Emily’s dad pulled the Volvo wagon up to the curb right in front of her school. His timing couldn’t have been worse, because standing just where he stopped were The Letter Girls, six girls who thought they had been put on this Earth and in this school to make life miserable for Emily and any other kid they could get their claws into.
They were called “The Letter Girls” because they all wore school letters that they had either earned through sport or got from sports guys. Emily sunk down into the seat.
“Come on, M&M, out you go,” her dad said, looking at his watch. “Can’t be late on a Monday.”
Emily reached for the handle.
“Hey, sport, you’re not getting out of this taxi without paying your fare,” he said, offering his cheek.
Emily reached over and gave him a quick peck and then slunk out of the car.
The Letter Girls were already spread out into a firing line between the curb and the school; locked and loaded. They all opened fire as soon as the car door shut and Emily hit the curb.
“God, look who takes a Swedish taxi to school, huh?”
“It’s the skinny scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.”
“Can’t you grow tits?”
“Kisses her daddy.”
“Is Daddy a good kisser?”
Emily clutched her books tight to her chest and did an end run while The Letter Girls turned their gun sights on their next victim.
Emily stopped at a drinking fountain, hoping no one else saw her red cheeks. She turned the handle and let the water shoot up into her mouth without thinking.
Emily. You must talk to me. Please!
Her scream brought immediate silence to the dull roar of students. Every head and eye turned towards Emily as she dropped her books and staggered back from the row of fountains on the school wall.
The Letter Girls broke the silence with hooting laughter, followed almost immediately by the school bell, sending everyone off in different directions to their classes.
The teacher on duty nearby came over. “You alright?” he enquired, though he really couldn’t care less, wishing he was in the staff room having his third coffee of the day.
“Yeah ... uh ... there was a spider in the fountain,” mumbled Emily as she gathered up her books. “I have acute arachnophobia.”
The teacher rolled his eyes, “Whatever. Get to class.”
All day, Emily was not herself. The body was there, but the rest of her was inside her head, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
Teachers just stopped trying to get her attention. Friends just left her alone. Emily just went through the motions, from class to class to lunch to class, but this was obviously one troubled girl.
Emily quickly walked home after school, up the path, through the door and into the kitchen. She put her books on the counter, got a juice drink from the ’fridge and sat on a stool at the counter.
She didn’t seem to have moved more than an inch when her mother walked in an hour later from her job.
“Hi, sweetie,” her mother said. “How was your day?”
Emily just sat there with a totally puzzled look on her face.
Her mom, in a terrible imitation of Emily’s voice, answered, “Oh, fine, Mom. I had a fabulous day. How was your day?”
The afternoon sun streamed into the kitchen window as her mother went about filling the kettle and making herself a cup of coffee.
The sun caught the diamonds in her wedding ring and wristwatch as well as the costume jewelry broach on her jacket, making lovely little rainbows dance around the kitchen.
Foxy was chewing her favorite stuffed toy on the floor in a warming patch of sun and her rhinestone collar was adding to the light show.
Emily was looking puzzlingly at this phenomenon while her mother continued the faux conversation with herself, “... and then I said you can keep the million dollars because I have my health and a happy family, so I don’t really need it ...”
Emily then looked directly at her mother’s ring and watch, just as the sun was hitting the stones and setting them on fire.
Emily suddenly snatched her mother’s hand across the counter and brought it up to her face. “That’s it!” she exclaimed.
“That’s what?” asked her mother. “Can I have my hand back, please?”
“Sorry, Mom. Were you saying something to me?” asked Emily, coming back to reality.
“Nope. Nothing. Just standing here for the last five minutes talking to myself. How was your day, sweetie?” said her mother, resigned to have witnessed another episode of ‘I Mothered A Vague 12 Year-Old.’
“Great. Listen, can I have a bath in your bathtub again? Now?” asked Emily, a plan obviously hatching.
“Sure, honey. Go ahead. Take as long as you want,” her mother said, giving up with a shrug.
Emily grabbed her schoolbooks and headed upstairs to her room. She put them down and took off her school shoes and knee socks.
She walked down the hall to her parents’ bedroom and across to the en suite bathroom. She locked the door and stood for quite some time, staring at the spa tub. Finally, she turned on the tap.
Emily gingerly put one toe in the water and immediately snatched it out with a shiver. She adjusted the mixer to allow more hot water in. She put one foot in first, then the other, then gently sat on the edge of the spa tub and hugged herself.
For a long while, she just looked at the water slowly filling the tub. Finally, she said, “Well, are you going to talk to me?”
I didn’t want to scare you away again.
“You’re that rock in the river, aren’t you?”
Yes, I am. You are very smart to have figured that out.
“How can you talk to me from all that way away? That must be, like, 50 or 60 kilometers.”
“How can you talk to me anyway? You’re just a rock.”
Well, I’m more than just a rock, Emily. You might say I am a big version of what you call a computer chip. A Very Big Version.
