Author's note: I finally decided to write about writers. It feels like cheating, it's so easy.
Chapter 5That night, Merry fell asleep quickly, falling on her bed and almost instantly going out of it. She jolted herself awake again only long enough to feed the goldfish, and then went back to flopping on the pillows. She was out like a light.
But then, her mind began constructing on its own, and she began to dream.
All she heard was the sound of thunder. Over and over and over again. It was ringing in her ears, bouncing around her head, oppressing her from all sides. She was standing
There was no sound but the thunder.
Merry put her hands over her ears, but it only got louder. The overwhelming feeling of guilt suddenly poured over her, as if she knew what was happening. It wasn’t thunder… but what was it?
It was behind her. Slowly, she began to turn, and she knew what she would see, but at the same time she didn’t know what she would see.
She turned her head. Saw behind her… and the thunder came up to her and overtook her in an instant.
Her eyes popped open and she realized her heart was beating wildly. Someone was shaking her by the shoulder.
“Wake up,” the figure urged. “Come on… wake up.”
“I’m awake,” she whispered, and then sat up as the hand retracted. She rubbed her eyes and then took a look at the clock on her dresser. 4:03 AM. “…why did you wake me up so early?” She wasn’t in the least bit pleased.
“You called me again.” The voice was familiar, yet unfamiliar. “You must have been having a nightmare.
“Eh?” She peered at the figure through the darkness. Soft brown eyes. Pointed ears. Merry suddenly recoiled, pulling up the blankets. “So you are real!”
“I thought we went over this,” Lore huffed, crossing his arms. Even in the darkness she could see his heated expression. “And I saw you join your friend in trying to convince yourself that I’m not.” Merry blinked, shook her head rapidly.
“But… it was day time…”
“I came to you in the day time,” he replied irritably. “I’m highly disappointed that you doubt us now.”
Merry let out a huff of indignance and sat up straight, facing him head-on. “Hey, I’m not doubting you. Yesterday was me doubting me.”
“Which in turn, leads to you doubting our existence. So you doubt us.”
“Well this is the second time you’ve come to me,” she explained, spreading her hand. “So you must be real.”
“You don’t think this is a dream, do you?” The question was genuine, not rhetorical.
“Um… no, not… really…”
“That’s what I thought.” Lore looked away, his expression saddening. He closed his eyes “So the freedom that you’ve given us is now no longer ours to keep, is it? You simply don’t believe in us. Even after the last time…”
Merry felt guilty watching him. She had spent the last twenty-four or so hours trying to convince herself that at first they were real, and then later that they weren’t. The main reason was Sean, and then the plain fact that it simply couldn’t have existed. She briefly wondered if any other writers had the ability to summon their characters.
“It’s not an ability,” Lore interrupted, and she jumped.
“You can hear my thoughts?!” she cried, pushing herself up against the pillows.
“You can see into my mind, why shouldn’t I see into yours?” He turned his eyes to her again and frowned deeply. “I need you to start believing in me. Otherwise, we may just stop believing in you.”
“But… you can’t… I’m the writer.”
“And just a writer. What would you be without us?” He seemed authentically angry now, and he stood up beside her bed, glaring down with a challenging look. “Merry, you need to decide what you believe is real and what isn’t. If you can’t figure it out soon, you’re going to lose a lot.”
Merry shrank beneath her blankets and gave him a confused look. “Eh?”
He loomed, or did his best to. “Do you believe in me or not?”
“Um…” Merry glanced around, but there was nothing that could help her in any way. “I… um…”
Lore’s clenched fists slowly loosened. “So you really don’t believe in us… at all?”
Merry decided she needed to think about it. She held up her hand. “Give me a minute. I have to think about this…”
“How long do you want?” His question was flat. Merry swallowed.
“Give me until four thirty,” she said, motioning at the clock. It read 4:10 AM. Lore slowly nodded.
“Ok. Fine. I’ll be waiting.” He turned away and walked into a shadow, disappearing from sight. Merry decided to flick on the light so she could think better, but when she did, Lore was gone.
“Hmmm…” she settled back on her pillows and began to muse. She had twenty minutes, and she would spend them wisely.
The fact that Lore had shown up twice now surprised her. If she was indeed dreaming, they were vivid, repeating dreams that somehow didn’t make sense at the same time that they did. She thought about how that didn’t make sense, and then shook her head.
