A K.G. Coleman Original
What if you, and only you, knew how and when the world was going to end? What if you knew exactly how each and every one of your family and friends would die? That 'what if' was my reality.
School sucked today. It sucked way more than usual. On a normal day, I wake up to the sound of my alarm clock blaring, yelling at me to wake up. I get up, brush my teeth, and take a shower if I have the time. I run downstairs, grab the Pop Tart that is waiting on a plate on the kitchen table. I race for the door, practically forgetting some major project or essay. Quickly I search for whatever the thing I'm missing. When I find it I barrel for the door, step out into the crisp morning air to the sight of a yellow blur passing by my house. It's only a two minute dash to the next stop where I wait with Rachel Byrd Extreme Nerd for twenty seconds for the bus to come. I hop onto the bus and wait for that horrible sound every teenager hates, that cruel reminder that you woke up early to die early: the sound we like to refer to as the bell.
The rest of the day is usually a haze. My body cruises on auto-pilot. While part of me walks to classes, raises its hand periodically, and passes notes, I think of more important things. For one thing I think of Mary Matrice.
Just her name is beautiful. It sounds so sweet, like the chirping of birds in the morning. Her good looks are supported by great brains; one thing that immediately puts a girl on my radar. She's funny, nice, and charming. I don't know what to say about Mary except that she's perfect.
But today, like I said, sucked.
I woke up to the sound of a bird squawking outside my window. Damn bird! I thought throwing a brush from my nightstand in its general direction. Shut up! The brush made a satisfying bang as it hit the wall, but apparently the bird wasn't getting the point. I opened my eyes just a little and looked over at the clock.
"Must be early," I said to myself. "My alarm hasn't even gone off yet." I rolled over on my side and stared at the clock. I waited as my eyes slowly came into focus: 10:00… "TEN O'CLOCK!" I jumped out of bed and threw on some dirty laundry that I'd picked up off the floor. I sniffed it just to make sure that it wasn't smelly. I hobbled out of my room, where I found a note on the floor.
Don't forget I'm in New York for the entire day. Please don't have pizza again!
Do well in school today. I'll be back at around 11:00 tonight. Don't wait up for me.
I threw the sticky-note it was scribbled on over my shoulder and ran down stairs. I darted through every room looking for my shoes, finding them in the bathroom of all places! I ran to grab my Pop Tart only to find crumbs. Dumb dog.
I rushed into the garage and took out my bike. I grabbed the first helmet I saw and bolted out the door, forgetting my book bag on the way. I paused, deciding whether returning for my book bag was necessary. I didn't have a lot of homework. Only math homework and I've already missed math. I don't need my backpack… Right? I didn't have time to make sure, I began to pedal the bike and pick up speed as fast as possible. Racing and racing and racing. My legs burned, begging my body to stop for a breather.
"No time to stop," I told myself. "I've got to get to school."
It dawned on me how stupid it was to be rushing off to school: the one place that I hated. It makes me squirm just thinking of a school environment. Why would I rush to a place that I want to only rush out of?
I was crossing a small intersection- a four way stop- when I reached a decision. Who would know if I skipped today? My mom is out of town and I'm only going to skip today. Tomorrow I'll be back in school, who is going to notice?
I looked to make sure there were no cars around, and seeing as this intersection would be a perfect place, I made a u-turn.
I woke up on a road's cold asphalt. I couldn't feel anything; my body seemed to float aimlessly in the air. I was breathing slowly and constantly and could see my breath in front of my face. What is going on? Where am I?
"He's all right!" I heard. I turned my head to see who the voice was but I couldn't make out a clear image.
"You're going to be alright son," the soothing voice told me. He seemed to know, so I trusted him. I closed my eyes and fell into a calming sleep.
Again, I awoke but this time to a voice I recognized.
"Mom? Is that you?" I tried to tilt my head upward but my neck felt as though someone had restrained it to a pillow with a tight cord. My breathing came easier now.
