Rated PG-13 for some strong language and tense situations, with some disturbing imagery and sexually suggestive themes.
The Things We Love May Fight For Us
by Rick Cook Jr.
Tracy woke in darkness, buried under the crushing weight of corpses. She tried to cry out, to struggle, but couldn’t move, couldn’t use her power to save herself. Where was Shane? What had awakened them?
She shifted and tried once more to break free of the bodies of her companions, managed to thrust a fist up into nothing. A hand grabbed her by the wrist and yanked, so that she came tumbling up out of the bodies into harsh red light.
They weren’t corpses. They were her friends and enemies, piled and forgotten into a box last year when Olivia had grown too old for them. A box of forgotten toys.
“Prepare to meet your end, Tracer!” a voice cried out, the voice of all that was wrong in this world, high and affected. The voice at the end of the arm that had pulled her out of the pile of toys. He was pointing a bright yellow gun at her face, sneering under his ice-blue mask.
“Are you adding stupid to your list of powers, Ray?”
“You know what this means, us being awake, don’t you?” She shrugged free of his grip and stood up, adjusting her orange jump-suit. Freeze-Ray let her go and shrugged, still pointing the Incinerator at her chest. Tracy looked around in the red light pulsing in the distance, for anything she could use against him. Only the piles of toys that had not awoken.
“So what?” he said, laughing. “Olivia got herself into some kind of trouble. I’m supposed to care about her?”
“She’s our owner!” Tracy said, shuffling over the bodies. “We are nothing without her.”
“We already are,” Ray said, leveling the gun for the shot.
“Shadow Kick!” Shane flew from the darkness and landed a kick on Ray’s arm, knocking the gun free. A scuffle ensued. Ray froze time in single-second increments while Shane dipped in and out of the shadows at every pulse of red light, almost invisible in his gray spandex.
Tracy took the opportunity to kick away Ray’s Incinerator and Imitate it, so that she morphed into the yellow gun at his feet while he was locked in combat with Shane.
He froze time and moved out of the way of Shane’s latest kick, then pushed him away. Another second of frozen time and she was being lifted from the bodies, aimed at Shane, and then Ray pulled the trigger. She didn’t like where it felt like his finger caressed one bit.
And nothing happened. She giggled and he threw the gun away, cursing. She morphed back into herself and came to stand beside Shane.
“This is pointless!” he cried. “We can’t kill each other.”
“Oh, I wish we could,” Shane said. Tracy held him back.
“You’re both missing the big picture.”
“We have to find Olivia!” Shane said, running for the edge of the box. Ray scoffed and kicked at the pile of toys nearest him.
“Those are your friends, too, you know,” Tracy said.
“Shove it up your clip, Tracer.”
“Why didn’t the others activate?” Tracy wondered, as she examined the dolls and action figures, their little black painted eyes dull, lifeless.
“What’s it matter, she’ll be fine in an hour and we’ll go back to being just like them.” Ray huffed and folded his arms.
“This is different. Maybe if you’d stop whining and help us get out of here, we can figure it out.”
He threw up his hands and followed her as she walked to where Shane was pummeling the side of the box, making little worthless dents.
“I can’t feel the shadows out there, Trace,” he said. “We’re stuck.”
A voice came from nowhere, “No we’re not.” Tracy jumped back at the disembodied voice all around them. The pulsing light grew stronger as the battery-operated light block flew closer, and hundreds of little building blocks rose from the bodies, swirling and coalescing into a big, multicolored face, with a single red eye pulsing.
She sighed, relieved. “Bloxford. At least someone else woke up.”
“Yes. We were waiting to be of use,” the face said, its lower jaw snapping apart to emulate motion while it spoke.
“We have to get out of this box and figure out what happened to Olivia,” Tracy said, and Bloxford’s red eye softened in thought, then grew brighter and pulsed faster.
“Olivia once used us as a battering ram. We can be a battering ram. Would that help?”
She considered and nodded. “If you can knock the box over, maybe it’ll tear open and we can get out.” The face nodded in return and began to contort and swirl apart, reforming into the battering ram she remembered being used against her fortress once upon a time.
