “Was he alright—wait; how did he end up in triage? Shouldn’t he have been picked up wherever it happened and brought around the back?”

“It happened one street over from the hospital, and his friends carried both him and the bike in the front doors,” Karla said, sounding genuinely stumped. “They weren’t careful about it either; I’m almost certain they did more damage moving him than the bike did.”

“That’s… I don’t know if I should be impressed or shocked,” Alice admitted. “Was there blood everywhere?”

“Yes, Alice,” Karla said, exasperated, “Of course there was blood.”

“Gross,” Alice said before pausing. “Well, my day was even worse than that.”

Karla raised an eyebrow, turning back to look at her daughter.

“What happened?” Karla said, concerned.

“I was driving back from UBTC, right?” Alice said, frowning. “I crossed the bridge and then started heading home; I got halfway before I decided I might come in and see you first.”

“Oh, that would have been lovely,” Karla said, smiling.

Alice just nodded, continuing her story.

“Yeah, well, I never made it all the way,” Alice said, hesitating.

“Why?” Karla said gently, leaning forward. “Did something happen?”

“Yeah,” Alice murmured, before raising her voice, “I did this insane burnout around the corner of—”

Karla’s look of concern vanished.

You did not,”  Karla snapped, looking cross. “Alice—you better not have.”

“No, no—I really did,” Alice promised, miming the steering wheel being yanked to one side, sound effects and all. “I hit this dumb kid on a bike—BLAM!—sent him right to the hospital; it was awesome.”

“Of for the love of—” Karla said, snorting. “I raised an idiot.”

Alice just grinned.

Wroth Residence, Setalite City West.
8:17 AM, Friday, October 2nd, 2015.

Alice kicked the blankets down to the bottom of the bed in a flurry; she stretched out on the bed before slumping back down, content. Friday’s were easily the best day of the week—no class to go to, her mum was already at work, and there was nothing that required her to rush to get ready.

Alice could just relax and take the day at her own pace or sleep in, as she was occasionally prone to do. She caught sight of her guitar, the broken and missing string rendering it incomplete and unable to be played—at least not without a great deal of irritation.

That was one thing she actually had to do today—along with calling Emily to make sure she still wanted to come.

She could imagine Emily sitting alone in her room and wondering if her voice would be ruined in four days’ time… it must have been torture. Alice regretted that the place she had invited her to was so directly related to the thing she was dreading, but she hoped it would distract her a little bit.

Maybe she could drag Emily to the movies afterward? Or they could even go people watch at the mall; there would be ample distractions to be found there.

Alice eventually found herself getting up and out of bed, unable to sleep for any longer despite her best efforts. She whittled away the time, spending the day on her phone and enjoying the freedom to do nothing at all to its fullest.

Midday approached, and once she started to grow restless, she decided it was time to leave.

Alice sent off a message to Emily, demanding that she made herself available for their trip into the city, and waited impatiently for the reply.

In Transit, Setalite City West.
1:07 PM, Friday, October 2nd, 2015.

“Which one is that again?” Alice wondered, spinning the steering wheel. “There are so many these day’s—it’s getting hard to keep track of them.”

“That’s so lame,” Emily said sadly, shaking her head. “Why are you so lame?”

“Oh shut up,” Alice huffed, “I’ve heard about a few of the ones at the HQ—uh, Dovetail is one, right? Blue costume, twin scarf-tails?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen him around,” Emily nodded, “There’s this one guy whose legs look like they belong to an elephant—have you seen him at least?”

“No,” Alice said bemused, “That must be awful—I suppose everyone knows his normal identity now?”

“Most likely, it’s not like you can really hide something like that,” Emily agreed. “Anyway, I was talking about Paragon; he’s super popular now.”

“Jog my memory?” Alice frowned.

“Uh, he’s super swole and has really long dreadlocks,”  Emily said, scratching her cheek. “Wears a dark grey bodysuit?”

The dreadlocks had been what triggered her memory—she’d seen him a few times on the news, the thing that stood out to get the most had been the incident with the moon.

“I’ve seen him,” Alice nodded, “He was the one who redirected the meteor away from the moon?”

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Emily said, smiling. “Are you impressed now? I even got a hug.”

“Yay,”  Alice said, deliberately underplaying her response. “So cool.”

“Ugh,” Emily huffed. “You could at least pretend to be impressed.”

“Impossible,” Alice said immediately, “I’m far too busy pretending that I’m not.”

Emily snorted.

“What’s he doing in Setalite City?” Alice wondered. “Is he even from here?”

“Uh, I don’t actually know where he’s from,” Emily admitted. “He was with Empress—don’t even tell me you don’t know about her, I swear to—”

“Of course I know about Empress,” Alice lied as she began to slow down. “Idiot.”

“Thank god for that,” Emily said as they came to a stop. “It was here, huh? Not exactly the shining palace you had me envisioning.”

“It’s a music shop, Emily,” Alice rolled her eyes, “What did you expect?”

“A shining palace,” Emily repeated, deadpanned. “Are you even listening to me?”

Alice climbed out of the car and closed the door behind her—they were parked pretty close to the corner, which made her a bit nervous.

“Think I should move up?”  Alice wondered. “Someone’s going to rear-end me.”

“That sounds like you problem to me!” Emily said, smiling.

Without waiting, Emily headed towards the store’s front door, and Alice was left to catch up—she sent a single glance back at her car, hoping it would remain undamaged while she was gone.

