There’s so much to process from the past couple of days. After Dr. Phillips takes my report for an exhausting two hours, I promptly collapse and sleep through the next day. I wake up briefly to the smell of my mother’s sausage, snap pea, and bowtie pasta creation, but barely say a word as I power through two helpings and go back to sleep.
The next morning I’m remarkably lively at five thirty. Anyone who knows me at all would understand this is cause for celebration. I don’t believe I have been both awake and happy before eight thirty ever before.
It’s Tuesday. My mom graciously called in to school for me the day before, but I won’t get a two-day pass. It’s just a severe case of Leaper-lag, which fellow students at Pemberton call “padding.” The longer we’re away, the longer it takes to recuperate from the collision of getting back to the regular timeline.
The longest leap I have ever taken is fifteen days. When I bounced back from that one, I puked and then felt like I had the flu for the next three days. This last nine-day stint was simply tiring.
As I bound to the kitchen in order to surprise my mother by making her breakfast, her note surprises me instead. It’s placed in the center of the stainless steel island so as to stand out.
“Carter, I knew you’d be up and about this morning. Get ready for school and we can talk tonight. Have a great day! – Mom”
After my usual routine of shower, breakfast, clothes and music, I make my way to the transit to take me to school. I like listening to older tunes my mom turned me on to. She normally leaves me a playlist each month and mentions how knowing about little things in the past will help me assimilate if I get stuck for too long. Today, I’m listening to a few tracks by The White Stripes, Glitch Mob, and Wolfmother. Not a bad selection, in my opinion.
As the school enters my view, I recall the vivid, naked jaunt I took across the parking lot only a couple of days ago. Questions still whirl around in my mind without finding a drain to get sucked into. One thing my mom made abundantly clear to me at every lucid moment during the past day is to not bring up my father, teleportation, or Lord Ray with anyone.
The first couple of periods blow by. I’m not totally sure what we’ve covered. I’m on autopilot for the last hour and a half. Zoning out on my way to my locker, I need to snag a power adapter and grab my notepad so I will have something to draw on at lunch. I’m one of the few people who still prefer feeling pen on paper to using a digital program on a textbook pad.
I’m not really sure what’s going through my mind as I reach in and out of my locker in a trance. My haze is interrupted after only a few seconds.
“Wow!” says a quiet voice to my right.
“Huh?” It isn’t a scholarly reply, but it’s better than simply not saying anything.
“Who can teleport?”
Whatever bodily, chemical reaction takes place next, scientists should seriously consider bottling it to help wake people up. Instantly, I’m focused and alert. And the person in front of me is suddenly clear as glass: Maureen Zester, an Eventual. Some kids call her Moses because she was giving a speech one day and fumbled through the words like a normal thirteen-year-old does on their first speech. When a few of the idiots in her class started laughing, she got upset and managed to push all of the chairs apart in the room. She was suspended for thirty days and hasn’t really said a lot to anyone since. Not many Eventuals say much in the first place.
Mo, as she likes to be called, is in my grade. She’s pretty in her face and still growing into her body. She’s staring at me with wonderment and glee. Her head was shaved months ago, and now it looks as though the excitement is standing up on end all around her in little exclamation points.
“Shhh,” I say, while fanning an imaginary fire down with my hand.
“Sorry, I wasn’t trying to sly on your thoughts. You were just so loud, to me.”
“Sly” is Eventual terminology for listening in on what other people are thinking. Most Eventuals don’t detect much more than the occasional passing thought, and though they have some signs of telekinesis, there’s mostly just a lot of static going on in their brains.
“Well, I wasn’t trying to be loud. Guess I was just zoning out.”
“It’s ok. So, who was doing the…” She makes a motion with her hands and eyes, closing and opening them simultaneously. I assume this is the international symbol for teleportation. Now I need to think of something to distract this chasing bear.
“Boy, you sure are snarky,” Mo states.
“I don’t know the international sign for teleportation. It’s my best way of asking without saying it out loud.”
“Jeez, you picking up on everything I think?”
Now she fans imaginary flames to quiet me down. “Shh!”
“Sorry, but I thought most of you couldn’t sly people at will. And I don’t know anyone who can teleport. I was just daydreaming, thinking of what it could be like.”
“Well,” she says, “I know the difference between when a person is imagining things and when they’re remembering things. Someone in your room moved across it within a blink and made you almost second-guess it happened. Except that you remembered it happening before in your kitchen.”
Invisible flames, invisible flames. For whatever reason, Mo is intriguing me and frightening me at the same time. How many others at my school are concealing their abilities? Not only that, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked with Mo past a simple “hello” while holding a door open. Her shaved head usually doesn’t leave a lot to catch my eye, but now that she’s in front of me, she has the prettiest eyes I think I’ve ever seen—the kind that show how feminine and gentle she is just by their shape. And their color draws me in.