“Why do you care so much about her?” Ray asked. “She abandoned us for boys and clothes and television.”
Tracy slapped at Ray, but he used his powers to dodge. She kicked a pony’s head instead.
“Because that’s what we do. It’s why this happens.”
Ray threw his hands up in the air. “Fine, Tracy. Let’s go save the little bitch.”
“We can’t work with him!” Shane protested. “He’s our nemesis. He’ll turn on us the first chance he gets.”
“We’ll just have to take that chance, won’t we, Shadow?” She clapped him on the arm and he sulked.
“Being your sidekick is hard.”
“But you pull it off so well.”
Ray snorted. “The last time we fought I tripped him off the desk.”
“Because you’re a cheater!” Shane shot back. “My arm fell off from that and Olivia cried.” He rubbed at his arm. “It still feels a little loose sometimes.”
“My boy,” Ray started, “perhaps you will understand some day that there are two kinds of people out there. Good and evil.”
“I already know that.”
“Ah, but you don’t understand it. You see, ‘good’ people suffer and ‘evil’ people don’t.”
“Stop listening to him,” Tracy said. “He’ll just fill your head with poison and lies.”
“Like I’d ever listen to him. He’s bad and we’re good.”
Bloxford’s eye shifted to the edge of the battering ram closest to the group. “We are assembled. This might be uncomfortable.”
It surged forward to the edge of the box. The box leapt forward from the impact, sending the trio reeling. It settled and Tracy tried to stand, but Bloxford rammed the box again. And again. Each time the box shifted. Then, on the fifth ram, the box tipped forward and they were in freefall. The pile of toys engulfed them all as Bloxford shifted into a protective shell over the three of them.
The box clattered to the ground and one side exploded, spewing toys all over the place. They rolled and bounced and chunks of Bloxford’s shell ripped apart to come resting under the bed.
They sat dazed, staring at the room they used to inhabit. The walls were painted gray instead of white, the posters were of strange men and women in black outfits and black makeup; the curtains were a deep purple blocking out the sunlight.
No one came to investigate the commotion. Wherever Olivia was, her parents and younger sister must also be there.
Shane was laughing. Ray was reattaching the cloak to his neck-piece from where it had joggled loose.
“We are freed,” Bloxford said, shifting the side of its enclosure to allow them out. “Where is our owner?”
“Drinking blood and listening to death-metal,” Ray said, pointing to one of the posters. It depicted a man pouring a chalice of blood over his face while demons flocked around him. Tracy turned her gaze from it.
Shane rolled his shoulder. “So what do we do now? How do we find her?”
“We have a suggestion,” Bloxford said, coalescing back into the face, the disparate parts around the room shooting forward to rejoin the mass. “We have pieces that can track.” A building block floated forward from the face, revealing itself as a computer. “This part of us came from a spy set. We can track Olivia.”
“Brilliant,” Tracy said. “Then we can go to her and figure out what’s wrong.”
“And hasten our own demise?” Ray said. “No thank you.”
“If she’s in real trouble, Raymond, then we stop existing when she does, anyway, so what’s it gonna hurt?”
“I hate it when you call me that.” But he didn’t argue further. Shane disappeared into shadow. He’d return, Tracy knew. He always did.
“What do we need for this tracking thing to work, Bloxford?” she asked.
“We track by DNA signature. Signature scanned.”
“What, already?” Ray said.
“We are all covered in her,” it responded. Ray made a gagging noise and Tracy resisted the urge to rub herself clean. “Tracking within 500 yards.”
“Place is empty, minus the cat. Only 500?” Shane asked, reappearing in shadow next to Tracy. “The world is way bigger than that, we’ll never find her!”
“Where?” Tracy demanded.
“Thirty yards that way.” Bloxford resolved into an arrow pointing down at an angle off to the side of Olivia’s house.
“Shane?” Tracy asked.
“Maybe next door, or the one beyond that. You want me to go look?”
She nodded. “Scout ahead. See if you can find her. Don’t engage, reconnoiter only.”
“Yes, ma’am,” and he disappeared once more into shadow.
