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Chapter 23

Chapter 23

They made their way behind Clearing's house to the bathroom window. Cary was careful this time not to exert anywhere close to what he knew now was his full strength, even withstanding Bugs' whispered admonition.

“Care! Be careful! Remember what happened last time!” she said.

The window was still broken, but had been taped up with cardboard and duct tape. Cary cut a glance at her, slightly annoyed, but then they both snickered with quiet giggles. After quick and gentle removal of the cardboard they were inside. Bugs darted her gaze around as if disbelief at what they were doing, but when Cary caught her eyes he saw excitement. She trailed her fingers across surfaces, as though inspecting for dust, her face alight with wonder. “We won't get caught!” he promised, though Cary was certain she didn't much care. She nodded and chewed her lower lip.

“I've done it before! ” Cary added, embracing the need to be as open with Bugs as possible. As they skulked, he told her all about breaking into the house before Clearing lived there so he could play SNES. He left Jonathan out of the telling He told her about the very last time he broke in, and if she was bothered she gave no sign. They searched the living room, to no avail. “Maybe it's in the office somewhere?” Bugs offered. “He had that box in the office, maybe it's in there and we just didn't look hard enough...”

“I don't think so..” Cary said, as both teens had rifled through the office several times during the earlier part of the evening while they surfed Pottermore, to no effect. “It's big, and shiny. But thin. He could have hidden it anywhere.” He held up his hands to show her how large. As if she didn't already know.

She knows more about tablets than I do!

“OK.” Bugs said, her frustration obvious in her tone, “Where could he possibly hide it? We have to try and think like he would.” She over turned things which could not possibly conceal the tablet, without looking, as if she were simply moving things to move them. They continued to search the workroom, then the hallway closet and then the kitchen cabinets. It seemed the only options left were Clearing's bedroom and the attic. Resigned, Cary said, “Let's try the bedroom where Clearing sleeps.”

At this Bugs finally looked truly uncomfortable. They both liked Clearing, but Cary felt a surging need to find the tablet, to show the Book of Fates to Bugs, to validate his words to her. Bugs went along with the suggestion reluctantly. The door was locked. Cary twisted the knob several times, lightly, making sure not to twist anywhere near as hard as he could.

I have to remember I'm strong....I still can't believe I'm strong!

But the door wouldn't budge. Cary resisted the urge to just shove the door with all his strength. Bugs give him an impish look and shrugged, as if to say, “If you have to!” Still, she looked very unsure but she didn't say anything to stop him. Cary grabbed the doorknob, put his shoulder to the door and pushed, not even using all his strength. With a splintering crack, the door came off the hinges and rushed inward into the room. Cary screamed loudly as he fell, and Bugs shouted as well. He immediately released the door, managed only at the last minute to keep himself upright. He and Bugs stared at the wreckage of the door, dumbfounded.

“What are we going to do NOW?” Cary said, shocked he could have been so stupid.

How could I have not foreseen this?

Bugs had a shocked expression which matched Cary's own, but she was shocked for a different reason. “How did you do THAT?” she whispered.

Cary shrugged, “I told you, I wished to be the strongest...”

Bugs cut him off impatiently. “I know, I mean, right? I just didn't think...It's one thing to tell someone something like that, but you destroyed that door with your shoulder!” She moved over to inspect the door. "These hinges are reinforced, Care. I bet you could lift a car...”

Cary grinned as he pictured himself lifting a car like baby Superman in that old movie. The nasty voice interjected: It won't make Jonathan or Troy or the other kids like you. Cary pushed the voice away.

“Come on,” he said and pushed his way around the fallen door into Clearing's bedroom. Bugs followed. The room was empty. Completely. The torn carpeting which had been there was gone, as were the baseboards which had been beneath. Only exposed concrete remained. The walls were no longer painted drywall either, but had been covered over in some smooth, hard looking stuff, strange symbols were carved into the smooth surface. Symbols which looked vaguely familiar. Cary suspected, though it was too dark to be sure, the walls might be metal. Curious, he moved over and rubbed his hand across the wall. It was cold and smooth. The symbols were etched into the metal-like surface. Cary traced one and something tugged at a spot just under his ribcage.

“It feels like steel or something.”

Bugs did the same and nodded. “Definitely metal.” She rapped her knuckles against the wall. It rang. “Definitely metal.”

Even the ceiling seemed made from the metal, now that Cary looked up at it. Where a set of closets with shuttered doors had been, the wall had been ripped away, leaving more space of exposed concrete and metal walls. The whole room had been gutted, and somehow, for some reason, refinished in metal and concrete.

“What is the point of this room?” Bugs asked. Cary shrugged. He had NO idea. But whatever the point was, one thing was now crystal clear.

Neither the tablet nor the Book of Fates was in this room.

Next Chapter: Chapter 24