Written: November 21st, 2007, 8:07 (UTC) By: omer
Note: this post is part of an ongoing novel. You should probably start at the beginning here.
News: I passed the 40,000 word point yesterday, and today has been a recuperation/homework day. I'll continue my push for novelty tomorrow (Nov. 21).
The novel continues here.
And, yet, it would not leave him alone either. Joan's face and voice repeated in his head, refusing to let him sleep. An itch had formed on the inside of his head, as if a weak alien were attempting to crawl out from his brain.
It was only as he turned onto his side and stared at the corner of his room, with the alien-nest glistening in rusty green and orange and brown from street and moonlight, that the monster's construction, the subsequent inventions, and the culmination of the fight with Tom, managed to claw their way out of his neocortex and demand Orr's full attention.
He had, of course, accused Tom of exactly the same fault that Joan had accused the entire spectacle of the night. And, he realized, with a growing sense of that special kind of horror that can only arrive during late night introspection after an emotionally difficult day, that his attempts to become an adult had come to dominate his life, that there was nothing left of the child who had once constructed a monster to impress the world with his genius. This fact horrified Orr because it occurred to him that his current lifestyle, with its obsessions about the best college, with the time he had wasted both worrying and studying for a meaningless test, time that he could have spent constructing, researching, even sitting in on courses at UNM, and with (as his mother had put it) his inability to make decisions for himself while around Tom. In short, he slowly realized that his youthful self, of just more than three years prior, would have been disgusted with this new version, and Orr found himself in full agreement.
He lay in bed for a long time, disgusted with himself, yet relishing the realization that had prompted the disgust. If college is the ultimate opportunity to redefine oneself, then Orr had discovered his own desire to redefine himself at the ideal moment. Within half a year, he could become whoever he wanted to be and then be confronted with an entirely new environment, devoid of friends' and family's expectations of who he should be and why. He decided that he would add St. Tymia to his queue and apply to Colorado College despite Joan's warning, and he might even reconsider another school or two, just for the opportunity to go somewhere and to be someone entirely new.
But, not exactly new, a recursive call to his former self, but with new parameters: an adult version of his childhood, with all the benefits of the former in place of the self-centered naivete of the latter.
With these excited thoughts, Orr decided to revisit his rusting monster, disassemble it, and built something afresh, not something grand or beautiful, but a refresher into the mechanics of creative construction. So, he sprung out of bed and crept downstairs, avoiding as best he could, the creaking stairs, to grab a screw driver from the garage. On reentering the house, he (invariably) crashed his shoulder into a door, which cludded with the wall before he could stop it. But, after he stood frozen (like an about-to-be-retired thief who has just triggered an alarm) for a full minute, listening for some sort of sound from above him, he closed the door silently and continued up the stairs, with the path back to his room creaking its laughter at him.
He closed the door to his room with a sigh or relief, and took to applying the screw driver to the rigid structure in the corner. His movements at first were clumsy, and the whole mess almost imploded after he had been working for ten minutes, but his old concentration soon returned to him, and within two hours of silent work, the beast was no more.
He was sweating coolly, partly from the careful but steady force he had to apply to the screws to remove them from their longstanding home, partly from the acrobatic feats he had to perform to hold the relevant pieces of the structure to keep it from crashing as he undid some crucial clasp, but mostly (or so it felt to Orr as he sat back to survey his work) as a bodily catharsis, an effusion of his former self, first onto his skin and from there evaporating into the air and disappearing forever.
After a short break, he set to work, at first randomly, screwing two long pieces together, and then a short piece to one of them, more long pieces, more short pieces. Many of the pieces had been bent from one experiment or another, or simply from having sat around in an unfortunately location for many years and been subjected to unknown pressures from accidental feet, baskets, and books, so after an hour, the thing Orr was constructing had begun to resemble an ellipsoid with a hemorrhoid on one end.
But, Orr found this new incomplete monstrosity far more fascinating than the old. He chanced a look at the clock, saw that it was 4:00am, and decided that he should work for another hour, not because he was tired, but only because he suspected that if he did not sleep, he would lose the entire following day.
Before Orr set back to work, he let the mutated ellipsoid rest horizontally, and pondered what he might make of it. It looked, he thought, remarkably like the beginnings of an oversized chubby beagle, with a mess of metal inside of its stomach. So, he decided that the next step was to give it legs and to turn its hemorrhoid into a head. It was on these projects that he spent the next hour, and he even managed to construct a makeshift small tail out of legos. For the nose, he used the inch by inch by inch silver cube that he had constructed with his father so long before.
At finishing and stepping back to get a grand view of the rusting masterpiece, he suppressed a triumphant and delighted giggle. The dog looked like a giant Aibo had been stripped of his electronics and left outside for too long. He stood three feet tall and seven long, teetered uncontrollably on uneven feet, and looked ready to collapse at any moment, but his mouth had been fashioned into an unwavering smile, and Orr's face mimicked it, feeling (for the first time in at least two years) the unbridled, unguarded happiness of youth.
