Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

There's A Devil in the Dark, Charlie Boone! - Chapter 1

© 2021 Geron Kees . All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. All characters and situations are imaginary. No real people were harmed in the creation of this presentation.

Kippy Lawson stood in the tall brown grass at the edge of Myer's Field, his eyes focused on the dead tree that lay across the path down into the woods. A summer storm had toppled the rotting remains of the old maple early in the year, and they had been climbing over the trunk to get to the top of the hill ever since. The tree had been a good-sized one, with a bole at least eight inches in diameter, and maybe thirty feet in height.

"Probably four tons of wood there," Ricky Travers mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Maybe more."

"Shh!" His boyfriend, Adrian Whitaker, wrapped his arm around Rick's and hugged it to him. "You'll break his concentration!"

Ricky grunted, and cast an imploring look at Charlie Boone, who was standing beside Kip, watching him. Charlie just smiled, and shook his head slowly, to let Ricky know that he wasn't getting involved, and that Adrian was right. Kippy needed his concentration if he was to pull this off.

"I can feel it, somehow," Kippy said then, frowning.

"What do you feel?" Charlie asked quietly, leaning closer to his boyfriend.

"Does it feel like a tree?" Rick added, unable to contain his curiosity.

Kippy's frown deepened. " It just feels like this big, dead weight."

"So it feels like a dead tree," Ricky persisted.

Adrian sighed then, and squeezed his boyfriend's arm. "Stop, Rick."

"Well, I was just trying to help."

Kippy smiled then. "It's okay, Adrian. Having you guys here is a help, not a hinder." He let his eyes move from the tree to Ricky. "I don't sense a tree at all. Maybe because it's not alive? Anyway, it's just this big weight. I feel like I can grab it, but moving it might be more than I can do. It's heavy."

Charlie put out a hand and dropped it on his boyfriend's shoulder. "The rifle you ripped out of that Moth's hands back on Lyrgris was light by comparison. But you didn't even have to think about doing it, either."

"I thought he was going to shoot you," Kippy said, the frown returning. "I didn't have time to think."

"Well, there you go." Charlie looked back at the fallen tree. "Maybe we're over-thinking this. Maybe you should just grab the tree and move it."

Kippy shrugged. "Maybe. Okay, here goes nothing!"

All eyes went back to the fallen tree, just as it trembled, shook itself, and then lifted from the flattened grass. The roots, some still firmly planted in the ground, pulled loose with a tearing sound as large clods of dirt sailed in several directions. Something beneath the ground snapped then with a fierce cracking sound, and the whole tree jerked up into the air, moved to the left of the path, and then dropped back to earth with a thud that transmitted itself through the earth to their feet. A brief cloud of dusty debris accompanied that, and then all was silent.

For a moment no one said anything. And then Charlie whooped and grabbed his boyfriend into a hug. "You did it!"

Adrian and Rick were right there then, clapping Kip on the back. Kippy looked a little dazed at his accomplishment, but was all smiles as Charlie kissed his cheek. "I did!"

Charlie pulled back, holding his boyfriend by the shoulders, and grinned at the look of wonder in Kippy's eyes. "Was it hard?"

Kippy squinted, as if he didn't know quite how to answer the question. "I could feel the weight until I went to move it. And then it just moved, really easily. But the longer I held it up, the more I felt it." His shoulders shrugged beneath Charlie's hands. "If I had had to hold it up a long time, I think it would have been work."

Charlie considered that, and nodded. "That goes back to what Max said once, about magic. That most everything a power user does is done very quickly, and over in a second or two. That it's easy to do big things for a short period of time, but to do them longer takes more and more power and effort." He shook his head. "Makes me really appreciate the effort that Pacha put into keeping his ship from being crushed by all that ice that time on Antariluma. I can't imagine the effort that took."

Kippy whistled. "I can't either." He looked back at the tree. "Moving it was easy for a couple of seconds. I wouldn't have wanted to try to hold it up for a long time, though."

