Dreams that Mask the Shadows

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Chapter Three: Family Bonds

Waylan

“Waylan Joseph Parker! Where have you been?” Mom called when I tried sneaking in through the door. I swear she had a sixth sense—even though as far as we knew, Faye Cane Parker was 100% human.

She added, “You missed dinner.” Dinner in the Parker household, run by my mother, was a thing that you dared not miss unless you wanted a good grounding. Since I had turned eighteen, my mother was more lenient because I lived in the back room upstairs and was…eighteen. Even though I had my Dreamcatcher’s responsibilities and courses I had to focus on, I continued to take a few classes at the nearby community college upon the insistence of my mother. In my mother’s eyes, I was still that eleven year old sporting nothing but jeans and a giant blue cape playing cops and robbers around the house.

“I’m sorry, Mom!” I called from the top of the stairs.

“Waylan, you come downstairs and say hello to your Uncle Arthur.”

Damn. Forgot.

“Yessir!” I mumbled before calling, “Let me just change out of my…work clothes.”

Uncle Arthur was Mom’s older brother. He was a human FBI agent. Since Mom was married to my father, she knew what Dreamcatchers were. She knew everything. In fact, she worked at the prestigious law firm in New York that hid the Dreamcatchers’ East Coast headquarters. Her family had no idea and neither did the rest of the normal world.

My mom was awesome. If she could handle raising four kids, marry a workaholic—Dreamcatcher, at that—and still keep dinnertime an important family meal, she could handle anything. Mostly. Except for stinky clothes, and the truth about where I was—spying on a secret meeting that included my dad.

I sighed before I quickly jumped into the shower and rinsed off, passing the soap over my body and shampooing my hair almost simultaneously. I was out—towel drying—in two minutes flat when a knock came on my door. I grabbed my pants and was hopping into them, trying to get to my door as I asked, “Who is it?” I managed to button and zip up my jeans.

“It’s your little brother. The one with the face. I go by Bond. James Bond.”

I opened the door with a grin in place. “What do you need, Jamie?”

“It’s James,” Jamie scowled. He had turned thirteen seven months ago. And with that new teen blood running through his veins, he had begun to think he was cool. And that he had wanted a ‘change’ in life. You could say he was going through his quarter-life crisis—if that was even a thing. In his mind, that meant a new wardrobe, a stronger name, a new haircut—which, in my opinion, only showed how little fashion sense he had and made me lose what little hope I had left in the future of this nation. If this was Jamie’s teenage life crisis, I didn’t want to see what his middle-life crisis was going to bring. Mom had laughed when I told her.

“Sure, Jamie. You were born with the name of ‘Jamie’ and you will die with the name, ‘Jamie’. That is your name on your birth certificate. Don’t you want to keep the name Mom and Dad gave you?” At the word, ‘Dad’, I knew I hit a spot. Right after I had said it, I realized my mistake. Dad was Jamie’s world. I didn’t want to feed his admiration.

“Jamie is a nickname for James,” Jamie finally said after a moment of thought, “But I guess Jamie isn’t that bad…there are famous Jamie’s in the world!”

“That’s right, buddy,” I muttered, going back into my room.

Jamie followed.

“Did Mom send you?” I asked as I dried my hair more with the towel.

“No. She sent Elizabeth, but then she went to her room instead. I just came up because Mom and Uncle Arthur are talking about work and it got boring.” Jamie shrugged.

Dropping the towel onto my bed, I pulled on the shirt, ushering Jamie out before I closed my bedroom door behind us. “Hey, go get Elizabeth and tell her to come down. We have a guest.” Yeah, if I have to be downstairs, then so does she.

“Can you do it? She’s being moody.” Jamie sighed. “Must be that time of month.”

I stopped walking and turned around. “Sure, bud. Tell Mom I’ll be down in a minute.” I ruffled Jamie’s hair as I passed. Jamie yelped and I could hear him muttering and frantically trying to smooth back his hair before he jogged down the stairs.