“Faithful little brat,” Ray remarked.
“You might be, too, if I saved your life.”
“Is that your story? You saved the boy’s life and he happened to have super powers? That’s convenient.”
“No more convenient than half the plots you cook up.”
Bloxford floated nearby, pointing still with the arrow.
“We need transportation,” Tracy said.
Bloxford formed into the face, considering. “We were once a spaceship, would that help?”
“Not really,” Tracy said. “Maybe a helicopter or some dirt bikes or something?”
It made a different face. “We lack the components for a helicopter. Olivia lost pieces of us long ago on a vacation.” Tracy didn’t respond to that. It didn’t seem sad, but then, it never seemed anything.
“Maybe just a car, then? Something with four wheels.”
“We can be a car.” It shifted and became a multicolored utility vehicle, its pulsing red light on top, a swirling mass of unused blocks behind it.
Shane reappeared. “Found her. She’s two houses down, in the basement. Some sicko’s got her tied up.”
He had a scratch on his leg, deep enough to gouge out the plastic. “Shane?” Tracy asked.
“There’s a guard dog,” he admitted.
“You tried to help her alone, didn’t you?” Ray asked. “Ha. Little boy shade almost became lunch.”
“Shut it, Ray.” She glared at Shane. “What did I say?”
“I couldn’t help it, Trace! Her clothes were ripped and she was gagged. Our Olivia, being treated like that! I tried to cut her bonds.”
“It got the drop on me,” Shane said. “I couldn’t see anything but her tears.”
Tracy clenched a fist as she got behind the wheel of the car. “We’ll get her. Let’s go.”
The three of them raced out of Olivia’s carpeted bedroom into the upstairs hallway onto laminate wood flooring. The vehicle sped up, and out of the tiny rearview mirror she could see the extra blocks struggling to keep up. Bloxford propelled the car but Tracy steered.
“I can’t believe we’re working with Freeze-Ray,” she muttered as she turned the corner and they sped along the upstairs landing, heading for the stairs.
“I can’t believe he hasn’t betrayed us yet,” Shane said.
Ray was silent, stewing in the back-seat.
“Nothing to say, Ray?” Shane asked.
“She’s mine, too, you know,” he finally said.
“What?” Tracy asked.
“I said she’s mine, too. Olivia belongs to all of us.”
“Coming around, finally?” Shane poked.
“You just don’t get it,” he muttered, and resolved into silence again.
They approached the stairs and Tracy’s jaw clenched. “Hold on, we’re about to do something really stupid.”
She spun the wheel and they flew off the first of the steps into air. She yelled, “Bloxford, glider!”
The pieces that were trailing the toy vehicle shot forward, connecting into a rough winged shape that snapped into place along the hood. Their descent slowed and they floated down on a current of air. She yelled, “Release!” and the glider snapped off, dropping them inches from the ground floor so that they bounced and rolled as she threw the little machine into a turn too fast. They went upside down and right-side up again, the tires snapping free and reassembling so that they kept moving forward.
“Don’t ever do that again,” Ray said, holding his stomach.
“Toys can’t puke,” she admonished.
“They can still get sick.”
“Well, we’ve got a bigger problem now,” Shane said, pointing.
She followed his hand and saw her: Puffy the cat watching their progress from the kitchen table, tail twitching.
“Do you have turbo boosters, Bloxford?” she asked.
“We have only one. We will need it for the cat flap.”
“Then get us there fast as you can,” she said through gritted teeth. The cat leapt from the table and gave chase as they fled through the foyer into the kitchen.
“Distract her, Bloxford,” Shane suggested. Several pieces broke from the swirling mass behind them and pelted Puffy in the face. She lost interest in the car and started batting at the pieces. Each time she clawed one to the ground and left it alone to fight another, the first would launch back up and scare her.
They were halfway across the kitchen, almost to the back door, when she darted away from the harrying pieces and went straight for the prize.
“We’re not gonna make it!” Ray shouted from the backseat.
“Shut up,” Tracy said. “Bloxford?”
“The nefarious Freeze-Ray is correct.”