Adrian smiled at that. "It probably gets easier the more you practice. That's what Frit and Pip have said. It's why they practice their magic all the time."

Kippy nodded, looking happy again. "They did say that, didn't they? And once you get good, you don't lose it if you don't use it. That's why young elves spend all their time practicing stuff, so that by the time they're older, they don't have to."

Ricky grinned then. "Adrian's been practicing, too."

Kippy turned and gazed at his friend with interest. "Something new?"

Adrian looked embarrassed. "It's nothing." He raised a hand and pointed at the fallen tree. "Nothing like that, anyway."

Kippy moved closer and bumped his shoulder against Adrian's. "I want to see."

Rick squeezed his boyfriend's arm. "I told him it has the potential to be something bigger, but he won't listen to me."

Adrian looked annoyed, and glared sideways at his boyfriend. "I wish you hadn't said anything."

Kippy pouted a moment, but then placed his hand on Adrian's forearm and squeezed it gently. "You won't share it with us?"

Adrian's eyes focused on Kip, who smiled. It only took a second for Adrian to be smiling back. "It's seems so small a thing."

Charlie moved closer, and waved a hand around at the tall trees lining the woods at the edge of the field. "From little acorns, and all that stuff." He let his gaze move to Rick. "You see something more in this new ability than Adrian does?"

"Hell, yeah. But he won't listen to me."

Charlie's eyes smiled at Adrian. "And when your boyfriend, being the best magic mechanic we know, tells you there's more here, you won't believe him?"

Adrian couldn't help laughing. "He's the only magic mechanic we know."

"Doesn't make his opinion any less meaningful." Charlie leaned forward, showing his interest. "What sort of new magic is it?"

Adrian looked to Kippy, and then to Rick, and then back to Charlie. Everyone was smiling and looking supportive. He sighed, unable to resist the mass interest of his friends. "It's electrical."

Charlie's eyebrows went up at that. "Electrical?"

"Yeah. You know, like sparks and stuff."

"Show him," Ricky said, insistently.

Adrian sighed again, and held up both hands. He brought his index fingers to a place about three inches apart. "Watch."

A light blue spark jumped from one finger to another, and then the thin blue line of an electrical current, like a tiny lightning bolt, barely visible.

Charlie gasped. "You think that's nothing?"

Adrian pulled his hands apart and the current disappeared. "What use is making a spark go from one finger to the other?" Again he motioned at the fallen tree. "It's nothing compared to what Kip just did."

Ricky looked over at Charlie and shook his head. "I've tried to tell him it can be made to do more. I can see that it can. He doesn't believe me."

Charlie squinted at Adrian. "It takes a bit of voltage to arc across a distance like that. But the amperage must be really low, or it would hurt you. Do you feel anything when you do it?"

"No. A little bit of a tingle. That's all."

Ricky quickly shook his head. "I don't sense that the electricity is actually flowing through Adrian's body, Charlie. He's creating two points between which a current will flow. The discharge we just saw flows between those two points, not actually between his fingers."

"Ah. That would explain that. But what about the tingle he feels?"

Ricky shrugged. "I think those are the two points he's feeling."

Charlie watched Adrian a moment, thinking. "So...for now, you've only imagined the two points as being between your fingers?"

The other boy looked surprised. "Imagined? I didn't think I was imagining anything."

Charlie nodded. "Okay. Envisioned, maybe? But when you do this, you do sense the two...maybe your fingertips. So you know where they are?" He smiled then. "Have you tried to move either of them?"

Adrian glanced at Ricky before answering. "That's kind of like what you said."

Ricky seemed pleased at that. "Well, it's close. I suggested you try aiming that current at something else besides the other finger."

"Well--" Adrian looked unsure of himself. "I don't know how."

Kippy smiled at Charlie. "Do you?"

Charlie absently scratched his cheek in thought. "Well...when I send my second presence someplace, there is a feeling that goes along with that. I first feel the separation between where I am physically, and where I'm going. Where I want to see. I can feel that second point moving away from my, um, true me."

