Serenity: Chapter 1
Dreams of a Griffon
By: E. Red
Every so often, a life is turned upside down, raised up or ruined by complete chance. And sometimes, when one person's life is so ruined, another's is raised by it, directly or otherwise. The onset of MORFS seems to be the cause of that more and more often now, as opposed to the traditional reasons.I was one of those who benefited from just such an event. But the story bears no meaning unless you hear it from the beginning.
My name is Marcus Griffin, and my story begins on September 1st, 2046. My twenty-second birthday, and my second birthday alone.
I graduated high school with better-than-average grades, a steady girlfriend, and three hundred dollars to my name. And it all went downhill from there. I scored a position at a community college, whose name shall remain unsaid to avoid making myself angry, and spent two years taking an acting course for television, which I passed with little difficulty.
This is about where the problems start.
I wanted to move out of our quaint little town, which shall remain nameless as well, but my high school sweetheart had no intention of doing so. Thus began my miserable attempts at convincing her to come with me when I left, but to no avail. We broke up, and went our separate ways. I travelled south, to Los Angeles, and began what performers sometimes refer to as 'the long grind uphill'. I worked a somewhat steady stream of extra and commercial positions, and a few voice-overs, but when my twentieth birthday came about, I was still a nobody. After a year of grinding, I'd barely climbed at all. And it started to get frustrating as hell. And I got really angry.
I admit freely that I have anger issues. I don't think you need to hear the underlying cause to learn something from this tale. So just forget it and move on.
I got into several bar fights trying to drink away the memories of what I'd left behind. I wound up in the drunk tank for the fourth time in a week when I first saw her. Well, saw was not quite the right word. I remember feeling really hazy, laying back on the stiff cot in the cage and hoping my guts would stay inside me, when a face suddenly appeared above me in the mist. I knew I was drunk, and also that there were MORFS who could do such things, but seeing a beautiful face melt through a wall was still rather disturbing. At least at the time...
"H'lo!" She had said cheerily, and even through my drunken fog her voice sounded otherworldly. "What are you doing in here?"
"Th' f'shk?" I slurred at her. "Wash'r 'oo?"
She giggled, her arm melting through the wall alongside her head, and she offered her hand to me. "Come with me, and I'll show you..."
I was too smashed to decline, and grasped her hand in my own, much larger one, noting how soft and delicate it felt. "O'ay, bu' I'mma s'pos te shtay 'ere..."
She giggled again, and I felt myself smile. "Don't worry... It'll be like you never left..."
How could a caged bird refuse an offer to fly?
That small hand pulled me out through the wall, feeling like I was being dipped in Ice water, and I came out on the other side bone sober and shivering. And in the middle of the atmosphere. I gasped as I noticed stars hanging too low in the sky, and saw an aurora spread out beneath my feet. The air around me rumbled as a jet liner roared past, and I tumbled over in the backlash as it passed. Then, as if the carpet had been pulled out from under me, I fell.
There are few sensations as liberating as total free fall, and I didn't even notice the wetness as I plummeted through a cloud, or the lights of the city below as they streaked up towards me. All I felt was the wind as it ripped through me, passing by at unimaginable speeds. As the buildings loomed closer, though, I felt my arms spread out beside me, and I was suddenly gliding across the skyline towards a large billboard, one advertising some new romance film, with a man and a woman dancing together on a ballroom floor. The lights of the city blurred as I tunnel-visioned on that image, and when I hit it, it didn't hurt. n fact, the next thing I knew, I was holding the girl in my arms, and she was spinning around, laughing musically along with the music.
Being the first time I'd gotten a chance to really see her, I was stunned by the vision that twirled before me. She looked to be about eighteen, hardly a girl at all, but a rather small young woman. She had her strikingly red hair done up in a pixie cut, and her eyes were the deepest aquamarine I've ever seen in my life. She was about five feet tall, easily a head and a half shorter then me, and I'm more than certain she had what beauticians call 'the golden measurements', as it was hard as hell to tear my eyes away from her curves, a problem made only worse by the racy blue dress she was wearing.
The music was an upbeat Latin number, but when I glanced around the room, I found... Well, nothing, really. It was just her, and me, in a gigantic, empty ballroom. She stopped in mid spin and huffed slightly, pouting at me. "You're supposed to dance, silly!" She said loudly, forcibly inserting herself back into my arms and back into step with the music.
