Chapter Twenty-Two: Drinks Shared and Traps Set
The pub that Gareth and his father found themselves in was small but crowded, with good-spirited drunks pressed together and swaying at the bar. Each open table, while there weren’t many to choose from, was filled with chatty men and women from all walks of life, and from a small stage on the left there came the faint sway of wordless, high-spirited music.
"So, Dad, how long have you known? About Olban and I, I mean." Gareth looked at his dad with a new sense of appreciation. All along, he'd thought his dad was spineless, merely going along with whatever nonsense his mother demanded. But this revelation had revealed a new side to him, a depth behind his stoic and hollow demeanor.
"Like I said, from the day we got you tested for it. It was as if this creature, whatever it was, wanted to keep up the illusion. Make you feel like you were crazy."
"And it almost worked," Gareth said. He wondered, briefly, if in another life he would have turned out like Eloise. If Olban hadn't shown him the truth, if he'd never learned about the other worlds... would he be in Eloise's place? Would he have fallen off the edge? Would he have gone crazy?
I'm not crazy, Eloise says quietly. And I can hear you, by the way.
"Shit, I'm sorry, Eloise. I didn't mean..." His dad cocked an eyebrow at his words, but said nothing.
No, I know what you meant. It's fine. I'm used to it.
Gareth did his best to stay quiet after that. If Eloise could hear his thoughts even when he wasn't talking to her, he'd have to be extra careful about what went through his brain. If she found out about what the wolf had told him and Olban, there'd be hell to pay.
"Gareth? You okay?"
Jolted back to the present, Gareth shrugged in response.
"Yeah, I'm good, Dad. Just thinking, I guess."
"Tell me everything, son. I want to hear about all the magic I missed out on."
Be careful, Gareth, Olban warned. If he's been dreaming of the Nameless One, then the Nameless One could have a link to his mind. Even if he doesn't mean to, he could show it our plans.
Gareth hadn't thought of that, and the idea scared him. What if his dad wasn't even his dad? What if this sudden change of heart was just the Nameless One playing games?
Wait, Eloise said. So the Nameless One could get into his head? Even just through a dream?
I mean, it makes sense, Olban said. He's a powerful being. If he's been manipulating your dad all this time, why would he just stop? Why would your dad admit the truth now? The danger hasn't lessened. If anything, it has only increased.
No, no, Eloise said. That can't be. He can't take over that easily, right? It's not that simple, right?
I don't get why you're so worried, Eloise. If we don't tell him anything, or we tell him only part of the truth, then we're still in the clear.
Yeah, Eloise conceded. Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry for the fuss.
"Gareth?" his dad prodded.
"Oh, uh, yeah. Well, you know, we've been chased by monsters and stuff. And, I've got a new person in my head. Her name is Eloise. Other than that, well... I dunno."
"I get it," Gareth's dad said. "It's not easy to explain. But I'm willing to listen. You could just try."
He gulps down his third glass. Gareth, meanwhile, still tentatively worked on his first. Especially after Olban's suspicions, he didn't want to risk getting inebriated and slipping up, revealing something he shouldn't.
And there was another thing that was bothering him: his dad was never a heavy drinker. Most people could drink him under the table. Even Mum could. Three beers in, he should be sloshing his words, but he wasn't even looking ruddy.
Which means that Olban was right.
His dad wasn't his dad anymore.
Guys, he thought to himself, hoping that they could hear him. We have to get out of here. Now.
What? Why? Eloise asked. Is something wrong?
It's his dad, Olban guesses. Something gave him away. Which means...
The Nameless One has him, Eloise gasped. Oh God...
"Well, Dad, this was really nice," Gareth said, standing up so suddenly that his drink spilled, brown liquid sloshing onto the polished wood of the table. "But we've got to go."
"What's the rush, kiddo?"
Gareth laughed uneasily.
"Well, y'know... world saving stuff, right? We've got some, uh, traveling to do."
Gareth's dad stands up and laughs, stretching his arm around Gareth's shoulder.
"That right, son? Well, how're you gonna do it, huh? I'm your father, I should get to know, right?"
By now, some of the more aware patrons were staring, and it made Gareth uneasy.
"We've... really gotta go, Dad..."
"Nonsense. You're my kid, I've got years to make up for."
Guys, a little help? Gareth pleaded.
We've gotta do something, Eloise said.
Hey, Olban said. Do you think we could signal to Wren? He should be around here somewhere, right?
"That's right!" Gareth exclaimed, regretting it as soon as he did.
"What?" Gareth's dad narrowed his eyes. "What was that?"
"Uh, I said 'that's right.' We do have years to make up for. But not everything can be fixed here, Dad, right? You know... in public?"
Brilliant, Olban said. Once we leave, we minimize the risk of civilian intervention. We can find somewhere private and then...
Then we can figure out a way to signal to Wren! Eloise concluded.