“I have to make sense out of this,” she muttered, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hands. “If I’m dreaming, I have some pretty intense dreams… but if I’m not dreaming, then I have possibly the greatest gift she’d ever received. The possibility that her characters were all real had never actually occurred to her before last night. This was more, however, than just whether or not characters were real.
This was a battle of realities.
“No, it’s not that serious,” she muttered to herself, rubbing her face again. This was just a matter of whether or not she thought her characters were vivid enough to actually appear. But they seemed so real… especially Lore.
Minutes ticked by as Merry’s mind raced. There was so much to consider – the way Sean had reacted, the way she had reacted to Sean’s reaction, what her parents would think, what her siblings would think. Or Tristan, anyway.
But could anybody else really see them?
Merry forced herself to stay awake by sitting up and keeping her back straight. She stared at the opposite wall and thought about her family the most. As she did, things slowly started to fall into place. Important things.
If her parents realized she believed in her characters, what would they do? What would Tristan do if he found out his sister’s imagination was taking over her life? She shuddered. There would be a lot of arguing… or would there? Something inside her seemed warning, somehow, as if a little red flag was waving in her mind. There was something wrong with letting her parents know about her gift. Or anyone.
“Perhaps…” she thought as the clock read 4:28, “nobody has to know… what if I just never told anybody?” A surge of excitement suddenly coursed through her, but she forced herself to keep calm. “Yes, that’s it. A secret. The biggest secret ever kept from anybody… my secret.” She stared into the darkness and slowly smiled, her eyes brighter, her insides feeling much more at ease.
“Come on out, Lore,” she said to an empty corner as the clock blinked and changed to 4:30.
She swallowed, but didn’t relent.
“I said come out.” She suddenly heard a muted footstep as someone emerged, and her heart leapt to her throat. Lore’s smile was pleasant, relived almost.
“So,” he said softly, his eyes twinkling. “I suppose this is a new beginning, isn’t it?”
Merry nodded, feeling choked up for some reason. “It is in my book.”
Lore lifted his eyebrow. “Don’t you mean my book?”
Merry let out a laugh, letting the tightness of her throat go. “It’s a saying, silly. It’s sort of like saying ‘I agree’.”
“Ah.” Lore shook his head, but smiled. Merry lay down in bed and pulled up the covers, settling in and looking up at Lore contentedly.
“I’ll still believe in you tomorrow, ok?”
“Do you promise?”
“Alright, see you then.”
Morning came in a rush.
“Merry! Merry wake up!” someone was pounding on her door, sounding frantic. Merry awoke in an instant, let out a yelp, leaped out of bed, scrambled for the door, and flung it open in the person’s face.
“What?! What’s wrong?!” she shouted, her heart pounding wildly. Mark was on the other side of the door, standing casually with a backpack in one hand.
“Mom wanted me to get you. The school bus will be here in like twenty minutes.”
“Augh!” She slammed the door in his face again and whirled, dashing for the bathroom. However, there was someone standing in front of the mirror, inspecting her face. Merry skidded to a stop. “What the-?!”
“Hey, calm down, it’s me,” Cheera replied casually, pulling down her lower eyelid and examining her eyeball. Merry stared. “Can I borrow some of this colored powder stuff that you put on your face?”
“Um… yes?” Merry shook her head, remembering last night’s conversation. It was exciting, but she was in a rush. “Look, I need to shower and put on makeup and take my medicine really, really fast. Could you wait outside?”
“Spfft, fine,” Cheera brushed past her, taking the makeup along. Merry snatched it back.
“Wait til I’m done with it.” She closed the door, locked it, and quickly hopped into the shower, her mind racing. “Wow,” she thought. “I really do believe…I really do…”
It gave her a kind of satisfied, calm feeling as she slathered up with soap. There was someone waiting for her when she got home, someone new to talk to and explore the minds of through real conversation. She let out a little giggle as she finished her shower and dried off, throwing on her clothes. She applied some minimal makeup and downed a pill before bursting out the door and nearly tripping over Lore as he lay on her floor, relaxing.
“Good morning, princess,” he said casually, looking contented with the rug’s soft texture. He watched as she frantically began throwing things into her backpack. “Late princess.”
“I’ll be back tonight… or this afternoon… or sometime!” she cried. “Tomorrow’s Saturday, so we’ll have all day, so… um…”
“Breakfast,” Lore said, motioning with his head at the door.
“Right!” Merry stampeded out the door with a faint ‘see you soon!’ before she disappeared down the stairs and out of sight.
