“Not necessarily,” Cy said. He looked at the floor as he spoke. “There’s been some research into things like that…quantum theory, that kind of thing. It’s not as insane as you might think.”
“It’s still pretty insane,” Andi said, and Cy gave a chuckle.
“Yeah,” he said. “I guess so.”
Andi waited for him to look up, to make eye contact, but his gaze went over to a bookshelf instead. “So…what I want to ask you,” she began. “If — if — what Benjamin and you say is true, then how do we stop it?”
That got his attention. Cy’s eyes snapped to hers, wide and shocked.
“Stop it?” he blurted out. “Why on Earth would you ever want to stop it?” Before she could speak, he ploughed on. “This is — imagination becoming real, do you have any idea what that means? What it means to people like me, and Benjamin, and Eddie, and…” He went quiet for a few moments, still looking at her, then, looking away again: “Some of us, imagination is all we’ve got. Something like this…I can’t understand why you’d want to stop it. You played with us, you felt how free and amazing it is….”
“What about Eury?” she asked, and he visibly flinched. “If this is real, and it took her…”
Cy closed his eyes and rocked back and forth on the bed, slowly, gently, as if trying to calm himself. Andi could only stare. Having the idea of this reality-creation introduced to him, then having it threatened with destruction, had hurt him in some way she couldn’t understand. She tried to map her own experience onto what he might be feeling — if she lost the flag corps, or student council — but she just couldn’t get into his head.
After a few seconds, he stopped moving, opened his eyes and looked at her. “Okay,” he said. “Okay, then. If it’s real, and that’s what happened to Eury, then all right. I’ll try to help you find a way to end this.” He slid off the bed. “But we’re getting into some really strange areas here. I need a Coke or something to sharpen my mind. Can I get you something to drink?”
Andi agreed to a Coke, and Cy left for the kitchen. Alone, she looked around his room, feeling a poke in her heart. This room was his world, wasn’t it? And here she was, violating it, crushing his dreams.
But Eury, if she was still alive, was Andi’s priority.
She stood and stretched, and paced, surveying the titles of his books. His magazine binders had been neatly labeled: STARLOG, FANGORIA, CINEFANTASTIQUE. She cast her eyes to the long, winding shelf above. All the action figures were dust-free. She pulled a book off the shelf — Red Sonja — and saw what appeared to be an adult version of herself in a metal two-piece, swinging a sword.
She wondered if Cy pictured her like that, and if that was the source of his shyness.
A little snooping gave way to a lot more, and she pulled open the drawers of his dresser while glancing at the doorway. They were packed with clothes, packed to bursting, and she wondered what he had in his closet, if all his clothes were in here —
She stood at the closet, hands on the two small, wooden knobs that would separate the doors. This felt wrong, like too much of an invasion of privacy. She should just sit back down and wait for Cy to come back with her Coke. Besides, what could he possibly have in there but board games, or toys, or more books…
She pulled open the closet doors.
The reflected light dazzled her for a moment, and she blinked at the glare. At first, she thought it was some kind of chain-link fence, or a huge screen of metal mesh, like the kind that made Red Sonja’s bikini.
But her eyes adjusted, and she could see it clearly:
Spiral notebooks. Hundreds, if not thousands of them, stacked floor to ceiling, deep into the closet, wall to wall. Nothing else was in there — nothing else could have fit.
Andi just couldn’t parse it. She looked at the coils of metal, interlocked and gnashed and trapping stacks of lined paper between them, stacked taller than her. What was this? What could Cy need with so many…
With a numb, shaking hand, she reached out and pulled one of the notebooks from its stack, dimly thinking she could cause one of the gargantuan piles to topple onto her.
On the notebook’s cover, in big, bold letters: VOIDVILLE.
She flipped it open, dread compelling her as much as it warned her away.
The book was filled with tiny script, letters so small they fit four lines of verbiage to each blue-lined row on the sheet. She peered at the page, and could barely make out the words.
But what she could read had to do with the world of Benjamin’s game.
How methodically sharp a pencil must that have taken to write? And how focused, how fanatical a concentration must have been needed to write that tiny?
