Voidville: Day Thirty-One, Part Two

On the computer desk this morning, waiting for me to start writing.

SIDE TWO, TRACK SIX: THE SUN ALWAYS SHINES ON T.V.

They spent the night in a section of concrete pipe, back in the rearmost part of a oil-drilling-supply company’s yard. Andi and Benjamin slept chastely, back-to-back and head-to-toe, until the light of daybreak woke them.

Benjamin moved first, shifting away from her. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” she said, stiff and sore. She’d never felt this many joints crack in her life.

They sat at the lip of the rounded concrete, watching the sunrise. The business wasn’t open yet, so they found a hose in back of the office and held it for each other, splashing their faces with the chilly water until they’d both woken fully.

A couple of vending machines sat outside the main office, and courtesy of Benjamin’s spare change they breakfasted on Dr. Pepper and Tom’s potato chips.

“So where to?” Andi asked, as they got their bikes ready to roll.

“Cy’s house.”

“Seriously? Just confront him, like that?”

Benjamin smiled. “He’ll be in school, remember?”

“Will he?”

“If not, then all this comes to a head a lot sooner. Either way…”

Andi packed her hair under Eddie’s cap. “So we’re going to tear up his notebooks, yeah?”

“Yeah. It’s anticlimactic, I know. Hope you’re ready for a few hours of Earth-shattering paper tearing.”

“Will it stop him?”

Benjamin shrugged, looking guilty to be so unsure. “I was able to shift us into Voidville yesterday, which I guess means the cops still have my book in evidence. I don’t know if destroying his books will stop Cy, but it’s my best guess. Every time you have some kind of reality-warping in science fiction, there’s an explanation. I’m still figuring out the rules of this.”

She propped up her bike and walked to him. “For luck,” she said, gently cupping his face and leaning in for a kiss.

“Whoa,” he said, leaning back. “Are you sure? I heard if you kiss before you get married, it makes you sick and –” His smile betrayed his attempt to sound serious.

“Oh, be quiet,” she said, and kissed him. It was awkward, and clumsy, and their lips mashed together all wrong, and he breathed loudly through his nose onto her face…

…but she knew she’d never forget it.

***

Benjamin rang the doorbell at Cy’s, then fished in his pocket for a key. “We can all get into each other’s places,” he explained.

As he pulled out the key, the door opened.

Beth, Cy’s older sister, stood there, head cocked, observing them both. “Hey, Benjamin,” she said. “Cy went to school today. Did he know you were still out of class?”

“Uh, yeah,” Benjamin said. “I just needed to borrow a game. Is that cool?”

“Yeah,” she said, indifferent. “Come on in.”

He did, Andi following. “Be right back,” Benjamin called, leaving the senior girl and Andi together in the living room. Andi recognized it from when she’d run full-tilt through it earlier in the week. Probably not the best conversational gambit to use with Cy’s sister.

“You’re her, ain’t you?” Beth asked.

“…I’m, uh, who?”

“Cy’s girlfriend,” Beth said. “He told me he was dating a pretty redhead.”

Andi coughed. “…Uh, when did he tell you?”

“Oh, last night. Said he was making some changes, and that you meant a lot to him.” She studied Andi. “Oh, hey, I thought I recognized you. JV flags, right? I see you at pep rallies all the time. Varsity cheer, nice to meet you.”

Andi expected ‘aren’t you wanted by the police’ to follow, but Beth didn’t appear to be up on current events.

“It’s good he’s dating a normal girl like you,” Beth said. “He’s a sweet kid, but he’s too mixed up in all his sci-fi and horror and crap like that. You need to, like, steer him straight, y’know?”

“I guess I do,” Andi said, wondering where Benjamin was.

“Promise me you’ll do that,” Beth said. “He needs to stop daydreaming all the time and face the real world.”

“I will,” Andi said. “I promise. So, uh, why are you home today?”

“Senior skip day,” Beth said. “You got a lot to look forward to when you get to the 12th grade.”

“Couldn’t find it,” Benjamin said, bounding back up the hallway. “Guess I’ll ask him later. I’m supposed to meet him tonight.”

“Well, have fun trick-or-treating, or whatever,” Beth said. She bade them goodbye and flopped on the sofa to watch TV.

As they walked to their bikes, Benjamin said, “The notebooks are gone. His closet’s empty. I looked around the rest of his room, but they weren’t there. He must have known. Or maybe he could sense you rescuing Europa yesterday, and he knew we’re closing in. Either way…”

“Where could they be? How could he have moved them?”

