A/N: So, I really wasn’t originally planning to publish this at all. But people seemed to like it some…so here it is. Hope you enjoy!
. . .
It was a cold day in October.
The forecast was warm and sunny that afternoon, a rare sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit… It was too good to be true.
Icy sheets of rain poured from the pale gray sky. It streamed from the dark windows and careened down the gutters, freezing in the streets where the squealing tires didn’t touch. Sleet spattered the sidewalks and clung to streetlights where they hung suspended over the wet tarvy. It dripped from the overpass and melted in the roaring traffic, shot from the flying windshield wipers in sprays.
For two tires less than four, the freezing asphalt was perilous. It was a 2013 Toyota sports bike, an older model, already filthy and wet. Ice clung to the exhaust, making the quiet roar a sputter. True, trusting the radio forecast was a mistake…But a chance to get out one last time before winter? It was impossible to resist.
Now she struggled for control, easing the throttle to a tentative forty…forty-five… fifty. Traffic waited for no one. It was a constant hum, a never ending thrum that meant the people of Minneapolis were busy, going home. Even in the rain, downtown rush hour was a stream of moving feet and voices. The city was a mass of lifeforms living together and alone. The periodic horn meant they were impatient and angry, frustrated at the cold and the rain. It upset their schedule. It slowed them down. If one thing was unforgivable in the city, it was going forty in a fifty mile-an-hour zone.
Not only that, but more dangerous than the ice.
So she dove from side to side, lane to lane, signaling sometimes, sometimes not, dodging pools and freezing spots. The rain streaked down her helmet and soaked her jeans, slipped down the zipped leather jacket and shattered in steaming gusts off the exhaust. It was Kristy Anderson.
Suddenly, a squad of police cars screamed past, and from behind a rain streaked visor, she glanced up. They flashed and squealed, red on blue and she grimaced. What…more?
The city was on high alert already, said the news bulletins. They were looking for something…for someone. An escaped convict maybe, a criminal. State patrol were on every block. The newscasters were having a hay day. And it was all thanks to some powerful ‘electric storm’, they called it, just a few hours north. Power lines outside the cities were down. Houses were destroyed. Maybe whoever it was escaped in the chaos… Who knew?
For the last two days though, army trucks drove north and they manned roadblocks at all exits and highways leading out of the city, downtown, and to the suburbs, demanding identification. What happened in this ‘storm’ everyone was talking about? Were they in danger from this something, or perhaps a someone?
Kristy didn’t know. Frankly, she didn’t care.
The police needed something to keep them busy. She kept herself busy by taking every alley, underpass, and freeway unguarded to keep from stopping. On these roads, it was too hard to halt, find her driver’s license, and start up again without tipping the bike. Especially not for something so silly as a roadblock. She was already on the final stretch home…
And suddenly, the phone buzzed against her leg.
Kristy struggled not to slip out in surprise; the car behind her was edging so close she could see the swinging beanie babies in the back mirror. And then her phone bleeped dismally and cut out. Kristy cursed. It was the last of the battery life!
But the exit was coming up fast and she swerved onto the off ramp. It led into the city.
Buildings scratched at the sky and she turned onto a two-lane backstreet, leaving most behind. Work ended early today; it was three o’clock. In a couple hours, dark would fall and she didn’t like riding at night. Ahead in the distance was a towering collage of apartment complexes, brick, steel and glass all gray in the cloudy light. That was home.
And then she saw him.
Instantly, she hit the breaks and the speedometer shot from fifty to twenty. There was a man in the road. There wasn’t any time!
He didn’t move. A pick-up roared past, horn blaring, and he staggered back, dizzy. Move! Why didn’t he move? He just stood there, hands at his sides, head thrown back and staring into the rain. Water streamed from his chin and…
In the midst of busy streets, a man looked from side to side, not at…but through. His eyes were empty and full. They saw trees of steel and glass. They climbed over his head like great, clawing giants. They were monsters. They were ugly and ominous. They blocked the sky from his searching eyes.
He saw people, faces and eyes in machines that roared, honked, screeched, squealed. They shouted at him, things he could never understand. He’d been wandering…wandering so long. Time, night, day meant nothing. He couldn’t remember. They blurred and vanished. Cold flashes shivered through his body and left him huddled in a wet wall. Flashes of hot, fevered agony that left him dizzy made him disoriented, confused. He could not understand. He could not remember. There was only…this.
