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Chapter 9 - Saving Sneaky Fitch

(Click here for Chapter 1)
October, 1981

It's dark and it's musty. I'm dressed like a cowboy.

I'm surrounded by whispers and black curtains. Flashes of color. My knees buckle, but I catch myself before they give out completely. Yellowish bubbles of light obscure my vision, and my stomach does a slow roll under my fringed leather vest. The orbs of yellow dissolve into the darkness around me, and I hear the distant, fading echo of birdsong.

There's the low hum of a crowd somewhere to my left, and in front of me is a dimly lit stage. There's a heavy blue curtain on one side and a backdrop painted like downtown Dodge City to the right. Cardboard cacti are scattered in between. Someone whispers in my ear:

"Fifteen minutes!"

The play.

I'm in a mother-fucking play.

---

As the light and the birdsong fades, the hum of the audience grows from the other side of the velvety blue curtain, and I sneak over, edge my way through the 10 other cast members strugglin…

Chapter 8 - "D"

(Click here for Chapter 1)
October, 1977

I don't take the money. Though I consider it. One dollar is 3 comic books.

Instead, I stare at it mutely until a breeze lifts it away and drops it into a thicket of bushes just as the final school bell rings down the hill. Dill watches it go, looks one more time into my eyes as if searching for a response to his offer, then turns on his heels and runs toward the bell and through the school door.

Part of me expects him to disappear into a flash of yellow light. I envision a cryptic message written on the back of a dollar bill from the future. But Dill remains solid as he pushes through the door, into the school, and off toward the elementary classrooms on the right, and when I manage to retrieve the dollar bill from the bushes, it's just a dollar bill. 1971.

And then there's the birds. They seem no louder or quieter than usual.

I shove the dollar bill into my pocket and follow Dill through the door, turning left instead of right. I ru…

Chapter 7 - The Poor Little Rich Boy

(Click here for Chapter 1)
October, 1977


It's three weeks from the night of the dream. Three weeks from the comic book that somehow escaped it to steal my sleep for the rest of that night and for many other nights to come.

Despite the magical urging of Richie Rich, I've found it impossible to go back to The Thing.

I've approached it from every possible angle, sat and stared at the mulberry bushes for hours at a time from the safety of the old, rusty swing set that still clings to our back yard. But no matter how hard I try to convince myself, no matter how I will my legs to move toward it, I can never seem to make it back through the bushes and into the Clubhouse to explore it any further.

I know it's still in there. I can see its yellow glow. I can hear its low vibration. I feel it's constant gentle pull when I feed the dog, when I rake the leaves, when I take out the trash, when I mow the lawn.

When I go to bed, it lights up my window from it's lair behind the…

Chapter 6 - I'm Only Sleeping

(Click here for Chapter 1)
September, 1977

I sit bolt upright in bed.

I don't know if it's day or night.

I hear the tinny, muffled sound of music drifting upward from my pillow. It's the Beatles, but I can't make out the song.

The curtains billow toward me, the bottom flips upward, a puff of cool breeze, a hint of burning leaves. My lungs expand. I lift the covers and touch my feet to the floor.

I stand and turn to the window across the room by Scott's empty bed. I can hear him outside. Talking to the trees, maybe playing with a truck, or preparing for takeoff in his pedal car. Another burst of autumn hits me from the side. My toes wiggle as I close my eyes and inhale. My feet leave the ground, and I float forward a few inches before they touch down softly onto the worn wooden floor.

Wait.

I turn and walk through the door, down the hall, toward the stairway. I pause at the top, step forward, wiggle my toes, walk downward. It seems natural. It's exhilarating. I r…

Chapter 5 - The Thing

(Click here for Chapter 1)
September, 1977

It's been a month since I created The Thing, and it doesn't seem inclined to go away. At least not yet.

I come home after school and The Thing is still there. I check after dinner and it greets me with a wink. The next day it's there. And the next. And the next.

I look through The Thing, and Grandma Kroll's house changes on a whim. Sometimes white, sometimes blue. Once it was greenish. But when I look over, under, or around The Thing, it remains resolutely white.

I've taken to calling the thing, "The Thing."

I look through The Thing from different angles. At the bushes. At the garage. At the shed. Sometimes the bushes are blooming, sometimes they're bare, sometimes covered with fruit, sometimes just leafy. One time the garage was gone. Once a different garage was there and the shed was gone. I never see people, though. Or anything alive other than plants.

So far, I've been unable to unlock The Thing's

Chapter 4 - Sex, Drugs, and Garfunkle

(Click here for Chapter 1)
December, 1986

The elevator doors open, and I push my cart out into the hallway. Room 425.  I take a right. The room service trays, with their stainless steel covers, clatter as I walk. The hall seems to stretch itself in front of me as I move over the brightly-colored carpet. I can feel my heart beating. In my temples. In my chest. In my wrists.

This is not going to go well.

My Walkman is clipped to my belt. Don Henley blasts in my ears. Johnny Can't Read. Long Way Home. Dirty Laundry. One of my favorite parts of the job is when I get to vacuum a meeting room. The vacuum drowns out my voice as I sing along. At least I hope it drowns out my voice.

I take a drink of my coffee as I continue down the hall. I have no idea if this is good coffee or bad coffee. I hate coffee. So it doesn't really matter. But the coffee is free. And I work pretty late.

I see room 425 just ahead, and I stop the cart to slow my heartbeat. I almost turn it around. Get someone e…

Chapter 3 - The Creature in the Attic

(Click here for Chapter 1)
1973(?)
I'm 8 years old. Maybe 9. I don't know.

It's night time, and I'm sitting on a step in the middle of the stairway that leads to the bedrooms upstairs. The carpet is rainbow-colored shag, and it's worn at the edges of the steps and smashed down in the middle. I'm listening to the television from the front room. I don't want to go to bed.

I'm scared.

I was in bed. I asked to stay up, but grandma is babysitting, and grandma follows the rules. "Don't worry," my sisters say. "If an axe murderer breaks in, he'll have to kill all of us down here before he could get to you." I don't know why that's a calming thought.

"Oaf!" says grandma. She's Danish.

I go upstairs, and I'm in bed, and I'm fine, when I feel a sort of rumbling. It's my bed. Like when a train rolls through town and the whole house shakes. But I listen and there are no whistles from the train or bells fr…