Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sixteenth Day

Second Gordon chapter in a row. Not the best planning, but I needed to get him caught up so that I can line the next bit up with Jaden's part of it all.

As for a title, so far I'm liking Bertrand's suggestion of "The Accidental Oneironaut." I also thought of "Oneiromancy for Beginners," which I like but which would be a little weird since I haven't really been using the term "oneiromancy" in the book.

Chapter 20

Gordon didn't have much time to himself that weekend. Only the excuse of homework kept him away from family outings with the visiting relatives, or having to entertain little Colin. Though within that "homework" time he also managed to draw the picture he had promised Lucy. He was grateful, as he had often been in the past, that he had a hobby that could look so studious, as long as you did it at a desk, with lots of open books around. It was an easy way to get undisturbed time.

On Monday, Gordon left the drawing on Lucy's desk before History class, as he had gotten in the habit of doing. For a few minutes he watched other students trickle in, and wondered where Lucy was. She finally arrived at the last second before the bell, sat down, and pushed the drawing under her binder without even looking at it.

Ouch. Gordon was about to lean over and say something – he had no idea what – but their History teacher was nothing if not punctual, and immediately cut off all talking to begin class. He tried, during class, to simply catch Lucy's eye, but she seemed unusually riveted by the lecture and intent on the names and dates up on the chalkboard. After class, she was instantly away talking and laughing animatedly with two of the girls that sat on the other side of her, and Gordon was left behind with his drawing, which he picked up after seeing it abandoned on her desk.

He went to Galbraith After School Support that afternoon. He had ceased thinking of it as the G.A.S.S. chamber the previous week, but it was now back to being torturous. Lucy very pointedly focused on helping the other students there, even the ones who didn't need much help. If Gordon asked her a question about maths, she would answer politely and correctly, but with no more words than necessary, and then would be back to another student again. Gordon made himself stay until the bitter end, though, and then followed her out as she left, walking quickly to the bus stop.

"Lucy! Wait! Hold on a minute!"

She kept walking quickly so he just jogged briefly to catch up with her.

"What is it?" she asked curtly, not looking around at him as he drew up behind her.

"That's what I wanted to ask you," Gordon replied. "Look, is this about me not calling you? If so, I'm really sorry. I was… really busy this weekend."

"Well, you still could have called to tell me that much, even if you didn't have time to talk or to do anything. How do you think I was feeling about it? Pretty stupid, I can tell you."

"Huh? Stupid? You? I'm the stupid one for not calling you."

"Yes! There I was, thinking you liked me, and I even went ahead and kissed you, and wrote you that stupid little note, and then you don't even call me. I was sure you would, but I guess I was wrong."

"No! Really, um… thank you for the note, and for, you know, everything. I wanted to call you, honestly. But I couldn't because the note… well, I kind of lost it."

"Kind of lost it? How do you kind of lose something?"

"Well, to tell the truth, it kind of – sorry – it did get destroyed."

"A likely story. And how did this poor, pitiful specimen of correspondence get so hopelessly obliterated?"

"Look, it's true, and I don't want to lie to you. But if I told you what really happened to it, you'd think I was making it up, which would be almost as bad as actually lying."

"Oh? Well you'd better say something, so might as well give it a try."

They were nearly at the bus stop. Gordon stopped walking and Lucy turned around to look at him, expectantly.

"Do you have to catch the next bus?" he asked, "or could we maybe keep walking for a bit? The story may take a bit of telling."

"Really? Alright then, let's walk. If we head this direction, I can just catch the bus at another stop if I need to."

Gordon took a deep breath as he thought about where to start. He told her about the toy cat he had had as a child, and then about the strange occurrences with the dead mouse – "remember those first drawings you saw?" – and the nighttime movements of the stuffed animal. And he told her about actually seeing it move, and chasing after it but losing it. And finally, he described the creature's senseless rampage on his desk, resulting in the regrettable loss of the note and phone number, but ultimately leading to Ixy's capture.

"And, well, there in a nutshell is why I didn't call you this weekend," Gordon gave a nervous little chuckle. "It's kind of a lot to deal with. It feels good to be able to tell someone about it, though. Assuming, of course, that you don't think I'm crazy?"

Lucy had been silent the entire time he was talking, and now she spoke slowly and carefully.

"I think I may reserve judgment for now on the craziness question," she said. "This is a lot to expect me to swallow all at once. I'd be inclined to think you just made it all up. Though you do seem very… sincere."

"It may be hard to prove that I'm not making it all up. Ixy only seems to be possessed or whatever it is at night, and I’m not even sure it's every night."

"Yes, how very inconvenient."

"But, I suppose I could at least prove that I didn't make it up on the spot right now. There really is a stuffed cat wrapped in duct tape in a shoe box under my bed. Though I don't really know if that would reassure you much or not. Kind of a weird thing to have under one's bed, I know."

"Well, I'm still not going to say I believe you just yet. But if you wanted to show me… I guess I could at least take a look."