Oh, crap. Did she just…?
As she blushes slightly, I think I’m turning three shades darker. She totally just heard me. Before I drastically try to get out of this embarrassment, I think of what dating her would be like—stressful or relaxing—the need to hide things not even being an option.
“Carter, please.” The way she says it, she’s not disgusted. Mainly, she wants to move past my flattery before it makes her uncomfortable.
“Sorry, you have me at a disadvantage.”
“I don’t normally hear people this clearly. With you, the other noise fades and you stand out more. The words in your mind become pictures for me.”
I can’t tell if that’s a compliment or not, yet. Before I make another attempt to lie to Mo while she learns the truth by slying, I have to get out of the situation. I don’t want to go back on my word to my mom, either willingly or unknowingly.
“Mo, I have to get to class. Can we pick up on this later?” It’s true. I only have two minutes to make it over by the gymnasium to art class. She looks at me sadly, as if she senses the blow off, but as a sentiment of good faith, I try to project the thought that I can’t tell and I hope she won’t either.
I close my locker and do a 180 as I head to my next class. After I pass a few classrooms, I have the distinct feeling someone is following me. As I make my way to the doors that lead to the next wing, where I have my class, I notice a vague reflection in the glass pane of the door. A bald person is about fifteen feet behind me. Is Mo following me?
After I pop into my class and dart into my seat, I hear the door unlatch as someone else enters. Mo strolls in and walks in my direction. A panic of high-school proportions starts to settle in as I wonder what kind of scene she plans to make and how I’m going to explain whatever comes out of her mouth to curious onlookers. A layer of adrenaline pushes through every pore, and I nervously think of heading her off at the pass before she says anything.
When she gets close enough, I see sadness in her eyes. She walks by me, one row over, and proceeds to the back where she takes a seat, her seat. Mo has been in my class all year and I wasn’t even aware. Open mouth and insert foot… up to the knee.
I think my internal mantra of I’m sorries interrupts any chance for Mo to learn in class that day. I feel like such an ass, for a multitude of reasons. After the bell rings, Mo straps on her rocket boots and propels out of the room before I have the chance to talk to her.
It isn’t until lunch that she decides to speak to me. I’m doodling while simultaneously eating a chicken strip. I have bitten into some small piece of fat at the exact moment I hear her talking to me over my shoulder.
“I’m not stalking you, you know.”
As I turn around, I have the look of a gargoyle watching over an archaic church. The way the funky texture in my mouth catches me by surprise helps foster that. I feel bad all over again—like, what else can I do to ward off Mo?
Fortunately, she giggles to herself as she shakes her head, knowing exactly why I am sporting the look on my face. My apologies will soon follow, just as soon as I find somewhere to spit out this chunk of meat.
“Here,” she says, while handing me a napkin. “I don’t know what kind of ‘chicken’ they use in our lunches, either.” Somehow, when she just does air quotes, I don’t mind.
In my most graceful attempt at spitting out chewed chicken bits, I place it all in the napkin and wad it up on the plate then push the tray aside. A quick drink to wash the grossness away follows, as Mo moves around the table to sit across from me.
“Why do you eat alone? Don’t you have friends?”
“Don’t you?” I fire back.
“Some, but not very close. Classmates mostly.”
“Same. I have one good friend, but he goes to a different school. People around here all seem so…” I can’t quite think of the word.
Nailed it. “Yeah.” This could be the coolest friendship ever… or the worst.
She grimaces a little and then brushes it off. “So, the thing I saw before? Care to explain?”
Not really. Secrets are a responsibility—and a painfully taxing one, at that. It’s like asking someone to share your burden with the same intensity you do. For the most part, I don’t willingly divulge the things I know to just anyone. Yet, somehow, Mo puts those fears at ease.
“It’s not a burden. I have my own secrets that you now know about. And I trust you won’t tell anyone here.” She smiles, and I notice how remarkably straight her teeth are. Not that I expected fangs or anything, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her talk enough to verify teeth, let alone a smile. That goes for all Eventual smiling, for that matter.
She blushes slightly then continues. “I’m sorry if I might seem a little pestering. It was just so vivid, and I’d never seen anything like it.”
Without speaking, I relay the memories I had from the moment I leapt to the school parking lot to when I came back. I make sure to avoid recalling my nudity in my leaps. There’s no need to jump into a PG-13 rating.
After I’m done, I concentrate and then open my eyes and look at the table. I must have reached out my hand, as it is now resting inside of hers. It’s tiny and soft, not clammy or scaly. It just seems to fit, like it belongs there. Still, to avoid any serious complications or embarrassment for either of us, I withdraw. “Sorry, didn’t realize I did that.”
“Don’t worry, Carter. It helps.” Her smile, again. Oddly, I’m getting more used to the notion of having her around me—a lot more used to it.
