Goodness me! I’m sure that when I posted Chapter 7 over a month ago, I apologised for there being such a long gap. So it seems a little lame to apologise for an even longer period without another installment.
Maybe I should recap? Can you remember what happened to Cooper last? It’s been quite an eventful couple of days for him, what with natural disasters, parental conflict and tales of fire demons on the loose.
However, we left him in the rather pleasing position of dunking biscuits whilst listening to some fanciful gossip from his friend’s mother. I obviously don’t want to spoil anything further, especially if you’ve not been with us from the beginning (which you can return to by reading Lacunae: Chapter 1 HERE by the way!)
Onwards to Chapter 8!
The cobweb twizzled in an air current blowing through the half-open door. Cooper lay staring up at the dusty dancer, doing his best to block out the incessant babbling from Trent, who was spouting crackpot theories as he practiced fighting skills on his Xbox.
It had taken a lot of self-control not to laugh in Mrs. Arnold’s face earlier, something Cooper achieved by giving no comment. But despite not wanting to appear rude, he wished he had told her just how ridiculous her tale of doom sounded because she seemed to think his silence was a sign of shocked acceptance, and continued to exercise her imagination to new levels. It made Iris’ rantings look normal.
And now her son was carrying on with the crazy lecture. Fuelled by a trail of anecdotal ‘evidence’ he had unearthed from a Google search for ‘fire demons in volcanoes’, Trent believed Ludlow Province was about to be besieged by an ancient, deadly deity that resided beneath the mountain, allegedly only surfacing to hunt when Neptune was closest to the Sun. Or something like that.
He had well and truly fallen down the rabbit hole…
“Aaaarrgh! Dude, STOP!” Cooper sat upright on the edge of Trent’s bed, his face scrunched in irritation. “It’s all bullshit. Demons, monsters, ghosts – you can find ways to link anything if you try hard enough. It’s all this that creates the madmen, going round in circles over fairytales and folklore. Can we talk about something else?”
“Just because you’ve not seen something, doesn’t mean it’s not real.” Trent hammered harder on the controller, focusing on the more immediate monsters on screen. “So…Jenna?”
“You gonna tell me why you only think you’ve ditched her?” he swiveled on his chair and passed the control pad to Cooper.
Cooper released a long sigh before responding. He told Trent about the texts leading up to Jenna ‘going dark’ and the numerous attempts to contact her since, with his friend interjecting noises of disbelief or derogatory adjectives for a girl it was clear he didn’t like. Coop finished by describing his display of control outside Jenna’s home, with Trent’s support being all he needed to start fabricating details about his exit speech.
“And so I put her straight. The whole neighbourhood probably heard how she isn’t as hot as she thinks she is. Said when she gets over herself, I might think about calling but told her not to hold her breath as I doubt I’ll have time with all the other girls who want a piece of me!”
He waited for a high-five from Trent, proud of what he’d done. Trent merely raised an eyebrow.
“Hmmm…well, you really told her didn’t you?”
“I did. I mean…I…why the sarcasm?”
“That’s not ending it! No way. I bet she was upstairs smirking at your hissy fit on the grass, knowing full well she only has to pout and threaten to flash a bit of nipple and you’ll be a pile of mush again.”
“That’s not true, I’m not letting her call the shots anymore. I’m done.”
“Then you need to tell her that, face to face. Not spurt it out to a brick building! What if she wasn’t home? How stupid you gonna look then?”
“Nah, I heard her phone ringing – she’s never far from it. She was just being a bitch.”
Trent’s eyes suddenly flashed, the floodlights in his brain coming to life. “Oh god, what if the demons got her?”
“Cut it out dickhead, there’s no… Oh. You’re serious. Jesus, man!” Coop stared back at his friend’s face, motionless apart from his flickering pupils, powered by the conspiracy cogs doing overtime.
“Well, it would explain the lack of contact and if you heard her phone…”
The Imperial Death March blasted from Cooper’s cell on the bed, making them both flinch. The device was face-down but he knew exactly who was calling. Cooper used this ringtone for only one person. He groaned, reaching across to answer it.
“Jenna?” Trent inquired.
“Worse. My dad.” Coop swiped his thumb over the screen. He could hear his father’s shouting, even before raising the mobile to his ear.
“God damn it Cooper! What did I say? WHAT did I say? I gave you explicit instructions to stay home. The one time it is imperative you do as I tell you and I find you’ve not only disobeyed me but left your sister too!”
Professor Bradford’s tone was verging on hysterical. Cooper imagined his father was holding the phone in that annoying manner he had, like a cracker he was ready to devour, as he yelled his disappointment into the microphone.
“I didn’t leave Iris, Max stayed with her. Plus, she could have come along. It’s your fault she’s freaked out over nothing and won’t go outside. Everything is fine out there. I noticed you weren’t under self-imposed house arrest.”
“I’m not at risk Cooper, and as the adult I’ll make the decisions about what keeps my children safe.”
“I’m an adult, for fuck’s sake!” spat Coop, in an outburst that his father would feel contradicted the words. “And what do you mean you’re not at risk?”
“Come home Cooper. Now.”
“So you won’t even bother with an answer? Typical.” Cooper was really riled up. He hadn’t even registered moving to the opposite end of Trent’s room, seething now in the corner, his knuckles bleached of colour as they gripped his phone. “You’ve gone as mental as that old science guy from Calvert.”
For a moment, Cooper could just hear laboured breathing. The response his father finally gave was not one Cooper had expected.
“He was, is, a genius. Deeply troubled by lack of respect and acceptance for his research. He’s not mental Cooper, he’s driven. That kind of passion can change a man’s mind, make him dangerous. But nowhere near as dangerous as what he’s been trying to protect the world from. Do not judge what you don’t understand. Now, come home. Please.”
Still trying to make sense of this new revelation, Cooper blurted out a hasty retaliation.
“Sphinx. We’re going to Sphinx.”
“We are?” Trent whirled on his seat towards Cooper, who gestured for silence from his corner.
“We’re already half-way to Harrington. I’ll be back by morning.” He picked up a dirty T-shirt and threw it at Trent when he saw him open his mouth again.
“God damn it Cooper, NO! You cannot do this, it’s too risky. I demand you come back.”
Cooper dropped the mobile from his ear, adopting his father’s signature hold and snarled back into the device. “As an adult, I’ll make the decision how to keep myself safe.”
Hanging up, he launched his cell onto the bed. Trent still appeared to be three steps behind on the whole conversation, but Cooper had no desire to bring him up to speed right now. He turned to the window, studying a sky ablaze with an early evening pallette that matched the distant volcanic fires.
“Call Max, tell him to be outside in ten. Time to get wasted.”
Credits: All words copyright of Aloada Bobbins. Image from waytoenliven.com