Avery awoke to her head snapping back as someone violently shook her shoulders. The fifteen year-old cried out and twisted away, slapping blindly at her assailant. The fingers dug harder into her shoulders before pushing her back down against the bed. She held her arms in front of her face protectively, her breaths short and whimpery.
"Where is he?" Her father's voice. He wasn't shouting, but the amount of venom he spoke with made Avery shrink away. "Don't just sit there! Where is he?"
Still racing to catch up with what was going on, Avery stammered and scooted back against she hit the wall. "I-I… What? Who? When did you get back?" Her tremulous tone begged him to stop glaring daggers at her in the dark.
Her father wasn't one to waste time on patience. "Devon! Where the hell is Devon?"
"He's… He's not in bed? But I saw him go to bed!"
He seized her by the shoulder and dragged her out of bed, her legs tangling in her patchy blanket. Once she found her footing, she followed him without protest, alarmed by the very thought that her brother was not where he was supposed to be. Sure enough, the makeshift room created by hanging cloths in the corner of the family's meager dwelling was empty.
Her little brother was missing.
Avery went cold, holding her hands close to herself and glancing at the floorboards overhead as if they would rip open and massive hands would snatch her and her father from safety. She swallowed hard and silenced those thoughts. It was panic-inducing enough that Devon was nowhere to be seen.
"H-he probably just wanted to explore while you were away," she stammered, able to see her father better now that her eyes adjusted to the weak moonlight pushing from above. "You came back a whole day earlier than we thought you'd be. He thought he could get away with it. I'm sure he's fine. He has to be."
"With that human boy already onto us?" her father hissed, pulling away to snatch his hook and rope from where he had hung them on the wall. "He knows better. And you know better! You should have kept a better eye on him, Avery. I leave expecting I can trust you, and then this…" He trailed off and through his coiled climbing rope over his shoulder, marching toward the exit tunnel.
"Let me help!" Avery called, her voice cracking. It was times like this she wished they lived near other borrower families in the apartment building. But her father insisted that there couldn't be too many of them concentrated in one area. Humans would find them easier that way. If there were others, finding Devon would be so much easier, though. "Dad, please, I-I can help! If we look on different sides of the apartment--"
"Absolutely not!" This time, he raised his voice and made her come to a halt. "You stay put. You hear me? I won't have you getting lost too."
"How can I get lost?" she argued before she could stop herself, starting after him again into the wooden tunnel that ran parallel to the humans' living room wall. "I've gone borrowing with you plenty of times! Don't you want to find him--"
"Stay here." He stopped just short of the makeshift ladder that led to the platform level with the living room floor. He fixed her with a look that was not to be argued with. "Stay here. Our food stores are low. He'll have gone to the kitchen. I'll bring him back, and you'd better be here when I do."
It didn't take long for Avery to disobey. Once her father was well out of earshot, she tied her short frizzy hair up and retrieved her rope from the wall, gripping her single-pronged fishing hook. Any fear she had for getting in trouble was vastly outweighed by fear for her brother's safety.
Then it hit her. Something her father had overlooked. Devon's climbing gear was still on the wall, untouched. Her heart skipped beat. What in the world was that boy thinking?
He knew better than to sneak out. He was barely ten years old, not old enough to go borrowing on his own, especially under the circumstances. More than once in the past couple months, their father had spotted the human boy in the house peeking under furniture, shifting things around as if looking for something.
Even her panic, Avery minded the rules. Pushing carefully at the wallpaper that led out under the enormous desk in the humans' living room, she peered out before making any other move. After listening for the span of a minute, she ventured out into the silence.
The towering counter across the room that divided the living room from the kitchen was standing to the right, so she headed to the left, toward the bedrooms. Covering as much ground as possible was her only goal, no matter how sure her father was that Devon went to the kitchen. After all, the kid hadn't even taken his climbing gear. She kept to the wall, slipping behind the couch to reach the short hall that contained two bedroom doorways--both of which were ajar.
