Monday, October 3, 2011

Chapter 11 --All Hallow's Eve

A little format experiment here. That didn't survive the transition to Blogger. Grr.

Oh. By the way: What Mr.Wong sings when the subject turns to zombies.

Chapter 11 –All Hallow’s Eve
The door of John’s room burst open. Three heads poked into the room. Savannah2, the one that always wore a hat, was at the top, precariously balanced against a hand holding the door. Amy was in the middle, Emily somehow tucked in beneath her. The girls screamed for a long moment as it looked like they were all going to do down in a heap. Finally, when it was clear that they were all going to stay up, Savannah2 said, “it stinks in here.”
Jason said, “Don’t look at me. I had a shower yesterday.” John didn’t say anything. He’d almost skipped his shower today, too. It wasn’t fair. Why did you have to do it every day when there was just so much to do? Especially something so uncomfortable. He was always freezing after a shower, and there were never enough towels. It wasn’t like anyone cared. He was totally going to skip it until Wednesday now. Or Thursday.
Amy looked at her brother. “You totally did not. You haven’t had a shower since you broke your ankle running from Jamie and Jameel on Friday.” On the other hand, maybe John could get Mrs. Wong to buy Old Spice body wash. If he smelled like the Old Spice guy, maybe people would notice.
Cory spoke, even louder than Jason. If that were possible, because now that the girls weren’t screaming, you could hear the kids downstairs. “What’s up?”
Behind the girls, John heard Rafaella. “Move it, guys!” Emily led Amy and Savannah2 into the room. Savannah2 flopped on the bed, while Emily and Amy put trays on the dresser and sat down cross-legged and graceful beside it, on the furnace register. “We brought moon cakes!” Amy said.
John made a face. “Wasn’t that last month?”
Amy shrugged. “Mom always gets them again for Halloween. It’s multicultural. Two feasts for hungry ghosts. And she likes them.” Cory and Jason tried to lean over and grab cakes at the same time, and slid off the bed onto the floor.
“But why? They’re…”
“Not very good?” Amy finished.
“Yeah. I mean, most of it is okay, but there’s an egg in the middle. It’s salty. And it’s, you know, an egg. A baby chicken. In a cake. It’s ….creepy.”
“Duck.” Jason said around a mouthful of cake and tea.
“Whatever, dude.” John replied over his shoulder as he looked back at Amy. Speaking of creepy, exactly how long was he allowed to stare at her? Because he could do it all day.
“It’s symbolic. And creepy’s perfect for Halloween. Besides, it’s salt and sweet. You should love it. You’re the only guy I know who likes Mom’s milk tea. Even Brad won’t drink it, and he eats sheep’s tail!”
“I…” John felt defensive now. “It’s like cream of mushroom soup. Only it’s tea. What’s not to like?”
“Eww,” said Savannah2. She had a moon cake in her hand, but hadn’t tried it.
“Exactly.” Said Emily. “Not helping your case, John.”
 Rafaella had hung, awkwardly, on the door through all of this, as if she wanted to say something. Instead, now she turned around and went downstairs. Down below, the sound of the kids died away a little so that they could hear that Damon was crying again. Emily said, “We were going to ask you guys to come down to the TV room. The movie is almost over.”
“Are you sure that would be a good idea?” Jason asked. “Babs and Ty were pretty grumpy.”
Savannah2 grinned. “Babs was grumpy. Ty’s just going along to get along, if you know what I mean.” Amy giggled.
Cory sighed. “Why couldn’t that boy be more like his brother?”
“Because even if he were, you’d have to put on forty pounds before he’d even look at you,” Amy said.
“I can’t help being athletically lithe and wiry. Billy’s beefcake boys are not fit.”
“Oh! That reminds me. Billy called earlier. Said we should call back.” Jason said.
“Put it on speaker,” Amy said as Jason dialled.
“Black Titan here.” You’d hardly visualise the stoop-shouldered beanpole of Billy Washington’s pictures to hear his deep, strong voice.
“You on a mission… Black Titan?” Jason asked.
“Cleaning up Turakian reavers, zombies, a few werewolves around Berkeley campus. Nothing that can stand up to the raging power of two bridezillas,” Billy replied.
“I heard that, Billy!” Came Nita Guzman’s voice in the background.
“Codenames, Gidget!” He replied.
“I like the new codenames,” Jason said carefully. “Where’s Hank?”
“Drafted up to the big show. Eldritch and the Guardians are checking out some bizarre tower that the Demonologist erected up in Napa, and Totem’s out for some kind of purification, so Avenging Son is supplying the muscle.”
“The Demonologist? He’s got something going down?”
“No. And that’s my point.” Billy suddenly sounded very authoritative. “What’s going down here in Northern Cal is very typical of Takofanes. The Demonologist pulled his Napa working weeks ago. It’s just manifesting now while he keeps a low profile and stays out of the big guy’s way. That’s not how it’s going down in Phillie. You kids keep an eye out…”
Jason shifted his grip on his phone and bent his head around to point it at the window. “BlackTitan? Hello? Hello?” Then he brought the phone down so that he could look at the screen. “What is this? The Nineties?”  