"My baby!" She cried out, coming over to me and planting a kiss on my head. I could tell she was pretty upset. I glanced at the walls around me and by the cheap ugly paintings and the flowery wallpaper, I could tell I was in some sort of hospital. At that moment I was confused.
"Why were you on your bike?"
"Hold on, I thought you were in New York," I whispered to her. My voice was hoarse and it didn't want to speak very loudly.
"I came back as soon as I learned what happened."
"Who told you I was in the hospital?"
She kissed me on the head again. I winced at the erupting pain in my forehead.
"Ms. Greenbeck: The lady from across the street."
I was too weak to think and had no idea who she was talking about so I just nodded my head a little to let her know that I was at least listening.
"So why were you on your bike young man?" Her voice was now slightly more demanding.
I didn't answer.
"Edward James Thomaslin, why were you on you're bike?" she exclaimed in a concerned motherly tone.
"I overslept…" What she doesn't know won't hurt her.
"I'm just glad you're alright."
She kissed me one more time.
"Now rest up."
I followed her instructions and closed my eyes.
"You got hit by a car!"
"Sort of," I chuckled nervously at the sight of Tim's face. His jaw was lower than I knew humanly possible.
"So explain to me again how it happened," Tim requested.
"I told you, I don't know exactly. I was riding my bike and some person hit me from behind. The accident investigators think that the hit only fractured my leg…"
"I heard in the news that the driver was going like, sixty miles per hour when it hit you, how could you have only fractured your leg!" Tim was interested in crime shows. I could actually see his mind working out the logistics of the accident. He was thinking that I was actually hit directly.
"No I wasn't actually hit directly. The creepy lady, Ms. Greencheck or whatever, from across the street was there and she jumped out and pushed me away from the car. When she pushed me, I was out of the car's direct path and it only clipped me. I think she broke her leg or something but the car only barely hit me. The doctors say the concussion was from when she collided into me."
"Why was she there?"
"Like I know…probably walking her voodoo dolls or something." We both chuckled at the thought. This lady was messed up. She once came up to me and told me not to eat any Brussels-sprouts that summer. Supposedly someone had put a curse on our house that would drop an anvil or something on the person who ate Brussels sprouts. I didn't mind, if it meant getting out of a vegetable I was all for it.
"Are you going to buy her a present or something? I mean, saving your life is a pretty tall order there."
"Yeah," I smirked, "I guess you're right. My mom talked to her and I'm going over in a few days to drink tea with her."
Tim made a face. He was obviously thinking that I shouldn't drink tea from a crazy lady.
"Yeah you're right. I'll bring a bottle of water."
I grasped the bronze knocker and banged it against the wooden door a couple of times. A lady, probably about fifty or maybe even sixty, came out and extended her arm into her home in a welcoming fashion.
"Hi Ms. Greenbeck," I said timidly.
Her house smelled like an old person mixed with lavender.
"Long time no see. Here Edward, wait in the living room," she said in a seemingly pleasant tone.
She directed me to a large room filled with everything but life. It was dark and grim, and looked like it had come out of a horror show. The mantle over her fireplace was adorned with a shrunken head collection, not exactly family pictures, unless those shrunken heads are her family. I shook away the thought. A fire was roaring in the brick fireplace, making a strange sense of home in such a not homey environment. On a small table, the size for a lamp stood a jar filled with mucky water. I walked over to look at it as Ms. Greenbeck poked her head into the room.
"This isn't a museum," she said, breaking the silence. "You can pick it up if you'd like."
So as not to disappoint her, I picked the jar up; surprised to find that it wasn't slimy. In fact it seemed very normal. It's just a jar of water, I assured myself. I remembered how my mother used to have a container of water from the first ocean she'd ever visited. Maybe this was like that. Deciding this was a useless jar, of no importance to me, I placed it back down on the table. The water sloshed around inside, only it sounded slightly thicker than water: more like syrup or maybe honey. However, the swishing around of the water caused a small ping-pong-sized ball to float to one side of the liquid. I studied the ball to try to find out why it was important.
