It was a grassy plain. Several trees in the distance, the city far away. It was a silent breeze, embracing the insane little son of Professor Membrane, the genius inventor. It was the lamp light, the distant blues music from the old, homeless widow, the wafting odor of rotting pork, that accompanied his silent odyssey. All he had were his telescope, a jacket, and a dwindling consciousness. It was late at night after all. Or maybe it was the food he hadn't eaten, or the vitamins he missed. Or the assurance, the purpose, he was always lacking.
Dib adjusted his telescope and focused on the semi-clear sky, willing his childhood dreams into existence. He could take that most of the Bigfoot clips were hoaxes, or that ghosts were nothing more than Photoshop blurs, in the "evidence" collected by the Swollen Eyeball Network. But he'd find them one day. He'd find the aliens himself. He'd prove paranormal science was as real and interesting and maybe even profitable.
Then his father would be proud of him... Or something.
Yet the evening was dark and the banality of space was all that engulfed the boy. He had school tomorrow, not that it mattered—but he was just tired of everything. He took off his glasses and wiped off the condensation. He snapped one last hopeless peep through the telescope, hoping for absolutely nothing...
And that was when a bright spark appeared. A few degrees below the Orion's Belt. The flash lasted a few seconds, streaking the dark bland sky with a thin line of fleeting promise. Shooting stars took straight to curved trajectories, based on the relative location of the viewer... No way, it's not a star... This is it...his proof, his sanity...
[Five years later]
Zim was a headache he couldn't shake off. That abnormal excuse for a freak was nothing but pride and will to destroy his (beloved?) home planet. If anything, he just wished the Eyeballs would capture him, dissect him, and put his body on display—anything to render his loud, egocentric mouth useless and permanently silent. He'd take the credit and move on with his dank life. Besides, first honors in school didn't get him any more attention than his publicized failures.
For the last time, he wished that any other alien infiltrated the Earth, not this stupid Irken...
There was a crash somewhere below him, and he heard the telltale clink sounds of Zim's PAK legs, tapping and grazing cement as the alien scaled the walls to the roof of the Membrane house.
"Dib-stink," greeted the green-skinned extraterrestrial, "the largeness of your head is disturbing! Why not have it amputated to a more preferable size and shape?"
"Get off my roof, Zim! The nerve of some people...uh, I mean, aliens." Dib slumped over his laptop and continued muttering under his breath, silently wishing he had a stick to hit Zim with, although he was too lethargic to even bother with the invader. He focused on searching different directories for a certain file. He cursed at himself for forgetting to put a shortcut the last time he used it.
Zim plopped himself down beside the human. Dib was aimlessly opening one at random file at a time and dismissing it immediately. "What are you looking for?"
"Shut up, Zim. Leave me alone. I'm busy."
The Irken retracted the concerned face he had almost put on. The boy's aura was far too cold to tackle this way.
Zim would admit to most things Dib accused him of—being crazy, having no conclusive plans, illogical, becoming too easy a rival—but then every night as he called home to the Massive, he would see his superiors chugging down junk food like a wood-chipper, viciously eying him, awaiting any small mistakes, ready to accuse him. Those things hurt, and he wasn't supposed to hurt. Dib was different. When Dib called him names, he was echoing the jeers he absorbed himself. They were the same. That was the only thing he'd never admit to.
And that Dib was fading.
Dib was silent nowadays. He sat listlessly in the house, in front of his computer all day. He never ate, seldom left his room that the sun missed him and his skin became too pale to distinguish from the white glare of his laptop. Zim almost pitied his nemesis. So frail now. He had stopped ordering ultra-destructive weapons in fear of injuring the boy too much. He shouldn't have missed what triggered the change, having been in practically daily confrontations with the outcast defender of the filthy humans swarming the germy soil, the vapid air...
"I knew it!" Excitement suddenly crossed Dib's face for the first time in weeks, Zim noted. He seemed to have found what he was looking for, since he left the computer playing a video in full-screen and scurried to the video-telescope setup beside him. "It's tonight."
"What's tonight, Dib-head?"
"The exact configuration of stars... We're at the proper orbital angle," said Dib, more to himself, vaguely motioning toward the sky.
Zim looked up. If he focused hard enough he could see Irk in its meek pink atmospheric glow, the light rings a nostalgic reminder of his beginnings.
"Right there!" cried Dib. To Zim's astonishment, he was pointing right at his home planet. "That's where I saw it! A burst of light! That was the definite sign I needed to push on with my paranormal studies! It was anything but a falling star, I thought, it was definitely—"
"That was me," Zim said. Curiosity emanated from his entire face, clashing with the utter shock and diminishing faith on Dib's. Zim returned his glance to the video still playing, and he recognized from memory what was blurred by pixelation: that odd path he took after Gir lunged at the controls and they were sent radically off-course. "Five years ago. I left Irk to invade this substandard little planet of yours."
"Were you...that star?" the human asked quietly.
"Are you the same star?" he sobbed, feeling his world collapsing as his knees gave way—only for two thin arms to catch him before he hit the ground.
It was a yearly exploit. Maybe the star would flare again. He wished it would, just for any indication of being alive out there, within the hundred million lightyear-diameter of the Milky Way. That video he shot with his video-telescope (an expensive tool he put together for himself) reminded him that there were beings out of his line of sight, teasing him with their mystery. He just had to claim it.
But if it was just Zim, then that short-lived hope was not only shattered into fine powder, but also mashed against burning coal...
"I am ZIM! Yes I am a star. The reason you exist is Zim!" yelled the Irken. Talk of stars and paranormal bouts of inspiration. Zim scoffed at the idea. Surely the boy was not this lost in his desperate search for acceptance.
His boastful retorts made no sense to Dib, but if anything, that familiar tone, matching his familiar pose—arms outstretched to the sky, ready to accept victory—was the kind of enthusiasm Dib himself used to have, and wanted to find again.
I will find the aliens and bring them to you! They're real, Dad! Believe me! Agent Darkbooty? (Please...?)
He would never admit it to Zim, but when he cracked a smile at the alien, he was thankful that Zim came to Earth five years ago.
It was a chilly evening, and atop the most spectacular household's roof in that unknown street sat a human boy and an Irken who had both stopped shivering.