Earlier episodes start here
Episode six: Dead Again
The first thing he became aware of was extreme cold. He tried to move, sluggishly trying to get away from the cold, but he had no feeling in his limbs. Huh, he thought. Even the fear was sluggish. I'm an action figure. Action figures couldn't die of hypothermia. Plastic hands couldn't get frostbite. I'll just sleep…
He tried to fade away, tried to sink into the whiteness, but something started pressing against his chest. Dimly, as if from far away, he heard a voice. "Sheppard," it said. "Sheppard. Wake up."
"Go away," he mumbled, but the pressure increased. Pressure on his chest. A hand. A Wraith!
He sat up, suddenly finding the way to move his body, after all. "Get away from me!"
"I was not trying to feed on you, Sheppard." George looked disgusted. "Look." He showed Sheppard the palm of his hand. Sheppard peered closer – even his vision was bleary – and wasn't sure at first what he was supposed to be looking at. Then he realised.
"Oh. No feeding slit."
"No feeding slit." George shook his head.
"Huh. That sucks."
"On the contrary, it does not." The Wraith looked at him, tilting his head slightly. "Wraith humour."
"Huh. Very funny." He concentrated on talking; it was that or succumb to the cold. "Why would an artist create an action figure of a Wraith without one of the main things that makes you a Wraith?"
"I suspect he missed out of the main things that you consider makes you a man," George said, "judging from all those anxious looks you make at the place down there, beneath your–"
"But we weren't created by artists," Sheppard said firmly. "We're human. Leastways, I'm human, and we have to get home." He looked around, fully registering his surroundings for the first time. "Snow?"
"It is dangerously deep."
"Yeah. Must be two inches at least." George was submerged to his knees. Sheppard had been lying down in it, and there was no part of him untouched by snow. He could feel it melting on his cheeks, on his lips. "Seriously, though: snow? Maybe my heat sense is shot to pieces because I'm plastic right now, but wasn't it warm yesterday? Birds, butterflies, flowers…?"
It was almost enough to make him believe the whole thing was a dream. Summer one day; winter the next. This couldn't happen in real life. It had to be a dream… But, no. If it was a dream, then the whole thing was a product of his own subconscious. Nobody could be so strange as to come up with talking fridge magnets – depressed fridge magnets, no less – even in their subconscious. Something so deranged had to be true.
"We need to get somewhere warmer," George said. "I was concerned about you. You would not awaken."
"It's that damn plot bunny." Now that he was moving, the numbness was receding, revealing the lingering pain. "He really did a number on me." He recognised the truth, though. Perhaps action figures couldn't get frostbite, but it did seem as if he could drift away to a place that was difficult, if not impossible, to return from. He had to get somewhere warmer. He had to get somewhere where he could rest and recover. "I'll be fine, though," he said, because it wasn't advisable to show weakness in front of a Wraith, even if his feeding slit had somehow been omitted during artistic development.
They set out, slowly wading through snow that came up to their knees. It was hard going, and fresh snow started to fall, each flake half as big as his hand. One landed on his cheek, and he flinched at the sudden cold. He could feel them melting in his hair, drenching him.
"Where…?" he gasped, realising that George was leading. "Where're we going?"
The Wraith was leading. He was following the Wraith. All along, throughout their adventure, it had been the other way round. He had been the one with the plan. The Wraith had been the one who had cowered at every kitten and not known where the back space key was. Now the situation was reversed. Did it matter? Did… it… mat…?
He stumbled and fell, snow encasing him to his shoulders. So easy to stay here. So easy to stay. No. No. Had to get up up. Had to carry on. But the cold dragged him down, and the pain beneath it – the strength stolen away from him by the plot bunny.
Got to… he thought. Got to… He managed to stand. The Wraith was looking at him, on the point of coming back for him, its face looking almost dark against the snow. "I'm fine," Sheppard said, flapping his hand. "Carry on."
They walked on. When Sheppard turned round, he saw their foosteps, side by side in the snow. They passed into the shelter of a wall, and his whole word became about putting one foot in front of the other, about enduring the cold, about not giving in, not falling…
They ducked under a gate, and headed through a forest of snow-covered flowers. A bird started up from a shrub, darkening the sky with its passage, and dislodged snow fell down in an enormous avalanche. It struck him on his head and his shoulders, driving him to his knees, and then more snow fell, and he was covered, drowning, entombed in white, and there was nothing around him with icy coldness – nothing at all.
He woke up to screaming. Got to help, he thought, but everything about him was sluggish. It was warm this time, though, and he felt almost safe, his limbs pleasantly distant, his body content.
Another scream, followed by a crash and a bellow. Sheppard sat up, pushing off the corner of a blanket that looked suspiciously like a Kleenex. "What…?" He reached for his pistol, wrapping stiff fingers around it. Even though it was plastic and wouldn't fire, it just felt better to have it in his hand. "What's happening?"
"I keep on dying," the Wraith snarled.
