Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tenth Day

I wrote the second half of this chapter first. It's probably better.

Today is the 1/3 of the way day, time-wise. Word-count-wise, I'm a tad behind but not much.

Chapter 12

Gordon continued looking for Ixy on Saturday, though he tried to do it surreptitiously, when no one else was around. His parents would never believe he was that obsessed over a house mouse. Of course, looking wasn't going to be of much use, he figured, since the creature could have gone anywhere after he had left it in the living room the night before, so he didn't spend long there. He checked his own room in case it had decided to come back, though he knew that was probably a long shot as well.

Nevertheless, he checked under his bed and his dresser, and he rooted around in the dark nether regions of his closet. Just to make sure. The hope he was holding out what that Ixy might only be possessed at night, since she had seemed normal enough when he had seen her during the day. If that was the case, then she wouldn't be able to keep moving around in the daytime, and he would have a better chance of finding her. Still, she could have gone anywhere in the night.

His little sister Fiona had caught him looking through her toy box when he thought she was playing outside and asked him indignantly what he was doing.

"Nothing. Just looking for something of mine that I'm missing."

"What's missing?"

"Nothing important. I'm sorry I came in your room without asking." He headed out the door.

"Good, 'cause you can't play with my ponies unless you ask me first."

"Right, I know. I won't." I'm just hoping you won't play with my cat.

"Can we draw something together?" Fiona asked, perking up and looking hopeful.

"Not now, Fiona, I'm busy." But the crestfallen look on her face made him sigh and change his mind. It had been a futile search anyway. Might as well drop it. "Oh, alright. Get the paper and crayons."

"Yay!" Fiona scampered off and came back with an immense stack of paper and a bucket of crayons.

"I'm not going to use all that, so don't get greedy," Gordon said, taking a single sheet. "Now what do you want to draw?"

Drawing with Fiona actually meant that Gordon drew things with nice, crisp outlines and she coloured them in with jagged but enthusiastic scribbles. They both enjoyed it. They came up with a school of tropical fish on one sheet, and a very large butterfly on another, before Gordon got up and said that he had had enough for now. Fiona proudly carried the drawings off to show their parents.

Gordon went back to his own room, looking for his sketch book and thinking he might draw something for himself to keep from worrying about where Ixy might be. He had lots of his drawings up on the walls of his room. Fantasy subjects, mostly: knights slaying dragons, bizarre alien monsters, wizards casting spells. Everything up on display was black and white. He was in a pen and ink phase and had taken down all his old coloured pencil drawings. He pulled the sketch book out from under a few library books. Overdue library books. Dang. He would have to be taking those back soon.

Library books! The library! That was it! What he needed was information. Surely other people throughout history had dealt with supernatural problems, so somewhere there must be books about them. And that somewhere would be the library. Of course, it also occurred to him that the internet would be a much faster and easier way of looking this up, and if he had cooler parents, they'd even have an internet connection in their house. Oh well. The library it was.

He shoved the books into his backpack and headed outside to his bicycle, tossing a hurried "Going to the library!" over his shoulder to his parents on his way out the door.

"What was that, Gordon?" his mother called, leaning out from the kitchen.

"Library!" He was already off and pedaling.

Once he had parked his bike, returned his books, and paid his fines, Gordon sat down at one of the library's internet terminals. He started Googling terms like "exorcism" and "what to do if your pet is possessed by a demon," but unfortunately it seemed that the library's network blocked access to all the sites that were likely to have anything really useful. So he turned to the online card catalog instead.

The choices there were rather scarce as well. He did find a copy of Coping with Satanism, and also Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, both of which looked like they might contain something useful if he looked thoroughly enough. He also put in a request for a copy of Driving Out Demons: Exorcisms Past and Present, from the main library branch. That looked like it would be the one he needed, if he could just get a hold of it.

He checked out the two books he had in hand, and packed them nervously into his bag. He shouldn't be nervous, really, he told himself. They were just books. If someone asked he could always say they were for a school report. Though that might go over better for Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, than for Coping with Satanism, which sounded more like self-help.

