Chapter 8 Page 2
Posted October 21, 2022 at 10:37 pm

Thanks for waiting! Ran a bit behind.



        “...Peter Puckett??”

        The entire Puckett family looked up from the line of water fountains they were drinking from like spooked gazelles. Zoey and Max froze in place. A father’s first name, spoken by a stranger, could paralyze a child with the force of its unfamiliarity, and a tween with the opposite, the looming threat its sheer familiarity presented. This stranger was about to acknowledge their dad’s humanity, and there was nothing more embarrassing than that.

        Max’s father blinked at the nurse staring back at him with similar surprise. “...Amy?” he asked hesitantly, completing his transformation into Peter Puckett.

        Isabel’s mother clasped her hands to her face in surprise. “It is you, Peter!” she exclaimed. “My goodness gosh, it’s been an age! I didn’t know you were in Mayview!”

        “We just moved back, actually,” grinned Mr. Peter Puckett. “Figured I’d teach the kids what fresh air smells like before they could mutate and need city stink to breathe.” He ran a hand through his unkempt bangs, clearly now self-conscious about his disheveled appearance. Max thought he would probably die.

        Amy gasped. “These are your kids?”

        Max mumbled “No, he kidnapped us” quietly enough that only Zoey heard. She started to shoot him a venomous look as the nurse exclaimed “They look just like you!” but Max’s “That’s what made us tempting targets” forced her to fight back a squirming smile instead. Max watched Zoey rear back to punch him, briefly pause to reconsider after remembering his arm was newly in a cast, and then decide to kick him in the shins instead.

        Max didn’t even flinch, much to his sister’s chagrin. The doctopus still perched upon his arm let out a satisfied gurgle, redoubling its loosened grip.

        “And how’s June? Is she well?”

        Max stopped short halfway through moving to scuff Zoey’s shoes. He felt his thoughts turn a familiar shade of gray. Here came the same conversation again. Of course... They had a whole new town of dad’s old friends to tell.

        Mr. Puckett’s smile was polite. “...Ah, she, um...” He stood up a little straighter. Another mode of him Max hated. “June passed away a few years ago. In an accident. There was a fire, and...”

        Max tuned out the rest. He saw a bench a little ways down the hallway and walked over to it, ignoring Zoey’s shuffling footsteps just behind him. When he sat, she was at eye level, wearing a scowling pout.

        “You shouldn’t do that,” Zoey said after a pause.

        “Do what?” Max sunk back against the wall, taking his phone from his pocket.

        “Walk away. Dad didn’t get to introduce us yet. That’s rude.”

        Max shrugged. “I’m rude.”

        Zoey crossed her arms, sulking her way over to a seat on the opposite side of the bench. “I know,” she mumbled, flopping down.

        Max acknowledged her with a halfhearted finger gun before returning to reading his texts. He’d sent his friends back in Baxborough a photo of his arm in a cast with the caption “broken man” and had at last received an answer.

        Damien had sent back “BRO! TWINS” with a picture of his own similarly mummified wrist, evidently sprained in what he’d called a quote unquote “secret handshake R&D catastrophe.”

        His twin sister Sam had answered “you mean triplets” followed by “nevermind you can have him,” and then sent Max’s photo back having digitally signed his cast with her name in a heart and, in a much larger font, the phrase “BONE CHRYSALIS.”

        Max’s smile lasted for a few seconds before fading. He still missed them, his friends back in the city, even though he’d found some shaky footing here in Mayview... and now it had become even more complicated than that

        Max sighed. His thumb hovered over the first letters in “hey did you know i can see ghosts, which are real, and so can your older sister who probably hid that from us for most of her life, and also that she used a magic arrow to make a train try to kiss me” and “hey can you mail me your house key so this friend of a friend who has a doorknob for a face can teleport me to the city? i want to look for my mom’s ghost but there’s an invisible forcefield around my new town, and the train i kissed is dead.”

        That sort of thing probably wouldn't go over well in text, Max decided. He flipped his phone shut with a click. No, he could consider roping in the Day twins after he’d worked up the guts to talk to Val... or “Agent Day” as Spender and the others knew her. That would be messy, though. She’d worried about him enough when she babysat him as a normal kid. Once she’d learned he was a spectral... now that he knew she was one too...

        Max looked back up to his dad, still chatting with the nurse down the hallway

        What would he say if he found out? If Valerie Day told him, trying to keep me safe? Max chewed his lip. Would I still have the chance to try and find her?

        Zoey’s voice brought him out of his thoughts. “Um... Max?” She sounded nervous. “There’s a very big boy walking towards you.”

        Max turned to look just as a shadow overtook him.