“Cheap horror movie,” Emily replied. “Spooky message, phones cutting out. Time for the perky blonde to head downstairs.” Emily got up and walked to the door. Savannah2 and Jason going “Ee-ee-ee-ee” as she left. But before she left, she turned and looked at Jason. “By the way. Nice wallpaper.”
Amy grabbed her brother’s phone. “Where? What? Password? Since when do you have a password?”
John slid over on his stomach and held out his  hand. Amy put the phone in his palm, and John leaned all the way over, the edge of  the bed pressing into his stomach as he entered Jason’s password. He knew what he was going to find, but Jason could stand more general teasing on it.
“John, you’re as bad a snoop as Amy!” Jason said, as he half-heartedly grabbed for the phone. Somehow, being linked with Amy made John feel happy. Ah. There was the wallpaper. John held it up.
“You have a point, Jason. Theera does have pretty skin,” Amy said. “And there’s so much of it.”
Savannah craned over to look. Behind her, John noticed, frost had begun to crawl across the glass doors to his tiny almost-balcony. Was it really that cold outside? “Where did you get that photo, Jason?” she asked. “From her Facebook page?”
“Oh, Lord, no. Rashindar’s on Facebook. She emailed it to me.”
“Wait? Rashindar’s on Facebook?” John asked.
“Wait? Theera sent you a picture of herself in a bikini?” Amy asked.
“Yes and yes.”
“What about being Mr. Decadent West, corrupted by technology?” John asked.
“Is this thing with Theera serious?” Amy asked.
Jason scowled. “You’re both out to lunch. Rashindar’s thing is that technology was invented in ancient India. Probably thinks that iPhones are in the Vedas. And why not? Your brother is a total stud muffin.”
“Total spaz boy is more like it,” John muttered.
“You say ‘tomato,’ I say ‘hot, hot hot.’ It’s all about the self-confidence, dude.” Jason answered.
“You’re not confident! You’re as screwed-up as me,” John said. Oh. Amy and Savannah2 looked at him strangely when he said that. He had to remember: they were smart. The sliver of moon visible through the window was turning ….oily. Was that because of the frost?
“Gotta fake it till  you make it, bro.”
Amy challenged. “Did you just say that, Jas?”
“What? It’s just a figure of speech, sis. He’s a bro.”
“No,” Amy said, waving it away impatiently. “That total cliché.”
“It’s a cliché because it’s true, sis.” For that one second, Jason almost sounded sincere. “Take a memo: act a little more self-confident and maybe you’d get more of what you want, too.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that acting like a conceited moron is the answer to all my problems.”
“Guys?” Savannah2 said. “Not to interrupt this bril demonstration of sibling rivalry, but are we going down to the TV room any time soon?”
“What about Babs?” Amy asked.
Savannah2 continued, “Babs has her nose up because she thinks she’s supposed to. And because we have to spend Halloween here instead of a mansion.” Savannah2 looked over at Amy, whose face had crashed at the criticism of the Yurt. “I’d rather be here than the mansion. It’s way more homey.”
Cory said, “Me, too.” Although he seemed a little unconvinced. “Except at the mansion there’s a Kinect for everybody, and a 200 inch plasma TV, and a pool and a….”
“We get it,” Amy said.
“And way more fortifications than here,” Savannah said.
“But they wouldn’t be enough…” Cory began.
“Because my crazy cousin Sarah is actually the Demonologist’s wingman,” Savannah2 finished.
“Which I don’t understand how she can’t figure out that we know. Especially after Tara and Tony just stone walked out. I mean, it’s one thing to not want to leave your baby at the mansion while you’re out of town. It’s another to move out two months after you moved in. If I were her, I’d skedaddle,” Cory said.
“Because the McNeely penthouse downtown must be total sucksville.” Jason was getting the sarcasm thing down, too.
John answered Savannah2 instead of Jason. “Gyre does know. And she knows that we know. And we know that she knows that we know. The question is, does this end with us getting the Demonologist, or with the Demonologist getting what he wants from us? That’s the game. And it’s good that everyone is safe and out of the mansion tonight, no matter how strong it is, and how many Browns there are in from upstate guarding it.”
“So why couldn’t Tara and Tony just take Damon with them?” Jason asked.
Amy rolled her eyes. “Victory is in charge down there, and she’s tough.” Amy tried to sound like she imagined the official NASA superhero. “’There’s an Air Force way and a NASA way, and we’re doing things the Air Force way. That means that if I call a 7:30 meeting, everyone’s here at 7:30! With their briefings ready. Fatima! Tara, I told you to help Fatima with the paperwork. Sleep when you’re dead. Gung ho!’ If Tara brought the baby down, Victory would just pick on her like she does that poor Arab kid.”
“Isn’t ‘gung ho’ the Marines?” John asked, just to keep Amy talking.
“Whatever,” Amy replied. “Something macho like that. I was mainly thinking of Fatima. At least Tony and Tara get demobbed when the emergency is over, and Victory is career air force.  Fatima’s probably stuck at NASA forever. No way an Arab woman with superstrength gets work at home.”
“No-one respects the bricks,” Jason said. “The rest of you think that we’re stupid. Or at least overconfident and reckless.” He looked around the room. “I’ll shut up now.” Only he didn’t. “But at least I have a girlfriend!” He picked up his phone and put it in his pocket.
