Hi all! Another Friday, another story. In Teamwork (Part 2): The Twelve-Eyed Starer, Max is in trouble with Ms. Pine and has to work with his new coworker, Trevor (god do we hate Trevor), to get out of it. We’ll see how it goes. If your curious about what got him into trouble, check out Teamwork (Part 1): Phase Feathers post last week.
For anyone counting, this story was 1551 words out of a goal of 1500. I’m gonna say it’s good.
Teamwork (Part 2): The Twelve-Eyed Starer
Trevor had been right, Ms. Pine did take 2nd floor access very seriously. Max nodded as she spoke and then, remembering they were on the phone, began inserting “yes” and “understood” at what seemed like appropriate intervals.
Max could barely hear her, instead focused on the numbness he felt inside. He was crushed. She explained, loudly, that some of the monsters kept on this floor were classified, or intellectual property, or dangerous! And Max did not have the proper clearance, signatures, or training to interact with them in any capacity.
Ms. Pine had never shouted at him before. Ms. Pine didn’t shout. She was always smiles and caring and adventure. Yes, he was in a lot of trouble this time.
Trevor stood in the doorway, somewhat hunched, trying to look anywhere but at Max. Sure Max had broken some rules, but he’d handled the situation properly and Ms. Pine never would have been the wiser had Trevor not called and told. Max had thought Trevor rude and curt before, but this had just been mean.
Ms. Pine asked to speak to Trevor. Max apologized one more time and handed over the phone. Trevor did not look pleased and Max felt a little better. Maybe Trevor had got in trouble too.
Still on the phone, Trevor walked down the hall and entered another room, then came back to the threshold with two clipboards in his hand. He finally said goodbye to Ms. Pine, and Max moved to the door to leave.
“Where do you think you’re going? There’s still work to do.” He didn’t move to let Max pass.
“I just assumed that with all the trouble I’m in, Ms. Pine didn’t want me around.”
“I’m sure she doesn’t. But your narrowly avoided catastrophe means Ms. Pine wants us to inventory everything in here to make sure nothing else is amiss. If I gotta work more, you gotta work more.” Trevor slammed a clipboard into Max’s chest. “Take the left side, I’ll start on the right.”
Max did as he was told, examining each of the strange creatures and checking off the items associated with each one. Did it have the proper amount of tails? Wings? Should it have antennae coming from there? Max enjoyed the work. He was seeing creatures that he’d never get to see otherwise, and maybe if he did this well, he could get back into Ms. Pine’s good graces.
But he couldn’t help thinking of Trevor. Why was he being so mean? He didn’t even seem to like this job, while Max adored it. He nearly called out to Trevor to ask but decided instead to refocus on the work.
The next creature on his list was called the Twelve-Eyed Starer. He checked the cube it was supposed to be in, and just like the picture on his clipboard, the orange worm-like creature “looked” up at him through the plastic.
It had five sets of white and blue eyes which swiveled here and there on the creature’s back. One pair focused on Max and he began to grip his clipboard very tightly and felt the desire to run though he found he couldn’t move. The eyes swiveled away, and Max let out a sigh.
Was it weird that the Twelve-Eyed Starer should only have ten eyes? He looked at the picture on the clipboard again to be sure. It showed the creature coming towards the viewer at an angle, – like a train or subway car – its tail trailing back towards the horizon. Only five “eyes” comprised the image, but its entire body wasn’t clear in the photo.
Now it was Max’s turn to roll his eyes. Maybe he should ask Trevor for help? Maybe he should ask him just to see if he’d freeze up like Max had done when looking into the eyes.
“Hey Trevor?” He said half smiling to himself. “Can you come take a look at this?”
Trevor sauntered over. “What?”
“You think this is a mistake?” Max said, trying to watch Trevor from the corner of his eye. So far it seemed he hadn’t looked directly at the worm. He was too busy acting aloof. “Thing’s only got ten eyes.”
That seemed to get his attention, but still, he didn’t look at the worm. “Tap on the side of the cube there would ya? Do it lightly but keep it steady.”
