4. Cultivation: part two

I awoke the next morning in a daze. Seconds later my head stopped spinning. These abnormalities were really starting to get to me. I just prayed that they would soon pass. The dream did not occur that night. In fact, I didn’t dream at all. I slept all through the night, and it was the best sleep I got in a week. I wiped my hand across my face to discover a thin film of moisture on my cheek. I looked to my side and found Maggie lying there beside me fast asleep. She must have been licking the hell out of me trying to wake me up. I looked at my clock radio. It was 12:40 and school started three hours and forty minutes ago. I had no intentions of going to class so I just laid back and relaxed.

The Christmas break soon came around the corner. I was glad that I didn’t have to deal with school for a couple of weeks or have to worry about the aftermath of the fight. I didn’t know what to expect from my friends or the others. When the Christmas break was over and it was time to go back to school, I was going to try to keep a low profile to not draw attention to myself. I also thought about Justin. He would be spending the Christmas holidays healing while he cursed me to hell. The thought of that made me laugh, actually.

We stayed home for the holidays. My cousins David and Leo came down from Toronto to spend some time with us. I hadn’t seen them in a few years so it was nice for them to come over. David is four years older than me, about twenty-two at the time. He’s a testosterone factory, always making sure to kick my skinny ass whenever he had the chance since we were kids, or poke fun at my resemblance to James Franco; and now he seemed to be obsessed with Michael Bay movies and cage fighting. In fact, he was going to be drafted into the CFL the following year, but he didn’t talk about it much, which was a bit out of character. As long as it would keep him out of trouble was my only concern. His younger brother Leo is a couple of years younger than me and was turning seventeen that coming February. He was getting a soccer scholarship and would play here in the US, but was pretty much the polar opposite to his brother. A few times he attempted to confide in me so he could come out of the closet, fearing the reaction of his brother. I had always suspected this about him, however, but didn’t want to ask him about it, figuring that he’ll tell me when he was more comfortable. Pretty sure his mother knew this as well.

I spoke with Beverly during the holidays, touching base with her every now and then. I took serious consideration into asking her to the prom, but like Chris said, I was getting ahead of myself.

Other than that, it was pretty quiet. Among the things I got for Christmas was a bran new Rolex watch from my dad and a sleek snowmobile from my aunt, although I wouldn’t have much use for it. Nevertheless, my dad refused to buy me another car. Jonathan had finally got his own laptop and was looking forward to slowing it down with all the games he would put on it. That Christmas turned out to be pretty good, despite all the crap that I was going through. I guess I deserved a break.

The day my cousins left I was out shovelling snow from the patio out back to clear my head. Jonathan came out with a shovel, this time wearing a grey skullcap. “Need a hand?” he offered.

“Nah, I’m good,” I replied. Regardless, he took his shovel and proceeded to scoop up a chunk of snow, tossing it over the side of the patio. “Looks like that talk we had a while back came in handy for you.”

“What, you mean that girl situation?” he asked. “To be honest with you, the advice you gave me was a load of garbage.”

“What?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed. “That whole spiel you gave me about how I need to play sports and lose weight and all that other stuff, it was total bull.”

“You telling me it didn’t work?” I asked.

“It’s not that it didn’t work,” he said. “I just didn’t use it. It’s ridiculous.”

“Oh yeah? You think you know so much? Okay. What’s your technique then, smart guy?”

“Confidence,” he responded. “All I needed was a little confidence. If you ain‘t got that, you ain‘t got anything. That’s the one detail you left out.”

“Ohh. Looks like the padawan has become the Jedi master.”

“And here’s a piece of girl advise I have for you: lay off the Star Wars.”

I wasn’t really insulted by that remark. Probably because I threw a shovel of snow at his round little face immediately after. Of course I began to chuckle obnoxiously as he spat the snow from his mouth while he feebly tried to get at the freezing ice crystals that made it down his shirt. Visibly annoyed, he scooped up two handfuls of snow and pelted them at me. Dodging the first snowball, I deflected the second with my shovel, and before Jonathan knew it I had him face down in the snow, still laughing my obnoxious laugh. He rolled over with his eyes and mouth wide open. “How’d you do that?” he asked as he sat up.

“Simple. I’m too quick for you,” I replied.

“I’ve never seen you move like that. Not even at your basketball games.”

“Oh I’m sure you have. That was nothin’.” As I helped him up he opened his hand to reveal a shining gold watch, and I realized that it was the one that belonged to our Mother.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked, studying it in the palm of his hand. The sight of it silenced me, and I suddenly felt colder than the snow beneath my feet. I had completely forgotten about it and now its unexpected reappearance frightened me. It had found me, like a stalker. But then again, was I hiding from it?

