Chapter Eleven: Mack

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They bided time as they waited for the night to progress. Damian took a nap. Alexander actually insisted on doing some homework, despite Damian's insistence that it didn't matter.

Hours passed. With a careful ear, Damian listened for his parents to go to bed. Once everything seemed settled, he silently motioned for Alexander to follow him.

The two quietly made their way upstairs. Damian signaled for Alexander to stay as he made his way to the garage. When he emerged, he was carrying a six pack of beer cans. He held it up like he'd just discovered a dinosaur fossil.

Alexander gave him a thumbs up.

He led him toward the back of the house. In a hallway just behind the kitchen was a door leading out to the back deck. Damian unhooked the lock and opened it very, very slowly. It slid open with a relative ease and the two were able to slip out.

They got about halfway down the block before either one spoke up.

"Where are we going?" Alexander whispered.

"When we used to live in this house, sometimes I'd sneak off to just be a dumb teen. Me and some friends would go to the gully down here and just hang out. It's pretty comfy, not a lot of bugs, and passing cars usually can't see you."

Alexander scurried forward, trying to match Damian's quick pace. "So that house, then, you actually lived in it before."

He nodded. "Yeah, I lived in that one my junior year of high school. I'm surprised I remember it so well. Why, is yours not the same?"

"Uh," he paused to think about it. "It is the same for the most part, but there are some key details that are different. Just like, some of the room placements are different and the way the cabinets in the kitchen are structured is way weird compared to how they were before, but at a passing glance you wouldn't be able to tell."

"What about the school? Does that look like yours? It kind of has parts of mine I think? Like, some of the hallways especially I remember."

"Not really," he admitted. "Or at least, it has all of the parts I don't remember. Now, Mrs. Persimmons is mine. She was my English teacher junior year of high school and she just made me fall in love with the English language. I was always a quiet kid in class so most teachers kind of overlooked me. The Parse was the first one who really took to me and tried to make something out of me. I'm kind of glad she showed up in this weird, weird situation."

Damian led them off the sidewalk and toward a wide open field. A couple dozen yards off lay the aforementioned gully. "Oh yeah? That's cool, I guess."

Alexander stepped gingerly, trying to avoid any hidden pitfalls. "So is Valerie yours? I'm like 99% sure we'd never met before, but she seems important."

Damian half-laughed at that one. "Yeah, but it's weird. Val and I were friends back when we were kids--like eight years old. I moved around a lot after that so we lost touch for a while, but then we became friends again in college. We didn't even talk during high school. I mean, I guess that's what it would've been like. Which is nice, I guess. Just..."

"Really weird?"

He only nodded in response, gesture silhouetted by the far reaches of the suburban street lamps.

They made their way into the gully. Once they were far enough in, Damian let his legs fold under him and drop on the grass. The six pack hit the ground with a muted clamor. Alexander sat down next to him.

Damian wasted no time pulling one of the beer cans from the plastic holster. He pulled out a second one and held it out toward Alexander. "Ready?"

The other happily took it. "I've been ready for this."

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