Adrian held up his fingers and looked at them. He moved them closer together, and again the thin blue line of electricity moved between them. "I feel the points at the ends of my fingers. They tingle."

Charlie nodded. "Okay. Take that tingle on your left finger, and imagine...envision it moving away from you."

Adrian frowned. "To where?"

Charlie turned and pointed at the fallen maple tree. "See if you can move it there, and land it on that dead tree."

Adrian's frown deepened, and his eyes narrowed in concentration. The blue thread of electricity between his fingers wavered, and then disappeared. But Adrian seemed not to notice. "I feel it going.'s moving through the air. It's getting near the's landed." He sighed then. "But you see now? There's no electricity."

"Um, can you push that point around to the back of the tree, so that the wood is between the two points?"

Adrian frowned, but then concentrated again, and then nodded. "Okay, I did that. But there's still nothing happening."

Charlie nodded. "The distance has increased considerably. So you'll need a lot more current to bridge the gap. Now imagine that point there, at the tree, and the one on the end of your right finger, and make them connect again with electricity."

Adrian released a little disbelieving puff of air, as if the idea was totally ridiculous. "I don't think I..."

He broke off as a hum filled the air, and Charlie felt an alarming tingle cross his skin. He stepped quickly to the side and pulled Kippy away from Adrian, just as a tremendous blue-white bolt of lightning as thick at Charlie's thumb seemed to erupt from Adrian's fingertip. It flashed across the field and struck the downed maple tree, to the accompaniment of a thunderous roar as the air between was ionized. The bright flash made everyone blink and throw up their hands...and then it was over even as they did so. Adrian had broken whatever spell he'd created by throwing his hands up in front of his face.

Quiet descended upon Myer's Field as everyone stared at the dead maple tree. A thin column of smoke was rising from the point of impact, wispy white in the afternoon sun. The boys simply stared for uncounted seconds, until a questioning, hesitant call from a blue jay echoed across the field and broke the spell. That first call was immediately followed by a tirade of song from the trees around them, as the winged occupants let everyone know in no uncertain terms just how such disturbances were viewed in these parts.

Charlie smiled.

"Um, wow," Adrian said softly. He raised his finger and stared at the tip, as if to see whether or not it was smoking like the dead tree.

"What did I tell you?" Ricky said then, grinning. He threw an arm around Adrian's shoulders and gave him a hug. "My guy's packin' some heat!"

Kippy and Charlie both laughed, and moved to give Adrian congratulatory pats on the shoulders.

"Why did you think that was a worthless talent?" Kippy asked. "It sure looked awesome to me!"

Adrian sighed, and his eyes slid sideways to Rick. "Well--"

Ricky put on a determined expression, pulled Adrian closer, and kissed the side of his head. "Say it."

Adrian released a slow breath of air, and nodded. "Well, I didn't know it could do that, for one thing. And...everyone was having so much cool stuff happen, and I wasn't doing anything. I just figured I wasn't going to get any more magic like you guys did."

Kippy's jaw dropped, and he put his hands on his hips and leaned towards his friend. "You stop that right now, Adrian Whitaker! You are just as crammed to the eyebrows with talent as the rest of us!"

"He said, modestly," Charlie added, grinning.

Kippy flashed a dazzling smile his way. "Oh, you know what I mean. Adrian has just as much potential as any of us. My skwish told me so."

"And so did Adrian's skwish," Rick said pointedly. He gave his boyfriend another squeeze. "Right?"

"Well...I did feel it was telling me to be patient." Adrian held up his finger again and stared at it in wonder. "I have to admit, that was worth the wait."

"I suspect there is even more you can do with it," Charlie said. "Move both points away from you and catch something between them, and then loose a bolt like that last one, and it could be quite a weapon."

One of Adrian's eyebrows rose at that. "I don't know that I like that."

Charlie shrugged. "Well, suppose you placed the two points on the contacts of a light bulb, and then slowly raised the power you allowed to flow until the light was nice and bright? You could have light anywhere." He laughed. "You could power all sorts of stuff with a talent like that. You'll never have to plug anything in again."