“Where did you get that?” I finally asked.

“In the library,” he answered. “It was just sitting on the table near your laptop.” He held it up for me to take.

For a moment I was hypnotized as I simply stared at it. “It belonged to Mom,” I said, coming back to reality. I took it from him with hesitation. “I found it lying around the house somewhere.”

“Should we give it to Dad? Has he seen it?” he asked.

“No… Not yet.”

“Want me to take it to him?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said as I put it in my pocket. “I’ll give it to him.” For a while neither of us said anything, forgetting about shovelling the snow, and I looked out over the winter garden of a backyard and past the forest beyond that. The eastern sky was a stark white melding into a dismal grey. The sun had already begun to set, but the house was obstructing its western light. Nevertheless, it was beautiful to see a horizon so emotionless that it broke my heart.

“I miss Mom,” Jonathan said. “How often do you think about her?”

I turned to look at him, seeing how his large hazel eyes made him look like her completely. “Everyday I’m conscious.”

****

On the afternoon of New Years Eve, I met up with Al and went to the food court at West Point Mall. I should have prepared myself for the millions of questions that he had ready for me. Al was still amazed from my fight with Justin and he wouldn’t stop making a fuss. He never saw me fight like that before. Al didn’t bother to ask what had happened. He already knew from all the talk that circulated its way around school like an email. He only wanted to know how I did it, and most importantly, what the hell was going through my head.

“What do you mean you don’t know?” complained Al as he stuffed a cheeseburger in his mouth. “I mean- you fuckin’ beat Justin’s ass.”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “I was just pissed. The guy just unleashed the devil in me, that’s all.” I paused to take a sip of my drink. “Plus, I used to take kung-fu.”

“Yeah, but you’re no master though,” said Al. “You weren’t even dedicated. You skipped classes.”

“Well, obviously I learned enough,” I said, “And I could probably take you on, so shut up.”

“Yeah, sure, buddy. Just because you could smack around one white boy don’t make you no heavy weight champion. And another thing. What were you thinking in the first place? Justin’s a friggin’ tank. What made you believe you can take em’?”

“Like I said, I’m not sure,” I answered, “I was just tryin’ to help Chris, and I can barely remember what happened. It all happened so fast. It was like a blur. Even I can’t believe it was me who you were holding back. All I remember feeling was pure anger, rage, impulse… and power. And I have no idea what took over me. But it was unlike anything I ever felt before. As if I was someone else.”

Al was looking at me as if I completely lost my mind. “Anthony, you haven’t been smokin’ that ooh-wee again have you?” asked Al.

I shook my head.

“No? Just checkin’. Well, just try and don’t do anything stupid. But hey, on the flip side, at least you showed Justin that he’s not the big pimp he thought he was. And hopefully you knocked some sense into him too. I knew someone had to show him eventually, I just didn’t think it was gonna be you. Man, you think you know a guy, and then he turns around and it’s someone completely different.”

As we continued to eat I noticed a small group of teenage girls sitting at a table across from us. They were speaking some Spanish dialect in its common rapid manner. One of them seemed troubled, not knowing how to tell her parents that her boyfriend got her pregnant. I wasn’t sure how they got to that subject, seeing that a little while before I overheard another one of them saying how excited she was for her sister’s wedding. And it was then that I remembered that I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Yet somehow I was able to briefly understand the semantic patterns of their speech. I sat there, realizing that my brain was somehow decoding and subconsciously translating everything these girls were saying. At the same time, all of my thoughts were in Spanish, and I knew that if I had said something, the words would have came out accordingly. But as soon as this revelation became apparent, my mind suddenly lost touch with this Latin comprehension, and I could no longer understand a word they were saying. I returned to my monoglot constraints, and the girls’ dialogue was once again an incoherent string of Hispanic gibberish.

But as I sat there still dumbstruck, I caught a glimpse of someone in the corner of my eye. Amongst the people passing by I saw Justin with two of his friends. As they strutted past, Justin noticed me, and as he moved by he gave me one look that could only mean death. He looked me straight in the eyes and I was able to see how much he hated me for stealing his pride, his glory, and his dignity. I responded by looking straight back at him, and for a moment it was as if we were engaged in a battle of glares. Then I noticed his entire arm and hand were in a cast being held up by a sling. He had a bruise on the side of his face and a busted lip. And suddenly I no longer feared him, and I tackled his eyes once more and held them until he turned away.

“Speak of the devil,” Al said when Justin and his friends were at a safe distance. “I guess he won’t be showing up for a while. Man, you really made an example out of him–”

“Enough!” I snapped at him.

Al was stunned. “Whoa, what’s your problem?” he said.

