A Time to Reap

TTTG Ch. 9: There Was a Certain Man


What we learned later that evening, the scrambled mix up work Mo did as a conduit shared a lot of information between the three of us. Mainly, my mother was not going to leave Mo or I alone together for too long and apparently a lot of the preliminary training was no longer needed. Mom shared the knowledge of her struggles on how to leap, flash and buffer to both of us. Granted, Mo won’t benefit from anything except the buffering aspect, but nevertheless, she now knows how it works.

I was now fully aware of the limitations and the precautions to leaping. I knew how to regulate my body or harness my ability to use it. Flashing was different. If there was a comparison, leaping was like using a shotgun on a target at point blank range; flashing was using a high powered rifle from a hundred yards away with the precision of a sniper. The more I practiced, the better my scope and the steadier my aim.

My attempts last night were a little hit and miss. My first attempt put me in the backyard, naked again. Awesome. The nudity followed on all attempts up to #11. I had to make Mo close her eyes as I was closing in on my target area. Mom was one thing, girlfriend (when I get the chance to ask her someday soon) is entirely different.

Good ol’ number 11. I flashed from one point of the kitchen to the backdoor. All my clothes still on! I paraded around gallantly.

“Is that your sock?” Mo pointed out on the floor.

“Yup,” also feels like my underwear are on backwards too, “but still, all the main areas are covered!”

A slow clap from both in the peanut gallery didn’t make me any less proud of myself. In fact, I wished I could have been shown during our conduit session just how well my mother did on her attempts. I bet there were some doozies in there as well.

This morning, I made my way out of my room like a vampire from a crypt, the light seeping in from the hallway was blinding in a smear of fluorescent blues, yellows and oranges. As I adjusted my eyes to the single light overhead beaming at me with a penetrating 40 watts of sunlight, I heard the door down the hall open and Mo come walking out.

And I am fairly certain that if there ever was a moment outside of a road accident, a zombie film or my death bed, Mo was seeing me at the worst possible time of day. I must have looked like a kid who just finished crying then got thrown into a pillow fight with dodge balls in the cases instead of feathers.

“Hi,” I roughly manage.

“Good morning.” Her perkiness was adorable and made me fairly ashamed to have to put her through looking at me at the moment. How does someone wake up looking like that? I must master those secrets.

As she walks by me down the hall past me, she sniffs a little and I think sweat started forming immediately as I’m sure that my activities last night and stewing in them all night have left me pretty ripe.

“Don’t you smell manly,” she mentions with a wink as she leaves me alone in the hallway looking like a lost old man in the super market.

My insides smile where my mouth forgets to follow. And for whatever reason in my head, it seemed like the good idea to smell under my arms. Whew, I’m glad she’s not offended, but I am going to hose this musk off.

After a rigorous hose off, I throw on my favorite jeans, a throwback AFI t-shirt from my mom’s era (the one with three rabbits in a circle) and head downstairs for some breakfast and to prepare for the day.

My red sneakers no sooner touch the ground level when the doorbell rings. Cautiously, I look around for Mo who I see heading up the stairs at the back of the kitchen. My mom has no doubt gone to work already, so I timidly approach the door. A quick wave in front of the reveal pad and the thick wooden door becomes transparent on my side revealing an older man in a familiar purple delivery uniform (I order a lot of stuff online). He has a single envelope in his grasp.

I key the code to unlock the front door and as it slides away, the man greets me with a hearty good morning. He dispenses with small talk and sticks to pleasantries as he asks for me by name and then has me sign for my letter. He turns and promptly leaves as he came, wishing me a good day.

Safely inside and behind a locked door, I proceed to the kitchen and mentally call to Mo that the coast is clear. As she lightly traipses down to the kitchen, I am already in the midst of unsealing the envelope.

I open up the slit the pull tab created and shuffle the contents out. A simple photograph was inside. It was a picture of a park that I used to play soccer in when I was younger. On the back there was a time of 8:45 scrawled in marker. Underneath it said flash with your friend here.

“Well, that’s optimistic of them now isn’t it?”

“I guess they know you have the capability?”

As I look at the nearest clock, it reads 8:32. “Think we should try to be early?”

“I assume they would appreciate it more than fashionably late. Plus, what if we have to run the rest of the way in case you miss?” Her coy grin is somehow infuriating and captivating at the same time.

“You think I’ll miss?!”

“You are rather new at all of this. Plus, you’d be carrying a passenger.” Her wink seals my gushy heart in a box and she now has it. Great, I’m a sap.

I snag the closest breakfast bar from the kitchen and stuff it in my front pocket. I motion for her to take my hands and as I begin prepping my concentration for where we need to go. I think back to the times when we were kicking that white and black pocked ball around in the cool spring morning. I can still remember hearing the birds returning from migration and swooping down to the creek that ran by the field.