It was white and it had a small string attached to it. I couldn't quite tell what color the string was because the water was so cloudy. The sphere slowly turned toward the part of the jar where I was looking. It had a small black dot in the center almost like a…
"Ugh!" I screamed stepping away from the jar.
"What's wrong love?" Ms. Greenbeck asked, limping into the room.
"Is that thing a…" I pointed at it with disgust, "a human eye?"
"Yes, what's wrong with that? I wanted to keep it. It was my grandfathers."
Who keeps eyeballs as memorabilia? That's disgusting!
"By the way, you can come into the kitchen if you'd like."
That sounded nice. Kitchens could always make a kid feel at home. She was baking cookies judging by the aroma coming from the next room, and there was nothing I liked better than fresh-from-the-oven cookies.
Her kitchen was nothing like her "living room" at all. It was obviously the original kitchen from when the house was built. The paneled walls were an ugly yellow, almost puke green. The floor was made of linoleum: a color that looked as if it was just stains from a messy cook. Its pattern was so ugly that it should be illegal to sell. A heater by the wall was still made of pipes, like in a warehouse or something. Her oven could have been straight out of an episode of Leave it to Beaver or I Love Lucy. Her refrigerator was one of those old General Electric fridges; one of the ones without freezers. And the one thing that let me know that this was a real antique kitchen: no microwave!
"How do you live without a microwave?" I asked, astonished that this lady was still breathing without owning one. Everyone has a microwave. "What do you do? Do you know what you're missing out on?"
"I'm not missing out on anything," she said, grabbing a pair of oven mitts and pulling the cookies out of the oven. "If anyone is missing anything, you are. You're missing the joy of cooking!"
I glanced up at the clock. It was noon and I told my mom I'd be back at 11:45. "Look, this isn't the way I would've liked to thank you but I don't have anymore time. Thanks for saving my life," I said in a matter-of-fact way.
"Why you're very welcome Edward." She was the only person who called me Edward on a regular basis, "as long as you promise to come and learn the joy of cooking with me."
I bit into the cookie, the chocolate practically gushing out.
"If you can teach me to cook this good, then count me in!"
"Alright," she said with a chuckle.
"Thanks Ms. Greenbeck." I walked out of the kitchen.
"Edward!" I heard from in the kitchen. "You can call me Gail."
"Well Ms. Gre- Gail… you can call me Ed." And with that I took my leave.
The alarm clock yelled, "Wake up Ed! Ed." My head pounded from the loud sound right by my ear. I hit the snooze alarm and rolled over trying to get back to sleep. I wasn't supposed to go to school for another week anyways (my mom was nervous about me reopening the stitches in my head). I couldn't believe how good I was at skipping school. I tried to skip once, and it had turned into a whole week! This was way better than the time I couldn't stop barfing!
My head felt like it was going to explode. Yesterday it hurt, but not this much. I could feel the fuse in my head waiting to detonate. My head must have been thirty feet wide by now. I sat up, preparing to go downstairs for an icepack. I suddenly felt extremely dizzy, like I sometimes did from standing up from a long time sitting down.
It was around 7:30 and I was expected at Gail's around noon. I was extremely excited by the gift I got her. It wasn't much but as I'd heard many times, "It's the thought that counts." I had been in the attic, helping my mom look for stuff for charity. Like a sign from god, the first thing I saw was an old microwave. I wrapped it up in some Christmas paper and placed it by the front door so I wouldn't forget to bring it to Gail's house.
It was extremely old, possibly from around the eighties. It had that fake wood stuff on it, like on some station wagons. I never understood that stuff. Who would want a car or even a microwave that looks like it's made off wood? Why is that a good thing? Anyways, it had big bulky black knobs instead of buttons like on our microwave. It definitely wasn't a great present, but I thought that she could make great use out of it (or at the very least we could gain some attic space).
