[New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]
For a moment, all he could think of was Sweet’s story, and it felt again like a great hole had opened under his feet, like the floor he was standing on was paper-thin and all it would take was the slightest of movements to plummet into the abnormal depths beneath it. Disorientation overwhelmed him, so he couldn’t be sure what direction he was facing, let alone what the strange shapes were in the darkness.
He tried to force himself to stop thinking of it, of roots like teeth gnashing below the floorboards. He commanded himself to think of anything else—of the taste of pie he could still distantly sense in his mouth, of the way Sweet’s features had been cast into unnatural shapes by the shadows when he’d put the flashlight under his chin, of the game they’d played, anything.
Septimus breathed in slowly, then out again.
It was fine, he told himself. It was just a power outage with great timing. The house had tried to get into the spirit of things, so to speak. If anything, this would just make an excellent story later.
He opened his eyes again and found his bearings, looking around.
Behind him was the living room, with the great bay window. Before, with the flashlight on and the dim illumination from the kitchen, it had been just darkness out there with more darkness moving in it, but now, with his eyes adjusting to the otherwise pitch blackness, the dim light of the moon made the outdoors much more visible. The branches of the forest outside rocked back and forth in the rising wind, grey clouds lit from behind by the moon, and he realized he could hear the pattering of a cold rain beginning on the window. His car was still out there, so if Sweet ended up needing help, he could at least drive him somewhere.
If the bay window was behind him, that meant he was still in the entryway to the bent hallway, with the basement door ahead, and the dark shapes were just the weird curve of the wall, the open kitchen door. For a moment, he was strangely hesitant to ruin what night vision he had, but the interior of the building was so dark that there was no benefit to keeping the lights off. He felt for his phone, thumbing the screen on.
Relief flooded him at the same time the light did. The time was 9:02, which meant the power had somehow gone out almost exactly at 9, if not actually on the dot . His power was at 85% still, but he didn’t want to risk draining it any faster by using the flashlight app rather than just the screen. Who knew if Sweet would be successful at getting the power on?
Septimus used the screen’s light to guide his way through the twisting corridor until he found the basement door, then sank down next to it, straining to hear any sound from below. He didn’t hear any, not even the sound of someone banging around down there in the dark, no cursing or swearing. Not that Sweet had ever been much of the kind to do that. But hadn’t Sweet been saying that it was full of nails and broken glass and all that? He only had a flashlight and his own phone with him. The fact that he’d trip down there seemed almost inevitable to Septimus.
Well, if Sweet made any sounds of pain, if Sweet called for him, Septimus would hear him from here. Or he hoped he would, anyway. He hoped desperately that it wasn’t soundproofed or anything else, and that’s why he couldn’t hear anything now. The house was old. There was no way—right?
“Right,” he muttered to himself, and almost startled to hear his own voice in the stifling darkness.
He checked his phone again: 9:03. God, time seemed to be passing slowly.
Sitting in the dark, he tried to think about what he could do if something happened. He hadn’t seen a first aid kit, but Sweet had pointed out the bathroom. If it was likely to be anywhere, it would be there. Even if the house was left empty most of the year, if he came back once in a while, there would probably be at least a basic kit, right?
There was one in the car, too, he remembered. He’d stocked it in there once at Max’s insistence. At the time, he’d wondered what good a small kit like that would do for a car accident, but had to agree with Max’s assessment that it’d be better than nothing, and not all car accidents were horrific affairs. So he could get that if there wasn’t one in the house.
Suddenly, with a faint buzzing sound, the power came back. The hallway flooded with light from the kitchen’s open door, and Septimus let out a groan of relief. He didn’t even know why he was so worried, he admitted to himself.
He got to his feet, reaching for the basement door, only to have it open before he could touch it.
Sweet must have booked it up the stairs, he thought. “Everything okay down there?” he asked. “You didn’t hurt yourself?”
Stepping through, Sweet shut the door behind himself before he looked up, and further questions died in Septimus’s throat.
The expression on Sweet’s face was bizarre. There was an exhaustion there that had nothing to do with the time, and he stared at Septimus like he didn’t recognize him, an absolute blankness that was chilling to see.
Then he smiled a little, expression lightening, and shook his head. “It just took a while to get the right parts in to get it to work again,” he said. “Everything’s fine. Let’s just… go back to what we were doing.”
A little disgruntled—it felt like his worries were being brushed aside, Septimus watched as Sweet walked past him, back to the living room. “Sure,” he said. “Fine. I mean, the story’s kind of spoiled by the interruption, though.”
As he went, he checked his phone to confirm how long the power had been out.
[Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for Septimus in the Comments.
Also, thanks for a great week! I hope you’re looking forward to the rest of the month.]
[Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]