Dude, finding a computer to upload these on has been a nightmare! Chapter 5 is ready. I just need to convert it. UG, nightmare... I:(
Chapter 4: Welcome Home
The dumbwaiter thumped to a stop, but it was still dark. Random beams of light shone through the dilapidated sliding door in the wall. I reached out and pushed it a little, just to test it, and it fell away, sort of disintegrating as it went.
0 was very impressed. "Wow are you strong, pa!"
"Not really," I laughed, taking a look out into the room. We had definitely arrived in the kitchen, on the first floor. There was a small wooden table in the middle of the room, with two matching chairs knocked askew on either side of it. Rubble from the floor above coated the table and countertops. Other than dirt and debris, the floor just below us was clear for another jump. I picked 7 back up and prepared to get her down to the floor—she had slept through the whole ride, and I wasn't surprised.
"Don't move, now" I said to 0. "I have to get her down first. I'll call for you when its your turn, okay?"
"Okay," he answered, nodding his head.
So I leaped off the edge and to the floor, landing on my feet, but falling on one knee to keep from falling on my face. And still, she didn't stir. I carefully set her down against the wall, and looked back up. 0 was standing expectantly near the edge, but a reasonable distance from it. I held my arms up to him.
"Come on, 0, jump. I'll catch you, I promise."
He didn't hesitate or look nervous at all. With an excited grin, he jumped right out, falling perfectly into my arms.
"That was fun! Can we do it again?"
"Maybe some other time," I answered, kneeling to pick 7 up, again. I sort of wished I had a wagon, or something nearby to build one. I would have to carry her all the way home. But, really, after thinking about it, I didn't mind. It wasn't that far, I decided.
"So, 0, you say you want to walk?"
"Yeah! I wanna walk, and run, and jump all the way! It'll be so fun!"
I loved how excited he was, even though he had no idea where we were going. He was just certain that I wouldn't lead him to harm. So I led the way out, onto the street, and back the way we had come; and he bounced alongside me the whole way. Surprisingly, keeping track of him was easy. He was so curious, and he wanted to see and touch everything around us. However, he also had questions and knew that I would have answers.
"Pa, what's this funny-lookin' thing?"
"That is a screw."
"What's it do?"
"It holds two pieces of something together."
"Do screws hold me together?"
"Why yes, quite a few of them."
"Where are they?" He insisted, looking all over his body. "How come I can't see any of them?"
"They're inside you. You're not really supposed to see them."
"Ooooh... All this green stuff is grass, right? Where does it come from?"
"From underground. Actually, I don't know a whole lot about grass. Your brother and sister could tell you more."
His eyes went wide. "Brover and sister? I have a big brover and a big sis?"
"Brother," I enunciated with a smile. "And yes, you do have a big brother and a big sister. They're twins. Do you know what that means?"
"Um... No, I don't think so..."
"They were born at the same time, and they look identical. They don't always act identical, though."
"That means, the same."
"Am I a twin?"
"No, you were born by yourself."
He still didn't seem to get it completely, but he was trying. I had a feeling he would understand better what I was saying when he saw them. In the meantime, the screw he had picked up became a sword; as he slashed it around, he continued to ask questions about the things he found, and the blossoming nature around him. He also gleaned an enchanted belt, a magic cape, and a hat of invisibility from the ruins. He triumphantly proclaimed himself the magical sorcerer of light, and went on to ask more questions about the sun, and if he could use its light as a power-up for his sword of sunshine.
Where was he coming up with this stuff? I suddenly couldn't help but think of 1, and I smiled. Children, questions, imagination, unbridled energy... He would have hated this.
Of all the questions 0 asked, "Are we there yet?" was not one of them. Between his quest for knowledge and his made up magical adventures, the hour-long journey flew by in what seemed like an instant. We were turning into the library courtyard before I knew it. And he was neither tired nor out of questions.
"Why're we going in there, pa? It looks dark and cold and scary in there!"
"This is a library, 0; it's a place that's full of books, and it's our home. This is where we live, with your brother and sister."
He looked torn between apprehension and excitement. "It's like when I was looking for you, but I was all alone in the dark and couldn't find you," he explained quietly. "But then I opened up my eyes, and I finally found you, and it was bright and warm. I don't want to go back in the dark, pa. I'll lose you and ma again."
"It's not that dark," I assured him. "Plenty of light comes in during the day, and we light fires at night. You won't lose us, 0. Even if you get a little lost, the twins will help you. They know this library very well; better than I do."
He smiled up at me and walked a little closer, still dressed in his cobbled-together costume. "I already love them a whole bunch. Will they love me, too?"
His little heart was so pure and good, it made mine melt. "I can't imagine that they wouldn't. They'll love you just as much as your mama and I do."
He beamed back, as if he really did hold all the light in the world within him. "Good," he concluded, no longer worried by the dark.
As we walked inside, it certainly was dark and cool. And, to my surprise, 3 and 4 weren't there to meet us. I'd expected them to have bowled me over as soon as we entered. But no, it was quiet. I wondered where they could be. However, as long as they weren't around, I was eager to get 7 to bed. She had remained deep asleep for our entire journey, and I supposed she would sleep a while more, then. Our soft, warm bed would be a considerable improvement from my rough arms. I told 0 to follow me to our room; I also supposed, just for the first few nights, he would be sleeping with us.
