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I don’t know why I feel so tongue-tied;
I don’t know why I feel so skinned alive.

-Cuttooth
*~*

[E/c] eyes poured hungrily over the poorly written gobs of text, acting on the command of a human female that was, at best, absolutely captivated by the tale of a supernatural romance. The earthling’s pulse accelerated with the silent intake of each suspenseful syllable as her index finger traced line after line of rich, literary content.

About three things I was absolutely positive: First, Smedward was vampire. Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part of him might be (even though he’s a vampire and bloodlust is kind of their thing…) – that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and IRRATIONALLY—

“CURSE YOU, ZIM! Curse you and your impervious gnome defenses!”

You twitched, feeling incredibly startled by the sudden interjection, as both a paperback book and a small, lit flashlight bounced from your lap and down the stoop steps of your apartment complex.

“Man, now I’ve lost my page…” your grumbled despairingly to yourself as you bent down in attempts to gather up your scattered treasures. With the force of the fall, the generic torch had come apart and its fluorescent light had promptly diminished.

“W-who’s there?” A frantic squeak resounded against the chill of the autumnal night.

You strained to see the speaker despite the scarcity of visible light. “What? Isn’t that the question I should be asking of you?” you paused in your speech, allowing your pupils to focus in on the form of a lanky male with disproportionate body parts as you stood. “You are the one that’s intruding on private property, after all.”

The male glanced down cautiously, eying the poorly-manicured lawn that his sneakered feet had somewhat trampled. “You mean that somebody actually lives here?”

You grimaced at the incredulous inflection in his voice. Your place of residence may have been in a bit of disrepair, but it was your home nonetheless. “Yes!” You snapped as your fumbling hands finally found all pieces of misplaced belongings. “It’s a freakin’ apartment complex, genius. A lot of people live here.”

“I know it’s an apartment complex!” The male cried indignantly as he threw up his hands in exasperation. “I just didn’t think anybody lived here otherwise the alien next door would be in government custody by now! You have to have noticed how abnormal and green he is!”

You blinked, slightly taken aback by his outburst. You tucked your book under your left arm and then worked leisurely at reassembling the flashlight. Your gaze drifted towards the tiny, green and purple dwelling wedged between two bland apartment complexes. “Well, yeah. People notice him, but around here they just don’t care.”

For once in his horrible life, Dib Membrane – or as you knew him, the creep without proportion - was left absolutely speechless. You knew? Or better yet, you acknowledged the truth about Zim—the truth about everything?

“What’s it to you, anyway? Do you have some kind of weird fascination with him? He’s just kind of annoying if you ask me. Always stomping about the neighborhood with that cute little robot-dog of his and whispering to himself…the kind of activity I suspect you are also guilty of.”

The male before you blanched as he rubbed at his eyes, quite unsure of what he was seeing. “But…but you’re saying that you do believe me – about Zim being an alien, I mean? You – you believe in the existence of the paranormal?”

You nodded slowly, almost unsurely, as you twisted the top of the flashlight shut. “It’s kind of hard not to believe it. He’s got green skin, red-eyes, and antenna, and I’ve seen a spaceship fly out of his attic. The facts are hard to dispute.”

The male stepped forward, grasping wildly at the collar of your shirt. “You live next door to him and you know, woman? Why isn’t he in, say, Area 51 by now?! He’s a threat to our planet! Hasn’t anybody thought to call the F.B.I?” He probed as he shook you furiously.

You snarled at the violent gesture, and with the flick of a wrist your flashlight was aglow and shining brightly in his pale face. “Knock it off, you creep! I told you that nobody cares. Why do you think that it’s only me bothering to relocate when the neighbor’s alien tech drains all our power? The electricity is always out, and I’m the only one smart enough to use a flashlight.”

The male shielded his bespectacled eyes from the intensity of the light as he backed away from you a couple of steps. “MY EYES!” He screeched, flailing about madly.

You sighed at his eccentric mannerisms as you directed the light to your own face instead. “You’re so dramatic about everything, aren’t you? I’d almost prefer the company of E.T. over there…” you grumbled as you jerked your thumb in the direction of Zim’s house.

A desperate plea of dissuasion threatened to teeter past the male’s lips as he regained his composure. You’d hang out with Zim? No, anything but that! Dib Membrane would not lose another innocent to the tyranny of the Irken Invader.

“You can’t do that – You don’t know what he’s like – he’s – he’s…” the words came out easy enough, but he could not bring himself to organize them into something coherent. Perhaps this was simply an instance of his tongue failing to keep up with the rapid inner workings of his large head, or maybe it was all due to the fact that, upon being subjected to your full appearance for the first time, he was left virtually tongue-tied.

Your brow furrowed as you watched his ghostly pallor take on some actual color for a change. “Relax! I was only kidding. My name’s [Name], by the way.”

You smiled charmingly at him as you patted his shoulder delicately with your freehand. The male was nearly entranced as he stared wordlessly at you. The way your pearly whites glistened against soft lips, the sheen of your [h/c] locks, and the way your eyes sparkled with good-natured mirth…it transformed the great Dib Membrane from a cool, calculating genius into a crimson blob of babbling goo.

“Y-yeah, I’m Dib.”

As the two of you shook hands in the faint light of a cheaply made flashlight, your fate – and its inevitable intertwining with Dib’s own – was sealed.

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