“Not that. We’re fine,” she hissed. “Ramp and turbo, you ready?”
The pieces flew forward and assembled into a ramp up to the cat flap. The flap was a problem. There weren’t enough pieces to push it open and still keep Puffy off their tail, and if they slammed turbo-first into the flap the whole thing would implode and the cat would have them.
“When I say, full stop.”
“Are you nuts?” Shane and Ray asked.
The cat leapt forward, following their trajectory. “Full stop!”
The little car came to a halt at the base of the ramp while Puffy the cat sailed overhead, twisting in the air to try and catch them. She flopped forward into the flap and barreled through.
They were pushed into their seats as the car rocketed forward, narrowly skirting the cat flap as it waved. On the outside, Puffy the cat was recovering and ready for them, but the back tires landed directly on her tail. She yowled and disappeared back into the house, and just like that they were free.
“You ARE nuts!” Ray said, but there was genuine admiration in his tone.
“What can I say? Puffy and I go way back.”
“She’s a better nemesis than you ever were,” Shane sneered at Ray. Ray didn’t answer and Tracy felt a little sorry for him. After all, his purpose was to be evil, while she and Shane were to be good. This was a no-win situation for him, either be the good guy for once and compromise his true self, or not help and risk not existing.
“We’re all on the same side right now. Let’s keep it civil, eh?” she said. Shane gave her a look that could have cut steel, but neither responded. That would have to do.
They darted across the lawn to the back fence, bouncing all over the uneven ground.
“Shane, find us a way in from the back yard. And do not engage.” He nodded and disappeared into shadow once more. Their little car rolled to a stop next to the fence, where a piece was broken enough at the bottom for them to crawl through, but not enough for Bloxford in his current state.
“If I remember, the neighbors have a dog, don’t they?” Ray asked as they got out of the vehicle while it was coalescing back into Bloxford’s face.
“Big mean son-of-a-bitch,” Tracy agreed. “Too bad Shane can’t take us through shadow.”
“We could act as another distraction,” Bloxford offered.
“Perhaps I’ll be of use here,” Ray said. “You can become one of Bloxford’s blocks and snap in. They will just pull you along through the tall grass without the big lummox ever seeing you. I’ll keep his attention with my time-stop if necessary, but mostly I’ll just be running for it.”
“We do not suggest that, Tracer,” Bloxford said.
She turned to it, startled. “Why not?” It had struck her as a good idea.
“We are one. You are not. We do not know what will happen to you if you become one with us.”
She considered and agreed it might be too risky. “Ray, you can stop time for both of us, right?”
He didn’t answer, in fact looked pained to answer. “Ray?”
He sighed. “If I expand it to you, it works for half as long. We’d stand half the chance of making it safely across.”
“No wonder you never use it that way,” she mused.
Then his eyes brightened. “You could become something I carry, though.”
He reached for a tiny pebble in the grass, held it up to her. “I can carry you without expanding the field to you. You might get some distortion as time stops and starts, but it’ll be safe for both of us.”
“And now all I have to do is trust my nemesis not to throw me inside the dog’s throat.”
He grinned. “Indeed you do. But I think in this one instance you can trust I have our best interests at heart. After all, we don’t exist if she doesn’t exist.”
Every fiber of her being screamed not to trust him, but every second they weren’t rescuing Olivia was another second lost. She chose to trust him.
“Fine. Bloxford, you sneak through the grass and find us an exit on the other side. We’ll be along shortly.”
“Very well, Tracy Hicks. Good luck.” The pieces scattered and floated through the crack, disappearing into the tall grass. The only sign of Boxford’s movement were telltale whispers of shifting grass in a snaking line across the lawn.
She took the pebble from Ray and concentrated on it. She morphed into the pebble and they both dropped to the ground.
Ray picked her up and stared. Though she didn’t have eyes she could still see him and his fingers tickled what would have been her ribcage.
“Hey, watch where you’re holding me,” she warned, her voice flat. She never had figured out how to talk normally without a mouth.
“Oh? I didn’t realize it mattered when you were in Imitation.” He grinned. “What if I touch you here?” and he poked at where her stomach was, “or here?” and caressed lower. Her body tingled and she resisted morphing to human so she could slap him.