She giggled again, and I couldn't find the words to speak until she let the dance finish as the music slowly died, replaced by a slow, romantic waltz. "Who are you?"
She looked up, smiling at me as she snuggled closer into my arms, swaying gently to the beat. "A helper." She replied cryptically.
"Where are we, then?"
"Oh, just a little place I know..."
"Do you always ask so many questions?"
That pretty much shut me up. The song seemed to stretch on into eternity before it, too, died off, leaving us in silence. She stepped away from me and bowed slightly before turning and starting to walk away. "Wait!"
She paused, glancing slyly over her shoulder. "Yes?"
"Who... What's your name?" I was dumbstruck at the circumstance, and I knew she could tell. She didn't answer, instead bringing something up to her lips, kissing it and flicking it back at me before vanishing in a sudden swirl of what looked like rose petals. I snatched the thing out of the air, realizing that it was a business card. One side was light red, and had the phrase "Helping others help themselves" printed in violet ink. I turned it over to find the other side was a pale blue, and said simply "Serenity", next to the large lipstick print she'd left for me.
I woke up back in the cell, lying on the floor under the cot I'd been using, but instead of a massive hangover that I expected, I felt rested and refreshed like I'd never felt before. The cops let me go early as, apparently, someone had vouched for me, taking responsibility for my actions to keep me out of court. To this day, I still don't know how she did it. When I collected the few effects they'd taken for safe keeping, I was still slightly dazed, and didn't find the business card in my coat pocket for a few days. Needless to say, I was a little freaked out, but I forgot about the incident after a few months.
It did manage to knock me back on track, though. Shook me out of my funk. I started pounding dirt, and came up with a steady role on a television sitcom after about a month of searching. I bought an ECom after the first successful season, and as soon as I registered it, I started getting pings from old friends and colleagues, and even a fan or two. It was something that completely threw me off, to be honest. Two more seasons rolled by like it was nothing, and my mysterious nighttime visitor didn't return. But, at the end of my twenty-fifth year, I received the shock of my life.
I had bought myself a nice condo out in the suburbs, little two-bedroom, two-bath number that suited my purposes very well. A long-going sitcom, plus commercials and guest spots (I was even on that gameshow, Hollywood Squares. You know, the one they revived in 2048?) had me living quite well. But one sunday morning in June, my little haven was intruded upon.
I was robbed. And shot.
I woke up in a hospital bed with a splitting headache and about a thousand questions, but there was nobody around to talk to. Even after I hauled my ass outta that bed, and started to wander into the halls, I still didn't encounter a soul. I don't know what it was that drew me up there, but I found myself heading up to the roof, dressed in nothing but my paper gown. And when I opened the last door, who do you think was waiting for me?
She hadn't changed much at all, save for her hair, which was shoulder-length and blowing in the wind, and was the simple white dress she was wearing. I recognised her instantly, though her name didn't come to me until well after she turned and smiled, running and leaping at me, slinging her short frame into my arms. "You're okay!" She exclaimed happily, nestling down into my embrace. "That's good... You were gone for so long..."
It was a few minutes before I could carefully formulate what I wanted to say. "I... I'm dreaming, aren't I?"
She looked into my eyes quizzically. "Of course you are, silly. Why else would LA be completely devoid of life?"
I didn't finish. She wriggled out of my grasp and skipped back to the door I'd just come from, pausing with her hand on the handle. "Well? Are you coming?" Was all she asked. Then she threw open the door and vanished into the blackness. I hesitated for only a second before following.
After all, what harm can a dream do?
But I didn't end up in the stairwell I'd used to get up there. Instead, I found myself in a huge stone arena, surrounded by thousands of screaming people. A sudden realization of weight on my body surprised me, but no more than the crazy metal armour that now adorned most of my body did, or the small sword and shield set that I held in my hands. The circle of dirt that I stood in gave a small rumble as an iron gate rose on the far side, and something let out a horrifying growl. A massive shape stirred in the shadows, and I froze on the spot as a huge lizard stepped out into the sun. It was one of those Verosaurs, like I'd seen on TV. Fifteen feet tall, twenty feet long, and nothing but vicious teeth, claws and muscle. This one had metal plates strapped to it's body, and as it stepped forward, I saw a figure sitting in a large saddle, dressed in similar armour to mine, but with a helmet that completely obscured his face. He gripped the chains that controlled the beast in one hand, and a massive spear in the other, the cruelly twisted blade shining in the midday sun.
