A Time to Reap

TTTG Ch. 8: In the Days When Judges Ruled…

TTTG Ch 8

Mom went and dropped the bomb on Mo and I in regards to taking down our school. Now, I was curious about the last part in why we needed to. I was all for not going back to school, but I had a feeling that another would simply spring up in its place.

“Why are we destroying Pemberton?”

“We are trying to understand more, but I think that they are genetically testing the kids at school. They’re offering counseling services and medications, but they’re actually harnessing different genomes and seeing how to replicate them in others.”

“So, they want to know what makes us tick so other people can do it too?”

“That’s what we’re thinking. And if they are doing that, imagine what they would do to you if they realized your family has learned to teleport or that Mo is able to read people along with using her telekinesis? Lab rats comes to mind.”

I feel like questions were the only form of communication I’ve had with my mother this past week. I should just list them out like a pop quiz and have her submit the answers to me later.

“How do you know that’s happening at my school, mom?”

“I don’t. Not concretely yet. But I think that we have a good idea where to start and how to find out more.” She redirects her motherly intensity to Mo.

“Me?!” Mo looks a few degrees hotter when she gets frazzled. And thankfully, with my mother around, I doubt she knew I was thinking that.

“You can read people, hon. You’re far more active than many others I’ve known like you and you’re still young. For whatever reason, you work better with Carter around, so with both of you helping we can know for certain.”

“Spy work?” I ask with too much enthusiasm.

“We’ll need you to get close enough to the principal to read him and dig for any clues as to what might be going on under the scenes there.”

“Does this have anything to do with my car blowing up?” Mo was not feeling the Spy Kids vibe that I was. In fact, she looked borderline to passing out.

“I think so. I can’t be sure what they pulled out of you while you were at school.” My mom had a way of ending each sentence and populating a few more questions in my collective.

“Mom, what happened to Mo in the principal’s office?” That’s a good appetizer.

“If the Deslin twins you were talking about are at all like you, they must have been probing your mind while you were there, trying to find out clues. I’m guessing that someone keeps tabs on Carter and when they saw you two together, they were curious about you finding out anything that they haven’t already. They must know your ability and tested out their theory.”

“Not to challenge you, but I don’t think that anyone like Carter or I can use our ability in the office. At least, that’s our theory.”

“Maybe it’s made from whatever Ray’s room was made from that kept me from leaping?” Brilliant connection, Carter, you are Batman, master detective.

“There’s not a material that prevents anyone from using their power, Carter James. We don’t have a Kryptonite.”

Well, boo to you too, mother. I hope my confused-brooding face asks the question so I don’t have to.

“People like us are what blocks powers from being used.”

I need to start taking notes pretty soon. “Huh?”

“There are different levels of people with abilities. We’re like athletes, there are some that prosper through lots of training and conditioning and some that have natural gifts. Everybody has a different combination. For some, they can flash better than they can leap. For Mo’s kind, some push better than they read.”

“Sly.” Mo corrects. I chuckle to myself without letting anything escape.

“What’s that?”

“We call it sly instead of read. Just thought I would … well, let you know. Okay, I’ll be quiet now.” She makes her lips disappear inwardly in an attempt to apologize.

“Well, thank you. As I was saying, some have different combinations and can use more than one ability with practice. One of the abilities that you will need to learn soon, both of you, is buffering. It’s where you can block out another person’s ability that is close to you. For unsuspecting people, like you two, it just feels like nothing is happening.”

“So, Ray buffered me from leaping when he was holding me captive the other day?”

“He did. Also said it was hard to stop you initially. Not an easy feat.”

“Ray? Like Lord Ray?!” Mo’s panic level is rising again.

“Yes, hon. Raymond Lord is helping us.”

The nagging thought of something started to reoccur to me. My initial introductions were through notes stating a countdown that was taking place. Crap, now I had to do math. Accounting for the days I was out, assuming that my note was working off the main timeline and not my own, I had until Thursday morning before my time was up.

“Mom, quick sidebar, what was Lord Ray’s countdown referring to?”

Her face seemed to pinch in despair. “Ray had a cousin that was a few years younger than you. He trained him constantly and diligently since he was just a boy. He was very powerful and one day he leapt. The only thing is that he leapt into the near future, not the past.”

“Bullshit,” I scoff before realizing that I swore in front of my mother. She gives me a laser-beam stare of disapproval then retorts.

“He did apparently. And he landed in the midst of a detainment, your detainment. He didn’t get much from it the first time he went, only who you were and why you were picked up. He went back a second time on purpose to the date that you leapt from, which is this week apparently. Whatever the case is, he saw it happen and ever since, Ray has been trying to leave you clues.”

“Mom, people can’t leap forward except when they go back first. They can’t leap forward then back…can they?” I wasn’t sure of much any longer.