“Just walk, or I’ll feed you to the dog.”
“Oh, Tracy, Tracy. You’re lucky I’m the good guy today.” He held her in a fist, mindless of her request, and peered into the crack. The snaking line dwindled on the far edge of the lawn at a particular point a little diagonal from their current position.
He darted out into the lawn, she jerking back and forth in his grip until she felt her body would snap. Then it got worse as the dog growled and raced from the back porch after the little intruder. Her vision wavered as it struggled to keep up with Ray’s time-stopping intervals. It was like being ripped from one point to the next without any memory of the between motions. If she could have thrown up she would have. The dog closed in, was farther away, closed in, was farther away. Each time he jumped a little as his quarry seemed not to vanish but to move so fast he couldn’t keep up.
From her vantage she groaned. They were halfway but she couldn’t stand it. She tried to get Ray’s attention but he was focused on the sprint, on the judicious use of his power.
The dog snapped at them, his hot breath washing over them, then he was a foot away snapping at nothing, wondering where his prey had gone. He barked and lunged forward, knocking Ray to the ground. She flew from his grasp as he toppled and then froze time, appearing farther away, looking frantically for the pebble. She morphed out of instinct and landed in a crouch and then the dog had two things to chase. He chose the new one and leaped after Tracy, who morphed into a blade of grass.
“Tracy!” Ray called. The dog pounced onto the very spot she stood, pummeling all the grass and herself into the dirt. What were her legs stretched and felt like they would tear free, but the dog’s paw lifted and she sighed with relief. He sniffed around for her and she suppressed a giggle at his nose and whiskers. Then he lost interest and went tearing off after Ray again.
Ray cried out wordlessly and ran away, towards the frame of building blocks against the fence. The dog jumped at him and then Ray disappeared inside the slat of fence.
And then Tracy was alone with the beast.
The dog barked and scrabbled at the fence. Tracy morphed into herself and dashed toward the fence. The dog must have heard, for he turned and sprinted at her, barking and slobbering.
She turned, intent on morphing back into a blade of grass, but he was upon her before she could begin and the only thing she could think to do was leap into the air to avoid his chomping jaws. She morphed as she bounced off his nose, and a curious sensation flowed over her. She had never become a real living thing before, had no idea if she even could, and suddenly she was morphing into this dog.
She felt her intellect draining away, and all these horrible new sensations pressed down around her. She was breathing. There were new sounds, sensations never experienced through her nose and mouth. Tantalizing scents she wanted to chase down and investigate. She urinated involuntarily, spraying it everywhere.
The sense of vertigo she had been experiencing threw her body into a violent fit. Her insides churned and something vile shot from her mouth.
The dog whimpered at her as she turned into him and was faced with himself. He clearly had no idea how to handle this. He whimpered and fled to the far corner of the yard, dashing back and forth between sides of the fence, yipping and yapping at this thing that was him but not him.
Tracy resisted the pull to go after him. There was an animal draw here, an instinct to go chasing and she understood the cat for the first time. She wasn’t a plaything to the cat, she was something to be murdered. To be eaten if possible.
She trotted on unsteady legs, learning how to breathe and smell and taste and walk all at the same time. Too soon the moment was over and she had to morph back into herself to get through the crooked slat in the fence. When she emerged the building blocks outlining it followed her through, and Ray threw his arms around her.
“My Olivia, but I thought you were food!” he cried. She shoved him off and he collected himself, straightening his ice-blue outfit.
“I was breathing,” she said. “I had lungs.”
He made a throat-clearing sound despite having no throat, and Shane came running up. “Good, you’re here. This way.”
This backyard was full of weeds and insects. It looked untended, unloved. Tracy tugged on Ray’s sleeve as they followed Bloxford and Shane.
“I saw what you did back there,” she said.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“When you dropped me, you tried to find me. You didn’t have to do that.”
“Well.” He avoided her gaze. “Let’s not make a fuss.”
“Thank you, Ray.”
