It was some sort of ritual. Music played and the beasts would dance around a big pointy rock. Other people had told him this was strange, but as he had seen it every night he sneaked out to look in the woods all he knew was that he didn’t know why.
He had tried to ask in the past, but breaking into the circle made everyone scatter. He mentioned it at school. No one disbelieved him, but no one else had seen it.
“Maybe you’re going about it wrong,” she said as they ate lunch in the cafeteria.
“I have to be,” he replied, “or else I’d know by now.”
“No, I mean maybe you shouldn’t ask.”
He rolled his eyes. “You sound like my mom.”
She poked him. He flinched. “No, silly! Dance with them. They’re all dancing, right? Then they won’t run away.”
It was a good plan. They agreed to go out that very night.
“How do they play together?” the Keeper demanded of me.
I murmured a quick thanks for the conversation before moving myself closer to the Keeper. We spent half an hour with the devices. This would hopefully keep the Keeper occupied, on and off, for the next several days. Weeks. Months. However long it would be.
“What did you do during school today?” the Keeper went on to ask.
I answered the question with as much detail as I could muster. I wasn’t fond of school, especially now. However, it was unfair to keep it from the Keeper, who obviously craved for that time. We moved away from the table in the centre of the chamber (remembering to take my bag) to the corner of the room where the Keeper kept all of their belongings. Shelving which had been emptied from the books which remained in here to in turn be filled with the trinkets from life before and the life during. As always, I could see each of the gifts I had brought them in the forefront. The newer, the more accessible.
“What took you so long?” The Keeper spoke with impatience. I never used to hear that from them, but now it had become more common.
“I had school.”
With those words, I felt freer. Free, trapped within this place. I tried to hide those feelings, because I knew how the Keeper would feel about them. But here, I could say anything and it would be all right.
The Keeper would always be able to say what they wanted, because of this place. The corner of their lips twitched down, then up. They folded their arms in front of their chest. “Oh, right. It’s Monday, isn’t it?”
“Tuesday,” I corrected. “We didn’t have school yesterday.”
“I miss school.”
I wasn’t surprised. I did think it better to change subject.
When I was in fifth grade, I played Death in a school play. I brought home my script and showed my mother.
She winced. “Have… have any of them ever heard Death speak?”
I frowned. “Do you think he’d be offended?”
“No. He doesn’t usually bother getting offended.” My mother bought her lower lip. “It just… doesn’t sound like him. At all.”
I had wanted to invite him, because I thought he would find my portrayal of him funny. “Boo.”
“Is this script set in stone?”
“It’s that bad?” I thought about Death. Even I knew it was that bad. “I can totally own he. He’ll find it hilarious.”
My mother wasn’t sure, but I figured I knew Death a little better. He’d find it funny. I didn’t think he had ever said “forsooth” before in his life.
So I’d say it often.
Her brother had a thing about knives.
It wasn’t until she was fifteen that she realized there was anything weird about that. Not because of her brother. Her brother, who had display cases and the knowledge how to fix old broken switchblades, who taught her about sharpening and gave her the most important knowledge of all – it would hurt more to be cut by a dull blade.
It all appeared to be practical knowledge. Some of his collection was beautiful, while others were rare types. It was more interesting than a stamp collection. Of which she knew zero people actually did.
Then she mentioned it in class. Everyone had a reaction that told her something. Those who were uncomfortable, those who were a little too interested. She stood there in her new class and looked back at all these people and knew suddenly that her brother was weird to them. Whether they thought weird was good or bad.
And now she was weird too.
“You are so lucky to have the window seat in your classroom.”
He was talking to his friends, but the girl answered instead of the person he was talking to. “So what? You could pay even less attention in class?”
He scowled. “All I’m sayin’ is that it’s a crime to be inside on a day like today.”
She should have agreed with that, because he knew she liked days like this, but she rolled her eyes instead. “Says the guy who spends half his time playing video games.”
“Not on days like this!” he protested.
Their friend laughed. She sighed. He groaned.
“Look. All I’m saying is that chalkboards are so old fashioned. Can’t stand looking at them.”
The three finished lunch before the bell rang.