Chapter 8 Page 35
Posted August 18, 2023 at 07:10 pm

*EDIT* Had to skip updating this week, I was swamped! Thanks for your patience until next time!

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        It was difficult to make out much of anything. Max’s spirit world was arid as a desert. West Hill wavered like a mirage in the distance, and dust kicked up by sparse wind veiled the lake’s state in the valley. No, it wasn’t dust. That was bonafide sand—a vital distinction, to be sure. There were great dunes of it beyond Mayview’s twin hills, as if the trance hadn’t bothered to render more junk out past Scrapdragon’s vast town-wide territory.

        Max saw nothing else strange, however. He felt a bit odd, as if under surveillance, but he figured the snake with six eyes explained that. Or it could have been Ms. Baxter (though Max wouldn’t have guessed it), who was heading to an errand further down East Hill, and who’d just witnessed a child with glowing eyes Garry’s Mod his way through a building, whirl about in the sky, and hang suspended there speaking and screaming in squeaks over the course of the last few stretched seconds.

        Scrapdragon, though, seemed sure of some other prey’s presence. Max’s own search was cut short as his spirit suddenly lurched forward.

        “Whoa, hey!” Max called out, struggling to keep his balance. “A little warning next time?!” He didn’t notice Lefty’s fingers just barely brush against his hoodie before Scrapdragon carried him further away.

        The spirit advanced in a slow, stealthy slither. Such an approach was hampered, undoubtedly, by the sound of the metal raining down from its body—Scrapdragon was shedding its armor, it seemed—but its bare scales did scrape over scrap with a shade less cacophony. Max found that his bat had come unstuck as well, and as Scrapdragon slinked low to weave between junk piles, he seized the chance and slid off of its back.

        Several awkward descents later (Max had tried to slow his fall with magnetism, and thus bobbed halfway up and down again until he got the force right), both his feet were planted firmly on the ground across the street. The young spectral’s relief was overshadowed, however, if not eclipsed, by growing curiosity. Scrapdragon was after something out there. Was there a needle in this needlestack that his spirit had been trying to find this whole time? He’d caught it digging through debris at the start of his last trance, too...

        Maybe that’s what’s got it grudged out, Max wondered. World’s best metal detector, one coin left to complete the collection... stranded on the worst beach you could ever have to comb

        There wasn’t much he could do but speculate now; all Max could see from the sidewalk was sky, scrap, and his spirit’s slowly shrinking bulk, watching as it wormed past down the hill.

        “Good luck, I guess!” he shouted after it. “Make like a snake and digest whatever you’re hunting slowly, all right?! I’m not hanging out with you when you’re hungry anymore!!”

        Unsure of how to make an artful exit, or really how to leave by any other means at all, Maxwell Puckett dropped his haunted bat.

        In the instant before his trance ended, a slinking thing peered out from its hiding place, a sand-flooded hollow not far from where Scrapdragon searched. “Witless whelp,” it hissed. “Ungrateful little gremlin. I risk my life to give you nine, and what thanks do I get?” Golden claws flexed out from pitch-black fur... then reluctantly retracted. Old oaths tugged on the sleek creature’s neck like a leash. “...Any other goddess would be worshipped for such selfless intervention.”

        Then the trance was over, and form scattered from the world, the spirit left to brood inside its medium.

        Max heard Lefty drift up next to him, but he stayed staring at the view. The sun had set back in the real world, and the crisp, blue fall night air was more refreshing than he ever dreamed it could be. Mayview softly hummed with the sounds of bugs and frogs and distant cars, a peace that even PJ’s shouting couldn’t shatter.

        “Hey,” Max said to Lefty, glancing over at the ghost, who looked just as stern as a severed hand could. “Slow motion’s kind of trite for action movie rescue scenes. Just so you know for next time.” Then he gave Lefty’s whole face a high five, picked up his bat after only a few moments’ hesitation, and turned to go inside back to bed.