“People can’t leap past their own timeline either, but you do. Constantly.”

Why didn’t I get the handbook for this disease of mine. Wait… “Dr. Phillips knows that I go back further than my timeline. Why hasn’t he said or done anything?”

“He has. He monitors you. He wants to know how far you can go and I’m willing to bet the moment you pose a threat, we’ll all know about it.”

“What is Ray getting out of this?”

“Resolve. His cousin died on his return trip. Apparently going forward is more taxing than staying behind for months at a time. He went into cardiac arrest and since they can’t be seen or caught in public, he watched him die. He wants atonement for that.”

Mo has been speechless for some time now. As I look over, the stun on her face depicts pretty much everything I would imagine on my own. A level of confusion twisted into a need to slow down was splattered across her features.

I reached for her hand to comfort her and let her know that she wasn’t alone. With great minds thinking alike, my mom reached in the same gesture. As we connected the three of us together, all of our thoughts were thrown into the same stew pot. Suddenly, I was seeing my mother’s memories and thoughts as if they were my own. Along with it, Mo had no need to speak inside of my mind as we were sharing the same thoughts. If there was an outline of Mo, my mother and me, it was like the silhouettes were all placed on top of each other for a span of time. It was unclear how long until we finally separated again.

“Rubber-chicken-Christ… whaaheaaa?” My last word was supposed to be “what,” but it trailed off in a manner of how air escapes a flattening tire. It was like,.

My mother even looked as though she had just gotten goosed by a cattle prod. As I looked at the clock, I realized I hadn’t really paid attention to the time beforehand. Although, I was certain that it was not as close to 8:00 as it was. By the look of it, we had been holding hands around the table for a couple of hours, which would explain the shelf I had for a set of butt cheeks at the moment.

“Mo, how did you do that?” My mom beat me to it this time.

She shook her head and continued to look blankly at nothing ahead of her. After our experience, we all shared a little something with each other. It was like we compressed our experiences and our knowledge down into little pills that we each ingested in order to expand in our own selves again.

Deeply, Mo already knew I was having feelings for her. And likewise, I now knew that she was holding on to some of the very same. An additional fun fact, she had a dirtier mind then I did. A not so fun fact, now my mother knew that too. Ick.

“Well,” I start off again, “that was a little more than oversharing in my book.”

“I think I know why people might have wanted to silence you in a car explosion, Mo.” Well, mother, we are definitely all ears now. “You’re a conduit.”

That sounds terrifyingly wonderful, like you are the chosen one. Not scary to a teenage girl at all.

“What’s that?” Mo asks.

“It’s another level of your ability. You can channel two people’s thoughts, knowledge, power or whatever between them. You act as the go-between for regulating what gets transferred.”

“Bang up job there,” I jest. The backhanded slap to my arm tells me that despite the post-traumatic event, she was in good spirits too.

“She shouldn’t have that ability yet. Not without a lot of training and at least knowing how to buffer first.” The silence followed by my mother’s passionate stare into what could only be my nougat-filled center has me wondering what she’s thinking.

“What?”

“It’s you, Carter. You amplify her and vice versa. You’re what our circle calls Gemini. It’s like those Deslin twins, apart they don’t exhibit much, but together they are very strong. The same is with you two.”

Somehow, this makes sense to me and as I look at Mo, she seems to feel it too. We both look down at our hands as if something is written on them saying UPGRADE in big letters. Nothing is there, obviously.

“If you two are Gemini, we need to get you into training tomorrow. I can call into school for you and well, Mo, … play dead a little while longer.”

“I thought you were going to train me?” I hope that didn’t spill out as whinny as I think it did.

“I have to keep up the appearance at work. For you, I can have a viable excuse; for me, saying my kiddo is tired and I have to watch over him is not going to fly. Plus, I have the best person to help you both.”

“Ray?” I say with a little condescension.

“No, Ray is not a trainer. Ray is like the top-ranking soldier in the field. You’ll be training with David.”

I wonder how many underground people there were out there. Also, if this guy trained leapers, how would he help Mo? “What about Mo?”

“He can train her too.”

“How?”

Her smile was followed by, “I’ll let him explain all of that to you tomorrow.”

Super, I love cliffhangers. But before she cuts off this part of the story, I am struck with the nagging wonder how much my mom remembered from our conduit time. “Mom, when we were all mind-melding or whatever you want to call it, what could you pick up on?”

Her cat-like smile said something already. “All I know is that you both better keep to your rooms tonight.” As she pushes away from the table to look for dinner to cook, I am left with the next biggest problem: looking at Mo to see if she knew that I knew.

“Carter, listen…whatever you saw in there – ”

I knew it! “Oh, you did think that didn’t you?” I coyly poke at her. “Doesn’t feel too good when someone is able to romper-stomp around in your private thoughts, huh?”

