Halloween 2016 IF – Day 20
[New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]
The darkness radiated out from the basement like something with both weight and gravity, trying to pull Septimus forward. He drew a sharp breath and shut the door, a little more firmly than he meant to.
He was going to go down there, but that didn’t mean he needed to be stupid about it. Sweet kept coming back cold, so it was probably freezing down there. There might be glass and nails, and even if there wasn’t, there was a risk they could get hurt—and any bit of blood might count as a sacrifice. Plus, there was a good chance he might lose his way—if it turned out to really just be a basement, even if it had something in it, that was one thing, but…
So many stories his parents had told him came flooding into his mind of heroes descending into the underworld, heroes entering mazes, heroes and their journeys. Things to do, things not to do. Some of the traditional rules would be easy to follow, since he definitely didn’t intend to eat or drink or sleep while in there. Others…
Septimus headed back up the stairs to the bathroom, digging around under the sink until he found a first aid kit stashed there. Checking the medicine cabinet, he found a few additional rolls of gauze.
It wasn’t yarn, and it wouldn’t nearly be long enough, but it’d have to do. Ariadne’s was enchanted, he remembered, and that might make all the difference, but if nothing else, it should at least be long enough to lead from the outside of the basement door down the stairs, and if he needed it to be a lifeline, that might be enough to help him find his way from inside to outside again.
(Of course, he remembered, Ariadne ended up lost herself later, abandoned on the island of Naxos by a faithless lover. He tried not to think about that further.)
From there, he went back to Sweet’s bedroom. The way it was set up, homey and normal, hurt him to look at now. It was all too easy to imagine a younger Sweet on some earlier Halloween, shivering in his unnatural cold, knowing his mother wouldn’t listen and that soon the power would go out and he’d have to head back downstairs. He wondered if Sweet had the eyes then, or if they’d developed over time. He suspected the former, since Sweet had said he’d planned to hide some effect of being here from him.
He picked up his backpack and jacket from where he’d left them on the bed. He shrugged the jacket on, feeling the amulet shift on his neck as he did, then touched it briefly, unsure whether to keep it on or take it off. In the end, he left it on. Maybe it would do some good after all.
The jacket was at least both extra warmth and extra pockets. He took Sweet’s extra flashlight and put it in one of those pockets, then took a couple of the candles they’d set up in the room and the matches and stuck those in the other. Better to have light easily available. His phone went back into his pants pocket, though he knew the battery would die soon. His change of sweater went into the bottom of his backpack, leaving space for one or two more things. The medical pack would go in there too, he decided, though after he’d packed the comforter. Just so he’d have the former near the top. That he’d have to go back downstairs, though.
Septimus paused and closed his eyes, trying to think of anything he was forgetting. He wished he’d brought gloves or an umbrella, anything he could use to shield his hands or prod the ground in front of him, but he hadn’t, and there was no point in second guessing these things.
Was there anything else he might need? Anything else Seven might have wanted? He wished their minds had either been more mingled or less in that dream—it was hard to pick apart what he’d thought and what Seven had been thinking, let alone to project on it.
A knife, he decided. Items of intent and power. Symbols.
On second thought, maybe he didn’t want to think like Seven after all.
He picked his backpack up and headed back downstairs. In went the folded comforter, and then—just barely fitting with the zipper done up—the medical kit, minus three rolls of gauze. Two of these went into his pants pockets, and the third he tied to the kitchen doorknob just down the hall from the basement door, unrolling it a little as he headed back there.
Then he shrugged on the backpack, drew a deep breath, and opened the basement door. One step at a time, he reminded himself, meaning it entirely literally as he put his foot on the first basement stair.
It was like wading deliberately down through mud; there was a thickness to it that drew at him even as it provided resistance, and he forced himself not to tense up, letting the gauze unroll in his hand and taking the next step, and the one after.
His flashlight flickered and died, and he paused to reclip it to his belt, then dug out Sweet’s. This he didn’t turn on yet, taking the next few steps in darkness, feeling the comforting sensation of the gauze unwinding.
Five steps. Six steps. Seven steps.
Something was watching him. The thought came to mind and he felt his skin crawl abruptly, but forced himself to keep progressing. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve—
His next foot forward only found ground, and he shifted his weight onto it fully.
The eyes opened.
They filled the darkness around, outlining a shape of a corridor. The gauze felt like it had reached its end, so he juggled the flashlight and a second roll for a moment, tying the end to a new one, then forced himself to continue down the corridor, trying not to watch as the eyes followed his movements, watching him.
He turned on the flashlight as he went; it cast a thin beam that illuminated nothing, no path, no walls for the eyes to sit in, only further darkness as if it was sucking the light back up. Still, he kept it on, trying to balance the fear of the battery draining against the fear that he’d overlook something.
The stairs were no longer in sight, only more darkness and eyes behind him, but the gauze was at least comfortably in his hand.
The whisper came so faintly that he almost imagined it: What are you here for?
Septimus had to clear his throat before he could talk, the weight and darkness and pounding of his heart all too much at first. “I’m here to fetch Sweet,” he managed.
Sweet? Miranda Sweet?
He continued forward. He could see what he thought was an end now, or, at least, the eyes seemed to stop after a certain distance. Would it be better to just break for it and run, or continue at this slow pace…?
While he was trying to decide, the voice came again:
What do you want with my son?
[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]
[If you missed the art my friend Mikage sent me for this, check it out!]
Well. I mean. After everything, is this really so surprising? Bit of a weird way to meet the folks, but, eh. It’s been a weird night overall. Tell the voice the truth: you’re Sweet’s boyfriend and you want to make sure he’s okay (since he was pretty weak when he came downstairs).
I’m sure you can have a civil conversation and work out whatever’s happening!
YEAH PRETTY MUCH THE ABOVE. Be polite and introduce yourself, explain and let the voice know you’ve been worried since Sweet’s been in a bad way through tonight. Don’t break and run, keep your cool, keep walking steadily.
Well, at least this answers a few questions.
The above comments have good ideas. Be calm, introduce yourself, explain that you care about Sweet and you’re worried; you want him to be well and happy. I mean, in a way this is just like meeting his parents, right? Just a lot more…eldritch (and the shotgun is metaphysical rather than metaphorical).
Keep your wits sharp, though. Sweet obviously doesn’t have a great relationship with his dad (to say the least) and you might have to bargain, or act quickly and decisively. If it’s the former, be very, very careful; you’ve read enough folklore (and played enough games) to know how that kind of deal goes.