She started with the bigger bedroom, where the human parents slept. Her heart thudded madly as she peered inside, eyes sweeping the floor. Moonlight filtered through the blinds, giving her plenty of illumination. She went rigid when the bed creaked, but it must have only been one of the humans shifting in their sleep, because their slow and steady breathing remained constant.
Figuring she should at least give the other room a once-over before venturing all the way into either bedroom, Avery jogged across the hall and peeked inside the human boy's bedroom. His name was Lucas, from what she'd overheard. The dim lamp on his nightstand was on, like always. The shade had star- and moon-shaped holes carved into it that threw those images onto the dark walls. Avery wasn't so keen on admiring the light the way she usually did.
Especially not when she caught sight of a small form making its way under the bed.
Her heart fluttered with relief, but she knew it wasn't over yet. He was far away, and she needed to get his attention without risking too much commotion that could wake up the human boy. Avery paused at the doorway, deciding she would make her way along the wall and go behind the nightstand. That way she wouldn't be out in the open at any time.
Before she could venture out, she looked at Devon across the way. Any relief she felt was dashed when he cupped his hands over his mouth and looked up toward the mattress.
No… He couldn't possibly…
His voice floated into the room as he called out. Avery was frozen in horror, flinching back behind the door frame when the bed creaked. This time, it wasn't a human simply adjusting. An enormous hand reached down to the floor on the other side of the bed, heading straight for Avery's brother.
"No," she breathed, staggering away from her hiding place.
But the human boy didn't make a grab for Devon. He laid his hand flat on the hardwood like a living platform, and Devon climbed right on.
Avery could only watch in horror as her little brother was whisked out of sight in the enormous hand. She skittered back and leaned against the doorframe, legs shaking so hard she was she she'd collapse.
The human boy had tricked Devon. There was no way around it. Her brother had been tricked, and now he was right in a monster's clutches. Avery was torn between racing for the bed to save him or going to find her father.
But there was no time for the latter. She needed to get to Devon now, though she didn't have a clue of how to go about saving him. Biting her lip, she hesitated for only a moment longer before bolting away from the door, running along the wall to reach the nightstand. Overhead, she could hear the human boy, Lucas, talking.
"You sure you're not hungry? I could give you some food to take back." The boy kept his voice surprisingly low for a human, but he was still far louder than Devon, who Avery couldn't even hear from the floor. "Alright," Lucas sighed in reply to whatever Devon had said. "I guess that makes sense."
Avery only half-listened, throwing her hook up to the top of the nightstand and making sure she was at an angle that the human wouldn't be able to see her climbing up. Without so much as a grunt of effort, Avery look a jumping start for the rope and made her way up to the top, hearing the murmurs of the human boy all the while. She felt a chill crawl down her spine at how casual he sounded. For how long had her brother been coming out here in secret?
Another round of uncertainty hit Avery once she gripped the top of the nightstand, pulling herself up behind the decorative lamp. She ducked low so that she wouldn't throw her shadow to the wall, contemplating what to do about rescuing her brother. Maybe she could create a distraction somehow… Though that didn't seem very helpful, seeing as Lucas already had Devon in his hand.
Before she could work out another plan, the bed creaked, and Avery scrabbled further behind the lamp, making herself as small as possible to avoid the human boy's dangerous gaze.
"Okay, but we'll have to keep the volume low," Lucas whispered, a smile in his voice. "My parents'll kill me if they catch me staying up this late." A pause, then he laughed softly in disbelief. "No, I don't mean that for real."
Avery pressed her back to lamp and kept her head down, holding her breath as the nightstand gave a few rattles from the human moving across the room to the doorway. She peeked between her fingers and shuddered, watching as Lucas peeked out from behind the door. Almost the way a borrower would when checking if it was safe. Then he pulled the door open fully and crept out of the room with one hand cupped close. The hand that held Devon.
Huffing indignantly, Avery leaped out from behind her hiding spot and swung herself back over the side of the nightstand, sliding down her rope to reach the floor. That talk of keeping the volume low had to be about the television. Which mean maybe now there would be a good enough distraction to whisk Devon away from the human without being noticed.