“Well, it’s a music store, alright,” Alice said, as the bell above the door rang out.

There was a man sitting behind the counter, who judging by his name tag, was the owner of the store. He looked like he’d been reading a book before they’d entered.

“Hi,” The owner said, looking a bit sheepish. “If you need any help, just call out.”

Emily capitalized on the offer almost immediately.

“Help, this strange woman is following me,” Emily said sadly. “I can’t seem to get rid of her, and she’s super lame—”

Alice pushed her down the first aisle and wrinkled her nose.

“Ignore her,” Alice said, “We’ll be fine, thanks.”

The amused man just nodded before returning to his book.

Aleck’s Missed Beats, Setalite City West.
1:17 PM, Friday, October 2nd, 2015.

The siren that began to ring out across the city reached them in a wave of noise, and Alice turned to look up at the front of the store, startled.

“What on earth is that?” Alice said, suddenly worried.

“It’s one of the three sirens that everyone was talking about at the beginning of the year,” Emily said, hesitant. “I don’t know which one.”

As the sirens got closer as more and more of them began to repeat the alarm; a strange feeling started to come over Alice, and she looked down at her hands, confused. Emily strode past her towards the front of the store, and Alice hesitantly began to follow.

The owner, Aleck, was still behind the counter, standing up and looking out of the window, but he glanced over at them for a moment.  Alice stopped at the end of the aisle; every step she took was like something was building up inside her.

What was this?

“What are we supposed to do?” Emily frowned, talking to them both. “One of them means to evacuate the city, right?”

Alice felt the words wash over her, and the feeling of being filled with something continued to grow.

“I think this was the one that we were supposed to stay indoors for,” Aleck said, frowning. “They all sound too similar—they should have made them more distinct; I’ll look it up.”

He turned to move towards the computer at the front counter, and Alice turned to look up as a wave of something passed through the wall, followed by a bang that rocked the entire store. The noise hit her, and she found her body energized in a way she’d never felt before.

Alice turned away from the wall as it began to fold inwards towards her, but everything was moving so slowly—she recognized the back end of her car as it was shunted through the front of the store. It hit her dead on, awful pressure pressed against her as her body bent around it, and then all she felt was pain as the ceiling collapsed down onto them.

Her stomach and chest burned like she’d been scraped across something rough, and she couldn’t move at all. Something impossibly heavy was pushing her down into the boot of her car; she could barely breathe, chest compressed from both sides.

A muffled noise reached her, and she felt a tiny spark of energy within her that faded within seconds. It came again a few moments later, and she could almost decipher it—

“Alice…” Emily cried, somewhere to her right. “I can’t breathe….”

Alice sobbed at the noise, unable to move her chest enough to respond. Her own choked noises failed to build any of that strange feeling that continued to spark and vanished with every desperate plea that Emily made.

The world shook, and something metal screeched loud enough to be heard even under all of the debris. Alice felt her chest expand, the pressure lessening for just long enough to gain a desperate breath, and then sobbed again as the energy began to fade away, used up to withstand the awful pressure crushing her.

Alice remained there, slowly suffocating, except for brief moments when whatever was happening outside reached her, and then it began anew as the energy faded.

Emily’s cries stopped completely, and Alice pleaded with her to keep speaking—her vision was growing black again as she struggled to breathe…

Alice woke up again as an ear-splitting crack rent the air, and she sucked in a choked breathe. A series of rumbles grew louder until everything shook like a giant had wrapped its fist around the building.

She tried to move again, and this time had some success, bringing her arm closer in an attempt to leverage her chest off the boot of her car. This time when the energy faded, she wished she hadn’t moved at all, as her arm was crushed painfully beneath her.

Something bright and silver passed through the rubble, stopping directly in front of her face. A tiny orb, translucent and glowing, like energy only vaguely present.

“You are going to die soon,” The light whispered. “Tell me your name.”

Alice couldn’t help but notice the lack of energy the sound brought with it, like it wasn’t really sound at all. The light mixing about inside the orb wavered for a moment before solidifying once more.

“Alice…” Alice managed.

It began to slowly move towards her face, creeping closer as if it found the motion difficult.

“Do you want me to save you, Alice?” The orb whispered.

“Emily…” Alice choked out. “Save her… please….”

“I lack the power to save Emily,” The orb whispered, “Give me yours.”

She did.

The results of these polls are pretty funny. Do you guys even remember Hoister? I did that guy dirty. Here’s the first interlude; enjoy.

If you’re enjoying my work, and you’re tearing out your hair, wondering what you could possibly read with no bi-weekly Reroll to look forward to; Contention, the next free web serial will be making an appearance, most likely the week after Reroll finishes. They are unrelated to each other, but you might find something you like in it. Contention will feature base-building, summoning, survival, magic, monsters, taming, crafting, and a mystery of a world overrun with horrible creatures.

Thank you to all the supporters, on Patreon, on here, and everywhere else, you guys are what is making it possible to keep improving on my passion, and I really appreciate all of you. If you’d like to help support my mission to snap as many elbows as I can get my greasy little mitts on, but aren’t in a place to chip in–you can support me for free as well! Leaving a comment, or a review on any of the other fiction websites I post my content on helps out more than you know. 

Keep on keeping on!

Reroll – Season 3, Chapter 85
Ameliorate(NSFW) – Chapter 10