When Membrane tells his son he has his head in the clouds, he forgets to add his heart in the earth and his soul in the stars. Dib just glares up at his father; though lately "up" is a poor description, the difference in their heights closing fast. The professor doesn't know what to make of his boy who drives too fast and stays out to late and tries to summon demons in his spare time. It breaks his heart to see his experiment a failure. This creature he created for the good of man kind is turning against it. Embittered and sullen, the brilliant child refuses his intended purpose.
He can almost hear the mocking voice of the boy's absent mother:
"Well Mem, you wanted a visionary. You got your visionary." He did indeed. Dib certainly has vision.
And he doesn't like what he sees.
Thumbs of Steel:
She scares the poor boy shitless; and he can't get enough of her. Iggins stands behind the sofa where Gaz is effortlessly pulverizing some ten-year-old in "Vampire Piggy Hunter 4: Return of the Hoglust." He sees her all the time now at these conventions, winning every tournament, reducing every opponent to tears-or-worse. He expects no less.
A rich, bored, suburban kid, if you're not getting high, you better find another hobby. He's been playing video games since he was five if memory serves. He's the best gamer around, with an ego to match. Generally notorious for considering himself notorious, Iggins boasts thumbs of steel. Too bad he's got a jaw of glass.
If only he could talk to her. Sidle on up smooth, like guys in movies do. But when he opens his mouth, all that come out are high-scores and tall-tales. Gaz is gorgeous. Loose pigtails coloured like bunches of concord grapes, long, strait nose, sepia-brown eyes, sparkling. Thirteen and not quite curvy yet. Feral, predatory, she comes in for the kill.
"WINNER!" blare the bad-speakers. The ash-blonde kid slinks off, dejected.
Gaz looks dangerously up at Iggins as if to say "You're next." Squirming, timid, the boy takes his place on the couch beside her, a little bit too close.
He'll let her win this round.
Though he can’t abide by much of what Zim does, Skoodge finds his antics, if counter-productive, at least amusing. Living in the basement-lab of the deluded invader is like a vacation from reality. Radio-active weasel brains and half-finished doom machines dominate every available inch of space. Plans for world conquest litter the floor, each more outrageous than the last.
To really know Zim, is to see past your immediate impression, (that he is stupid and ineffective) and to realize his convoluted brilliance. The little Irken is a veritable genius in his own neurotic way. Insane certainly, brash and melodramatic, completely self-absorbed; but a genius none the less. He has something their kind fears and covets, something the mindless, carbon-copied Irken masses can never attain: he has creativity.
Skoodge knows Zim well enough, and he realizes that he’ll never really enslave the humans. Unconsciously, he doesn’t want to. They are dull, benign creatures, a threat to no one but themselves. Even the volatile pseudo-invader could make quick work of their tiny, primitive planet. But something (or rather someone) stays his hand.
In all of Skoodge's travels throughout the galaxies, in all of his time as an invader, or a scientist before that, he has never encountered such a creature. "The Dib" as Zim scathingly refers to him, is small and harmless to all appearances. And yet, that fierce, anxious, little thing holds some latent fascination for Zim.
And so pronouncements get made, and bones get broken, and nothing gets resolved.
This is the vicious cycle to which Skoodge finds himself a witness. An unbiased, third party, he sees the true nature of this relationship: perversely symbiotic, mutually destructive. They feed off each other's antagonism.
What a bizarre and disconcerting place this little blue planet has turned out to be. Skoodge hopes to find his way back to Irk. In the mean time though, Earth is quite the learning experience.
March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb, eventually giving way to April with its delicate perfume like rain or the smell of the first crocuses, fighting their way up through the hard ground and the layer of frost. The spring air seeps in between the floorboards, whispers to the baseboards, and lingers somewhere past the rafters; hanging there, like something essential. Summer is sneaking up on them, hot and sticky, and scantily clad.
Gretchen leans on Dib's shoulder, the ends of his inky hair tickling her face. She thinks, he really does have excellent hair, jet black and long and glossy, even in the dark. In the sun, glinting rainbow highlights, like prisms or shards of glass… or stars.
They sit against the fence outside High Skool and cast long shadows across the cracked pavement and into the grass. High noon, Saturday, no obligations. He laces his fingers with hers and sighs.
"What's wrong?" her brow knits in that perfect way, always so concerned.
"Nothing," he lies. She knows too well the monotone he borrows from his sister when he's trying hard not to give anything away. She gives him a look.
"It's just… I wish I could be better for you." Dib says slowly.
"What does that mean?"
"Well, I wish there was some way I could get you to stick around."
She glares at him. "Don't do this!"