Her cheeks turn a few shades of pink along with her ears. I decide to poke the bear while it’s behind a cage a little more.

“Maybe you’d like to explain to me a little more about your thoughts from the backyard and something about rinsing off with the garden hose.” I say in a not-so-silent whisper.

As Mo looks to see if my mother heard her, when she gazed back that was the last thoughts I had about teasing her. I remember her loudly shushing me and then my chair elevating a few feet off the ground with me still in it.

“Mo…”

Her raised eyebrows daring me to mess with her again were the last things I caught before my mother turned and once again buffered Mo. My chair landed with a hard, flat smack to the floor. Likewise, I think my spinal column went into my brain making me a good inch shorter.

“Not at the table, you two.” Like a true parent, judge and jury in one.

A Time to Reap

TTTG CH. 7: After the Death of Joshua

TTTG Ch 7

The abrupt departure of my mother left Mo and I standing and debating the mind-reader scenario for a while. After a stalemate of ideas, we moved on to the possible scenarios of who would want to kill Mo and why.

Our suspect list included the Deslin twins and possibly faculty at our school. The list was not impressive by any means and the only reason we crossed off accident was the notion that someone was preventing Mo from escaping.

The next step was figuring out why. By all accounts, Mo was a wallflower in the school. Her only notoriety came from her nickname that she received years ago. Even then, the shock and awe only lasted a week until the next kid with an ability had a tantrum causing his powers to activate.

Mo was sweet and I had a hard time believing that anyone would have a grudge against her personally. The next thing in my paranoid mind is thinking that I contributed to it in some way.

We had met that day, officially, and by the end of it, Mo was nearly blown to pieces. That caused me to retrace our steps and come to the only conclusion that something else happened in the principal’s office. My mother even posed the question. Despite how she can pester and irritate me at times, she is one of the most intelligent people I have ever known.

“Mo, did you feel anything happening while you were waiting in the principal’s office?”

She contemplated it for a bit, then came back with, “No. Nothing really.” And as her statement exited and hung in the air, a realization flashed before her. “Actually, there was nothing at all. It was like when your mom was around. All of the static subsides and I am left in a bubble.”

I wonder if it is true then? “Have you heard the stories about the principal’s office being a place where no one like us can use our abilities?”

“I think I’ve heard of some people mentioning it. They had a name for it, but I don’t remember it completely.”

“A guy in one of my classes got called there because he got into a scuffle with another kid at lunch a couple of years ago. The other kid was an Eventual and when he pushed him, he flew about 20 feet back instead of being thrown off balance.”

“Was that Jacob Wells?” Even the way she asks questions at times is cute. She has this little curl to her lip when she’s close to smiling.

Focus. “Ya, I can’t remember the other kids name, Kenny something. I think he moved the next year. But he said that while they were waiting outside the principal’s office, the kid was still mad. Said he tried to ‘do something’ and then looked strangely confused. He thought he was trying to push him from across the hall and couldn’t.”

“Marco,” she wildly interjects.

“What?”

“Sorry, Kenny Marco, his name just popped into my head. He was more public with his pushes than any Eventual I knew besides the Deslins. After he went to the office that day, he never pushed again. We took note from him that exhibiting our full abilities would get us in trouble.”

We both sat quietly while we took that last sentence in.

“Man, I can’t remember what they called that area around the principal’s office.”

As we both dug deeply into our memory, I think that I helped her jog her own. In unison, we both called it out together, “the Shade.”

“That was it. Thanks, Carter. I might have gone a little batty if I hadn’t figured that out soon.” She laughed. It was a dry courtesy laugh, but it was still charming and airy. It didn’t sound forced, just a lighter version of what her smile radiated.

Even after coming to conclusions, we still had no way of understanding how, why or for what reason Mo’s car caught fire. Rather than expand our already stretched brain cells, we both thought it was a better idea to wait for my mom and get her help on the matter.

I started making my way to the stairs in order to show Mo to her room for at least the evening. On the way up the stairs I take note to a picture on our family wall in particular; the one with my mom, my dad and I. I pass by and try not to let the questions start flooding in.

A few steps up, I sense that Mo’s footsteps are no longer following and as I turn around I see that she is analyzing the picture of my family.

“What were you looking for in this one, just now?”

“It’s a picture of my family before my dad walked out on us.”

She looked the photo over like it was a picture she had seen a copy of before, except now she was picking out the things that were missing.

“There was something else to it. You were thinking beyond him walking out. What was it?”

This is different. Usually, as far as our usual went, Mo was deeply inside my thoughts and knew things before I could form the words. “I found out recently that he was like me, a leaper.”

“Wow. Two leapers having a kid together. Did anyone in the DCD know?”