As Mo clasps both of her hands in mine, we immediately flash. I’m not sure if it was the startle and jolt of her touching me or if it has anything to do with being Gemini. Regardless, we were standing in an abandoned soccer field.

“Whoa!” I exclaim. “That was unexpected.”

“No shit,” Mo says as she is looking down. Conveniently, her pants are missing. Luckily for her, the large sweatshirt she was fashionably sporting covered most of her thighs. Unluckily for me.

“I did not do that intentionally.”

“Uh huh,” she says calmly. Afterwards she shrugs her shoulders and continues to the gate in the chain link fence leading to the field.

She handles a moment that I would normally be mortified in and simply rolls with it. Yup, I might be smitten. Or full of smit. I’m not sure how this works.

I pat my front pocket and realize the other thing I left at home. “Oh, man. I left my breakfast bar at home too.”

“The goose bumps on my legs mourn your loss, Carter.” Never looking back, she begins to walk forward. I admire this girl.

As I catch up and apologize again, her smile forgives me. We make our way through the gate and it’s nearly time as we notice a large SUV making its way toward us. I’ve seen enough spy movies that this is where the thick-necked guys get out and shoves us in. I brace myself with a grin as the vehicle approaches. And the grin leaves my face as the SUV passes us.

A corresponding shrug between us both has me wondering what we should expect. As I look down again, the digital number changes from 8:44 to :45. A pssst sound comes from behind us.

Parked along the curb, a man in an older station wagon sits in the driver seat. Oh, hell no. This is not the awesome ride I was imagining. Although, how did that junker drive up on us without even knowing it?

“You two should get in so we can start.” The middle-aged man with the circular glasses, nasally tells us.

Oh, please do not be –

“I’m David Nelson. I’ll be teaching you today.”

David. This is the sensei, Jedi master we will be learning from. It looks like a powerful sneeze might take this guy out of commission. He looks like he’s both shorter, skinnier and not to mention older than I am. I was expecting some brooding unnatural-looking presence before me, with an eye patch or a scar on his face or facial hair. But no, I get nerdy David Nelson – Trainer. God, I bet he has business cards that say that too.

“I’m Carter. This is Mo.”

“I know who you are, stupid. I called you here.”

Oh, and he has a lovely bedside manner as well. “Okay, so are we hopping in your sweet ride or are we training here?”

“You don’t see me getting out, do you?”

This may possibly be the longest day of my life. Not only is this guy a gem to look at, he is a class 1 asshole as well. Mo and I start making our way around to the passenger side of the car. I reach for the handle to ride shotgun.

“Nuh uh, you’re in the backseat. The lovely lady can ride up front.” With you, Creepy McGee? I already know arguing that point will get me nowhere, but I’ll have an eye on you, buddy.

We take off down the street and David goes through parts of town I’m unfamiliar with. The wharf district once housed vast amounts of commerce that used to arrive by boat. Shipping logistics started dying out as aqueous magnetic transits (AMT’s) docked at airports. Air carriers developed AMT’s using the earth’s magnetism through water to levitate and move.

Large warehouses and empty buildings lined most of the streets. The property was still considered commercial until the city would appropriate it as residential. It was something I heard in the news, a large project to rezone the district to make affordable housing. That’s because most of the city’s vagrants and poor were squatting in the empty lots. It was also used by various gangs, crime organizations and general riff-raff to keep anyone at bay until it could be torn down and rebuilt.

Now we were having a nice mid-week morning drive through it. Lovely.

“So, we’ll be training today. Together at first then separately.”

Thank you that was a lovely detailed syllabus for today’s activities. And where are we going? If this guy was following a route it must in the shape of spaghetti in a bowl.

“Okay, change of plans. Individual training first.” Super, we must be getting close to our destination. If so, I’m not sure why he’s speeding up. “Do you remember the soccer field, Carter?”

“Yah,” we literally just came from there 15 minutes ago.

“Good, meet us there after your first lesson.” And with that, he grabs Mo by the wrist and they flash. Suddenly, I am in a car’s backseat without a driver, barreling towards a red brick building.

“Holy – ” that was the first part to the last thought I had racing through my head as I approached a wall going 50 miles per hour. From there I flashed out with enough time to spare. And no, not back to the soccer field. I had glanced at the water beyond the building and apparently my subconscious thought it was a nice landing pad.

As I swam up through the frigid cold water, I gasped for air as I recalled how to tread water. It took a few seconds to remember how to flash out of there, thinking I needed a solid surface to start from.

I went back to the building I nearly collided with moments before and saw the steam rising from the engine. The front half of the car was pushed in past the driver’s seat turning it into a snub-nosed station wagon. The car probably never looked better. It would be some small satisfaction if it was indeed David’s car. That asshole.