“Maybe he conjured up a group of monsters to move them by hand last night, who knows? Now I have to figure out where he’s going to be tonight.”

“Why are you sure it’s going to be tonight?”

He gestured at the houses lining the street they biked down. Each one had its yard filled with decorations: carved pumpkins, paper skeletons, fake cobwebs in the trees. “It’s all connected, I think. Halloween, monsters, Voidville, the supernatural. If you’re going to do something occult, well, Halloween is when you do it for maximum effect. I’m just not sure where.”

“Why not anywhere?”

“No, no…Cy is picking a place, and he’s picking it for a reason. I just have to try to think like him.”

Andi thought of Cy’s craziness, then of Benjamin, when he described how godlike he felt during that first Voidville session at the Harts’ house.

“Don’t try too hard,” she said, shivering.

***

They got hungry that afternoon, and Benjamin decided to play the odds. Living in a town of a few thousand people meant you couldn’t know everyone, but it increased the chances of running into someone you did know whenever you went out.

He cruised by the convenience store once or twice until he was sure he didn’t know the clerk. Andi still had some cash, so he loaded up on burritos, chips and soda. They ate in the small park in the south side of town, sitting underneath a jungle gym, keeping an eye out for nosy people.

“Can I ask you a question?” Andi said through a mouthful of spicy meat and tortilla.

“Shoot,” Benjamin said, mouth equally crammed.

She sat her food down on a napkin in her lap, flicking away an errant ant. “It’s things Eddie and Cy have said to me this week. About how some people have nothing but imagination, like the real world doesn’t mean anything to them. That’s not true, is it? That can’t be true.”

Benjamin swallowed and looked at her. “Why can’t it be true?”

She searched for an answer. “Well, because…it’s so sad.”

“Yeah,” he said, nodding. “It is, isn’t it?” Then he went back to eating.

“…What kind of answer is that?”

Benjamin sighed and set down his own burrito. “Because if I give you any more of an answer, it’s going to sound even more sad.”

She kept staring at him.

“All right,” he said. “Something you find as you grow up is that the world…well, okay, some people just aren’t made to function correctly in the world. They’re strange, they don’t fit. For them, what’s the point? You’re playing a rigged game. So why not stop playing and make your own game?”

“Why not try to fit in?” Andi asked.

“Why lose everything that makes you unique by conforming?” Benjamin fired back. “The thing is…I’m never going to have a place in this world. Neither is Eddie. Neither is poor, screwed-up Cy. I’ll get by, I’ll find a job, make a living, and all that…but I won’t fit, no matter what I do.”

“You won’t if you give up,” Andi said. “If you quit before you even start.”

“If you went to a carnival,” Benjamin said, “and they had a ring toss, and they had a big sheet of bulletproof glass over the pegs, so that no matter how you threw the rings they’d always bounce off and never hit a peg…would you play?”

“Of course not.”

“Well, there you go.” He picked up his burrito again.

“It’s not the same!”

“Okay. Say you went and saw the ring toss, and they gave you magic rings that passed through the bulletproof glass and landed on the highest-prize pegs every time, would you play?”

“…Yeah.”

“Of course you would,” Benjamin said. “And you’re playing now, every second of every day. And winning every time.”

“That’s not fair,” Andi said. “And you’re not being fair to yourself, either. You’re so smart and so creative. You have a lot to offer this world!”

“I have a lot to offer some world,” Benjamin said. “But not this one.”

“And what if this is the only world?”

He laughed and took a big bite of burrito, finishing it off. “Then I guess I’m screwed.” He stood, dusting his hands on his pants. “You about ready?”

“No,” she said. “I still want to talk about this.”

He remained standing, and reached out to grab one of the jungle gym crossbars. “Nothing else I can say will make you happy. And nothing else you can say will change my mind.” He looked away. “And the sun is setting. And we’re running out of time.”

She ate the rest of her food in two quick, chomping bites and stood. “We’re not done talking about this. When this is all over, I’m gonna make you see reason.”

“I’ve already seen the sleep of reason,” he said over his shoulder as they walked to their bikes. “That was good enough.”

She frowned as she got on her bike. “Okay, so Cy. Any ideas? I was wondering about the graveyard.”

Benjamin shook his head. “The police patrol the graveyard extra during Halloween. He won’t risk it. The school? He hates it, but it doesn’t have any significance past that. It’s got be somewhere that really connects with Halloween. Somewhere — oh. Connecting…with Halloween. Oh, man. I think I know. And it’s perfect.”