"Wake up honey."
"Wa? Leh me go bak to sweep," I mumbled, turning over on my side, making an ill attempt to fall back asleep.
"No. Ed… you've got to wake up. It's 11:45. You have to go to Ms. Greenbeck's." Slowly I rose. My head was feeling a lot better. She kissed me on the head.
"Honestly Ed. I don't understand why you would be skipping school?" My mom murmured disappointedly.
"Who said I was skipping school?" I asked trying to sound totally clueless.
"What gave you that idea?"
"You just said that you didn't understand why I'd skip school. Who told you I was skipping school? Why would they lie like that?" I thought that was a good touch. My acting schools were starting to pay off.
"Wow I really don't think I said that… maybe I did," she said confused.
How can you not know what you said? I'm the one who had the concussion.
"Well at any rate," she said trying to change the subject (just like a mother would do) "Get up! Get dressed!"
I got up and, once my mom was out of the room, threw on some blue jeans and a t-shirt. I ran downstairs, and grabbed my shoes. I checked my watch, 12:01, and no time for socks. I didn't want to be too late on my very first cooking lesson! I grabbed the microwave and ran out the door. Luckily my destination was only across the street.
She was already waiting for me outside. Her smile looked real, and not that kind of fake smile that people give when they are being impatient. I presented her with the box, not actually handing it to her because it was probably too heavy for her.
Once inside we stepped into the kitchen where I place the box on the table.
"Thanks for the microwave," she said, even before she had opened the box.
I was socked! "How'd you know?"
She chuckled nervously.
"Well…" she started, obviously stalling for time, "I guessed. I took a chance and you just told me."
"Wow you're good."
"Well my dad was a psychic and he always said that he thought I had a knack for it."
I wasn't really into that whole psychic idea. How is it possible that someone could know things that no one knows? It isn't. I once saw on TV, a little kid who walked up to random people and told them stuff about them that they had never told anyone else. It was obvious that it was staged. I mean, come on, there is no way anyone can do that.
"Yeah well if you were a psychic than you would know what I was thinking!" I felt bad. This had started to become an attack. But I knew what she would say. She'd just say something like 'you're thinking that there isn't such thing as a psychic.' I had to try to trick her. I searched my brain for something that was extremely random. I'll just think of-
"Gray… That's what you're thinking of… right?"
How did she do that? Maybe she was a psychic. But that's not what we're here for; I thought to myself, I'm here to learn to bake awesome cookies from someone who saved my life.
"Absolutely right Ed. Let's get started."
"Could you get me some flour Ed?" I turned around and went straight for the cabinet which held most of her baking supplies. I had never really cooked before, but I had a real knack for it. Sort of like how babies are meant to walk, maybe I'm meant for cooking.
Even though I had never used Gail's kitchen, I felt as if I'd been using it for centuries. When she asked for something I zoomed right for the cabinets. We were figure skaters, and the kitchen was our rink. The smoothness of the skates, delicately piercing through the surface of the ice, our nimble feet bouncing around the small kitchen, getting everything prepared.
On my way back from the flour I grabbed a measuring cup instinctively. I knew that she would ask for it and I didn't want to stall our beautiful skating routine. She reached for the flour and asked me to get her a measuring cup. In an almost smart-alecky way, I handed her the cup, showing her I was one step ahead of her thoughts.
"Wow," she said, obviously amazed by my amazing cooking abilities, "I might have to raise you to head chef," we both chuckled at the thought.
"What's the next ingredient?" I asked, ending my reign of all knowingness.
"Ahh. For the next few you must leave the room."
I looked at her puzzled.
"What do you mean? I thought I was here to learn to bake these cookies."
"That's where you are wrong. I invited you over here to learn to cook, and I would like to have you over again, but I never said I would teach you to learn how I cook."
