Chapter 8 Page 21
Posted April 14, 2023 at 01:35 am

Wow! Big one today! Thanks for reading!



        Isabel felt the phrase form ridiculous synapses in her brain that she was never going to be able to get rid of.

        “The three of us walked parallel paths, each searching for meaning through expression...” The glint in Flipflop’s eye began to fade. “...But then, somewhere along the way, that search became the goal of our creation, rather than the source of it. We were lost. Our merch stopped selling. The truth that we’d been circling burst its cage.”

        Isabel had a C+ in art class. She nodded sagely.

        “Just as we’d begun to give up hope, however... we heard a rumor! There was a wise spirit living in the mountains half a world away, one who’d walked the path we’d lost our way on many years before we’d found it!” Flipflop turned, then flipped himself back to face her for dramatic effect. “The legend himself... the peaceful wight, Polaris!”

        “The peaceful what?”

        “The peaceful wight! You know!” Flipflop clapped out a nursery rhyme rhythm as he continued on in verse. “If the grudge’s gas is pale, watch out friend! You shan’t prevail!”

        Isabel blinked at him.

        Flipflop rushed the next couplet out with impatient insistence. “If the spirit’s shade is white, watch out buddy! That’s a wight!”

        After a beat, Isabel nodded sagely.

        “Right!” Flipflop said. “Everybody knows! Wights are the most dangerous spirits around! The Great ones used to rule the whole dang world!” He beamed with pride. “That’s what makes our teacher so dang special! Even though Polaris is a wight, he mastered his grudge, found inner calm, abandoned the path of power, and took up the noble search for true enlightenment!”

        “Wow,” said Isabel, trying not to sound sarcastic. This was all starting to taste like her dad’s cup of tea, and the most that she could manage was polite sips with that flavor.

        “My friends and I... we faced countless trials in our quest to find Polaris. Storms and predators and airports, treacherous climbs and really bad directions...” Flipflop’s gaze rose slowly in reverent awe as he relived a moving memory. “By the time we found him, meditating in an arctic mountain cave... we realized we were already his pupils. The journey was the lesson that we sought, and his great, resounding snores his words of praise.”

        “He was... sleeping?” Isabel hoped Flipflop couldn’t sense her incredulity.

        “Our teacher was in a state of spiritual hibernation SO placid that he hardly stirred the whole time that we spent as his disciples.” Flipflop clasped his hands in prayer. “We became sworn spiritual brothers on that mountain, living and studying in the shadow of Polaris, drawing wisdom from his rare and dreamlike utterances...”

        “...So he was talking in his sleep.”

        Flipflop’s fist suddenly struck the floor and made a little clown shoe squeak. “Until THAT day... when a mysterious spectral arrived upon the summit.” Another squeak. “What fools we were, my friends and I! In the torpor of our nightly meditation—”

        “So at night when you were sleeping.”

        “Amidst the PEACE the teachings of Polaris had bestowed us...! The spectral, they sneaked past... and in the deepest reaches of the cave, where Polaris sat in silence... they... that spectral—!” A third squeak dispelled Flipflop’s frustration, and he settled into dull despair instead. “We only woke in time to see the cloaked assassin flee. By the time we realized that our teacher was missing—captured, no doubt, for the power he possessed, sealed inside an object or his captor—it was too late. The trail had gone cold... lost in swirling snow.”

        Isabel’s heart sank. That wasn’t far from how she’d treated Eightfold... like a weapon, not a friend.

        “We faced countless trials in our second quest to find Polaris. Storms and predators and airports, treacherous climbs and really bad directions—”

        “And you ended up in Mayview?”

        Flipflop blinked. “Huh? Oh, uh, yeah. Just sort of by coincidence. Or there was like a pull... it’s kinda hard to put in words.” He bobbed his head back and forth, as if trying to shake the explanation loose. “Anyways, we sort of hit a dead end until we met this group of spirits—this guy Doorman and his friends. I dunno if you know him...”

        Isabel shrugged.

        “They’re like a cult or something, but, like, mostly chill about it? I never met her but they’re way into this spirit that they call the Angel. She’s all about, like, washing your hands and saying please and thank you and stuff. Um. I kind of zoned out when they talked about it.”

        “Preaching to another cult’s choir?”

        Flipflop nodded sagely. “But Doorman said he’d met Polaris when he was still up and moving, which was rad, and said he’d help us look for him, which was a total rad relief. We really had no leads at that point. Um...” He gave Isabel a hesitant look. “Doorman told us that your grandpa captures spirits... and had, um, captured some of their friends in the past...”

        Isabel’s eyes went wide. “Well... well yeah, but... but just...” She flushed and looked away. “...I guess so. I guess he does.”

        Flipflop shuffled awkwardly. “I’m sorry, Isabel... I know you’re nicer.”

        A surge of guilt made Isabel’s cheeks burn brighter.

        “A-anyways,” stuttered Flipflop, “we were gonna help ’em free their friends from, um, from your grandpa, I guess, but...” He looked ready to retreat inside his box. “We got caught pretty quick. Only one of my sworn brothers got away. Me and Switchswatch were both popped in a single punch and... and then he had us in that tower ’til I ended up with you.”

        Isabel whirled back to meet his eyes. Flipflop flinched—no doubt he felt the fire in her chest.

        “My grandpa still has your friend?!”

        “Eep! Um!” Flipflop reflexively flipped himself and had to slowly waddle back around to face her. “I dunno! Last I knew, but...” He looked around the store. “Hiphop and my teacher could be anywhere. Even Switchswatch might’ve slipped away—she’s always been resourceful—”

        Isabel sighed to steady herself amidst her boiling anger. “They wouldn’t be here. Grandpa doesn’t share... not with my dad.” Red energy flared from her closed fists. “But he’s sure as heck gonna hand whichever of your friends he’s got to me.”

        “I-Isabel...!” Flipflop’s eyes sparkled with surprise and gratitude. “Ah...” he said, “I’m glad I met you...”

        Isabel blinked, thrown off guard, as the red of her cheeks resurged for better reasons.