1658 words (6 minute read)

Chapter 30

“Jenson will have met up with Lurlene by now. I would be surprised if they do not come here as well...” Clearing said when they trotted up the driveway towards the kitchen door as Cary asked if anyone else would chase them aside from Troy and his cronies. Cary knew he should be afraid. Lurlene’s rough, strong hands loomed in his mind, flashing alongside images of those horrible shadow blobs. But so did the tablet. The Book of Fates. Inside Clearing’s house. Cary’s arm raised uncontrollably, he pulled it down, chagrined.

THE BOOK! The nasty voice in him urged. Get the Book!

Once inside, they were greeted by a tremendous surprise. The place had been ransacked. Everything was tossed about. Things were broken, lying on the floor in shattered fragments of twisted steel, broken glass, and wooden splinters. All of Clearing’s computers and shelves were destroyed, some of the machines still smoked. Oddly, Cary’s computer was not destroyed, simply turned on its side and dented. The sofas and mattresses had been ripped open, stuffing tossed across the carpet like fluffy white animal droppings. The walls were punched in places and the floor ripped up.

Clearing wandered through it all in a daze. Occasionally he would lean down to touch some gnarled detritus, rub it between his fingers as though remembering some cherished memory tied to the object. After a moment he would toss the thing, and maybe the memory, back to the floor and move on. Cary wanted to comfort the teacher, but a hidden force field of emotion separated them now: a wall of angry grief kept him, and Bugs, away from Clearing. Bugs grabbed Cary’s hand and squeezed it tight.

Nothing separated Bugs and Cary, now. They stayed glued to each other. They trailed Clearing up into the attic, where the tablet had been hidden. Cary’s jaw worked side to side in a yawn as they climbed the steps, eliciting a slight warble from Bugs as well.

“Gosh I wish you hadn’t done that... I wasn’t tired until you yawned,” Bugs said as she yawned, tried to cover the excitement in her voice. Her stomach growled with hunger, followed by Cary’s.

We have to rest soon And eat.

And find the Book!

Clearing tore through the attic, it too had been ransacked. A space the man had cut out of the air conditioning unit, where he had placed another safe with a similar look to the one at the school, was a mess of shredded metal, furrowed by scratches. Whoever, whatever, had done all this had ripped the unit apart until they found how the safe was powered: by a battery like device buried inside it; which had been ripped clean out through inches of steel. What can do that? Cary could gaped at the claw marks gouged into the metal, moved to finger one of the sharp edges of a gouge. He wouldn’t have been able to imagine the strength it would take to do something like that only the summer before. It was awesome and terrifying.

Like the strength I had after my wish...but with claws!

Could I do that?

Images of shadow-blobs with monstrous claws, and cave-dark wings flapping, rambled through his mind. Clearing stared, open-mouthed, at the gouged out hole. His fingers lightly stroked the gouges.

“The tablet is gone.” Clearing said in a flat voice, still facing the hole. “The Book is gone. And I had just secured it in this safe...” Unspoken was the fact the teacher had done this after Cary and Bugs had broken into his house. Also, maybe realization had sucked what strength the attack of Troy and his cronies had left out of the teacher. They had no weapons left, no Book of Fates, and no allies. Cary could not imagine anything else had been in this safe aside from the tablet which allowed access Book. Rage and terror burbled inside him.

They have the Book!

“It’s over.” Clearing mumbled, head sinking down to his chest, his arm supporting his weight against the air-conditioning unit. His whole doughy frame gyrated from side to side. The metal walls of the air-conditioning unit groaned.

Bugs chimed in. “But it’s just code, right? It lives on the Pottermore website, right? We shouldn’t need that tablet. What’s so special about the tablet anyway?”

“I don’t know. Derek might have known...” Clearing said.

Bugs grabbed Cary’s eyes with her own. She pulled at his hand. “Maybe you can access it again from another computer, Cary? A different computer?”

“I tried that, remember?”

“Yeah, but...” Bugs said, face screwed up in thought. “There has to be a way!”

“It’s over.” Clearing said as the portly man leaned against the massive air-conditioning unit.

