XI: Division & Dissension
“He knows,” I say under my breath. “Ty knows.”
Don’t jump to conclusions, Jimmy, Bump says from that place somewhere in my head. We don’t know that for sure.
“What the hell do you mean that we don’t know?” I’m shouting now. “Look at this notebook! Mr. G’s name is scribbled in every single blank space!”
Okay, I will grant you that this doesn’t look good, but you need to calm down, Jimmy. Things are going to get really dangerous if you don’t keep a level head about this, Bump replies.
“You want me to calm down?” in a matter of moments, I’ve gone from shouting to seething. “There’s a pretty high probability that my cousin was just kidnapped by evil ghosts in broad daylight, but sure, let me just calm down.”
I get it, Jimmy, I do, Bump says. If you go out there looking for trouble in this state, though, you’re going to find it.
“Get out of my body, Bump,” I say, so low that it’s almost a whisper at this point.
For a moment, my mind is silent save for my own thoughts. My body stands stalk still, indicating that Bump is still possessing me.
What are you going to do when I give you back control? He asks.
His tone is completely level; so much so that I find it infuriating in my current state of mind. I see where he’s going with this though, and his logic is flawless. Still, far be it for me to admit that. Instead, I just give the most noncommittal response I can muster.
“Whatever I have to.”
Bump is in my head, though. He knows that I know he’s right. Much to my relief, he doesn’t point this out. Instead, there’s a muted green flash with a pale-skinned young man standing at the other side of it.
In control of my body once more, I immediately begin to dig through the rest of Ty’s things, checking to see if there’s anything else in this disorganized mass of jumbled possessions that can give me a clue as to his whereabouts.
“There’s nothing else there, Jimmy,” Bump says. “I’ve already checked—three times.”
“You’ve checked,” I say, “I haven’t.”
The reasoning is stubborn, childish, asinine; but right now, it’s the only reasoning I have. I need to protect Ty, and I’ve already proven that I will go to any lengths to do that; even if those lengths make no logical sense. Bump places a hand on my shoulder, and I just shrug him off and keep digging through that pile of unwashed clothes and miscellaneous knickknacks.
“Jimmy…” Bump says.
“My name is James!” I snap. “You would know that if you hadn’t walked out on me!”
The air in the room goes cold. I know that this accusation isn’t fair. What happened thirteen years ago wasn’t Bump’s fault, and neither is any of this. But right now, it helps to have somebody to blame. Unfortunately for Bump, he just so happens to be the only other person—or ghost, or imaginary friend, or whatever he is—here right now, besides myself.
“I’m here now,” he says. “Jimmy—James,” he corrects himself quickly, probably not wanting to provoke me any further, “let me help you.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah, you’re here now. Look what you brought with you! Ghosts, and Boogeymen, and all types of other bizarre shit to put my family in danger with!”
“You know that that isn’t true,” he says. For the first time since his return, Bump’s inflection has lost its slick, knowing lilt. There’s something else in it now. It’s apologetic. It’s also defensive though—maybe even angry. “Those things would be here whether I was here or not; and even if I wasn’t here, they’d still be after Ty. I am not the problem, Jimmy. Right now, I am one of the only people at your side, trying to fix it.” This time, he doesn’t stop to correct my name.
“Well, you’re doing a hell of a job,” I shoot back, standing up to face him. “We’ve been partners again for, what, one day? And Ty has already gone missing!”
His eyebrows sink, and the corners of his mouth turn down. “We never stopped being partners,” he says quietly.
“You could have fooled me,” I say back.
“How many times do I have to apologize for that?” Bump pleads. “It wasn’t my fault, and I never stopped looking over you.”
“Maybe you should have,” I say under my breath.
Even on my own tongue, the words taste like venom. I wish I hadn’t said them, but I did, and now they hang between the two of us like a field of mines just waiting to be provoked so that they can explode into something ugly, and bitter, and destructive. Bump, though, manages to pick the only two words that can cause this conflict to go out with a fizzle instead of with a bang.
I know he doesn’t mean it. His arms are folded protectively across his chest, and his eyes are cast down at the floor, trying desperately to avoid mine. The expression on his face is agony, and I instantly regret everything I’ve said. My words had been petty and toxic, provoked by a massive overdose of too much too quick. I want to apologize. I want to clear the air between us of this treacherous minefield which I’ve managed to plant. Before I can, though, I hear something. It’s a set of footsteps, coming up the stairs, heading in my direction. I look at the clock on my phone. Uncle Bobby and Aunt Clarice shouldn’t be home from work for several hours, still.
I exchange a look with Bump, and for a moment we set this thing between us aside. He gives me a long look, as though asking permission, and I nod hesitantly. As hesitant as I may be to allow Bump to reassume control of my body right now though, I’m more hesitant to allow myself to become some Boogeyman’s plaything because of some juvenile argument that was my own fault in the first place.
Another flash of green, and suddenly my body is standing with a shield in position and a sword at the ready. I’m prepared for Bump to fight us out of this, the same way that he had in the gym last night. I’m prepared to allow him to use my body to do so, and to face whichever physical repercussions that may entail, so long as they’re short of death. I’m not prepared yet to explain to my aunt and uncle why my room will look like a warzone after this, but I’m working on it. Then, I hear the voice.
“Jim? Is that you? Did you actually skip class? Who are you talking to up here?”
Bump realizes who’s speaking just as quickly as I do, and rushes to evacuate my body. There’s yet another flash of green, and my imaginary shield, sword, and armor vanish. Unfortunately, they don’t do so quite quickly enough.
“What in the name of every circle of hell was that?” Ty asks from just outside the doorframe.