We didn't keep a lot of stuff cluttering up our personal space—not when there was so much room for junk in the rest of the library. Our room was built into the bottom shelf of a bookcase near the twin's study, out of books and plywood. Recently, I had even installed a door; it was a simple and convenient luxury that we couldn't believe we had done without for so long. Within, the only things inside were the bed—something of a wedding present I had built—and a music box that we used for a chest and a table, with the cloth we used to cover it cast to one side. There were also nails pounded into the walls, to hang our gear on. In one corner there was also a candle holder with a short candle; my attempts at crafting a new light-stick sat beside it, mocking it.
As I put 7 down on her side of the bed, 0 did a complete scope of the small room. There was so little in it, and it was almost pitch black, but it seemed to captivate him. I flexed my arms and stretched them wide; I had been so busy answering 0's questions, I hadn't noticed when my arms had fallen asleep. Now it felt like tiny, sharp claws were crawling along my skin. I also took a match from the corner and lit the candle. Now, with its light filling the very Spartan space, 0 was more enthralled than before.
"This is our home?" He asked in wonder. "This is my home?"
"It sure is," I smiled. "Welcome home, son."
As if on cue, I heard skittering and rapid flickering nearby.
"Mama? Papa? Is that you? Are you home?"
0 clearly heard them too and looked at me with a sort of alarmed expression. "What's that?"
"It's your brother and sister," I answered. "They don't speak like we do."
"I hear a noise, like shika-shika-shika-shika-shika, but I hear words, too. Where's their voices?"
I had never thought of a sound effect that did their flickering justice, or a simpler way to explain how we understood them. By all accounts, their flickering should have just been noise, perhaps in a language only they could understand by dint of being twins. But their unusual speech registered in our minds as whole words and structured sentences.
There was a quiet but urgent knocking on the closed door, which I answered at once. Naturally, both the twins glommed on me before I could warn them not to.
"You are home! Thank goodness!"
"You were gone for so long, we were getting really worried."
"Is everything okay? Did it work? Where's mama?"
"And 0. Where's he?"
"Calm down, calm down," I insisted, hugging them back. "Everything went fine. We're all okay; just exhausted."
"So where is 0?" 4 asked anxiously. "I wanna see my little brother!"
0 was sort of hiding behind me, not sure at first what to make of them. But he stood up on his tippy-toes and peered over my shoulder, right into her face. She jumped a little, surprised, and hesitated, as if she thought she was seeing things. Then, she ducked under my arm and stood beside him. He made her look like a giant; the top of his head just barely reached her shoulder.
Carefully easing into his personal space, she gently held his face in her hands, just looking at him for a moment. Then she pulled him into a tight hug, from which there was no escape.
"You are so cute!" She exclaimed, cuddling him close. "I love you!"
I couldn't imagine how happy 0 must have been to hear it. He looked up at her with a serious expression and said, "Hey, wait a minute... Are you my big brover, or my big sis?"
4 laughed merrily. "I'm big sis. My names is 4."
"Well, I am 0! I'm also the sorcerer of light, sometimes."
"Oh, you are just adorable!"
3 was nowhere near as thrilled. He stayed by me, glaring at the others defensively.
"He's not that great," he mumbled. He glanced over my shoulder and saw 7, still sleeping soundly, and instantly skittered to her.
"What's the matter with her?" He asked frantically, crawling up beside her. "What happened? What did he do to her?"
"0 didn't do anything," I answered. "You told us, yourselves, birth is harder on mothers than on fathers. Your mother's just a little drained right now. She needs her rest, that's all."
"So it is his fault! He did this!"
"Nothing is anyone's fault," I answered severely. "It just happened. And it's not forever."
"Is she in pain?"
"I don't think so."
"Can she move, any?"
"Not on her own, yet. She's very weak right now."
He scowled furiously at me. "Then she is in pain."
"I'm not arguing with you about this, 3," I said, just about done with his attitude. "0 was only born this morning. He hasn't done anything to deserve this from you. Now look, I am tired, too. 0 is no such thing, and I can't keep up with him much longer. Can I trust you and your sister to look after him, just for a little while, so I can sit still for a moment and take care of my wife?"
As long as his mother was on the line, he didn't seem to mind pretending to be pleasant. So he trudged off with his brother and sister. If I had been less tired, I don't know; I probably wouldn't have let him go so lightly. As soon as they were gone, I flopped back on the bed and just lay still for a few minutes. I hadn't realized quite how weary I was. Being still, being quiet, being horizontal of my own free will—it felt like heaven.
Beside me, 7 went on sleeping, unaware of what had just happened with 3. I envied her in that, a little. How could she still be sleeping like a rock? She wasn't dead, I knew. I was starting to worry, now; I had expected her to at least stir when the twins had come in. Maybe there was something wrong. I was tempted to open her up and take a look at her works, find something out of place that I could fix. But I didn't want to operate on her without her knowing.
I placed my hand on my chest, and... felt something inside. I sat up and pulled my zipper down to look, and realized with a start that the Source was still sitting like a stone in my body cavity. I jumped up and walked over to the music box; the tablecloth that usually covered it was in a heap on the floor. I opened the lid, greeted by its bright, tinkling tune, and carefully put the Source inside, where we kept it hidden with other small, special things. I closed the lid back, and spread the cloth over the top. At last, that was done.
I looked back over at 7, and tried not to let myself worry. How much longer would she sleep...?
Boy, has this chapter been done and redone. Thank goodness I didn't just up and post this right away; I would have missed out on some awesome little details that will be useful later... ;)