“Nothing,” I replied, cooling down. “It’s just that- I don’t want people to look at me any differently. I don’t want people to think I’m a ticking time bomb or somethin’. I don’t want people makin’ a big deal outta’ of this shit.”

“But this shit is a big deal, man,” said Al. “I have a feeling that things are gonna change.”

“Al, listen. You could bring this up every once in a while if you like, but I’d appreciate it if you don’t go around talkin’ about this, all right. It’s bad enough having half the school know about this.”

“No problem, kid,” pledged Al. “But I think it’s a bit more global than ‘half the school’.” He was now silent for he had no further questions.

“I thought you said we were supposed to meet someone here,” I reminded him.

“We are. She’s late.”

“So who is it?” I asked.

“My cousin, Monique,” Al replied, “She’s comin’ back down from New York today. I’m supposed to meet her here.”

“Monique? From back in the day?” I asked, “I haven’t seen her in years. Who’s she been stayin’ with?”

“She was at our aunts for a few years. But now she’s back cuz she wants to go to a college here when she finishes high school.”

“So she transferred over, eh? Man. It’s been a while. I remember back in the day when she was livin’ with you guys.”

“Actually, I think she had a lil’ thing for you, Anthony.”

“Are you serious?” I asked dubiously.

“Yeah, man. It’s funny because you were the first and only white dude she ever had a thing for.”

“And why are you telling me this now? How’s she doing anyways?” I asked, trying to change the subject.

“Oh, she’s great,” replied Al, “And here she is…” Along came Monique carrying a backpack and wheeling behind her a suit case. She was wearing her long, dark, braided hair down with a toque over it. She was wearing a pair of tight jeans and a small dark-brown coat. Al signalled to her so she would spot us.

“You packed light,” said Al as she approached us.

“Yeah, uncle Mike’s coming down with the rest of my stuff,” puffed Monique as she relieved herself of her burdens. “Is… is this Anthony?” she asked, finally realizing that the handsome stud sitting next to her cousin was me.

“The one and only,” replied Al.

“Holly shit, I can‘t believe this!” she exclaimed. “How are you?”

“I’ve been better and I’ve been worse, but I’m okay,” I answered. “How about you? How was life in the Big Apple?”

“Wasn’t bad,” she said. “New York’s actually a lot cleaner than Lucicrescens, believe it or not.” She sat down and explained her stay in New York, telling me pretty much everything Al had told me but only in more detail. Al went to get her something to eat, seeing that she‘d probably be starving from the bus trip.

“So, I hear you’ve been getting yourself into trouble, Anthony,” said Monique as she looked at me through the corners of her eyes. “Hear you’ve been getting into fights and actually winning them this time.”

“Does the whole world know?” I sighed. “How’d you find out?”

“Al told me last night over the phone,” she said.

“Oh, did he now. Well, to set the record straight, I was trying to break up a fight between some idiot and my friend.”

“Trying to be a hero now, eh?” said Monique, “I see you’ve changed. I guess you’re no longer that quiet little boy who used to hang out at our place.”

That took me back to when I was younger. I’ve known Al since ninth grade. I still find it strange how we became friends, we were from two completely different worlds. When I first entered that high school four years ago, I felt so out of place. There I was, an upper class Irish-Italian boy from a prep-school in north-west Lucicrescens, now in the midst of sheer diversity, unshackled and not conformed, where anything could happen. But somehow I found friends in a few of these “unfamiliars”, and I found that I prefered this life than my last. I remember how I used to find Al’s place so cozy compared to mine. I would go there just for its warmth and the thick scent of food preparing in the kitchen that would permeate through the entire house. I never knew that feeling where I was from; the smell of any cooked meal would always dissipate in the vastness of the mansion. But at Al’s place, everything was close and with you, like a snug blanket. After school we’d head over with a couple of other people; Monique would always be there. My dad never really liked the idea of me going to a public school. But being the type of man he was, he didn’t really give a damn.

The two of us continued to talk. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” burst Al, coming back with a tray of food. “There’s a party happening tonight. You guys wanna’ come?” Monique didn’t seem to mind.

“I don’t know. Where is it?” I asked.

“It’s at a friend of mine,” replied Al, “You know em’. It’s at Jaurel’s. He used to be on our basketball team.”

“Jaurel? Didn’t he leave?” I asked.

“More like expelled.”

“Oh, cool,” I said. “Alright, I’m game. You comin’ Monique?”

“It’s New Years Eve. Of course,” she answered.

“Sweet,” I said. “But you’d probably be tired from that long bus ride. So go home, unpack, get some rest, then come and get drunk with us.”