He nearly killed me just now. Pretty certain my mother will not be very appreciative of that. I look myself over and realize that I flashed with all my clothes intact. I’m fairly impressed with that alone. The fishy smelling water squishes around in my shoes as I walk and I notice a distinct difference. I missed a sock again. Dangit! Why just one sock?

As I furiously squish my way from the accident, a hard thing to do, I think of the spot where Mo and I arrived earlier and suddenly I was there. David and Mo were leaning against the chain link fence looking right at me as I stomped over with my most furious look of angst.

“You almost killed me, you asshole!” Granted I forgot to apply the brakes to my mouth, but it was true.

Without missing a beat, he continued on as if I didn’t say anything. “What was your first lesson?”

Mo was stifling a mad case of the giggles, which actually did upset me. If I reacted a few seconds later I would be a two-dimensional version of myself. Still, as water began chaffing my inner thighs, I wanted to know David’s logic behind everything.

“How to react when I’m in danger?” Bravo, dick.

“No, it’s don’t piss off your trainer the first day. No matter how nerdy he may look, he will still know more than you.”

My fury radically shifts into embarrassment as it is apparent David has both my ability and Mo’s wrapped into one. So, everything I was thinking to myself went out as if I said it aloud. Great move, Carter. I thought I was buffering my thoughts?

“Your buffering skills are at a Kindergarten level, Carter. We need to push you through to high school by the end of the day or else whatever tomorrow brings may get the better of you.”

“Well, I just learned them yesterday, so I guess I consider that progress.”

“Well, you are going to have a rude awakening if you find yourself in the same vicinity as anyone with your mother’s ability. They will pluck the thoughts from your head and the car incident will seem like a picnic.”

I don’t know what to think now. I want to apologize still and ask him to take it easy on me. I’m still a kid in my book and this goes beyond the scare of leaping naked into the past. This was someone coming after me for some unknown reason and it is supposed to happen in less than a day.

“Carter, by the time we’re done today, you’ll be ready to shield, defend and if necessary fight. We’ll teach you both the basics of your gift, the main ways to control it and harness it when you’re apart and how to utilize it best when you’re together.”

Something tells me that this is going to be a grueling day.

David smiles, telling me that it most certainly is. “For now, you need to clean up your mess.”

“What mess?” I’m curious.

“Your station wagon mess.”

Aw, man. How is he assuming I do that?

“Put the car where you originally landed. But get your sock out of it first.” Okay it’s cute when Mo pokes around in my brain box, it’s creepy when David does it. I think buffering needs to be the first chapter in our lessons.

“I just got out of the water. I think I have seaweed in my shorts still.”

“So, just move the car.” Oh, right. That’ll be easy. “It is easy, just think of where you want it and focus on moving it and not your body. You managed to pick up on flashing within an evening. Point-flashing shouldn’t be too hard.”

“I had Mo pumping my mom’s experience into me first.” I’m not sure I want to have her and David practice her conduit powers on me just yet.

“We’ll get to her conduit training later. For now, try it on your own and meet us back here in 15 minutes.” David walks to me hand outstretched as if to shake hands and mend our differences. As I touch palm to palm, I immediately flash to some unknown rooftop in the wharf district. I can still see the water. He did this on purpose. What a tool.

It takes me a few flash attempts to get back to the spot where I ran full speed into a building, but it was still there, steaming away like a metal accordion.

After placing my hand on the car, I tried channeling the way that David was describing. I focused on putting the car in the water. I thought about the car to the water, the car to the water. The next moment, well, something was in the water. It was me. Crapdamnit!

A few attempts later I was making progress. I moved the car itself along with me about five feet away from the building. Nearly 10 minutes have passed and I was still plodding along trying to put the car in the bay.

Finally, after a few dozen attempts, I push my frustrations out and yell within my mind at the car to just get in the damn bay! And suddenly, the car and all of its connected parts are gone and as I look out, I briefly notice it hover above the water before crashing down. I smile from ear to ear as it slowly sinks into the murky abyss.

A quick flash and under 15 minutes later, I go back to the soccer fields, accomplished.

“Got it.” I triumphantly announce. “Who’s car was that?”

“Your principal’s,” David replies.

I am not sure whether to be frightened or elated by that statement. Happiness wins over as I can’t help but smile larger.

“Hence why you needed your sock,” he states.

And my smile vanishes. I already know what he’s going to say next and I simply hang my shoulders and shuffle slowly toward them. “Aw, really?”

He nods his head slowly enough to recognize. “Unless you want them finding a clue if they discover the car. You had better retrieve it before a current pulls it out of the bay.”

Man, training sucks.

