Thursday, November 17, 2005

Seventeenth Day

I crossed the 100 page mark today. That's with 1.5 spaced Palatino, on regular letter sized paper. Don't know how much that would be in a book, but it's a cool landmark, anyway.

If you want to see the ruins of St. Andrew's church, for the Gordon and Lucy part, I've got a couple pictures here and here. That first view is the one that I really loved when I first saw it.

Mother has volunteered to come up with all the bad book titles for me, beginning with "The Hand and the Kitty." I won't be using that one. Tina had a good suggestion of "The Oneironaut's Handbook" as well.

Chapter 21

Jaden was feeling nervous and distracted all day at work on Friday, April 30th. Coupled with his nonfunctional right hand, this made him almost completely unproductive. He had told Stacey and Todd that he was going back for some more tests and some physical therapy, so he would need the next week off since it probably wasn't wise to be trying to do much with his hand in that shape this soon after the accident. Stacey could tell he was a bit more stressed than usual, and eventually just sent him home in the middle of the afternoon, telling him to get some rest. Todd made good-natured dying noises as he contemplated dealing without Jaden for another week, and wished him well on his recovery.

He left gladly, but was unable to rest much when he got home. He wasn't sure if he really needed to or not, though. He was starting his quest at midnight, so a good nap might seem to be in order beforehand. But on the other hand, he'd be asleep for the entire thing, so he wasn't sure a nap would make much difference. Confusing stuff, this dream travel. He busied himself for a while trying to read more of the books he had borrowed, then made himself a quick, light dinner, and headed over to Prof. Oddbury's apartment.

"Tonight's the night, my boy!" Oddbury exclaimed as soon as Jaden entered. "Beltane begins at midnight! The witching hour! I haven't been this excited since my own last trip back in '57."

He spread two maps out on the desk to review with Jaden. One was of their Mountain View neighborhood, and the other was of the dreamlands.

"As you can see, if this building here corresponds to 250 Richards Street," the professor explained, "then the river running along here roughly lines up with this cross street." He pointed to another spot a little ways along the river. "So if you are traveling from my apartment, you should end up approximately here. It should be easy to find your way, since there are not many other buildings nearby."

"Great. So what do I do when I get there?"

"That, I'm afraid, will be up to you. It is impossible to tell precisely what sort of a reception you will get there, so all I can recommend is to use extreme caution and your best judgment."

"Just for the record, I would like to state that I am scared shitless."

"Quite natural, my boy, quite natural. But, nothing ventured nothing gained, eh? Now we must begin the preparations."

From a back room he wheeled out the OneiroPorter. It seemed much smaller and more rickety than Jaden had expected, and he decided not to ask if this was the very one Prof. Oddbury himself had used on his last trip, back in 1957. He would try not to think about that.

Various wires were connected together and plugged in to electrical outlets. Some also ran to the G5 by the desk, and Jaden noted that they seemed to have had Firewire connectors grafted on to the ends of them. The professor explained that this let him set up some extra, automatic monitoring, in addition to the watch he personally would keep on the array of monitors and dials on the machine itself.

Jaden was given his first shot of the appropriately balanced chemical mix an hour early, to let it begin sinking in and to watch for any adverse effects. There were none, but he did begin to feel appropriately sleepy. This had the added benefit of making him feel rather less afraid. At 11:30 PM he lay down on the bed in the middle of the OneiroPorter, which was adjusted for his comfort. The IV was inserted into his arm, and Jaden grew even sleepier, his eyes barely staying open as the professor continued to explain the various wires and dials that were being set up all around him.

Then the professor seemed to be talking very loudly, and pressing something into Jaden's hand, so he tried to pay closer attention. The object was an amulet that was on a cord around his neck, though he couldn't remember having put it on. The professor was saying something about the button on the amulet, and using it only when he was ready to wake up and come back. A nod of acknowledgement seemed to be in order, so Jaden gave one, sleepily, letting his eyes drift closed again. He felt the professor drop the amulet back on his chest, and heard the rustle of a few more adjustments being made, and then he was asleep.

A small clock in the professor's study chimed midnight. It was Beltane. Oddbury took one final glance over Jaden's sleeping form and silently wished him luck. Then he went to the side of the machine and pressed a large red button. He entered various confirmations and security codes, and an envelope of purple light formed inside the machine, around Jaden's body. He stepped back to watch.