Cheera and Lore smiled at each other as Merry disappeared from sight, frantically yelling for Carrie to get some eggs.
“Well,” Cheera said softly, examining the makeup container. “Your little midnight visit did the trick, Lore. What did you say to her?”
“Nothing too important,” he replied, stretching. “I just challenged her.” He stopped and grinned to himself, smirking. “I like challenging her.”
“So it seems,” Cheera replied gaily. She turned to the mirror and looked at herself again. “Now how does one put this stuff on?”
“Who knows,” Lore replied, rolling onto his stomach and randomly doing pushups. “By the way, have you seen Eclipse yet today?”
“Hmmm… Eclipse… Eclipse… I’m trying to remember where I saw her last…”
“I’m wondering where she is now.”
“Well I haven’t seen her this morning, I know that much. She must have gone back to her book.”
“We have to let her know that we’re free to come here now,” Lore pointed out, finishing his pushups and flipping around before standing neatly. He looked around. “Where’s the story central thingy-ma-bobber that Merry uses when she writes our books?”
“I think it’s over there,” Cheera replied, pointing absentmindedly at the computer on the other side of the room.
“Thanks.” Lore waltzed over to the desk casually, examined it, and then picked up Merry’s box of collected seashells before lifting his eyebrow. “Hmm…” He turned back to Cheera. “And how does it work, exactly?”
Lore turned back to the seashells and picked one up, looking it over. “Hmm… it smells like old clams.”
“Wha-?” Cheera turned her head, saw what he had, and deadpanned at him. “Lore, you idiot, that’s not what I meant.” She pointed at the computer again. “That thing. The black, square thing that doesn’t look very important.”
“This black, square thing?” Lore asked, poking the computer.
“Well. It doesn’t look very important.”
“That’s what I said,” Cheera huffed, reading the instructions on the back of the makeup. “Now try and figure out how it works.” She began tentatively applying the powder to her face.
Lore eyed the computer before reaching forward and flipping up the lid. Grinning, he then went on to push every single button he could see until one of them brought the lights blinking and winking at him.
“I think I have it,” he called to Cheera as she moved into the bathroom. “…I think.”
“Keep on thinking, maybe you’ll actually get somewhere,” she replied casually. Lore turned back to the laptop and mused.
However, as soon as the screen popped up – the laptop had been in standby mode – someone tapped his shoulder.
“Not now, Cheera, I’m so close to figuring out this thing….”
“It’s me.” Lore turned and realized Eclipse was standing behind him, smiling pleasantly. “I’ve been standing in the hall outside, waving to Merry. I was going to poke around for a bit, but there are other people in the house.”
“Oh.” Lore glanced at the laptop, then at Eclipse, then back at the laptop. He raised his voice again. “I found her!”
“Oh good. Now we can wait here together for twelve hours.”
“Twelve hours?” Eclipse feigned on the bed with a soft exhale and closed her eyes. “May as well sleep.” Lore stared at her for a moment, absentmindedly twirling in the computer chair, looking thoughtful. Eclipse opened her eyes briefly, and noticed he was looking at her. “What?”
“Mm…” Lore rubbed his chin. “Something seems different, Eclipse.”
She froze, and then quickly smiled, laughing to cover up her sudden nervousness. “No, everything’s fine. Why do you ask?”
Lore shrugged. “You’re acting… different. You seem different.” He peered at her and changed to a serious tone. “Did something happen?”
“What’s what where?” Cheera came out of the bathroom, a toothbrush sticking out of her mouth, and glanced between them.
“Nothing,” Eclipse replied casually, putting her hands behind her head and crossing her legs. “We’re just… having a conversation about… um…” She glanced around for any nearby object. Her eye caught sight of a bag with words on it. “Jelly beans.”
Cheera gave her a disbelieving look, but then stopped. “Wait… what? What are jelly beans?”
“Umm… these things.” Eclipse scooped up the bag and tossed it at Cheera, who caught it swiftly with one hand. She examined it.
“Jelly beans… now in over fifty delicious flavors…. You eat them?”
“They are beans, after all.”
Cheera opened the bag carefully and eyed the colorful display of candy inside. “But how does one prepare them?”
“Soak them in water for two hours before boiling,” Eclipse replied stately, pointing at the bathroom. “Then mash them and you have jelly.”
“Oh… how… odd…” Cheera turned and went slowly back into the bathroom with the intention of plugging up the sink and using it to soak her new-found delicacy. Eclipse giggled into her hand before spreading out again and stretching with a loud, content sigh.