A Time to Reap

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


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.


“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.”


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.


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. 6: After the Death of Mo…


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.


“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?”


“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.


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.


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…



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.

“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.


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




A Time to Reap

Ch. 4: The Lord Spoke…



Lord Ray.

That’s the last real thought pushing through the narrow opening in my mind. My mother is now aware of the lies I disguised as facts just moments ago. And somehow, I think not trusting her was a wise idea.

I’m certain if I had stuck around longer, there would have been many different levels of yelling taking place. Luckily, right after she prompts the interrogation, my syndrome takes the reins in a most expeditious fashion.

Normally, I feel the tingle and have between three and fifteen seconds heads-up. In this case, my mother barely gets the words “Raymond Lord” out of her mouth, and I’m leaping. Still in the middle of apologizing, I’m delivered to my high school parking lot in the dead of night, wearing a thin coat of anxiety and nothing more.

I remember watching this classic movie called The Terminator with my mom last summer. I relate to the part where the gigantic cyborg shows up butt naked and walks up casually to the first people he sees. I don’t have the muscles or killer instinct of that character, but I have wit and a lack of bashfulness. Due to an endowment my father gave me, being ashamed is rather difficult.

Nudity isn’t the difficult part; it’s explaining why I’m nude that’s challenging. And by the look of it, I may get to test out another explanation, because there are a few kids my age hanging around outside their car in the abandoned parking lot. I need to find a way to the south entrance, where they have a keypad for students to use after hours in emergencies. They haven’t changed it since its implementation, and it’s one of the few well-guarded secrets of the school, known only to faculty and students. The problem is that those peers of mine are between me and the doors.

As I stand in the chilly air, I can’t discern the exact time of year. The deciduous trees still hold their leaves in various lush greens. The cold air could mean anything. I’m personally guessing late spring/early summer.

The school has a bus depot and newspaper portal close to the street. It gives any Leaper showing up near the school a base and a means of travel. The keypad at the school allows shelter from the elements and access to clothes.

The depot is about twenty yards behind me, and the people are ten yards ahead of me on the other side of a retaining wall. I have to get some warm clothes and double back with a plan before I can start figuring out the day and year.

As I take a deep breath and hop over the wall, I wonder how far I’ll get before one of the three long-haired individuals before me takes notice. I just hope they are the affable sort and not ones prone to violence. I fell into that situation once, and getting seventeen stitches was my reward when I leaped back.

As I approach the driver’s side, the three are all resting against the passenger-side quarter panel, talking, and it looks like they’re smoking. A whiff in the air, and I can smell a pungent mix of mowed lawn, burnt corn, and ragweed. It’s apparent what the teens are up to in the parking lot.

I get no more than a few feet in front of the slightly rusted, hail-damaged sedan before I hear one speaking in my direction.

“Duuuude! Is that dude naked?”

Dry giggles and offbeat affirmations of his discovery follow.

“Hey! Hey, buddy.”

Fantastic. Now, do I draw even more attention to myself and have them follow me, or pretend I’m a group hallucination and not look back. I decide to continue forward, since most stoners are not aggressive types, and I’d rather skip having a naked conversation with them.

They continue hashing out the details between themselves, and I take that as a cue to keep moving. That is, until one sentence stands out.

“No, dude, I’m telling you he looks just like Joshua.”

If I were wearing shoes, they would have squeaked with the brakes I put on. Instead, little bits of gravel are soon imbedded into my heels.

“Who did you just say?” I yell over my shoulder, not allowing myself to turn around just yet.

The din of their conversation stops as they have a lapse between organizing my question and formulating an answer.


He’s either offering his answer in a Jeopardy-style fashion or trying to verify if I am indeed Joshua, which, coincidentally, is my father’s name. I turn around to gauge their response on seeing me fully instead of at a passing angle.

“Dude, it is him,” the head dope smoker announces with a smile. Immediately, the smile gets confused, and he looks to his high council for confirmation. “Guys, I think I’m tripping bear balls here. Because it’s him,” he says, while motioning to my family jewels, “but it’s not him.”

That does it for me; checkmark the box labeled “unexpected.”

“Joshua is my dad’s name.”

If there were explosive devices planted into these kids’ heads, I think I just detonated them and blew their minds. Their mouths hang open, and their once-squinty eyes are wide as saucers.

“Dude, the fuck you say,” one stoner contends.

“Nope, I say it because he raised me.” That’s right, even naked and out of my element, I’m snarky. “So, when did you see him?”

“There’s, like, no way. He would have to have had you in grade school, dude. We saw him right after he got his tat last week.”

“He has a tattoo?” This is definitely not the man I knew. Humble, yes. Slightly boring, yes. Abandoning his family and everything to deal with his life since learning of his son’s condition, yes. Tattooed and hanging out with pot-smoking teenagers? My brain is going to pop.