“Where? Where?”

Benjamin turned to her. “He’s gone to Randall’s.”

Andi stared back at him. “…Randall’s just burned to the ground.”

Benjamin blinked, then laughed. “Oh, no, sorry, no. Force of habit. Something we always said in the group. When we talked about going to Randall’s…we never actually meant Randall’s.”

***

Andi had to admit: the place certainly did look like Halloween Central.

Life in a small country town meant one thing when October rolled around — pumpkins. Everyone with a patch of land grew them, either to enter in contests or to sell to friends and neighbors.

And if there was one thing pumpkins did, it was grow and multiply, like any other gourd. Try to grow pumpkins, or summer squash, or zucchini, and before you can blink you’re up to your armpits in the stuff.

So what to do with the excess? The town had, after many years, arrived at a solution:

Store them at the FFA practice farm.

The excess pumpkins were dropped off by the pickup-load on Halloween. Over the next few days, they’d be picked up by enthusiastic canners to be jarred and stored for a few weeks, after which equally enthusiastic bakers would make pies by the hundreds to be given to food banks and churches and shelters around the county, just in time for Thanksgiving.

But for tonight, the pumpkins sat in huge piles at the practice farm, walls and mounds of ridged, orange bulges in the moonlight, like a crude maze.

And what a moon to light them — full and bright and looking fit to burst in the sky. Andi and Benjamin had brought flashlights, but found them unneeded.

“I’m going to feel really stupid if he’s not here,” Benjamin said as they climbed over the gate.

“What will we do if he’s not?”

“Keep looking until we find him, or it’s too late. What else is there to do?”

They walked around the grounds for a few minutes, getting their bearings despite the sameness of the piles of pumpkins fighting against that. Andi was again thankful for her track outfit, as the cold breezes of the day had given way to a cruel, cold nighttime wind.

“Oh, hey,” said Benjamin. “I think…” he walked a few steps away. “Yep,” he called back to her, “it’s a bike. Beth’s old one, looks like. It’s just been rotting in their garage since she got a car.”

“So where’s Cy?”

Benjamin looked around. “Wouldn’t this be a good time for you to step out and say, ‘right here’?”

Silence.

“Come out, Cy. We’re here. Let’s get this over with.”

Silence, squared.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Benjamin said. “Andi, come on. We’ve obviously got to hunt for him.”

She ran forward and he offered his hand, which she took without hesitation.

They prowled the stacks of pumpkins, looking for any sign of Cy. At last, they reached the various buildings of the farm, and started testing doors to see what was locked. The big, main barn door slid open for them, and they went inside.

Here, they needed the flashlights.

Andi clicked hers on, and immediately blinked as the light glinted off something, reflecting back at her.

Something like linked metal rings, or coiled wire…

…or the spirals of a thousand notebooks.

“My God,” Benjamin said. “You told me about it, but I never pictured…so much.”

They walked cautiously to the gigantic mound of paper, swinging their beams to the side as they moved.

“Is that…?” Benjamin asked as they got close.

“Huh?”

“Hang on, on top of the stack, is…?” He stepped ahead, closing in. When he reached the notebooks, he said, “Andi, stop. Don’t come any closer.”

“What? What is it?”

“Don’t do it. You don’t want to –”

Andi stubbornly ignored him and walked to where he stood. She shone her light on top of the stack.

There lay Cy. One hand was at his neck, a knife buried in his throat. Blood had spilled off, staining the ruled paper, sticky and red in her flashlight beam.

She turned and threw up, semi-digested burrito spilling to the ground.

“Jesus Christ,” Benjamin said. “Cy…why? Why, man?”

“I don’t understand,” Andi groaned, wiping her mouth, still feeling like she had more to puke up.

“…Human sacrifice,” Benjamin said. “Black magic. I guess…I don’t know what he was thinking. Trying to complete some ritual, like being able to manifest Voidville in the world wasn’t enough.”

Andi turned away, wanting to look anywhere but at Cy’s final resting place.

“We have to go,” Benjamin said. “If someone finds us here, with everything else that’s been going on…”

“We can’t just leave him!”

“We’ll call in a tip from a phone booth,” Benjamin said. “It’s the best we can do. Come on!”

Hand in hand again, they hurried out of the barn into the pumpkin stores. As they sped up the main path, a light burst brightly behind them, illuminating the way ahead.

