When Vincent awoke the next morning, he picked up his fully charged cell phone from the nightstand and phoned Justin. Vincent asked Justin to meet him on the usual walking path with Adam and Matt as soon as possible. He quickly ran into the bathroom, had a fast shower, and got dressed for school.
Vincent found his mother sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for her son with a plate of poached eggs cut into tiny cubes and placed on small wedges of toast. Catherine made this special meal for Vincent for as long as he could recall whenever she wanted to make him feel better. “Your father told me he showed you your adoption information. Are you okay? Is there anything you want to maybe talk about?”
Through a mouthful of toast, Vincent told his mother that he had no time to talk. He needed to meet his friends for school. He gave his mother a hug and assured her that they would talk just as soon as he got home from school before bolting out the door.
The concrete path was a familiar shortcut for many people walking toward the high school. Situated between the backyard fences of two different streets of houses on each side of the path, it ran directly to the school. Since most high schoolers drove, only a few neighbourhood freshman and sophomores would be speckled along the trail. This would serve to give Vincent the privacy he needed for the talk he was about to have with his friends.
Vincent reached the halfway mark on the walking path, meeting up with Justin, Matt, and Adam who had all been waiting for Vincent for quite some time at this point. “What’s the big deal all about, Vince?” asked Adam. “I had to get up twenty minutes early for school after Justin called me with your big emergency.”
Justin, obviously frustrated with Vincent, threw himself into the conversation. “And what exactly happened to you last night? You were supposed to meet us at Game On for hockey. We got our butts handed to us five to one by the Destroyers because you didn’t show up. Coach Lederer wasn’t happy at all. You could have boiled an egg on his forehead. What gives?”
Vincent took a second to plan out how he was going to say what he had to without making his friends think he was a mental patient. “Guys, something happened to me yesterday that is really hard to explain. I need to tell you but you have to promise that this conversation stays strictly between us.”
“Jeez, Vince, you’d think that your dad would have had the getting hair in different places talk by now,” Matt winked.
“Could you just stop and listen to me!” yelled Vincent. “This is big, I mean real big. Yesterday I got into an fight with Cyrus and he stuck me in the trunk of his car, took me to a dirt road where he dragged me behind his car, and then left me there.”
“Is that where you ended up yesterday? That explains why you didn’t make it to the hockey game. Hell, I’m surprised you’re not in the hospital after an encounter with Cyrus… Wait, did you say he dragged you behind his car?” Adam asked, a growing sense of alarm in his voice.
The three boys stared at their friend in shock as not a single one of them could believe what they were hearing. “That’s not even the worst of it. When I got up I had all sorts of cuts and bruises. I could hardly walk, so it took me a while but I walked all the way home. When I got home and took a look in the mirror, I noticed that all of my cuts and scrapes had fully healed without even a scar.”
Justin, Matt, and Adam all looked at each other with a stunned face and then back at Vincent. “Well, now I have heard it all. You could have tried to make a better excuse up than that. I mean, you expect us to believe that you were maimed beyond all repair and then magically healed yourself? Sure thing, Vincent. While we’re at it, my parents won the lottery and I can fly like Peter Pan,” Justin said sarcastically.
“I’m not making this up,” Vincent insisted. “Something really amazing happened last night that changed everything and it made a little sense. My dad showed me some things about my adoption. It got me to thinking that maybe there is a reason that no one knows who my birth parents are or where I came from. Maybe it’s all related somehow.”
Vincent was anxious for someone to say something. All was quiet, save the chirping of nearby wildlife. Justin looked over at Adam and Matt, then back at Vincent. “Maybe it’s best that we keep this sort of quiet, Vince. All of this is kind of out there. This is the kind of thing they would put you in a nice white jacket and lock you up for. So for now we will just keep it on the down low.”
The boys agreed and continued to walk down the pathway toward the school when faintly in the distance they could hear the buzzer for the school go off, signalling to the students that classes were about to begin. They all quickly picked up their pace and ran for the school making it just in time before the official buzzer rang for classes.
The boys parted ways and Vincent scurried off to his locker to quickly grab his books for his first period science class. As he was attempting to remember the combination to his new locker by aimlessly twitching the combination dial, out of the corner of his eye he saw Alexis and her older sister Carrie walking his way. Carrie was a senior at Lakewood High and head of the cheerleading squad. She had the attitude of a rattlesnake, venomous when someone she didn’t like crossed her path.
