The filthy city air stung my eyes and dried my mouth. That afternoon was freezing. A few measly, brittle leaves whizzed by my head in the icy breeze. 'AU-tumm' the hyoomans called this. But I didn't have a thought to spare for their stupid names. I was running, as hard as I could. The dark shadow of another highrise passed, and the sharp glare of Earth's sun slapped me in the face, forcing me to slit my eyes. I spat in disgust, fighting to stay on a straight course. The wind was picking up now, and I felt it whip around my hair and start to tug at the brim. Gasping, I clapped one hand over my head to stop the wig flying away. Even this miserable planet's weather was against me!
I gripped the wig tighter, determined not to lose it now, not with the Dib behind me. I growled. That Dib!
As the wind dropped for a moment, I could hear his running footsteps as he pounded after me; heard him draw a ragged breath to shout my name.
His voice pierced the frigid air between us, and I gritted my teeth, forcing my legs faster as I struggled to fight down that returning pain. The boy's pace quickened to match mine.
No! He wouldn't catch me, not this time! I knew he'd done something
The human called out again. The very sound of his voice made me cringe.
'Leave me alone, you pitiful-'
A wall loomed.
Standing there arrogantly between me and any more hope of escaping the horrible human.
I cursed angrily, lashing a boot at the brickwork, before crying out as pain stabbed through my foot. Soldiers shouldn't give in to pain, but there I was, crouched miserable on the ground, nursing my injured foot.
My antennae pricked under my wig as I was doused suddenly in shadow, and I snapped my head around to glare at the boy as he moved in to block my escape.
As shameful as it was, I had to admit, for a scrawny human child he looked powerful, standing tall with the sun at his back. But after a moment his shoulders dropped; his stance tensed as he approached me cautiously. I noticed he kept his distance, and even in the bad light my ocular implants could pick up that strange expression on his features.
My squeedlyspooch churned again. I'd never seen that look on Dib, in fact it was totally alien to me. For all the time on Earth I'd known him, his face was always drawn in a scowl of hatred at the sight of me. It was familiar to me, almost comforting when I looked back on it now. This new game of Dib's was as unfamiliar and strange as the rest of his planet.
In an attempt to put him off, I took a step forward, claws outstretched menacingly. I hissed and made my tongue flicker between my teeth, in the way that seemed to make the humans nervous. I supposed it looked like a snake or something.
'Back off, Dib-filth!' I snarled at him.
The boy didn't move. His eyes were doing that thing again
. Irk, was he SAD about something?
Of course not! It was that trick he did. I was sure he'd managed to mess with my insides somehow, because every time he looked at me like that, I had a weird sensation like something was trying to pierce my belly from the inside. Maybe the Dib had planted some kind of ship in me, like I'd done to him once to control his body. That would explain why I felt strange emotions when he looked like that; angry and confused all at once.
Right then I was feeling angry again. I wanted the Dib to leave me alone, to let the feeling go away. But instead he was getting closer, closer than I wanted him. My anger worsened and I stood stiff before him, my chest heaving and fists balled.
The boy opened his mouth to speak.
.have you done, hyooman?' I hissed out the words, trying to fight down the painful flow of emotion that was getting still stronger.
I thought I saw a flash of fear in his hazel eyes then, as if he hadn't expected that tone from me. He took an unconscious step back, and I would have felt satisfaction
if I could get rid of this damn anger. I waited for him to speak again, but his voice seemed to have left him. His silence only inflamed my temper more.
'WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ZIM?' I roared. Dib's fear increased; I could see it even through the red haze of my anger.
Bravely, he made a move toward me.
'Zim, I need to explain
I aimed a swipe at him with my gloved claws.
'STAY AWAY FROM ME, HUMAN! I HATE YOU!'
He looked even sadder at that, but I didn't have a heart for his feelings now. I was really losing it. This confusion
the jabbing in my squeedlyspooch
they were too much for my mighty brain to handle. I wasn't taught to deal with these feelings, and they frightened me. And when something scared me, my instinct was to fight.
Dib clearly wasn't giving up. He moved closer tentatively, which you'd think was a foolish thing to do with an enraged Invader.
'Zim, just let me
.any closer, Dib
Some part of me wanted to hear what he had to say, but a bigger part wanted him out of my sight.
He put his hand on my trembling shoulder.
'I need to explain about friendsh-
In the hideous rush of fury that engulfed me then, I didn't register the long silver appendage extending suddenly from my PAK.
Dib's eyes widened.
Silence. That was the first thing I remembered. The street was quiet as death.
I stared blankly at the sharp PAK leg. My mind was numb from confusion, and though I could clearly see the dark substance coating the tip, dripping slowly onto the cracked pavement, I didn't register what it was.
Then I shifted my gaze to the crumpled human lying at my feet.
With his black trench coat draped over his curled form like a blanket, Dib no longer looked the least bit threatening. In fact, I may even have called him sort of cute., although his silence was a little ominous. I blinked, wondering why my arch nemesis, the human who had hunted and tormented me from my first day on the planet, was suddenly lying meekly at my feet.
Then I noticed the spreading, sticky pool beneath him, and the unnatural stillness of his chest, and suddenly the realisation dawned on me.
Not long ago, I would have relished the thought of this sight. To see my enemy broken so I could carry out my mission in peace was like passing Probing Day a hundred times over. All that I dreamed of.
But as I stared down at the broken human, one word was engraved in my mind.
A word that the Dib had etched there himself.
And suddenly everything fell into place, like an unfinished jigsaw you leave locked in a cupboard for years, only to get it out and find the last piece fits perfectly.
Slowly, I sank onto my knees beside the boy. For a few moments, I simply gazed at him, lying there so peacefully, without a dark thought for me.
Then I hung my head and wept.