Author’s Note: With my big projects completed just under the wire, it became time to create something for Kabobbles’ Choice, also just under the wire. I almost pulled something else that I’d done instead, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t “spoilery.”
Oh, well. I’m sure people won’t be too disappointed to see the alien return.
“Your lines are… harsher today. You are angry?”
“You’re late,” she said, not lifting her head as she made another dark slash against the white canvas, and he frowned, uncertain what he had done to upset her so much. He had not seen her since she offered to share books with him, and if that was now a problem, he would not force her to do it. He did not need to be a burden or an inconvenience as well as a monster.
“You are angry, then. You believe me a vandal? You think I should repay you for what I have ruined?”
She put the brush down, shaking her head, the red tips of her hair flapping around as she did. He thought she must change that every day, but to what purpose? Not by accident, not something she did because she had painted anything red—her lines were once again black—so why was her hair that color? What significance did it have?
“It’s not you. It’s… Never mind. I shouldn’t take it out on you or on the canvas. Let me put this away, and I’ll grab a book. You have something in mind for what you’d like to read?”
“I… A book?”
“Cute. Are you trying to be funny?”
“It would seem that I am humorous, but only on accident and generally for reasons I cannot understand.”
She stopped, holding the canvas close as she laughed. “Oh, yes, you are. It’s this whole deadpan thing you do. You’re the perfect straight man in a comedic duo.”
“It is unintentional.”
“Yeah. That would be why it’s perfect.”
“That does not make sense.”
She turned back to him with a grin. “I think I know what we’ll read. You just need to give me a second to deal with this. I will be right back.”
He watched her disappear into the shop, thinking the shift in her mood was rather marked, and he did not understand that, either. She had been upset when he approached, but somehow he had gotten laughter and smiles from her, things that he would not have expected when he approached her. Humans were so strange. They made no sense most of the time.
The children of the vortex were simple. Easy. They hungered, and they destroyed. That was all anyone need know about them. Nothing new to see as a puzzle or wonder how to decipher the actions or creations there of—the vortex never created. It only destroyed.
He thought of her paintings for a moment. He should like to create something, but since he would consume the brush, he could not.
“You look like someone stole your puppy.”
“I have no puppy,” he said, then hesitated. “What is a puppy again?”
She giggled. “Wow. I don’t think there are words for how I feel right now after having heard you say that. I know you’re different, but you are—you’re something else.”
“I am a child of the vortex.”
“Ah. I see.”
“You have paint on your shirt.”
She shrugged. “I always have paint on my shirt. I’ve also got a book. You want to sit out here or inside to read it? I vote for outside because inside is stuffy and unbearable and you might bump into books and have them vanish in a poof of smoke.”
“That is not what happens.”
“Oh?” Her eyebrow rose almost to the top of her forehead, it seemed, but only the one. “Then what happens?”
“I eat them.”
“You need to work on your diet, then. I mean, there are people who devour books and who are voracious readers, but that’s because they enjoy reading and read a lot, not because they’re literally eating them.” She shook her head. “Eating books. So wrong.”
“It was not intentional.”
She grinned. “You are too easy, my friend. Way too easy. What’s your name, anyway?”
“I… I have no name.”
“No name? So you have no name and you eat books and you’re a black hole son of the vortex. Right. Okay. I’ll dig out one of those baby naming books from the back and find you one that fits all the weirdness that you are for the next time.”
“Who are you to name me?”
“That name has no meaning to me.”
“Maybe not. Still… I am the girl who has the books, right? Therefore, I hold all the power in this relationship, and don’t you forget it.”
He shook his head. “I think you are quite proud of your so-called power and what you imagine you can do with it, but I fear I cannot allow you to think that you have so much, and certainly not over me. I am of the vortex. I could destroy you by touching you.”
“You’re going to eat me?”
“I don’t want to.”
“Well, then, it’s a moot point, and I’m not scared of you. So there,” she said, her tongue protruding from her mouth in a most bizarre fashion. He frowned, not sure how he would ever convince humans of the danger that he truly was. “Sit, if you like. I think you might just enjoy this. Jeeves is a pretty good straight man—at least as far as I can tell, though I haven’t read many of the books but I have seen a couple adaptations—and so this is new for me as well.”
Her lips curved into a smile, and she opened the book, beginning to read aloud. He was not quite sure he understood what she was reading, but he rather liked the sound of her voice as she read, attempting to give each speaker a different bit of accent or adopting a curious posture as she went on.
Yes, he decided, he liked books.