Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Days of Christmas Fiction : Day 8

Author's Ramblings: Yikes, this one has taken me the longest to scribble out so far. I don't know if it's because I'm out of school and have more time to put into it, or the fact that I simply couldn't write this all out the way I wanted. It was a bit of a challenge trying to get this plot together and I've decided to simply present it as it, with the note that this is not the original ending. I simply needed a way to wrap this up, otherwise I'd have kept on writing and goodness knows how long that would've gone on. LOL. Also, my warmest Christmas wishes to all of our men and women serving our country, because of what they give, the rest of us can live in this wonderful country. Anyway, here is "One Toy Soldier" by Enya (requested by J.H.) and up next will be "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve" both by request, followed by "Away In A Manger". If you have a song you'd like me to storify, please mention it in the comments below, post on my facebook page or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you! Merry Christmas! 

To find out more about the Christmas Fiction Challenge, Click here to read and join! 

Disclaimer is at the bottom. I do not own the lyrics or the song, this is merely a bit of of creative fiction for the fun of it. The idea/plot/characters created are my own.  

Title: Thom's Toy Soldiers


“Is he here yet, is he?” Kevin danced from one foot to the other, his impatience only slightly tempered by his mother’s quiet chuckles. “Mo-om!” 

“He’ll be here. He said he was coming and he will. You just need to give him some time.” She smiled, fondly, tousling his ginger-tinted hair. “Keep watching, I’m sure you’ll see him soon.”

“How will I know it’s him? I haven’t seen him for years and years. You said so.”

His mother hid another smile. “That will be easy, Kevin, dearest.” She scooped the six-year-old into a hug, planting a sloppy kiss on one chubby cheek. “He’ll the one with the suitcases.”

“Suitcases?”

“Well, he said he’d be bringing some friends with him, about eight? I expect you’ll see a lot of faces and quite a few suitcases.” She dropped him on the sofa, into the pile of pillows. “You can see better from here, let me know when they arrive, okay? I’d better check on the oven, eight boys with big appetites will eat me out of house and home.”

She had scarcely disappeared for a handful of minutes before Kevin began to jump on the sofa. “Someone’s here! Someone’s here, Mom!”

“Is it Thom?”

“I don’t know. The car didn’t stop yet.”

“Wait ‘til it stops, honey.”

A few anxious moments passed and then Kevin shouted. “It’s Thom, it’s Thom!” He bounced up and down on the sofa before scrambling down to rush to the front door. There were a few hazy memories of his precious older brother and it had been two years since he’d been at school abroad. But Kevin couldn’t wait to see him, standing on tip-toe to undo the locks.

The door was opened by the time Thom reached the front steps, he was dressed in a long black dress coat, with a burgundy scarf wrapped around his neck, his hair a little longer with more wave than before. As he came up the walk, his snowboots echoed on the concrete floor as he stamped the snow from them, holding a single brown briefcase in each hand.

“Thom!” Kevin couldn’t wait. He launched himself forward.

There was a nervous chuckle from above as his older brother gently set the briefcases on the floor behind him, then swooped him up in the air. “Hey there, buddy!”

“You came!”
 
“Yup.”

“Mom’s in the kitchen.”

“Really?”

“Yep. She’s cooking.” Kevin twisted to see over Thom’s shoulder. “She said you were bringing friends, so she’s making lots and lots of food.”

“Ah. I see.” Thom set him on the floor, a slight frown visible. “I didn’t mean for her to go to all that trouble.”

“Did you bring me a present?”

Thom laughed. “Is that all you have to say, bud?” He patted his head. “’course I did. It’s in the car though. I have a few more things to bring out.” He turned back to the door, pausing. “Kevin? Please don’t touch the briefcases, okay?”

“Okay.” Kevin said, slowly. He cast a curious glance at the two, brown cases, but stayed where he was. He was surprised to see Thom returned moments later with two more, identical cases. They were carefully set inside the walkway and then he went to retrieve the rest of his luggage.

Pretty soon, a pile of pillows, duffel bags, backpacks and a few wrapped boxes cluttered the entry way hall. Kevin’s eyes grew round as the doors were closed and Thom produced several sparkly bags of candy from various coat pockets.

“For me?” Excitedly he clutched the bags to his chest, already searching in the white-polka dotted bag for a caramel.

“No candy before dinner!” His mother appeared to whisk the bags away, as Thom swiped a handful caramel and handed one over anyway. “Thom, you’re going to spoil him.”

“It’s once a year, I think he’ll be fine—unless he’s been eating candy canes all day.”

Kevin blushed. “Only four.” He mumbled.

