Start writing here .
The Mind Is A Powerful Thing
Gilroy Van Wyk
John woke up after yet another night of restless sleep and by now, it annoyed him so much - that he tried camomile tea and a thousand other home remedies, that did not help at all. Restless sleep wasn’t really the proper word for it. It was like a dream but not as pleasant not a nightmare or night terrors though, I guess you could say it was somewhere in the between. It began about a month ago and the whole process starts with a voice. A familiar voice but he couldn’t place it. “John, Johnny boy, John ol bud” it came as an echo at first, forcing its way into his dreams then it became louder. It wasn’t screaming just yet but nonetheless it was effective and John began questioning his sanity.
He thought this was how it starting for those people with the tin foil over their heads claiming to hear voices. The reason for his sudden interest in this voice was that he had heard it during class the day before. Hearing it in his dreams is one thing, no one really knows everything about dreams and the inner workings of the dream world but while he was awake, it seemed he was slowly drifting closer and closer to Cukootown. He looked around to try and see if anyone was around and hoped they were calling out his name but he knew he wouldn’t see anyone. It wasn’t the type of voice you’d hear every day it was a very particular voice. Most nights he would try to ignore the voice not wanting to encourage it but last night he opened his eyes and got out of bed . “Johnny I know you hear me. I’ll get through to you bud don’t worry you and me, we’re old pals we won’t hurt each other. John, Johnny ol bud”. That was new and that is what scared him the most.
It was noon and John thought that if he couldn’t sleep at night maybe he could try a power nap in the morning but his body would not allow it so he got up. Not a cloud in the sky today which in his current condition was just bothersome. Unlike most kids his age, John didn’t appreciate the cloudless and sunny days. His favourites were the thunderstorms, the constant rain and the dark clouds gloomily covering the blue sky. Saturdays were meant for sleeping in but John had been up since the wee hours of the morning, which just added misery to an already unpleasant week. The unpleasant referred to Claire, John’s girlfriend (also longest relationship he’d ever had, four months) broke up with him. He wasn’t too heartbroken. John loved her but he knew it was coming. It was the same with all of them and he could see the signs. First they’d have a talk to try and solve the problem and that wouldn’t work so then on to anger, she would scream at him, pick fights and threaten him. Next was pleading, rationally trying to convince him to change and lastly the ultimatum. Usually it would go “John I’ve been trying really hard but you not putting any effort into this relationship blah blah blah and if you don’t change and try soon we...” they always let the last part drift off not wanting to say “we’ll be over”.
John wasn’t the most sociable person. He’d be the life of the party when he had a nice buzz going or in the mood to be crazy but that didn’t happen too often. This was probably the reason girls thought he was something other than what he told them he was. He wanted to stay home and watch TV, read books, play video games and hang out with his friends. he was up for partying but partying meant something else when you have a girlfriend, no dancing with other girls in fact no looking at them and worst of all moderation in all things. He was always up for the occasional date night or watching romantic comedies but that was about it. He did not spontaneously show up at your house or call you, he didn’t spend time with your friends or even try to feint interest in those friends, he wasn’t the best at expressing emotion and the one thing John hated and definitely never did was parents he never met parents. Relationships were just too complex for him or he was just too complex for relationships whatever the case may be, he wasn’t going to cry over that particular spilt milk. Weekends were precious in this house and John’s mom was already out visiting with friends as being the only breadwinner for her and her son consumed her entire week. Jim came over, they played video games and he expressed his views on John’s problem.
“You always had a crazy imagination man. Your dreams are just really vivid and it might just be running overtime that’s why you heard the voice during the day,” He also had the solution, “Cannabis man that will calm you down and put you to bed easily.”
John occasionally smoked with Jim but he really enjoyed schrooming that was John’s thing. He loved that it could turn something banal into something spectacular, that he didn’t need his crazy imagination to do the work but just calmly lay back and drift away. James Floyd had been John’s best friend since High School where Jim had graduated a year before John would be in his final year. He was different to all of John’s other friends; there is no real way to describe him. He loved psychedelics just as much as John and they loved sharing conspiracy theories among other things. He was different and that’s what attracted John to him. John welcomed his rare indulgence and by the time his head hit his pillow he was as mellow as he ever was which peacefully brought sleep. “Johnny come on bud”. “This is getting old; you gotta help me out here Johnny.” Although the voice had some new lines, it did not seem to go on through the whole night so maybe the weed did help.