“Hey, Elizabeth?” I knocked on her closed door lightly. “We’ve got company. What’s taking you so long?”

“I’m primping! What do you think I’m doing?”

Something didn’t feel right. Her voice was off.

“Uncle Arthur is downstairs. Mom wants us there,” I said as I lightly hit the door with my foot.

“I’ll be down in a minute.”

“You sure everything’s alright?”

There was a pause. “Um, well…?” Her door popped open as she leaned a shoulder against it. Her face was streaked with dried tears and hair was pulled from her braid in messy sections. Her uniform was rumpled and her shirt was undone, showing the tank top worn beneath it. The skirt at her hips was turned halfway around. Overall, she looked like she had had a run-in with a tornado.

“What happened to you? Did you find Oz?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and beckoned me inside, swiping the back of her hand over her cheek.

“Sorry,” I apologized. “What’s wrong?” My eyebrows raised high on my forehead. “You didn’t get in a fight did you?”

She smirked. “What if I did? Don’t believe I can take ‘em? You should see the other guy…”

“What happened?” I asked, plopping down on the edge of her bed. Her backpack had been slung across it, its contents dumped onto the comforter.

“It was another vision, Waylan.” She sat down on the foot of the bed, stretching her legs out in front of her so that her feet hit my elbow.

I turned to face her. “What?”

“A vision. Those things I see sometimes and can’t control? The things that we thought were random? I don’t think they are. Yeah, them. They’re here, fully loaded.”

“You don’t think they’re random? What do you mean? Last time, you thought they were showing you people’s lives around the world.”

“Yeah.” She nodded quickly, waving a hand. “I still see those. Lots of those. But then there are visions of the…the future. I think. It sure isn’t now.”

“Predict…the future?” My gaze blurred as my thoughts wandered. There was a special spot for Dreamcatchers who could see the future—a cell with locks and bolts. They wanted their people close, and their best agents even closer. My dad would know.

“What is it?” Her eyes narrowed. “What are you hiding?”

I shook my head. “It’s nothing. Anyway, why were you crying? What did you see this time?”

“Waylan.” My sister’s voice grew deadly, reminding me of how dangerous and stoic she could appear. “I swear, to all Dreamcatchers everywhere, that if you are not giving me the whole truth and nothing but the truth…something terrible is going to happen. Terrible, horrible…Apocalyptic bad, on that level of horrible. I saw it. I haven’t even told you this yet but I don’t…I can’t….” A frustrated tear escaped and made its way down her cheek as she ducked her chin down, trying to hide her face with her long, blonde hair. Her voice grew softer as she said, “I can’t do this alone.”

I wasn’t one for emotional help, so I just sat there. I did lean forward and tap a reassuring hand on her shin. “Hey, look at me,” I said. She did slowly, her tears locked away again. “I’m here. I’ll be here through the whole thing.”

She nodded. “You know I don’t want to become a Dreamcatcher.”

“I know. I don’t want you to either.”

Elizabeth tilted her head at me. “Why?”

“They have terrible health insurance. And not enough vacation days.”

She smirked at me. “Nerd.”

“Hey,” I said, reaching forward to squeeze her leg right above her knee. She laughed and jerked away. Satisfied, I smiled and leaned back. “What was your vision about this time?”

Squirming away, she turned, dangling her feet off the bed so we now sat facing the same way. “The future. That’s the only explanation.” She shivered and bent forward, folding her arms as she leaned on her knees. Mumbling into her elbows, she said, “Demons roam the world in packs greater than five. They possess people’s bodies, forcing them to do whatever evil they wish. They attack humans on the street and feed off of their souls. Some of the demons are able to swallow the souls, capturing them. They grow stronger and faster and…meaner with each soul they get.” With a sigh, she sits up. “That was basically it. At the end of the vision, I got a flash of one of the dark-haired girls I keep getting glimpses of. She’s fighting off two demons in an alley. Or…she tries to, but then she gets hurt…” Elizabeth winced. “I can’t see anything else past that.”