He lifted his eyes, staring up into freezing rain. He was so cold his fingers were numb. He was hungry and wet; he drank the rain for his thirst.
Why was this happening?
Was there no one to answer him, talk to him in a tongue he knew? No one to take him and tell him who he was, where he was, what came of him? Or maybe this was his life, wandering…sick, muttled. Maybe this was the world; people who did not know, did not try. People who didn’t understand him and didn’t care to. People who walked in droves, moved in growling beasts of steel.
Why was this happening? He staggered off a curb and stopped, tilting his head back in the falling rain. It ran through his hair and streamed down his face, chilled him to the core. Was he punished for some misdeed in a past life? He didn’t know… He didn’t remember.
And suddenly, a blaring horn shook his dizzy reverie.
“Get off the road, you idiot!” it bellowed.
He backed away, confused. What was this? Why couldn’t he focus, make himself understand, make himself see? But the syllables made no sense. Bits and pieces tried to form words, but even these garbled together in his fuzzy ears. He couldn’t see or even think…
And then, the world upended itself.
He whipped his head around instantly, just enough to stare through wet shield of glass and into a black, helmeted face. It was too late. He didn’t move. He didn’t want to.
A screech shuddered through the black tires and marked the pavement, trying to stop, swerve around him. But there was ice and she slammed into him. The handlebar clipped his side so hard he flew back with a grunt of pain and surprise. Cement hit the back of his head and he gasped, stunned. The crash of steel on pavement flipped over him in a blur. He pushed himself over, staring as the bike skidded to a stop and the person atop it was thrown to the ground.
Kristy’s head cracked against the pavement and a snap broke from her helmet. She tumbled to a stop.
“Oh God…” came a gasp, but the man didn’t understand.
He just watched, dazed, clenching his fists in the cold.
An instant passed, and Kristy screwed her eyes shut tight, expecting agonizing pain to shoot up her spine. She waited for the sound of snapping bones or the wet, warm feeling of blood to seep through her clothes. The only wet that came was the splash of dirty water shooting from the gutter as a car swerved and stomped on the gas, before flying away. She was crumpled face down. The traffic avoided her legs in the street until she crawled to the curb, freezing rain pouring from the sky.
“Oh, God…I’m dead.” She grunted, fogging the inside of her cracked visor, before grimacing, pulling the strap loose. She yanked the helmet off and hair tumbled into her face, gasping wet clear air.
She looked up and panting, shaking, she froze. “God…” The man. Kristy whipped her head around, “Oh…oh, no.”
He was down, booted feet in the streaming gutter. Water gushed over him and he stared at something blankly, shivering, gasping. She scrambled over as fast as she could on shaking limbs. Kristy wasn’t hurt…She couldn’t believe it, but she could feel it. She was alive!
“Are you all right?” Kristy rasped, coughing violently, before pushing wet hair out of her face to see better. “Sir! Are you all right? I’m s-so sorry! I didn’t see you. I-I…” and she trailed off, panting.
The man was on his arm now, coughing, pulling himself stumbling onto the sidewalk. She touched his back, offering useless support. His boots slipped out and he collapsed, still coughing now. Long, wet blonde hair spilled down his shoulders. Keen blue eyes, foggy and gray in the light, peered past her and down the busy street, as if searching for something, anything, desperately. His mouth was clamped in a stony white line…shivering. She’d never seen anyone like him. He was…different.
“S-sir? Are you hurt?” Kristy asked softer, touching his shoulder. “Do I need to call the police?”
He looked at her then. He had to move…walk, find where he needed to go, who he needed to talk to. But he paused. The human was still here. She was not shouting at him, not pushing past. She was leaning close, touching his arm, asking…something.
Why couldn’t he think? Why could he not just see her face? It was blurry, like a foggy window. All he could hear was the distant roar of vehicles and the windy rain, the pain in his chest.
“Please! Just tell me if you’re hurt!” She pleaded, shaking miserably. She was realizing just how close she came to the accident, a real accident. How she could have dragged down the street with her bike, slammed into the telephone pole, twisted and snapped instead of jumping free. It left her shaking and tears streamed down her face.
“My phone’s dead, but I-I can call an ambulance…or something. I can-I can call the police. Please tell me what to do!”
She crouched on the wet pavement, and glances threw their way from the couple across the street. The traffic went on as before. Life was too busy to stop. The two were up and talking... Obviously they were fine. Obviously they didn’t need the help of a stranger, the man taking his dog home, the woman late for a business meeting. They scurried on as they had before.