That produced a group chuckle.

Kippy nodded. "Yeah. It's kind of like when you and I have powered other people's magic. Only this time, it's electrical."

Adrian closed his eyes a moment, and nodded. "That's why it felt so familiar. It was like powering Charlie or Max doing magic. This ability just also has these two contact points, which I now know I can move, and the power that flows between them is electricity instead of--" He paused, and then opened his eyes and smiled. "Um, instead of skwishy stuff."

Ricky sighed happily. "I love it when a plan comes together."

Adrian turned to him, and smiled. "You had faith in me."

"Well, sure."

"I'm sorry I doubted you."

Ricky nodded, and compressed his lips together. "I'll always have faith in you. And I'll always love you, too."

Adrian looked touched, and then sniffed quietly. Kippy sniffed immediately after that, and Charlie smiled as Kippy took his hand and squeezed it. "I love love," Kippy whispered.

Adrian leaned against Rick's shoulder and sighed. "I'll listen to you next time, my sweet magic mechanic."

Ricky's face reddened in the afternoon sun, but his smile showed he loved hearing that. Kippy grinned ear-to-ear, and Charlie just sighed, feeling content. It sure was great having friends like these!

Kippy patted Adrian's arm. "What would happen if you sent one of those points like two miles up into the sky, and then flashed electricity between them?" He turned to Charlie. "It would look like lightning, wouldn't it?"

"I guess it would. I'm not sure how safe that would be for Adrian, though."

Kippy shook his head. "The bolt he just fired off didn't hurt him, and it sure looked like lightning to me."

Charlie thought about that, and then nodded. "Well...maybe you're right. The electricity flows between the two points. Maybe the point on Adrian's end acts like an insulator, so just being on the back side of the point makes it safe."

Kippy grunted. "I don't think our skwish will let us use power in a way that will hurt us, Charlie."

"I think you're right, Kip." Charlie laughed then. "But I sure know that I felt that bolt coming. You didn't feel that tingle on your skin, right when I pulled you back?"

"I did feel something, now that you mention it." Kip frowned. "What did the tingle mean? And I heard a humming sound, too."

"Well, imagine being outside on a stormy day. If you suddenly felt a tingle like that, or heard a buzzing or snapping sound, it could be a warning that you were about to be struck by lightning, or that lightning was going to strike nearby. The bolt doesn't just form without warning. It follows a path through the air that is established seconds beforehand. Air is actually a good insulator. Just before a lightning strike, as the differential between the charge in the clouds and the charge in the ground overcomes the resistance of the air, there is a sudden sharp build in the static charge along the path. It can make your hair stand up, your skin tingle, and you can hear a humming, buzzing, or snapping sound. It can be strong enough to make you feel dizzy, or get a metallic taste in your mouth. That's a sign that you need to get under cover fast. What we felt was the static build up along the path between Adrian's two points, right before the charge went from one to the other."

Everyone stared in silence for a moment, and then Ricky smiled. "It must be fun to be a Britannica brain."

Charlie felt his face warm. "It's just curiosity, Rick. You know I love to read."

"Yeah. But you remember all the stuff you read, too." Ricky suddenly frowned. "Hmm. That may be a talent you never knew you had. Encyclopedic memory. " He grinned, and snapped his fingers. "Aha! You've been magical all along!"

Kippy moved closer to Charlie again and circled his arm around Charlie's waist. "You leave my Britannica brain alone." He turned his face to Charlie's and kissed his cheek. "Just remember, volume 'L', page three-hundred-and-fifty-nine."

Charlie squinted a moment, and then pressed his nose gently against Kip's. "And just what is that?"

Kippy kissed him, and smiled. "It's where 'Love' is in the encyclopedia."

"Oh. That is worth remembering." Charlie closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against his boyfriend's. "I love you."

Kippy sighed. "I know. And I love you back. It's the way the world is supposed to be."