“Waylan? Elizabeth? How is everything going up there?” Mom’s voice called from the bottom of the stairs.

“We’re coming!” I called back before turning to Elizabeth. “Hey, we should probably go downstairs. We can’t abandon Mom whenever relatives come over.

“I suppose.” She nodded slowly. Not moving, she sat, brow furrowed, staring at the far wall.

“Why don’t you change and wash up? I’ll go down and stall, which shouldn’t be hard given the fact that Mom’s sure going to want to talk my ear off as a penance for coming home late…again.” I placed my hands on her shoulders. “If you have any more visions, you can come talk to me, okay? Remember that journal I gave you last Christmas? You should start writing down your visions. I know a kid at Headquarters who gets visions sometimes, and it helps him to write everything down.”

“Take notes on my visions?” Elizabeth smiled, laughing a little at the thought. “That’s actually not a bad idea. Maybe I’ll make a book out of it and title it ‘Dreams’.”

“By ‘The Chosen One’.” I grinned.

Rolling her eyes, she shoved my shoulder.

I moved to the door, laughing, before slipping out. “Wish me luck!”

“Luck wished!” She tossed an imaginary handful of fairy dust at me before I closed the door softly. Pressing the palm of my hand to my forehead, I continued to the stairs. Jogging down them, I could see into the living room. Uncle Arthur was talking with Ripley, my youngest brother of nine years. Mom was facing the stairs, drinking a cup of tea. Jamie was sitting on the love seat, flipping through a sports car magazine—special edition, must have been a present from Uncle Arthur. Mom, lips pursed, raised her eyebrows at me in a stern manner before she turned back to the conversation at hand.

“That’s not possible!” Uncle Arthur chuckled as Ripley grinned, tugging on Uncle Arthur’s arm.

Ripley grinned, saying excitedly, “Yes! Yes, it is! Let me show you! I’ll prove it! Wanna bet?”

“Ripley!” Mom chided.

Ripley frowned and jumped back onto the couch.

“It’s fine, Faye. Ripley, if your mother allows it, I’ll have a two-scoop ice cream eating contest with you,” Uncle Arthur declared, placing a hand on Ripley’s shoulder as he looked into his face.

Ripley’s eyes brightened and he turned eagerly to Mom who couldn’t hide her amusement. She laughed and tilted her head to the kitchen. Ripley jumped up with a hoot. He raced into the kitchen with Uncle Arthur following. Uncle Arthur saw me standing there and gave me a little saluted wave. His short buzz cut made him look even more military than he was, but his bright blue eyes matched my mom’s. He wasn’t tall, but he wasn’t short either and you could see the muscles through his loose shirt, especially in his arms. He was someone that you might see at the gun range, swimming laps at the gym, or jogging along the beach on a sunny morning in California. He wasn’t someone you messed with. Lucky for the both of us, I had no qualms with Uncle Arthur or his family. They were nice, decent people and I enjoyed their company, most of the time.

“Hey there, Waylan. How’s the man of the house?”

“He’s away on business,” I replied before smiling at him. “Good thing I’m here, huh?”

Uncle Arthur laughed before walking after Ripley.

“Only two scoops, Arthur!” Mom called as we heard them chatting. Ripley’s boy-ish voice made higher with excitement, Uncle Arthur’s lower one raspier with age.

“Hey, Mom.” I walked into the room and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Sorry about being late.”

“Nice tactic.” She raised an eyebrow. “Bringing up the matter at hand first so I wouldn’t have to and now the ball is in my court.” Mom eyed me. “Where were you, young man?” Her eyes bore into mine and I glanced around, giving a shrug.

“I was at work.”

“You don’t work this late. I was getting worried, Waylan.” Her eyes showed her emotions, clear as day and my guilt slowly sank deeper.