“Told you it would work man, You even got some new info” Jim didn’t quite mind the sunny days as much as John so they were lying on their backs near the riverbank watching clouds go by while cars whizzed along on the bridge.
“Yeah and that lovely bit of information just opened up ten new questions. Do you think I should talk back? Maybe it’s a ghost or spirit or something new that we haven’t heard of.”
“Jonathon I say talk my man, both of us agree that it’s good to open your mind to all the unknown possibilities this beautiful world has to offer so go for it.”
“I figured you’d say that . So Jimmy boy how’s work treating you?” John asked smiling which was the permanent expression when these two were together. After Jim finished school, he got a job working at an old bookstore that traded books as well. It was not that popular but the two of them were regulars so it wasn’t that bad a job as far as Jim was concerned.
“Popular as always man. I’ll probably head in a little late tomorrow, doesn’t make much of a difference”.
“Stop complaining,” John replied “You love that job where else can work and get high at the same time?”
Jim laughed lightly “Right you are. The boss man leaves me to my own devices most of the time but you see Johnny that’s all due to me”
“How would you reckon that?” Asked John gleefully
Jim sat up and looked at John: “Because of my excellent work ethic man” and he fell back and joined John in uncontrollable laughter.
Schizophrenia, spirits, high levels of stress, schizophrenia, CIA chip implants, bugs inside your walls. Research didn’t help as much as he thought it would but it did yielded some interesting results. Out of everything he had read he wanted to believe that the government was behind it but Schizophrenia seemed the most logical and the only reoccurring one. John knew that although Schizophrenia may fit his symptom that it was not that or he may have been in denial.
Hearing voices wasn’t the only symptom but John dismissed the others such as lack of motivation, he only lacked motivation in things that didn’t interest him. Lack of desire to form relationships now that one was up for interpretation, he loved to form relationships (with people that were interesting) but the problem was prolonged relationships with those people. He scrolled down and when he saw causes, he immediately shut everything down. He was already in trouble so what was the use fussing over what caused it (especially if it’s something that he’s still enjoys doing).
He sat on his windowsill counting stars and sipping on his third cup of coffee. No surprises tonight he was going to wait for it confronting the voice had fired him up, no lack of motivation here. He dosed off twice but the wind and a car’s horn woke him up quickly and after the second awakening, he heard it.
“Johnny bud” before it could say anything else John yelled, “Who are you”.
“Johnny...hey bud” the voice sounded different, happier and delighted at finally being acknowledged.
“Are you real?” John didn’t have time for small talk he wanted to be reassured that he wasn’t sick.
“You bet...your” the sound came stutteringly and distorted. “Johnny?” it asked
Complete silence and John was left shouting at nothing asking the same question. No one was home so the screaming session he had with himself was acceptable. He wasn’t even sure if that was a success or not but he was sure of one thing. That he was going to sleep much better tonight. Communicating with whatever that was, exhausted him and it being two in the morning just added to his sleep- like- a- baby- tonight theory.
It was the best sleep he’d had in weeks but it was far too short and when he was sent to the principal’s office for sleeping in yet another class he wasn’t surprised. Walking to the office he saw (not for the first time today) a group of kids looking at him and giggling. He found that weird but it didn’t bother him what really bothered him was that they were walking with umbrellas and jackets. All around the school, everyone was dressed for rain, jackets tightly covering every inch of their body, earmuffs, gloves and everything that went with it. He looked up just to make sure and saw some clouds pass by the sun and that was the only time the sun was going to be covered because the sky was clear. He wasn’t getting hot with only a T-shirt but these kids must be burning up. He sat across from the principal, the typical high school principal. Balding, cheap suit and preaching the same “I’m trying to help you nonsense”. John only took notice of him, when walking in he looked sceptically at him, a look he’d been receiving all day. He ran his hands through his unkempt hair.