Avery nimbly climbed down the rope and flicked the hook off the edge of the nightstand once her feet were on the ground. She wound the string back up as she jogged to the towering door, listening to the sound of the TV in the other room. The volume must have been too low to wake up the human's parents, but it was certainly loud enough for a borrower to hear from down the hall.
Steeling herself, she pressed her side to the doorway and peeked out. It was the strangest thing… The human boy sat on the floor, leaning back against the bottom of the couch with a video game controller on his lap. In the flickering light of the TV, Avery could just barely make out Devon's much smaller form on the edge of a couch cushion, sitting cross-legged.
Just sitting there comfortably without a care in the world.
Avery supposed nothing should have shocked her after seeing Devon climb onto the human's hand, but part of her had hoped she'd interpreted the sight wrong.
You are in so much trouble, she thought with a little shake of her head. At least the human was very much distracted by the video game now.
Although that was the case, she was still careful in making her way out into the hallway, hugging the wall. It was too dangerous to run out in the open; all it would take was a glance in her direction to have the human upon her. However, Avery found that she didn't have much of a choice when it came to reaching the couch, which sat in the middle of the room. All she could do was much she was well out of Lucas' line of sight.
Once she was confident the boy was too fixated on the screen to look, Avery bolted from the wall with silent steps and didn't dare stop until she was in the shadow of the couch's side, where the human wouldn't be able to see her even if he twisted all the way around.
After taking a moment to catch her breath, Avery tossed her hook up to the armrest of the touch. It wasn't ideal. Leaving even faint marks on the fabric could go noticed by human, but with Devon sitting beside a human, the borrower in the apartment were clearly way passed noticed already.
The human groaned in annoyance when Avery reached the top of the touch, nearly frightening her into letting go of her climbing rope. She scrambled the rest of the way up and huddled against where the armrest met the backrest of the couch, scrunching herself down as small as possible.
"You see that?" The human's voice wasn't deep like his father's, but it still rattled her and made her heart flutter with terror. "I've been stuck on this part all day."
"It doesn't look that hard," Devon scoffed. Avery wanted to clamp a hand over his mouth for doing something as stupid as mocking a human. "You just need to get out of the way faster."
Lucas made a noise of frustration. "Yeah? You wanna give it a go, pipsqueak?"
Avery held her breath and shook. Devon's dead. He's dead, dead, dead. So dead.
The two boys, human and borrower, shared a laugh and then fell silent again when the video game's music started up again. Avery peeked past the protective barrier of her arms, looking at the cushion where Devon sat.
It was now or never.
She uncurled from her hiding spot and slid down the armrest, keeping an eye on the human at all times. His shoulders tensed and untensed as he played the game, but he never turned around. Finally, Avery was right behind her brother.
Before she could chicken out, she lunged and threw her hand over Devon's mouth, hooking her other arm around his chest to haul him to his feet. He struggled in alarm and twisted his head enough to see her out of the corner of his eye. He frowned and squirmed, trying to speak through her hand.
Shushing him under her breath, she pulled him toward the armrest, unsure of how she was going to get him up to the hook without him fighting her--let alone down to the floor.
The human clicked his tongue, prompting Avery to freeze. "You see? It's not as simple as getting out of the way. This guy has a long reach."
Snapping out of her stupor, Avery abandoned her mission of reaching the top of the armrest and pulled Devon behind a pillow laying at the back of the cushion, holding tightly to him when the human spoke again.
"Huh? Devon, where'd you go?"
Avery eased back, keeping a firm hold on her little brother, who gave a groan of protest. Other than making sure he couldn't squirm free, she didn't acknowledge him beyond a hiss for him to stay quiet. She peeked out from behind the pillow as far as she dared.
The human was looking around in confusion, his face cast into eerie shadows with the light of the TV behind him. A frown creased his face, and he disappeared briefly, reaching for the armrest of the couch. Avery bit her lip. His hand came so close. When he came back into full view, her heart dropped at the sight of Lucas inspecting her fishing hook and string between his finger and thumb.