“I was on assignment. I’m sorry. I should’ve called, but I forgot about Uncle Arthur’s visit.”

Mom was quiet as she blew into her mug. She looked at me, setting the mug down on a coaster. “Your Aunt Maria isn’t doing so great.”

“I thought her surgery was going well.”

“Yes, it is. But she’s still in the hospital.”

“Mom,” I said. “It’s been only a day. I’m sure she’s going to be good as new. Why don’t you visit her tomorrow? I’m sure she would enjoy that, and you could use the trip.”

“Yes, yes.” She waved a hand in the air, “I’ve already planned a trip next week with the boys. With out school, maybe we’ll go on Tuesday or Wednesday. Hopefully Maria will be home by then and we will be able to help her around the house.” Mom’s brow knitted as she thought. She was a planner. Even if the trip wasn’t for another six days, my mom would be ready to go and packed three days before. She said, “We will be gone for the whole weekend. Elizabeth says she’ll be busy with a play she’s going to be in for the summer program I signed her up for.” After a pause, she added, “You know how Arthur pampers Maria so. He worries.”

“He can bring her some of your delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. That should drive the pain away real fast.” I gave a smile. Mom grinned at me, slapping the air near my face lightly.

“You little teaser, you. Go ahead. There’s a bowl in the oven.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I got up from the chair and hurried into the kitchen.

“I won!” Ripley howled. It seemed that most of the chocolate ice cream had missed his mouth and was now displayed all over his face. He had even managed to get some on his forehead, which was impressive in itself.

“Wow, nice job! I never thought anyone could beat Uncle Arthur!” I said, dramatically. Ripley ate it up, grinning widely before running into the other room to tell Mom. I put the soup in the microwave before turning to Uncle Arthur, “You let him win, didn’t you?”

Uncle Arthur shrugged and bit into his cone. “Perhaps. There’s a magic in a child’s joy.” He smiled and tilted his head as if thinking. “Children are one of the greatest lessons in happiness, constantly challenging us to enjoy the moment, as the next one…will not be the same.”

The microwave beeped and I turned to take it out, almost burning my hands before I quickly set it on the counter. “Is that a quote?” I found a spoon in the drawer and turned back to him.

“Yeah,” Uncle Arthur murmured softly as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. He added, “Marianne Williamson, if my memory serves me right. She’s an author.” He pointed a finger at me. “A lecturer too.”

“Hmm.” I nodded as I took a mouthful of soup. “That’s interesting.”

He looked at me then, smiling. “No need to humor me. I know that you don’t need an old man like me bothering you with such nonsense, do you, Waylan?” He got up from his seat on the kitchen barstool and walked to the sink to wash his hands.

“That’s not true, Uncle, and you know that,” I insisted, shoveling in the last little drops of soup from the bowl before I set it back down on the counter. Seconds were in my near future, that was for sure. Uncle Arthur dried his hands on a dish towel and looked at me with a slightly amused look. I added, “At least someone’s old man is bothering me.”

Uncle Arthur didn’t respond for a moment as he regarded me.

I swallowed and held his gaze. “Honestly? It’s nice to be bothered sometimes, by the right people.”

Uncle Arthur came over to me and slung an arm over my shoulders, giving me a squeeze, nearly crushing my arm in his grip in the process. He chuckled. “Boy, you are your mother’s son alright.” He muttered as an afterthought, “I just pray that you will never end up like your father.” With that, he walked out, back into the living room and to the laughter of my family.

I stared at my empty bowl for a long while after that. I didn’t want to be my father; I wanted to be my own person who made his own choices and made his own impact in the world, even if it was only a barely noticeable dent in the vastness of the universe. I could be that annoying bug splatter in the middle of your windshield on a road trip. Or that little compliment from a friend that made your day brighter. Maybe I could have an impact on someone in the world. Somewhere.

At least I would be there.

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