“Something did happen, then.” Lore’s voice was concerned, worried. The black-haired woman looked up again, surprised, as if she had forgotten he was there.
Lore stood up and came over to the bed before sitting down cross-legged beside it, his head on a level with Eclipse’s. “What is it? Does it have something to do with what Merry wrote about you last night? At least, I’m pretty sure she wrote about you last night. Did she?”
Eclipse’s smile faded and she glanced away at the opposite wall. Lore moved to see her better, and tapped her shoulder.
“What did she write?”
Eclipse let out a long sigh but didn’t reply immediately. Lore waited a few moments, but right as he was about to ask again, Eclipse spoke. “It was about me when I was young,” she said quietly, her voice distant. “When I was just a kid… a teenager.”
Lore put his hand on her shoulder comfortingly as she continued, looking as if she was in another world. “Kian was there… From so long ago….”
She broke out of her trance momentarily to glance sideways at him, before she let out another sigh. “My old trainer… a mage swordsman…” she squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “It was a long time ago.”
Lore’s eyebrows drew together. “Why is it painful to talk about?”
She almost laughed, but it turned into a sad chuckle instead. “He’s gone. Dead, probably.” Lore seemed startled. “He sacrificed his life to protect me…”
There was a long silence as Lore tried to soak the new information in. He realized he understood something he hadn’t before.
“So we’re just like… playthings…” he murmured to himself, glancing away. Eclipse rolled onto her side and, reaching over, brushed the hair out of his eyes. He looked up.
“Maybe, but at least now we have some say in what happens to us,” she said gently, smiling at him. “Otherwise… we would be trapped. And it’s all thanks to you.”
Lore shrugged. “Merry isn’t cruel. I just don’t want her to turn into something she’s not… luckily, I doubt she’ll realize how powerful she is. She’s much too excited by the fact that we’re actually real.”
Eclipse nodded and lay casually on the pillow again, smiling softly. “You’re smart, Lore. You know a lot about Merry… where did you learn to connect with her like that?”
He shrugged. “It… came naturally, I guess. She’s an easy person to relate to… kind of… sort of…”
Eclipse chuckled lightly. “You two are alike, somehow.” Lore lifted his eyebrow.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I don’t know either of you that well yet… but the general impression I’ve received so far is that you’re similar.”
“Wow…” Lore stared off into the distance, musing. Eclipse patted his shoulder.
“Even you should have guessed that.”
“No, not that…” he replied thoughtfully. “It’s just that… when you first came in you were so bubbly and talkative. Now you’re slightly more serious. You sound like you know what you’re talking about.” He chuckled to himself a little. “No offense.”
“None taken,” Eclipse reassured him. “Now… all we have to worry about is Cheera realizing I bluffed to her.”
She shrugged. “I have no idea what jelly beans are.”
That day, there was no escaping going to Sean’s house. At first Merry was disappointed, but then she realized how much she had been abandoning Sean for the past few days, especially since the incident at school, and she relented. They had a fun time, at least, word warring and writing like crazy until they were so burned out they couldn’t do anything.
All Merry got out of it was a scene with Advix talking to one of his lieutenants about his evil plot, which didn’t turn out so well, at that. But she was satisfied with the outcome nonetheless.
“That’s a lot of words we wrote just now,” Merry exhaled, spread out on Sean’s bed. He was sprawled on the floor, seemingly exhausted.
“Yes it is.”
Merry glanced up only long enough to get a look at the clock that hung above Sean’s doorway. “Eh… it’s time for me to go home.”
Sean looked up at the clock too. “We have three minutes.”
“My mom wants me to get home on time these days,” she lamented, and rolled off his bed onto the floor to collect her notebook. “If I waste any time she’ll be on my back about it tomorrow.”
“Ah…” Sean sounded disappointed. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
“Yep. I’ll see you then. Bye!”
Merry rose and, stretching, cracked her neck before heading toward the door. She was about to exit, however, when Sean spoke up.
She turned. “Yeah?”
He looked thoughtful, fingering his glasses. He glanced up and caught her eye. “Are you over that thing yesterday? You know, when you thought your characters were real?”
Merry froze, staring for a moment.
“I… uh…” Sean stared. Then she broke into nervous laughter, but tried to appear casual. She waved her hand. “Of course I am, Sean. We talked about it then, didn’t we?” She smiled, feeling her cheeks burning with nervousness.
“Hmm…” Sean eyed her a moment more, but then shrugged and, rolling onto his back, let out a sigh. “Alright. See you at school tomorrow.”
