Chapter Two: A Tale of Two Craigs
It was Christmas in the realm where Craig Jones and his father, Willie, lived. Carrie – the eighth regeneration of Neas – visited by chance of that specific day being the Christian holiday. Between journeys, she would bring the father/son pair back to their old neck of the woods in South Central Los Angeles to catch a break from all the interdimensional insanity.
Of course, the Joneses weren’t in South Central for Christmas. They were in Rancho Cucamonga with Elroy Jones – Willie’s brother and Craig’s uncle. The Joneses had neglected to tell Elroy about Carrie, who arrived in Rancho Cucamonga without notice, surprising the Joneses – mostly Elroy.
Carrie kept her TARDIS parked on Elroy’s front lawn, invisible in the public eye through its onboard perception filter.
The Joneses’ Christmas party was everything Carrie expected: a family shindig with classic holiday-themed R&B music playing on the stereo, BBQ fresh off the grill, and plenty of alcohol. Elroy’s wife, Auntie Suga, probably had a little too much to drink herself, as she kept hitting on Carrie the entire party. At one point, she inched uncomfortably close to Carrie, rubbed her hand down her back, and clenched her left butt cheek – a gesture that made Carrie’s eyes bulge.
It was in that moment Carrie felt her stomach unsettling, either from the BBQ and alcohol or Auntie Suga’s abrasive advances. With Suga’s hand still firmly grasped on it, both of Carrie’s butt cheeks clenched as she felt the unsettling sensation in her stomach migrate further down her intestines.
“Excuse me,” she whimpered, sweat beating from her forehead.
She was directed to the nearest bathroom by Willie and rushed right in, unfastening her skinny jeans and dropping them to her ankles. The second her bare posterior hit the toilet seat, she unloaded a flatulence-induced bowel movement that only a woman of her size and stature could be capable of.
It wasn’t exactly the proudest moment in the Gladiator’s lives – and neither was it the first. The stomach of this regeneration often tended to disagree with her. Willie once said it was her “inner brotha” trying to get out (whatever that meant), but Carrie knew it was a slight imbalance in her body chemistry – a design flaw in the regeneration.
A design flaw that stunk in more ways than one.
As Carrie continued to relieve herself, the bathroom door suddenly flung open (she mistakenly forgot to lock it) and Craig stormed in. “Carrie!” he yelled, only to be stopped by the fecal odor that contaminated the bathroom. “Damn, girl! How much of them ribs did you have?!”
A few bursts of gas reverberated in the space between Carrie’s bottom and the commode. “Does that answer your question?” she snapped at Craig. “What was so important you had to bust in here and risk smelling my $#%+?!”
“There’s some woman out back with these two Tin Man-looking dudes.”
Craig’s unusual description urged Carrie to marginally peer out through the bathroom window, still keeping her backside planted on the toilet seat. It was just as Craig described – a tall, dark-haired woman standing out in the middle of Elroy’s cruddy backyard with two of the “Tin Man-looking dudes.”
As it turned out, the latter individuals were Cybermen.
“Tell your pop to stay inside with your aunt and uncle,” Carrie directed Craig. “I’ll handle this.”
“Yeah, you got this,” Craig said before he advised her, “Don’t forget to wipe.”
Carrie shot him a cold glare as he headed out of the bathroom.
A short moment later, Carrie stepped out through the slide door to confront the uninvited guests in the backyard. From up close, she noticed the dark-haired woman to be quite muscular in build, her massive toned, vein-popping arms left exposed by the black muscle shirt she wore.
“Can I help you?” Carrie asked her.
The woman looked up and down at Carrie’s frame, which matched in height with hers. “You’re Neas…the Gladiator of Gallifrey?”
Carrie nodded hesitantly. “I am. Who the hell are you?”
“You’ve been targeted for termination,” the woman stated. She then unleashed a right hook across Carrie’s face that sent the Gladiator reeling back into Elroy’s BBQ grill, knocking it and all of its hot contents over.
The punch was powerful enough to have Carrie spitting blood and a few teeth. It was like being struck across the face by a sledgehammer. She had been punched by those as physically fit as this woman, yet none of their strikes were ever as damaging as this. It was inhuman.
Carrie barely had any time to recover when the woman punted her in the chest, drawing all the air out of her body. She proceeded to lift the battered Time Lord off the ground with hardly any effort and toss her through the slide door, shattering the glass. Carrie tumbled back into Elroy’s house, her face covered in cuts and bruises.
The woman stood over her, ready to deliver the killing blow – a devastating stomp right onto her head.
A sudden gunshot blast knocked her away from Carrie, striking her left shoulder.
Another reeled her back further, striking her in the face.
Through blurred vision, Carrie saw the woman momentarily nursing her wounded face, notably unfazed by the fact that most of the flesh had been ripped from it, exposing a robotic skull with red lit eyes.