It was a good question. The Department of Chronological Displacement would be very curious on the offspring of two leapers, or whatever my mom was. Maybe that’s why he left? This past week has been beyond confusing and in between adrenaline rushes, I would love nothing more than a nap. And I friggin hate naps.

“I don’t think so. I haven’t had the time or brainpower to ask my mom any questions yet.” I keep making my way up the stairs and hear Mo start following me again.

As I get to the first room on my left, I mention how it was mine. I’d show her later, but for now I move down and to the end of the hall on the left, across from my mother’s. I open it and as we move in, the sensor light activates the crown molding lights around the room. I pull on the chain above hanging off of the fan/light combo and the remainder of the room illuminates.

“This is your room for as long as you need.” I point to the door in the corner and mention that it leads to the adjoining master bathroom. Suddenly I have a flash in my mind of Mo needing to shower and well, my thoughts went a little to R rated before I knew how to wrangle them back.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry, Mo.” I could feel the heat flushing parts of my body and the need to dig a hole in the back yard and put my head in it.

“What are you sorry for?” Odd. That thought was pretty clear. I mentally push the thought, I’m sorry for what I was thinking just now.

Her expression was muddled. “I can’t pick up on you as well right now. What were you thinking?”

“Are you okay?” Suddenly I wonder if my mom has anything to do with this. There are definite trust issues I need to work through with her.

“I’m fine, just tired. Honestly, listening to your thoughts for hours today has made me extremely sleepy. That on top of the adrenaline crash after nearly being incinerated makes it difficult to pick up on your thoughts. But, that’s probably okay. You don’t want me in there 24/7.” She says while winking at me.

It’s been a day, but I already want her to be a part of my life a little too much. I need to use this down time of hers to compose myself and get to know more about her.

“I know it’s pretty early, but I might lay down for a quick nap. Is that okay?”

Well, screw Plan A. “Sure, that’s fine. There should be sheets on the bed. I’ll get a toothbrush and towel ready for you in the meantime. I’ll wake you in a bit for dinner?”

She nods her peach-fuzzed head up and down. I smile at how she has changed into so many different ways today from wallflower to friendly to intriguing and sensual and now to completely adorable. I walk out and slowly close the door behind me, hoping she’ll ask me to stay longer.

Alas, I am off to the pantry to see what we have to eat. I get just inside the kitchen when I hear my mother’s car pulling into the driveway. I look at the hovering digital readout on the clock above the sink and realize that it is 5:18. Mom must have gotten off work a little early to make it home at this speed.

The locks on the house deactivate as she approaches the door off the kitchen that leads to the garage and backyard. As she walks in, her eyes hold every expression bundled into one, a rainbow of emotions in her gaze.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

I scrunch my face into the best question mark I know and reply unsure, “yes?”

“Carter, seriously. I know it hasn’t been easy over the last week for you. Today was a close call and I want to know if you’re okay.”

“I know, mom. I can’t say it’s been a piece of cake, but I’m holding it together.” I was, actually. I’m not entirely sure how, maybe in my continual time leaping and facing imminent danger eased the sharpness of any peril.

“I want to talk with you both about today. Where is your friend, Mo?”

“She was pretty tired. She’s up in the guest room taking a nap.”

“She’s cute.”

“Mom.” Oh Lord, please strike my mother mute on this subject before she starts.

“What? Even the whole bald head thing, she’s pretty.”

“Okay,” I say while moving toward the fridge in order to decide on dinner.

“Do you like her?”

Lord, pretty please? “Are we really doing this?”

“Can’t your mother be curious?”

“Curious, yes. But can we not be curious while in the same house as your curiosity? On top of the fact that she can read minds to boot.”

The rarest smile started curving its way around my mom’s face. If there was a thing behind me getting ready to surprise me, that would describe her smile. “Oh really?” she replies.

“What is it that you know that I don’t?”

“I would imagine a lot, Carter.”

Wise ass. Oh, crap. Can my mom read minds? Her expression of mood didn’t even flinch just now. Maybe she was an award winning actress to boot?

“Carter, if you try and over think this too much, you’re going to burst a blood vessel.” I think she just chuckled at my expense. Am I over thinking it? Did she just know I was over thinking it? I’m doing it right now…crap.

“So, why did Mo go blank around you? She said that you must be like her.” Hmm, and if my mom is like Mo, perhaps I have the capability as well. Ooo, this could get good.

“I’m not a reader, hon. Or Eventual as you kids call it. I am exactly what you can be. Time travel was the first symptom. Disappearing from time and reappearing later. Your grandpa was one of the firsts. Thanks to your grandma, she prepared me at an early age for what might come. With that, I was able to survive and eventually I learned that it could be controlled.”

