Chapter four: The Never Ending Story
Bloodstains and Traitors...
As it turned out, the short journey back to Hilde's house was far more awkward and painful than she'd ever thought. In fact she hadn't even thought that it would bother her at all but it seemed that meeting that sad old woman arose her curiosity to such a degree that she often found herself strolling down memory lane...
As a matter of fact, every corner Duo directed the car, every street-sign he checked, and every pothole he found sent recollections, both bitter and sweet, racing through Hilde. She remembered every detail, how could she forget? They were fingerprinted in her mind intimately, without gap.
Why, just over there was the park that she used to play frisbee in with her old puppy! He was the most adorable beagle the colony had ever known! Little Hilde had called that dog every baby name in the world, and rarely thought to call it by it's actual name. 'Booga boo', snookie wookie,' 'pooga booga,' 'spooky pookie,' 'snook-ums,' 'sweet-pea,' ect, ect. The entire name game aggravated her grandparents so much because it confused the puppy to such an extent that it never knew which name to respond to and they never knew which one to call him. (Which was Binky.) She still missed that precious angel to this very day. She had taught him how to count, fetch, and sit all by herself!
...........Damn that military truck! They ran over it on purpose, she just knew it!
To the left of Giesman Park was a candy store her grandfather always took her when he got paid. Even now, the memory of those Milka Alpenmilch bars, her very favorite brand of German chocolate, excited Hilde! They were always the very first things that she ran for! One time, Mr. Gellison, the storekeeper, removed all the chocolate bars from the shelf to trick Hilde on April Fool's day. Hilde smiled at the event that had upset her so much so long ago. As soon as she saw that empty space on the shelf and the full grin on Mr. Gellison's face, she waged a ten minute war against him to relinquish the concealed goods. However, when he didn't give them up after ten minutes, she began to believe his story about the nasty cootie boys stealing away all the precious chocolate bars to feed to the toads in their pockets. Hilde had just started to cry when Mr. Gellison revealed the 'one last bar' that he saved from the starving toads. He even gave it to her that day for free...well sort of. He insisted that she kiss his cheek for the daring rescue. And Hilde did, happy to have her Milka Alpenmilch bar. Good old Mr. Gellison....he died in a car crash a bit before she left to fight. The police report said that he fell asleep at the wheel...
They pulled into the driveway when Duo tapped her on the shoulder, bolting her back to reality.
"Oh we're here!" Hilde exclaimed, "Wait here while I unlock the door, Duo!" she instructed as she jumped out of the truck. However, as soon as the German girl's feet hit the pavement, a shocking sensation of foreboding covered her and it even took Hilde a minute to find the right key. The feeling was so potently compelling that she couldn't completely shake it off. This morbid emotion disturbed her so greatly that she couldn't even fit the key into the keyhole. It just wouldn't dissipate! The emotions were so pungent in this air that her lungs painfully heaved with the effort to breathe the poignant form of oxygen and her mind thought frantically of ways to escape it before she suffocated on the soggy sadness that enveloped her.
All Hilde could think about was death, sorrow, and grief.
More specifically, the death of her parents and mysterious deaths of her grandparents....
She still remembered the day her grandmother pulled her aside. To that tree, the oak tree by the driveway. She concealed the gloomy subject with a glass of lemonade and cookies. Catered treats were a common sign of a touchy subject at this household. Hilde was only 11, but she knew something was up.....and if something wasn't up, she definitely intended to bring it up!
* * * *
"What's wrong, grandma?" Hilde asked dully, not paying any attention to the chocolate chip cookies or lemonade.
It was hot outside, and she pushed herself feverently on the tire swing to relive herself with the tiny wisps of air.
Her grandmother was a bit nervous. That old lemonade and cookies trick that had worked so well on chibi Hilde was not so effective anymore....
"How...are you doing, hun? You haven't talked nearly as much ever since ...ever since the scrapbook.... Your grandpa and I are a little worried-"
The tire swing stopped so suddenly that Mrs. Schbeiker jumped. She stared into her grand-daughters' eyes as they slowly became more visible through the clouds of chalky dust.
"What happened to them grandma?" Hilde asked bluntly.
"Who?...... What are you talking about Hilde?" Her grandma feigned a bit of laughter.