“It is too long, it looks untidy son.” We have an image at this school” was what he said and John’s only response was messing it up even more. It wasn’t that long he obviously hadn’t seen Jim. John might have gotten the idea from him but it was simply that both of them didn’t really care about how they looked with the addition that they weren’t going to put much effort into managing a good image. He was neat and tidy compared to Jim who had the beard and all, you’d think you were transported back to the 70’s and Clapton was telling you about this high school chick that came into the bookstore today. Principal Rheinhold didn’t find that as funny as John did so he had booked himself a one way ticket home. It wasn’t a big deal he could get some sleep and head over to pass the time with Clapton (who was probably buzzing already).
“Hey cutting class is not cool man,” Jim was in the condition John expected him to be.
“The faculty isn’t really cool about you catching some zzz’s in their class,” John walked up to the counter. “Plus Rheinhold didn’t think comparing you to Clapton was funny”. While Jim clutched his belly in laughter, John told him everything.
“So you slept when you got home and came straight here?”
“Yes what you thinking?”
“You didn’t take anything, eat or drink anything?”
Jim laughed but composed himself quickly “I know why I can’t feel the cold but what’s your deal man?”
“What are you talking about? It’s another annoyingly sunny day. You gotta lay off the office hours smoking dude.”
“It’s been raining all day man. John are you okay?” Jim knew John was not kidding as he could see the realisation in his eyes.
He realised why everyone was staring at him, everything made sense now except the fact that he saw a sunny sky outside. “I’m gonna head home, I think I just need to sleep it off.” He turned around and walked straight out. He felt gooseflesh on his bare arms and rubbed them. They were wet and when he looked up and seemed to have started drizzling, no it had been drizzling all along. John could see from the puddles and everything around him showed that it was like this all along. Hallucinations, he was used to them but usually they’d eaten or drank something to achieve the effect but now it was unexplained. Not completely unexplained, another symptom pointing to Schizophrenia
John lay on his bed ready for what was next, hoping that all would go to plan. When he got home he headed for bed, sleep definitely was the answer if nothing else. Sleeping did help and he was refreshed besides experiencing what he thought to be the first stages of hyperthermia. His mother questioned him about his choice of clothing but he just waved it off and she didn’t bother probing any further. As soon as he got out of the shower, he got a phone call from Jim.
“Hey I was going to come check up on you but I’m soaked,” he said, shivering. John thought the effects of his workplace helper must have worn off by the time he left for home
“Its fine I just needed to sleep it off, I feel much better now. Trust me what you need now is a shower it’ll feel great”
Jim was laughing and John thought it must’ve not completely worn off, “Thanks man anyway the reason I called was to tell you to drink some tea.” The tea Jim was talking about was one of many psychedelic plants he had grown. “I’ll bring some over if you need”
“No I still have some Salvia but why would I want to drink tea”
“To talk to the voice man. The way you explained it seemed like it was cut off like you needed practice or just a way to better expand your mind, alter your consciousness. The tea will do all that improve your concentration. Everything you’ll need to have a quick chat with it.”
“That’s sounds like a great idea man Thanks I’ll try it .Sometimes I forget how smart you are, too bad all the drugs will probably take care of all that smarts.”
“You crack me up young Jonathon; now go take that sweet sweet medicine.”
He sipped the last of his tea and after lying on his bed for what felt an eternity he disappeared. He couldn’t feel his body or anything else. Couldn’t remember anything he was in the part of the consciousness that opened its door only to the clearest and most spiritual but in John’s case the one with the secret recipe. This was where he would drift between memories and live moments in his past. He would wake up in his old home or his grandparent’s old living room but today he managed to regain a small bit of his awareness and ordered his mind to speak.
“I know you’re there. I want answers.” He could feel himself very slowly slipping away, his eyes would shut now and he would wake up somewhere else.
“Johnny you came to visit bud,” the voice was delighted just as before.
