Halloween 2016 IF – Day 12
[New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]
It had taken about six minutes of ‘real’ time before time skipped previously, so that felt like the time limit Septimus was working with. He didn’t want to take too long here—didn’t want Sweet to come back and find himself alone. He thought briefly about leaving a note just in case, but he didn’t have a paper or pen with him, and didn’t want to take the time to look for any. Besides, he wasn’t sure he really wanted Sweet to know he’d gone snooping around his mom’s things.
At least, not if it was unsuccessful.
Pulling out his cellphone again, Septimus set a timer—but when he pressed go, nothing happened. The button depressed as it should, but the timer sat on its 6 min without beginning to tick down at all.
Shit. Lacking other options, he drew a deep breath and let it out.
One, two, three…
He tried to keep the count as even as possible. He might not know how long he had, but he could at least try to keep a count in his own head. If he kept track of how many hundreds he counted, he could estimate it later.
It was hard not to speed up in panic—or, worse, catch himself going too fast, and then slow down too much to compensate. Still, it was all he could do and he hoped it would balance out to something approximate. So he kept the count going as he began to search the room.
He went to the chest first, pulling at the lid, but it was locked. Even as large as it was—at least three feet wide—it was light enough that he would have thought it was empty, except that he could hear a faint rattle when he moved it. The lock on it took a key, though, and he didn’t have that to work with. Disgruntled, he shoved the chest back to the foot of the bed and checked his phone. Still 12:00, timer still not working.
Forty-four, forty-five, forty-six…
At least forcing himself to focus on counting was helping him stay calm.
Next up, he checked the bed, albeit briefly. Patting the blankets down and flipping the pillows didn’t reveal anything but dust, dry and making him cough and miss his count for a few moments. He started back up with the last number he remembered and frowned down at the bed. Sweet had offered to sleep in this—hadn’t he known what a state it was left in?
One hundred-seventeen, one hundred-eighteen…
He’d come back to the bed later if the rest of the search wasn’t fruitful. He wasn’t sure that he had the energy to move a mattress of this size by himself, and he definitely was sure he didn’t want to peek into the dark space under the bed unless he had to. Checking that had to be at least as bad as paying attention to the distortions in the mirror in a scenario like this.
Keeping his eyes turned away from the latter, he moved over to the bookcase to run his fingers on the underside of the bare shelves, searching for anything that might be taped to it.
Two hundred! Two hundred-one, two hundred-two…
Stretching up, and glad of his height, he did the same over the top. His fingers found something that scraped and for a moment he felt his heart leap, but it was just a penny.
Still, he could use good luck, so he took that down and tucked it in a pocket after a quick glance over it.
The dresser was the next obvious step, and he moved to that, keeping his head ducked to avoid seeing the mirror. While he was down there, he quickly checked his phone—no change, the timer still frozen—then put it beside him as he began opening drawers top to bottom, left side first, and shining the flashlight in them.
The first six were empty, and the seventh seemed to be, but he could hear a rattle when he opened it. Thinking it might be something stuck to the bottom of the drawer, he opened the eighth and rummaged around above with a hand, but felt nothing out of the ordinary—besides a splinter which jabbed in hard.
He swore softly, dropping the flashlight into the drawer as he drew his finger to his mouth, sucking on it and tasting blood, but forced himself to carry on. He’d lost count around two hundred-forty, so he resumed again from there, still with his finger in his mouth and using his left hand to reopen drawer seven and shine the light back in again.
Once again, he heard the rattle as the drawer moved.
For a moment, he stared at it blankly. Maybe something on the side rather than the bottom? He opened the drawer next to it, planning to take it out so he could get a better view of the space, then froze as he realized something:
The bottoms in both drawers sat at different heights.
Suddenly excited, he felt around inside the very edges of drawer seven’s base until he found a small groove he could just barely get a fingertip into. It took a few tries, but he pulled the false bottom up and shined his flashlight in, seeing something metal on a chain.
He grabbed it and held it up, shining the flashlight on it—but the light caught in the mirror beyond and illuminated a hundred eyes, all staring out at him.
They were watching him, wide and wiggling, focused on him with a single-minded, terrible intensity. It was like the mirror wasn’t a mirror at all but a glass into some unthinkable other world, with an indescribable, monstrous inhabitant pressed up and peering in. All thoughts vanished, his counting, his discovery, everything except willing himself to stay as still as possible, as if he could somehow trick the viewer into thinking he wasn’t really there—
The lights came on.
And the eyes in the mirror were revealed to simply be dimples in the damaged, warped glass that his flashlight must have been reflecting off of.
In the wake of his relief, embarrassment washed over him, and in the wake of that—
Sweet would be coming back now. Septimus shoved the thing he’d found into his pocket, grabbed his phone, and ran from the master bedroom, galloping down the stairs dangerously fast and making him slam into the wall across from the basement door, which was just starting to open.
“Sep?” Sweet looked exhausted, ashen and with dark circles under his eyes, but his confusion at whatever he must have heard of Septimus’s descent outweighed whatever his current feelings were. “Are you okay?”
[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]
Catch your breath, give Sweet a hug if he seems receptive, and start getting him warmed up and back to bed. Tell him what you were doing on the way up, though, and show him the necklace. Now’s definitely not the time to have secrets of your own, especially when he still knows more about this stuff than you do. (I mean, you probably should’ve brought him with you for this, but what’s done is done and in the moment there wasn’t exactly time.)
Check your phone again at some point so you can see how long it was this time, and whether/when the countdown started. This time-warp effect is weird in a lot of ways, so trying to map out how it works might be useful. But focus on Sweet now that he’s back. See if there’s anything you can do to help him cope with the aftereffects.
Definitely check the time, and, although it might seem strange, flip the penny in the air and catch it. Make sure everything is back on-balance. Do show Sweet the things you found, but wait until you’ve got him settled in and resting again. Get him something to drink if he needs it.