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E - Everyone

The Fire Underneath of Things - 18

by fortis



Alder’s head poked out from his office as Grey and Jack left the room. “Nikki? Ivy? Can you come here? I’d like to talk with you,” he said, in a thin, wavery voice so unlike the one he had been ranting with before.

Nikki and Ivy nodded and walked down to his office—a little room off to the side of the stage-like podium area. Alder closed the door behind them, and then sat down at a desk completely covered with books, papers, maps, bits of metal, tiny lightbulbs, pens, envelopes, and forgotten toast. All these objects and more were stacked precariously on Alder’s desk and on the floor. Nikki and Ivy had to maneuver carefully to avoid knocking anything over, but they eventually made it the chairs seated facing Alder’s desk. All four walls of the office were covered in large shelves filled to bursting with books, globes, hats, and gadgets, and Ivy could see on one shelf the regal features of a marble bust of a man. The effect of its stern gaze was somewhat lessened by the fact that someone had strapped a pair of goggles over his eyes and hung a necklace made of shells on his neck. Ivy would have giggled if Alder had not been contemplating them very seriously.

“It has come to my attention,” he began, “that you two do not know much about… what we are doing here.”

“You mean the Lightbox Society?” Nikki asked.

Alder chucked lightly, his magnified eyes crinkling under his spectacles. “Yes, I suppose so. It wasn’t my idea to make this a ‘Society’ of any sort, but I suppose that’s what it has become. People thought I was crazy when I talked about it sanely, so I figured, why not become a raving lunatic? Maybe then people will listen.”

“How did that work out?” Ivy asked.

“No better than before, but,” he held up a finger and his eyes twinkled, “it is a lot more fun.”

Ivy smiled. She wished she had been around Alder more frequently that week. He seemed like just the kind of person she liked to be around. He reminded her of her Grandmother, actually, on days when she had her wits about her, anyway. “So you wanted to explain more about the Society?”

“Yes. You have heard my speech twice now… Er, what did you think of it?” He seemed suddenly self-conscious.

“It was… interesting,” said Ivy.

“Yeah! Very… enlightening?” Nikki offered. She gave Ivy a helpless look and then groaned, head in hands. “Sorry, Alder. I wanted to hear it again in case I could actually understand something the second time, but I gotta say, I’m still lost as a sailor in the storm.”

“But,” Ivy hurried to say, “I’m sure it has a lot of metaphorical meaning.” She looked to Alder for confirmation.

“Not exactly, no.” He sighed and sat back in his chair. “There really is a darkness under the Earth. It will soon darken the sky, plants will fail, yadda yadda.” He was silent for a moment, as if collecting his thoughts. Then, suddenly, he stood up and cross the room to the shelf where the goggled bust sat. He reached for the stack of books next to the bust and brought them back to his seat. He cleared away some of the objects littering his desk so there would be room to set these new books down. The books were bound in supple brown leather, and were very worn, almost to the point of falling apart. They appeared to be journals. When Alder opened one, Ivy gasped.

“I don’t believe it,” she breathed.

Alder, too seemed surprised, though not at the books. “Is something wrong, Ivy?”

“I know those books, those journals,” she said, pointing. Her hand shook.

“You do? But how could you? They were never published.”

“I know them,” Ivy said, her pointing hand now reaching out to brush the cover of one, “because my father wrote them.” On the cover of the journal she had brushed, was an embossed name: “Charles Larkin Blackwell”.

“Your… father?” Alder seemed at a loss for words.

“Yes. How did you get them?”

“Your father was Charles Larkin Blackwell?” Alder was shaking his head now. “No it can’t be. Can it?”

“He preferred to be called Charlie, actually. Just Charlie.” Ivy didn’t know quite what to say. The last thing she expected to talk about in Alder’s office was her dad.

“What are the odds?” Alder mused, mostly to himself.

“Wait,” Nikki pipped up, “let me get this straight. Ivy’s dad, who went missing when she was just a kid,” Nikki looked apologetically at Ivy, who waved it off, “wrote journals that now you somehow have? How did you get them, Alder?”

Alder shrugged, still looking perplexed. “I picked them up at a used book store. I didn’t know- I didn’t realize that- Ivy, you never told me your last name did you?”

“I suppose not,” Ivy said. She had picked up one of the journals and was flipping through it gingerly, like it might disintegrate if she so much as breathed too hard on it. “When Grandma sold the house, She sold everything in it too. I guess all the books including Dad’s old journals went to that book store.”

“Ivy,” Alder said with great seriousness, “do you realize what is in these journals?”

“I dunno, we just visited places all around everywhere and he took notes. I was too young to really understand it. We went on a trip every year until… yeah. And way before I was born, he too my Mum too. Until she… until I was born.” Ivy found she suddenly couldn’t look at Alder, so she studied the goggled bust instead, trying to blink away the sting of tears. Why was she crying? She hadn’t cried over this for a long time. But she blinked them back, and turned back to Alder so he wouldn’t think she was weak. She hoped her eyes weren’t red.

Alder’s expression softened, but he thankfully didn’t pursue the subject of Ivy’s mother. Instead, he asked, “Ivy, do you know what your father was researching when you went out on those expeditions?”

