The Creature stayed under the couch until Pup and his wife went to bed, and then slunked around the house, searching for a place to wait for an opportunity to tear their flesh from their bones. Hungry, hungry, hungry, it was so hungry. It’s belly was slightly swollen, full of growing hungry Creatures. This Creature was more scavenger than hunter, but living prey was still food, just have to be careful and wait for the element of surprise. But safe was more important right now. It finally found a dirty, cobwebbed section behind some boxes up in the attic, and lay down to sleep.
Over the next week, Pup went back frequently to get Time-Orbs, which pulled that rift a little farther apart with each use. On Saturday, he wanted to get ahead of everyone else at work, so he did as much as he could that day, using about 10 hours from the Time-Orbs. Pup was so proud of himself, and so very happy. His apparent success at work all week was driving towards a promotion, and Mrs. Pup was extremely happy with all this extra quality time he was giving to her.
Life is sweet, I think, exiting the study to grab the wife and head out the door for a date night.
The Creature and a few others wake up when the door slams shut, and they decide to go see if the Things are around. The Creature feels much safer within the pack than by itself, so they creep out of the attic, and start exploring the house, looking to sneak up on a Thing to eat. As they were walking down the stairs into the hallway, past the study, the pack hears a loud thumping, ripping sound coming from the study, and then some heavy steps of something tall and big walking around. The Creature hears the noise, and lets out a surprised squeak and a trilling whistle, which sends the whole pack clamoring up the stairs and back into the attic. When the trilling happens, the large something stops walking around in the study, and lets out a loud groan, “Ole friend, what in the high plains of hell did you do?”
Mr. and Mrs. Pup come home later on that night after having a great time, laughing and smiling at each other all the way to the door. After doing what happy couples do following a good date night, Pup helps Mrs. Pup pack her back for her business trip, with the flight leaving in a couple hours. All too soon, the taxi pulls up, and Mrs. Pup leaves, giving Pup a long, lingering kiss, before jumping in the car and speeding off to catch her plane.
I walk back into the house with a big stupid grin on my face, thinking about what had happened earlier. Walking down the hall, past my study and into the kitchen to make myself a sandwich. Oh wow, this master piece is gonna taste like Heaven, I think. I’m about to take a bite, when I hear a growly, trilling noise that sounds out of my deepest darkest nightmares.
I whirl around and come face to face with Living Nightmares on four legs. There are four of them, covered in mangy oily black fur ending in shiny scaly skin on their legs, tails, and serpentlike heads. Their eyes glow a dull orange, and seemed to be very hungry. They had padded into the kitchen silently, no sound coming from their footsteps, and had fanned out into a half circle formation, leaving me with no hope of escape.
The two on the right, started to creep forward, pointy teeth bared with greenish tinted slime dripping down their jaws. I grab the nearest object, a spatula, and start swinging it back and forth in front of me. “Get back! Get. Back. Now!!!” I yell, my brain trying to process what these things were, how did they get into the house and what am I going to do?
They all took a step back, but seeing that the spatula was no real threat, they became brave and took a few steps closer. The one on the far right, growling and pacing, all of a sudden leaps at me, slimy teeth aiming right for my throat. I swing the spatula with all my might with eyes closed, hoping I can fend it off…
THUD THUD THUD
Howling, trilling cries fill the kitchen.
My spatula meets dead air, as my momentum makes me swing around in a circle like a gauche ballerina. Opening my eyes, I see a huge, grizzled older man, wearing a filthy chewed up duster and matching hat, holding a rusty Civil War era sword. He is standing in front of me, facing off with the remaining Creatures.
“Get back ya hear? Get, GET!” he says, as he swings the sword back in forth in front of him.
The Creatures start trilling and hissing at the Stranger, not wanting to attack now, but near starvation making them desperate.
He kills off another one, a loud THUD sounding off as its headless body hits the floor. The last two, a large muscular one and a slightly smaller one with a swollen belly, are all that’s left. The large one turns its attention to the Stranger, and the smaller one to me. By now I’ve found a large butcher knife, and feel a bit better about my odds of survival.
“Don’t let ‘em bite you!” growled the old man, never taking his eyes off his target.
With no warning, the Creatures charge at the same time.
The Stranger successfully runs his sword through the gut of the large Creature, and they both fall to the floor, but the Creature is still fighting, trying to claw at him and bite at him. The Stranger scrambles quickly to his feet, places a boot on the creature’s face, pulls out his sword, and slices off its head.
I was not doing as well. My butcher knife was lodged in the Creature’s mouth, and I had one hand on its jaw and another on its chest, trying to push it away, but it was very heavy and stank of rotted flesh and decaying garbage. I try to give a mighty push, and then I’m pushing away at nothing. The Stranger had walked across the room, and yanked it off me by the scruff of its mangy neck, and pinned it to the ground. I stay on the ground and stare at the his back and the Creature pinned down under him. It’s moving and squirming under the old man’s weight, desperate to stay alive and even more desperate to eat his leg that he was using to pin it down.
“Hold still ya rotten Hound a Hell,” he says, and drives the sword downward and through its neck.