The other two laughed.

His mother cast a glance behind him. “I thought you said you were bringing some friends?” There was a hint of uncertainty in her voice. “I made so much food-”

“They’ll be here by tomorrow.” Thom smiled. “Thank you—I didn’t mean for you to go to extra trouble on my account-ow!” His mother had reached up and caught hold of his ear, giving it an expert twist.

“Trouble? My oldest son comes home, I haven’t seen him in who knows how long and I’m going to be troubled by the fact that-”

“Mom!”

She let go and hugged him tight. “Welcome home, Thom!”

“Thanks Mom.” He hugged her back. “Dad’s not home yet? Where’s Monica?”

“He’ll be home soon. He called to say he was leaving. Monica gets off work just now. She’ll be around, said something about wrapping paper. How were the roads? I’m sorry no one could get away to pick you up, I figured you were coming with a group, so maybe it wasn’t-”

“That’s fine. The roads were alright. Could be better and could be much worse.” He gestured towards the bags in the hallway. “I’d better move these before Monica gets in—she’ll pitch a fit about clutter in the hallway.”

“Mom, is something burning?” Kevin was trying to pry the caramel off the roof of his mouth with one finger. “if fwells funny.”

“The turkey!” She dashed off to the kitchen.

Thom chuckled. “Wanna help me carry this stuff to my room?”

Kevin gave a snappy salute. “Yep.”

“I’ll get the briefcases, you can carry anything else you like.”

“What’s in there?”

“I’ll show you when we’re finished.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

 One toy soldier stands alone
With his drum down by his side

Thom smiled as Kevin ran off downstairs to greet his dad and Monica. He’d join them in a moment, a moment of privacy couldn’t be missed. He’d needed this moment today. A bright stack of decently wrapped presents now took up a small corner of his room. One small wrapped box was placed on the edge of the dresser, to remind him to put a tag on it before taking it downstairs. Nearly everything was unpacked, except for the briefcases.

He’d saved the best for last.

Setting the four cases on the bed, he opened them methodically and systematically, revealing eight, perfectly painted, soldier dolls. They were detailed in every way, from a real head of hair, to glass eyes and a gilt-edged card beside them, bearing the necessary collector’s information, along with a short biography.

With a smile, Thom ran his fingers quickly along the foam-lined edges. He’d had the cases custom made for transportation and he’d worried throughout the entire flight whether they were safe and comfortable.

Eight different faces stared up at him, in various colors and shapes.

“Hello.” He told them, carefully slipping his hands under the first doll, a bright red-and-white uniformed doll. “I hope you all had a good trip. I don’t think the flight was too bad. That was Kevin who was with me and my mother, earlier. My dad and sister are downstairs, you’ll get to meet them tomorrow. I don’t want to cause too much of a fuss tonight and it’ll be easier for everyone right now if they don’t know you’re here yet.” He smiled and spoke to each doll in turn as he unpacked them from their careful cases.

One toy soldier on his own
With his drum to keep the time

The last soldier was a smaller doll, with a sorrowful expression painted on its wooden face, with downcast eyes and pursed lips giving way to a half-smile. “Hello Kalen.” He lifted the doll, carefully and sat it on the velvet toy cushion positioned atop the dresser. “I’ll get your drum in a minute. I’m sorry you couldn’t travel with it, I know you hate being separated, but it would’ve been worse if it’d broken the way they treat luggage at the airports these days.” He stifled a shudder, closing the cases and stashing them under the bed.

Atop the dresser, a neat line of the eight soldier figures formed a pleasing ensemble to the eye, with the youngest one sitting on the red sofa. Thom smiled as he rummaged through one of his duffel bags to produce the accessories belonging to each doll. The tiny drum was last, a meticulously detailed bit of craftsmanship. Setting it just by the feet of the doll, Thom used a pair of tweezers to arrange the drumsticks in the proper position.

He keeps the beet of marching feet
He keeps the beat so true
He's one small toy for one small boy
But his heart is oh so blue

“And there you go, Kalen.” He smiled. “You’ll get to meet everyone tomorrow, I bet that’ll be fun, right? Something to cheer you up?”

There was no answer from the doll, who sat where it had been set, head bowed, expression fixed.

“Thom?” His mother’s voice floated up the stairs. “Are you up there?”

“Coming!” He started for the door. “I’ll be back. Don’t mess with anything in here, okay?”

~*~*~*~*~
 
“I don’t see my present here.” Kevin lay on the ground, sprawled out on his stomach before the Christmas tree. “You did bring one, right?”

