Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day Five-Eighty-Seven: Testing, testing, one, two, three

When we picked up Fynn this morning, he was playing with a ghost with a crown sticking out of its head. They appeared to be engaged in an intense game of tag, one which the ghost was not particularly enjoying.

The ghost, whom I assume is the king of this place, grumpily told me to take Fynn and go. My boy's been making an utter mess of the king's realm. I'm kinda fearful to discover how my little boy could prove problematic to a bunch of phantasms. That way lies some fearful conclusions.

I spent most of the breaks today trying to coax the story of the past two weeks out of Plato's rat. It's not that he's unwilling to talk, it's that the diary won't let him. His messages used to last just as long as normal ink; now they disappear within seconds of being written. I've noticed that other messages written by rats have similarly disappeared. Why this is true, I have no idea.

My travelling group is wary of the rat. Most of 'em had no idea that rats are sentient, highly-intelligent creatures. The only one who will join me in watching the rat struggle to talk is Jeffrey, as he finds the process weirdly fascinating.

"So it just... thinks, I guess, and the message appears on the paper?" 

"Yeah. Something like that." Sitting crosslegged in front of the open diary, I stared gloomily at the blank pages. "Ain't workin' right now, though. C'mon, bud, you can do it."

The rat, perched on one of my knees, closed its eyes and rubbed its ratty temples. It quivered as it focused, plainly struggling to make a message stick in the diary. All we got was a fleeting 'I'm trying, WRITE DAMN YOU' before the page went blank again. The rat flopped over my knee, panting and squeaking.

"Huh." Jeffrey picked up the diary, inspecting it. "Hell of a thing, that. And you say it had legs?"

"Yep. Dunno where they went, though." I flicked at the tail hanging limply from the spine of the diary. "How'd I never notice this before? A diary with a tail. That's plain irregular, it is."

"I'll say." Jeffrey tapped on the cover. "Rat skin, right? I recognize the leather. Used it all the time back home. Do you think the rat can write in it because, I don't know, that diary itself is part rat? Hence the walking? They're plainly a magical race. You lot are magical, aren't you?"

The rat, still panting, nodded wearily.

"There's that much settled, then." Jeffrey reached into his backpack and retrieved a small stack of parchment. "Why don't you try writing on this instead? Might be easier."

The rat rose to its feet and pointed a quivering nose at the parchment. Nothing happened. It gave up a few seconds later and flopped down again.

"Huh. Guess it has to be in the diary itself. Well, uh, maybe if you take some parchment out of the diary? Maybe the, uh, cover is stopping this guy from communicating?"

I shrugged. Worth a shot. Flipping the diary open to the back, I yanked a piece of parchment free of its crude bindings, set it down in front of me -

- and watched as it immediately shrivelled, curled into a tight ball, and disintegrated. 

After some incredulity, Jeffrey and I shrugged at one another. We tested with a second piece of parchment and got the same results. We put a piece of his parchment into the diary and pulled it out again, and, yeah. Shrivel, curl, gone. So much for that. This diary is now a rat-free zone. Unless we find another way for Plato's rat to communicate, I may never know exactly what happened with Grayson.

Grayson. My kid. As far as we know, he's taken his leave of this place. I have no idea why he's travelling with June, whom he seemed to hate almost as much as he hates me, and I'm equally in the dark as to why he'd come down here in the first place. I received some non-verbal hints from the rat that Grayson is quite sick from playing host to a ghost. I guess I can see that being a thing.

My boy is sick. He might be dying. And... and I think I'm okay with that. Because Grayson is a monster. Does this make me a monster, for not having any sympathy? I just don't know. Libby and I... and Fynn, for sure, Grayson loathes Fynn... would surely be better off if Grayson wasn't around anymore.

Grayson. Ugh. What am I gonna tell Libby? Do I fess up or do I lie?

I have some time to think about it, at least. We're plodding through the caverns beneath the jungle, if I'm reading the rat's pantomimes correctly, and probably won't find our way back to camp until tomorrow. We remain universally exhausted, save for Fynn, who, as always, possesses an excess of energy. I swear he could run even a ghost ragged, and they're already dead.


Dragomir the Wanderer

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