Andi clutched Benjamin’s hand tightly. The cops. It had to be. They’d been waiting for someone to return to the scene of Cy’s murder, and now they had their prime suspects.

They stopped and slowly turned, shielding their eyes against the glare — golden and swirling.

Not headlights. Not any kind of light found on Earth.

It was a vortex of energy, coruscating and hypnotic.

“What is it?” Andi shouted. As the light had appeared, the wind had picked up, howling almost painfully.

But before Benjamin could answer, a figure stepped forth, the vortex calming and glowing less brightly as he exited.

“Man,” Cy said. “I wasn’t sure that was going to work.”

***

The doorway through which he’d stepped had dimmed down to almost nothing by the time he reached them. It still stood, but was at best a few dozen sparks endlessly chasing each other in the air.

“Hey, man,” Cy said, smiling at Benjamin. “Good to see you.” He looked at Andi for second, but rolled his eyes and turned away. “I’m glad you could be here, Benjamin. If anyone was going to understand what I’m doing, it’s you.”

“And what are you doing, Cy?” Benjamin asked. “Besides killing yourself and coming back to life?”

“You saw that?” Cy grinned proudly. “When you took away my sacrifice yesterday, I didn’t think I had any choice. And y’know? It was a weak little body, anyway. Good riddance.”

“Sacrifice?” Andi asked. “Eury? So all that ‘collateral damage’ stuff was a lie.”

“Of course it was,” Cy and Benjamin said at the same time. Benjamin followed up with, “Sorry.”

“Of course it was,” Cy said again. “One thing I found, creating life, was that the matter and energy I drew from Voidville was second-rate. I couldn’t make anything lasting, anything worthwhile. Jason was a dimwit, and his replacements were even worse. No, to make life you have to give life. And now that I have, your attempts to stop me to the contrary, I can finally do what I’ve been planning all along.”

“What is it, Cy?” Benjamin asked. “What’s all this for? What’s almost killing my little sister worth?”

“Man, don’t you know?” Cy asked. “Haven’t you figured it out yet?

“I’m making everything right. I’m bringing back Lloyd.”

Benjamin stared at him for a few seconds. “…Say what?”

Cy frowned. “You heard me. I am bringing our friend back to life. And it’s going to fix you, fix Eddie, fix the game…everything’s going to be all right again!”

Benjamin stood, quivering and quiet. Cy stepped closer. “It’s okay, man. I know it was an accident, we all did.”

“What are you talking about?” Andi asked. She glanced at Benjamin and didn’t like how he looked.

Cy rolled his eyes again. “Like you care. Like you could understand. But fine…Lloyd was the original Horror Host of Voidville. And he was brilliant, the best we ever had. But one day, because Benjamin kept pestering him, Lloyd let him run the show. We were playing keep-away with a ‘dragon egg’ — really, one of those pre-inflated balls you get at Wal-Mart — trying to keep it from the…”

“Cerulean Sorcerer,” Benjamin said, his voice affectless and dull.

“There you go,” said Cy. “So it got thrown to Benjamin, who got all mad because you don’t directly play with the Host. So he tossed it away, and it went out into the street. Lloyd went after it, and I guess he didn’t see that drunk guy in time. And,” Cy clapped his hands together.

Benjamin flinched at the noise.

“And you’ve never been the same,” Cy said. “But if he comes back, then everything’s okay again. Don’t you see? Don’t you agree?”

Benjamin stood still for so long, Andi almost reached out and shook him. But at last he turned to Cy.

“Do I agree? How can I? Do you think I want Lloyd to come back, knowing he’ll never be able to forgive me for what I did? I’ll never be able to forgive myself!”

Cy fumbled for the words. “It doesn’t matter! If he comes back and hates you, I’ll make him over again, and create a version of him that doesn’t!”

Benjamin bared his teeth in fury. “And you think that’s okay? Jesus, Cy, I can imagine Lloyd forgiving me a hundred times over, but that doesn’t make it true! And making some lobotomized copy of him instead…how is that right? How?”

Cy stared back, then spoke after a long silence. “I should’ve known. I probably could have guessed, especially after she ruined you,” he said, pointing at Andi. “But it’s okay. I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and neither one of you can stop me.” The portal began to churn and glow again, gaining substance. “My big mistake was trusting other people,” Cy said.

Another Cy stepped out from behind a stack of pumpkins, followed by another and another, until a full dozen stood at various points across the area, all looking at Andi and Benjamin.