“Sheesh, you really are a kid.” Monica rolled her eyes. “Thom’s back and all you can think about is whether you have a present?”

“I brought you one too.” Thom spoke up from behind his textbook.

“Really?” She perked up. “Seriously?”

Kevin made a face.

“Thom, honey, do you really have to study now?”

“It’s an independent study program.” He sighed. “I was almost done, but there was too much to do before I could leave. I’m almost through though. I can submit it online tonight and it’ll all be done.”

“Take your time.” His father grunted. “You’ve done well enough so far, don’t slip up just on our account. We’re not going anywhere.”

“Thanks, Dad.” Thom grinned. “But I guess you’re right. I can finish this tomorrow—when my brain is awake.”

“It’s sleeping?” Kevin yawned. “Is it a big present?”

“When are your friends coming over?” Mom asked, pausing in her flower arranging. “Did they have nowhere to go?”

“Your friends are coming?” Seventeen-year-old Monica jerked around to look at him. “Are they cute?”

“Yuck!” Kevin made another face.

“Something like that, Mom. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that they don’t cause any trouble. Monica, I don’t know what you’re talking about” His mouth twitched. “And Kevin, I think you’ll get along alright with them.”

“It’s getting late-” Mom frowned. “I have to call Aunt Margaret tomorrow about those curtains.” She sighed. “There’s simply too much to do, tomorrow can’t be Christmas Eve.”

“Present?” Kevin yawned.

“It’s upstairs in the corner near my bed.” Thom chuckled. “If you want it that badly, you can run on up and grab them. There’s a bunch, but only bring what you can carry, okay? I’ll bring the rest down tomorrow.”

“Really?” Kevin was on his feet, the sleep forgotten as he sprinted up the stairs.

The rest of the family shared a laugh at his enthusiasm. Mom shook her head. “He’s been waiting for you all day, you know.”

Thom smiled. “I know—I suppose I ought to go bring those down. He won’t be able to wait until tomorrow.”

~*~*~*~*~

The broken pieces said more than Thom would have.

He stood in the doorway, staring at the broken dolls and Kevin’s horrified face as he stood off to the side, the tagless present in his hand. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out.

A bucketful of shadows stole across Thom’s face until it hardened into an expressionless mask. “What were you doing, Kevin? I told you not touch any of-”

“You didn’t! It was an accident!”

“Some accident! Is that all you wanted? A present so badly that you had to—just get out!”

“But-!”

“Out! Now!”

Kevin hiccupped. “I’m sorry.” He ran for the door.

Thom shut the door behind him and slowly crumpled to his knees before the broken doll. “Kalen…I’m sorry. I didn’t think that he would…” He tried to speak and couldn’t. His hands were shaking as he tried to pick up the pieces and couldn’t steady them. The tiny drum, Kalen's most prized possession was completely smashed.

Who can mend my broken drum
Will it be as good as new
I must play when morning comes
If I don't, what shall I do?

Taking a deep breath, he straightened and reached up to the dresser, his gaze traveled quickly over the remaining dolls and settled on two at the end. He took a careful breath and then reached towards them. His fingers brushed, faintly, the tops of their heads and he closed his eyes. A flicker of golden energy sparked from his fingertips and a moment later, two new voices cleared their throats from behind him.

Thom couldn’t look them in the eye as he turned to face them. “Kalen-” He started to say.

“You didn’t have to yell at him.” Marcus, the Navy soldier, spoke with a quiet deliberateness. “It isn’t like we’re irreplaceable.”

“You are to me!” Thom shot back, jerking up to look at the solemn young man that stood before him. “You’re not some piece of junk! You mean-”

Philip smacked him lightly upside the head from behind. “Would you two argue later? I am with Marcus though, really Thom, he’s your younger brother. We’re dolls.” He hesitated, running a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair, causing it to stick up in uneven tufts. “Even if we are…special, we cannot take the place of a blood brother.” He frowned. “You should know that. We’ll put Kalen back together-”

Thom dropped to the floor.

“Thom?” Marcus looked up from where he’d gathered the broken pieces. “Philip!”

Philip shrugged. “Don't look at me. It must be stress of some sort…he’s out cold.”

“You don’t think we-?”

“No. He’s been able to keep all of us up for weeks at a time, I doubt that-”

“But he hasn’t been sleeping well and-”

“I heard him say that school was almost completely done.”

“Do we need the others?”

“We might. I don’t know that I can move him, even with your help.”

“Here.” Marcus grabbed the remaining dolls off the dresser top. He handed them over, one by one to Philip who placed their heads under Thom’s limp hand. There was the customary spark of gold energy as they came to life and then grew to match human proportions as they took on their human forms.

