“So what’s this whole thing you’re saying about me being a character on TV?” Speed Racer asked of Alicia. After depositing Kate on the couch, Jay, Alicia, and Speed had sat down at the dinner table nearby. The kitchen and dining area were open to the living room, so the group could sit at the table and still keep an eye on her. Jay was looking around the room in curiosity, examining his surroundings again, and Speed was now talking to Alicia.
“Well, see, there’s this show on TV that my friend likes to watch, and you're in it,” Alicia reiterated, not knowing how else to put it.
“You said that already, back at your house,” Speed responded. “But I don't know how that's possible, since I've never acted on TV,” he added. Alicia held up a finger to silence him and continued. “I figured as much. You wouldn't be an actor because the show that you’re on is animated.”
“Yeah,” Jay added from his end of the table. “It’s a cartoon. I used to watch it all the time.” He was looking around at the room and checking it out. Over the course of events, Jay had gradually started to give into the situation because there didn't seem to be anything else he could do. He was still a little skeptical about the fact that the man he and Alicia were now with was actually Speed Racer. Jay was also thinking that they were on the show of the same name as well. What else could it be, with all the weird stuff that's happened today? he thought. The guy definitely walked the walk. And he certainly talked the talk. And everything looked so...60s.
“Which is why Kate freaked out on you when you first appeared,” Alicia continued. “Cartoon characters in our world do not exist on the same plane we do.”
“Yes, but I don’t understand. How can I be a cartoon character if I’m not a cartoon?” Speed asked, and he gestured at himself.
“Well...” Alicia hesitated. She was out of explanations. However, Jay had been listening closely to the conversation. He'd been thinking about it and upon hearing Alicia hesitate, he decided to contribute his two cents.
“Hey, Alicia. You ever seen that show 'Sliders'?” he asked.
“Once or twice,” she admitted.
“Then you know what it's about,” Jay said. “Well...maybe it’s like that. Maybe there are a lot of parallel worlds out there, and this is one of them,” he explained. Speed raised an eyebrow. He could tell Jay liked science-fiction. Jay continued.
“To us, it's a TV show. We see it as a cartoon. But maybe what we see on the TV is actually part of another reality.” This seemed a bit far-fetched, but nobody knew what else to say.
“You mean to tell me that the shows on TV are actually alternate realities?" Speed asked.
“Why? What do you watch?” Alicia asked.
“Star Trek, mostly, and The Twilight Zone. My younger brother watches Jonny Quest and Astro Boy,” Speed answered.
“They show that stuff where we live, too,” Alicia said, slightly suprised.
“Hmmm. Do they really?” Speed mused, partly to himself. He thought this was interesting. If it were true, then it made Jay's theory credible. If Jay's theory were credible, then Speed would never think of TV the same way again. The idea of all those shows actually being other realities was wild.
“Hey, if they show that stuff here too, then that means I could be partly right,” Jay said, slightly astonished and coming to the same conclusion. There was a pause, then finally, Alicia spoke up.
“I don’t know. I suppose it's possible,” Alicia replied and shrugged, turning to Speed. “I guess that’s as good an explanation as anything,” she said.
“Well, it works for now,” Speed replied. He thought about all the times that he had to rely on less to figure something out, and he looked over at Kate's sleeping form on the couch.
Kate had started to emerge from the darkness of unconsiousness. Gradually, one by one, her senses started to return. She could sense that she was someplace different than the park where she’d passed out, but she wasn't sure where. However, she knew that she was indoors. Kate was on something soft and cushiony. There were pillows under her head. A couch, she thought, as she became more aware. I’m on a couch.
The scent of stale, old cigarette smoke hung in the air. A sweeter odor was mingled with it, as though someone had tried to mask the original odor by burning incense. This was indeed the case. It occurred to Kate that she might be in someone else’s house. She could hear voices talking quietly nearby, and, as she became more and more aware, she could pick out Alicia's voice, Jay's voice, and a third voice that, while not deep like Jay's, carried enough depth to be that of another male. Kate ascribed this voice to the man from Alicia's kitchen, since he was the only other person with them at the time.
Kate kept her eyes closed and her body still, because she did not want to attract attention. Not after what had happened at the park with Alicia and Jay and...that guy. The last thing Kate remembered was standing on the picnic table, screaming at him. What a fruitcake, she thought, then, Two guys in one day dressed as the same character! Still, there was something frighteningly realistic about the one. Maybe he really was who he appeared to be. Whoever he was, he had Jay beat by a mile when it came to being Speed Racer. I mean, this guy had the hair, the attitude, said all the right things, and everything. He'd done his homework.
Kate was listening to the conversation now, and heard Jay mention his 'Sliders' theory. Parallel worlds, she thought in amazement. Could there really be parallel worlds? And are they all based off popular TV shows? This last thought made her chuckle inwardly. Wouldn’t that be funny. Kate smiled, without thinking about it, and without knowing that she was being observed. Speed noticed the corners of her mouth turn up. He nudged Jay and, in a low voice, turned to him and said, “Hey, Jay. I think your friend is coming to.” He pointed at the couch.
Jay turned and looked at Kate for a moment, then slowly pushed back his chair and walked over to the couch. Kate could sense him standing over her. She held her breath. He leaned over her. “Kate,” he whispered. “You awake?”
Kate heard the muffled footsteps of the others on the carpet as they got up from the table and walked over to the couch. She still kept her eyes closed, even though she already knew that they knew that she was conscious. Kate didn’t want to open her eyes and face anything yet, and she most certainly did not want to see that guy.
