Xombie Xing: Chapter 21

Growing up on computers and GPS, Sky had never learned how to follow a map, so making it to her hometown was harder than she thought.

The RV bumped and rattled as it rolled over the pockmarked pavement of the unmarked country road she found herself on. According to the calendar Art kept hanging by the seat, it was the first of July—not that she could tell by looking. The rain fell in sheets, blinding the path in front of her; to Sky, it felt like April.

“Shit, dude, I have no clue where we are,” she admitted.

“I-it’s okay,” Kris reassured her, holding a state map upside-down. “We can, uh, um…”

Sky looked at him and waited. “Yes?”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“Look at this, man,” Sky complained. “I can’t see anything out here, and Grandpa Genius over there decided to partner us together, the two people in this RV who’ve never used a map.”

Kris rubbed his fluffy beard. Without a way to shave, it was getting bigger every day, much to Sky delight. On the other hand, no razors meant the blond hair on her legs was growing, too. She’d kill for a can of shaving gel, a bucket of warm water, and ten minutes to herself.

“Uh, maybe we should wake Mr. Caldwell,” Kris suggested, admitting defeat.

“What, and have him chastise us for, once again, not knowing crap about shit? No thanks.”

“When’s the next rotation?”

Sky looked at the crude schedule Arthur had devised on the calendar. Sky ran her finger over the lines until she found what she was looking for. “Uh, Art and Kurisu take over at eight.” She looked at the green numbers of the dashboard’s digital clock: 7:37 a.m. “I’m just gonna pull over.”

Sky turned on her blinker, checked both oversized side mirrors, and drove into the shoulder before putting the RV in park. She’d never driven such a massive vehicle before; it was intimidating, to say the least.

“You don’t need to use your blinkers anymore, ya know.”

“Force of habit. If I fall asleep, wake me at 7:55, would ya?” Sky reclined her seat back as far as it would go (a full five degrees) and closed her eyes.

“Oh. Sure.” She heard nothing for a few seconds, and then the sounds of Kris rummaging through his bag reached her ears. She finally opened one eye and saw Kris sitting cross-legged in his seat, issue eighty-seven of Captain Star Lazor in his pudgy hands.

Sky suddenly felt awake and alert. “Oh, yeah, I forgot about Star Lazor,” she said excitedly.

Kris looked up at her. “Um, yeah. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.”

“Man, I’m so bummed I left my comics in my apartment.”

Kris held up the comic book. “Would you like to read this?” he offered.

Sky waved her hand. “No, no. Um, you wouldn’t happen to…remember the first issue, would you?”

“Well, yeah, of course I do.” Kris scratched his head. “Why?”

Sky hugged her knees to her chest. “Since I can’t read it myself, could you tell me what happens?”

“Well, sure, I guess. Basically, Captain Star Lazor is a mercenary, and there’s—”

“No, not like that,” Sky said. “Tell me it like, ya know, a story. Don’t just gimme a synopsis.”

Kris cleared his throat. “Well, I mean, I’m not much of a storyteller.”

“Just do your best. For me. Please?” Sky folded her hands like was praying and did her best begging face.

“O-okay,” Kris agreed with a nod. He took a deep breath. “Um, once upon a time…” Kris, bless his heart, did the best he could relaying the events of the first issue. He talked about Captain Star Lazor’s humble beginnings as a space pirate, born from a prostitute. Sky stopped Kris several times to ask him to draw quick sketches of the characters so she could visualize them. He’d doodle them in seconds and hold up frankly amazing drawings of each character. Sky admired his talent; she might’ve even envied it.

By the time Kris wrapped up the tale, Sky was sitting on the edge of her seat, eyes wide, mouth slightly open, her fingers clutching the seats armrests for dear life.

“…And in the final panel, there’s just a drawing of Lazor’s spaceship exploding, only, on the edge of the frame, you just make out…” He paused for dramatic effect. “…Vecellia’s arm.”

“No fucking way, dude,” Sky exclaimed, clutching her head. “Oh, my God, that’s nuts. And that’s just the first issue?”

Kris nodded. “Yeah.”

“This is, like, the Song of Ice and Fire of comic books! How come I’ve never heard of this?”

Kris shrugged. “Uh, it’s an indie book. The creator didn’t wanna deal with publishers and stuff, I guess.”

“Respect. What’s his name?”

“I-it’s a girl, actually. Kayley Friedenberg.”

“No way. I gotta meet this chick.”

Kris smiled.

Sky glanced down at his notebook. Doodles of Star Lazor, Vecellia, and other characters covered the exposed sheets. She looked up and saw Kris staring at her. “You mind?”

Kris scratched the back of his neck and gave a lazy shrug.

Sky snatched the notebook before he could change his mind. She leafed through the drawings, admiring each one. His style comprised of quick, short, overlapping lines—more cartoonish than realistic, though proportions and faces still looked authentic enough. Kris drew everything from aliens to cats to robots to monsters, and each sketch was uniquely his own.

“Kris, these are amazing,” Sky uttered with the deepest sincerity. “Like, they’re really good.”

“Um, thanks.”

Sky was just about done looking through the pages when Kris snatched the notebook from his hand. “Hey! I was almost done.”

“Th-the drawings in the back are my old stuff. Super bad.”

Sky crossed her legs. “Fair enough.” She glanced at the clock.

7:59.

“Holy shit!” she cried. She spun her seat around to face the steering wheel, threw the RV into drive, and took off much faster than she’d intended to. She and Kris lurched back into their seats as they reached a cruising speed.

“What’s wrong?” Kris asked, looking worried as he buckled up.

Sky looked over her shoulder at Arthur snoozing on the couch. As if on cue, the alarm clock on the counter went off. “That,” she whispered, facing forward again. “Last thing I need is Art on my case for not knowing where we are.”

“I figured that out twenty-five minutes ago when you parked the RV,” Arthur grumbled.

Sky gasped and whipped her head around once more. He still lay on the couch as if asleep, but he opened his eyes, stared into Sky’s, and smiled. “Shit!”

Arthur laughed as he swung his legs onto the floor. “I’ve always been a light sleeper, sweetheart. Keeps you alive longer. Now quit wasting gas and get to sleep.”

Sky groaned before pulling over again. She and Kris unbuckled and left the front of the RV as Kurisu and Jamar strolled from the bedroom yawning.

“Are we there yet?” Jamar asked. He rubbed his eyes.

Arthur looked at the map, out the windshield, and back at the map. “Almost.”

“Good. I’m going back to bed.” He kissed his wife on the forehead, and she left him for the passenger seat. “Ready to snuggle, Kris?” he teased.

Kris shot Sky a nervous smiled before following Jamar into the bedroom. “Um, goodnight,” he said.

Sky raised her hand in farewell. “Goodnight.” The door closed, and Sky collapsed onto the couch. When she woke again, she was home.

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