I barely had any time to stop gaping before the animal was urged into a charge by it's master, an unintelligible battle cry mixing with the thunderous roar of the reptile as they hurtled straight at me, and suddenly, my weapon vanished, replaced by a long-hafted pike. I had no time to think, only react, planting the haft into the ground and setting the pike against the charging animal. Three seconds later, the animal roared, and caught a ten foot long steel point in the back of it's throat. The animal fell over, dead, it's rider trapped beneath it's weight. I walked over to the man, looking up towards the large dias that stood out in the crowd. I saw a flicker of red, and then the world dropped out from beneath me. Literally. A trapdoor opened up, and I fell into oblivion.
Until I hit water. I landed with a mighty splash in what felt like a hot tub. But upon closer inspection, I found myself floating in a pool of liquid-hot magma. I almost screamed when I looked at my hand and couldn't distinguish it from the melted rock, but the feeling passed almost as soon as it had come, replaced with... Calm. I erupted from the burning stone, flying into the air, up and over the ledge and into cool night air. An island of some sort stretched out before me, tropical trees and plants stretched out for miles around. My flight started to curve downwards, and I landed on a large beach with a satisfying splat, my body spreading out on the sand like a drop of water hitting the ground, only to reconstitute itself moments later into a human shape. I was drawn down to the water, and looked at my reflection for a moment, marvelling at the details still visible through the red-hot lava. But my reflection stirred, turning it's head and pointing down the beach.
She was standing there when I looked. She was completely clear, shimmering as the light of the stars passed through her, but the shape was unmistakable. She quirked her head at me, as if to ask a question, but I couldn't answer it with anything but a shrug. She laughed silently, her shoulders throwing loose droplets of water as they shook. She ran to me again, hugging me to her tightly despite the sudden steam that rose up. My fire was consumed, and her body started to sink into mine as we both hardened into a statue, forever encased in stone.
Which I was looking at from the outside. I felt her arm in mine, and her head on my shoulder. "I like it." She said simply, and all I could do was nod. I let her turn me and guide me to the next exhibit in the museum we were apparently in, and she stopped just short of it. It was the bike that I'd built in auto shop class in high school. "This one is nice, too. There's so much love inside it..." The next exhibit surprised me. It was the girl I'd left behind. My redheaded companion looked at her seriously for a minute, then turned back to me. "But what about this one? It has love in it as well, but it's so cold... Why?"
I looked away in shame. "I had to leave her..." Was all I said.
"Oh... Well, that's okay, I guess."
We toured that museum for what felt like days, looking over massive exhibits of my memories, good and bad. At each stop, she'd ask questions, or make little observations, or just listen to me talk about them. I have to admit, it's kind of odd to think about it now, spilling my life out to a girl I'd only met once... It felt good to talk, even if it was only in a dream... As we reached the end of the 'tour' I told her so, and she just smiled at me mysteriously.
"Oh? And why does it make a difference?" She asked coyly, smiling.
"Well, it might not be real, but at least I've accepted my life in my subconscious..."
"I see..." We had come back to our statue by this point, and my eyes drifted two displays past it without thought. The girl noticed, and smiled. "There are always things we wish could have been different. It's how we react to them that's important..." She said, moving back to the mannequin of my ex-girlfriend. She brushed a stray hair behind it's ear, looking it over a few times. "You have a very good eye for detail. There's so much life in this memory..."
"Yeah..." I admitted. "What could have been, huh?"
She smiled again, that haunting, whisper of a smile that sent a shiver up my spine. "Indeed..." She turned back to the mannequin and examined it again, an odd expression flickering onto her face for a moment. That's about when I noticed it.
Her skin was melting. Nothing else. Just her skin, discolouring and dripping from her muscles. "What the..." I was horrified, but she barely flinched. "Hey, are you alright?"
" 'M fine." She replied flatly, flinching slightly. "I won't break that easily..." She added in a mutter that I only just heard. She took a deep breath and concentrated, and then she exploded in a fountain of red. At first, I thought it was blood, but as it swirled in a sudden wind, I watched the rose petals as they consumed the entire dream world, until there was nothing else to be seen.