Hilde only answered by swinging harder and ignoring her grandmother's presence. This would have to be where the fairy tale ended. She'd been told that her parents were on earth waiting for a shuttle. How they got there and why they'd been there so long without writing were questions her grandparents never answered with anything except the junkfood. And Hilde had quite simply had her fill of these sweets. Yesterday she'd seen how happy and young her parents looked in that scrap book...and she'd seen that article they tried to flip past.
An article about the death of traitors.
Her grandmother finally relieved herself of the burdensome trinkets of happiness. She placed her laughter, cookies, and lemonade aside.
"Alright, Hilde. I'm an open book....What do you wanna know?"
That was exactly what Hilde wanted. She jumped straight down and left the tire thrashing crazily in mid-air. Sitting down beside her grandmother, she asked those questions that had been searing in her childish mind for years.
"What happened to them? How did they die? Who killed them?"
* * * *
With her mind on past memories, her hand was just fumbling around the keyhole. She didn't know how long it had been that she'd been trying to open this door, but she knew it had been quite long enough!
"VERDAMMT!!!" Hilde swore, her native tongue taking over. She was really starting to get mad now. She focused on blocking that damn feeling and the haunting memories and concentrated on opening the door with angry and nervously shaking hands. She just about completely forgot about the mischievous Duo Maxwell...
* * * *
Duo hopped out and smiled . He had waited a minute for Hilde to unlock the garage door so that they could drive the gundam in, but after she fumbled and cursed for about 5 minutes, Duo figured that he'd have plenty of time to look around....
Strolling over to the front of the house, he took in a deep breath to become more familiar with this strange atmosphere. Clean air....peaceful ambience....fresh flowers...Hilde still swearing at the door and not paying any attention to him...
Nope, couldn't take too much more of this!
The braided boy coughed loud and hard.
"AH-HACK .....AH-HACK...AH-HACK-HACK-HACK!!!!" Setting his eyes on Hilde to see if that caught her attention, he was disappointed to find that she was still occupied with that damn door.
Duo felt soooo neglected.
All that fake coughing for nothing! He couldn't stand to not be the center of attention....plus she looked upset. He couldn't have that...
As he fumbled through his thoughts, he returned his gaze to the bright flowers. Just why were they there anyway? Duo could think of too many more useful things to put on a piece of land.
" Ooooo," he cooed as he stared at the smiling blossoms, " they planted pink flowers, and yellow flowers, and purple flowers....very nice. Very color coordinated, so girly.........ick! Maybe we should get, a dog.....ya' know.....one with LOTS of drool- droolies are so cute--and he can dig up all those weak little pansy flowers......"
Suddenly, Duo stopped, a terrific idea coming to mind.....his eyes and smile beamed as brightly as if a 100 watt light bulb floated over his head, and he triumphantly placed his hands on his hips as he announced his terrific vision...... A vision that must be shared!!!
* * * *
Hilde had been swearing at this lock for over 15 minutes now, and was really
getting fed up. And why wouldn't this damn distracting feeling go away! She
turned and slapped her forehead, and it was then that she noticed Duo's antics.
(What was that goofy boy doing out of the truck anyway, he was supposed to be
ready to drive it in when she finally unlocked the door!!) Of course,
right now she was so mad that she didn't even care, and he would have completely
lost her attention if she hadn't caught something to the effect of drool digging
up her precious flower garden that her grandmother planted for her.......
And then, he crossed the line.
He announced a proclamation of such absurdity that Hilde nearly fell over with dismay....
"And Hilde.....That's where we'll bury the bodies!!!!!" the braided wonder declared.
Hilde, still frozen in place, twitched slightly as she tried arduously to restrain the urge to shove his body into that cursed keyhole and see if that might pry the fucking door open....
Just what did he say that he was planning on doing to her garden?! A graveyard?! Right now this..this...infidel stood on her front lawn with his hands on his hips and the most adorable grin on his face that was lit by his own sheer admiration of his own quick thinking and the idea of replacing her precious flowers with a cemetary of his own!!!
Duo noticed the bewildered look on his friend's face, and--thrilled that he finally had her attention--pulled her over to his spot on the lawn, arm around her shoulder as he directed her gaze to each plot of land.
"Ya' see, babe," Duo spoke in his visionary voice, "We'll put Tuberov where those pink posies are..."
"Those are red tulips, Duo..." Hilde patiently corrected.
"...and we'll let those really ugly weeds grow there instead...you know, the ones with the thorns?...."
"Thistles?" she inquired.