“Ach. This uniform is stiff.” Jared tugged at a starched white collar. “I think he put too much-”

“Ow, Jared, move!” Garrett stood beside him, stretching his tall, lanky frame, fingers brushing the ceiling. “This room is cramped.”

“For someone who lives in a submarine, I don’t want to hear that from you!” Len growled. “Try a cockpit before you start-”

“Do any of you see Thom’s case?” Marcus interrupted. He was rearranging Kalen on the dressertop and frowning at a smashed little drum. “This is going to take a lot of work.”

The bickering faded out and the seven boys gathered around him, each of them shifting uncomfortably in their respective uniforms.

“I don’t remember him packing it.” Collin carefully shrugged out of his dress jacket. “Then again, I wasn’t listening the entire time. What’s wrong with him?”

“More like what did you do to him.” Harmie muttered. “Philip?”

“It wasn’t us, it’s something with him.”

There was a loud sigh from Marcus’s corner of the room. “Hello, a little help here?” His annoyance was clear. “We can debate the finer points of this later. Kalen’s a complete mess here and his drum is completely-”

“His drum?” Len appeared over Marcus’s shoulder. “Oh man. The poor guy.” He reached towards the broken pieces. “I’d better work on this one. The rest of you find Thom’s case.” He began to take charge. “And some of you put him on the bed and check his pulse or something.” He scowled. “We’re soldiers, we can at least act like it.”

“Soldier dolls.” Jared grumbled.

“That’s not a valid excuse.” Len looked him straight in the eye. “Now get moving, soldier.”

“Aye, aye sir.”

“With more feeling!”

~*~*~*~*~*~

He keeps the beat of marching feet
He keeps the beat inside
While children sleep, in dreams so deep
There's a secret he must hide

For he keeps the beat of marching feet
He keeps the beat so true
He wants to sing and hopes to bring
Happy Christmas day to you

Da, Da, Da...

He keeps the beat of marching feet
He keeps the beat inside
Someone has come to mend his drum
Now his heart lights up with pride

“Drum’s finished!” Len held up the tiny specimen with a proud smile on his face. The oversized eyeglasses gave a bug-like appearance to his thin, skinny body, but his long fingers had been instrumental in repairing the little drum.

The tiny replica was admired by his fellow soldier dolls and then all eyes turned to the newly repaired Kalen.

“He looks a bit off.” Harmie ventured. “The elbow.”

“I don’t know what else to do with it.” Collin fidgeted. “Len?”

“There’s nothing I can do.”

Seven solemn faces studied the downcast doll and finally, Marcus stepped forward. “Well, let’s wake him. Maybe there’s something else that can be done in human form.”

“Thom is going to yell if there isn’t.” Philip observed, casting a glance to the blanketed bundle on the bed.

“It’s not like we have any other options.” Jared grumbled. “They did the best we could. None of the rest of us can-”

“If I had his actual repair case, that would help.” Len reached up towards his face and stopped. He was going to adjust glasses that were no longer there.

Garrett cleared his throat. They were all missing a few things here and there, Thom had promised to fix them at the next available option, but it seemed like it would be an option that wasn’t going to be available anytime soon. “Look, he can change him back and fix him if there’s something off, okay? I just want to be sure that-”

Thom coughed, rousing from the bed. There was a scowl etched on his face and he looked as if something had happened to rip him apart from the inside out. His eyes were red as if he’d cried, and his face was a mess, apart from the rather dark expression.

“Thom?” Marcus stepped forward.

“Kalen.” He said, stiffly.

“Here.” Len and Collin came forward, handing over the doll and drum. “We tried to-”

“Where’s my case?”

Thom set them gently on the bed and shifted to swing his feet over the end and to the floor. He grimaced. “What happened?”

“You blacked out after you saw what happened to-”

Thom was suddenly on his feet and his hands darted out with lightening speed. He caught the ear of the nearest doll and gave a quick, sharp pull. Before the others could react, they were returned to their doll forms in a pile on the floor. A faint flicker of disgust registered on his face as Thom turned away, with a tiny spark of red energy crackling at his fingertips.

~*~*~*~*~

Thom worked on Kalen nearly the entire night. He found his case tucked away with some of his luggage in the closet, where Kevin had been helping him to unpack. From the case, he drew several miniature items and a sturdier pair of eyeglasses. He cleared the dresser top where the dolls had been working and spread a soft, dark cloth on the surface.

Retrieving the other dolls from the floor, he painstakingly arranged them on the dresser top once more and then bent his head over the newly repaired doll.