He only smiled a little and they walked on. Could he have some genuine goodness in him? Surely not. His survival in the moment depended as much on her as hers did on him. Still selfish. But she wanted to think better of him.
“Do you remember when Olivia had us face off against the rest of her toys?” he asked.
“Sure,” she laughed. “And then when we won, you tried to stab me in the back.”
“She made me stab you in the back,” he corrected.
“You’d have done it,” she insisted.
He nodded. “Perhaps.”
“Why the sudden nostalgia?” she asked.
“We’re going to save our owner. Just trying to remember why.”
“You hold it against her that she put us away.” It wasn’t a question.
“Don’t you? For years we were the most important things in her life, and then suddenly she doesn’t like us anymore.”
“That’s just the way it is.” They crawled over a garden hose and kept walking. “I’m sure she’ll give us to Amelia.”
“That little brat?” He scoffed. “Last time she got her hands on me she painted my entire costume pink!”
She giggled. “You weren’t Freeze-Ray that week, you were Bubble Gum.”
“No one takes a villain seriously when he’s bedazzled.”
“But isn’t that better than nothing?” she asked.
He didn’t answer, but said instead, “Toys live hard lives, don’t they?”
Then they reached the patio and Shane led them to a basement window. Ray fell to silence and Shane started talking.
“Ok, so she’s in there. See?” They all looked and could make out her shape tied to a chair. Black mascara ran down her cheeks, her hair was died black, and she was wearing a black blouse and skirt. Awfully different look for her these days. Relief and anger surged in Tracy. A flurry of conflicting emotions warred for dominance and she shoved them all down.
Shane pointed lower. “And down there? The guard dog.”
“I think I know how to deal with him,” Tracy said. If she could just get to him she could become him.
“But how do we get her out?” Shane said.
“I might be able to chew through her bonds as the dog,” Tracy said.
“As the dog? You can do that?” he asked, impressed.
“You can apparently teach an old toy some new tricks.” She turned to Bloxford hovering in its face form. “Time for battering ram again. Bust the glass. Ray, can you get me close to the dog?”
He nodded. She reached down and grabbed a chunk of broken patio cement, and then looked at Shane. “You and Bloxford concentrate on our escape route. Clean up the glass and try to get the window open from inside, maybe Olivia can climb out.”
Bloxford nodded as a battering ram, and Shane grinned. “Let’s rescue the owner!”
Bloxford rammed the glass, shattering one of the panes. Its blocks disintegrated into their component pieces and swirled around the broken frame, clearing the deadly shards. The dog started barking, leaping up towards the table in front of the window.
Tracy morphed into the piece of cement and landed in Ray’s hands. He dashed forward and leapt down the window frame. “Bloxford, slow fall!” he cried and blocks shot down under his feet, pressing up as he fell. He tumbled to the table and stared the beast in the eyes, grinning.
“You ready?” he asked. He wound up like a pitcher and threw her as hard as he could at the dog’s snarling face.
“You asshole!” she cried, and she morphed into herself as she crashed into the dog’s forehead, bouncing off and flinging across the room at the same momentum she’d have had as the piece of cement.
Then the dog’s owner appeared running down the steps, calling out for the dog to shut up. His eyes widened at the sight of the toys swirling around, flying through the air, cleaning up glass.
“What the hell?” he said, and then Tracy bashed into his leg and she did the first thing she could think to do: morph into the man.
Suddenly she was standing tall, towering over the dog and Olivia tied to the chair. She experienced that same vertigo and her legs grew weak. The man she became stared, dumbfounded.
“What? What? What the fuck?”
She raised an arm, swinging for the fences, and her knuckles plowed into the man’s face so hard she heard his nose crunch and felt the skin split. He toppled to the steps, unconscious in one blow. Olivia stared, screaming through the gag. The dog stopped barking and lunged for Tracy in the man’s form.
He tackled Tracy and knocked her down, fangs pushing for her throat. She struggled, holding the dog’s chomping jaws away with all the strength the man possessed, but it wasn’t enough. She realized that she had a hardon and felt a moment of disgust for this awful man.