".... Oh!" Duo continued without second thought to Hilde's interruptions, " And Professor G can go there; where those yellow flowers are..."
"Duo!" Hilde giggled, "Those are buttercups!"
"Yeah, yeah, tulips!I knew they looked familiar, but anyways, we'll let poison ivy grow there! Geez! 'Wanna pilot a Gundam, Duo?' he says, 'It'll be loads of fun, you can kill people and never get caught....' " Duo paused his impersonation of the insane scientist for dramatic effect as he let out an evil chuckle, "His death WILL NOT be pretty..........................."
Hilde was drowning in her own laughter now. Duo was thrilled to have the attention as he continued describing his cementary.
"Oh!Hey, we've got a spot left over there for one more right by those funny looking white ones with the stupid little thin petals..."
"Daisies!" Hilde nearly exploded with laughter at Duo's painfully lacking botanical knowledge.
"...Ya wanna do the honors, doll?" he offered, " Go on and pick the next grave!"
By now, Hilde had forgotten all about the key. Right now the only things that weighed her down were Duo's arm and that laughter that she couldn't stop.
"Oh, I don't know right now, Duo." Hilde grinned.
"Alright, babe, but beware!" Duo pronounced as loudly as a trumpet, "With the God of Death around, that plot isn't likely to be vacant for long!"
"You're so silly, Duo!"
"Silly, eh? Well, I'm about to prove to you that silly people have talent?!"
Hilde giggled, "How?"
"Like this!" Duo exclaimed, snatching Hilde's key and fleeing to the door before she could catch up. He unlocked it easily and quickly pushed the buttons to make it open up just wide enough to fit in the truck. He fled to the driver's seat, and Hilde pouted at the door when she missed him.
Duo laughed and stuck out his tongue as he rolled down the window. "Come on, babe! Ya' ain't gonna take your time getting back in like ya' did unlocking the door, are you?"
Hilde just grinned, "I'll walk in Duo."
"Like hell you will! What if I run you over, you're so damn small it would be impossible to see you!"
"Bastard!" Hilde laughed.
"Ya' have until I count to 10. And I will warn you that the God of Death tends to skip several important numbers while counting....."
"Uh-huh" Hilde said, unimpressed.
" 1 hippotamus..."
"Duo, just what are you going to do when you get to 10?"
"Duo! Answer me!"
"Stop wasting time and just drive Duo!"
"I can't believe you... This is so immature!"
"Wann fangt die Show an?" Hilde sighed.
" Sieben katze, acht hund, neun vogel....."
"Oh, out with it Maxwell!"
"8-9-10 hippotamus!!!" Duo finally exclaimed, thrusting open the door and leaping forward out of the truck to grab Hilde before she even had time to move. Without hesitation, he thrust her over his shoulder and calmly stepped back to his ajar door. Tossing her into the passenger seat, he started the engine and drove on in without further delay...
Hilde sat somewhat awed. It seemed like just three seconds ago she was standing outside the door waiting for Duo to do something........he was a fast little turkey. She had to admit that she had not seen that coming.
He parked the truck and grinned triumphantly at Hilde.
"Do you want me to take you out of the car,too, or what?"
Hilde smirked at him and opened up the door herself as he laughed.
Stuffy...it's too stuffy In here. Something's wrong.....
More morbid sensations catapulted themselves onto Hilde. She rocked with the impact....
Why? Why? What is this?-------
She suddenly realized that Duo was standing in front of her, and he had apparently been talking. She didn't know what he was talking about, but she squeezed a smile onto her face so that he wouldn't think that something was wrong.
But something is wrong....Terribly wrong!
** * * *
"HA-HA! And you looked just like this...." Duo snickered as he mimicked the
exact look Hilde had on her face as he finished telling her the story. "But
anyways, babe....what were you saying?"
Silence. No answer.
Duo waved a hand in front of her face.
He ruffled her hair.
That did it.
"Ah! Duo! What was that for?!"
"Tell me what you were saying in German?"
"Ya' know! Back when I was counting! What were you saying? Weren't you paying any attention to me?" Duo sulked.
"Oh! Yes! You mean 'Wann fangt die Show an?' and 'Sieben katze, acht hund, neun vogel.....'"
"Yeah, I think that's it."
Hilde smiled slyly. "Nothing too much. It was all just unsinn und quatsh!!!"