They stayed close for a moment, until they realized that Rick and Adrian were watching them with big smiles on their faces. Charlie sighed, and pulled back from Kip enough to frown at them. "What? You've never seen two guys in love before?"

"It's just nice to experience," Adrian said, squeezing Ricky's arm. "Don't let us stop you."

Kippy sighed, and laid his head on Charlie's shoulder, while smiling at Adrian. "So now you know that you're learning new magic. Feel better?"

"Yeah. I was a little worried about it, I guess."

"Well, stop it. I feel that all of us will continue to grow. It just takes time." Kippy's smile brightened, and he looked around at the circle of faces. "Anyone else have anything new? Now's the time to share."

Adrian looked pointedly at Ricky, who quickly nodded. "I was getting there." He grinned at Charlie. "I seem to have found something new.."

"Let's hear it, soldier," Kippy snapped out, his tone one of mock officiousness.

Ricky nodded. "Well, you know I can sort of analyze magic, and sometimes tell people what they're doing wrong, or at least what seems not right to me. And I can sometimes help fix the magic on my own. Sort of put a wrench on it and tighten the right bolts?"

Charlie laughed. "That's a good analogy."

"I think so. It's what it feels like to me, anyway. Well, I have found something else that sense is good for." Rick looked around at the others. "I can sort of detect skwish in other people now. Not just their magic, but the basis for it, if they have any at all."

Kippy nodded. "Adrian and I can do that."

"But this is a little different," Ricky insisted. "You guys feel it when it has some power to it. I'm sensing it when it's just the seed, if you know what I mean."

Charlie leaned forward, his interest captured fully now. "You mean you can tell which people here on earth are magical? When they can't even feel it themselves?""

"Yeah." Ricky gave his head a little shake. "I first noticed it in my Uncle Bob. And then my dad. They're both pretty strong with the beginnings of skwish, for non-magical people. My mom has it, too, but it's less." He licked his lips, and then shrugged. "My brother and my sister have it. They're both pretty strong, really. I just only realized what it was I was sensing, and told Adrian yesterday."

Kippy turned an amazed look on Charlie. "That's good to know, isn't it? This stuff probably runs in families, huh?"

"Probably," Charlie agreed. "It's food for thought. It might mean that Rick's family could do magic, if they were exposed to it and it was allowed to grow."

Ricky nodded. "That's not all. I sense it pretty strongly in Adrian's mom. And both your parents, Charlie." He turned to Kippy. "And your Mom."

Kippy's jaw dropped. "Really? What about my dad?"

Ricky laughed. "I never see your dad. He's always working. And you're almost always at Charlie's house. You know?"

Kippy smiled, and rubbed up against Charlie. "My home away from home."

Ricky turned back to Charlie. "And Horace is really full of it."

Charlie laughed. "Maybe you shouldn't say it quite that way?"

" know what I mean. Horace is strong with skwish. And it's...well, it's a sort of different kind of skwish than I've felt in anyone else."

No one said anything for a moment. But then Kippy looked intrigued by the idea. "Both Adrian and I have sensed something about Horace. Maybe it has something to do with his ghost hunting? Something had to put him on that path in life."

"Maybe." Rick nodded. "But now that I am really aware of the stuff I feel in other people, I'm working on trying to analyze it to see what they might be able to do if they are trained."

"Wow." Charlie thought about that, and then smiled at his friend. "Rick, that's pretty awesome. I can see where that talent may lead to all sorts of interesting things."

Kippy pulled on Charlie's arm, drawing him closer again. "Your turn. What's new and exciting with you?"

Charlie had been feeling new things, mostly to do with his second presence. And some other things, too. But they hadn't quite gelled yet, hadn't clarified themselves.

"I have been feeling some things in new directions, but I don't know what they are yet." Charlie smiled. "You'll be the first to know when I do, though."

Kippy closed his eyes a moment, and a slow smile spread across his face. "I feel...something from you, but I don't know what." He opened his eyes. "But I also sense it will come in its own time. Just like everything that might happen with our magic."

