Someone once told me that no day is a loss if you learn something new. I’m wondering if it works the other way too: at which point do you learn so much that the day counts as a loss again. (I’m also realizing, far too late, why the magician tried to make sure Jay didn’t learn much about human holidays.) For example: you could wake up at seven in the morning, surprised that Jay didn’t wake you earlier and find out he is pretending to sleep.
You could go out of your room, considering checking the hotel buffet breakfast only to find there is a giant uproar over the fact that, last night, all the water in the hotel pool was turned into chocolate. Which is apparently breathable, edible, and functions a lot like water. Except being chocolate.
You could learn that the night manager is in his office, whispering the words: “giant s’more” over and over in a tone of private horror.
You could go back upstairs and find out your friend is all awake and has chocolate easter eggs on the table: a dozen of them, each as large as a child’s fist. And they weren’t there in the few minutes you took to leave and return.
I stare down into Jay’s grin, and tell him about the pool, and ask if he can fix it. He scratches his head at that. “But don’t humans like chocolate better than water? There’s lots of commercials on the TV about chocolate, but none about water when I listen to them.”
“Sometimes, some things are so important that we don’t need commercials for them.”
And that seems to make sense to Jay, since he dashes out of the hotel room faster than anything human can move and is back less than a minute later, declaring it is sorted and no one saw him and that he thinks chocolate tastes really pretty good. I say nothing, mostly because Jay seems convinced that if I don’t blame him, I don’t actually know he did it. Sometimes you’d think he really was an ordinary kid.
I’m drinking my first cup of coffee, which is partly why I’m not up to asking a creature from Outside the universe how he would manipulate bindings to turn a hotel swimming pool into a giant s’more. And definitely nowhere near asking why. Jay isn’t human: he doesn’t do things for human reasons most of the time, or takes human reasons into places I’d never consider. Like I said: some days I learn far too many things I never wanted to know.
I might be human, but I’m a god-eater with a god inside me. And I’ve travelled with Jay for some time, off and on, so I have good instincts. At least about some things. At least some of the time. “Jay?”
“Yup!” He bounces in front of me and grins, huge and happy.
“The table. Explain.”
Jay points his white cane at the table, practically vibrating with joy, “I got easter eggs! And not from rabbits, because real rabbits don’t make those. I checked.”
I decide not to ask how he checked. Some conversations you just don’t want to have. “Where did you get the eggs?”
“I went looking.”
“I’m not sure. Sideways from here? Maybe a little Outside the universe? It’s hard to be sure since I can’t see and was going by bindings and bindings feel weird in lots of places, but they are chocolate eggs.”
For almost five seconds, I consider explaining the other meanings of easter, then decide there is no way that could end well at all. “They are rather large.”
I stare at the closest egg, and then lower my voice. “Listen.”
Jay pauses. Under dark glasses, eyes filled with broken things widen a little. “Cracking?”
“Hatching. Easter eggs are not meant to hatch.”
“Put them back where you found them. Please,” I add, not wanting to hurt his feelings, and during the last word one egg splits open.
Whatever is inside it looks like a shadow turned inside-out and made into a modern art exhibit. It hurts to look at, and I can’t shake the feeling it has teeth and claws where I can’t see them. There are tentacles hurling out of the egg. Small, but many, and they are definitely hungry.
I say several rude words Jay is definitely going to ask about later and the god inside me slides up and over me. Under-the-bed scraping claws, fur as dark as the darkest part of a child’s closet and eyes that burn like angry stars. The god is strength, speed, power: it doesn’t phase whatever is inside the eggs at all. I yell as Jay to send them back, cutting through tentacles, certain that they’re nothing a god-eater can eat.
The eggs are gone between moments; Jay flickers, reappears beside me in under thirty seconds. His glasses are a little askew, his hair a mess, and he has a bruise on the side of face. Jay is inhumanly tough; he can be hit by cars and not have a visible bruise on his skin at times. He stands, swaying a little, not moving.
I walk over to the one bed and sit. “Kiddo.”
He walks over unsteadily, and sits on the bed beside me, not protesting when I touch his cheek gently, and then just wrap my arms around him.
“It wath scary,” he whispers finally.
I start; I haven’t heard Jay lisp in months. Losing his vision somehow got rid of the lisp, though I’m not sure even the magician understands how. It surfaced a little for two months when he was scared. Apparently it still can. I file that away under ‘reasons to begin running away’ the next time I heard him lisp again. “What was?”
“The egg place. It was almost outside the universe,” he whispers, trembling a little in my grip. “And they tricked me and it was a trap and they were going to eat the room and make a huge door for something big and mean to enter the world and eat the whole world and I didn’t even know because I was trying to find eggs for you fast like a Jay and I screwed up bad and it could have been worse and last night I –.”
I press a finger to his lips. “You were asleep last night.”
“But I –.”
“But I wasn’t,” he wails, and babbles something about an adventure, the pool, and lost pets, too fast for me to follow, the words spilling out like blood from a wound.
“Hey. Hey,” I say, a bit sharper as he begins another round of apologies. “It’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes, Jay. If we fix them, then they’re lessons we learn from so we might not do them again.”
“You’re going to claim I never make mistakes?” Jay giggles at that, relaxing a little. “Even the magician does: we’re human, so it’s part of being human. You’re not human, but that doesn’t mean you don’t make any mistakes either, kiddo.”
“But it was a really huge big goof,” he whispers.
If he is calling it really big, I’m not sure I want to know what could have happened. “Then it was also a really big lesson, and you won’t do it again.”
He relaxes at that, mumbles an okay and passes out dead asleep moments later. I remove him from my lap and gently tuck him into the bed, and then grab my purse and head out the door.
It’s Easter Sunday, and I need to find some chocolate eggs for Jay. And call the magician. And make sure the hotel night manager is sane. But the first thing I do is find the nearest part, sit in a bench and just stare off into space and have a very quiet, private moment of terror. Whatever almost happened, whatever Jay almost did – it was bad, and I think – no, I am certain that I don’t want to know more details about it. Lessons. Learning. Loss. I think about that as I walk through the quiet streets of the town we’re in and wonder what I’ll be able to do when Jay finally makes a goof too big for me to deal with.