CHAPTER 7 THE TRUE BEGINNING
It’s a house, pretty and small. I was almost sure it was Earth until I saw the car pulling up the driveway. I was in Eden, in a place completely different from the capital city. This is Merrin, I feel it. I’m standing outside, and two people come out of the car. There’s a little boy with light brown hair and his mother, a younger, slightly slimmer Laurel.
The little kid laughs and keeps running. I walk in behind Laurel. I know she can’t see me, and that I’ll just pass through her if I try to touch her. The little boy, me, is sitting at the kitchen table with his little backpack on the table.
“So, we’re feeling like doing homework today?”
“Maggie said we could play at her house. She has a pool,” the little me says. I hear the plea in his voice. “Her dad’s not home.”
“We have the entire ocean and you want to go play in a pool,” Laurel says with a smile. “Fine. But eat your carrots and do your homework, then you can go.”
Little-me eats the carrots faster than any kid ever should and the homework is done in five minutes. I bend over and look at the homework. It’s quadratic equations and organic chemistry. Laurel checks the work and sends little-me out the door.
I follow the younger version of myself out the door. He runs past the front gate and down the street, stopping in front of a hedge. I look to the sides, there’s no gate, no door, no opening for anyone to pass through. Little-me does the same, says his name out loud and steps through. A hologram right next to the sidewalk. I step inside, and the hedge is behind me. It’s a normal backyard, green grass, an oak tree with a treehouse, a swimming pool with crystal clear water. The smell of chlorine isn’t there, but I detect the aroma of barbeque and punch.
A blur of black and lemon yellow cannonballs into the water. Little-me’s wearing swimming trunks underneath his clothes and he jumps in. There’s a housekeeper at the grill watching over the children. The girl finally resurfaces.
No way in hell.
Even without the red streaks and the sullen look on her face it couldn’t be anyone else. Lieutenant Megara Jay Benson, splashing Little-me with water and having a ball. I wonder if this is some joke that Cole’s playing with me.
“Charlie!” Her squeal is followed by a hug, like she hasn’t seen me for years when I know they sit (we sat?) next to each other in pre-school. It’s not an option, because we were the only two in the class. I know the way this memory thing finally works. There are triggers. My mother was a trigger. Marcus, the cause for my re-introduction into my abilities, is a trigger. This friendly, innocent version of the girl is a trigger. I’m done with this memory, because it’s unlocked my memory of the days before, my life before.
I take another few seconds to look at the happy kids in front of me. They’re blissfully happy, with nothing complicated or dangerous in their lives. Or at least, they’re ignorant of the danger. Like they say I guess, ignorance is bliss. Right as I’m stepping out of the memory I realize I’m jealous. I’m jealous of that friendship where there are no secrets, where everything makes sense and the girl looks at me like I’m the sun.
Cole is flipping through my comic books when I get back. He looks up and I know he knows everything.
“God, I hope not.” I imagine the repercussions of ever loving the girl. Whatever she was in the past, she’s certainly not like that anymore.
“I don’t have all day,” I answer. I like Cole, but I have a feeling he’s enjoying this too much.
He points to a random door, and grabs ahold of my hand when I start walking.
“Now, this one might be a bit painful,” he hints with a little flinch.
The air is clear, and I’m in the capital city. I’m in the research building from before, but it’s different. It’s completely empty and completely silent, except for the muffled cries I hear coming from Laurel’s room. The room seems bigger, and I’m there, the young version of me. He’s tied to an operating table, his chest covered in gauze and his eyes covered with a blindfold. He’s sedated, moaning lightly and squirming.
The door opens behind me and there’s a sharp gasp. Laurel rushes to the table and undoes all the bindings, checking him for any signs of injury. She takes him into her arms and rushes out the door, only to be stopped. I know what this is. This is the end of the pretense of being a family. This is the part where I become a child raised by a single-parent, where I’m safe, if only for a short period of time.
“How could you do this to him?” Laurel asks. Her outrage is evident in her voice, I know murder is on her mind.
“I wanted him to be special. Better than everyone else. Is that wrong?”
The voice is equally frightening and alluring. He is after all my father, and I can safely assume that he is the biggest trigger of all for my memories. Tanner Blackman. He had unimaginable dreams for me, and ended up becoming my own personal nightmare. I cautiously step into the other room, the room where there’s a verbal war between a furious mother and a man playing God.
“He won’t be that special if he’s dead, Tanner,” Laurel answers. “God, my father was right. You are hopeless. I’m taking Charlie, and you’ll be getting a divorce notice.”
“Laurel. I’m his father. I know what’s best for him!”
Laurel gives him the finger and stomps out of the building. I see my father’s back, slumped with his face resting in his hands. He lets out a sigh of exasperation before taking a deep breath and turning around. For a second it’s almost like he’s looking at me, but then he takes out his phone and makes a call.
I look at him, this Darth Vader to my Luke Skywalker, as Laurel might’ve put it. There’s an uncanny resemblance, the same straight nose that’s a little bit big, the tall lanky build, the mannerisms, the voice and way he says things. He’s my dad alright, and I’m struck with some affection for him. But then come the memories. Fathers don’t sedate their sons to do God-knows-what to them. They don’t experiment on their sons like guinea pigs. And they certainly don’t kidnap them.
I remember everything slowly, things seeping through like oxygen into a vacuum. I remember every needle prick, every test, biopsy and procedure that I went through because of the madman that gave me half of his genes. And I wasn’t completely alone. I remember holding hands with a girl with black hair that was just as scared as I was. She wasn’t there for everything, but she was there for enough. She knew the problems of having a father who wanted more from her than she could give. I finally know the girl. I can finally recognize my best friend for who she is. My eight hours of sleep were my time in heaven, where I could be free. She didn’t have that. She was forced to live with a false family her entire life. Her father had given her nothing but his genes, had deprived her of most of her childhood, of her mother, of love. And I’d been the idiot that had deprived her of her best friend.
I knew I had kept my memories with Cole for a reason, but for a second I wish I hadn’t. Maggie was more than the girl now, she was more than some Lieutenat Megara Jay Benson. She was Maggie Jay, my best friend. The memories will come in on their own now, I’d opened the floodgates. It’s time for me to start being myself.