"Ah," chuckled Gareth's dad. "I see. You're right." He clapped Gareth on the back and he stifled a flinch.
Together, they walked out of the bar. Several pairs of eyes followed them out, as did a confused looking Wren.
"Wait a minute," he said, slurring his words slightly. "Where're we going? And why do I feel so funny?"
"Oh boy," said Gareth. "Someone should have cut you off."
"I don't wanna be cut off! I like being in one piece!"
"Uh-huh, yeah. Not what I meant."
Gareth had assumed that he'd be going back to his house, but as they were approaching their neighborhood, his dad made an abrupt turn.
"Come on, son," he said. "You can't get much more private than this."
"Uh... than where?"
"My old fishin' hole, of course," he says. "Down by Saint George's Lake."
Oh God, Olban said.
What? Eloise asked. What's wrong with that?
I know this area like the back of my hand. There’s no such place as Saint George's Lake.
Well, if Gareth's dad says he’s taking us there, then... Eloise’s voice is thick with fear.
Then my suspicions were correct, Olban says. Either we tell him what we know and then he kills us, or we tell him nothing and he tortures it out of us, and then kills us.
Wait, tortured? Eloise squeaked.
The Nameless One doesn't care who he hurts. If he's found a way to do his bidding through humans, he doesn't need to create anything. He'll use people's natural strengths and he won't have to worry about his flawed creations. He has everything he needs right here.
Oh, no... Eloise said, the implications terrifying her.
For a moment, she debated: should she tell them about her dream?
But no. It'd cause too much tension. They had enough to deal with already. Better to wait, just one problem at a time.
So she stayed silent, and Gareth sighed, followed his dad into a certain trap. And Wren, clueless, followed behind them.
Man, I really hope this works, Gareth thought.
Me too, agreed both Eloise and Olban. Me too.
When you smile I smile.
Your laughter is infectious.
Your hugs let me know I’m safe.
Sleeping next to you is like a comfort blanket.
Like horny teenagers we make love daily.
When I’m down you pick me up.
Our love is washed over by something more sinister.
In the cupboard I hide from you.
Our love had turned to hate.
Your anger is like an erupting volcano.
We play a game of hide and seek but if you find me I will become your punching bag.
No one is safe from the red demon that lives within you.
Our new puppy lies dead on the floor, a victim of your rage.
Strangled for peeing on the floor.
I tried to stand up for myself, threatened to call the police.
This was a mistake.
This fuelled your anger more.
I sit as still as I can in the cupboard with my hand over my mouth to muffle my breathing.
For hours you trash the place then grab a crate of beers and sit in front of the tv.
I will not move until you fall asleep.
Luke 13:14-15 - Honoring The Sabbath (Bible Journal)
"But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. 'There are six days of the week for working,' he said to the crowd. 'Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14 NLT).'"
"But the Lord replied, 'You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water (Luke 13:15 NLT)?'"
I love Jesus' rebuttal to the synagogue leader's response to healing the woman on the Sabbath day. I believe there is a difference between resting from work and taking care of a need, and like caring for your animal (the donkey) is an acceptable form of work on the Sabbath, Jesus releasing a woman that suffered for years from torment on the Sabbath is also answering a need. When God gave the Sabbath commandment I think He intended for us to rest from our daily duties that can be put off for a day to give us more time to focus on Him, not to turn a blind eye to needs that happen to come up on the Sabbath day. After all, what better way to recognize Him on the Sabbath than helping someone, from a pet to a long suffering brother or sister that could use the help?
Thank You Lord for the food for thought today in Scripture. Please help me to observe the next Sabbath day by resting in the way You intend for me, and please help me to answer any form of service that You wish of me on that coming day as well. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
My Best Friend
We sat to dinner,
my best friend and I.
Noticed him thinner
and that is when I
his countenance dimmed
as he announced, "We
are no longer friends.
This is now our end."
"Haven't you heard?
comes from pigeons."
The delivery notification said the box was on the front porch, and it was there as expected. I placed the box on the kitchen table and cut it open, a bundle of new socks. What a glorious time to be alive: we click a computer button and socks just appear on the porch. But suddenly a silver colored beetle scurried out of the box and ran across the table. Then a second one. I grabbed a magazine to swat it but missed. Some sort of roach? I tossed the package outside in a panic then grabbed a can of insect spray, but no luck. I sprayed the kitchen baseboards and hoped for the best.
At 3:00 AM I was jolted awake by a sharp sting on my arm. I switched on the light and shrieked. One of the silver beetles was on my hand and the room was alive with a steady buzzing sound. All at once a flurry of stings hit my legs and feet. I tried to throw off the bedsheet but it was wet with blood. Scores of insects were attached to my legs, biting, suckling on my blood. I screamed in horror and tried to brush them off but they were too strong. I scrambled out of bed to run to the bathroom but tripped on something. It was the box that was delivered earlier. The package of socks lay shredded and chewed.
