August 19, 2016 by Zoë
As soon as I read the topic for this week’s Feature and Follow, Back to Before by K. A. Applegate immediately came to mind. Back to Before is one of the special Animorphs books. In this one, the Drode allows Jake to go back and change his decision to walk through the construction site–a decision that ended up pitting the characters in the series against a race of invading aliens. Fed up with the battles and the constant tough decisions, Jake agrees to the Drode’s offer and we’re plunged into an alternate reality in which the Animorphs don’t have morphing capabilities and don’t know anything about the Yeerks.
Opinion on this book varies greatly in the fan community. I, personally, really like it, because I really like alternate universes in general. I like thinking about how characters we know and love can be changed–slightly or radically–due to different choices or differences in their environment. (For what it’s worth, I also really like Elfangor’s Secret, another of those special books. It also has to do with alternate reality versions of the Animorphs.)
No matter what your feelings on the book in general are, though, I think the opening scene is amazing. It’s one of those moments I had reading the series for the first time as a child when I stopped and thought, Maybe I shouldn’t be reading this. It’s very, very dark:
I tried to get up. There was a body lying on me. Hork-Bajir. His wrist blade was jammed against my side.
I tried to lift up with all four legs, lift the dead thing off me. But I only had three legs. My hind leg lay across the bright-lit floor, a curiosity, a macabre relic. Tiger’s paw.
I tried to slide. That was better. The floor was wood, highly polished. Slick with blood, animal, alien, human. I reached out with my two paws, extended the claws, and dug into the wood. They didn’t catch at first. But then my right paw chewed wood and I gained traction.
A voice said, “Help. Please help me.”
That voice? It belongs to a Controller, one of the invading aliens. Throughout the rest of the scene, while the Animorphs pull themselves together and make sure everyone is still alive after the latest battle, the Controller continues to ask for help, saying how he’s cold and how he’s scared. He’s slowly bleeding out. The Animorphs leave him there.
This scene has stuck with me over all these years because of how chilling it is. Yeerks have feelings too. Yeerks can also be scared, can also feel pain, can also die. Jake doesn’t do anything about it, and neither does anyone else. They leave.