“It’s a relief,” Cy said from the doorway, “not to have to hide anymore.”
Andi shrieked but clapped a hand over her mouth, dropping the notebook in the process.
Cy rapidly closed the door behind him, pushing against it with his back as he gripped a glass of soda in each hand.
“Left for me,” he said, “and right for you.” He placed the right-hand glass on his desk, and walked to the bed, sipping his own Coke. “Go ahead and have a seat,” he said, not noticing or caring when she remained standing.
“What is all this, Cy?” she asked when her voice returned.
He smiled at her. “Is it okay if I turn that back on you? What do you think it is?”
Andi glanced back at the siege-wall of notebooks. “I think,” she said, turning to Cy, “I think you think it’s possible to change reality by describing things. I think you want Voidville to be real so badly, so much more than even Benjamin could want it, that you’ve been making these notebooks for years and years. And,” she said, watching him very closely as she finished, “I think you need to see a psychiatrist.”
He shook his head, the smile dimming. “That’s what I thought you’d think…think you thought? Never mind. The point is: you’re only part-wrong, which is not too bad.” He took another drink of soda. “I don’t ‘think’ it’s possible to alter reality, I know it is. I’m not trying to create a real-life Voidville; it’s just a means to an end. And I haven’t been working on those notebooks for years. Just for the last six months or so.”
Six months? She pictured him in this room, waking up early, staying up late, spending every conscious moment meticulously jotting line after miniscule line of text, day by day by day. Blowing all his allowance on new notebooks, or lying to his mother about needing new school supplies as often as he could get away with it.
Relentlessly creating his vast library of worlds, here in this room, surrounded only by the things he loved.
“…And the psychiatrist?” She badly wanted to wet her dry throat, but the glass of Coke was further away than she felt comfortable moving.
Cy gave a scoff-laugh. “Well, you may have a point there.”
But she couldn’t run, not just like that. If she’d found who had abducted Eury — and the roiling in her gut told her she had — she needed to find out where the girl was.
“You said you knew it was possible to alter reality,” Andi said. She thought of TV shows: talking people off ledges, negotiating with hostage-takers. “How?”
Cy looked at her evenly. “I made you fly, for starters.”
“How did you get on the roof of that barn at the practice farm, Andi?” he asked, leaning forward. “Tell me.”
“I climbed a –” she began, defensively, because of course she climbed a ladder, or…
“There wasn’t a ladder,” Cy said. “The place was deserted. The FFA may be a lot of things, but careless with their tools isn’t one of them. So…no ladder, no rope, no convenient pile of boxes, no smaller buildings to the side. Fifteen feet in the air. How’d you do it, banshee?”
“I…I climbed the side –”
“Corrugated metal?” He snorted. “Try again.”
She thought back, and in her head it was like a jump-cut in a movie. First on the ground, then blink! Up on the roof.
Andi leaned against the desk for support, her head swimming. She didn’t fly. You can’t fly, it’s not possible. It’s not.
“It’s a lot to wrap your head around,” Cy said. “It took me a while to grasp that I’d done it…and that I got you back down safely the same way.”
“You didn’t,” she said, voice so weak it couldn’t even convince her.
“But I did,” he said. He sat his glass on the floor and stood, a full head shorter than her but seeming to fill the room with his presence. “I did that and more. I manifested Voidville inside Randall’s house. We became our characters, with all their powers, if only for a few seconds. And the monsters in that world…they had such fun destroying that house while we played. The Wild Rumpus,” he said, and laughed.
“Shut up,” she said. She had him; she could go to the police. She could convince them, somehow. All she had to do was shut him up and get out of this madhouse.
“I created life, Andi,” he said, taking a step towards her. “Life itself.”
“You did not!” she shouted. “You, you slipped us drugs at Randall’s. We flipped out.” Her anger flared, burning away fear and confusion. Getting mad at someone? That, she could handle. “You did not make me fly, you did not make the game become real, and,” she drew a deep breath, “my ass, you created life!”
Amused, he said, “Still a skeptic, aren’t you?” Then, over her shoulder, “Isn’t she?”
Strong hands grabbed her from behind and held her firm.