“They’re g-going to ask for identification and-and social security number, and insurance cards. Do you have them?” she dug around in her own pockets, coming up with a billfold. They tumbled through her head and she forced herself to take control, to focus.
The police were supposed to be told about all accidents…no matter how minor. She knew that. But her phone was dead! And the police were so hyped on this ‘storm’ thing. Should she ask someone to call for her? Kristy struggled to show her billfold to the man, pointing at it, and he just pushed away. He slipped once, and made it. She didn’t know if it was from the pavement or violent coughs, but one of his hands were bloody.
Kristy reached out and scrambled after him; he didn’t need it. He was against a street sign, supporting himself. Oh, what am I supposed to do now? Kristy thought desperately. He doesn’t understand. The man just stood there, hunched, gripping his bleeding fists.
“Come on. Listen to me.” She shook her head, standing before him. “Can you walk? Can you get home?”
And then, grimacing in the cold and the rain, he looked at her. The man’s face was white in the rapidly fading light. His eyes were like stormy gray pools. They left her breathless…Why did he look at her like that?
“H-here…” she struggled with her zipper, pulling her jacket off and wrapping it around his arms. It was more than a little too small for his broad shoulders, but it would have to do. “You look cold. Oh, what am I talking about? I’m cold.” She shook her head vigorously in the sleet, shivering. “It’s freezing out here. I can w-wave down a taxi for you, at the very least. Just tell me where you want to go… a home address? A friend? Anything!”
He just looked at her.
“Oh, I know this is a mistake. But um, okay…” she whispered, thinking fast and trying not to panic. It was like holding your hands out to stop a speeding train. “I’m…going to let you come to my apartment building. I’ll quick get my home phone and call the police from there…or someone. All right?”
A gust of rain shivered through her thin sweater and she stood, shivering and waiting. He didn’t answer. Water streamed from his chin, and she shifted to look up at him. The man focused on her, or somewhere near her…but there was something deep, something ageless in the shadowed gaze. He was lost, or confused…afraid. Dusk was falling and he was shaking.
“Kwentra amin mani yamen’ sina…” he whispered faintly, and Kristy hissed through her teeth in surprise.
The man reached up and then, shuddering in exhaustion, his fingers touched her face. He wanted to touch something, hold onto something. He wanted to ask so many things, but his mouth couldn’t form the words. It didn’t matter. No one understood.
“All right…Come on,” Kristy said softly, before carefully, she took his hand from her face and folded it in her fingers. She pointed with her chin. “I-I have to get my bike up. Then, it’s a few blocks to my apartment, and I’ll call someone from there. Kay? You gonna be all right?”
He didn’t answer again, but shivering in the bitter rain, he squeezed her hand tighter. It was something to grip onto, and the rain was blurring his world. It was growing worse… He felt black hovering at the edges, like a monster just waiting to pounce. He coughed and it did no good.
Kristy’s bike idled away on the side. It was braced on the curb, and so with the center weight helping her, she managed to heave it upright.
“Oh, my paint.” she whimpered, wiping her face. The perfect blue was no longer perfect…far from it. It didn’t matter. She was alive. This…this man was alive.
And so, they got it down the road’s shoulder until the street passed the glass doors of a great, brick building climbing high into the clouds. The man leaned on her bike for support, keeping his hand on hers as she pushed. It was a queer feeling, the stranger’s touch. His skin was bitterly cold, yet he didn’t let her hand away for more than an instant at a time. It was like he had nothing else to keep.
“Around here…” Kristy flinched in a sharp gust of wind and they turned down the asphalt driveway, which eventually led down into a parking lot under the apartments. Most of them were built this way; it saved precious space in the city.
At the entrance the man stumbled on the cracked yellow speed bump. Then, they were sheltered in the garage and they walked down the rows of cars, dark except the dimly burning bulbs strung in rows across the ceiling.
He looked around in wonder, but couldn’t see straight. Weakness was washing over him and his limbs felt like lead weights. He wasn’t thinking. All he could concentrate on was how far it would be until he found something that made sense, something to latch onto, how long until he could collapse. For a reason he couldn’t fathom, this…woman was still with him. She wasn’t speeding off; she wasn’t pushing past him. He didn’t want that to change.
“Come on.” Kristy pushed the kickstand down, before beckoning. “This way.”