It instantly stops moving, and silence filled with out of breath noises fills the kitchen.
The Stranger stands up, grabs a kitchen towel hanging nearby, and wipes his sword, and throws the destroyed rag onto dead Creature. He faces me, and offers a me a hand up, which I take. We both look at each other for a moment, sizing each other up. His face looks like a road map, full of lines leading from his eyes and mouth, and disappearing into his hairline and jaw. Tall, bright blue eyes, leathery skin, and most of all, my rescuer.
“Man, you look just like your Gramps, God rest his Soul,” he says finally, clamping a big hand on my shoulder and peering into my face.
“Are you…? You’re Chuck!”
His worn, wizen face cracks open into a smile and he drops his hand to shake mine, “At your service, young Pup!”
The smile doesn’t last too long when he remembers how he got here, and worst of all, how those Creatures got here.
“Pup, confound it, thanks for gettin’ me home and all, but did you use too much Time? Did you set the clocks wrong? What the hell did you do?”
Confused, I claim that I followed everything to the letter, just like Gramps had told me.
He shakes his head, “You made a rift that even I got through, so you did SOMETHING.”
He goes back to the study, and I follow him, still confused about what I could’ve done wrong. He demands to see the Time-Orb shells, and after hemming and hawing over those, he walks around the four corners of the room studying them. Finally, he looks at my regular clocks, and stops dead in his tracks.
“I mighta found what you’ve been doin’ wrong, Pup,” he says, grabbing one of the clocks off of my desk. He looks at it from different angles, and then pulls out a beat-up pocket watch from his duster pocket, and compares the two. “You’re runnin’ here a 5 minutes fast, and every time you use the Orbs, those minutes add up and rip up the Space-Time Grid even more.” He fixed my clock, and walks around fixing all the clocks in the room. “That explains why those Grid-Hounds got through, and how I even got through. You’ve ripped the Grid a whole new bum hole, and now only you can fix it. Lucky for you I know what ta do.”
Chuck gives me orders, and I follow them exactly. I pull my knapsack out of its hidey hole, and place the Time-Orb shells in a small circle big enough for a man to sit in the middle.
“What now?” I ask.
He points to the middle of the circle, “Sit. Now, and no matter what don’t move a mite.”
I comply, sitting cross legged in the circle, and look up expectantly at Chuck.
He tells me that this may hurt a bit, but it’s what needs to be done to fix the rift. I nod and Chuck squats down outside the circle, extending a hand to the side of my temple.
“Close your eyes.”
I close them. After a moment, the tips of his fingers start feeling warm, then hot, then burning, like a hot iron. I can feel my face distort, fists clenching in my lap, as hot excruciating pain lacerates up through my scalp and into my brain.
“Hold on, almost done now.”
I’m sweating through my shirt, and dripping onto the floor, and feel like I’m about to pass out…when it’s over.
“All done as we can be, young Pup,” he sighs and stands up, sounding tired and out of breath.
I feel like I just stepped out of the Fiery Furnace, sweat soaked and exhausted. I open my eyes and see about two-thirds of the Orbs are glowing again, just like before I used them.
“How did you do that?” I ask.
“I stole all the wasted time from your past, seems like you have a little less than a normal kid,” grunted Chuck.
“Is this enough?” I ask, hoping I didn’t have to go through that ordeal again.
“No, so we’re gonna have to get more, but if we grab a happy moment, than we don’t need as much.”
Chuck tells me what kind of happy moment he’s looking for. I balk right away.
“No, find something else! It’s all I’ve got left!” I say angrily.
Chuck says there’s nothing else that he could find in my memories that would work and power up everything else, and he must take it to close the rift. Angry but resigned, after a few moments I nod in agreement. He reassures me that taking happy times don’t hurt as much as wasted time, tells me to hold still once more.
Taking something from me that I’ve treasured for years.
After all the Time-Orbs are filled up, Chuck and I set them to the right time, and pack them all into the four corners of my study, save one. We step out of the study, set the final Orb right outside the closed door.
“What now?” I ask.
“We burn the bodies,” said Chuck, walking back towards the kitchen that had started to smell like a land fill.
We haul the bodies to the backyard, and build a bonfire and burn the Grid-Hounds to ash. The fire left a charred section in the yard, and the grass never grew there properly again.
We went to the back porch and sat, drinking some beers and watching the bonfire die down.
“So now that you’re back home, what are you going to do now?” I ask.
“Eh, notta clue, maybe go surprise the bejesus out of my widow,” Chuck says with a wink, “or just travel around and enjoy myself. She don’t need me busting up her new life. Plus the Other Side was an helluva mess and dangerous as all get out. I just need a vacation.”
I nod and tell Chuck that when he’s ready to come back, to let me know and we’ll get everything fixed up and squared away.
“Just promise me one thing, Pup,” Chucks says.
“Be careful how you use those glowing blobs of Time from now on. Havin extra Time runnin’ around can be nice, but not when it causes all kinds a trouble fer you and the missus. Be a good steward of the Time ya got, and you won’t need to use so much extra.”