The night came quickly and before I knew it, I found myself at the party. It was in the south end of Lucicrescens, one of the most notorious spots in all of New Jersey. There was a ruckus of houses blasting music as people stumbled from door to door with liquor bottles in hand. Jaurel’s house stood out amongst them, as his place seemed to shake the entire neighbourhood. The place looked small from the outside, a two-story townhouse, but inside it seemed huge; and yet the large amount of people inside made it seem small again. I don’t even think the place was designed to hold such large numbers. I stole a Lexus from my dad to get there. I didn’t think he’d notice. When we walked in I thought Jaurel had invited half the people under twenty-five in the entire city. There was a thick fog of marijuana smoke competing with the smell of alcohol that was rich in the air. As we walked around, Monique spotted some old friends who were anxious to see her. Telling us where she’d be she went off to meet them. The two of us continued to dodge our way through the living labyrinth of bodies. The place was dimly lit and the hip-hop music only got louder as we went in deeper.

Suddenly we heard a loud voice shout across the room. “YO AL!” it screamed against the music. We looked off into the direction where it came from. It was Jaurel hanging out with three of his boys on a couch. “Over here!” he shouted again signalling to us. When we made it over Al and Jaurel greeted each other like brothers. He greeted me like one too. The ganj in his blood had him extra friendly. He was a lean looking dark-skinned dude with braids, and his body was an art gallery of tattoos. Like me, he was wearing a tight, white wife-beater which slightly accentuated his physique, along with a pair of loose fitted jeans. After he introduced us to the rest of his crew he invited us to sit down and join them. As he spoke, the remnants of a lost Trinidadian accent lingered on every other syllable. After a few rounds of drinks and lighting blunts, some girls came over. They were from Jaurel’s school and looked like the type of ladies who frequent these parties. They talked with Al and Jaurel for a while and soon after went up stairs with them. Al said he’ll be back, eventually. One girl stayed behind to talk to me. “Are you Anthony?” she asked, “You’re the one who beat up Justin, wasn’t it?”

“How many people know about that?” I asked.

“Everybody knows,” she said. “Justin’s a titan, on the field and on the streets. And you brought him down.”

“To be honest, I was just tryin’ to help my friend.”

“Exactly,” she continued. “You stood up to him and brought an end to his reign of terror. That was pretty insane of you. It takes a real hardcore guy to do a thing like that. Maybe there’s something else about you.”

I already knew where this was going, and I had full intentions of getting there. “So what’s your name?” I asked, as if that mattered.

“Veronica.”

“Pleased to meet you, Veronica.”

“It’s kinda noisy down here,” she said. “Do you wanna go upstairs and talk?”

I couldn’t say no.

Some time later I came back downstairs. I was absolutely mangled, the combination of THC and alcohol had electrified my lungs and blood stream, I could hardly tell my left from my right. I stumbled through the party as the music blasted with the bass pumping. I made my way to the kitchen to get a glass of water, that didn’t help much. I was tripping out like Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas. I needed to get off my feet and take a breather. As I weaved my way through the countless bodies who were probably just as fucked up as me, I could see guys break dancing on the open floor. I noticed a group of young girls doing lines of coke on a coffee table; one of them got a nose bleed, she couldn’t have been any older than fourteen.

Not watching where I was going, I tripped on a beer bottle and landed hard. I saw the floor riddled with garbage and cans. And at that moment my head began to throb. My mind was spinning from all that chronic, liquor, loud music, and this headache to top things off. I just laid there on the floor as people hovered past oblivious to my existence.

But soon after, the strangest thing started to occur. My headache dissipated and calmed down. And my hearing began to amplify again, like that time at Virtue High. “Oh not again,” I mumbled to myself, covering my ears, expecting the worst. But to my surprise I was able to focus it this time and control it. With the music on full blast I was able to listen to individual chatter, hear each frequency and pitch in the music, the blood flowing through the dilated capillaries of a drunken sixteen-year-old girl, and I could single out the heavy breathing and moaning going on upstairs.

This ability had evolved somehow, becoming more fine tuned and malleable. I was now able to control it at will. But as I stood up I began to feel strange sensations. I felt a combination of warmth and cold, but not on my skin, but from the inside. I couldn’t explain it. It was as if I was feeling the presence of everybody in the house. Man, what was I smoking, I thought to myself. At first I believed that this was just part of the trip. Then something else happened. I was able to judge and pin point who was who and where they were without my eyes, even Monique who was not too far away. I could see her, sitting alone and silent, not comfortable with the activity around her. But there was something strange about her, something radiant. There was a glowing light emanating from her like an aura, and it was this that I was feeling. But it wasn‘t just her, everyone else was surrounded by these clouds of light, and they too registered with me. Many of them were different colours ranging between shades of green. Monique was no exception.