The redness gradually settled, and I was no longer in the museum. I was back home, sitting atop the hill out in old Mr. White's field. The one with the tree and the tire swing. The one where...
I looked, and had to smile. This was a good memory. One of the few. I sat down on the picnic blanket, and looked across at her face. She was frozen in mid-laugh, and just the sight of it flooded my body with warmth. I sat there for a long time, remembering what I'd come here to do, and how I'd backed out of it. Hell, I could even feel the box in my...
I pulled it out. There it was, the littlest thing that had caused so much trouble. I popped the top and stared into the diamond, remembering all the sweat and tears I'd poured into... What, three part time jobs? No, there were four. "Jeez..." I still had the ring, too...
"You loved her so much, didn't you?" A redheaded face appeared in the sparkling jewel, eyes questioning.
"You wish you had asked her."
"You know that you did the right thing."
I didn't answer. I couldn't. To admit that... It felt like I was invalidating everything I'd felt about leaving before now...
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and looked up into blue eyes and red hair. "Everyone needs time to themselves. You just needed a little more..." She said quietly, looking straight into my soul. "You know what you need to do."
And I did. "I... I was right to leave. I had to. For myself..."
She leaned forward and kissed me firmly on the lips. "Good boy." She said with a small giggle.
The world fell away from us, leaving us floating in the void. I felt myself stirring, and knew that awakening was at hand. "So I guess I'll see you later, then."
"Why's that? My work here is done..."
"Well, yeah, but I thought..."
She knew what I thought, and laughed. "If I'm a part of your subconscious, then try to explain this."
A kiss and a flicker later, and I was alone in the dark, holding the same business card... Wait. That's not right. This one was different. The lipstick was still there, but the wording was different.
Helping People Help Themselves.
Sometimes, all you need to do is apologise...
I awoke slowly, the bright white lights stabbing painfully at my eyes. I heard a gasp, and suddenly the light was blocked out by a very familiar face. She was just as beautiful as when I'd left her behind, those years ago. I was so stunned to see her here, I couldn't think of anything to say but "Hello, beautiful..."
She was crying. And happy, at the same time. "Hi, there.." She whispered, kissing my cheeks. "How do you feel? Are you in pain?"
"Urgh... Feels like I was shot in the head..."
That woke me up. I remembered the robber, and the shot. "H-how long was I out?"
There was a long silence after that. Numerous doctors came in and out to check up on me, giving me the details about my treatment. Apparently someone had anonymously paid for a Medical Bio-Elemental for me, which was surprising, as they're notoriously expensive. The MBE had regrown the part of my head that had been destroyed, but it was all up to my body to restore functionality on it's own. One of the nurses discreetly told me that my girl had come in about two weeks ago, and hadn't left my bedside for more than a few minutes at a time since.
When we were finally left alone, it was quite awkward. We looked anywhere but at each other, and that is where I spotted it. Nestled in amongst the various flowers and get well cards, was a small blue business card, with that same violet lettering. Sometimes, all you need to do is apologise...
And that's what I did.
"So it doesn't matter what happens to you, sweetie. MORFS might change your body, but you'll still be our little girl, and we'll still love you just as much."
"But I don't want to change!"
I sighed as I stared down at our eleven year old daughter. "Nobody does, baby girl, but it's not your fault. It happens to a lot of people, and it's unavoidable." I gave her the pill, and watched her swallow it. She started to drift off almost immediately, and I wiped away the tears that were trailing down her cheeks. "Don't worry... I'll be here when you wake up."
I closed the door behind me and sighed. My wife was worried when I got back into bed, but I managed to calm her down enough for her to slip into an uneasy sleep. Twelve years have passed since I was shot, and I couldn't be happier. The apology was all that was needed, it turns out, to rekindle the flames and our relationship. I showed her Serenity's card, and she stared at it for a moment, shocked, before she'd pulled her own out of her purse.
There's still people who love you... Never forget that...
I asked her to marry me right then and there. And twelve months later, we were gifted with a little girl. And life has never been quite the same.
So if you're out there, reading this, then I'd just like to say thank you, Serenity. Whoever you are, you saved my life, and my love. Thank you.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org