The dog breathed on her, spittle flying, and she gagged at the rotting meat smell. She wasn’t strong enough to stop this stupid dog.
Bloxford smashed into the side of the dog with the battering ram configuration, knocking the dog off balance, sending building blocks flying in every direction. She used the moment to throw the dog up and away and he careened through the air towards the table.
Shane appeared in shadow below the dog’s descent holding a piece of broken window glass. The dog landed on both Shane and the glass, let out a single yelp as Tracy cried out for her sidekick, and then the dog was still, blood gushing from the ragged tear along its throat.
It was over. She could deal with the man, find Shane, rescue Olivia, and then… and then… She stared at Olivia.
As with the dog before, she found her mind shifting. The hardon in her pants was calling to her. She was becoming the man. She had things to show her little neighbor girl.
Olivia tried to scream through the gag again. Tracy walked up to the girl, staring into her beautiful wide eyes, and stroked the girl’s cheek.
“We’re gonna have a good time, Olivia,” she heard herself say. No! This wasn’t right. She fought the impulse of the man she was becoming, but already the body was acting without her consent. She tried to morph it away but couldn’t. The man’s presence marginalized her, shoved her to the back. He was in control. He was going to do terrible things.
Tracy couldn’t see Shane, or Bloxford, or Ray anywhere. Olivia struggled against her bonds. She stared daggers at the man, and Tracy had a moment to respect the girl. She was obviously terrified, but she was a tough little bitch.
Her eyes darted behind Tracy and the man controlling Tracy turned, expecting to find the real one waking up. Bonds snapped and something sharp pierced Tracy’s back, dug deep and twisted.
Then Tracy was in control again and the man was gone. She morphed back into herself, bleeding helplessly on the ground. Toys shouldn’t be able to bleed. But here she was, a shard of glass in her back, blood running down her little body.
But it wasn’t her blood, she saw. Olivia had cut her hand on the glass as she drove it into the man. Olivia tore the gag free from her mouth, her eyes wider than ever as she struggled, staring at her action figures and the carnage they’d produced. Tracy saw Shane and Ray sawing at the bonds around Olivia’s left leg, while Bloxford was hammering the chair support where it connected to the chair leg, so that Olivia could simply slide her leg free.
“What’s going on?” Olivia asked. Ray and Shane freed her leg and she stepped forward, scooping Tracy’s body up in a bleeding hand.
“Am I dreaming?” she asked.
“No dream, Olivia,” Tracy said. “We came for you.” She could feel it, the death approaching.
“Shadow, and Tracer, and Freeze-Ray. My building blocks.”
The chair snapped and Olivia slipped free. Bloxford floated up in front of Olivia, hovering in its block face and pulsing red eye.
“We are called Bloxford, owner Olivia.”
“Bloxford,” she whispered, and laughed. “That’s right. I used to call you that, didn’t I?”
“We are Bloxford.”
“How is this possible?” She leaned down and picked up Shane and Ray, holding them in her other hand.
Shane hopped from one hand to the other, checking on Tracy. “Please, Olivia, you can fix her, right?”
Ray was climbing Olivia’s sleeve. Tracy smiled. He had come through in the end. Not all evil is forever, she thought.
The man, the one Tracy had knocked out, began to stir and mumble. Olivia cried out and backed away. “What do I do? What do I do?”
“You give up,” Freeze-Ray declared. He had clambered all the way to Olivia’s shoulder and now held a shard of glass to her throat.
“No, Freeze-Ray, you bastard!” Shane cried.
“But I don’t understand,” Olivia cried. “You were my favorite.”
“Because you gave us up,” Ray said. He cut a little into her neck and she shuddered, afraid to move. “You say we’re your favorite, and maybe that’s true. We were the only ones to come alive for you, after all.” He cut into her neck a little more. Bloxford made a motion to sweep in, but he threatened to finish the job and Bloxford dropped down to Olivia’s hands.
“You, who always made me evil. Made me the bad guy,” Ray cried. “Do you know what happens to us if you die?”
“You cease to exist, you fool!” Tracy cried. She could do nothing with her body severed like it was, nothing but die and then cease to be.