“Nice work, Len.” He commented, examining the drum. “Only you could have fixed this one.” He set the miniature to the corner and began to work on Kalen’s splintered elbow. The sounds of tinkering filled the bedroom as Thom’s nimble fingers made quick work of what had been a near disaster. In addition to Kalen, he worked on the other miniature items for the other dolls. He’d meant to finish them earlier, but time was something he had so little of.

He finished the doll as the digital numbers on the clock flipped over to two in the morning. Sighing, he tugged off the magnifying glasses and studied the finished product. There was a painted blue tear on the doll’s face, a tattoo he’d never been able to remove. “And I think you’re all done.” He murmured, reaching over to caress the doll’s head.

A flicker of golden energy passed through his hands and within a matter of seconds, a live, young boy sat on the dresser staring blankly at him. His appearance was almost cartoonish in the brightly colored clothes and wide, blue eyes.

“Kalen?” Thom rose from the chair, turning to lift him down and to his feet. The boy was nearly as tall as Kevin. “How are you feeling?”

The boy didn’t answer, instead turning towards the dresser and searching amongst the items for his drum. 

Thom waited until the little head turned back to him, a sorrowful expression on the already saddened face. “One moment. You can’t go out there looking like that.” The boy did not respond. “Okay, you can, but I would prefer that you didn’t. I brought some extra clothes along and if you like-” The boy looked away. “I’ll leave them on the chair if you change your mind.” Thom sighed, following the gaze to the temporary workspace he’d created.

Picking up the tweezers he placed the tiny drum in Kalen’s cupped hand. Touching it lightly, he waited and a golden spark traveled over it and the drum grew in proportion until it was cradled close to the boy’s chest. He ducked his head in thanks and then carefully threaded the leather strap over his head, settling it in front of him, twirling the drumsticks in anticipation.

Thom waited. Silence stretched between them. He stifled the sigh waiting to be released. Kalen had never spoken to him in all the years he had owned the doll, cared for it and even supported it with his own life energy.

The head remained bowed, as if waiting for some other cue. Thom sifted through the recent happenings and winced. There was too much drama to deal with and he didn’t feel like dealing with it right then.

“It’s still sleep time, Kalen.” Thom reached out and ruffled his hair, ignoring the boy’s cringe. “People are still sleeping. I need some more…sleep. You can go downstairs or do whatever you want, just don’t wake people up and don’t get in the way.” Thom walked back to the bed and burrowed under the covers.

He didn’t even budge when the little soldier boy and his drum quietly left the room.

~*~*~*~*~

Kevin tip-toed out of his bedroom and down the shadowy hall. He was still moping, because Thom had yelled at him and then because of his parents’ scolding that had followed immediately afterwards.

No one had thought to ask him what had happened. It had been an honest accident.  

He shuffled down the hallway, pausing in front of Thom’s bedroom door. A tiny piece of him wanted to knock, but the other half didn’t think it was a good idea. He tip-toed past the door and inched down the stairs.

There was no one else up, but he couldn’t sleep, so he’d decided to come downstairs for a bit. Everywhere was dark, but Kevin made his way to the Christmas tree and crawled beneath the little space to the side, to plug in the lights. Colorful speckles of light came to life, lighting up the darkened room. He sat there, quietly for awhile and then his stomach growled.

Turning towards the kitchen, Kevin began to explore the baked goods and then his gaze settled on the giant ceramic cookie jar on the far end of the counter, just out of reach beneath the cupboards. He frowned, thinking for a moment. There was certainly an easy way to get to them, if he could get on the counter without breaking anything or making any noise.

Kevin turned around and nearly yelled.

There was a boy about the same size standing a merely few feet away, with a shiny new drum hanging in front of him, with two colorful drumsticks in his hands. For a moment they stared at each other, Kevin with one hand clapped over his mouth and the other boy with a completely blank expression on his smooth, white face.

Kevin found his voice first. “Is that a real tattoo?”

The strange boy blinked in confusion and then slowly transferred one drumstick to the other hand and reached up towards the left of his face, caressing a vivid, blue tear outlined in black. “I suppose so.”

“Your mom let you get a tattoo?”

“…I do not have a mother.”

“W-who are you?”

“I am Kalen. You are Kevin.”

“How do you know my name?” Kevin took a half-step backwards.

“You do not remember?”

It was another long moment between them, with Kalen staring straight ahead and Kevin trying to place him. The realization settled in when Kalen straightened his outfit and Kevin gaped. “You’re the doll!”

Solemn blue eyes merely blinked once, as if in confirmation.

