Influx: Episode 19

Emily came back into Alenkas, seeing the world slowly conform and colorize again, as it did every time she entered into Alenkas. The grey fox had been searching for her friend, Abigail, and had enlisted both Sam and Cal to try and find a character designer by the name of Alex.

Kevin, a massive horse who towered over Emily, had told them an hour later that Alex had disappeared. Not to be outdone by something so simple as ‘missing’, Emily had continued searching for hours, although Sam and Cal had both went back to the Tree, thinking that it was better to have a localized team, not to mention that at least someone needed to man the IDM at almost all times.

Emily didn’t blame them. They had a job to do, and couldn’t do much about a missing person who came from the Influx. That said, they had tried to do everything in their power, and they hadn’t managed it yet, which left Emily alone.

Although Sam did say that as soon as Simon would come back in she’d send him back out there to try and find her. Maybe this ‘Simon’ had managed to find her? Or at least was out searching, although the grey fox had no idea how to tell.

So instead, Emily wandered aimlessly across Alenkas, searching some of the more obvious hiding spots. The alleys were blank, with only a few dozen wooden crates among them. She left the beginning area to the other Influxxers, and searched some of the more outskirt-ish area.

She put her back to a random building, and sighed to the sky. She’d been searching for hours, until her mom had come up to her room and told her that dinner was ready. She began to babble about what was going on, and her parents merely nodded and smiled appreciatively.

‘My god,’ she thought about it, ‘they were thinking this is a normal video game, not some kind of second life…I’m glad they haven’t looked into it deeper.’ Although it did explain why her parents had quickly let her go back to it so easily; usually they’d keep her down a bit longer.

“Is something wrong, lady?” a high-pitched feminine voice called out. Emily blanked; what kind of parent would let a little kid go into Alenkas? It was marked pretty thoroughly as adults only, and she knew exactly why.

She saw a little kid, exactly as she had though, next to her. A black cat, wearing a white tank top and some shorts that looked oddly familiar to her for some reason. “No, everything is…wrong, I guess,” Emily said quietly.

“Is it because of the city? I know it’s weird being naked and all, but I think you’ll get used to it-” she responded.

“No, it’s not because of Alenkas. Someone kidnapped my friend, and everyone I’ve talked to can’t do much about it,” Emily said. Just thinking about her poor calico friend sent her mood down deeply. “Anycase, what are you doing here? This isn’t a place for kids,” she continued.

“I’m not a kid! I’m an adult!”

“Bullshit. You’re a kid, kid. Come on, let’s get you back to your parents, if they’re here or out in the real world,” Emily said bluntly.

The cat shot her a glare. “I’m more than capable of taking care of myself, thanks. But is your friend one of those ones that disappeared recently?” she asked, still hostile.

“Yeah, how’d you know about those?” Emily answered, her tone changing entirely. A kid like the one in front of her shouldn’t concern herself with adult things like disappearances and kidnappings, if anything she should be watching out for herself. Who knows what kind of sick things could happen to her?

“I stayed with Sam and Simon for a while. I thought I’d come out here to try and find Simon but…I think I’m lost,” she said with a simple look.

“Ah. I know the feeling. I’m lost the same way. Shall we be lost together?” Emily said after a moment. This was one of those few cases where she would have to be the adult in the situation. Normally she’d rant and rave, but this was no time for acting spoiled. Now was a time of action.

“I don’t even know you.”

“I’m Emily. Emily Karson,” she said after a moment. The black cat’s eyes widened, before taking a thoughtful look. Last names were something that she had never heard in Alenkas, mostly because it would be very easy to look up someone with all of that information. Sometimes all they needed was a name before they’d be a target.

“Haley,” the black cat responded simply. She purposely left out her last name, knowing what kind of damage it might cause if she let it out so simply. Emily nodded, and grasped her hand softly.

“See? And now we do know each other. It’s safer in pairs than alone,” she said, although she had to bite her tongue to keep herself from continuing. Being in pairs hadn’t helped Abby out at all. But she was going to keep an eye on Haley no matter what; nothing would happen to her while she was around.