“Better than sitting in a closet for the next sixty years, dusty and alone, the memories of a life ill-spent my only company. Better that it ends now.”
“Please, stop,” Olivia said, tears streaming.
Bloxford swarmed around Tracy and Shane. “We have an idea. Become us.”
“But you said –“
“We are about to cease existing,” Bloxford insisted. “Become us.”
Tracy reached out a hand and grasped one of the blocks, willing herself to morph into it. It was hard, injured though she was, but she slipped into the form of a little orange block. Orange like her superhero outfit. And she became Bloxford.
She was no longer Tracy. She was Bloxford, and Bloxford was an immense creature. All building blocks were Bloxford. Every piece contributed to the whole and she was every piece.
Then the pieces swirled and she entered the vortex. Shane stood on Olivia’s palm, not knowing how to help. Good Shadow. Shadow rescued Olivia. Ray rescued Olivia. Ray threatened Olivia. The swirl of pieces welcomed her and she welcomed it. Olivia cried and Bloxford hated to see her cry.
Tracy’s orange piece fired like a missile out of the vortex. Ray smirked to see a single bolt fired and held his arm up to ward it off, preparing to make the cut that would end it all. The final act of villainy. He would win, at long last.
She morphed moments before striking him, becoming herself again, rocketing into him, knocking the glass away, pushing him off Olivia’s shoulder. They flew, her arms wrapped tightly around him. He was too confused and scared to control his power. They flickered through the air, a half-second at a time, and landed on the floor feet away from Olivia.
Olivia cried out, slapping her free hand to her neck, and the vortex of blocks stopped their spinning, came to rest in the hand holding Shadow. Shadow was just a figure again, though she noted some new scratches on his body.
She turned and saw the man, mumbling in his unconsciousness, saw the dog bleeding out next to the table. She put Bloxford and Shadow in the pocket of her blouse with trembling hands and clambered over the chair, seeking her other champions.
There, on the floor, were Tracer and Freeze-Ray, locked until the bitter end in their epic duel, the struggle of good versus evil that could never end.
Tracer’s legs were missing, where the glass shard had severed them. One of Freeze-Ray’s arms had snapped and hung by a thread of plastic. She found Tracer’s legs under the table and gathered them all up, then bounded up the steps before the man could wake.
He had told her it was because she was asking for it, dressed like that. He had said so many things and she knew they were all lies, the ramblings of a very sick man, but that didn’t make it all okay. She’d never wear black again.
She fled the house, into the street, a mumbling, incoherent mess. Someone came along and recognized her eventually, and the police showed up. She pointed to the open door and then there were shouts and gunshots and lots of lights and sirens.
Her family came, mother and father and little Amelia. She clutched the toys all through the hours that followed, even while they stitched her neck, lip, and hand. Tracer was never out of her sight.
She didn’t tell anybody about the toys. Who would believe her?
Who would believe the toys came to life and saved a little girl.
She mended Tracer as best she could, glued Freeze-Ray’s arm back together, filled the scratches on Shadow’s body and painted him anew. She cleaned and polished every brick from Bloxford, built it into the face he had shown her. She put them all on display in every room she ever lived, even when she married. Her husband thought it cute, charming and eccentric.
She gave them to her daughter when she was old enough for building blocks. Little Tracy loved them best among all her new toys, because her mother loved them. Even Freeze-Ray who, Olivia once told her daughter, had betrayed her out of fear. Especially Freeze-Ray, who was not always the bad guy.
She hoped that was true for her daughter’s sake.
The inspiration for this came when I saw Chuck Wendig’s writing prompt challenge for the week, X meets Y, in which you mashup two franchises and write a story that you can elevator pitch to people like “It’s like The Walking Dead meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Those of you familiar with my short stories know I wrote that short story a while back and damn near got it published through a zombie anthology.
So this time I got “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Toy Story” and I couldn’t think of two more disparate properties on the surface to mashup, so I HAD to try. I was pretty pleased with the results, and I hope you are too! It’s hard to balance a darkly violent and graphic story like “Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo” with a lighthearted kids tale about toys that come to life. Do you think I managed it?