"Oh. That's… uh… interesting." Wherever he was, it was dark, lit only by a flickering light. As he looked around, the light grew more garish, and George started muttering under his breath.
A moment later, George screamed again. "Dead! I always die!"
Proper focus was slow to return. He saw the flickering light, then George's back, then…
"You're playing a console game," he said.
"I appear to be controlling that fighter on the screen." George sounded as if he was forcing the words through gritted teeth. "I give him commands using this device, but the other fighter keeps killing mine."
"Yeah, I know how it works."
They were inside, he realised, in a room littered with discarded books and magazines. The floor was dirty; you really noticed dirt when you were seven inches high, it seemed. A slice of cold pizza was slowly going mouldy on a plate pushed beneath the couch.
"How did I get here?" he wondered.
"I found this refuge," the Wraith said, his mind clearly on other things. "I carried you in. It was quite an adventure, fraught with much danger."
He told the tale, his voice a monotone, interspersed with cries of fury when he died. Sheppard lay back against the carpet, and his mind drifted into the familiar fuzziness that he knew well as the aftermath of serious illness. "…braided together blades of grass," George was saying. "… enlisted the help of…" Flickering lights on the ceiling, calling him to sleep. "…it had much to say. It talked for many minutes, and I was concerned that you would… said it was no plot bunny, but a chocolate one, doomed to be eaten… wouldn't come inside, scared of the heat. Not again! I've died again!"
Sheppard shifted position, telling himself he should probably wake up. "… too heavy for us to carry, and my arms wouldn't bend… Cecil came back with friends… used the sugar eggs as rollers… Nigel helped."
"Nigel?" he murmured.
"… had to invent a whole new technology…. said he was a pencil eraser… and then an even more fearsome creature than the dreadful kitten… ran off with you, then brought you back… seemed to want me to throw you for him to fetch… then Annie… winged creatures with beaks… we detonated the curry powder and… finally we were in, and here we are."
"Yeah." The memories were already fading, stolen by the urge to sleep. He sat up again. "So you found an open door and brought me in. Where's the person who lives here?"
"Asleep," George said. "There are many empty cans that once held foul-smelling poisoned liquid all around him."
"Beer," Sheppard realised. He stood up, wrapping the Kleenex arozund him, and wandered over to George. The television's sound was off, and there were plenty of places they could hide if they heard the human moving. "Up for another game?"
It required two of them to plug the second controller in, but they managed it. Sheppard didn't recognise the game on the screen so far above him, but it seemed like a standard fighting game, when two warriors in fantastical clothing tried to beat the crap out of each other using bizarre weapons.
"You are playing a female?" George said in surprise.
Sheppard shrugged stiffly. "Better eye candy."
They fought for a few seconds, but Sheppard soon realised the problem. Using the controller was a whole body endeavour, and he just wasn't big enough to do it properly. His fighter moved stiffly, slowly. He parried, then had to plunge across the controller to try to land a blow. Figures, he thought, in frustration. He was trapped in a body that refused to work properly, and which kept depositing him face first in the dirt. He couldn't even enjoy the escapism of controlling a half-naked warrior woman.
"It should not be possible to fight in clothes like that," George said, after a moment's mesmerised silence. "Are… features like that real in your species?"
"The animator has put a lot of work into making them move," Sheppard said, then he shied back. "Whoa! That was alarming."
"Why does the female warrior not topple over from the weight?"
"Because she's not real?" Sheppard froze, hand over the controls. "She isn't, is she? You haven't had long and interesting conversations with her?" After the Lego Liberation front and the depressed fridge magnets, he supposed anything was possible. "I still respect you as a woman," he said loudly, just in case. "I'm sure the violet hot-pants are very stylish."
The half-naked woman did not reply. It was probably best that way.
They resumed the fight, neither of them managing to land any real blows, except by accident. With great physical effort, Sheppard managed to take a tenth of his opponent's health off, but when he attempted to follow the advantage up, he slipped and fell off the controller. By the time he recovered himself, George had just managed to turn his character around.
"This isn't working," Sheppard said, when the doomed fight had last ten minutes.
"We need to work together," he said. "One of us take one side of the controller, and one the other."
"We can do that?"
He felt as if he was coming back to life again – back in control, back making the plans. "Of course we can. If we fight separately, we fail, but if we join forces and work together…"
"Nothing can stand against us." The Wraith's eyes were gleaming. "Except for kittens," he added.
"Don't see no kittens here," Sheppard said. "Come on, George, let's kick the computer's ass."
And they did.
And now for the blooper reel
end of episode six
Trailer for episode seven: Here be terrible, dreadful MONSTERS, with teeth and fire and flame. Honestly, the special effects are just amazing!
Note: The trailer for episode six implied that Sheppard would be struggling through the rain. This was indeed the plan, but when snow suddenly appeared totally unexpectedly in the middle of a warm and sunny spring, I had to take advantage of it and rewrite the script.