Here we are, more than half way through the story. What do you think?
Brandon uncurled from the bed and sifted through some papers on his dresser. He pulled a few off and brought them to Lucas.
“These are what I’ve done since I came here.”
Lucas spread them out on the bed with the sketchpad. The first was Max, drawn like some kind of harpy with wings on his body and two-dozen snakes on his head in place of hair. Lucas wondered what Max’s shadow creature would look like, exactly.
The catsnake that had slithered around Cassy’s legs was now part Cassy, or Cassy was now part catsnake. Her long legs were replaced by a snake body, with scales for skin and cat’s ears sticking out of her long brown hair. Brandon’s sketch of Tom had the boy standing around the pool table, with skinny shoulders jutting out of a sleeveless muscle shirt and baggy basketball shorts over skinny legs. His face, however, was that of a fox, with fur and a long snout unbalancing his thin neck. Jayden and Devon were in the same sketch on the other side of the pool table, tall skeletal monsters with gray skin and long bony fingers holding a pool stick, their faces looking grotesque on top of their twisted bodies.
He sees what I see, it’s just different in his weird little mind. Lucas moved some of the papers around so he could better inspect the rest.
The twins were the two heads of a giant rat, teeth jutting out from their whiskered mouths. And there was Dee, her round baby face perched on top of eight jointed legs. Lucas shuddered again at the recent memory of the spider making its way over her shriveled body and out through the rec room window.
“He’s really good,” the satyr shadow stretched his nose up over the edge of the bed.
Finally there was a girl Lucas had never seen. At least he guessed she was a girl, with a blond pixie cut bobbing around a face made of raw tendon and muscle.
“Who’s this?” Lucas picked it up off of the bed and handed it to Brandon.
He blushed, “I don’t know.”
“Why did you draw her like this? With the others?”
Brandon shrugged. “Dunno for sure. She was in a dream I had last night.”
“I bet that was weird.”
He nodded, his bright beanie bobbing, then he smiled. “I call her Zombie Girl.”
“You know,” Lucas brushed his bangs back and stood up straight, stretching his back a little after leaning over to inspect the pictures, “You have a girl in here that we’ve never seen, but there are kids missing.”
“Oh,” Brandon’s face fell into a pout.
“Ami? Tate?” Lucas probed.
“I’ve never dreamed about them, not ever. Ami’s pretty and everything, but Tate…he’s an ugly kid.”
Lucas looked at the sketches again. He draws this weird stuff and he thinks Tate is ugly?
There was one other picture missing.
“Where are you?” Lucas asked.
Brandon looked at him, his eyes big. “I never thought about it.” His eyes narrowed again, “I don’t know if I could draw myself.”
Lucas bit his lip and played with his bangs again. “If you did draw yourself, what do you think you would look like?”
“Oh, well,” Brandon dropped the sketch of the girl on the bed and shoved his hands in the pockets of his purple skinny jeans. “Uh, I’d probably give myself some scales and spikes here-ish,” he pulled out one hand and waved it down the area of his spine. “I think a tail would be cool, too.”
“Like a dragon?”
Brandon put his hand back in his pocket and hopped back and forth. “Yeah! Like a dragon.”
Lucas looked down again at the assortment of creature people spread out on the bed. Brandon had drawn them all with black eyes that stared directly at Lucas no matter how he moved them around on the bed. He had seen the other kids’ shadow creatures in the rec room, none of them completely solid until Dee’s climbed over her shoulder with its jointed legs.
But the beasts and devils in Zagan’s office had looked very solid, crawling or slithering or standing around the books. Solid enough to scare Lucas half to death.
And then he had told a lie that made him forget about it, made him think he had been doing something else. He would be careful not to make that mistake again. He had to figure out how this lying thing worked.
Pa. The memory of his father unconscious on a hospital bed made Lucas feel sick.
“Here,” Lucas pulled the sketchpad off the bed where it had been buried under the sketch of the pool table boys. “See if you can sketch something of Ami and Tate.”
“I’ve tried. Nothing comes to mind. They just look…normal.”
“Try again.” He handed the pad to Brandon.
Brandon nodded. He walked over to his dresser and pulled out an assortment of pencils, erasers, and sharpeners from the top drawer. “I’ll see what I can come up with.” Pulling his headphones out of his pocket, he folded his legs under him on the bed and arranged his supplies.
“Are you done yet?” the goatman folded his half-solid arms and bumped against Lucas’s leg. A satyr, Brandon had called him. Lucas ignored him.
“Yeah?” he reached for an earbud and paused, looking up.
“Do you….,” Lucas looked down at the horns on the satyr’s head, the bony nubs poking out of his curly dark hair, then at Brandon’s shadow dragon sniffing through the art supplies on the bed. “Do you hear any of them talking?
“Any of who talking?”
Lucas shrugged, “I dunno, anything talking from the shadows?”
His face turning bright red, Brandon looked around the room as if he were worried someone else was listening. When he seemed satisfied that they were still alone, he pinned his eyes on Lucas, serious. “Not if I’m listening to music,” he whispered loudly, then stuck his headphones in his ears and poked a pencil in a sharpener.
Lucas watched as Brandon started sketching, then walked out of the room to the top of the stairs.
The satyr kept close to his heels. Lucas stopped by the first step that went down to the fourth floor and sat on it, watching as the shadow satyr flitted into the dark corner under the window and stretched.
Lucas looked at him. The satyr blinked, his black eyes glossy and bright.
“What are you?”
The satyr yawned, “We’ve already had this conversation. I’m your lies.”
Lucas peered closely into the corner. The shadow creature’s legs were hairy, with black goat hooves. He had sharp features, with a pointed beard and curly hair. His eyes took up half of his face, dark and watchful above cherubic cheekbones.
“You look taller from here than when I look down on you.”
“Oh, yeah?” he stretched.
“So little goatman-shadow -thingy—”
“Satyr, if you would please. Or, you can call me Phil.”
Lucas blinked this time, “Okay, Satyr Phil, how do I get rid of you?”
Phil scratched his chin, “Well, I know how to get rid of you.”
“You mean turn me into one of those half dead minions?”
Phil nodded, “We call them half-souls.”
“What if I don’t want to become a half-soul?”
The satyr thought a moment, pulling on his beard. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Lucas pinned the satyr with a look. “I watched a girl shrink and turn into a super ugly gray thing while a giant spider climbed over her and creeped out of the window to go play with its friends. I don’t particularly want that to happen to me. So, how do I keep myself from turning into a half-soul?”
“Well,” Phil folded his arms across his bare chest. He was muscly for a little shadow thing. “I’m not sure. I know how to turn you into a half-soul, but I’m not sure how you can keep yourself from turning into a half-soul.”
“Would you just give me a straight answer?” Lucas curled his hands over Phil’s shoulders to shake him, but his fingers went through the satyr and Lucas nearly fell down the stairs. It had been like trying to grab smoke.
“You have to ask a straight question.”
Straight question? Lucas decided on the only one the satyr said he could answer.
“How do you get me to turn into a half-soul?”
Phil smiled, his teeth white and pin sharp. Lucas’s stomach turned over. He already knew what the satyr would say.
“I get you to lie.”
You don’t look so good. A little gray. Brandon’s words echoed from the shadows around Phil. Lucas looked at his hands and frowned.
“I need to find Max.”
“Let’s go,” Phil motioned to march down the stairs.
“Hold on,” Lucas stood and looked down at his shadow creature, “One more thing.”
Phil raised a thin black eyebrow.
“Stop talking to me.”