She closed the door behind her with a quiet click, and then put her back against it, letting out a huge breath. “This may be harder than I thought…”
She went down the short hall and straight out the door into the early evening light, where she began the trek home.
As soon as she left Sean’s house, she began to anticipate getting back to her room. It was exciting, being the only person alive able to bring her characters to life, for real. She grinned widely to herself and continued on doing so until she thought people might think she looked funny. After that she merely smiled shallowly until she reached her front door.
As soon as it had swung open, Mark raced around the corner, lifted his water gun, and shot her with it.
“Ack!” she cried, jumping back as the cold water touched her stomach. “Mark!”
“Gotcha!” he cried before turning and hightailing it back toward the living room. Merry made a face and stormed inside, but didn’t pursue him. She had more important things to do.
She heard Tristan coming down the stairs and hurriedly decided to avoid him by slipping into the kitchen. Carrie was preparing dinner, as usual, and Merry sneaked off a tidbit of turkey before hurrying off and, after peering into the hallway to be sure it was empty, dashed off up the stairs.
As soon as she got to her room, she put her hand on the knob and stopped.
“It is real,” she thought to herself strongly. ”They are real.”
She pushed the door open slowly, but instead of opening normally, it flew open and someone inside grabbed her arm and dragged her in swiftly. She let out a yell but it was muffled when the figure hugged her briefly and then tossed her aside.
“She’s back!” Lore cried as soon as Merry landed on the bed, eyes wide. Immediately there was commotion from the bathroom, and Cheera came charging out, her hands and arms up to her elbows covered with a thick, goopy, colorful substance.
“Finally!” the elf woman shouted, pointing at her. Merry leaned back. “You were gone for forever!”
Eclipse emerged from the bathroom also, wearing the bathroom curtains as an apron. “Merry! You’re back! Our wait is over!”
“Wha… what have you been doing since I left?” she asked, getting off the bed and going to hug both Cheera and Eclipse. They hugged back.
“Being bored,” Lore snorted, leaping onto her bed and crouching, gargoyle style. Merry smiled at them all.
“You guys seem like you’ve been having fun, eh?”
“That depends on what you mean by fun,” Lore replied, falling into a sitting position again.
Merry crossed her arms and looked thoughtful. “Well. Here I am. What are we going to do now that I’m here, though? It’s not like I can… take you out places.”
“What?” Cheera asked, sounding disappointed. “But… we’ve been so… bored! You can’t just leave us hanging! We were looking forward to doing something! This is driving us insane!” She loomed over Merry threateningly, and Lore pulled her back with a tug to the back of her shirt. Merry seemed startled.
“Eh, it’s fine if we have to stay here,” Eclipse tried not to sound as disappointed as she felt. “After all, we are dressed in our armor…. Except this apron.”
“And this funny-looking hat,” Lore said, donning a tiara he’d found in Merry’s dresser. Everyone ignored him as Merry went back to the bed and sat down, rubbing her chin in deep thought.
“Hmm… so it’s up to me to figure out how to entertain you?”
“And you want me to do it quickly?”
They nodded again.
“Well then…” Merry fell into thought again, and a few moments passed in silence.
“Well?” Cheera was impatient.
“Give me a second… I’m onto something…” Merry closed her eyes and mused as everyone leaned in, eyes wide. Momentarily, her eyes popped open and everybody leaned back again. “I have it.”
“What? What?” Lore peered around the girls, excited.
“Yeah, what?” Cheera leaned closer. Eclipse merely listened.
“Tonight,” she said theoretically, raising one finger for effect. “I’m going to take you all for a walk.”
There was silence for a moment.
“A… walk?” Lore asked.
“Because, it’ll do you some good. Plus, in the dark, nobody will be able to see us.”
“What if they do see us?” Cheera asked, almost crossing her arms before remembering they were covered in jelly bean residue.
Merry shrugged. “They won’t. Nobody’s out at night except the police patrol.”
“Oooooh,” everybody looked interested again. “A police patrol?”
“Yeah. We’ll have to avoid them. Curfew and all.”
“Avoid… a patrol?” Lore stuck his head in between Cheera and Eclipse, eyes shining. Merry shrugged. “Yeah. But first, I’m going to get some writing done.”
“Aww…” Everybody turned away and dispersed. “More boredom…”
Merry plopped into her computer chair and, flipping the lid open, eyed the blinking cursor. “Not for long…”