Vincent kept his eyes focused on the locker and hoped that Alexis would not try to talk to him about what had happened the previous day, but it was too late. The young girl already had a look of despair on her face as she rushed over to him. As she approached, Vincent wondered what he was going to tell her had happened yesterday in the scuffle with Cyrus. He knew he had to keep what had “really” taken place a secret at any cost.
“Oh my god, Vincent! I tried to call your house last night and your parents told me that they hadn’t heard from you all day and that you didn’t come home after school. I was so worried about you. I just wanted to thank you for everything you did for me yesterday. It was really sweet. Cyrus didn’t hurt you, did he?” Alexis gushed, lightly brushing her hand down his arm as if to assure herself he was really standing there.
Vincent lifted his head and took a look at Alexis’ face. The sheer expression on her face was enough to kill him. Her eyes were as large as baseballs, ready to make a small puddle of tears on the ground. Her bottom lip quivered as she awaited Vincent’s explanation.
Unable to come up with anything more than a white lie, Vincent shrugged his shoulders. “There is no need to thank me, Lexi. I could see that you didn’t want him around. Cyrus and I worked things out and there is nothing to worry about. It is all over with, as far as I’m concerned.”
Carrie didn’t buy Vincent’s story. She squinted her eyes and with pursed lips retorted, “Do you honestly expect Alexis to believe that you got into an argument with Cyrus Drake and that nothing at all happened as a result of it? Alexis wasn’t born yesterday!”
Vincent knew that trying to win an argument with Carrie was as pointless as having a screen door on a submarine. The boy stood there dumbfounded, shaking his head as he tried to think of something worthwhile he could say. Alexis had folded her arms and raised one eyebrow while pouting her lips and tapping her foot on the floor. Her scowl alone was enough to turn Vincent inside out. Vincent was convinced that any chance he had with Alexis Sommers had just been flushed down the toilet. She couldn’t keep up the facade and her face turned from what was the meanest look in the world to a smile as she leaned forward and kissed Vincent on the cheek.
The young man’s body almost seized up as Alexis stood there waiting for Vincent to say something. He could not believe that a girl he assumed didn’t have a real interest in him had just kissed him. So Vincent stood in front of Alexis and Carrie mumbling incoherently. Realizing he needed to say something, Vincent decided to open his mouth and pray something comprehensive would fall out. “Maybe we can get together sometime and hang out. I mean if you’re into that sort of thing.”
Vincent could not believe what had just come out of his mouth. He mentally hoped that what he had just said was not going to end up being a social bomb dropped at his expense, in turn decimating his entire high school experience. A wide grin spread across Alexis’ face, blushing as she replied, “I would really like that, Vince. Why don’t you give me a call this weekend and I’m sure we can work something out.”
Carrie clearly did not care for this turn of events. Scowling, she grabbed her sister by the wrist. “Come on, Alexis, we have to get to class. And I am not going to have the school call home tonight saying I was late over someone like Vincent!”
As the two girls walked away, Alexis looked over her shoulder smiling and waved goodbye to Vincent. Vincent slowly jolted back to reality when he noted the time on his watch and he realized he was ten minutes late for his science class at the other end of the school. Quickly scooping up his books and backpack, he ran down the halls toward his class as if his life itself was depending on him making it there as soon as humanly possible.
With all of the students already in class, the sound of the crashing of Vincent’s feet slapping against the floor echoed through the empty halls of the school. When he finally approached the classroom, Vincent could hear Mr. Lederer dictating his lesson to the class. Rob Lederer was a tall, balding, quirky man who thrived on making his students feel more like his friends. He was always poking fun at his students, and as a part time hockey coach to Vincent’s team, he loved dishing out push-ups on command as humiliation for insolent behavior for both his players and his students.
Vincent let out a deep sigh as he knew that no matter what the excuse there was no explanation that would escape Mr. Lederer’s grasp. As he walked into the classroom, Vincent kept his head down and moved toward the back of the classroom to toward one of the last vacant desks next to Matt. He placed his backpack gently on the floor and slowly sat down in the very hard and squeaky chair attached to his desk.
Removing his binder and pen from his backpack, Mr. Lederer approached Vincent with a grim but slightly amused chuckle. “And just where were you for our game against Windsor Park, Vinnie?”
