Chapter Description: Tommy got everything he thought he wanted in Malacus. So despite the weird turns in his real life, he's going back for more.
Chapter 23-The call back
And I feel it in my veins
It's a feeling I can't tame
Can anyone please explain
Why, why, why
Why I'm bouncing off the walls
BONG! BONG! BONG!
Tommy sat up in bed, barely registering the squish of his wet Goodnites. The last thing he’d remembered was nodding off in the backseat of Mom’s car. Mom must’ve carried him in. Changed him, too. He hadn’t been wearing pajamas before.
The young man frowned. These weren’t his magic jammies, the ones that were the golden and runed suit of armor. If he was going to defend Malacus, he’d need the armor, wouldn’t he?
It didn’t help that he was wet; not that he was uncomfortable. Far from it. It was infinitely preferable to the thick padded undies and plastic pants he’d been wearing to bed. Tommy knew he was wet, but it wasn’t the same kind of wetness-cold and clammy-that came with wet pants. The goodnite had done its job and if not for the clock, Tommy would have slept through the night.
Still...it might be hard to go be the Titan and hero of Malacus with sloshing squishy undies. Did he have time to change?
BONG! BONG! BONG!
That was decidedly a ‘no’. Dry pants could wait. Taking a deep breath, Tommy shuffled out into the living room. The old clock didn’t look quite so beaten up. It’s varnish less chipped, it’s glass only a little cracked. Out from the open panel- the door to Malacus- an airy mist billowed out.
“That’s new,” Tommy whispered to himself.
Taking a deep breath, Tommy turned sideways, ducked and went into the darkness, once more. The passageway into Malacus felt different this time. The darkness didn’t seem as mysterious or ominous. The cool parts beneath his feet seemed less chilly, the rocky walls not as jagged. They were still there.
It was kind of like a diaper versus training pants. Both were bulk and cushioned. Both were decorated with brightly colored cartoon characters. Both could be peed in. But one was distinctly more pleasant than the other…
The passageway was subtly transforming, too. Or maybe he was just getting used to it. The details were becoming more familiar to them, and so the shock was lessened, with familiar sensations being filed away to his unconscious.
What hadn’t changed, was the glowing algae on the wall before the final entrance. “Thomas Dean”, Tommy read his own literal hand writing. He didn’t feel much like a Thomas Dean. He didn’t feel like a Tom Dean either. Given his druthers, he would have written ‘Tommy’ and be done with it.
There was a thought. But as his outstretched finger went closer to the rock, the algae started to glow. And with the glowing, a kind of low electrical hum sounded; almost like a growl. “What the…?”
Tommy drew back his hand, and the algae dimmed once again, the low hum diminishing with the light. But when he reached out again, the wall became neon blue, the volume of its hum directly corresponding.
Experimentally, he reached out to touch the letter “T” that he’d written, slowly moving his pointer finger closer and closer and hearing the low hum increase in volume.
When his finger was less than a millimeter away, a tiny blue spark leapt out and zapped him. “YOW! FUCK!” Tommy yelped. It was like being stung by an electric bee.
“UCK-UCK-UCK,” his voice echoed.
Angrily, Tommy shook his hand and stared at his stung finger as if it had betrayed him. When he raised his hand again, the algae hummed louder, and a crackle of energy rippled through Tommy’s name. “The wall doesn’t want me to touch it?”
Tommy huffed. Okay. Fine. He didn’t need to rewrite his name. It was a silly idea to begin with.
Just before he ducked into the final opening, he checked his Goodnite. Wet. But still comfortable. A pang of self-consciousness rang out in his mind. The might hero returning in what was basically a Pull-Up for bedwetters. Not that dwarves and elves and centaurs knew what a Pull-Up was. And there was the bright side that as soon as he fell through and landed in the Mana Pool, everything would be soaked beyond recognition, (assuming his jammies didn’t turn into something badass).
But as he took that final drop, he stopped freefalling. He was still plummeting, but it was guided this time. Something soft and airy, like an inflatable raft caught Tommy, and far faster than he would have liked, started sliding and rolling downwards. That’s what this was! A giant inflatable slide!
“OOOOF!” Tommy exclaimed as the air rushed out of him. “UG-UG-UG-OOOF-OCK-UG!” The sky and the ground in the horizon became dance partners. If it hadn’t been so unexpected, it might have been kind of fun.
The final splash of freezing cold water never came, instead being replaced by a hollow crackle and clatter. Instead of the darkness and air starving depths, Tommy found himself buried by a deluge of rainbow colored rocks that both cushioned his fall and buried him.
Legs pumping, his feet could not find enough purchase to properly swim or leap to the surface. He could still breathe, but he was floundering- half climbing half thrashing half swimming up to the top. Red. Green. Yellow. Blue. The most basic of colors swirled around him as he paddled up from the softball sized rocks.
Given his superhuman strength and near invulnerability, one might forgive Tommy’s mistake in thinking they were marvelous rocks all polished to a uniform smoothness. They weren’t rocks, but hollow plastic balls! Tommy had fallen down a slide and into a giant ball pit!
Just as his hand breached the surface, he felt a strong and familiar grip grab his wrist and lift him out, first by the wrist, then by the armpits.
Dangling by the armpits like a four year old, Tommy gazed in disbelief at the centaur. “Nox?”
“Hello, friend Tommy!”