“I just needed to rely on myself,” all the Cys said as one.

Benjamin wasn’t bothered. “Oh, gee. Let me guess. This one,” and he pointed at a nearby Cy, “is the one who’s friendly to Eddie. And this other one is the one that talks crap about him behind his back.”

Andi, emboldened by Benjamin’s words, took up the game. “And this one here is the one that tells his sister I’m his girlfriend, while that one over there is the one that slips me a poisoned Coke.”

The Cys flinched and scowled at the taunts. “Shut up,” they all said.

“This is absolutely accurate for you, Cy,” said Benjamin. “Not just two-faced, but baker’s dozen-faced. Suits you down to the ground, man.”

“I am going to fix everything,” said the original Cy, while his dupes glowered. “I am going to make the world perfect, and you will beg me to let you live in it. A new Lloyd. A replacement for Eddie, with all the smarts but none of the jackass. A replacement for his convict dad. A replacement for all the judgy church people in town. A replacement for my bitch sister. I’ll make it all correct, the way it should be.”

“So,” Andi said, “this is the one that nicely asks his sister for face paint, and this one,” and she pointed right at the one that had just spoken, “is the one who calls her a bitch.”

Shut! Up!” Cy screamed, and his duplicates all popped like soap bubbles.

“That’s something I found out,” Andi stage-whispered to Benjamin, making damn sure Cy could hear. “He can’t do his little magic tricks when you break his concentration.” She looked over at him, smirking. “By the way, did you get all the sleeping pill residue cleaned out of your little computer?”

Cy reached out his hand and flickered his fingers. Andi felt something rush by, thrumming and fast, but nothing happened to her.

Then Benjamin collapsed to the dirt, and she saw the arrow jutting from his chest.

“You can’t hurt him anymore,” Cy said. “Never again. And I don’t need him for this. Lloyd was my friend, too.” He walked away, waving his arms like a conductor, and the portal started to swirl and blaze.

Andi scrambled over to Benjamin, who lay on his back, the arrow clearly having punctured a lung or even nicked his heart. He looked up at her, eyes rolling in the sockets.

“Hey,” he said. “Sorry. Thought I could…” he coughed, and blood flecked his lips.

“Don’t talk,” she said. She had to save him. She had to stop Cy. But everyone was right. She didn’t have the imagination. She didn’t have the power. She was too much a part of the real world, the world that rejected those who used their minds and loved transcending Earth with their thoughts.

She didn’t have enough imagination to stop Cy.

But as she looked at the arrow, it seemed to waver and fade, just for a second.

Maybe she had enough imagination to do something else, instead.

She focused. The arrow wasn’t real. It was just another trick of Cy’s, just another thing he conjured up. Like Jason, it could move through the world, touch things, even cause harm…but it

just

was

not

real!

The arrow blinked away, and Benjamin’s chest was un-punctured. He set up with a gasp and looked at Andi, amazed.

“Go get him,” she said, and ran just a step behind as Benjamin bolted towards Cy.

He hit his old friend with a flying tackle, knocking him clear of the portal, which had begun to blossom at its center, revealing something beyond.

Something that looked very much like another world.

Benjamin and Cy tumbled together, punching and kicking, until they bumped up against a stack of pumpkins. One fell off and bonked Benjamin on the head, and while he reeled from that, Cy conjured up a sword and chopped Benjamin’s head off with one clean stroke.

Andi screamed and ran to Benjamin, pushing down the shock as best she could and finding her focus again because this wasn’t real, either, it was just another one of Cy’s damned tricks, and Benjamin’s head —

— was back on his body, and he was whole again.

“Oh,” said Cy, pulling a hatchet out of nowhere. “I see. I’ve been trying to kill the wrong one.” He advanced on Andi, but Benjamin produced a sword of his own, and parried Cy.

The two swung weapons at each other, clanging and clashing, until Benjamin swirled his sword around and disarmed Cy. Cy took it in stride, inhaled, and breathed a plume of fire right in Benjamin’s face. Benjamin dropped, his head a blackened chunk of charcoal.

Except Andi knew that wasn’t real, either.

Benjamin’s head healed and he sprung up, a chain whipping from his hand to wrap around Cy’s neck. With a pivot, he whipped his friend up in the air and slammed him back down again by the chain.

Cy shot out circular saw blades that chopped off Benjamin’s feet at the ankles…until his feet reattached again.

Benjamin created a python that wrapped Cy up tight.