“I-I didn’t meant to break you!”

“I know.”

“You know?”

“It was an accident.”

“Yeah. I didn’t realize that-”

“It could have happened to anyone.”

“Thom doesn’t think so.”

“He’s…tired.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Kevin turned back towards the counter. He scowled at the cookie jar.

“What is it?”

Kevin brightened, turning to his new friend. “Cookie jar over there-”

“Shall I help?” Kalen moved to stand beside him, one drumstick raised.

“Go for it.”

A gold spark leapt from the tip of the drumstick and the cookie jar scooted closer. Kevin carefully held it in his arms, turning to go back to the living room. Kalen followed him and they sat together, in front of the sofa, watching the tree and eating sugar cookies with colored sprinkles. The silence between them was filled with the occasional clink of the ceramic cookie jar.

“…sorry.” Kevin mumbled, stuffing his mouth with another cookie.

The doll-like boy gave a faint smile. “There is no need for an apology.” He spoke, with stilted words again. “It is fine. I am fine. Thom was able to repair me sufficiently.”

“But Thom-”

“Is running out of energy. The bad wizard is trying to eat him again.” Kalen frowned. “I cannot help him this time.”

“What are you talking about?”

Something creaked in the house and Kalen was on his feet, drumsticks poised.

“Kalen?”

“Shh!” For the first time an expression registered on the boy’s face. It was one of complete and total fear. “Do not speak!” He hissed, shrinking back towards the tree.

Dark shadows reflected on the festively lit walls, flickering briefly before disappearing. There was a low, rumbling growl, followed by quiet whines, as if from large dogs.

“K-Kalen?” Kevin covered the cookie jar, shoving it towards the tree. “What’s going on?”

“Thom! We have to get to Thom!” Kalen grabbed his arm and bolted for the stairs. Kevin stumbled after him, trying to match the frantic pace and unable to catch his breath as they burst into Thom’s room. Kalen slammed the door shut behind them, turning the lock in the door. “Thom! Thom, wake up!” He dashed to the bed, the drumsticks clutched in one hand, while he shook the sleeping Thom with the other.

“Kalen, what’s going on!” Kevin sputtered from the stack of laundry he’d stumbled into.

“Why won’t he wake up?” Kalen rolled the young man over, trying to see his face. It was a pale, blue-grey and breaths were coming in short, half-gasps. “Not good. Not good at all!”

“Thom? What’s happening to Thom?”

“The bad wizard.” Kalen grunted. “We have to wake him up, we can’t face him alone.”

“Face who? Face what?” Kevin was asking questions and there were no answers to them as he joined the other boy in trying to rouse his older brother. “Thom, wake up, something’s going on!”

“This is not working out.” Kalen scrambled off the bed and to the dresser. “Come here-watch the door!” He scooped the other dolls off the dresser and sat them on his drum, returning to the bedside. He followed the ritual of placing a doll under one of Thom’s hand and using one finger to pat the head. There was a faint spark of gold before the doll came to life and grew to the proper human proportions.

“Whoa!” Kevin found himself sitting on the floor. “What’s going on here?”

“Marcus!” Kalen yanked on his sleeve. “Help!” There was no other explanation as Kalen revived the other dolls and the room quickly filled with all eight of them coming to life.

“Hey, did he just speak?” Philip tugged at his camouflaged gloves. “Marcus?”

“He did.” Marcus straightened the brass buttons on his dress jacket. “He’s coming again, isn’t he?”

Kalen nodded.

“Is Thom out cold like last time?”

Kalen nodded again.

Marcus blew out a frustrated puff of air. “What are we going to do now—and who is he?”

“You don’t remember?” Garrett stretched and yawned, rolling his shoulders back. “It’s the kid brother, the one that accidentally knocked over Kalen last night.”

“It was an accident!” Kevin snapped.

“He just said that.” Harmie looked from the boy to the soldier. “Yes, he did just say that. Uh, hi. Marcus, do we need to be introducing ourselves or something?”

“No, we need a battle plan.”

“A battle plan?” Collin perked up, pausing in mid-movement. “That sounds like an excellent idea.”

“Where’s Len? Wasn’t he here a moment ago? He usually has the best-!” Jared gave a yelp as he realized the bedroom door was open. “I think he went downstairs. This is bad.”

“Yeah. It is.” Kevin slid off the bed to look at them. “Mom’s gonna freak…I’ve gotta be dreaming!”