The bell chimes, and lunch is over. A mass rising of people from their benches has us following suit. I have a two-hour block of English and Math to end my day. Something takes ahold of my mouth, and before I know it, I’m asking Mo a question.
“Do you want to do something after school?”
She radiates a smile my way. Without saying a word to break it up, I hear her voice inside of my mind. “Yes.”
The surprise on my face must say it all.
“See, Carter. I have a few more secrets, too.”
With that, she picks up her backpack and leaves in the direction I’m not destined to go. I want to follow, but I will never make it to class on time if I do. Since she knows what I’m thinking, she raises a hand in the air and, without turning around, waves behind herself at me.
During the second half of my English block, we’re going over the use of the semi-colon when I hear the speakers chime and the call for someone to come to the office. At first, I’m not paying attention. The last name makes me try to recall the message entirely, as I think I heard “Zester” in there.
I lean over to the closest friendly-looking person and ask, “Did they say Zester?”
“Yeah, I guess Moses has a calling in the Principal’s office.”
I’m a little offended by this person calling her Moses. Still, information received. “Thanks.”
My mind runs thoughts together like oil paints. Nothing is mixing completely, just integrating smears. What does she have to go to the office? What did she do? Suddenly, I’m nervous and wondering if Mo is okay. The next couple of hours are going to be arduous, at best.
At the final chime of the day, I make the quickest trip to my locker, keeping my eyes open constantly for Mo in the halls. I’m not really certain what class she has or where her locker is, but I remain focused. Outside, I stop by the bench leading to the parking lot. I know she drives a little yellow car, and I’m pretty certain she has nothing going on after school.
I’m sitting on the bench when my phone starts vibrating in my pocket. I pull it out to see an unfamiliar number with no picture ID hovering above. I answer nonetheless. “Hello?”
“Hey, Carter. It’s Mo.”
“Hey! How did you get my number?”
“Sorry, did a little slying when you were showing me things earlier. Figured I’d give you a call sometime or have it just in case.”
It’s somewhat flattering, but a tad intrusive. I’m not sure how I feel about someone picking out what they want from my brain like it’s a discount store bin.
“Did I go too far?” Her voice sounds nervous. As much as I like my privacy, I’m actually not upset.
“No, you’re fine. Say, I was waiting for you outside. Are you out yet?”
“Yeah, I’m actually just getting into my car,” she says.
“You must have snuck right by me.” I don’t know how I missed her.
“Oh, I have gym as my last class. I exit right from there, and it’s a quick walk to the parking lot.”
Well, that explains it. Now, the awkward part. I don’t think she can read my mind over the phone, or else she’d know already that I want to go grab something to eat or walk or anything.
“Shoot,” she plainly states.
“I don’t know. Something made a grinding noise when I pushed the button and now my car isn’t starting.” A few seconds go by before she talks again. I hope that isn’t an invitation for me to take a look at her car, because I have no clue about automotive repair. “Um… and now my doors are locked and won’t open.”
There is a weird crackle on the phone, and suddenly the call is gone. This is weird, and my feet think the same thing as we start heading toward the parking lot. I notice the yellow car a few rows over, with Mo fidgeting in the driver’s seat, looking as though she must have dropped her phone on the floor.
Then I see the black smoke billowing up from the engine. It looks like her car is catching fire. Mo is now banging into the door from the inside as if trying to open it with her shoulder. She looks out across the parking lot and as her eyes meet mine, I hear her in my head again, much louder.
“Carter! Help me!!”
Flames peek from under the hood, and smoke collects inside the cab of her vehicle, veiling her while suffocating her. I weave in and out through a few cars as I hear a noticeable pop come from her car’s direction as one of her tires explodes from the heat. People standing around debate what to do and some move farther away, waiting for a full detonation.
My body doesn’t need my mind to work for it to know what to do. I simply have the desire to help her, and the next minute, my eyes are watering, and it’s hard to breathe. I hear Mo coughing in the driver’s seat as I am sitting directly behind her. I have no clue what just happened, but now I know I want to get the hell out of there.
Instinctively, I wrap my arms around the seat, barely able to touch my fingers together and duplicate that feeling of want again. This time, it gets both of us to safety. My mind goes blank for a second and I swear I’m underwater. No sound or feeling of anything comes to mind. I am shut off from all perceptions.
When I come to, I notice my backyard. I’m clutching a car seat and a coughing, bald-headed girl from my school. It takes a few laborious coughs for her to get air back into her lungs. Once she’s breathing and the tears of strain and panic subside, she turns around and wraps her fragile arms around me.
“Oh my God, thank you, Carter!” she exclaims, while coughing into the crook of my neck. The car seat has fumbled out of the way as we embrace at an awkward angle.
“Yup… I’m naked.” Awkward does not begin to cover this scenario.