"Ok, fair enough." I didn't think it was very fare but I was enjoying my time here, and seeing as I'd just fallen onto the ice, I figured that I would like to have another chance at the big finale. "But will you ever tell me those ingredients?"
"This recipe was passed down for generations in my family. My grandfather gave it to my father, and my father to me. I have known my entire life the person I'm to give this to. I am to give these ancient secrets to the one who has a part of me inside of them. That is how it is done in my family; and I am not going to be the person who breaks a time honored tradition."
She must be lying, I thought. She probably just doesn't want to reveal her secrets. But because she came up with such a touching reason, I think that it would only be fair to accept her wishes. I walked out of the room and into the living room. The room felt more alive than ever.
It only took about five minutes for her to add whatever she was adding. She called my back into the kitchen and I sat down at the kitchen table while she washed some of the dirty bowls and utensils.
"You know, I'm starting to believe you about that whole psychic thing. I mean who's to say that it's impossible?"
She smiled obviously thinking of something in her head. "You know I think you look a lot like a psychic. I mean, characteristically…" she walked out of the room for a second coming back right away with a book, "You look like someone who 'has the gift.'" She handed me the book open to a page towards the front. I closed the book, keeping my finger in the place where she gave me, to look at the cover. Do You Have the Gift? Strange title. I opened up to the book and looked at the page she gave me.
Male psychics usually have dark hair, extremely pale skin, and the classic psychic darting eyes that can see through you and into the person behind you. If you see someone who looks like this, and they have recently had a miracle occur, chances are good that they are a psychic.
Wow! I thought, this book is amazing!
"I know it's remarkable isn't it."
I nodded my head in agreement. Thoughts were racing through my head. I could almost hear Gail in my head, thinking her thoughts. He's got to believe, she was probably thinking, like those people in Christmas movies who all they care about is making sure that people believe in Santa. I think this kid is a natural.
"I would never be in a Christmas movie. They are way too fake."
I smiled so bright that I was sure she'd be blinded.
"You read my mind didn't you?" I whispered in disbelief.
"No I did not. I would never invade your private space like that. Someone else I probably would but to you? Never!"
"Then, if you didn't read my mind how'd you know what I was thinking?"
"I didn't read you're thoughts… you placed them into mine."
I sat in bed the entire night. My eyes were glued to the book she had given me; my hands twitched waiting to turn the next page. This book was incredible. Everything that it said about psychics was true about me! It was like reading a mirror, you can stare at yourself for hours and not learn a thing new about you, but you could tilt you're head a little, and notice new features that you'd never seen before.
If you suspect someone has the gift, the book said, chances are good that they have recently been saved. How did it know? I checked the publication date a few times, just to make sure that the book hadn't been written about me. It felt like I was being watched, only in a good way. It felt as though someone who had watched my every move had written down the things I had missed in life and published them in a hardcover book.
According to the book, a psychic gets their powers by having their life saved by another psychic. The book elaborated, saying that the powers will only be shifted if the psychic had a vision that told them to save the victim from death. The most important thing, it said, is that the psychic does not die. If the first psychic dies than the other person will not become a psychic. That was the one thing that I was not happy about being a psychic. I was now totally into this idea but I knew I would face many more life or death situations than I was used to.
It's a good thing that Gail didn't get hit by the car, I thought, otherwise I would never be a psychic. I shook off the thought and turned the page. Gail dying wasn't a way I wanted to go to sleep so I read another chapter before drifting off into a deep slumber.
The next day I went back to Gail's. I wasn't going to go to school for a few more days anyways, and I was extremely anxious to go learn more about psychics. I felt like someone about to commit suicide. They're ready to kill themselves and end they're lives, yet at the same time so scared about what death will be like. These suicidal people, know that death will be different than life, but they have know idea whether it will be better.
I crossed the street holding on tight to the book, taking extreme care of it. It wasn't an old book, or probably even a very fragile one, but I was holding my future in my hands, literally, and I couldn't drop it.