"That's it!" Duo exclaimed, as he began the chase. After 5 minutes of fleeing, he caught her and pinned her to the back of the truck. Then Duo began to tickle her until she gave up....
"Onkel!! Onkel!!" she shrieked.
"What'd ya' say about by mamma!?" Duo teased, wanting to understand the words of surrender in his native language.
"Niet! Niet! Uncle! Uncle! I give!"
"So what were you saying?"
Hilde caught her breath first, and then began her summarization,"Well, 'Wann fangt die Show an?' means ,'when does the show begin?' and 'Sieben katze, acht hund, neun vogel.....' just means '7 cat, 8 dog, and 9 bird.' I was messing with your counting."
"So what about that other thing? The ' un sin undqua-tsh' thing and 'uhn-kel'?" Duo inquired badly quoting.
Hilde patiently corrected him, "'Unsinn und quatsh' . I was saying that what I said earlier was all just nonsense and rubbish. 'Onkel' means 'Uncle'."
"Ahhh." Duo said, "I was worried that you might be calling me dirty names."
"No!" Hilde exclaimed as she shut the garage door, "Just this door!"
So, babe." Duo began, "Where do you want him?"
Hilde smiled at the Gundam," Let's just put him against that empty wall for right now."
"Alrighty!" Duo complied, bolting for the Gundam and leaving Hilde alone with her memories again.
* * * *
Her grandmother sighed deeply as the wind swept away a strand of her gray hair. Quickly, she tucked the rebellious lock back into place behind her ear.
"Your parents... Oui Hilde! Their hearts were in the right place, but they chose the wrong time to fight... It was shortly after the assacination of Heero Yuy. They protested everything and tried to rally people together. But the people were afraid. They just wanted peace by submission and didn't understand your parents. You were only 5 then, about to turn 6. I'm certain that you remember. Your parents protesting got more desperate, and so did the people's desire for them to sein leise. (::be quiet::)"
Silence prevailed for a while as Hilde awaited her grandmother to compose herself. The crickets screamed loudly as the sun sunk out of sight.
Finally, she began to speak again.
"People always fear what they do not understand. Hilde, you must never be like those people. Listen to both sides of the story. Those people were the very same people that your parents worked with EVERY DAY. The same people that they invited over for supper and the same people that they shared Christmas with. And....fear manipulated them as a puppet!"
The sobs flowed freely from the elderly woman before Hilde now. There was no restraint. She gathered the girl into her arms now to ease her heart's sorrow over the loss of her only son. To comfort it with the gained treasure, Hilde.
"To prove their loyalty to the angered officials of the Earth Sphere Alliance, they declared that they themselves would punish the traitors. It was der zehnte Juli(:: July tenth.::) You were at school. Your grandfather got some inside information about the attack earlier, and I went there as quickly as possible....."
* * * *
Duo abandoned the Gundam and landed with a big 'boom' next to Hilde, who practically jumped straight out of her skin.
"Shit! You scared the hell out of me!"
"My bad!" Duo exclaimed. "But I got a question for you."
"What is it?"
"Well, we're both pretty broke. And I was just kinda wondering what we were gonna do about money..."
"Oh, that's easy!" Hilde replied, "I can run the business again. We won't get too much, but it'll be enough to pay the bills and buy food-"
"Puh-lease! You can't run this business at 15! And they're saving up the good junk now for the war effort!"
"And you, the 15 year old gundam pilot, have a right to talk?" Hilde interjected.
"Well, you may have me there, but I still don't think that it'll work."
"I could make it work!" Hilde objected, "and I may even be able to figure out how to order parts for your gundam in the process without getting caught!"
"Babe, if you can do all that, then I'm the God of Love."
"Well, then here's a pink cloth to make your outfit!!!" Hilde exclaimed, charging at Duo with a greasy pink towel .
"Yipe!" Duo cried out as the towel struck him. As it turned out, Hilde could be deadly with a towel. That nasty rose hued cloth hurt a lot more than Duo would have ever suspected.
"Down, babe! Down!" Duo hollered from the top of some crates that he scrambled on. "We can give it a try!! Just put that damn thing away! Shit you're bound to beat some of the girly color in my manly black suit....."
Hilde shrieked triumphantly, throwing away the towel.
Duo limped like a wounded animal, his pride torn to shreds after the loss to the vicious pink drying cloth. "Well, what are we going to do about food until we get money?" he moaned, overexaggerating about his wounds as usual.
"I don't know."