"Great! Do you want to come over now? I mean," Gordon tried to not sound quite so excited, "thanks for giving me a chance, and if it's convenient for you and everything… my parents could give you a ride home later."

"Sure, why not?"

"If we cross the street, we should be able to get the bus to my house in just a few minutes."

It was a somewhat tense bus ride at first, though eventually Lucy broke the silence with some comments about Mr. MacDowell's overzealousness in assigning algebra homework. They chatted a little bit about the trials of high school, then in a pause, Lucy looked down at her hands.

"I'm sorry," she said, "that I got mad at you. I shouldn't have done."

"That's okay. I mean, I should have called you, after all."

"And I know you meant to. I shouldn't have gotten so upset over such a little thing when I hadn't even heard your side of the story." She gave him a little smile. "No hard feelings?"

"Of course not."

She reached over and gave his hand a quick squeeze, then let go as he reached up to ring the bell for their stop.

Lucy gasped in delight when she saw all of Gordon's drawings around his room, but then grew more serious when he showed her the pile of ripped sketches that he still had from his book and the lower walls. Then he brought the shoe box out from beneath his bed and peeled the tape of off it.

There was Ixy, still inside, and still bound in duct tape. Gordon was pleased to see that the inside of the box bore some scratch marks, which he pointed out to bolster his story. Lucy still looked serious.

"So what are you planning to do about it?" she asked.

"Well that's the question now, isn't it?" replied Gordon. "What am I going to do about it? I've certainly never had one of these before. Performing some sort of ritual exorcism or something is the best idea I can come up with."

He showed her the library books he had, and the possibly useful parts he had highlighted. They pored over them together for a few minutes.

"Anyway, whatever I do," Gordon went on, "I figure I had better do it soon. It's just too weird and creepy having this thing under my bed."

"No, I know when you should do it," Lucy's voice was suddenly decisive. "Beltane is next weekend, May Day."

"Why then?"

"It's a time when the spirit world is closer to our world. It should be easier to send whatever it is that's doing the possessing back to where it came from." In answer to Gordon's questioning glance, she added, "My mum is into all that neo pagan wicca stuff. I pick up random things here and there."

"Hmm, okay. Next weekend. I guess I can wait. She seems to be fairly safe locked up in here like this. As long as she doesn't claw her way out."

"And have you thought about where to do it?"

"Well, it seems from all the references as though a church would be the most effective place, but I doubt we'd have an easy time getting into a church to perform an unauthorized exorcism ritual without getting caught. Got to be careful about that, by the way. My mum already suspects I'm getting into Satanic cults or something."

"How about St. Andrew's then? The ruins. Would that work?"

"Where is St. Andrew's?"

"Haven't you ever been up to Arthur's Seat? St. Andrew's is the church up on the hill, below Arthur's Seat and looking over that little lake. It's just a few small ruins now, but it's better than nothing. I'm sure it still counts as a church in some sense of the word."

"Oh, that church. Yes, good idea."

"So shall we say Friday at midnight, up at St. Andrew's? That would put us there at the witching hour, and right at the beginning of Beltane. We should probably meet earlier to find our way up there in the dark together, though."

"Are you actually going to help? Does this mean you believe everything?"

"Yes, and maybe. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt, but I want to reserve a nominal claim on my own sanity if this all turns out to be something crazy."

"Thanks," Gordon grinned, "I'll take it."

"Awfully strange sort of first date, of course," Lucy said, glancing at him sideways.

"Oh! Um," Gordon flustered a bit at the change of subject. "Well, maybe we could also do something else before then?"

"I'd like that."

There was the sound then of a key in a lock and the front door opening. Two pairs of footsteps sounded in the hallway.

"Gordon! Hello, dear, we're home!"

Gordon sighed.

"That'll be my mum bringing my little sister back from day care. Come on out, I should probably introduce you."

Mrs. Ross was very pleased to meet Lucy. She knew Mrs. Campbell from PTA events, and had heard good things about her daughter, so she was very pleased that Gordon was making friends with someone who would be such a good influence on him, though luckily she refrained from actually saying that in front of Lucy. Fiona just snickered a little bit from behind her mother's back, mouthing the word "girlfriend" at Gordon until he made menacing faces at her.

"Anyway," Gordon said, "we're working on a history project together, so Lucy just came over after school to do some preliminary research."

"Yes, and I'd probably better be getting home soon," Lucy added.

"Oh alright. Would you like me to drive you, dear?"

"That would be lovely, thank you. It's not too far."

"My pleasure. Just let me know when you're ready."

"I'll just go get my book bag."

Back in Gordon's room, Lucy asked somewhat sheepishly if she could still have the picture he had drawn of the two of them on Edinburgh Castle.

"Of course you can," he said, "I didn't think it was all that bad, so I saved it."

"Thank you," she said, taking the paper. "And it's not bad at all. It's beautiful."

She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then went back out to get her ride home.