“Who are you, what do you want, why, how, everything I want to know everything no nonsense just give me answers.” The sound of the voice woke him up and brought back that motivation he had before John knew he didn’t have time he could feel it gnawing at him like a clock hanging overhead
It’s all good Johnny I’ll spill the beans. I don’t have all the answers but you know those naps you took sure re-energized my batteries bud”
“No nonsense,” John was practically yelling which was surprising seeing that he usually couldn’t even say one word in this state.
“Cool your jets. I know only what you know Johnny. We are the same I am you. You see Johnny I don’t know the reason but one day when you opened your eyes I saw it. I saw you so I tried talking to you and it worked. I’m not the zombie anymore we’re connected now and it’s beautiful bud.”
“Are you a different person or something?”
“Nope I know everything you know. All the memories you can’t access I know, the things you too lazy to do, I do them Johnny but now we can do everything together.” It sighed in relief as if it its work was done.
“Why and how? Speak.” John commanded
“Don’t know bud. Thought we could figure that one out together, you see this is only the first step Johnny we’ll be chatting all the time, soon enough. Hey sorry about today it was funny as hell though?”
John knew that time was running out but he couldn’t help himself “What about today?”
“I kinda figured I’d have to do something drastic so.... I let the beautiful sun shine Johnny but I’ll tell you bud if you didn’t recharge including this nice trip you’ve got going here we never would have been able to talk now.”
It wasn’t that farfetched so John wasn’t taken aback by the act itself but by the power this... whatever it was had scared him a little.
“Jo...Johnny” and it was gone again. Complete silence and while John floated in Limbo, slowly and with extreme difficulty he processed everything the voice said. Firstly, Schizophrenia was definitely out of the picture now. It did not bring as much relief as you would expect but it was good news nonetheless. All of this was real no doubt about that. However, what difference does it make? Is it a new power, besides what was he supposed to do with it? John couldn’t remember the last time he put this much effort into anything, especially anything concerning his life most times he just went with the steady flow of things and that may have answered all his questions. In Mary’s bedroom Johnny sat on her bed, this was the really good tea. He could smell her scent all around, he knew the buzzer was going to sound soon and he’d wake up. He’d wake up somewhere else so he just lifted his feet on the bed, lying on his back he let go and let it take him to wherever the next stop was.
John made sure to check everyone’s outfits today, he wouldn’t be fooled again he saw that as the day progressed all seemed to fit back into place. He spent time out on the field with some friends and everything was as before. That was reassuring but by the time school dismissed, he couldn’t wait to leave. He was the first out of the door and when he got outside Jim was there waiting for him.
“I don’t know how or why but I just somehow know it wasn’t lying.”
Jim was understanding and seemed to believe him to a certain extend maybe he wanted to believe in something supernatural and extraordinary, “Maybe it was the tea man”.
“No this time it was different. It wasn’t just the void and the trip down memory lane that we always experience but I was able to connect to it. He was there I could feel it.”
“He?” Jim asked quizzically
“I don’t know, just sounded like a he and I can’t deny his existence anymore. I don’t know anything other than the fact that there is something.”
“Okay Johnny I’ll do some brainstorming but what you gonna do? Are you gonna keep taking medicine? I’m all for that by the way.”
“No, he said that was the first step so I think that this thing, whatever it is will develop overtime. Guess I’ll just wait and see besides I’ve been hearing his whispering voice call my name eventually he’ll get to me.”
Jim let out a surge of laughter, “That’s a good idea man, L-I-V-I-N it’s the only thing we can do.”
It was not too long before he did get John loud and clear. “Johnny you there?” he said comically and with that he started laughing as if it was hilarious.
“Yeah how long do I have tonight or should I start rolling up a performance enhancer?”
“Oh Johnny it’s always good to see you a jolly mood but I can’t answer that one for you. I’ve been trying all day but this line sounds steady just don’t hang up on me bud.”
“How much do you know? Every little bit, details. I want to know everything you know.”
“Like I said before I only know as much as you but I’ll try to let your mind at ease, show you I’m really trustworthy,” with every word he spoke he let a giggle as if conversing with John was the most fun he’d ever had. “I guess I’m what you call the sub-conscious, you don’t know all that much about it so neither do I. How can I put this? Yeah I got it; I was made to do things that help you. Johnny you aint dumb so you can guess what those are right?