John smiled back. “In Tamil Nadu. Is that near Canada?”
Savannah couldn’t let it go. “Honestly. Mr. McNeely should just kick Ms. Brinton out. Problem solved. Things could go back to the way they were before.”
Amy had her serious voice back. “But that wouldn’t solve the problem. Ms. Brinton works at Price Rite. With my sister, and you, and Ty and Jameel and…Things will never go back to the way they were before. That’s life. Don’t look back at some perfect past, don’t imagine a perfect future. Do what’s right and needs doing right now.” She really was her mother’s daughter. But, John thought, what about my perfect past? Why can’t I have a childhood? Why do I have to be right here, where the room is getting colder? He couldn’t even quite hear the baby any more.
“Not to mention everyone who either works at the mall or hangs out there,” Savannah2 said, glumly. “Well, get rid of her. Get her fired. Get her arrested.”
“Bingo,” said Jason. “Just need this little thing called evidence.”
“And the right kind of evidence. As in, no dead bodies.” John added.
Amy was looking out the window just then, so she was the first to scream at the faces in the frost.
Jason sprang out of the bed, his fist meeting the creature pushing through the glass doors, which were suddenly pivoting the wrong way. Something pale, like a slug exploded out the window, but two more, half stepping, half slithering, were coming in to take its place at hip level. Amy hit one with a mind lance, and it, too, recoiled out the window. John’s telekinesis took the last, clearing the room. But outside, visible in the light now that the windows were opening, two more hung from fleshy wings erupting from shoulders that were just a little too big and angular, as though they were wearing shoulder pads half a size too small. Small, metal things flew through the air, and sprouted from their eyesockets. The flying things fell, sliding and swooping away like paper airplanes. “I hope those things don’t count as humans, because they’re going to have problems living with knives in their brains,” Cory said as he stepped to the window. “Oh. Come look at this.”
Amy, Jason, and John stepped to the window beside Cory. Behind them there was suddenly a crowd, as Savannah2 broke into three duplicates, each positioned at a slight angle for all round readiness. Below, the back room was crammed with pale figures. The leading wave was climbing the walls, and more flying ones flitted in the night sky.
“Zombies?” Cory asked.
“Not enough stumbling,” John answered, his voice tight.
“Come on! We need to link everybody up” Jason said, a little too loud, gesturing out the door. They ran out into the hall, and Savannah2/2, in the lead, stumbled over Megan. “I’m a spy like Amy!” Megan said, as Savannah2/2 swept her up, while Savannah2/3 squeezed  by her and led the way down the stairs and through the door at the bottom into the second floor.
Or, actually, right back into the short hall between John’s bedroom and the bathroom. “What the heck?” John said, as Savannah2/3 went down under a wave of pale things. John didn’t even think about it as he swept them up in a telekinetic wave and slammed them into the end of the hall, where the wall shook in a reassuringly solid way. Fortunately, John had tested that strength a few times while horsing around. Even the slit window facing the end of the house held, although the leg brace on the little table with the single vase underneath it broke.
“This is like one of those stupid stair paintings. Gyre is absolutely behind this,” Amy said. Her head was close to John’s on account of her suddenly standing on the wall. He felt like the world was full of Amy suddenly, and had no sane idea what to do next, so he pulled away towards the door to his bedroom. Which was full of more pale things.
“I hope my furniture survives this fight,” John said.
“I hope we survive this fight,” Cory said.
“We can’t fight. Not with Megan,” Savannah2-John-had-lost-track-of-which-triplet-was-which-said. One of the ones not holding Megan, anyway. “We need…”
“We can’t!” Said Jason.
“We have to,” said Amy. She tapped her feet against the wall next to the bathroom door. And it slid back. “In! Hurry!”
John backed in, shoulder to shoulder with Cory, who held his throwing knives in one hand. We should work out some kind of combo tactic with a telekinetic assist, John thought. The moment we live through this. The wall slid shut behind them.
“I recognise this look,” he said. Because he did. The hidden room that had been across from his bedroom without him even knowing for the last two months looked exactly like the corridor spaces underneath Tatammy High and in the Goblin Deep out under Monk’s Mountain. Same grey, gun metal walls, same pipes and conduits. The same viewscreens that Amy and Jason were now flicking on. Even the same round, metal hatchway in the wall opposite the bathroom. John craned his head to look at the viewscreens. There were images of the kitchen and TV room. Both were empty. They were alone in the house. Where had all the other partygoers gone? Was there another bolthole in the house?
There was a solid thump against the wall. Frost began to form on it.

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