Adrian nodded "Yeah. So we all need to be patient, I guess." He sighed happily. "I feel a lot better now, guys. Thanks."

They stood in silence for a moment as the blue jays conversed in a more peaceful tone now. The warmth of the sun, his best friends around him, the gentle sound of the crisp autumn leaves moving in the breeze, and the whisper songs of the birds, all served to lull Charlie into a more relaxed and peaceful state.

He sighed then, and tilted his head back, taking in the blue afternoon sky. "I love this time of the year. Halloween is only a few days away." He smiled around at the circle of faces. "It's a special time for us now."

"Yeah," Kippy agreed. "So what are we doing this year? That's why we all took this walk to the field to begin with, right? To decide on something."

Adrian looked taken aback. "Do we really have to plan something, Kip? Events usually happen on their own around the holidays."

Kippy looked doubtful. "I know. I just mean...we can't always expect something to just jump out at us for every holiday. I want to plan something fun, just in case. You know...go to Engris to see the gang, or get Frit and Pip involved in something. Maybe Max, too. Do something unusual. Even something creepy." Kip's expression brightened. "Like house-sitting. Last Halloween was awesome!"

Rick smiled. "I talked to my cousin Annie last night. She loves her octagon house. She said she and Moped are just soooo happy there."

"I'm sure that means her house guests are happy there, too," Adrian decided. "And that makes me happy to know!"

Kippy's expression lit up then. "That reminds me! Horace said he would be back from his latest ghost hunting trip today!"

"He wanted us to come by his place," Charlie reminded. "We've only ever seen it from the outside."

"That'd be great!" Adrian agreed, hugging Rick. "Maybe Frit and Pip would like to come over, too?"

"And Keerby," Kippy said, smiling dreamily. The smile slipped then. "But not his girlfriend."

Charlie laughed at that. "Give it up, Kip. He's taken."

Kippy gently slapped his arm. "Party pooper." But he looked around at the others. "Maybe going to Horace's house is what we're supposed to be doing this year?"

"Do you always feel we're supposed to be doing something for the holidays?" Adrian asked..

"Of course. Don't you?"

Adrian's bottom lip thrust out for a second as he thought about it; but then he smiled. "Well, maybe so. It's been a while since we just stayed home and handed out candy to the rugrats."

Charlie shook his head. "I don't see the need to plan anything, Kip. We'll go see Horace, and see what follows from there." He smiled at his boyfriend. "Relax. I think the rest of it will take care of itself, just like it always does."

Kippy frowned. "You think so?" He seemed to consider that, and then smiled again. "Well...maybe you're right. Every holiday, something seems to happen, whether we plan it or not."

"Yeah," Rick added. "It's spontaneous."

"Right," Charlie agreed. He smiled. "My point, exactly. It happens without us planning anything. So all we really need to do is wait and see what comes along."

Kippy leaned closer to Charlie. "Yeah, but what if nothing happens?"

Charlie smiled. "Something will. I...I feel it. We'll know it when it gets here."

Kippy watched him a moment, and then nodded. "Actually, my skwish is sort of telling me the same thing. It's advising patience."

Adrian closed his eyes a moment, and then nodded. "Same here." His eyes popped open again, and he smiled. "But I do sense we should give Horace a call."

"We will." Charlie smiled. "I think he's expecting it, anyway. He's part of the family now."

Kippy turned then to look back at the downed maple Tree. The smoke had subsided, and the tree looked even more forlorn now. "Poor thing. I'm wondering now if it was struck by lightning before it fell? The wind probably just finished it off."

"We can look at again it as we leave," Charlie said, glancing at his watch. "How about we head back to my place and give Horace a call?"

Kippy bumped his shoulder against Charlie's, and smiled. "Is that an invitation?"

Charlie grinned. "It certainly is. My house is definitely your house."

Kippy sighed. "Oh, Charlie. You say the sweetest things."

"That's his other talent," Ricky said, laughing.

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