“Dude, I don’t think you can really call a piece just ‘a tattoo.’ He has an entire chest plate.”

I’m not up to speed on the lingo, but I’m guessing that means he has a lot of them on his upper torso. One nagging thing I pick up on begs me to ask the next question, “How old is Joshua?”

I freak out inside and truly hope my question didn’t come out like the shrieking boy-band groupie squeal it felt like. My reaction is like this for two reasons. First, I haven’t seen or heard from my dad since I was twelve. Secondly, my dad is not a Leaper—at least, I don’t think he is.

“I don’t know, like tattoo age, I guess. Early twenties? It’s not like we hang out a lot; he just pops in once in a while. What’s with you guys anyhow? Are you like nudist colony runaways?”

That seals the what-if portion of this odd conversation. As he and his band of merry men laugh for no apparent reason to the nudist colony joke, I begin making my way toward them. I have one more question.

“What did Joshua talk about the last time you saw him?”

As abruptly as before, I’m pulled out of that timeline and popped back into my own. After a jump, it feels like a stomach cramp that releases slowly. My vision is always blurry, like I stepped out of a movie theater into the sunlight.

Still, I can’t help chuckling as I think of what those three potheads must have gone through after I vanished right before their eyes. I imagine the philosophical buzz that must have been killed for them at that moment.

“Something amusing?” The voice is coming from right in front of me, but I can’t make out exactly whom it belongs to. Judging by the soft carpet and smell of cinnamon, I know I’m standing in my room. I’m not sure how I ended up in a different location—usually the return is back to the same spot.

“Mom?” My eyes start coming into focus as I see her sitting in my desk chair facing me.

“You will dislike the fact that I have a good memory.”

Crap! We are just going to pick up where we left off, aren’t we? “How long was I gone?”

My mom looks away and gestures at me with the motion of her finger toward my nether region. I forget the nudity part, sometimes. In this scenario, I blush because I just flashed my mom, no pun intended, for God knows how long. Awesome job, Carter. I find a pair of sweatpants conveniently folded up on the end of my bed and throw them on, as my mom pretends not to notice my tiddly-bits.

“Carter, tell me about your run-in with Raymond Lord.”

The cramp in my stomach returns. This time in the new form of anxiety. I don’t even know where to begin, except to try and opt for a do-over. I abruptly disregard Lord Ray’s warning, since he called my house and decided to relay a message through my mom.

“Mom, I’m sorry. I got confused is all. And before I got more than a few moments to process what was going on, I made a hasty, split-second decision.”

“To not trust your mother.” It’s a statement, but also a question.

“Well, I am sorry. It was just difficult to understand, and I was already in the doghouse with the leap from days ago. I didn’t want to get into it, but I guess a part of me wondered and made me lie to you.”

After the words leave my mouth, I begin rotating the puzzle pieces to see what fits, exactly. So far, a few things haven’t, and it’s about time to turn the table around to get some truth of my own.

“Speaking of the leap report, is someone from the DCD here? I’d rather get it out of the way so we can get back to this.”

“There’s no need to rush. We’ll have time for that. Ray. Tell me what happened with him. What did he tell you behind closed doors?”

Something about the tone in my mother’s voice makes the hairs on my neck prickle. She is beyond any level of mad; she’s being cold. Usually, she has some degree of empathy for me, regardless of the circumstance.

“He only had the chance to tell me I would someday learn to control my powers. It wasn’t really clear. More like cryptic.”

“Why did he only have a brief chance to tell you that?”

“I started to leap.” Even recalling the moment is uncomfortable. Remembering how it felt to have a leap essentially corked.

“Started to?”

“The room he had me in stopped me somehow.”

My mom’s expression hasn’t changed once in this whole explanation. This reminds me of the Terminator movie a lot more than I’m comfortable with. Regardless, I can’t stop my mouth from opening and allowing words to fall out.

“Mom, is there something going on that you aren’t telling me?” As the question is punctuated, her eyes squint but not into a full grimace.

“That’s the only thing he said?” Okay, disregard my question.

“What?” I’m not sure if we’re playing on the same sports field anymore, let alone the same team.

“Did he mention anything else? Anyone else?” my mom asks.

“No, but I’m curious, cause another name I just heard on my leap was Dad’s. A small group of stoners knew him, apparently.”

That sparks something, and suddenly she’s no longer sitting but standing, facing me. The ten feet away between us disappears, and she is whispering in my ear. “Never speak of that aloud again.”

A second later she’s back by my desk chair, standing.

“Jesus! That’s another thing—how in the hell is it that you can teleport?!”