Cary did not feel the despair Clearing obviously felt. In fact, seeing Clearing this way had the exact opposite effect on Cary. He moved closer to Clearing and said, loudly, forcefully: “It’s not over, sir. We’re still alive. I’m still alive!” The effect was dampened because he yawned as he said it. “There has to be a way.”

“I’ve still got a marble left!” Bugs said, incredulous, holding it up, amazement all over her features. Cary blinked in confusion. I saw her smash it on the ground... "It didn’t break when I tried to smash it before... I must’ve put it back in my pocket.” Bugs answered Cary’s unspoken thoughts. How does she know what I’m thinking so easily?

Clearing stared, blinking behind his large glasses. He slowly pushed the glasses up his nose, a fat finger sliding up like a dry slug, stood up as straight as the attic would allow. “Well, that is something, I guess.” He smiled wanly, his heart clearly not in it.

They both smiled and went over to rub Clearing’s shoulders. He smiled, fake and empty. “Either way, we all need to rest. Those boys...I’ve not felt anything like that, not since...” Clearing turned away, left the thought to trail away. Cary assumed he was speaking about what he had revealed earlier, about the time he and Jenson and the others had first tapped into dark energy.

“We need to go somewhere and sleep, or we’re all toast anyway. If we aren’t already.” Clearing said after they descended the attic ladder, mumbling the last. “We can’t stay here, obviously.”

“My house.” Bugs said without missing a beat. Cary and Clearing both nodded. “Maybe after we rest we’ll think of something.”

They left Clearing’s and walked across backyards, climbed over chain link fences, the occasional wooden slat fence. They talked quietly about the Book as they walked. "What are we going to do about the tablet?” Cary asked, not really expecting an answer. No answered for the full length of a backyard. When they came down from the next chain link fence, Clearing replied. “I’ve been thinking about that. It’s just another guess, but I think maybe you could find it Cary. Sense it. Maybe.” Clearing said. “It’s connected to you now, I think.” It was odd watching the man make ungainly attempts to mount the chain link fences, heaving his huge stomach up and down as he did so. But he never faltered at the task. His glasses were always about to slip off his tomato-nose and the result was his hands were either pushing them back up his nose or heaving his stomach up. How the man could be so deadly graceful and yet so ungainly was just confusing to Cary. Yet Clearing made it over every fence, somehow, sometimes with baited breath, but he always made it. He also managed to give them his theory about the Book of Fates as well, between sharp breaths.

“You must be connected to it, and if there’s something I’ve learned above most other things in physics, connections are important. Connections imply and symbolize deeper, higher symmetries. Quantum likenesses. And they always have properties which compliment. I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got, but if we work at it, I think we can find away, and if we can’t... perhaps Bugs’ brilliance may discover it.”

Bugs laughed, though she nodded as well, which in turn had Cary grinning. It’s true: if anyone is smart enough to discover hidden truths, it’s Bugs.

“Maybe....” Bugs said as they reached her house. “Maybe if you can think of something the Book said or did... Was there any special word or feeling it gave you?”

In a flash, as though the memory had been locked away and Bugs had just inserted the right key, Cary knew.

Why didn’t I see this before?

“That’s IT, B!”

She looked perplexed. Her house was quiet inside, untouched, safe. “Every time I read it and made a...wish. I felt something tugging me here.” Cary pressed the spot just over and below his heart.

“Concentrate on that Cary.” Clearing, said, eager.

“Try it, Care!” Bugs said.

“Perhaps your brain can quantumly access the Book in some special manner...” Clearing offered, which did not make much sense to Cary. But Bugs agreed, saying: “Align the quantum matrix!”

So Cary tried, while Clearing made them sandwiches in Bugs’ kitchen. Nearly an hour and two sandwiches later, the effort and food had made Cary sleepy. He yawned, and yawned again and again. Clearing finally made them stop. “We need to sleep. You two sleep first, I’ll keep a watch.”

They agreed after some small argument punctuated by further yawning. Both teens plopped down in Bugs’ huge bed and were both asleep the minute after their heads hit the pillows.

Neither noticed Clearing looming across the hallway from the opened door, watching, his face full of steel and sad, sloppy determination.

Next Chapter: Chapter 31