"Well, if worst comes to worst, I could be a professional assassin...."
Hilde pinched Duo playfully as they headed up the stairs to the house door.
"Yeow!" he winced.
"Duo!" Hilde gasped suddenly, throwing her hand over her mouth, "I know what we could do!"
"Instead of being an assassin, you could be a stand up comedian!"
Duo's eyes narrowed like a lion on the hunt.
"You could bring back all the food people throw at you for us to eat!"
"RAHHH!" Duo bellowed.
Hilde shrieked and rushed to the door, but Duo held her fast.
"I'll show you funny!" Duo exclaimed, tickling Hilde again, "Take it back! My jokes are very funny, and tomatoes would make my hair sticky!"
"Ok!Ok! I take it back!" Hilde cried with laughter.
The two stumbled into the house door when everything fell silent.
It would appear that a small and unruly cyclone had formed in her house and swept everything that hung on the wall or sat high on a shelf down to the disrupted floor, which was feral and as unkempt as an unattended horse's stable. The bookcase was thrown over, the cushions of the couch were ripped, and the family pictures were thrown around like frisbees. Some rowdy and impetuous crowd had succeeded in shattering everything that was once so orderly, and dispite her turmoil, Hilde was actually grateful that her Grandmother wasn't alive to see this nasty and sloppy shrine to hasty descisions and ignorance created by its most devout followers...
Hilde could no longer stand, and without even realizing it, she fell to her knees. Noticing a familiar 12 by 12 frame, she pulled it over and tried to piece together a torn picture of her grandparents. Their brilliant smiling faces were tattooed shamelessly with a word that never left her.
A word that stained her family.
Hilde gazed at it in utter disbelief, confused and mortified. How? Oh, why! She was fighting to protect them and their home! She never wanted this! Never! She abruptly shut her eyes to blot out the image of the demolished home. No, no, niet, niet! Her grandmother would never leave her house in such dismay and botched with such violence!She'd open her eyes and find it was another dream.....
Instead of seeing a chaotic mess, she found a pair of cobalt blue eyes...
Beautiful blue orbs that were streaked with erotic scribbles of violet and right now they were such a dark purple that those streaks looked like dried blood, scratched on the surface of an otherwise innocent and pure blue. The violet bolts were so intricate that they could even be described as veins that formed several tangled images.... Now Duo's eyes did not shine at all. They were blunt and arid and Hilde was desperate to make him blink and wash away that dried blood and the crooked pictures that he revealed to her in that intense glare...She covered his eyes with her hand and pushed his eyelids shut In fact- the movement guised in such a manner that it appeared she was just pushing his face away.
But her caught her again in that mesmerizing gaze ....and the outlines imprinted themselves again on the otherwise human eyes. It was an image that Hilde could not yet distinguish and Duo could not overlook. Three bodies, three lost souls....
"Hilde, are you OK?" The Shinigami asked gruffly angered by this scene.
"I-I'm fine..I just don't understand...."
"How long have you lived here?"
"Ever since I was about 6."
"Ha. They were good. Real good."
"What are you talking about?" Hilde asked, not at all intimidated by the darker side of Duo.
"They were sweepers. And this place was a checkpoint for 'traitors.' I bet you had a lot of new guests at this house didn't you? They were using this place as a safe haven."
Hilde was mortified that she hadn't figured it out herself. This explained how her grandparents knew about her parents predicament, all the hacking skills her grandfather taught her, all those guests.....why they didn't want her to fight.
"I guess that you can figure that they didn't die of natural causes." he grunted.
Hilde stood up, stronger again. Now was not the time for mourning. Too many people had died by the same cause and for the same stupid reason to bother mourning. And both times...both times Hilde escaped death for treachery that they were caught in. Well, now she knew something she hadn't known before. Now she knew what treachery was. And the truth was, they, her family, were never the traitors. The very homes they fought for that condemned them were the traitors! Hell, the colonies were, too! Backstabbers! All of them! But...despite this feeling of abandonment, she still had to fight. Somehow....someway....There had to be something left in the colonies to protect. Some piece of home... Something to defend.
She looked at the Shinigami blankly, her feelings written on her eyes as well. A bleached sapphire that was scrawled with frosty sparks of lightning...
The God of Death smiled. Finally, he found someone that could meet his gaze and be strengthened by it.
Death can only be embraced and loved by Death itself. Had he found another form of death?