Because despite Haley’s abrasiveness, or rash nature, she was still a kid, and a kid had no place in Alenkas. So Emily took it on herself to be as mature as possible. She had to be at least ten years older than her, which meant she had to be protector. And she’d do it to the best of her ability.

“That’s why I was trying to find Simon. Because it’s better in pairs than alone,” Haley said. “But…I think even if we’re together, we’re still lost. How do we get back? We can’t see the north tower from anywhere near here.”

Emily looked around, and sure enough the tower wasn’t visible, either because there were too many shops in the way or it was just too far away. “Well, there are other landmarks we can use. I know the river’s around here, I can hear it just over that way,” Emily said, pointing to some place to the left.

Haley closed her eyes and focused, before nodding. “So that’s the south area then. So if that’s south, then that’s west and east, and north. South west quadrant probably…”

“You’ve seen a map?” Emily asked. Damn, that was impressive that Haley knew all that just from a simple landmark. She even knew which area of the city they were in based on the sounds of one.

“Yeah, Simon, Sam, and Cal all have one on the center of their room in the library.”

“Wait, this Sam and Cal…are they white and orange cats?” Emily asked after a moment. Haley nodded, and suddenly relief flooded through Emily’s veins. No wonder those clothes looked familiar, they were Sam’s! And that meant that most likely the two would also be out looking for Haley, which meant the entire trio was mobilized looking for someone.

“You know them too!? Aren’t they the greatest!?” Haley gushed.

“They are pretty neat. I wish they could find Abby though, although it seems near impossible. But that’s why I’m searching anyway.”

“Just because it seems hopeless doesn’t mean all hope is lost,” Haley said, nodding and acting as if she was some sage that had given life-changing advice.

“Where’d you hear that, a fortune cookie?” Emily asked as she pushed herself off the building. She let Haley decide the way to go, and simply followed behind a mere step or two away.

“No! I just came up with it. It’s true though!”

“If a situation is hopeless, by definition it means there is no hope,” Emily tried to explain.

“It means there’s no hope for right now, for that situation, but it doesn’t mean that some can’t arrive at another point. Or there isn’t hope for another situation. Think positive, and everything will always work out,” Haley explained her thinking.

“That’s…surprisingly mature. Tell me then, when have you ever been in a hopeless situation? Did you fail some test or something? Do you even have tests to fail?” Emily asked after a moment.

Haley tried to look offended, before failing and chuckling darkly. “I don’t think I’ve ever failed a test,” she deflected. Emily shot her a glance, before shrugging. If Haley didn’t want to talk about it, then that was fine. There was more to Haley than it seemed, but that was the way it was with almost all kids.

They were always as smart as they wanted to be. They could be extremely intelligent academically, but then make really stupid decisions a second later. Emily just hoped her parents wouldn’t be too bothered to not look after her once Haley hit puberty. And puberty always threw a giant monkey wrench into the best of plans.

Haley and Emily went through the various streets of Alenkas, the black cat occasionally taking turns and twists that made Emily’s head hurt. They checked all the common spots they could find for either Simon or Emily’s wayward friend, but all of them seemed to have come up blank.

Finally, after only thirty minutes, Haley started to complain about her feet hurting. Emily shrugged, knowing that it was very possible -her feet started to hurt the first day she walked around a lot- and saw a park not far from where they were. “We’ll rest at the park?” she suggested. Haley brightened up and grinned, rushing towards the park.

Emily ran alongside, keeping up with the kid as best she could. She wasn’t going to let Haley out of her sight, especially what happened the last time someone rushed forward without thinking.

The park was green and wide, tall trees peppering the area in a way that appealed more to Emily’s thoughts than she really thought it would have. Haley hopped onto the grass and fell onto her butt, her tail going wide as she let her feet relax. Emily joined her on the grass in another second.

The two relaxed in the relative peace, having no one around for what seemed like ages. Slowly Emily’s eyes closed, feeling the grass on her ass, tail, feet, back…everywhere at once. And she fell into the deep slumber of a troubled woman.