Then everything went black.
Rain or Death
Rain pattered against the window, the day outside bleak and gray, and the girl sat in the window, a book in her lap and air pods in her ears. Blocking out the pouring rain; And the screams of her mother upstairs. The thump of something fell down the stairs, and the screams went silent, replaced by the girl’s shriek instead.
A set of dark, soulless eyes stared up at her. Her mother’s once lively eyes.
John, Chris, and I had talked about it, we knew what we were doing. First, though, we wanted to make sure that our sister agreed too. And we knew we had to act quickly, if we were to dissuade our father. Much as we loved him, and admired him, we knew that once he had decided upon a particular course of action, persuading him to change his mind would be difficult.
Chris’ support was invaluable. Already, we knew that our father had appointed him as the principal overseer and custodian of his literary legacy. John’s moral stature, as the priest of the family, was something Father would respect too. I knew that my influence would be much more limited: whereas my sister possessed an empathetic connection, to both my father and my later mother, that would be invaluable.
It was a bad decision, my father’s sentimentality at its very worst. He could be excessive in this regard at times. He was never embarrassed to shed a tear, or to embrace his sons, even in public. This familial affection was in strong contrast to the prevalent portrait of him as a curmudgeonly writer, an outmoded academic content to dwell in his ivory tower, standing aloof from a world in which every sign of ‘progress’ or ‘innovation’ was greeted with suspicion, even derision.
I could imagine the defence he would mount, when we voiced our sincere objections to him; reservations that we would express only out of an earnest desire to protect him from ridicule. He had so many detractors, after all, in the world, jealous of his genius; and in some respect his devotees - the ones increasingly-known these days as ‘fans’, a word I suspect my father detested - were even worse. They would certainly spot the meaning of that curious name engraved on Mother’s gravestone, straight away.
I could picture him shaking his head, and waving his pipe in our direction. ‘No, Michael, I will not listen. Your mother knew the stories of my legendarium, long before anyone else had heard them. She may have been less familiar with their later iterations. She certainly never understood the attention I was later afforded by so many of those who seem to regard me as an author of something tantamount to holy writ, at least in their own eyes; I don’t pretend to understand it myself. But she knew the love which I bore for her, and the sacrifices we made for one another, not least in the days of our youth; and she knew the person with whom she was identified, in terms of the greater story. She also knew which character within the tale represented me. But the story has gone crooked, and I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.’
Thus, I imagined, he would respond to our entreaties. Our sister might hold the key to persuading him to our position. But to my surprise, when we spoke to Priscilla, she firmly took the side of my father.
‘John, Michael, Christopher,’ she said, addressing us from eldest to youngest brother, as always she did when speaking to us as a group. ‘Father is right. I know you show these concerns out of love for him. You do not want the memory of our mother tarnished, either. But his mind is quite made up. And when his time comes, he has told me what name he wants carved on the headstone, beneath hers. This isn’t for the fans, for anyone who might come afterwards. It isn’t for us. It’s for her - the girl he remembers who danced for him amongst the hemlocks, long ago. So let him have his way.’
And so we did. Nothing more was said. And when not so many months later we gathered at his graveside, we read together the inscription, suitably updated, in an Oxfordshire cemetery where one of the greatest writers of the 20th century now lay at rest with his beloved wife, our mother. Upon the headstone, besides the roses, were these simple words:
Edith Mary Tolkien, Lúthien, 1889-1971
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973
I didn’t choose the names for this challenge: but as soon as I saw the opening sentence with which we had been charged to begin, I knew exactly what my story would be. My imagined ‘discussions’ between the children of J.R.R. Tolkien are entirely fictitious; but their names and relationships within the Tolkien family are not. The line beginning ‘But the story has gone crooked...’ is a direct quote from a letter of Tolkien to his son Christopher, written in July 1972. And at Tolkien’s behest, the names of the protagonists of his great love story, the Elf-maiden Lúthien, and the man Beren, were indeed added to the headstone that still stands on their grave in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford. Requiescant in Pace.
John, Chris, and I had talked about it. We knew what we were doing. We didn't have the chance for questions. We just knew it had to be done. I saw the fear in their eyes, but I was strangely calm. Hoping the outcome to all of this would be what we want. He took a breath and held my hand. Smiled at me before saying, "I hope we dont land." I took my breath before I gave it to grace. And Chris just stood there saying his prayers. We were three people with a death sentence...and off that bridge we jumped, hooked like fishes.
Then we did what needed to be done. Washed are hands of the thing thoroughly. Erasing any possible traces that would lead to the mention or discovery of a place. We all knew the way there from a different angle. That none of us had used in the company of another. Including ourselves. We could confidently trust one another not to divulge the plan outside are triumvirate. AKA air our dirty luandry. Because it would only result in one’s own demise. And bring no mention of the other two in the process. We knew not the others real names. Or whence from where thy came. But we could all agree on one thing we would go to any lengths keeping our secret a secret.
