Chapter 21: Explaining the disaster to come
We were all looking at each other. Grandma Twinkle sat at the head of the table, gun set in front of her as she fixed us with her no nonsense eyes. Mom was beside me, holding my hand under the table. It was reassuring, and for once I didn’t mind being treated like a child. After this little episode, I think I shall be quite a bit closer to my mother.
Justin was sitting across from me with Hodge in his lap. The dog periodically lost a body part which Justin deftly caught and set right. Apparently he had a lot of skill with it. Nikki sat across from her grandmother, Manny swaying behind her. Boston was floating up near the light fixtures in the ceiling.
“Since I know that we grown ups and you kids probably know nothing about the sand man, I suggest you fairy tale things start talking.” Grandma Twinkle said severely. She fixed her eyes to the ceiling. “Starting with you, cat.”
“Why me?” Boston asked guardedly.
“Because you have half an idea of what’s going on. Don’t look at me that way. Patricia here told me about what you say when you think you’re alone with Helena. Spit out the rest, cat.”
Boston wavered in the air, uncertain. Then he descended to the center of the table and smoothed out his jacket. “I’m afraid you’ve caught me at a bad time.” “I don’t care if your clothes are mussed cat-”
“I wasn’t talking about that,” Boston interrupted hastily. “I meant that if this had happened later, I may have been able to tell you more. As it is now, I can only give you a bare bones explanation. And I think I may be missing a femur or so, so you’ll please bear with me.” He scratched his chin with a claw before continuing. “As far as I can tell, they’re .it’s difficult to explain, the closest I can get are puppets.”
“Puppets? Who’s the puppet master then?” Nikki asked, hands propping her chin up.
“I can’t tell. And, they’re not exactly puppets, more .it’s difficult to explain. Several hundred plus years of sleeping does fog the mind. I do know they have a purpose beyond what they’ve been doing. Which leads me to believe that there may be no one pulling the strings.”
“Then why did they attack us?” I asked.
“They are drawn to you just as myself and the others are. And those that have been bonded with one of my kind become more noticeable, like beacons.”
“Great. I have a sign plastered on me that says attack me, I’m friends with the personifications of belief’?” Nikki said, crossing her arms. “I don’t think I signed up for that.”
“Something must have happened to the seal that kept us away from the world. A little break lets us loose. More allows them to escape. More than that will spell disaster.”
“And this isn’t a disaster?” Nikki asked gesturing to her house.
“You are still alive. The puppets fell to bullets. This inconvenience. Believe me, it could have been much worse. The dreams of yesterday shape the monsters that attacked you this day.” He slowly blinked. “And some of them were scary. The ones you saw today, dangerous though they are, are almost docile compared to some that I’ve seen.”
“Then you have to leave.” Mom said abruptly.
“Quiet Helen. He already said that he’s putting you in danger just by being with you, and that this, THIS was an inconvenience! I will not have you killed by one of these things!” She shot Boston a look that he quickly withered under.
“To be honest Mrs. Nesmond,” he said when he found the courage to speak, “It won’t matter if I leave or not. They are drawn to her all the same. Like I said, they come to those that attract us, and she has something that no one else here has. It shines. My leaving won’t dull that.” He flicked his ears back and looked at her stubbornly. “She picked me up. She saw me when no one was supposed to. That has to be something, doesn’t it?”
“Why are you asking her?” Grandma Twinkle raised an eyebrow.
“I forgot the whole mythology, history, whatever, alright? Give me a break.” Boston laid his ears back against his skull. “Like I said, being alone in a temple, asleep for most of the time tends to make you just a little bit forgetful.”
“You were asleep?” Manny asked suddenly. “I remember being awake.”
" not exactly asleep, but we all get the point. It was a long time ago!”
“You knowingly put my daughter in danger?!” My mother was beginning to puff up, a sure sign of trouble.
“She was not in danger at the time! We were the only ones loose; there was no danger for her!”
“Did you know it could happen? Did you even care?”
“Mom! That is unfair and you know it! Stop it right now!” I slammed my wounded hand on the table, ignoring the pain. “Were you not listening? They would come after me anyway; it doesn’t matter now that he’s here or not. We can’t help that now. All we can do now is prepare ourselves for the inevitable.” The silence embarrassed me but I didn’t sit back down. When I shot a glance at Boston, he was appraising me with glittering eyes.