“What the hell is that?!” Carrie heard Elroy ask.
“Stop askin’ dumbass questions and use that shotgun again!” Willie demanded.
Elroy fired on the cyborg again, and while he was successful in knocking it off its feet, its Cybermen cohorts outside the residence responded accordingly with a counterattack. They rocketed into Elroy’s home, terrorizing the Joneses into fleeing for their lives.
Carrie attempted to get back on her feet to help them.
Her body was so wracked with pain that it was a challenge just to sit up.
It was only when she glimpsed at her right hand did she see how extensive the bodily damage was…when it began glowing with regenerative energy.
“Oh, crap…” she ominously uttered. “Not here…not now!”
She tried to hold the process back; delay it long enough to help the Joneses. Unfortunately, the glowing energy began to move up her arm, shimmering through the fabric in the sleeve of her grey sweater.
And if this occurrence wasn’t enough of a problem, there then emerged a green gelatinous portal beneath Carrie that she instantly fell through. In the blink of an eye, she was transported from the inside of Elroy Jones’s home in Rancho Cucamonga to the backyard of another house…in another neighborhood…in another dimension.
The sun was setting in this realm at the moment Carrie felt the regenerative energy consume all of her body. Unable to hold it back any longer, she let out an agonized scream as she exploded with blinding golden energy. Her long, dark curly hair straightened, transforming into long, flowing brown locks. Her grey sweater and blue skinny jeans – suited for a woman with a tall figure – began to sag on a body that was much smaller in frame.
Once the transformation was complete, the new regeneration of Neas staggered. Her vision blurrier than before, she sighted the homeowners of the backyard she materialized in coming out to investigate the commotion she caused.
Drained of all her strength, the Gladiator collapsed to the grass.
Should we call the police?
For trespassing, Nicole! She was on our property unsolicited!
She’s just a girl, Duane. Plus, I think she’s hurt. Did you see those blood stains on her sweater?
Hmph! Probably ain’t even her blood! I didn’t see any cuts on her!
Well, let’s have the boys watch her while we go out and get her something to eat for when she wakes up.
Now you wanna feed her, too?!
Oh, alright. But if she goes stealin’ from us, I’m gonna blame you!
Neas was in and out of consciousness for the last few hours. When she finally regained her senses, she was startled by the face of a 5-year-old that stood in close proximity of her own. She jolted with a start, scaring the little boy into backing away and partially hiding his face behind his flamingo man action figure. “I’m sorry,” he told her.
“No, no, I’m sorry,” she said. “Did I scare you?”
“Just a little,” the boy said. “Why were you sleeping in our backyard?”
“Was I?” Neas asked. “I can’t remember.” She scratched the back of her head, concurrently detecting how different her hair felt beneath her fingers. “Wait. That’s not my hair.”
Her claim made the boy curious. “Whose hair is it?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not my hair. My hair’s curly and this hair’s straight.”
“Maybe someone changed it while you were asleep in our backyard?”
“Change…” Neas focused on that one term from Craig’s presumption, as if it had some importance to her current status. She quickly stood up from the couch she had been lying down on, only to plop back down after being struck by quite the dizzy spell.
The name echoed in Neas’s mind when she heard it. She heard that name somewhere before…but where?
At the corner of her eye, she noticed a 10-year-old boy walk into the room – the 5-year-old’s older brother, judging by the features they shared. “What’re you doing?” he asked his little brother, who Neas figured to be the one named Craig. “Mom and Dad left me in charge of her.”
“T-They left me in charge of her, too, Bernard,” Craig timidly argued.
“Staring at her while she’s sleeping like a creep and then waking her up with your stupid face in hers isn’t how you stay in charge,” Bernard scolded.
“Hey, hey,” Neas calmly told Bernard. “It’s alright. He didn’t mean any harm.” She noticed Craig smiling at her, grateful for defending him. “So, your names are Craig and Bernard, eh?”
“Yeah,” Craig substantiated. “What’s yours?”
“Candace,” Neas answered before immediately changing her mind and saying, “No, that’s not it. I meant to say ‘Sonia’. No, wait. That’s not it. Maybe it’s JaCee? Or could it be Cara? Margie? Lindsay? Mandy? Lindy?”
Craig and Bernard stood in wide-eyed bewilderment, listening to Neas bounce around the different names. “Well, which is it?” the former inquired.
“Craig!” Bernard griped.
“No, that’s my name,” his 5-year-old brother said.
“What I mean is that she clearly has amnesia,” Bernard clarified. “How’s she supposed to remember with you buggin’ her?”
“I’m just tryin’ to help, Bernard!”
“Well, you’re doin’ a really bad job at it. Why don’t you come up with a name?”
“O.K., I will.” Craig accepted his brother’s provocation, thinking long and hard for a name to give their amnesiac guest. After much deliberating, he finally settled on “Reilly.”