"It's true. You're currently mystified by my eccentricities. But I'm just a phase," he gives her that desperate, intense "Dib" look, like what she says next will make or break him.
"That's ridiculous," she protests, "I love you!"
"You love the concept of me."
They sit in silence for a long minute. A lawn mower is humming somewhere in the distance and the sky is so clear and vast that you forget about gravity sometimes.
"You're difficult," she pulls her jacket around her tight to fend off a little spring chill.
"You're beautiful," he winds a strand of her hair around his long index finger and tucks it behind her ear. "Gretchen, the fact of the matter is, the universe won't let me-"
She leans in, crushing her lips against his, pulling away and surveying him, brow furrowed, like a difficult puzzle.
“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”
The minute I turned 18 we were out of there like a bat out of hell. It was some kind of Saturday that August 19th when we up and left. We packed that night and we were gone in the morning with a note on the counter in Dib’s immaculate script. The sky was on fire and the dawn was urging us, saying move, move, move; go somewhere. We moved into a postage-stamp sized apartment downtown.
Now I’m out here in the world with my crazy brother, finishing up high school while he comes home every night and drowns his pain in a bottle of vodka and wakes up every morning and smothers his exhaustion in a cracked, white mug of tar-black coffee. It really ticks me off how tragic he thinks he is and we fight a lot.
I think we both feel cooped up, down here, knowing what’s out there. And the dawn breaks everyday saying move, move, move. Where to?
Sometimes I even miss what we’ve sarcastically dubbed “the good ol’ days”. When he was ten and I was eight and Zim was actually a little scary. I think I liked my brother best though when he was sixteen and grew his hair long and used to go to school in a black track jacket with a nine-millimeter in his backpack full of silver bullets. He drove a 1977 Chevrolet Camaro and smoked like a chimney. I might have almost looked up to him back then, and I might have almost been mature enough to admit it.
Now I’m mostly pissed at him for moping around and refusing to get a job, but really mostly pissed at both of us for burning out. We used to be crazy kids, him always questing after something and me always trying really hard not to care but in the last years we were awesome together. Maybe I was in eighth grade when I realized the world existed beyond my Game Slave.
Well look at you there at that little card table in the corner, hunched over your copy of “Harper’s”, reading the news like some kind of functioning member of society. Who are you trying to kid?
So much for the best years of our lives. We are young and free and suffocating. It kills me to think that this is the end. All the times Dib could have died out there doing something stupid and brave and brilliant, when we were on the edge about to go up in glorious flames, and it would have been a fitting way to go. But this is torture, trickling away, slowly dying inside. Going to school and paying the rent. Like every-freaking-body else.
Please God don’t let me be ordinary.
So he’s sitting there pretending to care about the energy crisis while the stars in the window behind him are blazing and you know he doesn’t give a damn about what goes on down here. And I sit down across from him and clear my throat until he looks up and I beg him with my eyes to take me somewhere. Now the sky behind him is brilliant and the dawn is breaking, begging him with me to move, move, move. And the light is all around him like a halo, glinting against the impossible black of his hair and the dawn is breaking in his eyes whispering I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
I guess it was later when Zim came over but I can’t be sure how much later and it could have been hours or seconds because time is lost in the cold, unforgiving void that is our ninth floor apartment. In any case it was still morning and he marched in in that way he does and kicked my sorry brother a few times and proceeded to sink into the seat beside him at the card table and join in pouring over “Harper’s”. They often do this, playing chess, or reading, or engaging in some other pseudo-intellectual activity, a prop of normalcy to mask the truth of the matter, the fact that all they’re really doing is moping. They like to mope together I think because it makes them feel less alone and plus they make each other furious which gives them something to do.
Maybe I’m in a really awful mood, but the room and the ninth floor, and the whole damn planet is feeling especially abysmal today and I finally can’t stand it anymore. These two are too brilliant and fierce to be sitting around and waiting to die over some kind of rejection.
“What is it?” I shout, “What do you want? Well?! Go get it! Or go slit your wrists, I don’t care, but for God’s sake stop feeling sorry for yourselves!”
And the look on both of their faces is one I haven’t seen in a terribly long time. I scares me how much, how desperately I missed that look with the corners of the lips turned down a by few degrees and the one brow raised and their eyes smoldering with something like longing or like hope.
And something stirs in the world right then with absolutely early morning falling all around us and I feel sure of something for the first time in a long time. Faltering… no, I cling to that certainty because I know now for sure that my boys are back.
The dawn heralds a new beginning.
CONGRATULATIONS! If you've made it this far it means you suffered through my horrible ficlets and lived to tell about it. Now can I get a review? Pweeeeese? Fur duh childwen?