The floorboards squeaked ever so slightly behind us. We both knew it meant someone was entering the kitchen. Older houses have the distinctive areas where a person growing up knew where to step to elicit a noise. We both turned to see Mo standing there, looking apologetic for interrupting.

“It’s okay, hon. Come in and join us. You should hear this too.”

She took mouse like steps, cautiously approaching my mother, trying to figure if she was a friend or foe. She settled at the end of the table between my mother and I.

“As I was saying, I learned to control leaping by choosing when and where. It took the better part of a decade. Then the government found out about people with our varying conditions. Volunteers were called for and at the time I was struggling for money and wanting to go to college.”

“Didn’t you meet dad in college?”

She smiled, recalling her first moments of meeting him, I suppose. “I did. He was a couple of years older and just finishing his degree. I didn’t realize he was a leaper like me until we dated for a few months.”

It never occurred to me how you break the news to someone from back then. Either shock or making them try to believe you were the two options beyond lying.

“He was walking with me one day and I stated that I had to stop into Simon Hall for something in order to help me with my financial aid. He wasn’t stupid. He knew about the tests and government helping to study the condition and he knew that normal financial aid was on the other side of campus. Later that night, he showed me that he was just like me and how I could go further than simply time traveling at a whim.”

Right, because time travel isn’t cool enough, there had to be more to it.

“Your father taught me how to harness time travel down to a focal point in order to teleport. It was like taking a wide angle lens down to a microscopic view. That took me another year to figure out altogether.”

The itchy question in my mind spilled out, “So, why didn’t dad register himself?”

A slightly less enthusiastic smile replaced the previous one on my mom’s face. “He didn’t trust the government’s intentions with their research. He said that it would inevitably lead to either a war or genocide. So, he felt that staying off their radar was best. Soon after their research was completed, the Pemberton School was founded and accepted kids who had been touched or possessed the ability they had seen.”

“I thought the school had been in place longer than a couple of decades?” Mo interjected into the conversation.

“It was previously a private reform school, so in a sense it had been there helping children who needed help. It was purchased and converted quite rapidly in order to start accepting applicants immediately. I think it was more to keep ‘special’ kids out of the public and restrict their abilities while simultaneously continuing their research under the guise of education.”

And now I really didn’t want to go back to school. Not that I wanted to any given day.

“Why did dad leave?”

The question punched my mother directly in the heart and I could see it reflected in the sadness she held back in her eyes. “I don’t think he felt there was a choice. After you were born, we both knew that it was only a matter of time before you started showing your ability. Luckily, that didn’t come until you were 12. After you leapt for your first time, no matter how prepared we made you, it was still the most frightening moment of my life. I wondered for a full hour if you were going to make it back. Even through your excitement on returning, I could barely hold back sobbing.”

I didn’t even remember my mom crying. I remember coming back the first leap and feeling like I was a super hero. I was so excited and after my dad wrapped a blanket around me and hugged me tighter than ever, I simply couldn’t recall anything else.

“Your father didn’t mention anything to me. He packed a bag the next day and just left. No note, no goodbye, no reason. He just left his life. He died for me that day, with no body or grave I could mourn. I was left with memories and questions and you. I had to report your leap and let you know that your father left the next day. It was one of the worst years of my life.”

I felt bad for asking now. I should have just left that in the past. I only remember my mom speaking highly of him up to that day. He simply left and never turned around. I blamed myself and now I am pretty sure that I was the reason.

Both Mo and my mother are harboring tears on the brink of falling.

“After your father left, I had no need to explain that he had the same condition as both of us. We had hidden it from the government for so long and from you that it seemed to prove little use. Then when you leapt back the other night saying that you ran across people who knew your father, I knew that our time to act was closing in.”

“Act on what exactly?” What is it with conspiracy talk that it always has to be vague and drawn out?

“We have to find a way to destroy the Pemberton School before they turn on the kids there.”

Well, how can I not want to help now?

———————————————————————————————————–

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A Time to Reap

TTTG Ch. 6: After the Death of Mo…

TTTG Ch 6

I admit it; I was embarrassed in this specific instance. So much, I refused to let go of Mo until she swore she would not open her eyes, even a crack. I think she was starting to think I was some kind of pervert until she listened to the ruckus of embarrassing thoughts catapulting in my noggin like an Olympic gymnast.

After I released my bear hug and did a few test waves in front of her closed eyes, I started to make my way off the grass. Blades were stuck to my cheeks and I sincerely debated brushing them off before making my way to the garage, thinking of all of the other potentially scarring scenarios.

A giggle from behind causes me to turn around and double-check the trustworthiness of Mo’s promise. She sat on the grass, smile screwed in as tightly as her closed eyelids.

