Now, randomly grabbing each other was almost a normal response for me and Jess. When we started dating, she would grab me whenever she was even moderately frightened. Bug on a table? Grabbed one of my shoulders. Car horn honks too close? Grabbed both of my hands. Someone pops up too close around a corner? Full-body hug of protection.
So, I just started doing it for her. Closing the gap and making sure she had that moment of centering.
The funny part is that Jess doesn't actually get scared; she's one of the bravest people I know. Some people equate bravery with being dumb, but she definitely understands danger. She just kicks its ass. She faces danger—after her moment of grabbing the nearest person—and hunts it down with a vengeance. Her goal has always been to get that shit out of the way as quick as possible. Smack danger to the ground so it can't bother anyone anymore.
One time, we were both at a political rally to protest gun violence. There'd been yet another shooting, because of course there was. Some asshole counter-protester was in the crowd: a real NRA nut. This guy had guns slung all over him like he was going to war. We never even knew if they were all loaded, if the dude had ammo, or whatever.
Anyway, he started shouting up a storm, pushing people around him to open up space. I think he wanted to start some Gun-Jesus sermon. But in the process, this guy pushed Jess. Like clockwork, she froze up and grabbed Trish—that's one of Jess' closest friend. Trish always squeaks when she gets grabbed or scared or surprised. So, I turned around to see why Trish was squeaking.
By the time I turned around, Jess was already halfway kicking Gun-Jesus' ass. She took Jujutsu for years and let me tell you those lessons stuck in her beautiful mind. Jess rolled in, hooked one of the dude's ankles, and had him wrapped up and on the pavement in the blink of an eye. She sat on his chest and pinned his arms with both knees, cell phone already out as she called the rally's coordinators. They had a security team to deal with yahoos.
With all that said, I'll go back to the floating object in my yard. Hit by that heat-ray or whatever, I grabbed Jess, and she grabbed me. We stood like that for all of two seconds before she slipped away and squeezed my should. "I don't know what the fuck is going on, but let's—"
But then she froze in place. And so did I. The heat-blast notched up a bit; it seemed like I should've been melting.
Then? I felt that peculiar sensation of rising usually associated with taking off in an airplane. Or like floating up on a Ferris Wheel. It made me think of sudden bumps on highway roads or the jarring shudder that happens during an earthquake. The world has come unmoored, and you are no longer tethered by gravity.
We were floating. The all-surrounding brightness faded as we rose; I could see the treetops. I could see the top of my house. I tried to look for Jess, but even my eyeballs were frozen. I couldn't move an inch. That made me realize I wasn't breathing. Absurdly, I wondered if my heart was still beating. I was still alive and thinking, but was everything inside of me as still as the dead? Part of me hoped Jess was with me, but another part of me hoped she wasn't.
The ascent probably took a minute, maybe less, but it felt like forever. I felt like I wanted to scream by the time we hit the top. There's no accepting a complete 180 on how you understand the world. Physics had just been broken. Biology had just been broken. The relative safety of my home had just been broken.
Then I saw the edge of the floating balloon-like orb even as we melted into its surface. There was no door. I didn't see some hatch or shimmery portal. We just phased right through the surface of the ship, or maybe it phased to let us pass through.
Those walls must have been a full meter thick because everything went dark, and I could see wires and piping and all manner of honeycomb-like support structures. It was like crawling underneath the bleachers in the gym. Suddenly you could see all this gridwork for something that looked boringly simplistic.
And after a moment of that, we broke through into a blueish light. There was a warm chiming sound like an eager doorbell. The heat vanished around us and there was a thump as we tumbled to the floor. Two thumps. Jess was with me. She had to be.
Able to move again, I immediately turned and found her crumpled on the floor next to me. We didn't bother standing; we just crawled to each other and held each other again.
She bared her teeth at our surroundings. We were in a room that could've been a dentist's office. It had that sterile look, some abstract art on one wall, and an almost-chair that looked like it could move or fold or something. There were counters on both sides of the room that had dozens of drawers and cabinet doors.
Another chime, this time deeper and less excitable, rang through the room. A door opened where there hadn't been a doorway. A three-legged person stood in that surprise doorway. They had four arms and an elongated head. That head tilted.
A voice like whining sawblades made me wince. Their words were all garble: "Um jys, ehm miqa bamp ikn aedad jaxidjad."
Jess and I shared a glance. "What the fuck?" we whispered to each other.