“Do you talk to me through the plumbing?”
No, I am able to contact you through the water. Water transmits electricity. It can also transmit my energy.
“How come you speak English?”
I don’t actually speak English. You think English.
“You mean you’re talking to me in my brain?!?” Emily shouted at the water.
Her mother was now in the bedroom, changing out of her work clothes, “Are you OK, sweetie? Who are you talking to?”
“Uh ... nobody, Mom. I’m ... uh ... you know ... I’m in a school play. I’m practicing my lines,” Emily lied to her mother.
You lie to your mother.
Now Emily whispered, “No, I didn’t. Not really. I had to say something.”
You don’t actually have to say anything. You can just think what you want to say to me.
[What a load of crap!]
I am not sure I understand that reference.
[Cripes! You really can understand what I think!]
I am incapable of telling you anything that is not the truth ... unlike you to your own Mother.
Talking about her Mother, “Are you OK, dear? You’ve gone all quiet.”
“No, Mom, I’m fine.”
“OK, I’m going down to start dinner. Don’t get wrinkle fingers.” Always playing the mother.
Your parents both love you very much.
[How do you know that?]
Well, they take baths, too.
[Ewww! That’s gross.]
Again, I am not sure I understand the reference.
[So, every time I want to talk to you, I have to take a bath?]
No. In actual fact, I was hoping you might travel the 73 kilometers up to Specter Creek and bring me to your home.
[Hang on a minute. Why me? What did I do to deserve a super-computer-chip-as-some-kind-of-secret-friend? Shouldn’t you, like, be with a scientist or the government or something?]
Emily, you are the only one to have discovered me. I know your heart is good. I want to be your friend. From what I have judged of your science and government, I’m not sure that is the right place for one of my kind.
[How do you know my heart is good?]
From the moment you held me in your hand, I knew everything about you.
[Ewww! That’s really creepy.]
I promise I will not reveal anything embarrassing.
[Gee, thanks. How come you sound just like some old guy from a British movie?]
That must be the way you expect me to sound. Your mind has given that voice to my energy.
[So, what do you mean by saying, ‘One of my kind?’ What kind are you?]
It is a very long story and you are starting to get ‘wrinkle fingers’... on your toes. I promise to tell you as soon as I can.
[OK, you promise? Tomorrow night?]
[Now, I just have to work out some way to get my parents to believe I really want to go back to that place for more of that bushwalking! I’m still sore from the last time.]
From the way you manipulated your mother, I do not think you will have any trouble at all.
Eleven children of various ages from toddlers to pre-teens sat on the deserted tropical beach. The waves lapped on the shore, the crystal clear water stretched off to the horizon and the palm trees gently swayed in the breeze. Some of the children played in the sand, while others simply laid on towels, soaking up the sun. An adult woman in shorts and t-shirt dozed in a canvas chair nearby.
One boy was concentrating on a small device in his hand. It was rather home-made, built by combining an old Game Boy with a TV remote, plus a few special modifications.
The girl lying on her back next to him on the hot white sand spoke without raising her sunglasses or even looking at him, “Come on, Sam. We only get to do this once a week. We need the sunshine to stay sane and healthy. Lay off, please.”
“Shut up, Cat. It’s none of your business.” He returned his attention to fiddling with the device. A smile began to creep across the boy’s face.
Cat lazily turned her head towards Sam. “You’ve got way too much attitude for a 10 year old. Just because your mother’s The Boss.” Sam wasn’t listening. His fingers flew over the device and his smile grew bigger. He pressed a button.
Suddenly, a huge crash was heard from behind the beach. The palm trees shook with the vibrations. Two trees closest to the children parted and the enormous head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared, its shrieking roar causing the children to scatter.
The adult supervisor fell off her chair, but when she saw the cause, she simply shook her head and sighed. Cat yawned.
Several of the younger screaming children backed towards the sea. One turned to look behind and screamed even louder. A gigantic octopus, eyes blazing and tentacles waving, was coming out of the waves and crawling up the beach.
The woman Supervisor calmly spoke into a communicator strapped to her wrist. “Control, we have another hack on the Three Dee Deck. Shut it down, please.” The entire room flickered and became a plain grey room about the size of a school gym with big screens around the walls and ceiling. The sea, the trees and even the monsters were just digital projections. Vents opened up in the floor and the sand began to sift away. Big sunlamps rose towards the roof. A doorway in the far wall popped open.
The younger children huddled in the middle of the room around the Supervisor, while Sam and Cat were in their original positions. In fact, Cat was still lying on her towel under her sunhat and sunnies. Finally, she raised her sunglasses and looked straight at Sam. “God, you’re a dick head. Brilliant, and original, but still a dick head.”
“Gee, thanks,” was Sam’s only comment. The Supervisor strode over and forcibly took the device from Sam. “Your mother will hear about this.”
“Big deal,” said Sam. “Like she really cares.”