I thought I had too much to drink and hoped for it to soon wear off. I never felt anything like this before. I was in a daze and everything appeared to move in slow motion. As I proceeded towards Monique to join her, I suddenly felt a familiar presence. Three guys walked into the house and I recognized them as belonging to Justin Thomas’s clique. Two of them we saw earlier at the mall with Justin. However, he was nowhere to be seen. Most likely he was tending to his wounds and injured pride, too embarrassed to show up, knowing that three quarters of the people here knew what happened to him. But as his friends got closer I felt a strong shudder from within me. It was like I could feel the bad vibes coming from them, and they were bathed in this yellow glow as if they were on fire but weren‘t burning. I could hear their foot steps pounding towards me, and they slowly passed by giving me a glance with a distorted look. They drifted away like gliding spectres.

I turned my attention back to the couch where Monique was sitting to notice that she was no longer there. I went over and sat down to collect my thoughts. But I couldn’t focus. My head was overwhelmed with intoxication and what seemed like time-space distortion. And as I watched the wild party carry on, the carelessness and irresponsibility that drew me here, everything around me suddenly slowed down to a crawl, from the dancing, the drinking, the music, to time itself. It almost became motionless. And as I sat there loosing my equilibrium, everything faded to black. I passed out.

I regained consciousness barely feeling myself. Coming to was slow and painful, and my head was throbbing again. With my eyes still closed I felt a cold chill and a freezing draft. I no longer felt soft carpeting beneath me, but hard stones and strangely enough, metal rails. I then felt a rumbling that crept up my body, and it began to get stronger as if it was getting closer. Quickly following after, I heard the sound of roaring engines and metal rolling against metal. Then there was light, big and bright like the gates of heaven, and I slowly began to open my eyes. I made an attempt to climb to my feet, struggling to keep my balance, and when I made it to my hands and knees I suddenly heard the howl of a horn. It was loud and resonating, and as I looked up to see my situation, steaming towards me was an oncoming train. I had no time to think or act, but moments before the stampeding train creamed me, I once again lost all conscious thought, and sub-conscious instinct took control. And with some kind of supernatural momentum, I leaped above the speeding machine and into the air. I reached an amazing height with a forward somersault, allowing me to see the train pass below before coming down square on my feet. My heart was pounding like a basketball as I looked back to see the train speed away into the night. I frantically began groping myself to see if I was in one piece. I was overwhelmed with a combination of shock, confusion, and fear. I screamed at the top of my lungs until there was no air left in them, then I was dead still and silent, remaining like that for at least fifteen minutes with my eyes wide open.

When I finally gathered myself I looked around to see where I was. I was at a train yard not too far from Jaurel’s neighbourhood. The night had already drew on and the first rays of sunlight could already be seen breaking out of them urban horizon, yet the stars could still be seen. There wasn’t a soul around who witnessed what I just did, except one very confused freight train operator. I had no idea how I got there, but I was going to get answers. That was really one hell of a New Years Eve.

I realized my cell phone and keys were missing but was relieved to find I still had my wallet, so I caught a taxi home. Although I got almost no sleep, I was surprisingly awake and wasn’t tired at all. I didn’t even breathe a single yawn during the entire trip home, and when I got back I didn’t even fall asleep. I looked at my watch and it read Jan 1, 8:04 am. I stayed up the entire morning and afternoon. How I was not tired, hungry, or hung over baffled me. I went straight to my room to do some serious thinking. I took into account all the things that occurred over the past couple of months: the girl who was attacked, the reoccurring dreams, my mother’s watch, that old man and the house, the swimming pool incident, those jolts, my hearing, the fight with Justin, the strange events at the party, what happened at the train yards, and finally my unusually alert state of mind after a crazy night like that. It had been a strange month indeed, so I wondered if all these things could somehow be related. It then occurred to me that most of these things happened right after I had that dream with the old man. Maybe that wasn’t a dream, maybe it actually happened. Perhaps everything he was telling me about my destiny was actually taking place. But then I remembered that I didn’t believe in any of that supernatural stuff. Spirits, destiny, faith, those things didn’t matter to me, it was bullshit. But then what the hell was happening to me? I was about to go crazy when the house phone rang. The caller ID said ANTHONY APOLLO. Whoever was calling had my cell phone.

“Hello?” I answered suspiciously.

“Happy New Year, Anthony… It’s Monique.”

“Monique? Hey, what’s up? I-I mean Happy New Year.”

“Did I wake you?” she asked.

“Uh, no. I’ve been up for a while now?”

“Really!” exclaimed Monique, “After a night like that? You don’t even sound wasted. Me and Al couldn’t even find you last night when we were leaving. We thought you left.”