“Carter, there are many things you will learn about. I had to speak with you first, before I felt good enough about going forward.”

“Forward with what? Please, you have to tell me something. I feel like I’m going nutty here.”

“Can I talk yet?” a husky voice asks, outside my room.

My mom purses her lips together in an annoyed fashion before answering. “Come in.”

Instead of opening my door and introducing himself like a normal individual, Lord Ray appears in a brief flashing glimmer within my room, not bothering with the handle or hinges.

“Hi, Carter. Sorry about earlier. I kind of jumped the gun.”

“What?” That’s becoming a cliché question in my vernacular, lately. And he can teleport, too?

“Carter, what Ray is meaning to say is that he was mistaken about me.”

“Mistaken?” I ask, frozen like a deer on a country road at dusk.

“He knew about your father’s abilities and mine. Once you developed yours, he was aware of what would happen. After your father disappeared, and I started working as a counselor, Ray thought I was overlooking what could happen to you.”

“Also, since your mom works indirectly for the DCD, I didn’t think she could be trusted with knowing that you met me,” says Lord Ray. “Turns out your mom was and is more aware of things than I am.”

“More aware?” What am I turning into, a parrot? And my dad has abilities?

“There are some things I have been keeping from you until I thought the time was right.”

“So, why were you grilling me just now, if you already knew?” I ask.

“Mainly to corroborate Ray’s story, to see if anyone else knew about what you two discussed. So far, he’s slowly gaining my trust. Even though he kidnapped you and nearly ruined everything I’ve been trying to do for both of us, because he was impatient.”

Ray is just standing there with his hands up as if to pantomime, you caught me. I’m still clueless as to what just happened in my room over the past fifteen minutes, besides flashing my bits to my mom and learning a series of confusing notions. Apparently, my miming skills are up to par as well, because she proceeds to give me a recap.

“Carter, hon, you leapt, and I knew when and where you’d be back. In the meantime, I confronted Mr. Lord, brought him up to speed on my involvement, made a few cursory jumps, and formulated a plan for what to do next.”

“How could you know when I’d be back?” It’s seriously the only thought I’m able to squeeze back out of my mouth. My brain is having an allergic reaction and starting to swell from all of this.

She actually smiles back at me like I’m a child asking if we can drive to Hawaii.

“There are many things people with our condition have the ability to do, Carter. Chrono-Displacement is simply the one the government is fully aware of. Beyond that, we have abilities such as teleportation, telekinesis, and time tracking. When Leapers depart, they leave a distinct and detectable wave pattern. One day, you will be able to follow them.”

I suddenly feel like I can become a super spy, and secretly, I feel a little sick, with a small amount of awesome mixed in. Apparently, I have super-secret powers, but as I’ve learned from movies and graphic novels, that crap is going to get me into some serious trouble.

“Alba, I have to leave. Dr. Phillips will be pulling around here in a few moments.” It’s always strange to me when someone addresses my mom by her actual name instead of her maternal title.

“Wait,” I interject. “How long was I gone for?”

Ray looks at me, a little worry in his eyes. “Nine days and ten hours.”

With that, the same flicker of light takes him out of my room, and I’m guessing out of my house altogether. It occurs to me that both Ray and my mom can teleport without losing their clothes. Granted, it’s minor, but I am putting a mental pin in that notion, and I plan on bringing it up promptly.

“Now, Carter. There’s not a lot of time, but I need you to try and clear away any thoughts or memories of your father. Keep the rest of the details accurate, but leave out whenever your father’s name was brought up.”

“Mom, I have so many questions right now.”

“We have time for two, but the answers will be brief.”

Well, this is difficult. I feel like the more I concentrate, the harder it is to settle for asking two questions. The first thing I think of isn’t the question I care about. “If Ray was trying to keep me from talking with you, why did he call here?”

“It wasn’t him. His idiot henchman was told to get a message to you to meet him. Ray wasn’t aware that instead of personally delivering the message, the guy called here.”

Hmm, I guess even street legends have idiots in their midst.

My next question is a muddled version of about eight separate questions I can’t formulate properly but somehow seems appropriate. “Where is Dad?”

She looks worried, and even though she smiles, there are tears hovering in the lids of her eyes.

“That is what we are going to find out.”



A Time to Reap

Ch. 3: The Lord Called…



The message is disturbing, I admit. The one person on this earth I trust more than I do myself is apparently the one I shouldn’t—so sayeth the Crayola washable marker on my forearm.

I don’t recall ever having the need to scrub something off my skin quite as ferociously as in these moments before my mother enters the house. The suds and water splash about the sink as though a dog has decided to spin dry in the basin.

The alarm system for the house pings as my mother approaches the door by the garage. I hear the fluid metallic clunking of the deadbolts unlocking as she nears, a task made quicker by the house fob she carries. Modern conveniences that take the physical action of unlocking a door don’t help me buy any necessary time.