Andi screamed and struggled, but the figure at her back kept her wriggling to a minimum.
“Hush, now,” Cy said. “I never planned it this way, but all these bookshelves? All this stuff on the walls? Soundproofing.”
Andi looked down at the hands that gripped her arms. The rough gloves, the Army Surplus jacket sleeves…she knew if she could face her attacker, she’d be staring into a hockey mask.
Cy confirmed it. “You can let her go, Jason. Just block the door.”
Andi stumbled away, arms tingling from the strong grip, as Cy’s hulking friend moved to stand at the door, arms crossed.
He had to have been hiding somewhere in the room. And Andi might have believed that if there had been a feasible amount of free space for a behemoth like him to hide.
“If that’s the way you want it,” Andi said to the two of them, “then so be it. But let me tell you boys one thing — if nobody can hear me scream in here, then they can’t hear you scream, either.” She balled her hands into fists and stood her ground.
Jason reached up and took his mask off. Instead of the mangled, lake-bloated face Andi expected, it was just some gangly guy. Sandy-haired, wide-eyed, and completely forgettable.
“Cy, I’m not cool with this,” he said. “She’s nice.” He looked at Andi in her fighting stance. “Well, usually.”
The shorter boy sighed. “Fine, then.” He stared at Jason, and Andi spun just in time to see the boy guarding the door vanish. There, then gone — no lights, no smoke, just a big lump of nothing where he’d been standing a second ago.
“Omigod,” she whispered. True. It was true.
“And if you had any lingering doubts,” Cy said.
Jason reappeared just long enough to say, “Hey, wait,” and then he was gone again.
She turned back to Cy, who had picked up his glass and taken a long drink. “Yes,” he said. “You flew. I made Jason up out of thin air. Voidville spilled through into the real world, right there in that nice Baptist family’s house.”
Cy suddenly found something interesting to look at on a bookshelf across the room. “She’s safe…safe-ish. She was collateral damage. But I’m going to fix –”
She was four steps across the room and on him before he could finish his sentence. She grabbed Cy and twisted the neck of his t-shirt in her fist.
“Collateral damage,” Andi spat. “Cy, I’m willing to bet that if I beat the piss out of you, but you manage to make me disappear, you’ll still have had the piss beaten out of you.” She raised a fist, but Jason formed beside her and grabbed her upraised arm.
“Come on,” he said. “There’s no need to fight.”
“Let me go!” she shouted in his bland face. “Did you steal that little girl away? Why are you helping this creep?”
“Because he made me,” said the tall boy. “What else am I supposed to do?”
Jason pulled her away, kicking and scratching, and in the struggle, Andi bumped the computer desk. Her Coke toppled over, spilling on her, Jason, and the COMMODORE machine.
Jason was gone in an eyeblink, and Cy rushed forward, pulling a small blanket off the bed and blotting at the soda as it seeped between the keys of the computer. “No, no, no…” He glared around, and Jason flickered here and there, but Cy’s attention was too drawn to saving his precious machine.
Andi seized the moment to open the door and step out into the hall. She locked eyes with Cy, hers triumphant, his furious. She held up her forearm and insolently licked away the runnel of soda that had splashed there.
“Thanks for the Coke,” she said with a vicious grin, and sprinted down the hallway to the front door. She passed Cy’s mother on the way.
“Leaving, hon’? Come back any –” But Andi was past her, through the door, and on her bike before anything more could be said.
She worked the pedals as fast as she could, adrenaline spasming her hands as they gripped the handlebars. Just a few blocks until home.
As she rounded the last corner, she felt something else in her thoughts beside the panic and terror and worry that she might have tipped over the edge into insanity.
She felt sleepy. And not fatigue, but something worse. Something medicinal. It came on fast, like a black fog billowing from the back of her skull to envelop her sight, her hearing.
Something in her Coke. He’d put something in —
Her vision tunneled as she reached her house, and everything dimmed.
She drove onto her own house’s front lawn before unconsciousness took her, momentum propelling her and her bike into the scratchy, unyielding embrace of a hedge.
Today’s Words: 2531
Total Words: 31630
Notes: First over-sized installment as we race to the end!
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)