Alicia leaned over the end of the couch. “Hey, Kate,” she said, trying to get her attention. Kate still wouldn’t open her eyes. However, it was comforting to Kate to hear her voice and know Alicia was here with her, wherever she was. At least I won’t be alone, Kate thought.
There was silence as the others waited for Kate's response. She could hear their breathing, as well as her own. Kate's apprehension grew as the silence dragged on, and she dreaded having to open her eyes and face whatever was there, especially since that creepy guy from Alicia’s aunt’s kitchen was with them. It didn’t help that he was also standing over her.
The ‘creepy guy’ in question now decided to take matters into his own hands and wake Kate up himself, feeling that the silence had gone on long enough and that her behavior up until this point had been ridiculous. He put a hand on her shoulder and shook her, saying somewhat sternly, “Come on, Kate. Get up. I know you’re awake.”
Kate sat up suddenly, both shocked and irritated that he’d shake her like that, and she knocked his hand away. “All right!” Kate snapped. “I’m up.” Alicia smiled and sat down next to her. Speed now had his arms folded across his chest and was looking at Kate with a stern expression. Jay stood to the left of Speed Racer, watching events transpire. Kate hunched forward and hid her face in her hands. She was stressed. She’d put two and two together from the previous conversation and was starting to entertain some wild ideas about where she was, but she didn’t really want to know, for fear it was true. Kate was afraid to ask anyway, as the guy from Alicia’s kitchen was standing over her, and he sounded peeved. There was awkward silence for a bit. Finally, Kate looked up. She blanched, seeing the expression on his face. He looked down at her. “What is going on?” he asked in a cut-the-crap tone of voice. Before Kate could answer, he added, “I show up in your friend’s kitchen, and instead of telling me who you are or where I am, you scream at me.”
Kate was speechless. “Uh, well...” she started, and trailed off. Alicia was staring inquisitively at Speed now, wondering where he was going with this.
“And your reaction, at the park. That was completely unwarranted,” he continued. “I wasn’t going to hurt you. Why did you do that?” Speed demanded.
“I, uh, wasn’t expecting you to show up in my friend’s kitchen,” Kate answered, quietly. She was scared.
“Still, that’s no excuse for you to have been so rude,” he stated, calmer now. Jay eyed Speed incredulously, wondering if he was going to say anything else harshly toward Kate. Jay didn’t want to see her hurt, and it bugged him that this man would chew her out so soon after she woke up. He agreed to a point; maybe Kate had been a little rude. But Jay could understand her reaction. He knew Kate was only reacting out of shock.
However, Kate was mortified. She looked at the floor. Inside her heart, she knew that what Speed was saying was true, and that she had probably insulted him. I can’t believe it, Kate thought. I am supposed to be this guy’s biggest fan, and...I... Her thoughts trailed off, and she felt hot tears start to sting the backs of my eyes. Whether he was the real deal or not, Kate really had no right to scream at him the way she did.
Kate didn’t want him to see her cry, so she quickly swallowed the lump in her throat and stuffed her feelings. She looked back up at him. His facial expression had softened a bit, so she asked hesitantly, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Well,” he responded, the harsh edge to his voice gone, “you can say you’re sorry to me.”
That seems reasonable enough, Kate thought. She sighed, and she collected her courage. “Okay. I’m sorry for screaming at you,” she said. “It was rude and unwarranted, no matter who you might be,” she finished. Kate looked at the floor again. She still doubts me, Speed thought to himself.
“Kate. Why do you doubt who I am?” he asked, curious.
Kate hesitated. She didn’t really know what to say that hadn’t already been said when Alicia and Jay were talking. Kate looked down at her feet, studying the pattern on the toes of her Nike sneakers and thinking of something to say. There was silence. Then, she answered.
“Well, uh, I was always told that cartoon characters don’t really exist, but...” Kate hesitated for a brief moment, thinking of Jay’s ‘Sliders’ theory. “...now I’m not really sure. I’m sorry,” she added again, not really knowing what else to say.
Jay shifted in his spot, studying Speed and waiting to see what he would say next. Speed eyed Kate there on the couch staring at the floor and looking pathetic, and in that moment he had an inspiration.
“ ‘I’m sorry’ who?” he asked suddenly. Kate's head snapped up in surprise, and she stared at him, confused, not comprehending what he meant by that statement. Then it dawned on her. He wanted her to say his name.
As if ‘I’m sorry’ wasn’t good enough, Kate thought. Why does he want me to say his name? It occurred to her then that this was his way of getting her to acknowledge his identity. This annoyed Kate, and it embarrassed her. How could she acknowledge his identity if she wasn’t sure she believed in it?
Silence permeated the living room. Kate chewed her lip, trying to overcome her reluctance to say what the man in front of her now expected her to. Neither Alicia nor Jay said anything, and nobody made a move. Kate could vaguely hear a clock tick somewhere else nearby, and she sensed that everyone else in the room was waiting to hear what she would say. Kate drew in a deep breath and exhaled. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, she spoke.
“I’m sorry...Speed,” she answered defeatedly, and lowered her eyes to the floor. Her face was on fire.
“Speed who?” Speed volleyed back. Jay eyed him darkly, wondering what in heck he was trying to prove by humiliating Kate. However, he didn’t say anything.
“Racer,” came Kate's barely audible answer from the couch. She buried her face in her hands, this time to hide tears she couldn’t hold back. Alicia put an arm around her. Jay looked ready to jump on top of the other guy and kill him.
A smile touched Speed Racer’s lips and he relaxed, letting his arms drop to his sides. “Thank you, Kate,” he said, and he meant it. He then turned and left the room.
On to the next chapter. ---->