Cy shot gamma rays out of his eyes and scorched twin holes through Benjamin’s chest, which healed in less than a second.

At last, Cy staggered away from Benjamin. “You know,” he gasped, “of all the ways this could’ve played out, The Sword in the Stone wouldn’t have been my first guess.”

Benjamin laughed at that, an honest, pure chuckle.

“You can’t stop me,” Cy said. “And I can’t stop you. But I…” and he stopped, pained, clutching at his neck where the chain had wrapped, then his chest where the snake had crushed.

“Oh,” Cy said. Then, looking at Andi, “Oh. Ha. Ha ha ha! Oh, this is perfect. Absolutely perfect.” He went to the portal.

“Cy,” Benjamin warned.

“Calm down, man,” Cy said. “I’m not doing anything. I’ll just…” and he laughed again. “I’ll see you soon.” With that, he dived through the portal before Benjamin could make another move. Benjamin ran to the portal, which still stood, cycling back down to a few whirling embers.

“What did he mean?” Andi asked.

“I don’t know,” Benjamin said. “Maybe his concentration broke, but –”

Andi looked back at the gate to the farm, wondering if they could still get away, if someone had come by and noticed all the craziness going on.

“I have to go after him,” Benjamin said, “just the same. If he’s in Voidville, he’s still a danger to this world…I need to –”

Benjamin cried out pain.

She spun, and saw blood beginning to seep from his chest, his neck, his ankles…

“Oh, God,” he said. “I understand now.”

“What’s happening?” she said. She tried to focus. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. He was fine.

“It’s from when you healed me. You made the weapons disappear, but the damage? It was very real. So, you repaired me…with your imagination. Imaginary blood vessels, imaginary muscle fibers…”

She thought of threatening Cy in his room. If she beat him up, and she was made to vanish, the damage would still remain…

“And now it’s failing,” Benjamin said. “Where you healed me is fading away.”

“I’ll try harder,” Andi said. “I’ll imagine it back!”

“And then?” Benjamin said, and coughed up some blood. “You’ll have to sleep. You’ll have to focus on taking a test, or remembering a flag routine. And then I fall to pieces.”

“No, no,” she said, breathing the words as fog in the chilly air.

“But I think Cy was onto something…get me to the portal.”

She got under one arm and the two of them lurched to the swirling sparks, which began to enlarge and shine as they drew closer.

“Voidville is pure imagination,” Benjamin said. “I can stay healed as long as I’m there.”

She almost dropped him. “No! Benjamin, you can’t go!”

“It’s the only way,” he said. Then, with a wincing quirk at the corner of his mouth, “…Told you I couldn’t function in this world.”

“But…maybe you can function in another,” she said, words barely getting out from the tears that had started.

“You could come with me,” he said. “Think about it. After we stop Cy, then there’s nothing but play, forever. Every day is a new adventure. For long after the Earth is dust.”

And she could come with him, couldn’t she? There was nothing but hurt and complication here: angry parents, angry school, angry cops. She could turn her back on tests, on electives, on college, on becoming an adult, on having kids, on starting a family and passing on her gran-da’s stories…

He looked at her, and must have seen something in her eyes she thought was hidden. “Oh, yes,” he said, and coughed again, wetly and more violently this time. “The siren song of the magic ring-toss game.”

“No,” she said. “It’s not like that, it’s just –”

He pushed away from her with necessity, not scorn, and stood, wobbly, in front of the now-open portal.

“You played as well as anybody ever did,” he said. “If you ever want to play again, just imagine. I’ll hear you.”

And with that, he fell backwards into the portal. This time, it flared and shut completely, with no more floating embers, just the emptiness of the space where it had hung.

Andi reached out and waved her hand where the portal had been. No warmth, nothing. Just the same chill wind as everywhere else.

She breathed great hitching breaths that stung with the cold air, the tears slowing and finally ceasing.

On the way back to her bike, she paused to kick a pumpkin, not stopping until it was unrecognizable pulp beneath her feet.

Then she hopped the gate, got on her bicycle, and started the long ride back home.

Back home, and back to reality.

*****

Today’s Words: 5029
Total Words: 44777

*****

Notes: Whew! One-point-five hours until midnight here in Texas, and I am wiped out. I had hoped to finish the epilogue today, but I don’t think I can. Nearly eight thousand words in a day seems like my limit. That unfortunately means the challenge is a complete failure this year, as well.

So it goes. See you tomorrow for the epilogue, and the conclusion of the first draft of Voidville!

*****

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!)

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