Neas held the given name in deep regard. “I like it,” she acknowledged in delight.
Craig beamed with satisfaction, to the annoyance of his older brother, who asked in retaliation, “Where did you get ‘Reilly’ from anyway?”
“I’m not telling,” Craig defied. “It’s a secret.”
“You totally guessed on a name, didn’t you?!” Bernard bellowed furiously.
“Bernard!” All eyes turned towards the front door, seeing the pregnant mother of Bernard and Craig standing there while holding two different shopping bags. “Baby, why are you shouting like that inside the house? You’re supposed to be setting an example for your brother and being a good host for our guest.”
“But I was just…” Bernard began.
The boys’ father then joined beside their mother, carrying a stack of foam takeout containers. “Why you boys just standing there when your mother just walked in with two heavy bags?” he asked his two sons. “Get your butts over here and help!”
“Yes, sir!” Bernard and Craig complied, rushing over to their parents to take the shopping bags and containers from out of their grips and set them on the kitchen counter.
“They weren’t that heavy, Duane,” she told her husband. Noticing Reilly fully awake, she asked her, “And how’re you doing, young lady?”
“I’m doing just fine, ma’am,” Reilly politely said. “Thank you and your husband for bringing me into your wonderful home.”
“For the record, it was Nicole’s idea, not mine,” Duane stated.
Nicole fired him a scathing look. “Thanks for establishing that, Duane.”
“Mama,” Craig called. “Can Reilly stay with us forever?”
“And who’s ‘Reilly’?” Duane asked, his suspicions rising. “Somebody else we gotta take care of? Better not be a dog! And if it is a dog, he better be housebroken!”
“He means me, sir,” Reilly told Duane. “I’m Reilly.”
“Oh,” the sheepish Duane uttered. “Well…I don’t know about ‘forever,’ Craig.” He then heard Nicole clearing her throat, which was usually a warning for Duane to watch what he said. Keeping that in mind, he added, “But we’ll just keep her here long enough to get her back on her feet.”
Nicole went to one of the shopping bags on the counter and took out a set of clothes that she presented to Reilly. “We bought you some new clothes, sweetie. Figured you wanted to change out of the ones you got on.”
Reilly didn’t see much wrong with her clothes until she looked down at her grey sweater and saw that it was spotted with a few blood stains. She wasn’t rightly certain how those stains got there in the first place, but the idea of wearing a sweater with blood on it disturbed her. She graciously accepted the clothes Nicole was kind enough to buy her, seeing that it was a soft black windbreaker and a pair of ripped jeans that looked to fit her more than the stretched out pair she had on.
It didn’t take very long for her to change into them in the guest bathroom. Once she returned to the kitchen with the new clothes on, the Williams family had already started eating dinner.
“Clothes fit ya alright?” Nicole asked.
“They sure do,” Reilly certified. However, she was in actuality feigning her approval. The windbreaker rode up in the back at random times – mostly whenever she sat down or crouched – exposing her back. The jeans were tighter than expected, constricting her thighs and buttocks near the point of cutting off circulation, and they sagged down her butt in the same way that the windbreaker rode up her back. Between the two flaws, thirty percent of Reilly’s rear was exposed. But, no matter how slightly uncomfortable she was in the new attire, she was grateful for Nicole’s generosity.
She sat with the Williamses as they indulged in some takeout burgers and fries from a place called “Morty’s” – a new establishment in Herkleton Oaks.
“I saw Reilly coughing up some golden sparkles while she was asleep,” Craig randomly said.
Bernard almost spat out his food in a fit of laughter.
Reilly gazed on Craig curiously, while Nicole reprimanded her youngest son for his wild claim. “Now, Craig…we don’t make up stories about our guests. You apologize to Miss Reilly.”
“But I really did…”
Craig sulked in his seat. “I’m sorry, Reilly,” he sniffled.
Aside from Craig’s unusual claim, the Williamses’ dinner with Reilly was filled with laughs and fun stories that each member of the family shared with their guest. This was the start of a bond between them that was stronger than either anticipated. After dinner, Nicole invited Reilly to feel her unborn daughter (whose name she and Duane agreed to be “Jessica”) kicking in her belly. She then played a game of “Power Punchers” with Duane – only managing to get her butt handed to her by the far more experienced player. And, shortly before bedtime, she drew a few pictures with Craig.
As they drew, Reilly discovered that it was the only time alone she had with Craig, and she cross-examined the 5-year-old, “You really did see me cough up golden sparkles, didn’t you?”
Craig was surprised and pleased to hear her bring it back up, treating it with more sincerity than his own family. “Yeah, I did. Do you believe me?”
“I do,” Reilly told him. “I don’t know why, but I do.”
“I’m glad you do,” Craig said. “No one ever does.”
“Well, they should. You’re a very bright lil’ fella, Craig Williams.”
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