Simon recalled the events surrounding that night with a vivid clarity as his own son, Marlon, stood with his hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his jeans in the same doorway to the same study. “What’s up, pal?” Simon said. “Bored already?”
“Kinda,” Marlon said, kicking at the floor. “When can we go home?”
“In a while, Mar. I’ve got to clean up Gran’pa’s desk before we leave today.” Simon stood and stretched. “Couple hours, maybe.”
“What should I do?”
Simon put a hand on his twelve year-old’s shoulder. “You know that really cool-looking old shed out back?”
“The one Mom and Gran’ma never let me go in?” Marlon’s eyes lit up.
“That’s the one,” Simon said and reached into his pocket. “You can go out there and then report to me what’s in it. Here’s the key.” Marlon reached out to take it, but Simon pulled it back and looked seriously at his youngest son. “Some rules first, though: no climbing, no breaking anything. You start sneezing from all the dust you have to come back in here. Understand?”
“All right then, don’t tell Mom or we won’t get to come out here by ourselves again.” He handed the MasterLock key to Marlon and smiled, standing straight. “I bet the Anderson brothers would like to go in, too, if you wanted to go see them first.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Marlon said and ran out of the house. Simon could hear the screen door on the back slam shut the way it always had. He turned back to the file drawer and began flipping through the hanging folders, pulling out random papers of his father’s.
They’d all screamed. The boys were more frightened than they’d ever been before, or since. They’d all peed themselves.
When the light had faded with their screams, the boys rode their bikes slowly home. At the crossroads where Kurt and Luke would split off from Alex, Mark and Simon they finally spoke. “What do we do now?” Kurt said.
The silence was leaden. Night in the country isn’t quiet, only different from the city. Crickets are there, tree frogs, more trees for the wind to blow through and rustle leaves and taller grass in spots all combine for a gentle soughing that roared like racecars past five pairs of ears. Simon was their leader.
“Pay attention to how you feel, how things taste, watch for anything strange happening to you, all that.”
“This isn’t some Russia Owens story, Si,” Mark said. “It’s not a comic book.”
“I didn’t say that,” Simon said. “But I don’t have any other ideas. If you guys have something I’m all for it.”
“How’re we gonna find out what that thing was?”
“Me, I want to forget the whole thing,” Alex said.
All five boys were still. Simon nodded. “All right, then,” he said. “Just pay attention, guys. Don’t tell anyone.”
Kurt and Luke nodded assent, stood on their pedals and rode away. Simon, Mark and Alex rode in the other direction together until Mark turned to ride down the little alleyway that led to his family’s house. Alex stopped when they got to Simon’s house. “It’s gonna be bad, Si,” he said. “It’s gonna go on forever and it’s gonna be bad. Something happened to us out there.”
Simon just looked at his best friend and frowned. “Maybe,” he said.
None of the boys slept well that night.
After a week, the boys met at their favorite quiet spot: a little-used boat ramp. They all had dark circles under their eyes, were gaunt and exhausted.
“Luke,” Simon said. “What’s going on, man? You don’t look so good.”
“Look around,” he said. “None of us do.” He watched a water skier pulled by a speedboat cross the lake. “I can see things before they happen.”
“So can I,” Mark said. “What’s the big deal?”
“Frau Bender thinks I cheated on the German test. Mrs. Sanders thinks I cheated on the Algebra test, too.” Luke was pacing the rocky shore. He picked up a small flat rock, turned it over in his hand and skipped it across the placid water.
“Can you control what you see?” Alex sounded a little excited.
“Nope,” Luke said. “I think I have to be really worried and it’s only good a few minutes ahead of time.”
“Mark, what about you? What are you seeing?” Alex was in detective mode, emulating his hero, Batman. “Anything other than just football games?”
Simon turned. “What? Football games?”
“Yeah, I knew the Cowboys were gonna win.”
“They were down twenty-one at the end of the third quarter!” Kurt said. “How’d you know they were gonna win?”
“Same way that Luke saw, it’s just there in my head.” Mark put out his arms. “What? I didn’t bet on it!”
“Guys,” Alex said. “How do you know? How are you seeing these things?”
“I don’t know,” Luke said. “It’s kind of like a dream, but I’m not asleep. It’s kind of fuzzy, then it clears up. I saw the answers to the questions I didn’t know the answers to, the ones I needed to pass.”
“But you didn’t just pass,” Alex said.
“Nope. A minus. First one ever for me in German.”
“Yeah, same thing. I was looking at the newspaper and there it was.”
“This sounds familiar,” Simon said. “It’s like that story in ---“
“--- Strange Science number one-oh-two.” Alex smiled. “I knew you were going to say that so I brought the book with me.” He pulled the comic book from his back pocket and unrolled it. “The Russia Owens story. The guy who can see the future.” The boys all gathered close around Simon as he read the story again. “He goes crazy in the end,” Alex said. “Can’t figure out what’s now and what’s coming.”
“Jesus,” Kurt said. “What’s gonna happen to us?”
Early the next spring, Luke didn’t look back at his friends when his parents’ car backed into the street. He hadn’t really been himself since Halloween, and the other boys had been reluctant to be around him after Thanksgiving. He would say crazy things that would come true shortly after he said them, but then he’d giggle like a fiend when they happened. Simon’s dad tried to explain that Luke was going to a hospital in Topeka where he could be cared for, that he’d probably be home soon, maybe by summer. The boys gathered at Simon’s house that afternoon.
“I don’t believe it,” Alex said. “He just lost his shit in Peeler’s class. Started throwing desks and laughing like crazy. It was pretty goddamn scary.”
“I saw Toni Gruber in sixth hour and she was still crying,” Mark said. “Mr. Racy had to send her to the office. Penny Poston said it was like something out of a movie, watching Luke lose it like that.”
Simon was quiet.
“Is this going to happen to all of us?” Kurt took a step back when he got a glare from both Mark and Alex. “What? We’re all thinking it.”
“You just don’t say it out loud, numbnuts.”
“No,” Simon said. “He’s right. We need to talk about it. Luke couldn’t separate today from tomorrow. Anyone else having any problems with that? How far into the future can you see?”
“You first, Si.” Kurt’s fists were clenched.
“I knew in September what I was going to get for Christmas, but some things get confused.. I get that déjà vu feeling a lot, but never about anything really important.”
Mark stood up, looking like he was at an AA meeting. “I can see about a week ahead. Usually it has something to do with my family, but sometimes not.”
“Me,” Kurt said. “About a day, maybe two. I don’t get a lot of details, but I can see someone I’m with in a couple of days.” He kicked the floor. “I saw Luke in a car yesterday, but I didn’t know what it meant.”
“That’s the kicker, isn’t it?” Alex was starting to pace. “None of us knows what we’re seeing, only that we’re seeing it.”
Simon put a hand on Alex’s arm. “What about you? How far do you see?”
“I don’t,” Alex said. “I haven’t seen anything. I was far back from that cylinder. You all got hit with that light from inside it.”
They were silent then, but for the sparrows and robins and jays singing in the trees. The cylinder was the one thing they never really talked about. When Simon had gone back to see the crash site, it was roped off and there was an army private with a rifle guarding the place.
“Whatever happened to it? Did the Army take it away?” Alex stopped pacing then. “We need to know what was in it. We’re all gonna crazy like Luke if we don’t find out.”
“How the hell are we going to do that?” Kurt was bobbing on his haunches, rubbing his hands roughly.
“We talk to my dad.”
©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
Can’t wait? You can buy the whole story for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.