“You did?” I asked, “Well don’t expect any answers cuz even I don’t know what happened. You won’t believe where I found myself this morning.”

“Where?” she asked.

“I’d rather not talk about it.” I said with a second thought.

“All right,” she said, “We thought you left because some people were saying that they saw you being carried out by these three guys. But we didn’t understand because your car was still there. And this one girl (and I don’t even want to know what you two were doing by the way) said that you left your keys and cell phone upstairs. I’ll just say they fell out of your pocket and leave it at that. But anyways, I took the liberty to drive your car back for you. Al was too drunk to drive–”

“Wait-wait-wait,” I interrupted, “So you mean that when you were ready to leave you couldn’t find me, and some girl had my car keys and shit, right? And these three guys carried me out of the house. Did anybody say where they were taking me?”

“No, why?” asked Monique.

“Because I have a strange feeling that those guys ditched me to be run over by a fuckin’ train, Monique.”

“Yeah right! You’re shittin’ me. Why would they do that?”

“They were friends of some asshole I beat up,” I answered.

“That’s messed up. You better watch yourself if he has it in for you. I’m glad you’re okay though. So are you gonna do somethin’ about it?”

“Nah,” I replied. “I’m not gonna retaliate, I’m not gonna snitch. Let’s call it even for now. Maybe I’ll be off his hit list.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” said Monique, “But anyways, I have your car… and your phone.”

“Is the car with Al?” I asked.

“Actually, I sort of borrowed it for my job interview,” Monique regretfully confessed.

“You did what?”

“Sorry, I just needed it for the morning. My aunts a nurse at Mother Mary Hospital so she hooked me up with a part-time job there. And besides, it’s a Lex. When will I get another chance to roll in one. Tell you what, why don’t you come and get it and you could give me a ride home.”

“All right,” I sighed, “But there better not be any scratches on it. My dad’ll kill me if he finds out. And how the hell do you have a job interview on New Years Day?”

“How should I know,” she said. “They asked me if I could come in and I said yeah. Need to make a good impression, ya know.”

“Whatever,” I said. “See you in a bit.”

Later on that afternoon I left to meet Monique. I had the driver take me to the hospital and leave me there to get my car. The hospital was located on the Under Story downtown, so it was busy with all the commuters passing by, the rushing traffic, blowing horns, and screaming sirens. I grabbed some street meat and a can of Orange Crush for an unbalanced breakfast and stood on the corner to enjoy it. It was sunny out, and that cold January breeze was intensified as the skyscrapers above created wind tunnels. I finished my hotdog and continued to take in the city, barely noticing that my head once again began aching, but this time it was calmer. I stood there by the steps leading to the entrances with my hands on my head and my eyes closed waiting for the pain to desist. And gradually it faded away. But as I opened my eyes I saw the craziest thing. Just like at the party the previous night, it was as if the people were surrounded in St. Elmo’s fire, and I could feel their very presence, a cool sensation on my skin. The hair on my arms stiffened in response. But this time it was stronger, more clear, and more vivid than the night before, probably because I was completely sober. The air itself had a cyan hue to it. I watched in bewilderment as pedestrians moved past me and left me in the trail of these ghostly emissions. At the same time I was feeling all sorts of deep sensations, anywhere from comfort and warmth, to fear and cold. What did all this mean, I wondered. And what exactly was it that I was feeling?

I was almost frozen. I hoped that this was just a temporary condition. Maybe I was more hung over than I thought. Or maybe there was more to it than that. I pushed myself so I would proceed away from the streets and into the hospital. I must have been standing there for five minutes. Finally I went inside. In there I felt more at ease and calmer. Monique had given me directions to find her earlier on. She was applying for a position that dealt with the sick kids, so she was in the east wing of the building. After much turning around I finally made it there. When I reached the area it was cooler. Not the air mind you, but from within me. As I continued to walk the feeling got stronger, then I began to feel a unique presence: children. I past a room where kids were playing. I looked through the window and noticed that all of them had a blue aura. For some reason the very sight of this was eerily soothing. I breathed out in relaxation. Those auras were affecting me somehow, and for once I was at peace. But then I was drawn to another room down the hall. The feeling then changed into something different, something more… serene, and as I looked through the window I saw infants, sleeping away in peace and quite. But what was most unusual about them was that they were emitting a soft violet glow unlike any others I had witnessed. It was tranquil. I felt joy, peace, and security. I felt… innocence. Suddenly, a familiar presence abruptly caught my attention. I turned around and saw Monique approaching, alight with a green halo. “Anthony?” she said looking at me strangely, “Are you okay?”

“Of course,” I lied.

“Well, thanks for coming and not being pissed off that I took your dad’s car,” she said.