A quick pat dry and I’m good, minus the red friction mark on my arm. Anything is better than the monumental icebreaker my mom could have seen scribbled on my arm.


Oh, great. “Hey, Mom!” She loves it when I yell things down at her from upstairs.

“Get down here and say hello like a human, please!” Case in point.

And there is the cue to be civil and social. As I make my way down the steps, I can’t help but glance at the portraits hanging along the wall. Most are of my mom and me, a few from family holidays, and lastly, the only remaining photo of my mom, my dad and myself. She still hasn’t taken it down. It’s been four years, Mom. I’m pretty certain he’s not coming back.

As I reach the bottom step, my mind swirls. What to do with my newfound information—or rather, warning? The closer I get to my mother in the kitchen, the harder it is to stir my options, as if they were melting marshmallows beginning to cool.

“Carter, my dear.”

I can’t tell if that’s feigned sarcasm or not. “Mom, how was your trip?”

“It was full of tickles and joy, m’boy.” Classic line my mom always uses to describe anything of little merit. “Now, you mentioned a curio cabinet on the phone.”

Oh, crap sandwiches! I did say that. I would say that. And right before finding out something monumental I need to keep to myself. I’m not sure if I fully believe the scribble from my arm, but in the split-second decision I have, a part of me pauses at telling the truth.

“Yeah, the note.” In my years of encountering my mother during these forks in the road between my conscious mind and my gut, I have learned that the more time I invest in deciding, the guiltier my response appears to be. So I immediately follow with the hands-down best excuse of young adult life.

“I may have stretched the truth there.” Wait for it…

“Stretched?” I can sense her blood pressure from here.

“I like to think of it as a peripheral of the truth.” The upward inflection to my voice doesn’t sound convincing, more like I’m asking her if what I said was right or not.

“Peripheral?” One-word clarifications. Nice tactic, Mother. Touché.

“Might be more of a satellite?”

“Carter?” Yup, here it comes, pay attention.

“I may have mistakenly used the curio cabinet.” Flinch and brace for impact.

“Carter James Gabel!” And we have collision. It’s the triple combo of any proper mother ready to deploy punishment of epic proportions.


“No! You don’t do that, Carter. That word is a safe word, a drop everything and trust word. A never, ever to be used for any reason other than for what it’s intended word.”

I’m not certain, but I may have overstepped the success I think my strategy has brought. Mainly, the scornful, elevated tones are there, but her movements are dangerously calm. Mom uses her arms to talk just as much as her mouth.

“Mom, I’m sorry. It just snowballed from the leap to the briefing to bed to school. I never had much time to process what the best steps were in those moments.” That is mostly true.

“Carter, the reason we have that word is not just to rush past uncomfortable moments. It’s a pact between the two of us. A promise we trust in whatever the case may be if that word is spoken. Now, you’ve turned a flawless system into a corrupted one.”

“I didn’t mean to.” This is the recoil of my strategy. I knew it would be difficult, but she’s lathering the guilt icing on this punishment cake pretty thick.

“Well, Carter, there are accidents, and then there is just lazy stupidity. And you are not stupid, but this was a monumental mistake. I mean, any time you use the word from this point forward I will pause and wonder if I should believe you.”

Ouch. Yeah, this tactic, although a proven winner, is rough to stomach. This isn’t just angering her; it touches on a basic level of trust she has in me. Granted, from her perspective, this is low on the scale of trust issues. For me, I am still wondering just how far to take the words of Lord Ray.

“I promise I will not use it again carelessly. I am really sorry; I wasn’t thinking.”

Her lack of response tells me she is pondering the pros and cons of some form of punishment. You see, my tactic is almost foolproof. I have two options before me: admittance and coercion. I could admit to the note and the run-in and everything, but the “what if” portion makes me commit to another direction. So, with coercion, I admit to some kind of wrongdoing, but it’s one that I choose. I go into this scenario fully aware that my punishment is inevitable, but I set the context. This has worked for me in the past on numerous occasions.

There was the time I played inside the house with my pellet gun. I thought I had dispensed all the BBs from the tube. Turns out one little sucker remained and, when I squeezed the trigger, went right into the kitchen window. Now, getting pinned with discharging my gun in the house (a capital offense at a young age) was one route. Instead, quick thinking on my part took me straight outside and into the garage. One well-placed baseball shattered any evidence of the tiny hole. Faced with a scolding or a grounding, I chose the lesser of the two punishable offenses—an act I think I’m recreating here.

“Carter.” Here’s the windup. “I’m disappointed.” Fastball on the outside, strike one.

“I know.”