~*~*~*~*~

He wasn’t dreaming, Kevin soon discovered. There were indeed eight soldier dolls and an unconscious  brother that regrouped in the downstairs living room. The one called Marcus took charge, while the one with glasses—Len—ordered the rest of them around. They were gearing up for an attack against the Bad Wizard.

Kevin heard their story in snippets and between angry whispers. Neither of the dolls were happy about his involvement, but Kalen had spoken up twice in his defense and favor, the only times he’d dared to speak in their presence. Kevin couldn’t understand what was with him, but he wasn’t about to question any of it, because he didn’t know what else to do.

“Is he gonna be alright?” Kevin watched as Kalen propped up Thom with another pillow on the sofa. His brother hadn’t stirred at all with the movements or the noise. Surprisingly, no one else had awakened with all the racket they’d been making. In their efforts to be quiet, it seemed as if they’d only created more noise than necessary. Kevin was surprised at how normal they seemed—apart from the entire preparing for battle against some bad guy.

It really did seem like a dream, but there was no sort of dream-like state to accompany it.

The first inklings of terror began to set in when Thom woke on his own, sitting straight up on the sofa, his eyes glowing a bright, alarming red. The smirk on his face was one of dark intent. He lunged towards Kevin who was sitting, innocently, just out of reach.

“K-kalen!” Kevin scrambled off the sofa. “We got a problem!”

Devious laughter echoed in the house as they all formed a protective group around Kalen and a half-barrier in front of Thom.

“Thom?” Marcus was in front, trying to reason with him. “What’s going on?”

“He did this the last time too.” Len readjusted his glasses. “I prepared somewhat for it, but I did not expect for him to change us back so suddenly. My preparations were incomplete.”

“I don’t care about incomplete, do something!” Marcus yelled. “If you don’t change him back or something we’re going to lose our functions and-”

“Please stop, all of you.” Kalen’s quiet voice broke through the group. Silence came before he had to request it a second time as he straightened his drum and took one bold step forward. “Kevin, please watch over Thom.”

“What are you going to do?” Kevin swallowed as Philip and Garrett worked to hold his brother down.

“Something I should have done before. I owe your bother that much.”

~*~*~*~

The Bad Wizard was an older man with a grumpy face and a crooked nose. It seemed stereotypical to Kevin, but he wasn’t about to complain when he realized that the man controlled several long, glowing red threads, several of which were connected to Thom.

A puppetmaster.

Kevin put the pieces together even as the Bad Wizard and Kalen were facing off with the other doll soldiers flanking him on both ends, minus Philip and Garrett struggling to hold down a thrashing Thom.

“Leave my brother alone!” Kevin dashed forward, ripping at the glowing threads that led up to Thom. Fierce pain ripped through his hands and Kevin bit his lip to keep from crying out as he tried to peel the threads away from his own palms. That only made it worse in a way he couldn’t bear at all. “Augghh!”

“Kevin!” Kalen’s voice cut through the frenzy in his head. “Look at me!”

Kevin did.The drummer boy was glowing a bright, fierce golden glow and the strength pouring out of his deep blue eyes was something Kevin could barely fathom.

The pain seemed to reverse, but the removal of it was almost worse than the branding. As he felt the energy being sucked out of him, two strong arms grabbed him from behind, pulling him away from the darkened aura of the Bad Wizard and lifting him off his feet.

“Thom!”

“Kevin.” His brother frowned. “You weren’t supposed to get involved with this.”

“Scold him later!” Marcus took him, standing in front to shield him. “And go help your familiar!”

Thom growled, a low sound in his throat, but he stood tall, moving to the front where the magical battle was beginning to take place. He placed a hand on Kalen’s shoulder and the boy straightened.

Kevin watched in awe as a golden aura appeared around the duo.

Thom was speaking. “What you have done is the lowest, most despicable act imaginable. You dare to show your face in the human realm in my house? You dare to lay a finger on my brother? It is not my intention nor is it in my nature to take lives for pleasure, but I will not allow this to go unpunished.” The golden fire poured out of him and into Kalen, who raised his arms, stiffly and began to drum.

The sound echoed through the house and the Bad Wizard shrieked in sudden agony, backing away into a wall. His red threads were flailing about the room as he tried to cover his hears from the solemn beat filling the room. “No! NO! Not-”

A blinding screech ripped through the house followed by a brilliant flash of gold.

Kevin blacked out.

~*~*~*~*~

When he woke again, there were eight concerned faces staring down at him. Thom smiled, his expression innocent. “Ah, Kevin, you’re up. Merry Christmas, little bro.” He handed him a wrapped package. “You can open this one today, but you have wait until tomorrow for the rest of them.”

