Chapter 14: Divided We Fall Part 2
Admittedly, my entire outburst had only a single reason.
I was absolutely terrified. I could only think of one other occasion in my entire life I had ever been so scared, and I wasn't particularly fond of that subject. Slowly, as though any faster movement could alert that beast again, Webber bent down and picked up his knife, which had fallen when I grabbed his hand. He didn't meet my gaze, but I could hear him breathing heavily like he had been running. Neither of us said anything for a long moment. Both of us seemed to be trying to get used to the fact that Wilson had just walked off like that.
I wasn't sure how long we stood in silence and stillness, but eventually, Webber threw his knife towards the empty fire pit, the end sticking in the ground. Without a word, he picked up a handful of dying leaves and twigs and threw it into the ring of rocks. I just watched as he began to set up the fire.
Finally, the silence was broken. “You shouldn't have done that,” Webber said heavily. “Now what will we do?” Without pulling the knife out of the ground, he grabbed the hilt of it.
“JUST WHAT WE'VE ALWAYS DONE.”
“Just without Wilson,” he added quietly.
For a moment, the only sounds were the crackling of the newborn fire.
“Why did you do that?” He asked, staring into the fire.
I had no reply. I had no idea why I went off at Wilson. I wasn't sure if I was just very mad or if it was a side effect of the temporary short-circuit or what. Not that I would let him know of my confusion. “HE WAS A BURDEN.”
“You're a burden,” he mumbled.
“I DON'T NEED YOU EITHER,” I informed him. “I COULD LIVE JUST FINE BY MYSELF.”
Webber finally looked up from the fire, a wry grin on his face. “Well, why don't you do that then? Oh wait, let us guess. Some pathetic excuse about you being super nice and awesome and looking after the little kid?” His voice hardened, as though his shock was gradually turning into anger, and he stood to face me. “Guess what, WX? We've survived on our own before. You haven't. You need us. We- however- don't need you.”
“I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'VE NOTICED YET BUT THIS ISN'T EXACTLY EARTH.”
“You guys keep saying that word. What does it even mean?” He crossed his arms.
I puzzled for a moment over what word he was talking about. “EARTH?”
“YOU'RE AN IDIOT.”
He looked offended. "Look, it doesn't matter. See- see this?" He parted his fur around his knuckles and held it out for me to examine. A trio of long, deep scars was marked across them. "Those scars? Yeah. We got those from living out here. And this?" He showed off another scar on his shoulder. "This too. So yes, we are very serious about living out in this world by ourself. So, you can stay or you can prove your stupidity by leaving."
“IT'S NOT STUPIDITY. IT'S STRENGTH.”
“Is that what they're calling it now?” He sounded mockingly thoughtful. His clawed fingers twitched as though he was really in the mood to claw me in the face. I clenched my fist. If he lashed out at me, his claws would barely do anything against my metal skin. Plus, I'd be perfectly justified in punching him back. I almost wanted him to try. “Either way, paperweight, it's your choice.”
He looked so smug. It made me want to punch him even more. Refusing to satisfy him with a response, I walked past him and to the fire. Webber laughed in a way that sounded crueler than anything. "Coward! Afraid to deal with the big bad world all by your little lonesome?" I grabbed my bag and weapon, my 'eyes' closed. When I finally opened them again and looked back, I saw that his teeth were bared in a sneer.
I graced him with one final action. The hardest punch I could muster right in the lower jaw before stalking away, giving no final words. I assumed that the previous damage done to the boy's jaw had weakened it without much proper time to heal, and the renewed blunt force had broken open old wounds, mainly judging by the audible crack and the fact that the second I hit him he doubled over in pain. I didn't care anymore. He made his choices and I made mine.
Even if he wanted to he probably couldn't have shouted anything at me, and even though I refused to look back I could feel his ice cold glare burning into my back. He was so certain that he could survive on his own- so certain that he was the best of us three- I was desperate to prove him wrong.
Even if that meant leaving him for dead.
It was quite an amusing yet depressing though at the same time, the latter most likely due to the fact that that would mean I wouldn't be able to watch his certain demise. Whatever. It didn't matter I would probably stumble across his dead body anyway.
Somehow that didn't seem to help matters much.
Naturally, my first instinct was to try to find Wilson again, but my mind instantly shot that down. He was most likely still mad after I had driven him out, and he needed time to cool down before I tried to talk to him again. Which, of course, left only one viable course of action- trying to make it by myself. Which surely wouldn't be too hard for a robot of my build. I couldn't help but puff out my chest a little, feeling almost proud. No world was too strong for me to handle! I was a loner! I didn't need anyone else!
Of course, that would be the very time everything would go downhill.
There was a hill that Wilson had talked about going over when winter first started. It connected the pine forest and the rocky land beyond. I, in my high-and-mighty state of mind, made the very same mistake that Wilson had made that nearly landed him with a mangled leg.
I wasn't listening.
Instead of an obvious hollow thump that signified the arrival of a giant, it was a different kind of footstep- my own. I had noticed that the ground had felt slightly different but I thought little of it. If I had been paying attention, I would've noticed the way that my footsteps echoed instead of being absorbed into the ground. In barely a second I went from feeling like I was on top of the world to falling.
