Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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. . .

. . .

Morgan stares at Tom for a while. His irises and his pupils film over with yellow gold.

Tom recoils.

He remembers Mr. Loggins. He remembers the man on top of him, he remembers the words, he cannot hear them, he did not hear them, he refuses to hear them, but he remembers

The blood drains from Tom’s face.

He skitters back. He pushes himself along the ground away from Morgan and stops with his back against a slender tree.

“It’s supposed to help you,” he explains, frantically. “It’s a hat for helping people.”

The hat falls off of Morgan, who is upside-down. The wind carries it back in Tom’s direction. Morgan regards Tom for a long moment, but he doesn’t speak.

“It’s to help you achieve your potential,” Tom says. “I was going to be a science adventurer. Maybe refine the world or empty Hell or something. Stupid, stupid Tom.”

He stares at his fingers. He can’t remember how many he’s supposed to have.

“I’m not an ophidian world-inheritor,” he clarifies. “My DNA is totally human. So there’s that! Hey, is there even anything in . . . I mean, what is Hell, actually, did you ever think about that? Like, is it an ectoplasmological phenomenon, or an epistemological state? I mean, Hel, obviously,” he says, correcting his pronunciation to refer to the Norse afterlife instead of the British one without actually sounding different in any audible respect. “Bit of a bone-head, sometimes, haha.”

He gives Morgan a frantic smile. He claws his hat up off the ground. He puts it on. He staggers off.

He doesn’t like the house in yellow, with their yellow eyes and their yellow hats.

Sometimes at night when he is just about to complete some grand invention —

Some brilliant and awful design —

He will look up from his work and see them and their yellow House standing around him in a creepy circle. Morgan. Fred. Lirabelle. Veronica. Sometimes even Paul. (Paul is not a member of the Keepers’ House. He is simply trying to fit in.)

They will stand. They will stare. This will creep Tom out. He will forget what he is doing. He will say, plaintively, “Please stop that. I am trying to work on this —”

He’ll flail it about.

“These words and numbers,” he might say. Or “these thingummies!”

This dismisses them. They dissipate! They slip off gracefully into the halls.

They honor his wishes, when he asks, but they creep him out anyway; and he has yet to hear them speak.

They are the worst.

They are definitely the worst. They are almost the worst. They are . . .

They are definitely his least favorite thing to come out of sticking his magical hat on random people around the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth, he is pretty sure of it, until he understands what it is that his hat has made of Sid.



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