The ability Mo possessed answered before I had to ask, “I’m not laughing because I’m peeking at you or anything. I’m laughing because you think I might not realize…”

“Hey!” I interrupt before she has to actually vocalize the words. “It is cold out here and physics plays a factor.” I don’t even bother explaining myself anymore as I turn and walk to the garage. I had a change of clothes in various spots around my house for certain cases. My sweats, shoes, socks and a shirt were just inside the door.

Again a giggle from behind; this time I chose the high-ground and ignored it.

“Nice grass, Carter.”

That little so and so… I would turn, but I already know she’s stopped playing the “no looking” game now. I mentally throw a few choice thoughts her direction and I think she started laughing harder.

 A few minutes later I emerge from the garage, slightly warmer and definitely less breezy. Mo is still smiling and on her way to another giggle-fit. In order to bypass that and get to an actual serious matter, I start asking while I walk towards her.

“Mo, what happened in the parking lot?”

Her affable nature subsided to a small ripple in a pond. The wave of turmoil and questions approached behind her. Her expression said it all. She was uncertain what caused the fire but fretful that might be intentional.

“Mo?”

“Yah, sorry. It just all happened so quickly. One second I smelled something hot, then there was smoke in the car, then I thought I was going to choke before I could even scream. Then we showed up here.”

My inquisitive nature has about a dozen questions lined up, but I want to pick the best ones first so the little ones can be let go if needed.

“Were your doors locked?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you hear any thoughts of anyone close by?”

“Carter, I don’t know.”

“Well, what about –”

Carter!” This time she was answering me inside my own head. Cool, yes; a little disconcerting, also yes. “Your thoughts are coming more rapidly than your words. It’s hard to concentrate.

“Sorry,” I mention aloud. “Sorry,” I say in my thoughts as well.

She smiles and something about it melts the ice inside of me into little gelatinous pools of teenage drama shows. Suddenly, I feel cheesy and don’t even care. People who don’t get to experience this don’t know what they’re missing.

“Thinking back,” she interrupts, “I tried the handle, but it wasn’t that it was locked. It was that I couldn’t remember how to open it.”

I couldn’t help but let a macabre chuckle slip by as I cleared my throat to repeat, “So, you forgot how to open a car door?”

“Laugh all you want, Carter James DeTamble.” Whoa! Using the triple name threat was reserved to my mother. I didn’t want to be wondering how many directions that nonsense could come from. And as she already knew, she raises her eyebrows at me as if to speak to the notion she knows all about me.

“Funny, but seriously, you forgot how to open a door in the panic of it all?”

“No, my brain knew how to open it. I just couldn’t relate the information to my hands; they were the ones that forgot.”

“I’m confused.” And I was. Out of all the things I could fathom, I couldn’t wrap my head around this instance.

“Carter, someone like me was there and forcing my thoughts from escaping. They were paralyzing me.”

Okay, new wrinkle. “Are you sure?”

“I know what it feels like to push a thought out for somebody to do something. It isn’t hard to imagine what it would feel like from the other end. I think they would have made sure I’d forget everything in total if they thought I had a chance at making it out alive.”

My mind raced at (cheetah x road runner)ostrich speed. So much, I think Mo abandoned trying to keep up as she started to squint in a nauseous pain and hold her temples.

“You okay?”

She nodded, “Yah. You’re just thinking way too fast to keep up.”

I slow down my thoughts and narrow in on the events of the day. Mo greets me, we share the mental get to know you moments, she understands I know a teleporter and now I know she can sly into my thoughts and possibly others better than any Eventual I heard of before, then lunch followed by the parking lot. I shake my head thinking where we might have gone wrong in that small amount of time.

“Did you mention what you picked up on me to anyone?”

“Please, Carter. I don’t have friends at this school or outside of it.”

Her mind wandered off as she mentally retraced her own steps. A squirm in her expression was followed by her erasing it from her thoughts completely.

“What was that?”

“What?”

“The thing you were contemplating then disregarded.”

“Are you a mind-reader, Carter?” she asked while poking a little fun at me.

“Seriously, what was it?” I haven’t approached the stomping of the feet stage yet, but I knew I was getting whinny with my prodding.

“It was just a silly thought really.” I pause and stare blankly showing I won’t give up until she tells me. “I got called to the principal’s office.”

I recalled being slightly alarmed when I heard and confirmed she was being called there. It was a point I was meeting her in the parking lot for after school, well one of the points.

“Yah, what happened there?” In my head I’m thinking an intense grilling under a singular bulb in a dark room. Or overbearing tones mixed with threats of detention or suspension.

“You weirdo, it was a mistake.”

“Huh?” Well, there went that idea.

“I sat there for like 20 minutes waiting. The secretary came back and said there was some mix up calling me down and I was free to return to class.”

“Oh…” My mind searched for a place to stand my ground, but I was on the side of a sand dune and slipping with each possible thought. Finally, I gave up. I shrugged my shoulders signifying as much.

