Chapter 2: Crash and Bang
Waking up was a slow process for Aria on any normal summer day, but the morning after the failed trip to the movies was especially difficult. She came to slowly, first aware of the heavy feeling of gravity on her body, quickly followed by all the tens of thousands of aches and pains that ticked at her muscles.
Softly she groaned in her semi-awake state as the night's events came back to her just as slowly as consciousness did. Dimly she remembered the car, then the light, then the pain, and then the noise. Somehow she even remembered her pained trek through the dark city, but just barely.
She thought it had all been a dream of course.
But when she finally opened her eyes wide enough to see her gleaming metal surroundings, she knew something was wrong.
"Where am I?" She wondered thickly as her brain slowly began to think again. "Did I stay over at someone's house? Or, or," the light that had engulfed her car the night before suddenly flashed through her head, "or am I in the hospital maybe?"
For a long moment she stared up at the flat, steel gray ceiling, trying to puzzle it all out. But when she couldn't think of any helpful answer, she took in a deep breath and tried to sit up.
It was a lot harder then she had thought it would be. Pain shot through her muscles as what felt like every single one of them spasmed at her movement. It hurt like nothing Aria had felt before and she gasped, then stopped breathing altogether as she pushed herself up off the floor.
Her stubbornness was rewarded as she somehow struggled into a sitting position, or at least, what resembled one. She slouched over as fire ran down her back and lightening made her legs twitch unpleasantly.
"Ow…" she groaned when most of the pain had receded. "What in the world happened? I feel like I was rolled over by a truck." And, given the bright light she remembered, maybe that was what happened.
It was then, when the light and the screaming and the panic were playing once again through her mind, that she finally remembered her sister had been with her through the whole thing.
"Sera!" Aria shouted. She looked around, but her sister wasn't anywhere nearby. In fact, all that she could see was a metal corridor stretching before her, starting from the archway she had come through last night. Only now in the light she saw that it wasn't so much of an archway as a slanted hole worn through a large metal wall.
"Sera!" Aria yelled down the dark hallway, but all she heard was her echo. Sera! Sera! Sera!
"Serafina!" She screamed. But still no one answered.
A different panic began to take hold in Aria's chest. "Oh God," she muttered hoarsely, tears pricking at her blue eyes, "Oh God please no. Serafina!" She shrieked louder still.
When all she heard was her own voice bouncing against the metallic walls, Aria struggled to her feet, ignoring the pain in her legs as she stumbled forward into the dimly lit tunnel. The only light came from the hole behind her and as she crept deeper into the metal construct, even that light became fainter and fainter, until all she could see were her pale hands as the reached in front of her like ghosts.
"Sera?" Aria asked again, but in a much quieter voice. The darkening hallway was giving her the willies the farther in she went. There was just no telling what else might be traveling through its dark recesses with her.
"Sera," Aria moaned, well and truly in the dark now.
Somehow she kept going, even though she couldn't see. Then, just before she had lost her nerve and was going to head back to where daylight still reached inside the tunnel, she saw a bright spot ahead. Not daylight, but an electrical light, like a lamp or something, glowing in the dimness ahead of her.
Relieved, Aria rushed forward as fast as she dared, glad just to be able to see more than a few inches in front of her again. Now she could see that another hole stood in front of her, much like the one she had first come through. The light was shining through it.
She slowed down when she reached the opening, limping slightly as pins and needles started to tingle in her left foot. Quickly she shook it off as she got close enough to peer through the opening.
"Sera? Are you out there? Seraf-" Aria trailed off in mid word at the sight of what lay beyond the hole.
A large room stretched out before her. Only it wasn't large like a great hall or a mansion sized living room or anything like that. It was just…big. Everything in it, from the table she saw to the door at the other end of the room, was more than twice as large as normal. When she had dared to walk towards the edge of what she thought must be a counter, well away from the hole and the tunnel beyond it, Aria saw that the floor was a good story down. It was like she had just climbed the beanstalk and had stumbled upon the home of the giant. Everything was just so huge.
A rattle of noise just out of her sight snapped Aria out of her shocked staring. She whirled to her left, quickly making her way to where the counter top ended. "Sera?" She whispered now, not wanting to find out if the giant was home or not. "Sera is that you?"
As Aria watched, the giant of the house stepped into view. Taller than anything Aria could remember seeing, what looked like a robotic behemoth walked past the spot where Aria stood, paralyzed in her total shock.