The shock of this delight expelled any weariness that had crept up into Orr's consciousness over the previous hour. But, he still thought that it would be a poor idea to continue working, so he crept downstairs to play online until he fell asleep. He briefly considered looking into St. Tymia, but decided that this night should be left unsullied of such contaminations.
He turned on the computer and then went to close the door to the computer room, hoping not to awaken his parents with the buzzing of the modem as he connected. He then sat shivering in the early morning cold, waiting for the computer to start. And, after it did, waiting for it to connect.
Without thinking, he started up AOL Instant Messenger, though he had no expectation that anybody would be online. He then opened Internet Explorer and went to Yahoo! games, figuring that he would play some hearts before going to sleep. As Yahoo! games loaded, though, a flash at the bottom of the screen alerted Orr that somebody had sent him a message. Given the hour, Orr assumed it was spam, and waited until he had started the process of loading the hearts Applet before he checking into the matter more deeply.
It was Tom.
SimpleTom: I was hoping that you'd get online.
SimpleTom: I didn't expect it, of course, but I had hoped.
Orr, shocked as he was to find Tom online, forgot momentarily that he was a new person and wondered with a sudden rush if Tom had taken on a new project and was about to enlist Orr. But, it was only a moment, and he had soon regained control over himself. So, he wrote...
DivisOrr: Hey, Tom.
... and nothing more.
SimpleTom: Sorry about dinner. You know that I'd really like you to come to Columbia, but I'd be happiest if you did what was best for you... right?
DivisOrr: Oh, yeah. Obviously. I'm still thinking about where I should go.
There was a pause. Orr felt uncomfortable, like he was being forced back into a world into which he no longer belonged, and it was all the worse because Tom was being so understanding. He briefly imagined Tom, and his mother, as demons wearing business suits, smiling politely, and leading him to his death. He knew the image was unfair, and he told himself that it was a joke, but at another level, he started to wonder if he didn't in fact believe it, and if it wasn't partly true.
As he reflected on this issue, Tom had continued...
SimpleTom: So, I think I've figured out Toff's riddle.
SimpleTom: If I'm right, we have dinner plans tomorrow.
SimpleTom: It's an anagram, or part of it is, at any rate. The rest is simply part in one and part in the other.
It was at this point, Orr had returned from his thoughts, but before he finished reading these messages, much less respond with a simple "Oh yeah?", Tom divulged his entire reasoning process.
SimpleTom: See, "Yin" and "Yang" imply a lot of different things, and I had figured that it just meant that your message had to do with mine, but in this case it means that one cannot make sense without the other. Yours defines mine, and mine yours, so the messages in isolation are meaningless. From there, it was just a matter of throwing the two in together and seeing what I could build.
SimpleTom: And, what I could build, it turns out, was the 'Yin Yang: Double Rainbow Bakery and Cafe: this Sunday 6:00pm.'
SimpleTom: How fun!
SimpleTom: Don't you think?
This was too much for Orr. Each message, as it arrived, demanded his screen's attention and moved him away from the previous messages. And, his feeling of being forced into a world in which he no longer belonged had grown into a dizziness. And, though he read the messages from Tom, he eventually stopped making sense of them and just read the words, one after another, wondering how to extract himself out of this conversation. Finally, after "What do you think?" had survived as the newest message for an three octants. Orr wrote...
DivisOrr: Good! Listen, I'm pretty tired. So, I'm going to head out.
In a moment, Tom responded again:
SimpleTom: Okay. See you tomorrow for dinner! ;)
Orr logged off, disconnected, and turned of the computer, all in a daze. Tiredness engulfed him like a wave, and he stumbled, creaking all the way back to his room, where he collapsed onto the bed and slept until noon.
When he awoke, the first thing he saw was the cube-nosed beagle, smiling at him, and Orr smiled back, disoriented. The dog continued to smile, and so did Orr. He felt refreshed, and at the same time somehow not altogether in the right place. He was not accustomed to, upon returning to a conscious state, seeing the sun at its zenith. The light in Orr's room was unexpected and alien. But, instead of disturbing Orr, the strange lighting added to his feeling of newness.
I'm ready to face Tom, he thought. And Mom too. He smiled, and so did the beagle. They smiled together.
Then, he got up, and the world was complex once more. So, he resolved with a sigh, I'll just have to simplify it.
He spent the day looking at his four possible schools, eventually deciding to apply to them all and choose between them only if he had to. He then evened out the beagle's legs and gave him a more nest-like belly.
He was still involved in this activity at 5:00pm, when someone rang the doorbell. Orr ignored the sound until his father called up that Tom was waiting for him and something about dinner plans.
Orr vaguely recalled the conversation about dinner, like failing a test he'd dreamed of failing the night before. But, he was hardly prepared, and his parents (who had not heard anything about it) were definitely not. That, combined with the still fresh wounds from the previous day, made for a tense exit for Tom and Orr.