The ground caved in beneath me, unable to support my weight like it had Wilson's. For a moment I was certain I was about to die. The floor below me- if there was any at all- was hidden away in shadow, so hitting it was about as sudden and jarring as you could get. I was temporarily paralyzed by the impact, but slowly I regained sensation in my limbs. Sitting up was painful. I had just managed to lift my arm to try to stand when something caught my eye. I completely froze, hoping whatever it was would go away. Whatever it was shrunk and disappeared for a moment before reappearing, and I realized what they were.
Someone, or something, was watching me. Now determined to not show weakness to the strange monster, I forced myself to my feet, ignoring the pain and wobbliness and the fact that my knees refused to lock into a standing position. I glared in the direction of the eyes, and I got a better look at them. They were big and round, and a shade of red that looked closer to pink. After a moment of basically having a staring contest with them, another pair of eyes, a deeper red this time, appeared next to the first. This creature was holding a sort of berry in its mouth that glowed, showing its face and giving it an almost creepy glow. From what I saw, the creature was spider-like and white, but that's all I could really make out. The spider took a few steps closer to me before dropping the berry and scampering back into the darkness.
My gaze flicked to it and back at the eyes. They just seemed to be... waiting. For what? I couldn't tell, but I definitely was not eating that berry. I glanced up but it appeared that I wasn't going to be able to escape that way. The creature with the pink eyes hissed something at me, and I couldn't help but flinch. Apparently, both of the red-eyed creature and the pink-eyed creature were spiders. Interesting. I wasn't entirely sure of how much time had passed before the spiders retreated, never once attempting to get closer to me or try to communicate again. By now, the sun had been gone for quite some time and the only thing keeping me from getting slaughtered by the beast in the dark was the strangely glowing berry at my feet. It wasn't much, but it was enough. Cautiously, I bent down to hold the fruit.
I looked beyond the cave, my mind working hard as it tried to find a way out of this mess. Going back up from where I fell from was out of the question, considering that the entrance was far above my head. I wasn't too fond of exploring the cave by myself, so my train of thought went right to 'wait for a rescue'.
Ahh, nope. That probably wasn't going to work either. Most likely, Wilson thought I was still with Webber, and Webber probably thought that I went to find Wilson. I slowly lowered myself into a sitting position. Even if they didn't think that what would make them want to try to rescue me in the first place.
They would never look for me.
I brought my knees up, resting my chin on them. There was a strange feeling inching its way up my spine. Some sort of emotion that I could not properly comprehend. I had a sneaking suspicion that I knew what it was, but some part of me wanted to deny it.
I felt bad.
Robots couldn't cry, that was a proven fact. It was scientifically impossible even if some sort of mechanism was implemented to allow it. But at that moment, that guilt pressing at me like that, I felt closer to tears than I had ever felt. Stop that. It's the darkness getting to you, I told myself furiously, but no matter how many times I told myself that, I knew it wasn't true. I hated being alone. I hated others but I hated being alone more. The lonely feeling of solitude... it wasn't something I could deal with for long.
“The biggest mistake I made in your creation I'm sure.” I nearly cried out at the venomous voice behind me. I jumped into a standing position, all of my aches gone as pure terror flooded my senses. No longer was I in a dark cave with no light, and no longer was I alone. The floor, ceilings, and walls were made of an eerily clean white tile, and the... the... thing in front of me brought back far too many memories. I quickly backed away, trying to escape but my back quickly connected with a wall. It (the monster was far too terrible to be referred to as he or she) chuckled softly as though noticing my sudden and intense fear. "I was right about you all along, wasn't I?"
“NO...” I managed to hiss. It looked faintly amused. “YOU'RE... YOU'RE NOT HERE. YOU CAN'T BE.”
“Oh good, you figured it out yourself. I was afraid I would have to explain the concept of a conscience to you as well.”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?” I took advantage of a millisecond of bravery to take a step forward.
“The real question is, what do you want from me?” Its voice had a way of sticking into my head, tainting every thought with the fear of death or suffering. “After all, what more could I want?” There was a pause that I did not deem it necessary to say anything or talk back at all. Two massive metal claws descended from the ceiling. The panic instantly set in.
Those claws grabbing me and lifting me by the shoulders.
The sound of metal hitting metal as they crushed me, little by little
But this time, they were not empty. They held no intent on smashing me or damaging me this time. In fact, they dropped two, fairly large objects on the floor in front of me before retreating. I stared at the two objects in a continued silence. One, the more disturbing one, appeared to be an eyeball, my size or even bigger, without an eyes socket to contain it. The other was a pale, rounded shape with tiny sparks of electricity jumping around on its surface. It- my creator- motioned to the two objects, and I slowly began to piece the clues together.
“THE... THE EYE OF THE DEERCLOPS AND EGG OF THE Goose? HOW...? WHY...?”
It fixed me with that glowing orange glare for so long I began to get uncomfortable. “You'll understand soon. But for now, you have something to do.”
I opened my mouth to ask what but before I could I had been thrown out of the strange vision. I looked down at my hands and saw them shaking like crazy. That was why I was here. Because anything was better than that place. I was more cared about here than I ever was there, no matter how much they hated me. Nothing could ever surpass the hatred it felt for me.
I had to live with being the biggest mistake ever created in its eyes.
I was a failure.
But that wasn't me anymore. I wasn't there anymore. I straightened myself. I was a survivor. No more were the days where death was constantly lurking over my head. No more were the moments when I feared that I would collapse and never boot up again.
But I had a job to do.
And it was time to do it.