She couldn't believe it, just could not believe what she was seeing. Her jaw dropped, but fortunately no sound came out as she unconsciously backed away from the counter's edge as the creature walked past without seeing her. Instead, it walked to the other side of the room, searching the tabletop for something Aria was sure she couldn't comprehend. Whether the robot found whatever it was looking for, Aria never knew, but it didn't really matter because when it was done looking over the table, it turned around.
And saw her.
Aria was still too shocked to process what happened next, but she heard a loud noise that reminded her of the force of a train whistle, although the sound itself was different. Then there was a tremendous crash as one of the robot's feet slipped out from under it and it fell heavily to the floor.
Breathing fast, Aria backed away, not sure if she should scream or cry or pass out from the shock of it all. But then a loud clatter made her look up. Now she finally did scream when she saw a jumble of metal, made up of pieces as large as her at the very least, falling towards her with frightening speed.
She jumped toward the hole she had come through, still shrieking. Then there was a bang and clamor and a thousand different clangs as Aria hit the ground, throwing her arms around her head and ears, as if that could stop the contorted pieces about to squish her.
There was a heart pounding moment of horror where Aria waited for them to fall on her.
But then nothing.
Carefully, Aria opened one eye. Darkness stretched before her and she realized with knee quaking relief that she had made it to the tunnel. Then, after the ringing in her ears had finally gone and her heart wasn't drowning out the frightening sound of her quick breath, Aria turned herself over to see what had become of the crash.
The opening was covered with a heap of what looked like scrap to her, but might have had some purpose she could not discern. At first she thought she was trapped inside the tunnel and would have to go all the way back to where she had started, but then she saw the streaks of electric light shining through the pieces of metal.
For a long moment, she sat there in the dark, her rapid breathing the only sound in her ears aside from her thundering heartbeat. She didn't know what she expected – maybe a giant hand pushing aside the scrap and reaching in after her? – but nothing came.
When her pulse had finally faded from her ears, she dared to stand up, although her legs still shook violently. "What the heck was that?" She asked herself as her panic dulled just a bit. "Duh," The other, somewhat ruder, part of her mind answered, "it's a giant metal robot! What d'ya think it is?"
She swallowed hard. "But that's impossible. This is all impossible. It just can't be happening!"
She could feel the panic returning, threatening to swamp her reasonable senses until all she would be able to do was curl up into a ball and hyperventilate.
Instead, she closed her eyes to try and stave off the panic she felt growing in her chest and for a long minute concentrated on breathing deep and slow.
"It's alright," she lied to herself, "it's going to be alright. Look, nothing's even happening. I bet the whatever-it-is didn't even see me. I-it's probably already left."
She opened her eyes at the thought. Outside there was only silence. "Maybe…" she dared to think, "Maybe it really did leave."
Carefully, Aria stepped forward and, with shaking hands, reached out and gripped a large slab of hard steel that separated her from the creature. Miraculously there was space enough between the mess of pieces for her to slide between them and, after some quiet maneuvering, she came to the end of the maze. Stopping to take a deep breath for courage, she peered around the last slab and looked outside.
The alien was still there, still sitting on the floor where it had fallen, watching the pile of sharp edge, blunt forced killers that had just tried to make her flatter than a cracker crust pizza. Its bright blue eyes locked onto her as soon as she appeared around the edge of the metal.
Aria felt her breath freeze in her chest, but the being didn't move. It simply watched her, looking as curious as she was starting to feel. Now that she wasn't panicking like a skittish horse that just saw a snake, Aria saw that the creature appeared to be made entirely of metal.
"It really is a robot…" She thought curiously. Except, she didn't think it was just a robot. It was staring at her as if trying to puzzle out what she was, as if it was really thinking.
When the robot didn't reach for her, or even move, she scraped at the bottom of her barrel of courage, but when nothing more came up, she turned off her brain and pushed herself free of the protective maze anyway.
When the robot still didn't move, just blinked at her curiously, she carefully stepped out of her shelter and found a path she could use to climb down to the floor, looking over her shoulder at the alien every few feet.
Still it didn't move, just followed her progress with its eyes.
Finally, she reached the ground. The being looked even bigger now that she was on the floor. "It's gotta be at least as big as the house! Maybe even taller." She thought, not knowing what else to think.
A long moment stretched between the two where Aria stared up at the robot, and the robot stared down at Aria.
Finally, not knowing what else to do, Aria hesitantly waved at the metal giant.
Just as hesitantly, as if it wasn't quite sure what the gesture meant, the robot waved back.
Slowly, Aria pulled out her glucose tabs from her pocket and carefully put one in her mouth. "My blood sugar's never going to come up after this." She muttered.
The robot made a loud, almost crunching, sound and Aria wasn't sure if it was laughing, or just talking to itself too.