“No problem,” I replied. “So you work here, eh. Nice place. You must love it here.”

“I do,” she said with a smile, “But I don’t work here yet, I just had an interview. But I think it went well though. Plus my aunt put in a good word for me.”

As we began to walk back down the hall, I felt torn that I had to leave that nursery. But I noticed that something was troubling Monique, there was a disquiet in her mind. I was not judging this by her expressions, but from what I felt emanating from her. I was able to sense what she was feeling, like I was some sort of empath.

“Are you okay,” I asked? She looked at me and by the look in her eyes I could certainly tell that she was displeased with me. “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just thinking about last night,” she answered.

“Oh. I get it,” I said shamefully.

“Do you go to parties like that all the time?” she asked.

“No. That was the first one I’ve been to in a long time,” I answered.

“I saw you over there with Jaurel,” she said. “You’ve changed a lot.”

I was silent after I came to the realization of my behaviour. “Well, I’ve been going through a lot,” I explained “I’m going through things that I can’t really explain. Quite honestly I don’t even understand them. I guess I was just trying to get my mind off of them. What you saw last night, it’s not even me. That’s my substitute.”

“Then where’s the real you?” she asked

“Standing here next to you.”

She gave me a smile and looked away.

“Come on,” I said, “I’ll take you home.”

When I got home I didn’t bother to get settled in. I immediately went out and strolled throughout the backyard to collect my thoughts. I climbed up the ten-foot high, gothic, brick walls that enclosed the property and looked beyond into the outlaying woods. I went around the house to the window that looked down into the room where I found my mothers watch. From there I began to retrace my steps from the night when I gave chase to that mysterious owl. I journeyed out of the sprawling backyard and out into the near by woods. I then wandered down the path that went through the bare trees and bushes that were frosted with snow. I soon discovered the log that I tripped over. I knew I was on the right track. I kept on walking and walking, but no sign of the House showed up. I walked and walked and walked until I came to a narrow stream. The House was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it was a dream, I thought to myself. I turned back more confused than ever, but mostly disappointed.

****

It was seven days later. As I awoke, my concerns were lying on me like weights. However, it was a new year and I was ready to make a fresh start. I got dressed and started the day as normal. I went downstairs to meet Jonathan already eating breakfast as usual. “Have you seen Dad?” he asked.

“What do you think,” I said. It wasn’t common to see our dad at the breakfast table. He woke up with his work, went to dinner with his work, probably even slept with his work. He was always off somewhere at some meeting or at some function. Now it was press conferences with his brother’s campaign and all.

Me and Jonathan talked long that morning, even forgetting about school. We probably would have been late if Ms. Duvinchi hadn’t urged us to hurry up. We both got the same ride to school that day. As the Rolls Royce drove across the Inner City Highway, me and Jonathan sat in the back seat. I was still seeing that eerie glow around people. Jonathan was no exception. He was glowing a vibrant turquoise colour, and I could feel his emotions stirring. This time he wore what appeared to be a navy blue skullcap, but I couldn’t really tell. I was always able to sense when something was on his mind, but this was to a new extreme. But as I was looking out the window, watching the cars and buildings whiz by, he asked me, “What’s been going on with you, Anthony?” I was shocked by the question. It was usually me who asked it. I looked into his eyes and I saw that he knew that something was not right.

“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to get more out of him.

“You haven’t been the same lately,” said Jonathan, “I’ve seen the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you’ve been acting. It’s like you changed, or something.”

I remained silent. I simply gave him a smile and laughed.

“You’re not on drugs, are you?”

“What, no! Of course not!” I denied.

“Then tell me,” he urged, “What’s wrong? I’ve known you my entire life. You know I could read you like an open book.” I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. I loved him too much to not say anything. I had to tell him.

“Jonathan, I have changed,” I said. “I’ve changed a lot. There are certain things that I can do now that I couldn’t do before. And there are certain things that I can see now that I couldn’t see before. To be quite honest with you, I don’t even know what’s going on.”

“It’s called adolescence, Anthony,” he said like a wise-ass. “So what have you done?”

“Well, I got in a fight that I’m not particularly proud of,” I explained. “But at the same time, I am proud of it. And I think I just became more aware of people and who they are and what they feel. A lot more aware. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Aware? What do you mean by that?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” I confessed. Jonathan looked at me strangely as if he knew I wasn’t telling him everything. I felt both stupid and vulnerable. It was an awkward situation because it was as if the table had turned, and he was the one challenging me. As if he was the older brother. “I gave away my iPod the other day.”

“Why’s that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I just realized that my own thoughts are more interesting.”

“Something happened to you, didn’t it,” he declared. I was exposed. He knew me better than I had imagined.