The only means of climbing down was gone.
"Devon, c'mon, I thought you wanted to be out here." The human ducked down, presumably to check under the couch.
Before Avery could think of making a break to a safer hiding spot, Lucas sat back up again with an exasperated sigh. And then, his massive hand was filling her vision. A yelp shot past her lips before she could stop it. She scrambled backwards, twisting around to shield her brother protectively even as he tried to wrench himself free.
But there was no stopping the pillow from flying off of them. Nor could she stop the human from staring at the pair of them with his bewildered brown eyes.
With that, Avery's grip failed her, and Devon finally freed himself, pushing away with a grunt. She was too frozen to try and pull him back from getting some space.
"You're ruining everything, Avery!" Devon stood up on the couch cushion and crossed his arms petulantly. "What're you doing here? You're supposed to be asleep!"
Despite the fact that there was a human staring at them--a human who could snatch her up at any moment--Avery found it within herself to throw Devon a scathing glare. "Me? What about you? You're the one who disappeared into the night to… to… to do whatever this is! Putting all of us in danger!"
Devon scowled stubbornly. "Lucas isn't dangerous! I'm just watching him play video games."
Before Avery could rebuke him, the human spoke up and made her freeze all over again. "So this is your sister?"
Avery leaned against the backrest of the touch as the human stared at her. She watched for his hands, praying she would be able to get to her feet and bolt if need be. With her legs about as effective as jelly at the moment, she doubted it. But Lucas looked almost nervous as he eyed her. From her brief glances in the past, it had been easy to overlook just how young he was. He couldn't be that much older than Devon, and he was certainly younger than her.
"Yeah, that's her," Devon answered, seeing as the question was mostly directed at him despite the human's eyes being on her.
Lucas bit his lip awkwardly and looked down for a moment. "I, um… Sorry for scaring you, Avery. I'm not gonna hurt you or your family, really, if that's what you're worried about." He gave her an earnest look, like he was trying to talk his way out of getting into trouble with her. "A-and I'm not gonna tell anyone about you either! Devon already told me you're supposed to be a secret."
When Avery didn't answer, his face fell.
"You're not mad, are you?" Lucas asked. She could believe this was the same person who had been teasing her brother mere minutes ago.
"I… Am I mad?" Avery blinked. Being spotted by a human wasn't going anything like her father had warned it would. "I dunno what kinda game you're trying to play, but I'm not falling for it! Not like my brother did. You can't trick me." But her tone was faltering. Now that the absolute worst had happened, it caught up with her how strange this human was acting. He hadn't even made a grab for her. He had the guilty look of a kid who had been caught doing something wrong.
That's all he was. A kid.
Devon huffed. "See, this is why I didn't wanna introduce you."
Pursing her lips, Avery divided her attention between Devon and Lucas. Devon made it sound like her outrage was completely unreasonable. As if the danger he was putting his family in was completely reasonable. "How long have you been coming out here, huh?"
Finally, Devon looked a little guilty, staring down at the fabric of the couch. "Few months," he mumbled.
"Months?" Avery hissed. "Why would you--"
"He's my friend!" Devon looked up and met her eyes, looking less annoyed and more… scared. "He's nice, I promise! But I knew you and Dad wouldn't list, so I couldn't tell you!"
Suddenly, it made sense to Avery why her brother had been so against moving to another section of the apartment building. Her face softened without her permission. The other borrower families in the area were far away because it wasn't safe to have too many of them concentrated in one place. Devon had complained more than once that he wished there were other people around.
Avery gave the human a long look. He said nothing, but he had the same leading look on his face as Devon, those big brown eyes practically begging her to understand.
"Well, Dad's back," Avery said finally.
Devon's eyes went round. "He… What? I thought he wouldn't be back until tomorrow!"