* * *

Jaden opened his eyes. He found himself looking out at a sunset over some hills in the middle distance. Apparently the dreamlands were on a slightly different time zone, or else sunset happened at midnight there. A small river ran by a short way away from him, and following it he could see the mansion that he recognized from his vision on Richards Street. Beyond that was a forest.

He felt more awake and alert than he ever had before. If it weren't for what he saw around him, and the knowledge that minutes ago he had been strapped into a bed in Prof. Oddbury's apartment, he would have had trouble believing that he was dreaming. Or in the dreamlands at least. Was it really dreaming, what he was doing? It didn't matter.

Something, however, felt wrong. He looked down at himself and realized in horror what it was. He held his hands up in front of him, but only one appeared. His right arm now stopped completely at the elbow, without even the paralyzed hand and forearm. There was simply nothing.

Once he had adjusted to the shock and calmed down, he told himself there was probably a perfectly understandable explanation for it. After all, the essence of his hand had been captured and imprisoned here in the dreamlands. It seemed logical that while in the dreamlands himself, he would have to play by their rules, and that would mean leaving his hand where it was until he could retrieve it. There probably hadn't been enough of his hand left behind in the waking world to be able to take any of it along with him. Well, this would make things a bit more difficult, but it was all sure to work out in the end.

Jaden put his right elbow back at his side and decided to try not to think about it too much for now. He began walking towards the mansion.

Chapter 22

Gordon had told his parents that he was going to spend the night at his friend Michael's house on Friday April 30th. But after collecting the duct taped box from beneath his bed, as well as the various other exorcism-related ingredients and tools he had assembled, he got back on the bus and went to meet Lucy. She had told her mother a similar story.

They had several hours to kill before they needed to think about heading up to St. Andrew's, so they ate dinner at an Indian restaurant and then saw a movie at the Odeon. Lucy insisted on paying her own way, but she did lean cozily on Gordon's shoulder during some of the more romantic parts of the movie. Gordon himself hardly noticed any of the movie, being equally distracted by both the upcoming night and the possible terrors or embarrassment it might bring, and also the presence of Lucy next to him, with his arm around her. He ate chocolate Revels from a Mars tub mindlessly until his stomach began to ache and he set them aside. Nervousness and a chocolate overdose do not make a great combination.

After the movie, they headed out to Holyrood Park. It was getting late, but still light out thanks to the long evenings of the northern latitudes. Gordon was glad they weren't doing this stage in the pitch dark, since the rocky path up the hill at the base of Arthur's Seat would be tricky without any visibility.

The path curved around some large boulders to a small, flat area on which St. Andrew's church had been built several centuries before. Only a fraction of one stone wall remained, with door and window openings still visible, and crumbling edges. Other small piles of stone lay around the area, showing where other parts of the church had been. A few feet from the opposite side of the wall, the hill sloped down so rapidly as to be almost a cliff, leading to a small pond with ducks and swans below, now all huddled away for the night.

A couple who looked like university students were sitting under the ruins, "watching" the sunset and snogging. Lucy gave a little giggle when she saw them, but they were still far enough away that the couple, being otherwise distracted, didn't notice. Gordon and Lucy backed a little way up the hillside, and found a large rock, from behind which they could wait and observe, unnoticed. Eventually, as darkness more fully closed in, the couple extracted themselves from each other and picked their way carefully through the rocks and back down the hillside.

Lucy got a torch out of her backpack, and Gordon wondered why he hadn't thought to bring one. It was so obvious! They climbed down and surveyed their church.

"Well," said Lucy, clearing a spot on the ground and setting down her bag, "it looks rather more haunted than holy, especially at night, but I suppose it will do." She sat down on a seat-sized rock and Gordon came over to join her. They were a few feet out from the wall and under a completely open sky, but still clearly within the boundaries of the original building. There was a large moon overhead, giving them enough light that they could get by with just minimal help from the torch.

Lucy opened her bag and brought out a wide, shallow bowl, and then a small container of liquid.

"What's that?" Gordon asked.

"Holy water," Lucy said proudly. "There's a church on my way home from school, so I slipped in yesterday. When no one was looking, I managed to sneak a bit."

"Well done!"