“I think… well, he studied everything, it seemed. But he had a special fondness for rocks…” She hesitated, and thought of the dream she had had at Nikki’s house. As if in a trance, she flipped open the journal she was holding. The picture she had seen in her dream, the one that looked like someone had taken a slice out of the mountain like it was a cake, stared at her from the page. “Rocks… and mountains,” she finished.

“Not mountains. Volcanoes.

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502 Reviews

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Reviews: 502

Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:24 pm
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BiscuitsLeGuin wrote a review...

Hey again,

Nit-picks and nice moments:

Nikki and Ivy nodded and walked down to his office

I'm not sure "down" is exactly the right word. I might just not be picturing the setting properly though.

but they eventually made it to the chairs

The effect of its stern gaze was somewhat lessened by the fact that someone had strapped a pair of goggles over his eyes and hung a necklace made of shells on his neck.

I think you should choose either of "its" or "his".

Alder chuckled lightly,

He seemed like just the kind of person she liked to be around.

I think here it should be either more specific or mentioned that she doesn't know exactly what it is. It sounds a little anti-climactic to just not explain.

he stood up and crossed the room

He reached for the stack of books next to the bust and brought them back to his seat. He cleared away

This is the teensiest of tiny nit-picks but the sentence structure here is a bit repetitive.

Nikki looked apologetically at Ivy, who waved it off

Aww, that was a really nice touch.

When Grandma sold the house, she sold everything in it too.

he took my Mum too


Ooooooh we're getting to the crux of the story now, right? The Fire Underneath of Things... I'm really enjoying the fact that both Grey and Ivy's stories are going in different directions but at a very similar pace. Neither are too complicated either, so it's nice and easy to keep both in my head and care about both.

I know I've said before, but I would really have liked to hear that speech a bit more. It would have been cool to go, ohhhh that's what he meant by that, and just see everything click into place. I think the potential for suspense by doing that would have been really high.

Only other thing I want to mention is that when Nikki said she wanted to hear it again to try and understand but still didn't that it might have been cool (but not essential) for her to say in an aside that the encounter with Tommy had also made it very difficult to focus.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)

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311 Reviews

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Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:33 pm
PrincessInk wrote a review...


So that is the darkness, it seems, under the earth. I was kind of suspecting that Ivy's father was dealing with volcanoes but now I'm wondering if there's a volcano due to erupt? So anyway, I'm so curious as to what the Lightbox Society is really doing and I wonder if we're going to learn about this in the next chapter. Maybe are they going to try to prevent a volcanic eruption?

I agree with BlueAfrica about hearing the speech. Though the characters feel the intense "rant-y insanity" of the speech, we aren't really shown what it's like to sit and listen to him. I'd suggest expanding a little on the speech, like inserting memorable lines of the speech between sentences like "Half of the room was empty by now". That way, the contrast between the crazy preaching and talk in the office is much, much stronger.

A nitpicky comment I might make is that I'm just wondering how Ivy and Nikki and Alder are interacting with the setting OTHER than the book. For example, Nikki could accidentally knock over something while trying to peer over Ivy's shoulder or something. And then maybe when Ivy was blinking back her tears, they were trying to clean up so that when she faced them, they were gone.

Well, I am so fascinated by this and I am really looking forward to what happens next. See you next time! :D


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1399 Reviews

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Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:24 pm
BlueAfrica wrote a review...

COOL. 10 points to Gryffindor for Alder having her missing dad's journals. Sweet.

Okay, so I went back and skimmed over the chapters I hadn't read (the earliest ones), so now I see for sure that the speech never really was given to us in entirety. I feel like it ought to have been, once at least. Just the first time. Or at least in more detail than a line here and there followed by "he rambled for eternity" and etc. Like all we got the first time was "darkness! clouds! crazy doomsayer!" Which is fine for the last chapter, where we were hearing the speech again, but it's weird to have him ask how they liked the speech when we, the readers, did not actually hear hardly any of it. If you want to summarize/paraphrase, you can but in more detail. Like instead of "he rambled on for eternity as people started to leave," something more along the lines of "he rambled on for eternity about..." and then give us vague details of what the speech is about.

I mean, since this is for LMS, it's possible you hardly knew what the speech was about when you started writing it, but in the future.

Also: yadda yadda and such always strike me as funny when I read them in this story because they just don't seem to fit.

But I'm intrigued by the fact that he's got Ivy's dad's journals!!!!! What's in them??? I mean, volcano studies, obviously, but, like, what's so important about them? (Other than the usual real-life stuff: fertile soil but danger of eruption.) And I can't believe he's got them! Like we're finally going to find out what Ivy's dad's deal was, why he was studying volcanoes - how'd he even get a cross-section of one? Did he climb into one one time and draw a cross-section based on what he saw? Did he have some sort of x-ray but for mountains? I'm so curious! I can't wait to read more :)


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Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:44 am
MysteryMinder says...


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Points: 40
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Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:43 am
MysteryMinder says...


A memorandum isn't written to inform the receiver, but to protect the writer.
— Dean Acheson