"He's back, and he's looking for you in the kitchen. Though you made a food run on your own." She gave him a grim look. "If he finds out what you're doing here…"
Lunging at Avery, Devon grabbed her hand and tugged her to stand. He pulled her closer to the edge--closer to the human. Avery went rigid and dragged her feet the whole time. Deep-rooted instinct made her wonder if their father's anger was even something they should be frightened of. Maybe the human wouldn't allow them to leave at all.
"Lucas, we need to go home! If my dad finds out I'm with you, he'll make us move for sure!"
The boy sat up straighter. "O-okay! How 'bout I take you there? It'll be faster that way."
Avery's jaw almost dropped. "Y-you… No! We're not gonna show you where we live!"
"You mean that space in the wall under the desk?" The human said it too casually to truly grasp how frightening that statement was.
"That's… That's not…"
"He already knows, Sis," Devon said drolly. "And he hasn't tried to catch us at all. Just let him take us home."
Before Avery could protest, the human raised his hand. She pulled away with a gasp, preparing to be snatched up by those giant fingers. But the human didn't reach for the pair of borrowers. He rested his hand on the edge of the couch cushion, palm up, the same was he'd offered his hand to Devon in the bedroom.
"Maybe I can just give you a lift to the floor, then?" Lucas asked tentatively. "It'll be faster than climbing down, wouldn't it? Plus, we can't let your dad see me carrying you over to the desk, right?" He asked it all to Avery, searching for her approval on his logic.
"That's true," Devon said, stepping forward with ease and climbing onto the huge hand. He looked over his shoulder and waved his arm. "Come on, Sis! We need to get back home before Dad does."
Avery knew she had to be out of her mind when she walked forward. She couldn't just watch Devon sit in that hand alone. Her limbs shook all the while, but she made herself climb aboard next to her brother. She didn't have time to process the strangeness of the warmth beneath her before the human rested his hand on the floor, allowing them to climb off.
Lucas really was letting them go.
Not wanting to be near the human a moment longer than necessary, Avery pushed herself to the hardwood and stepped back warily. Without warning, the human's other hand approached. She flinched and raised her arms in defense, gasping.
"Here, this is yours right?"
Avery lowered her hand slowly and saw the human holding out her hook and string. She frowned, shuffling forward enough to snatch it away from him and hold it close. She backed away and stared up at his face. He still stared guiltily, and although he towered over her, she felt something tug at her heart.
"I'm not mad," she made herself say.
The human looked surprised at that, and then his worried expression melted into relief. "So, you'll… let Devon come again?"
Asking permission. He was asking permission, as if she had even a fraction of actual power in the situation. She hesitated. "We'll see."
With that she took Devon by the shoulder and led him away from the couch. She glanced back periodically to make sure Lucas wasn't following. He stayed where he was, looking uncertain before he turned around and reached to turn off the game system.
Heaving a sigh, Avery glanced down at her brother. "You better come up with a good excuse for Dad. Either way, you are in so much trouble."
I felt like writing a little borrower story. ;v; If inspiration strikes, I may write more about these characters, but for now, this is a oneshot.
I love this!
Oh my gosh, love it!!! Lucas is so sweet!
Aww what a cute lil family. I'm glad I finally got time to read it
;A; AHHH THIS IS SO DARN CUTE I LOVE IT~
Let's hope Devin's excuse is believable.
Ah, siblings and suspense. Two of my favorite things. Flipping love this all the way through.
Loved this. Avery's fear was so palpable - it sent shivers down my spine, very well written. Would definitely love to see more.
Oh, this is amazing! I can just imagine my younger sister pulling something like this, it's just something she, and apparently Devon, would do! Great short!
omg i loved this little story ;w; poor avery just wanting to keep her brother safe and out of trouble!! imagine if the boy he ran into wasnt so nice D:
what if it was rodney
what if it was rodney
Yaaay, I'm glad you liked it! Poor bab was freaking out ;v;
Just the thought of that stresses me out aaghhhhh no
Just the thought of that stresses me out aaghhhhh no
I AM SERIOUSLY IN LOVE WITH THIS STORY! How did Devon and Lucas meet?