To her mild surprise…or not, his eyes wandering wildly, he caught her hand on the way down and wouldn’t let go. Past the main doors in the carpeted entry, a desk and chairs sat against the wall. Lines of metal grated mailboxes and potted plants lined it; Kristy pulled him into the elevator. It wasn’t like he’d let go of her, even if she tried to leave him behind. So, she headed for her apartment.
“I probably shouldn’t be doing this, you know.” Kristy muttered to him, punching the button for the twenty-fifth floor. It was the second to the top. “You could be…” She sighed, trailing off. Why bother? He didn’t understand.
He could be a stalker, a professional who did this for a living…He could get unsuspecting women into accidents to get their address, case the place. He could rob them blind, or worse. Who knew?
As the elevator jolted into the climb and rose slowly, the man grabbed the wall in surprise, eyes wide. She ignored it, wondering why didn’t she listen to herself? Why didn’t she leave this strange man on a street corner? Or better yet, dump him on the police station’s doorstep, a homeless shelter?
But she didn’t. She just stood against the wall, feeling her fingers clasped in the man’s hand slowly warm. Kristy took the time to look at him, really look at him.
His skin was flawless and white. Dark, angular brows framed his eyes and he was tall, tall and lean. He was hunched and shivering though, using the wall like a lifeline. He could barely stay upright. There was something pitiable in the way his eyes flinched at the movement of the elevator, the dim light. Even his clothes were…strange. Leather boots reached his knees and a belt buckled around his waist and shoulder. Perfect green thread stitched his forest green tunic. He had her coat around his arms, and he stood rigid, legs apart.
How were they moving? He didn’t have time to reason it out.
The doors slid open and the woman tugged him out into the hall. A door she stopped at had numbers…number 99. He watched her dig in her pockets, fingers shaking. He felt her tug on the hand that he wouldn’t let go, but an instinct buried deep wouldn’t let him release her.
She wanted to help him. He needed that help.
“Here we are.” She said as she closed the door behind him, and only when he realized these were her living quarters, did he reluctantly let her fingers pull out of his.
His eyes were fuzzy and his knees shuddered in exhaustion. He was coughing again, a dry, painful cough. But he found a deep leather couch along the opposite wall. There were heavy drapes across the windows, blocking most of the clouded light. It didn’t matter. He was inside, warming a little, and for some reason, it felt like his body was shutting down. He didn’t stop before, because he couldn’t stop. If he stopped it would be the end.
Kristy plugged her phone in on the kitchen countertop, before calling. “Do you at least have a number I can call?”
She strode out again, thinking of a way to motion ‘phone number’ with her hands…before freezing. Suddenly, all the strength went out of her and she felt like falling to her knees.
This hadn’t actually happened. It couldn’t. Kristy stared, absolutely stunned.
In the semi-darkness, there was a rapidly-becoming-familiar body on her couch. The man was face down in the pillows, absolutely still, collapsed.
“…seriously…” she breathed, running a hand through her wet hair. His boots were only half on, like he hadn’t even made it to the sofa before passing out. One hand was thrown over the cushions and the other behind his neck, cradling his own head.
She exhaled slowly, looking at him, before tentatively walking closer. Kristy touched his face first…stony cold, yet flushed hot. Fever. Her fingers traced his hand, fiddled with his sleeve, thinking hard. Then, she poked him in the arm.
“Are you faking?” Kristy whispered, hoping he would answer if he was. Why me? And what exactly was she supposed to do with him? “What am I going to do with you…?” she sighed, dropping her hands into her lap.
And then, she blinked. His hand, curled in a loose fist on the carpet had something written across his fingers. Kristy carefully picked it up, unfolding his hand. In smudged, black ink a word was scrawled across his palm. L…she focused, tilting his hand into the light. Legolas.
She squinted, thinking a moment, before sitting back on her heels. What in Helsinki was a Legolas? And then, she realized more of the black ink ran up his arm. The woman pushed his sleeve up, barely registering the rapid pounding of her heartbeat.
But she couldn’t read it. It was scrawled in a strange, swirling script. It was smudged in the rain, but obviously not English… Suddenly, she blinked and snapped her head up. The man, whoever he was, was shivering so violently Kristy could see it. The moisture on his face was no longer rain, but a cold sweat. He was convulsing, clinging to the cool leather cushion. Coughing. He couldn’t breathe.
He lived two floors down! He could help her. Maybe he could tell her where this man came from, or what a ‘Legolas’ is. Maybe he would know what to do … Maybe he could help.
. . .
Kwentra amin mani yamen’ sina… Tell me what place this is.