Vincent attempted to explain the same story of injury that he had given to his parents, when the science teacher suddenly cut him off. “Do you really think I’m going to care where you happened to be yesterday? Crying about your frail body? We lost our game last night and I never lose, never. So for starters, you can get down on the floor and give me 20 push-ups for our loss yesterday. Then you can give me an additional 10 push-ups after that for being late to my class and then maybe you won’t do it again.”
Embarrassed, Vincent dropped to the floor while the other students giggled almost silently at his misfortune. He was almost at push-up number five when he felt someone using his back as a chair. Mr. Lederer was sitting on him, continuing his lecture with a playful smile on his face and remained there until Vincent fell to the floor on push-up number thirty. Content, the teacher returned to the front of the class and Vincent to his seat.
A video on cell osmosis made Vincent’s eyes heavy. The lights flickered on as the buzzer rang, urging Vincent to move onto his physical education class when suddenly he felt a strong, sharp pain to the temples of his head. Every second felt like an hour as each pulse of his brain caused Vincent’s head to hurt more and more and he leaned forward grasping his head.
Matt took notice and placed his hand on Vincent’s back and leaned in to speak to him. “Hey, are you okay? What’s wrong with you?” Matt asked who was now quite concerned about his friend’s health.
Vincent tried to stop grinding his teeth as he looked over at Matt. “My head. It feels like it’s about to explode!” Just as suddenly as the pain began it ended, and everything seemed back to normal. Vincent caught his breath, completely drained from the experience as he looked to Matt. “Why? What’s happening to me? I don’t know what to do. I can’t even see a doctor and tell him what’s going on without someone thinking I’m crazy or locking me up and treating me like a human guinea pig.”
“I don’t know what to say, Vince. Maybe you should wait until we can all get together and talk about it. If put our heads together, I’m sure we think of something to help you, but for now let’s just try and get through the day.”
They met up with Justin and Adam in the locker room for physical education class. As Vincent sat down on the locker room bench to change for class, he couldn’t help but feel partially dizzy from the excruciating headache he had experienced.Something about the way his friends were acting was unusual to Vincent as they came over and approached him.
“We think we can help you with your problem,” Adam whispered. “Meet us outside the front doors of the school on the lunch hour.”
Vincent was hesitant to believe what Adam had just said to him, as he noticed the unsure look on his face as he was talking to him. Adam had a tendency to avoid eye contact with Vincent, always shifting around as though looking for ninjas in wide open spaces.
“What did you do?” Vincent asked as he slammed Adam up against a locker by the collar of his shirt. “Did you tell someone? Do you have any idea what might happen to me if someone found out what was going on?”
Adam began to stutter every little incomprehensible word that he could out of his mouth as Justin placed his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “Take it easy, Vince. You know we would never do anything to put you in any danger. You can trust us, everything will be fine. Just meet us at lunch, okay?”
Vincent took a deep breath as he let go of Adam’s shirt and let his feet fully touch the floor. “I’m sorry, guys. I just don’t know what is happening to me. I don’t want to turn into some kind of freak. I just want to be normal.”
Sitting down on the bench he buried his hands in his face, completely stressed out over everything that had taken place in the past twenty four hours. His friends stood by his side to comfort their friend in what seemed like his darkest hour.
“You are normal, Vince. You’re just normal with a twist is all. Everything is going to work itself out, you’ll see,” Matt assured him, patting Vincent on the back.
Finally, Vincent took a deep breath, decided it was best to just get on with his class, and trust in his friends as he walked out of the locker room.
Mr. Cox towered over the boys with his clipboard and whistle in hand. “Well, it’s nice to see that you girls could join us this morning. All four of you maggots are late for my class, and if you’re late, you’re running laps!” he exclaimed, his face two inches from the boys, and the scent of stale coffee on his breath.
Addressing the remainder of the class, he said, “And let that be a lesson to the rest of you. I will not tolerate tardiness in my gymnasium. Since the rest of you decided to show up on time, we will be playing dodge ball while these four run laps and do general exercises.”
The whistle blew and the students took their places on the floor for dodgeball while Mr. Cox motioned the remaining four to begin running. Twenty minutes later, the friends felt a burning fatigue from all the running they were doing while dodging the balls the rest of the class was taking pleasure in throwing at them as they ran past. Mr. Cox finally yelled at the boys to switch it up with a brief rope climb.
Vincent reached for the rope but stopped as a resurgence of the same sharp pain rushed through his head.
Justin saw this and moved to his side. “Are you okay, Vince?”