I got into the house and didn't bother knocking. She's a psychic, I thought, she'll know I'm coming. I walked right in and found her in the kitchen, taking sugar cookies off a tray and placing them onto a glass plate.
"Hello Ed. You know, even with a psychic it's still polite to knock."
We sat down at the kitchen table; I slid the book over to her side of the table.
"I don't have time to read this book anymore. I won't finish it buy tomorrow and I need to be a psychic by the time I get to school."
"Why are you so excited about this? This isn't a gift. It's a curse! If I teach you to strengthen you're powers there is only one way to lose them!"
"I know, I know. You have to die."
"Wrong! You must die saving someone else's life. Otherwise the last person you see before you die will become a psychic!"
I should start reading for comprehension.
"Wait. When you saved me you were trying to die weren't you?"
"No. Not at first. The other day I saw you walking by and I saw how you were going to die. I wasn't going to let that happen so I made a point of saving you."
"So you weren't trying to die." I liked the sound of that.
"Let me finish! No I wasn't trying to die. But then, in the few seconds before the car came for you, I knew that I didn't want you to have the same troubles that I had as a young psychic! So I dived a little later than I expected to jump, hoping that maybe I could kill myself and save you. However I failed. But now I can give you a choice. If you don't want to learn the advanced ways of psychics than you can turn around now. Your powers may diminish if you don't train them. You have the choice! You are the author of your own life now. What is the next chapter going to be?"
The way she talked sounded like someone had switched her words with those of a talk-show host. It actually felt as though I was sitting up on some uncomfortable, made-for-TV couch and was being watch by millions of viewers at home. I could here the people clapping in that "wow you're such a role model" clap that the audience members do.
"I know I have the choice and I know you don't want me to be a psychic," I looked into her eyes. Her blue eyes were watering, and the drops of water over the electric blue, made them even more intense. "But that book made it seem so nice. I can't imagine giving it up then watching someone I know die. Watching someone I could have saved! I can't let that happen."
"Fine," she said in staccato, trying to not cry in front of me, "Then follow me."
She led me into a small bathroom sized room. The walls were a stark white, and screamed for a little kid to come and scribble all over them in bright colored crayons. There was nothing in the room, except for on one wall a mirror, big enough only for a head.
"The first step to becoming a psychic is learning how to read your own mind."
"I already can read my own mind. Everyone can!"
She looked at me straight in the eye. Cymbals clashed hard in my head and I couldn't think.
"Stop that!" I cried. It was obvious that she was making my head hurt. "Please stop!" I stared back into her eyes, trying to make her stop with my own mind. The loud sound was unbearable but she barely flinched. I got down on my knees, the banging making me weak. "Stop Gail! Stop!"
"She that is why you need to practice on yourself."
I had blacked out cold. I didn't know how long I had been unconscious but everything looked as dark as night. Slowly I sat up, and slowly the room became brighter.
"Why'd you do that to me?" I asked taking the glass of water she handed me.
"I did nothing. You tried to read my mind, tried t o figure out what I was thinking about when I said read your own mind. You tried to hard Ed! That's why you need to practice. Other wise you'll get a block!"
I made my face crunch up, trying to show her I was puzzled with out reading her mind to find out what she meant.
"Writers block. You've must have had it before. Writers block is when you start to read your own mind, and that block is what happens when you get caught in a loop effect. An experienced psychic will never get these mental strains."
That sounded great. Countless times on state test I'm asked to write a paragraph or two. Without writers block I would never have an issue with those tests. The SAT would be a breeze! Think of what a great future this could give me. Why would I not want to be a psychic?
"Ok Ed. Let's try again. What I need you to do is stare into the mirror. Just stare and let your mind float."
"Let my mind float?"
I stared into the mirror. This is so bogus. Why am I doing this? Nothing is going to happen here. I should just quit. Maybe I shouldn't be a psychic. I might have just made the biggest mistake of my mind. No sense in turning back now. I have to let my mind float.
"Ok nothing is happening."