“When you were born, I was the happiest woman on earth.” Pitch number two starting. “Then right after I saw your face, I leapt. It was the dead of winter, and I wound up in a snow bank for six minutes before coming back. From that moment on, I knew I had to do all I could to protect you.”

Curve ball, strike two. Well-placed pitch, Mom. The old delivery story applies to any semi-serious situation. It’s there to remind me of her love and of my need to be allegiant to her because of the struggles she has faced.

“Trust helps me protect you, Carter. If I don’t have yours or you don’t have mine, where are we?”

The count is 0 – 2. This one looks hittable. “Mom, I trust you. It was just a one-time thing. I’m not sure what you want me to say.”

“You trust me? Well, then let me trust in you. You tell me what your punishment should be.”

Swung and missed. That pitch went high and inside with no chance of going anywhere. Batter is out. Damn, she played that well. I hate this scenario of deciding my own punishment—too strict, and it looks like I’m playing the martyr or being sarcastic. Too easy, and it shows my lack of caring for what I did.

“Jeez, mom. I don’t know. Two weeks, no TV?” It seems like a nice starting point for negotiations.

She stands against the refrigerator, arms crossed, not looking like I’m giving enough. Perhaps I should sweeten the deal with volunteering for household chores beyond my wheelhouse, including laundry and bathroom scrubbing.

“Carter, punishment is basically an unknown variable that’s always constant in your life. Leaping at your age can put you in dangerous situations at any point. Taking certain things away that relieve stress doesn’t help. Your life is precious to me.”

Oh, this is already not steering anywhere near a happy place.

“Taking things away from you is not real penance. Not with this. I think the best thing for you is to get signed up for training.”

And kill me.

“I will be your instructor,” she says.

Did I mention immediately? “Mom…”

“I’ve already prepared you physically with self-defense and other training. The rest is being able to control your leaping, and I can help with that, too, but not here.”

My mom works as a leap counselor. She helps kids with my condition mentally and emotionally, and also provides training sessions for them and their parents. It’s an attempt to control their leaps. Her organization is funded in part by the DCD, as long as she registers her clients with them and shares their progress.

Training sessions are mainly meditation and yoga type of nonsense. One of my fellow comrades from school said he went through it at age twelve, and it was the lamest experience in his existence. That taints the waters for me.

“Mom, please. I don’t need a bunch of hand-holding breathing techniques to help focus my chi or whatever.”

“Is that so?” That’s a challenge question and an obvious trap waiting to be stepped in. I will not be falling for it this time, Mother. Instead, I will just put my head down and power through.

“How many sessions do I have to go to?” I ask contemptuously.

In the distance, I hear the house phone chirping. Timing is everything. My mom looks toward the living room as if her vision can peer through walls and takes a few steps in that direction. In her retreat, she states, “As many sessions as it takes to make me feel comfortable with you again.”

Ugh. Not a win by any means, but not a set amount of training, either. She leaves the safety of the invisible punishment circle as she motions with one finger for me to stay, like I’m a golden retriever.

As soon as she is out of sight, I start making my way back toward the stairwell on the other side of the kitchen leading upstairs. The precautionary warning I throw out before she reaches the phone is, “I’m going to finish up my homework, quick.”

A diversionary tactic plus a plausible excuse near the tail end of sentencing—I couldn’t ask for a smoother transition. I hear her greeting the person on the phone, and I know I’m in the clear. I hope I can pay it forward to that caller someday.

“Not so fast,” my mom states from the base of the stairs.

“Wh— I thought we were pretty much done.” There is an alarm going off in my head right now. How did my mom answer the phone and make it all the way back through the kitchen to the stairs in front of me without me noticing?

“Your friend, Ray, called, and he would like to remind you of your study plans at the coffee shop tomorrow at three o’clock.”

Never mind that pay-it-forward comment. Ray is obviously an asshole and off my Christmas card list this year.

“Mom.” I turn around to head toward the fridge. “Sorry I didn’t ask before setting it up, but it was kind of last minute.” My mind was struggling to conjure so many tales. I’ll have to write all these down and practice later so I can remember them all.

As I near the fridge, continuing to speak over my shoulder at my mom, I notice a small ripple in the air, like the ones seen on a long stretch of hot, summer road. Shortly after, I reach my hand out to grab the fridge handle to peruse some snack options. My mother appears before me and stops my hand with hers.

If my butthole didn’t pucker in fright, I might have pooped my pants right then.

“Holy shit!” I think curse words were pretty acceptable given the circumstance. “Did you just…?”

“Teleport? Yes. Well, in a way. You and I, we need to further our conversation, it appears.”

“You can teleport?” I’m dumbfounded.

“Let’s start with how well you know Raymond Lord and work our way back to that.”

And this begins the worst week of my life.