“You’re right.” Mom said after awhile. “I’m sorry, Boston.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Can we block them out or something? Keep them away?”
“Not really. But death is a good a deterrent as any. They’ll be wary to approach when they know one of their own has died there.”
“Fine. I’m going home, I have a kitchen to clean.”
“What about me?” Justin asked. “They’re gonna come after me too, right? What do I do?”
Boston twitched his tail then turned to Grandma Twinkle. “Is that sand still out in the hall?”
“What’s sand going to do?” Justin asked.
“Give the illusion that something died. You should be able to make a charm of it. If you wear it like a necklace, you should scare them enough to get away if one does happen to show up.”
“Might as well make one for everybody.” Grandma Twinkle muttered as she got up to leave.
“Might as well.” Boston said in a low voice, with a great deal less conviction.
I didn’t like it.
The bottle was full of gray sand, and it made me sick. It was like an old conquerors that wore the body parts of their enemies to frighten people. Wasn’t this exactly what it was?
Puppets. Ugly puppets. The only reasons to make those kinds of puppets are as weapons of fear and terror.
The rain was hitting the window hard. Some lucky break, nobody was home when the gunshots went off except the deaf people across the street, which was a little too convenient for me. Almost as if it had been waiting for the right moment, which makes me wonder how long it had been there.
Boston is downstairs with my mother, probably hovering to figure out what to do and bringing Mom up to date with all that he knows. Heaven forbid he should tell me such things.
But would I really want to know? I mean, if he looks at this little episode as a minor setback or something, then what the heck was it like the last time he was wandering around? And what was he doing at the time when this was all happening to know so much? I sincerely doubt he and Manny or Hodge Podge were on the same social ladder. And something tells me he isn’t as nice as I though him to be. There’s something in his eyes that have begun to slip out, and only now was it made so blatantly obvious.
I put the bottle of sand carefully on the dresser and sat down on my bed. Justin got a hold of his aunt and was being driven up to his area of Kansas tomorrow, with his little bottle of joy as well. Nikki and his Grandmother were going with him. Which means that I’ll be alone in the house tomorrow. I’m not going to school with a bruised neck. People will think my mother beats me.
Of course she does shoot a gun, and I bet if they knew that they’d think anything was possible.
“You realize your mother wants me to wash dishes?! I’m a cat, I hate water!” Boston complained as he floated in. “That woman is evil, I-” He stopped when he realized I wasn’t actually paying attention to him.
He floated until his nose was touching mine. “What is it Helen?”
I looked into his eyes. They didn’t glitter. They were clear and slightly worried.
I frowned. He jerked back, surprised.
“Who are you? Really?” I asked seriously.
“Really?” He twitched his ears. “I don’t remember.”
“That’s an excuse that’s getting real annoying.”
“It’s the only one I have, I’m sorry. I can’t magically bring the memories back, Helen. They come back or they don’t.”
“I know, it’s just that.I’m confused about where we stand now Boston.”
“Neither of us is standing. I am floating, and you are lying down on the bed.”
“Don’t be asinine.”
“It’s one of my better traits.”
He floated down to lay on his back beside me. “I can’t tell you what happens now. You may not like all the things that happen in the not so distant future. Things may get difficult, hard to follow, and you may see things that will haunt you for the rest of your life, whether it is horrible or horribly humiliating. You can’t escape from that now, but you can rise above it.”
“When you said I had something, what did you mean?”
“Not everyone can simply scoop up an origin and walk off with it. Those are dangerous things, you know.”
“Mom picked you up.”
“Because I knew it would bring me to you. But that isn’t the point. I didn’t change. You handed off Manny like you were trading a baseball card. That’s not supposed to happen. Conversions can be debilitating, even deadly. In your hands, Manny didn’t so much as lose a leaf. That’s something. I’m not sure what it is yet, but it’s something.” He yawned.
“Is that it?” I tried not to sound disappointed.
He looked over at me. “Where there is one flaw in the master design there are more. We’ll just have to sit back and wait for it.”
“The master design?”
“Fancy way of saying ‘the way things used to be’. Stick with me, kid, and you’ll find out all of the cool phrases.” He elbowed me in the ribs.
I snorted with laughter. “My life is complete.”
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