Max complied wondering what the boy was getting at. The Starer focused all its eyes on Max’s finger and Trevor finally bent forward to examine it. “Look here at the left side. It looks like it’s been sliced or something. There’s probably a segment missing. Clipboard says when they reproduce pieces break off and then regenerate like an earthworm can do. Or don’t you read?”
Max grimaced and continued to tap his finger. He really should have caught that. “Shouldn’t there be two Starers then? Shouldn’t there still be 12 eyes in the cube?”
“Who knows? Maybe the other segment is in a different cube somewhere. Maybe Ms. Pine sold it, or is using if for experiments . . .”
That’s when Max noticed that the gate on the cube hadn’t been sealed. In fact just the vibration from his finger tapping had begun to open the gate slightly and the Starer had noticed, floating towards the small opening on yarn like tendrils which made the creature resemble an oddly terrifying scrub brush. Max closed the cube gate. A hydraulic hiss signaled that it had finally been sealed shut.
Trevor rolled his eyes again and Max wondered briefly if they ever got sore, like an overused muscle.
“C’mon. Let’s go look for it.”
The silence that followed as they scanned the room was quite uncomfortable. Finally, Max couldn’t bear it anymore. “What is your deal? Ever since I got here, you’ve be rude and mean. Then you told Ms. Pine on me. And now it’s like your blaming me for this too. This is not my fault.”
Trevor turned to face him. “What? I’m supposed to just let you come in and take my job?”
“Well – ” Max stumbled. Obviously not but . . . “You don’t even like this job. Why do it? Why not work somewhere else where they appreciate – rude people!”
“I can’t! It has to be this job. Alright?!”
“Why? Why does it have to be this job?”
Trevor shook, as if he was fighting to move against the Starer’s gaze, but it was nowhere to be seen and he was looking right at Max. He was angry, struggling to control himself, not fight against the control of something else. Tears rimmed his eyes but didn’t fall.
Max relented. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t pry. Have we checked over here?” Max started towards another group of cubes.
“It’s fine. It’s not like you could know, we just met today, and I don’t talk about it.” Trevor said softly. “My mom is sick. Medicine produced by the creatures here is helping her mend, but we can’t afford it on our own. Ms. Pine lets me work here and knocks my wages off the bill. It’s enough for us to get the pills. And now, because of your catastrophe earlier and your obsession with impressing Ms. Pine, that’s been put in jeopardy.”
For the second time today, Max felt crushed. He’d never even thought . . . what could he say? There wasn’t time to think on it for at that moment, he could see out of the corner of his eye, a tiny orange, blue and white scrub brush gliding across the floor.
Max didn’t move, but this time it was on purpose. “Trevor, do you see it? You should be the one to grab it. Whatever trouble you were in because of me will disappear if you’re the one to fix this.”
“I can’t.” Trevor said through clenched teeth.
“Nonsense. You have to – “
“Max!” Trevor hissed. “It’s looking at me.”
Max tried to maneuver behind it but the creature swiveled its eyes to look at him, freezing him in place, but allowing Trevor to move. Then the creature froze Trevor in place. It couldn’t look at both of them though, and it was only a matter of time before one of them was able to grab it.
Max counted the turns. Alternating like this, Max would be the one to grab it. But Trevor needed the win.
When it came time for Max to move again, he stayed where he was clapping his hands to distract the creature. It worked! Trevor was nearly on top of it!
Sensing its imminent capture, the Starer shuttered and its swiveling eyes split to look at each of the boys. It looked ridiculous. Max found himself laughing and he saw Trevor smile too. No longer afraid, they came forward together and grabbed the creature, carrying it back to its cube and placing it within.
Ms. Pine called later to check on their progress, and Max could see Trevor tense as he reported what happened with the Starer.
“Well who managed to capture it?” Max heard from the receiver. Trevor looked uncomfortably at Max. What should he say? Max pointed at Trevor. He mouthed “You did.” Trevor rolled his eyes again, but there was a smile on his face. He’d keep his job after all . . .
Hey again, I hope you enjoyed Teamwork Pt. 2: The Twelve-Eyed Starer. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!
See you next time!