He read as much of the two books as he could that weekend, in his room under the guise of studying for school. Most of it wasn't remotely relevant, but he paid close attention to any mention of spirits inhabiting people or animals. They didn't seem to get into toys so much. He went to church on Sunday morning with his family, as usual, but found himself wishing they weren't Protestant. A Catholic church would probably have a nice fount of holy water somewhere handy, but at their church there was nothing. He thought he'd probably find himself needing to nick some holy water from somewhere before too long.

* * *

Monday afternoon. Gordon headed for the study hall for his first visit to Galbraith After School Support. I'm headed for the G.A.S.S. chamber, he thought wryly, I'm going to get G.A.S.S.ed.

He opened the door and looked in, and very nearly turned straight around and left when he saw Lucy Campbell sitting there, along with a small assortment of other students and Mr. MacDowell. But she had seen him too, and he couldn't very well turn tail and run in front of her. Besides, at least they were both in the same boat, having to go to study hall for tutoring. They had that in common, though Gordon had always thought she was a rather better student than he was.

He sat down at her table, a carefully calculated distance from her. Not too close, not too far.

"So, um… what are you in for?" he tried to ask casually. "Maths been getting the better of you, too?"

Lucy gave him a humoring smile. "Actually, I help tutor people here. I get volunteer credit for my social studies class."

Whoo boy. That hadn't gone as planned. Gordon reddened and floundered briefly for a response. Lucy tactfully tried to divert the subject.

"Have you been drawing much more recently?"

"Oh, no. I mean, yes! I mean, yes just not… you know… um…"

"Mutilated rodents?"

"Right. That's it."

There was a brief moment of silence, as though someone had died. Even the group of students at the other table had stopped talking momentarily, just long enough for Gordon to wonder if everyone was listening, disgusted with this boy who can't do maths, sticks his foot in his mouth when talking to pretty girls, and draws gruesome pictures. Normal conversation resumed just in time, and Gordon decided not to commit seppuku after all.

"It looks like you're actually quite good," Lucy said tentatively. "At drawing, I mean. From what I saw. Odd subject matter of course, but well done, nonetheless."

"Well, I don't usually draw things like that, that was just…" he stammered and made a vague motion with his hand. "You know. I've done lots better pictures than that." God, that sounded dumb.

"Maybe I could see some of them sometime?"

"What? Oh! Um, yeah. Sure."

Sure, he thought, you can come home with me, hold my hand on the bus, be enthralled by my drawings, gaze longingly into my eyes, help me exorcise my demonically possessed stuffed kitten, and… no. I'll bring something to school.

Any further conversation was interrupted at that point. Mr. MacDowell. had just finished helping another student and had spotted Gordon. He walked over to their table.

"Hello, Gordon," he said. "Glad to see you could make it. You've met Miss Campbell, I take it? Lucy happens to be in my accelerated algebra class, so she should be more than capable of helping you out. You were going to be doing your algebra assignment, I assume?"

Gordon realized then that he hadn't so much as taken out a book, and was probably just staring ahead like a stunned fish.

"Yes. Maths, that's it. I've got my things right here." He hurriedly pulled out a book and a notepad from his school bag.

"Good, good. Well, I'll be around as well if either of you need anything." Mr. MacDowell moved off to check on the students at the next table, one of whom had her hand up for a question.

Lucy smiled shyly at Gordon. "Well, I suppose we should look at your assignment. Do you want to show me what you've been working on?"

Gordon would have preferred to throw himself off of Salisbury Crags than to find another way of looking stupid in front of Lucy Campbell, but the Crags were not convenient to the study hall and nothing else sufficiently deadly was within reach. He opened his maths book to the assigned chapter.

On further reflection later that afternoon, Gordon thought that perhaps the G.A.S.S. chamber wasn't actually such a brutal fate after all. His algebra assignment had gotten done in record time and with record accuracy, and he may even have learned something from it. And Lucy really was quite smart, and not at all condescending, even when he asked stupid questions. She helped other students too, of course, but seemed to spend – or was it his imagination? – just a bit more time with Gordon whenever she sat down at his table.

Could be worse, he told himself, could definitely be worse.