Vincent took a moment to collect himself before standing upright. “I keep getting these headaches and they hurt like hell. Maybe it’s from all the running.”
Focusing what strength he had left, Vincent shook off the pain and gripped the rope in both hands, ready to climb. Just as Vincent began to pull himself up, the rope snapped from its steel support on the ceiling and fell to the ground. Students behind them abruptly ended their game, the sound of unattended dodgeballs bouncing to a stop.
Mr. Cox ran over to the boys. “Is everyone ok?” he asked, examining the rope on the floor. “It looks like the support broke while you were trying to climb. I keep telling the school board we need more money for repairs. Well, at least no one was hurt.”
Vincent was puzzled; he knew for a fact he’d barely put any weight on the rope, and was fairly certain it had not fallen because of faulty equipment. His head pulsated again with unbelievable pain and he fell to the floor, vomiting on the padded mats. As he lifted his head back up, the pain started to subside but his ears rung with the voices of a million people all trying to talk at once. He tried to stand up and Mr. Cox grabbed his arm, helping him to his feet.
The voices wouldn’t stop and Vincent began to think that maybe he was losing his mind.
“Can one of you kids go get the school nurse?” yelled Mr. Cox. When Vincent began to see straight again he heard Mr. Cox say, “God, what a mess. I’m sure glad I don’t have to clean that up.”
“What did you say?” asked Vincent.
Mr. Cox looked at Vincent, puzzled. “I didn’t say anything,” he replied.
Voices still clearly going through his head, Vincent surveyed the room. Most of his classmates stood in stunned silence, a few of them whispering to one another, but nothing so loud that he should be able to hear. That’s when it hit him; he could hear their thoughts. The boy fell to the floor in a panic, frantically pushing towards the main door of the gymnasium with his hands and feet. Mr. Cox tried to calm Vincent down, saying the nurse would be there soon and they could call his parents. Justin, Matt, and Adam all walked toward Vincent attempting to try and help him to his feet.
As his friends moved to help him to his feet he snapped at them. “Get away from me!” he yelled as he pulled back from them. Scrambling to his feet, he ran out the door and into the main hallway.
He ran down the hallway and burst through the front door of the school where he stopped to catch his breath, hands on his knees, panting. “What’s happening to me?” he again asked himself out loud.
“I think I might be able to help you with that problem young man.”
Vincent looked up to see Principal Schwartz, an extremely concerned look on his face. He walked over and offered his student a hand. “I know about the strange episodes you have been having, Vincent, and I know how you can control them.”
Vincent looked Mr. Schwartz straight on trying to hide his emotions. “I don’t know what Justin and Adam told you, but it’s all lies. There is nothing wrong with me. I just don’t feel very well. In fact, I think I’m getting sick or something.”
“I haven’t been told anything. Please hear me out, Vincent. I’ve spent most of your life watching you and I know what is happening to you,” Mr. Schwartz replied. “This day has been a long time coming, and I can help answer the questions you may have.”
Vincent was confused and took a few steps back. He looked at Mr. Schwartz and very quietly asked, “Who are you, and what do you want with me?”
Mr. Schwartz moved towards Vincent. “I had to pose as your principal so that I could keep a steady eye on you in public without drawing other people’s attention,” he said. “You are unique, my boy, and I can help you get those abilities of yours under control. I will even show you how to use them to benefit mankind.”
“Abilities? I don’t have any abilities. What do you think this is, a comic book or something?” Vincent quivered as he backed away from Mr. Schwartz.
“This is becoming a waste of our time, Vincent. I have abilities, you have abilities, and your father before you had abilities,” said the principal as he took another step toward Vincent.
The young man stopped in his tracks. “Well, that’s where you are wrong. You couldn’t possibly know who my biological father was because no one knows who he was.”
Mr. Schwartz smiled. “Vincent, I know your biological parents better than anyone else on this earth.”
At first Vincent believed it some sort of magic trick. Mr. Schwartz’s clothing changed and his facial features shifted about. In no time at all, he had morphed into a middle aged man with grey and brown hair dressed in a bomber jacket, knit sweater, cargo pants, and big black boots. Vincent froze with fear as the man neared him, looking Vincent straight in the eye.
“Vincent Macleod, I am Colonel Curtis Marshall. I’m your grandfather.”
Vincent let out a huge cry for help when the man threw his arm forward and shot a green gas out of the sleeve of his jacket. Vincent instantly felt light headed before his eyes drooped and he fell unconscious.