Halloween 2016 IF – Day 8
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For a moment, Septimus couldn’t bring himself to move. Shock left him behind in the hallway, barely watching as Sweet went over to the couch.
“Come on,” Sweet called. “We should make use of the power while we’ve got it. We could watch a movie or something?”
First the vertigo. Now this. He felt fine, he didn’t feel like someone who was—what, passing out? Entering a trance? It didn’t make sense. Everything since he’d arrived in this house had been weird, even Sweet.
Septimus drew a deep breath in and forced himself to move, lifting his feet with too much effort as he walked to stand before Sweet. “Something’s wrong,” he said.
“What‘s wrong?” Sweet asked, and that weird look was back on his face again. Like Septimus was a stranger standing in front of him, and he was searching his memory. It was a look like when you ran into someone in the supermarket, and they started talking to you like an old friend, and you played along until you could place them.
“How long would you say you were down there?” Septimus asked slowly.
A crease formed between Sweet’s brows. “Twenty minutes, maybe? It took a while.”
“It was half an hour.”
“But I was checking the time throughout,” Septimus said. “It was six minutes after nine right before the power came on. I looked at my phone as soon as you came up and it was nine thirty. A few minutes, whatever, but somehow I’m missing twenty-five minutes.”
Sweet drew a sharp breath. “…Twenty-four,” he said.
“Whatever, Sweet!” Septimus gestured sharply and almost threw the phone at him by accident. “This hasn’t happened before! I haven’t gotten dizzy out of nowhere before! Something’s wrong.”
Clearly unsettled, Sweet raised both hands, waggling them ineffectually in a calm down gesture. “Sep, listen. You were anxious and you were probably hyperfocusing on the last number. Maybe while you were in ‘waiting’ time, you just lost track. It could have been nine twenty-six and you just didn’t notice the two. Same with the other times you checked, right?”
The sheer rationality of the suggestion, along with the old nickname, dismissed that strange sense of unfamiliarity. It also made him feel stupid. “I guess,” he muttered. “But it was just… too much time, you know? If it was five minutes, ten minutes, sure. I could have just misjudged that. But to think only six minutes have passed when it’s been half an hour, that’s not… it’s not normal. I’m almost certain that it happened when the power came back on, like something just… changed. Like I lost time as the lights drew power.”
“Well,” Sweet said patiently, “it would be more normal that something affected your phone, right? Maybe the surge disrupted something somehow.”
“You’re making me feel like an idiot,” Septimus said, low-voiced.
For a moment, Sweet just stared at him. And then he sighed, tired, lowering his gaze and shuffling over a bit, patting the seat next to him. “Come here,” he said.
Septimus sat. Everything Sweet had said was reasonable, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something really was happening. Even thinking that made him feel worse—he didn’t believe in ghosts, in magic, in sci-fi or fantasy or supernatural horror of any kind. Had he always been this credible?
“I’m sorry,” Sweet said. He put a hand over Septimus’s on the couch. It was icy.
“I just feel like… like I’m missing something,” Septimus said. “I don’t want excuses, I want to talk. This is a relationship, isn’t it?”
A shiver seemed to pass through Sweet. “I hope so,” he said.
“So just—I don’t know. I feel weird. I’m worried about me and… I mean, about you too,” Septimus muttered. “I can tell that whatever happened down there was hard on you, even if it was just… whatever. Finding fuses in a messy dangerous basement and getting them into place in the dark. That’s rough even by itself. It was brave.”
Laughing uncomfortably, Sweet said, “I mean, it’s not really.”
“No, don’t—look. I care about you. You’re obviously uncomfortable even being in this house, but you invited me here, and now weird things are happening. If you don’t want me to worry about you, about myself, I need you to be totally honest with me if something weird is going on, or if I’m… really unwell and need help.” When Sweet didn’t answer right away, he dropped his gaze, words still coming out in a stammering trickle. “I, I just feel like, I don’t know. We’re not like your heroine in your ghost story, with nobody to turn to. We’ve got each other.”
For a long, silent moment, he thought Sweet was just going to keep staring blankly at him. Then, finally, Sweet sighed. “Let’s go upstairs.”
“Sweet, I’m serious—”
“I know. I just want to be in my room right now?” Somehow, Sweet’s words came out as a question, pleading.
Fair enough. Septimus nodded once, jerkily, and followed Sweet from the living room, up the stairs. In his room, Sweet pulled his desk chair out and sat at it, putting his elbows on the desk and rubbing his face with both hands. Septimus watched him for a moment, then sat roughly on the bed, grabbing his phone charger and plugging it in so he could charge his phone back up while waiting for Sweet to pull himself together.
“Okay,” Sweet said finally. He didn’t look up, face still resting in his hands. “What do you want to know?”
[Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for Septimus in the Comments.]
[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]
It’s hard to even know what to ask, but a good starting point might be “why here, tonight?” I mean, yeah, creepy house, Halloween, but you guys could probably find a similar ambiance in a bunch of places that are less obviously uncomfortable for Sweet, if nothing else. A related question: why does he come back here twice a year? That’s kind of odd…does this count as one of those visits? Follow that where it leads, if it leads anywhere.
It’s tempting to get a straight answer about the basement, but honestly I think it might be the wrong time. Although if it comes up naturally in the conversation, following it up is fine, obviously. I guess if he stonewalls you on anything else you ask, you can push there, but consider it a last resort maybe?
Be gentle, though; you want to know this stuff so you can help him out if you have to, right? As well as knowing what’s going on for its own sake. You said it earlier; you’ve got each other to turn to. If he tells you something weird, take it seriously and think about it, and remember you care about each other.
Why does Sweet come twice a year? If he didn’t want Septimus to bring up the strangeness of the house, why play up how creepy it is and then invite him here for Halloween in particular (when he’d be paying the most attention to Odd Happenings)? Something there doesn’t add up.
Agreed that Septimus should be gentle with him, though; there’s genuine answers to be found here, but Sweet also seems to be very affected by whatever is going on here. It won’t hurt to reemphasize that he’s not dealing with it alone, and that Septimus is concerned for him as well.
Also maybe put a blanket on Sweet or something, in case there’s something physical going on with him with the cold hands and shivering too and those aren’t just stress reactions. Maybe it’ll help break the tension a little.