Kevin sat up straight, rubbing his eyes and then looking at the faces standing around the sofa. There were eight tall, distinguished young men in holiday sweaters, blue jeans and decorated T-shirts. They were very right and very wrong in the same moment. He stared from the faces, searching for a familiar one, but he couldn’t quite place them at all. Something was off and he didn’t know what it was. One hand went to his head and he tugged on his ear. “W-what happened? Where did everyone go? Where’s Kalen?”

“Yo, someone call?” The speaker came from the kitchen, munching on a stack of sugar cookies. He was taller than the rest of them and there was no tattoo on his face. His eyes were a murky blue color and his hair was a bright shock of orange-yellow. “Hey kid.”

“K-kalen?” Kevin stared up at him. “Thom!”

“Are you okay?” Thom reached over to touch his forehead. “We’ve been worried. It seems like you fell down the stairs.”

“The stairs? I fell? When?”

“I didn’t mean to yell at you. Sorry. I guess I got a little out of hand. I was working on those dolls for awhile.”

“They came to life!”

“Life?” Monica sputtered. “Yeah. You really hit your head. Mom! Kevin’s awake now! He’s fine—I think.”

“I think I’m with Monica on this one.” Thom sat on the sofa’s arm, his smile warm. “These are the friends I was talking about. They’re going to stay with us during Christmas break. This is Marcus, Philip, Garrett, Jared, Harmie, Collin and Len.” He chuckled. “And that was Kalen over there, he’s got a sweet tooth, so he’s been raiding Mom’s cookies all day.”

“I-I slept through Christmas?”

“Nah. It’s Christmas Eve. I figured I owed you though.” Thom nudged the wrapped present closer. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

“T-that’s okay.” Kevin swallowed, trying to look around him. His parents entered the room, the worry on their faces melting away at the sight of him.

“Kevin! Oh honey, you had me worried!” Mom scooped him up in a hug as Thom rescued the present. “Don’t ever scare me like that again. I thought that something was-”

“He’s fine, honey, don’t choke the boy.” Dad cleared his throat gruffly from the corner. “You okay now?”

“I-I don’t know.” Kevin pulled away from the hug and stood, trying to gather his thoughts and bearings together. It couldn’t have been a dream. It was all too real. Much too real. His eyes searched wildly around the room for something that would fix the puzzle in his head and nothing came to him.

The day passed in a muddled blur and Kevin found himself sitting on the sofa as the afternoon drew near. Kalen sat near the tree, munching on a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles. He’d introduced himself as a music major at the same university that Thom attended. They seemed to be good friends, talking and laughing together even as Kevin watched them with careful eyes.

“You’re hiding it!” He burst out, unable to keep it in any longer. “I know you are! You all are! I’m not stupid! I’m six years old!”

Kalen turned to look at him only to receive a throw pillow in the face. He sighed, picking up the pillow and concentrating on whether to throw it back. “I am sorry you feel that way.” He said smoothly, opting to take another bite out of the cupcake.

“Your face…” Kevin stopped. “Your eye-!”

A faint blue smudge was visible just beneath Kevin’s left eye, the faintest imprint of a tear-shaped tattoo.

“You-!”

Kalen swiped a finger of chocolate frosting and dotted it lightly on the side of his face. He flashed a brilliant smile and calmly took another bite of the muffin. Kevin stared at him in disbelief until he felt Thom’s elbow on top of his head.

“Thom-!

There was a low chuckle. “I’ll tell you when you’re older, kid.” He tousled his hair. “Hey Kalen, weren’t you going to play the drums for us? I thought you brought your entire set.”

“I sent Garrett to get them out of the car. He’s going to play the guitar and I’ll see if I can keep up.”

“Want some more cupcakes?” Monica appeared around the corner, a festive platter in hand, filled with newly frosted cupcakes. “You have frosting on your face.” She offered a napkin.

“Thanks.” Kalen took a cupcake and the proffered napkin. “These are really good.”

“You play drums?”

“Better than most people.” Thom interjected. “You should hear him.”

So he keeps the beat of marching feet
He keeps the beat so true
When morning comes, he plays his drum

Happy Christmas Day to you!
Happy Christmas Day to you!
Happy Christmas Day to you!

Holidays are here again!
Holidays are here again!
Holidays are here again!
Holidays are here again!

Disclaimer and rights. © Sara Harricharan. I do not own the lyrics, the song or anything of the sort, only the original characters I have created and the plot, which are solely my own creation and any resemblance to an actual event, person or place, is entirely coincidental as this is a work of fiction.

1 comments:

Yvonne Blake said...

"storify"...great new verb!