Joshua sleeps for 14 hours and he doesn’t dream. Waking groggy and bleery eyed, he finds Tsubasa curled up next to him on top of the blanket, eyes open and watching him.
“Did he ask you to look after me?” He asks around a yawn.
She wags her tail.
He scratches her head before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and making his way to the bathroom. Later, they find Dominic in the kitchen, making scrambled eggs.
“So it’s a safe house with WiFi and fresh food?”
“Magic,” Dominic responds simply.
“It’s magic WiFi?”
Dominic smiles briefly. “It’s magic that keeps the food fresh.”
“I had no idea what I was missing out on.”
“Your mom called at least ten more times.”
That sobers Joshua quickly. He slept 14 hours while his mom spent the night thinking he’s dead. “Shit. I have to do something to let her know I’m alive.”
They pass several minutes in silence. Joshua’s trying to think of the strongest memories from his childhood, of funny things he said that his mom would recognize and no one else would remember. Nothing’s coming to mind. He’s very tired.
After Joshua’s fifth yawn, Dominic speaks. “You should go to sleep.”
“What about dreams and my accidental powers?”
“I can make sure you don’t dream.”
“Have you seen movies or shows with vampires?”
“Yeah…” Joshua doesn’t know why this is relevant.
“I can compel humans.”
“That’s sweet of you.”
Dominic raises his eyebrows at the word ‘sweet.’
Joshua ignores him. “But none of this is actually your fault. You couldn’t have known how things were going to go down. My mom though… If I could get a message to her that no one else would recognize as being from me… would that work?”
“Perhaps. What do you have in mind?”
“I don’t know. Let me see if I can think of something. Unfortunately, I haven’t been leading some kind of secret agent life where I created code words with my mom.”
Joshua’s mouth thins to a hard line as he reads the posts plastered on his mom’s Facebook wall. Her friends are very concerned about the explosion that happened in the apartment building where her son lives. The news pieces can’t say the cause of the explosion – the police investigation is just starting – but Joshua builds a narrative that makes sense.
“When they ambushed you at home there must have been a separate team waiting for me at my place, except I wasn’t there because I was on my way to check on you. With rush hour I knew it’d be faster to walk so I left my car at home. The explosion happened hours ago and since she hasn’t heard from me she’s terrified I died when my building went up in flames.” He recites this litany in a monotone, like it’s ancient history about people he never knew.
“I’m so very sorry to have gotten you caught up in this,” Dominic whispers, eyes focused on the carpet at his feet where Tsubasa has stretched out. “I will fix this.”
This weekend I went to Rohnert Park (in the Bay Area) to visit my mom and uncle and celebrate my mom’s birthday. It was a lot of fun and I loved seeing them. I’d fully planned on posting yesterday evening but then I spent an hour looking for my favorite ring, which I put in a “safe place” when I moved. Hilariously, and rather predictably, I found all the other jewelry that I don’t explicitly remember putting in a “safe place.”
Today’s gotten a bit away from me too so this will be really short.
“It’s a safe house in 2019. Of course there’s WiFi.”
“Shit. Shit. Shit,” Joshua chants after listening to the message from his mom. “She thinks I’m-“
“Dead,” Dominic interrupts. “Yes, I know.” At the look of confusion that flits across Joshua’s face, he adds, “My kind have very good hearing.”
“Of course you do. Why does she think I’m dead?”
“I heard the same message you did.”
Joshua’s gaze hardens to a glare. “You’re gonna have to try better than that. My life didn’t turn upside down until you walked into it. She said she ‘heard what happened’ and had to call because she ‘can’t believe I’m really gone.’ Where would she have heard…? She can’t possibly have heard ‘what happened’ because it’s not like anything that’s actually happened to us would be on the news or anything so…”
“I would tend to agree. But watching the news may not be a bad idea. If she heard something there we can find out what it was.”
Joshua returns his attention to his phone.
“Do not call her,” Dominic commands quickly.
“Yes, sir. I was actually going to check online for news. I was paying attention all of, what – six minutes ago? – when you said it’d be safer for my family if they don’t know anything. Hey! There’s WiFi!”
Joshua’s iPhone vibrates in his pocket, where he’d forgotten it. He pulls it out and sees that it’s survived the accident without damage. It’s lit it up with the word ‘Mom’ and a photo of her. It’s very late for her to be calling – past 2:00am – so something must be wrong.
He starts sliding his finger across the screen to answer but before he can, Dominic snatches it from him.
“It’ll be much safer for your family if they don’t know anything about where you are or what’s happening to you.”
“You mean the people after us will send people after them too?”
The call goes to voicemail. Dominic doesn’t hand the phone back to him. “They will spy on your family. If you don’t make contact with your family then they shouldn’t have any reason to harm them.”
“Except as bait to draw me out.”
Dominic shakes his head. “Not if they don’t find out about the power you have. Right now, you’re only in danger because of your association with me. They’re unlikely to use your family as bait because they know it won’t get them what they currently want – me.”
Joshua frowns as he thinks through the implications of that – that Dominic wouldn’t help Joshua save his family if his family was put in danger because of this mess of a situation.
The iPhone lights up again, this time with a voicemail notification.
I stop short a couple paces from my bedroom door. Carson’s in the hallway, staring at the wall. Then he touches it, shakes his head, takes a couple steps, and stares again. He’s clearly unaware of me so I send him the lightest of telepathic nudges, a gentle nok.
“Eyan!” he exclaims, hastily distancing himself from the wall and giving an abashed smile. “Hi.”
<Hi… What are you doing?>
<I’m looking for the hallway computer interface.> He gives me what I can only describe as a partial glare, as if it’s my fault he can’t find it.
I laugh, walking past him halfway down the hallway and gesturing at the wall to my right. <It’s here.> I activate it by touching the camouflaged panel at eye level. It’s virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding paint when deactivated.
Carson joins me, shaking his head at the computer. <Why is it hidden?>
<It’s not hidden, it’s discrete.>
He frowns. <What’s the difference?>
<Subterfuge versus aesthetics.>
The corners of Carson’s eyes crease with amusement. <All right. Why are they discrete?>
<Because computers are just tools. We don’t want them dominating our lives the way humans have let them.>
His mouth thins. <I wish you wouldn’t disparage humans so much. We would be just like them if not
“How do I learn how to control it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, shit. If you don’t know then who does?”
“Joshua… I don’t know if anyone does. You may be unprecedented.”
Joshua shakes his head. “What about another creature from the in-between?”
“We’re already being hunted. If they find out what you are… They’ll want to kill you and take your power.”
“Greeeeeat. Do you have any good news?”
“We’re safe here.”
“You should go back to sleep.”
“You have to be joking! ‘Hey Joshua, my dog who was murdered is alive because you brought her back but it’s no biggie so go to bed.’ No one could sleep after that!”
Dominic doesn’t say anything for a long time. “You’re a human with the power of a creature from the in-between. You didn’t grow up with this. You were never meant to have it. I don’t know how it came to you. But I do know the power is yours and you don’t know how to control it. If you’re very scared, if you’re very angry, it’s going to manifest. When you’re dreaming you’ll have even less control.”
“Then shouldn’t I stay awake?”
“Yes, of course, just never sleep, why didn’t I think of that?” Dominic deadpans. “Your being exhausted isn’t going to help anything. Do you meditate?”
“Now’s a better time than most to start.”
“But…could I hurt people with this power?”