Ch 25 ~ The Way
“Try losing someone, kid, before you go thinking anything is over the top,” Spence said with a mildness that was completely contrary to his current state of mind.
“What do you imagine you’ll do? What’s left?” Dryst asked.
“He didn’t mention,” the Other asked. “He didn’t tell you along the way? Why, he intends to change the course of time and of events. Ironic, really. My intention as well. Just for a different purpose.”
“Spence,” Dryst whispered, ignoring the posturings of the Queen Witch, Librarian, the Seat of all Knowledge or whatever she/he/it was (Dryst was never entirely convinced the being itself had a gender to begin with). He realized he should have been more afraid of her than he was at this point, but now that Dryst knew Mya was alive somewhere in the mountain (even though he was greatly distressed by the fact that she was in the mountain and worse, in danger’s way looking for him…but somehow he knew that she was safe), he sensed an energy about the Other that he found less fear-inducing and more perplexing.
She seemed to feel a need to be right and in control at every turn…just because? Dryst detected a false note of bravado.
“Let him rest,” he softly said, turning to the old man.
The two men looked at each other. For once, the old man looked, well, truly old, more ancient than dangerous under the current circumstances. But the most odd of all things was that Dryst had noticed something in the room that he hadn’t noticed before. An aura threaded itself between Spence and the Other. Connecting them, Dryst wondered, or existing for some other reason. Was she a shapeshifter, a body snatcher, a control freak, an Eternal bent upon absolute power and control over all of life? Or was she more directly knowable, not quite as mysterious, not quite as over-the-top while still being mysterious only in an entirely different way.
Was she, in truth, an extension of Spence?
Dryst tended not to read into things, but it was staring him straight on, and in this case, she happened to have her hair pulled back in the tightest bun he had ever seen, yanking her eyes into slits that tugged themselves away from her face. With hair like that who needs botox, he thought, but more stubbornly continued to chase after the puzzle: was she an overly-amplified physical manifestation of Spence’s feelings surrounding the loss of his father?
The expression in Spence’s weary eyes clearly said yes.
Dryst’s broad chest heaved just a bit, stemming from relief, worry, astonishment? He didn’t know. All that he suddenly knew was that this entire Event appeared to be all about the old man’s grief and his willingness, or not, to believe in the goodness that still remained in life.
Much more, the butterfly purred seemingly out of nowhere.
Dryst heard the creature but glossed quickly over his words, teasing out answers instead to questions of Why are we here, why May, why me?
All about so much more, the butterfly persisted, its voice bubbling up into a gentle song that only Dryst could hear. Hear Dryst did, knowing that the meaning behind those words would make itself known when it was meant to be known.
“The Clan of Ophania? Also you?”
Spence shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure of any of this, but if that’s how you want to see it, then yeah, kid. Not exactly one of my better sides. They have a bit of road rage in them.”
Dryst nodded, and the Clan of Ophania and the Other and Spence quietly closed circle around him. But really, Dryst knew, it was mainly Spence — it was only Spence — claiming ground, putting all of this in motion.
“The Stream is real, kid,” Spence said smoothly, his weariness battling on and off of his face. Dryst could see deep gashes around the old man’s eyes from the strain of wanting so badly to have the power to undo the past. How long had he carried this burden around with him?
“When I first came across the Stream, I held the key,” he continued, and cast his focus around Dryst’s pocket, apparently knowing where the portal lay safely tucked away on his person.
“It brought me this far. Surprising as that was. And then even more surprisingly, it seemed to release these parts of my energy.” He tilted his head in the direction of the Other, who stood by studying her fingernails and smoothing every last tight strand that wrapped around her head. “Funny,” he laughed in quiet amusement to himself, “how some of my thoughts look when they’re personified. The good, the bad, the all.” He motioned his head, then, in a broader sweep to indicate the Clan.
“Like I said…not too sure about them, but, hell, in this place? It wouldn’t surprise me. Besides, they seem to know me too well.”
“Perhaps you’ve said enough,” the Other interrupted, behaving in a slightly more aggitated manner, and Ophania snorted loosely, watching the Other with keen interest…watching her even more closely than she had been watching Dryst. Dryst thought the Other’s bun might pop or her collar snap open from the unease she suddenly seemed to be battling. The Other and Ophania seemed to be at some kind of opposition for the first time since Dryst had encountered them.
The air grew thick with tension with no sound except for the tree roots in the sky coiling around each other and spreading against the backdrop of the purple-grey sky.
Between snarls from Ophania to the Other and back again, Spence wearily eyed the younger man. Oblivious to the two Eternals – or whatever they were…the two strands of his thoughts – Spence narrowed his voice and said, “What’s it gonna be, kid.”
“Not what you would have it be, Spence,” Dryst said with tenderness. “You won’t have the key by way of my free will. And you won’t have it by way of force either.” He paused, while secretly marshalling his adrenalin and readying his muscles. Something was about to erupt. He didn’t know what or how or where. But even if it didn’t, Dryst was getting Mya and they were going to get away from Spence’s ill-intention.
“The girl is weakening,” Ophania suddenly hissed, looking squarely at the Other, making it abundantly clear that the ‘girl’ she was referring to – perhaps all along, Dryst realized – was Spence’s Other.
“You don’t really want this,” Dryst said in urgent tones, winding his voice between the sparkling energy that began to build from Ophania to the Other. They were locked into some kind of battle, oblivious to Dryst and even, by all appearances, even Spence.
She cannot hold. Her will has usurped my authority for all this time, but she cannot hold. Ophania muttered in her mind, not caring if the Other could hear the witch’s thoughts because the witch knew it to be true that the Other wavered.
Spence wavered. He seemed increasingly worn. Dryst studied him carefully, following the threads of the aura that reached across between the two, hearing the threads bristle from strain.
“Spence,” Dryst called his name urgently. The old man hunched over against the desk, caught in the middle of indecision. He looked at the kid from under his eyebrows, and when their eyes made contact, Dryst whispered, “Give up the ghost.”
At that moment, the Clan of Ophania slithered their focus upon the co-mingled genders of Ophania and the tightly wound Other. All in the room seemed to be oblivious to the two men.
“You never belonged here,” Ophania growled between here teeth and seared her gaze between the Other’s eyes.
A slightly forced cackle broke into the middle of the room. The Other adjusted her hair and clawed at the buttons that looped her collar so mercilessly around her neck. “And you,” the Other said, with a show of balance and a display of unsteadiness that equalled the impasse Spence found himself at within his own mind, “You are but a wisp of thought brought to life not by your own doing but by all of life’s creation, the very place you seek to deny.”
The edges of the collar of his worn jacket chafed at Spence’s throat. His fingers pulled listlessly at the fabric to open up a passage, to air his insides out, to breathe.
“You made it this far,” Dryst said to the old man, as he moved rapidly toward him and grabbed him around the back of his arm, pulling Spence — weary and heavy as if overloaded with burden — to his feet…away from the desk, away from the unfolding clash between parts of himself, or between only one part of himself against some other essence (the Clan and Ophania) that had emerged from the Stream at the same time when the Other had been released from Spence’s mind and become manifest.
Dryst ran with Spence, dragging him and nearly carrying him, as fast and as he force his powerful body to physically haul them off. His words ricocheted out of his lungs when, under his breath, Dryst said, “And you’ll make it back with us too.
Humhaaa, Ophania exalted, “enough words!” and she lunged forward into a raging battle with the Other.
National Novel Writing Month (even though Nov 30th has come and gone): Chapter 25 total wordcount: 1550 (not including this notation). Total total count: 48,620.