Chapter Description: Addicted to Malacus, Tommy makes plans to sneak back into the world of the clock.
Chapter 11: Preparations and Plotting.
So...come up to the lab
And see what’s on the slab
I see you SHIVER with antici...
“Hey sis,” Tom tapped Katlynn’s shoulder on the bus ride home.
Katlynn turned her head and looked at her twin from across the aisle in the back. She gave him a knowing look. “What do you want?”
Crud! “Want?” Tom said. “What makes you think I want something?” Crud! He’d already let his hand slip, somehow!
“Because you only call me ‘sis’,” Katlynn reminded him, “when you want something.” Tom raised his finger to interject; opened his mouth...and then shut it and put his hands back in his lap. “What is it?” she asked.
She had him. Might as well not beat around the bush. “I want to sleep on the couch tonight.”
It was Katlynn’s turn to be dumbstruck. Tom watched as her eyes went from left to right, like a kitty cat wall clock, trying to figure out what angle he was coming from. “Whhhhy?” she finally asked. “The couch sucks and it’s your turn to take the bed.”
Katlynn wasn’t naive enough to believe this was out of altruism. He was no Billy Flynn from Chicago and she was no Mary Sunshine. What he wanted was not understandable or comprehensible. In fact it might be a bit reprehensible and not so defensible.
Life-Tom was learning from his impulsive masturbation session earlier today- was complicated.
“Are you gonna sneak out?” Katlynn asked.
As a matter of fact, yes. “No.” Tom said.
Kind of...? Did being addicted to a magical realm count? “No.”
“You know it’s easier to…” Katlynn paused and made a quiet jerking motion with her hand, “in the bedroom, right? Much comfier. More private.”
Tom had to rub his temples. “I’m aware, sister, and I don’t need to know how you know that.”
Katlynn smirked, clearly enjoying making Tom feel uncomfortable. “I don’t do it that way,” she whispered. “More wiggling fingers than-”
“BACK ON TOPIC!” Tom yelled over the school bus’s engine that was not NEARLY loud enough for this conversation.
“If you’re doing it in the bathroom, we already know. Nobody has to poop that often.”
We?! “It’s my back, okay!” Tom hissed through clenched teeth. “My back’s been hurting and for some reason it’s easier to sleep on the couch!” It was a lie. A bold faced lie but one Katlynn might believe.
“The couch is probably worse for your back,” Katlynn said. “Mine always hurts the next morning.”
Tom nodded, agreeing just to hurry the pitch along. “Mine too,” he said. “But if I get in just the right position I fall right asleep. Conked out. The sore back is worth it.” What would have been obvious to any mind reader is that it wasn’t the couch that Tom wanted access to, but the old clock in their living room.
Katlynn stared at him quizzically. “What are you really doing?” It was almost like his own reflection was staring back at him and accusing him of something he’d yet to do. Another version of him; isn’t that what twins were?
“I just need sleep,” Tom insisted. “Rough day and I want to escape.” Lies and half-truths.
Tom had had a great day, in fact. People had only called Tom ‘D-List’ three and a half times today instead of the usual ten. And the three that had happened had been in classes where Trevor Macintosh wasn’t present. The half, Tom counted, was when Josh Hamlin had started it and gotten slugged in the shoulder during Mr. Jordan’s fifth period.
Mr. Jordan had even called Tom up to the board and yelled (Mr. Jordan yelled?) at the class for talking. After the initial shouting, all he’d needed was crossed arms and wise yet withering glare. It had taken Tommy everything not to call his teacher ‘Nox’ after that.
People were changing, treating Tom with more respect, being. Even Amanda and Cameron had been relatively nice to him during lunch. Tom bit down on his own tongue. Lunch. He was still wearing the oddly sized training pants he’d stolen.
He’d promised himself to ditch the Paw Patrol Undies in a more adult bathroom later in the day. Like his reasons for crashing on the couch tonight, that had been a lie, even if he hadn’t known it. For reasons he couldn’t quite explain, Tom just felt right wearing them. They were like his armor, today. Cute and cuddly padded armor.
But even Chase from Paw Patrol was no match to the hand and song crafted runic armor that the dwarves of Malacus had forged for him.
Malacus. That’s where this change was coming from, Tom knew. He didn’t know how, and didn’t care. There was a bizarre connection between his traveling to that realm hidden in the old clock and people treating him slightly better in this world. Tom wanted that. He wanted mor-
“Hello?” Katlynn snapped her fingers. “Earth to Tommy. You’re doing that thing where you talk to yourself, again. Get out of your head.”
Tom blinked the cobwebs away. “Huh? What?”
“You spaced out,” Katlynn said. “Did you even hear me?”
“I said ‘yeah’.” she repeated herself. “Just don’t do anything creepy and don’t wake me up.”
Yes! Victory! Opportunity!
Ambition sated for the moment, Tom’s sibling rivalry instincts took over. He allowed himself a positively ghoulish smile. “What priority would that be in?”
“Ewww! Gross!” she backhanded his arm. They were both laughing as the bus reached their stop. They walked the block and a half in amiable silence back home to Forrest Luxury Apartments.
With a tired creak, they shuffled back through the door andTom threw his backpack on the couch, officially claiming it as Katlynn closed it behind him. “Dibs!”
“You do know I still get to sit there before bed, right?”
“Sure,” Tom allowed. Not even looking behind him, Tom walked over to the old grandfather clock. His breath caught a bit when he looked at the placard labeling it ‘Malacus’. Opening the front panel, he peered inside, wanting to see the misty darkness that he’d journeyed into just a few nights ago. It couldn’t have been a dream. It couldn’t!
Katlyn crashed on the couch. “I still don’t get how you can sleep on this thing,” she said. “I’m always tossing and turning.” Tom wasn’t even looking at her. Just at the tangled mass of gears and cobwebs inside. Even a clock this size didn’t need this many gears. Maybe the last owner was into Steampunk. “Why are you looking at that old thing?”
“I don’t know,” Tom lied again. “Just trying to figure out the best way to clean it up. You know Mary’s gonna have us do most of the work cleaning it up, right?”
Tom’s sister sat up a little straighter (as straight as she could on the old, enveloping couch). “Why would Mom have us clean it up now?”
The young man sighed. He was the one wearing training pants but he felt like he was explaining things to a child. “Because if we’re gonna sell it like she wants to, we can’t sell it like this.” Tom stepped back and grandly gestured to what was now a vaguely clock shaped bundle of firewood. “And she’s not gonna do the work. We both know that.”
Katlynn’s brows knitted together and a look of mild confusion flashed across her eyes. “Why are we gonna sell it? We’re poor but we’re not that poor.” She pointed to the old grandfather. “We’ve had that thing for years.”
Tom was about to argue and then the strangest thing happened: It was as if a mist was gently wafting over the folds in his brain, a fog rolling in and leaving little droplets of memories on the front lawn of his mind. “Oh yeah,” Tom remembered.
“You’re not wrong though,” Katlynn said. “That old thing wouldn’t sell for scrap. Not even Checkmate Pawn would take that thing right now.”
“Yeah,” Tom agreed. “It’s pretty worthless.” It was worthless, as a clock at least. But as of last Friday night bleeding into Saturday morning, Tom had discovered the old thing’s true potential; potential that he was going to put to good use. Tonight. Tom half-promised half prayed. Tonight it would work.
It would have to. Tom didn’t know if he could handle it not working.