I found her there on the rooftop, leaning on a rail casually. Her eyes were closed, ebony hair whispering gently in the breeze. Her dark boots made almost no sound as she shifted her weight slightly.
She was wearing black leather pants tucked into her boots, and a coal grey tank top. I hadnt notice her changing outfits earlier, but then she was always doing things without my knowledge.
In fact, her very presence on the roof took a moment for me to register, given away only by the slight sheen of the neon lights against her porcelain skin.
Her eyes were closed tight and she made no sound.
I loitered a person's width away from her and waited for her to acknowledge my presence. She didn't.
I slid a cigarette into my lips and lit it. Keeping the first puff in my mouth and letting it go, then taking a long drag immediately after.
Exhaling, I peered over at Jude.
"The hell are you doing out here?" I snarled, a bit harsher than I meant to.
She stayed motionless, and for a moment I thought she might be ignoring me entirely. Then, slowly, she tilted her head like a confused hound, and her eyelids crept open to reveal those irises of hers.
They always unnerved me, slightly. They weren't human at all, more like camera shutters made of dim green light. From a distance you probably wouldn't be able to tell, but in the dark of the rooftop, up close like this, I watched uneasily as they turned simultaneously to focus on me like
Her deep velvet voice broke my nervous thoughts, and my unsettled demeanor gave way to a slow simmer of irritation.
"Isn't that kind of stupid right now?" I snapped abruptly. "Those things-"
I halted my assault remembering the present company. Stupid girl. Look what she made me say.
"Those people," I amended, "are still out there looking for you. What if we were apart and they attacked?"
Jude said nothing at first. Eyes open completely, her irises rotated again to focus on the horizon.
The city below us was, to be frank, quite a thing to see. It's different down there, in the dirt, shooting at people who want nothing more than to send you home in a box.
You get too close. You see all the flaws and cracks and dirt. Up here though, 20 stories above the ground, it became harder to see the filth.
Lights shimmered and danced, cars, androids with glowing prosthetics, communications hubs, all aflame like a spectrum off the surface of a black diamond.
Farther out, the details were even harder to see. The dark buildings became smoky obelisks lined with glittering gems. Even farther away, the windmills turned slowly on the horizon, flickering a crimson signal every few seconds or so.
The entire city was alive, down and away. Everything moved except for our tiny dark spot atop this hotel roof.
"Marcus," Jude's velvet voice interrupted my thoughts once more, "Please tell me a story from your childhood."
I was taken aback by this a bit. The hell was her problem tonight?
"What's your deal? Did you shake a wire loose or something?"
She looked back at me and smiled. It wasnt a happy smile, though. It was the kind of smile you see on a guy right before he kicks the stool out from underneath his body.
I decided I better play along. God damn, this girl was crazy.
"Fine," I said, shifting against the rail.
"When I was a kid, my abuelo and I went fishing at a local creek. It wasn't an outdoors vacation or anything. This was a creek right in the middle of a town, under a bridge. Looking back, the water was shitty and polluted, but I didn't care. Kids don't usualy."
I paused to take a drag on my cigarette and flick the ash. Glancing over at Jude, I observed that she was hanging on every word I said, her eyes wide and bright, irises focused in so the middle dot was just a tiny pinprick, a slight smile still haunting her face.
I sighed the smoke from my lungs before continuing.
"Anyway there's not much to tell. I did more snacking and dancing around like an *** than fishing. When I did concentrate, I ended up breaking abuelo's fishing line because I hooked a rock and thought it was a whale."
Jude lingered on my words for a moment, then made a peace sign against her lips a few times indicating she wanted one of my cigarettes.
Annoyed, I slipped one out of the pack and handed it to her.
She made a motion like she was trying to ignite a lighter and failing repeatedly.
I let out an overdone sigh and grabbed mine. Leaning in, i puffed the flame on and pressed it to her cigarette.
She gingerly leaned over, cupping her delicate hands around the flame, protecting it from the breeze like a mother bird protecting her eggs.
I found it interesting, honestly. Here was this creature who could probably snap my spine into three pieces like a piece of chalk without even exerting herself. A creature I had seen kick a heavy steel trash container 20 feet down a sidewalk. A creature I had seen flip grown, fully geared men clockwise through the air by their wrists like they were children's toys.
Yet in that moment, leaning into me for just a breath to light her cigarette, she appeared so feminine. So vulnerable. So...normal. It was easy to forget how predatory she actually was.
She took a long drag and exhaled. The smoke lingered in front of her much longer than mine did, probably because her artificial breath came out cold.
"Why are you asking me weird shit tonight, anyway?" I grumbled.
Jude smiled again.
"Things." she sighed, turning back to the skyline. She flicked the ash off the end of her cigarette and watched as it slid away and over the side.
I furrowed my brow. "Hmm? Things?"
"What you said earlier. Before you corrected yourself, I'm assuming out of consideration for my feelings." She took another drag and let it seep out slowly.
"I wanted to hear a childhood story, because I've never been a child. I was built. I came to life looking exactly as you see me now. I envy you, Marcus."
"Envy me, huh? Why? You wanna be human now or something?"
"No," she breathed, focusing intently on the horizon, "I want, above all else, to be normal."
I frowned at the melodrama unfolding in front of me.
"I dunno, Jude. You look pretty damn normal if you ask me. I'd never know you were a Scanner if I hadn't seen you throw a man twice your size through the front of a store."
A slight hiss escaped her lips. She replaced it with a drag on her cigarette.
"I am not normal. I am a thing. We are nothing alike, you see."
I was starting to get tired of her self pity.
"Look. I don't think Scanners and humans are that damn different. I really don't."
Jude narrowed her green camera lenses at me. She pushed away from the railing and took a few steps back from where I was standing. She spread her arms and legs away from her like a goalie, cigarette still quietly burning in her left hand.
"Touch me." She said calmly, her eyes flickering with something I couldn't quite identify.
I was unsure of what to say to this.
"W..what are you doing now?" I stuttered.
"Touch me. I want you to touch me anywhere on my body."
I sighed and took a few steps over to her. Sizing her up and down, i reached my hand out to tap her shoulder.
"You mean like thi-"
What happened next was a flurry of motion.
My hand touched nothing but air. I felt her body roll along my arm toward my back and then I was falling.
Gasping, I flailed to catch myself, but jolted to a stop just shy of breaking my head on the concrete rooftop.
I was pulled to my feet by Jude, who had caught me by my wrist with only her thumb and index fingers. Somehow she had managed to do a full circle around me in less than a breath.
She reached up and to the right of us, and caught my cigarette as it came falling back to earth after being flung out of my hand. I just stared in awe.
Smiling that same sad smile I saw before, she slid the now unlit cigarette between my lips. Her ice cold fingers traced my jawline for just a moment.
"Pretty damn different." she said, sadly, mimicking my own speech.
Then she turned and walked inside, leaving me there like an idiot.
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