Is anybody out there tired of summer yet? Remember what I said yesterday about the changes. This is what you get when you read a WIP--changes whilst in process. Bear with me. It's worth it.
Playing for Keeps
The boy and his dog appeared in a place the Boy called a “footballfield” and were members of a pack of boys who were chasing yet another boy who carried a strangely shaped ball. Ahead of them were the outlines of more who seemed intent on trying to keep the pack away from the boy with the ball. It was important to his Boy to be the one to get the ball. The Visitor understood this part of the game well. He and the Boy played their own version of it during daylight hours using a stick.
In the end, the Boy did something he called “tackling” the other boy and wrestled the ball out of his hands. Together they all ran to the other end of the field, ahead of the other group of boys. Just as they were closing in his Boy took flight, flying the rest of the way to the place called the “goalline”. Apparently, once they got to the other side the other boys could not touch them or “tackle” them either.
The Visitor enjoyed dreams like this in which his Boy was the winner. He saw in him what he could do when he was not weighed by worries he didn't understand. So the Visitor was taking the opportunity to celebrate with the Boy, jumping and spinning with him, laughing. The game was over and they had won.
A voice interrupted them. “Hey you! The winner has to put the ball away.” They could see a man standing a hundred or so feet away, his outline little more than a shadow.
The other boys had faded away—going off in different directions as though winning suddenly didn’t matter. The crowd they’d taken the ball from was standing in the shadows of the fence grumbling.
The Boy, still carrying the ball, walked across the field toward the man. “Where do I put it?” he called to the distant figure.
It pointed toward a building at the opposite end of the field. “There. Put it in the equipment room.”
They approached the building and sighted a door. Before the Visitor could do anything, the boy opened it. Inside was a small room with walls lined with shelves holding more balls of different sizes. The boy entered it and found an empty place to put the ball.
“I’ve never been in here,” he told the Visitor. “I didn’t know they had all these balls.” He picked up another one and bounced it around the room as he looked at the rest of the sports equipment. On his second trip around the room, he saw a door, tucked back in a narrow space in the corner of the room. It was as though it had been designed for a child to find.
The Boy walked past it bouncing the ball, slower with each step, his head turned and tilted so he could examine it.
This time he did not need the Visitor to warn him. “What's on the other side of that door, Dante?” he asked softly.
He could try to convince him that he did not need to know, and guide him away, but the Boy was as strong then as he ever would be, and the older dogs waiting for this moment weren’t growing any younger. Something that will change everything, the Visitor replied.
The Boy stopped bouncing the ball, held it in his hands, standing, feet spread, in front of the door. “Would it be a good change?”
Perhaps not at first.
“Does have something to do with the other dreams? The ones where I see scary things that haven’t happened yet?”
“Do other people dream of doors?”
I think so.
"Do they open them?"
If they did, I think we'd know.
“Why don't they?"
I'm not sure.
The Boy thought for a minute. “Because, it’s not time yet.”
That sounds right.
“How will I know when it’s time?”
The same way you know you’re dreaming of things that haven’t happened yet.
“You mean, I just will?”
The Boy put the ball down and turned away from the door. “Let’s go outside.”
They retreated to the field where the other pack of boys still lurked, looking less boy-like all the time. And there were more of them.
His Boy seemed suddenly wise beyond his years, as though understanding had placed a weight upon his shoulders. “Do they have something to do with the door?”
They want you to open it.
“Because if I do, all the bad stuff will happen sooner.”
I think so, yes.
“Do they want to kill me?”
Yes. If they can kill you, then the door is unguarded and their queen will open it instead.
He watched the amassing shadows with a deepening frown. The Visitor could sense his gathering anger. “Are they that what makes my Mom so sad she wants to die sometimes?”
The Old One thought the Boy too young to understand the Woman’s sadness. He was wrong about that too. Yes.
“Can I kill them in here?”
The Boy was motionless for another half second, squared his shoulders. He held his hand out and the shiny stick from the previous dream appeared. “Will you fight too?”
Together they advanced on the Many.