“Yeah. Something did happen to me,” I confessed.

“What?”

“I had a nightmare, only to discover that it was real but… still a dream. Whatever I dreamt is affecting me both physically and mentally in some kind of way that I can’t explain. I know it sounds crazy, but now there are all these things that I can do.” There was a long pause of silence.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” said Jonathan, “But it does sound crazy.”

“You’re right,” I said, “It does sound crazy.” I turned away and looked back out the window. The car drove on and I continued to watch the scenery pass by, the city slowly rising over the horizon. Every now and then I’d glimpse over to Jonathan who was doing the same thing.

“How’s Tiffany?” I finally said.

“Oh, she’s fine,” said Jonathan, “She might be comin’ over again after school.”

“I see, I see. And what about that next girl, the one who never noticed you?” I asked.

“Oh her? She’s old business. I moved on,” he answered.

I gave him a long hard look. “Let me tell you something, Jonathan. Forget about girls for now, all right? Even Tiffany. I mean you could still be friends with her, but right now you’re too young and too stupid. I’ll tell you the same thing Uncle Joseph told me when I was a couple years older than you. Focus on opening books and not opening legs.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Just worry about school for now, all right?” I sighed.

He nodded his head.

We continued to talk throughout the ride. Eventually, we entered downtown Lucicrescens. The highway took us right through the Misty Canyon where we were met by traffic. We crawled through the concrete gorge as water came roaring out of the large sewer pipes that were built into the other side of the canyon, and down into the river below, creating a fine mist that sat on the highway. As I watched the scenery slowly move by, a deep dark feeling crept up my spine and into the rest of my body. It was like the feeling that I had felt at the party when Justin’s boys walked past me, only this was much much worse. It felt like the temperature had risen a thousand degrees, and a thick black shadow was thrown over my heart. It was the most intense feeling I ever felt, and my heart began to race frantically as sweat glossed my forehead. I looked over to my brother, who seemed perfectly natural, and the driver in the front seat, who didn’t show any sign of discomfort. The feeling only got stronger as the car proceeded through, and as I looked out the window, all my attention and focus was instinctively drawn to something big that suddenly appeared out from one of the pipes off in the distance. It was glowing a crimson aura, darkly. But as I looked at it, I realized that it was the same beast that now haunted my dreams: the large beastly horror, bathed in shadow and darkness. And it was looking at me, straight into my eyes. I went stiff, not a single thought went through my head. And the last thing I remembered seeing was the thing raising its arm towards me, opening its hand as a flash of light burst forth.

Then BOOM.

Once again, blackness, utter blackness. Silence. And then there was the sound of sirens and fire trucks. My eyes slowly began to open. I was completely lost and had not a clue to what just happened. As I regained the feeling of my body, I felt an immense weight on me. I began groping it to feel what it was. It felt like a huge slab of concrete. There was a great deal of pain and fear coursing all through me. But before I knew it, I was converting that pain and fear into strength, and slowly I began to push the piece of debris off of me. I began to cough the dust out of my lungs as I turned over. And as I looked up I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: a large part of the highway and the canyon had been completely destroyed. I looked around to see bodies lying all over the place along with twisted metal, car wreckage, debris, and burning rubble. On top of the pain, confusion, and fear, I was in a great state of panic. I had no idea what just happened. But then suddenly the thought of Jonathan flashed through my head, and the feeling of fear became a hundred times worse. I look around to see where the Rolls Royce would be. “JONATHAN!” I cried. “JONATHAN!” I shouted again at the top of my lungs. Then I spot it just ahead of me. And with every ounce of strength I began to drag myself on my arms towards the wreckage, crawling over rubble and dead bodies. Someone would prey for them later. Finally I made it to the drivers seat. The driver was a bloody mess and seemed lifeless. That only weakened my hopes. Then I made my way to Jonathan. I thanked God he was still moving, but barely hanging on to life. The car was flipped over and he was pinned underneath. My fears became greater. But suddenly an even greater force of hope and love took over. With one hand I began to lift the car up with an inhuman strength, and I pulled Jonathan out to safety. I sat up and held him in my arms. His skullcap was off. He needs his skullcap, I think to myself. I saw it inside the car covered in bits of broken glass. I reached in, grabbed it, and shook it off. I fixed it back on his head, making sure it’s on nice and tight. As he cries, his life bleeds from his mouth. “Everything’s gonna be okay, kid,” I wept. “Everything’s gonna be okay.” I look into his eyes and I see the light getting dimmer.

He manages to speak a few strained words. “Something did happen to you, Anthony…” he coughs. More blood. “You’re a new person…”

I continue to stare into his eyes as his pupils open and the light goes out. I could no longer see him, because my eyes are filled with tears.

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