She poured the water out into the bowl, and looked at it glistening in the moonlight.

"I suppose," Gordon said, "that seeing as how we haven't exactly got a recipe or anything, we may as well just mix everything together. Is it alright to mix things with holy water?"

"I don't know, but you're right. We might as well try. Didn't you say you had some blood from something this thing had killed?"

Gordon got out the beer bottle from his backpack, opened it, and poured the few drops it contained into the bowl. The red drops swirled and faded in the clear water, leaving an irregular pink haze in it. They both looked around briefly, but neither of them was smitten by lightning, so they carried on. The herbs from Mrs. Ross's spice cabinet were brought forth, and pinches of rosemary, mint and basil were sprinkled on the water in the bowl. The holy water was now looking decidedly unholy.

"Anything else?" Lucy asked.

"I think that's it. Just Ixy now."

Gordon got the shoe box from his bag and peeled off the duct tape. Ixy was there, looking very immobile and very un-demonic. He thought there might be more scratches on the inside of the box, but it was hard to tell in the moonlight.

"So what should we do with her?" he asked.

"We're just making this up as we go along, right?"


"Okay, then. Put her in, too."

"In… the water?"

"Yep. Dunk her. Might as well. It'll be kind of like a baptism, right?"

Gordon shrugged and put Ixy in the bowl. Only her lower half was submerged in the shallow water, but she began soaking it up, and bits of the herbs were clinging to her sides. They both watched her for a minute. Ixy just sat there.

"I'm feeling decidedly silly right about now," Gordon admitted. "I expect you're thinking I just made this all up."

Lucy just shook her head. "We're not done yet. I think we probably ought to say something, see if we can contact whatever it is that's been possessing her."

"Alright, then," Gordon cleared his throat nervously, then put a hand on Ixy's head, since that seemed like it might help. He took a deep breath and said in the deepest, most commanding voice he could manage, "Demon! We hereby command you and bind you with our magic and the magic of Beltane! You will do as we bid you! Reveal yourself!"

"Very good," Lucy nodded approvingly. "But I'm afraid it looks like she's still just sitting there."

She was right, and Gordon began to feel rather sillier even than he had before. He took his hand off of Ixy and sighed.

But then, as they stared at the soggy, duct taped, stuffed cat in the bowl of rather unpleasant water, they thought they saw it begin to twitch slightly. At first it was so slight as to be a trick of the eyes, or a slight gust of wind, but it caught their attention. And the twitching grew and intensified as they watched until it was unmistakable, and the entire animal was shuddering and trembling.

Then a small wisp of what appeared to be smoke began rising out of Ixy's head, apparently from right between her eyes. It rose and expanded, forming a shimmering cloud above her, two or three feet across. Gordon and Lucy were now watching in stunned silence. The cloud stopped expanding and remained fixed in its position. It gave another vigorous shimmer, and then an image appeared on it, as though from a video projector.

The image showed what looked like a very small, apologetic Tyrannosaurus Rex, wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt and a red tie. It shuffled its feet a bit, and bowed its head, looking rather embarrassed to be caught like this. Lucy almost laughed out loud in spite of herself.

"That's it? You're our demon?"

It didn't seem to be able to hear her, though. It appeared to be getting chastised by someone they couldn't see or hear, and it was now outright groveling.

"Gordon, see if you can just tell it to go away and leave Ixy alone. Gordon?"

But Gordon had stopped watching the little demon, and was looking around them. Lucy followed his gaze and gasped.

The moon no longer shone overhead. Looking up, a dark, cavernous ceiling stretched above them, with monochrome stained glass windows high up that let in a very small amount of light. The single ruined wall of St. Andrew's had grown and repaired itself, and now connected with more walls all around them. A hard marble floor was now underfoot in place of the dirt and grass. Pews of dark wood stretched out in rows behind them.

"Have we brought the church back to life?" Lucy whispered. "I always imagined that St. Andrew's would have been a more pleasant place than this."

"I don't know," Gordon replied, "but wherever we are, we seem to have lost control over our demon. Look."

He pointed back at the cloud above Ixy's head. The picture had gone from it, and the smoke was disappearing like real smoke that had never seen a demon in its life. Ixy remained alone in the bowl, all the water, blood and herbs now gone. Gordon picked her up; she was completely dry.