Three strangers saved each other from undue horrors. At a place each found themselves by accident at the same time six years prior. They had grown into best buds in that time. Meeting at the spot they first met incognito every time since. For shits and giggles. They each had wish to escape some camp monotony. Of all that hardcore thespian/band/dance camp crap. That’s gotten to an extant one could see it’s out of the many less than adult camp directors scope and control. This year six. To create and cast a broadway caliber summers night dream show. To play out on one big stage yet built for and by a couple hundred pre teen/teen suburban wannabe stage, film, and rock stars. In just under six weeks. No way all three agreed.
Completly disregarding three other older slightly smaller stages. That most all are familiar with. Having previously been part of a production that made use of them. It made no sense not to use them as well. In case we run out of time to build the new grandiose outdoor theatre/stage had in mind. And creating three separate short stories to derive three intimate productions from. That tie into each other in a forth. Time permitting. Is far easier than starting from scratch on a expensive blockbuster set to take place on a yet to be constructed mega stage.
So just to be sure our plans wouldn’t be denied. We prayed someone would cause something to happen to the lumber and gear that had been delivered the day we arrived. That would encourage the directors to feel what we each proposed separately to our individual camps director a good idea worth looking into further. Because once a thespian/rockstar/dance god has their foot in the door. There’s little one can do to deny their youthfully exuberant charms.
"Fire?" "Fire?" "Fire?"
"What hear of fire have any to tell?"
As if the devils no not such a thing exist. "Should I be scared”
The three bastards dared to say. Here in the burners infancy.
Then the heat from said blaze blowing to and fro now so intense. Washed over each of their faces on the back of strong winds. And It became apparent the danger was quite real. Even more so when the sounds of shrieking children drowned out that of anything else. It was all said and done in no more than twenty thirty minutes. By the time the fire trucks arrived ten minutes later. Nothin has was left of two out buildings but the charred remains of the bodies and the footings of the former structures. Black smoldering coals and the melted fat from corpses occasionally flaming up hot and burning out fast. Smoke and the smell of sizzling fat inundated the area. Conjuring up terrifying memories for some of the children that witnessed their peers burning to death from less that ten twenty feet away for some.
“What happened?" An accident by all accounts was the seemingly most obvious answer. A spark or something else caught the building materials on fire. Much of which was flammable paints and solvents and stains. Also tons of craft paper and stuff for set design. That got so hot so fast it caught two adjacent old wood buildings also filled with much found flammable. And the hot dry air and windy weather thats found common in the area come summer. Created a tinder box out of the old wood structures. That burned up faster than flash cotton. The forty children never made it out of the beds for the most part. None was injured in the fire that didn’t also lose their life as well. No wounded other than those who were trying to fight the blaze were attended to by the fireman and paramedics. For the scars John, Chris, and Gaylord would wear the rest of there lives. Would not have benefited from a little TLC.
Before their parents will arrive to take them home later that day or the next morning the trio met at the place of their first introductions to each other. Nowhere special just a secluded rock outcrop a short stroll away. In between the three separate-ish camps. That had plans to combine into one legally. But had yet to do so. The three each attended a different camp for the last six years. Becoming very close friends in that time. In secret to anyone else for the most part. Though not for any insidious reasons. It just happened that way. They never wrote each other hardly called on the phone. Until they got older. And then only after taking great care not to make such a notable occurrence.
That afternoon is when things got really weird for the three. Or so they all agreed. None among them took blame for starting the fire Though all said they were eager to be the first among them to do so. And had set out to do so with containers of kerosene they had each stashed and lighters or matches to start the show. As they called it. The greatest show on earth on would explain jokingly. Explaining he was trying to lighten up the situation is all. With a bit of humor. Before adding the reasons for which they’d never made it to their stashes to start the fire. For whatever reason. Their Suspicion now fell on one the other. For how much did they really know about one the other. But first names and some old phone numbers. Never met their families or siblings. Didn’t discuss religion. None mentioned they were into any sporting teams. All they did was talk about their dreams. Which in general were grand fictitious fairytales. As extraordinary or terrifying as they could imagine. Yes they not being above writing scripts for slasher films or ones with grand displays of war atrocities. Could seem to have the potential to imagine any kind of sine full treachery. What next for these three......
My Favorite Babysitter
Bill comes over to babysit me
Even though I am thirteen
I like it when he plays games with me
And tells me I'm "his little queen"
My parents came home early yesterday
They saw Bill inside my room
I told them it's okay
Because he's leaving pretty soon
They said they didn't know him
The babysitter has been ill
Said "You are old enough to be alone.
Who fucking the hell is Bill!?"