Neither of us had any other notions to contribute as we sat in silent contemplation for a few minutes.

“Want something to drink?” It was my humble way of asking her to stay a little longer as well as getting myself a little warmer. Without a jacket, the fall weather gets nippy.

Her smile said it all. She just reached her hands toward me to help her off of my backyard. I hoist her up and her smell washes over me, along with the faint whiff of smoke from her burning car. It was lovely and I wanted to kiss her right then and there, but luckily she played the cool card and squeezed my hand in a gentle way, but very present.

As she walked up the steps, I made certain not to allow my eyes or mind wander anywhere that she could pick up on. And suddenly, I am seeing the difficulties ahead if I actually dated Mo. I’d be on guard 24/7 around her.

“Carter,” my mind stops dead in its tracks along with my feet.

“Yah?”

She turns in front of the door and the look in her eyes melted me on contact. It reminded me of another classic movie my mother and I watched, Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the end, a guy pretty much melts where he stands, except in my version it is much more cartoon-like and not as horrific.

“Thank you for saving me,” she leans to me and stands on her tiptoes to reach my mouth with hers. A soft and supple kiss graces my lips just briefly enough to be passionate and not long enough to be anything much more than courteous.

It was hands down the best moment of my life to date.

Mo turns and punches in the door code to unlock the house and before I ask, I already know that my mind was a toy bin she could play around in for information. Her getting my house code as I stood there like a drunken fool was probably child’s play.

I follow behind her, not certain what to follow that up with except, “You’re welcome.”

“I should probably call my caregiver and let them know I’m okay. They’re probably freaking out.”

As Mo starts making her way to the phone in the other room off our kitchen, I begin wondering the main problem and soon I voice it, “Mo, what are we going to tell anyone?”

She stops in the doorway leading to the living room, but not because of what I said. She moves backward in cautious steps. As I hear the light footsteps pushing her away.

“Yes, please explain what you are going to say to anyone. Either of you.”

Crap sandwiches! “Hi, mom.”

“I swear you have the uncanny knack of attracting trouble like bees to a flower. First day back at school and you not only figure out how to utilize a dormant power, but you get involved with an exploding car as well.”

“My car exploded?!” Thank you, secretly, for drawing some attention off of me, Mo.

My mother turns her Medusa gaze on Mo and with as little acknowledgement as possible, she replies. “Yah.” And suddenly that diversion lasted only a few seconds as Mo has no come back and simply accepts the fact.

“I wasn’t trying to use anything, mom. I saw Mo in trouble and simply wished I could help, the next minute I’m in the car and then I wanted us safe and here we landed.” Some part of me forgot to at least introduce the girl I saved and brought into our home and life. “Oh, Mo, this is my mother. Mom, this is my friend from school, Mo.”

Without turning to look at her, my mom’s sight is anchored to me, she at least acknowledges her presence, “It’s a pleasure, dear.”

Mo acts like she wants to explain herself but simply replies, “likewise, Mrs. DeTamble.”

I look at her with the expression of “what the hell was that” written on my face. She nervously shakes her head while twitching her shoulders in a “what should I have said” response. All the while, mom is deeply involved in a stare-down with my soul.

“I’ll assume that in your inexperience, you flashed back here minus your clothing?”

Sudden shame and slight embarrassment redden my cheeks. Frustration soon takes over and shifts my emotional drive into anger. “What the hell was I supposed to do, let her die?”

The silence makes me wonder what her answer is to be.

“No, of course not, but you have a lot of clean up when you do things like that. Flashing needs to be done in private and when you’re ready, otherwise you are putting more people in danger than just those you know. You put anyone in danger that saw you.”

After that, a glimmer formed around the aura of my mother and in a blink, she was gone. Mo and I stood and half-wondered for a second if that actually happened. A few moments passed before Mo spoke.

“Holy crap, that was awesome!”

I can only smile and nod. “So, flashing must be teleporter slang for, well, teleporting I guess. I wonder where she went.”

I no more than get the words from my lips than I see a glimmer to the side and my mom standing there as if she never left. Only this time, she was holding a backpack and a wad of clothes. My clothes.

“If someone were to have found these, Carter, you have no idea the kind of trouble we would be in. It wouldn’t take long for them to figure out someone leapt, but they would piece things together over time and realize your friend disappearing and you leaping actually had something in common.”

I understand where she’s going with her chastising. I need to start practicing and perfecting this skill I obviously have.

“Was there anyone at school you spoke with recently concerning your ability or Carter’s?” Mom had now turned her attention to Mo.

“Carter just asked me that. I only met and started speaking to him today. The only other thing was a mistaken call into the principal’s office. But I didn’t even meet with anyone there.”

Mom’s focus narrowed and it was evident in her eyes. “Who else was waiting in there with you?”

Mo concentrated and at first shook her head as if she were alone, then she put up one finger as if she were telling someone to wait while she finished a call. “The Deslin twins were there too. They were waiting to see the principal.”

Ugh, the Deslin twins. Ronnie and Wiley Deslin were a couple of Eventuals that truly defined the term creepy and misfit. Ronnie was the tall one, standing about 6’3” and partially albino. His complexion was white as 2% milk and he shaved his head like a cue ball. The only true color to him was a pair of deep blue eyes, which offset due to his pale skin, making them shine like a beacon in a lighthouse. If it weren’t for his behavior, I think girls my age would swoon to him despite his skin tone for his eyes alone.

Wiley Deslin was the opposite. He was shorter by almost a foot and had long, managed raven-black hair. His eyes were nearly as dark. The hair on his head was about the only redeemable feature worth mentioning, everything else was bordering the ugly zone. Looking at them side by side, you’d have no idea of relation, let alone being twins. It was like setting an angel next to a gargoyle.

Wiley did most of the talking and plotting while Ronnie carried out most of the actions. Their gifts when apart from each other are fairly inconsequential, but when they are close to one another, they have a way of using telekinesis to the highest abilities.

They once incited a food fight in the cafeteria, which was all fun and teenager-like until they began throwing forks around using their gift. A few kids wound up in the nurses office needing plastic utensils removed as they were sticking out of their arms or legs. The Deslin’s were suspended for a couple months on that offense.

Since then, they have behaved much better, if better meant causing kids to trip over their feet or slip on imaginary ice. They were responsible for most trips to the nurse at our school, but no one could prove that. They were separated from having classes together, but God help those that have to share lunch with them.

“Are they like you, dear?” My mom asks with sugar stirred into her words.

“Yah, they don’t use their minds as much for reading as they do for pushing.”

“Well, hon, you are going to have to play dead for a while. You okay with that?” It was not much in terms of a question as it was a masked order.

Mo shook her head, understanding there was a good reason behind it.

“I don’t know why,” she was addressing me again, “but it might have been a prank or an order. I can’t look into it right now. My work thinks I’m in the bathroom and I have to get back before people start wondering. Until we know for sure and while they sift through the ashes and debris, Mo should stay here. If it turns out an accident or some school punks, we’ll handle it differently.”

I look to Mo to try and gauge if she is okay with that. She seems frightened but adherent. I nod and let my mom know we are on board. The curiosity on my part was wondering how my mom knew about it so soon.

“How did you know to come here?”

“Lord Ray has a friend looking out for you. When he said he saw you flash in the parking lot and moments later, a car exploded, I put a few notions together. I figured if you did flash, you’d go where you felt safe, home. When I saw the young woman in my doorway, I was certain.”

Great, now I have a babysitter.

“I’ll be home late. Set up the guest room next to mine for your friend. Don’t go outside, answer the door or alert anyone to her being alive let alone at our house.” And as a combo punch to add embarrassment, she smiles at me while motioning to Mo and says, “Behave.” With a wink, she flashes out of the kitchen and I am left to mend the awkward conversation left in triage.

“So… Guess we should work on getting you settled in?” I had no clue how to break the ice after someone was told to play dead and not freak out that someone tried to kill them, possibly.

I expected tears or sobs or something in that category, but Mo stood there as if she had been told that her online purchase was back-ordered. She is one tough chick on the outside as far as I can tell.

“Carter, you know how I mentioned I can pick up on you better than anyone?”

“Yah, and everyone else is pretty much static.”

“Well, your mom isn’t like that.”

Curiosity peak approaching. “You can read my mother?” She will definitely need to be my best friend if not girlfriend after this. I would have total access to parental thought.

“No.”

Drat! Foiled again.

“Carter,” she mentions abruptly, ruining the fun monologue I was starting in my head. “She’s totally blank. No static, no thoughts, nothing.”

I guess I don’t understand the direction this conversation is pointing. “So?”

“So, when she’s around, I can’t hear you either.”

Well, that may be a weird bonus too. Not sure what it all means yet. “So, she acts as a buffer to your ability?”

“No. I think she is intentionally blocking me. Carter, I think your mother is like me as much as she is like you.”

Crapdamnit! That would figure in some way. “She’s a leaper, a flasher and an Eventual all wrapped in one?” I state it as a question left for some narrator to explain to us but nothing follows. Just a simple end to a chapter that leaves a cliffhanger to be explained.

The oddity of my mother continues.

A Time to Reap

Ch. 5: These Are the Words…

 

five

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.

“What?”

“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.

“Skittish?”

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.

“What’s up?”

“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.

“Carter…?”

“Yup… I’m naked.” Awkward does not begin to cover this scenario.