“Yeah I got it. How? Never mind you probably wouldn’t know, Research?”
“When you insult me you insult yourself Johnny,” helaughed with himself again, “Research, what a drag but I guess we don’t have a choice.”
They did extensive research but did not find anything directly connected to their predicament. “As interesting as all of this is Johnny I feel that I will cut myself if you don’t stop this very minute. It’s just a bunch of information that doesn’t explain... hell I don’t even know what our problem is.”
“The problem is, how are we communicating and why are able to do all these things, but you’re right this is not helping,” John sighed heavily but as long as the line was still open he was going to keep using it, “Okay I’ll try something different then. How do you know what to do? Like the things that you usually do. The things I’m too lazy to do.”
“Can’t really explain it, somehow I just know what to do and when to do it and like I said we are the same so I need your help to do them bud.”
“So you’re programmed”
“Guess you could call it that”
“I read something about programming, I just can’t remember all of it”
“Consciousness puts us ‘online’ allowing us to override our instinctual ‘offline’ programming,” The voice recited information John had previously read in a monotonous tone expressing his irritation and boredom
“Okay I have to admit, that’s pretty impressive but that does explain some of it. How’d you remember all that and I couldn’t remember a word of it.”
“Like I said your ass is lazy bud. You didn’t think it was important so, in through the one ear out through the other fortunately for you its stored somewhere so I just need to open that draw and take whatever file you’re looking for.”
“Whoa, that’s pretty cool. I guess you not as bad as I thought. This could be fun.”
John experienced headaches that started as a low throb and erupted into excruciating pain. It was so bad that most times he was disoriented, fatigued and nauseated. John popped pain pills that were as effective as tic tacs. He drank half a bottle of scotch, which helped a bit and put him to sleep easily.
The day after the sub pulled the weather prank, John was completely bewildered and rattled it was then that he realised this power was more like a skill. A skill that he would have to hone until he fully perfected, it was going to be physically and mentally exhausting.
Two minutes turned into ten, ten minutes into half an hour and when they reached the hour mark all of it was over. The day they communicated for more than an hour it was as if they finally tore down the wall. He was free and it didn’t take John long to realise that his sub-conscious was not all powerful. That assumption stemming from more than a few parties that he doesn’t remember at all, John thought that he may partly be guilty.
The sub was pre-programmed by John’s habits and that was all it did, tell his body when to sleep, eat, it did everything that you could just sum up to homeostasis. On other occasions, it would remember things more accurately and carefully stored them although John still remembered things; usually association was the key to that. After breaking the wall, after all the pain, John found to be ‘on’ all the time. It was very useful in times where he would have a lapse in concentration or was not up for a specific task. He couldn’t become lazy though because he was the eyes of the operation, the idea man, the on-the-spot-thinker in the tag team.
“I don’t know how to do that bud.” “Okay, so describe what all of it looks like,” John patiently suggested. “It’s just a bunch of raw data, everything just the way the zombie had out it.” “Fine,” John said, “what if I gave you a name and told you to... let’s say, weaken it.” “Huh,” the sub asked, confused. “”Like if I said I didn’t need a steady dose of interleukin -6 for a while.” The Sub didn’t answer and for a second John thought they were back to the days when the line would die mid-sentence “Oh so you can alter sleep duration and it’s quality,” it suddenly yelled. “What took you so... wait; did you go look up what interleukin -6 does?” “I’m the brains in this outfit Johnny, don’t take away from me.” “Whatever,” John giggled, “can you do it?” “I see where you’re going with this bud,” the sub laughed, “don’t you worry your pretty little self, I’ll take care of it.
“White rabbit” Jim asked while they lay on the riverbank enjoying the sudden spell of good weather the town was experiencing.
“Coniglio bianco” John laughed at Jim’s stunned face. He had brought Along a Italian phrase book and Jim was testing his Italian speaking skills. He’d learnt Italian in one day and was now trying to convince Jim that he wasn’t lying. First, they used the phrase book but now Jim was asking random words and using John’s cell phone to confirm his answers, so far he hasn’t been wrong once.
“So when’s the Mothership coming to get you man” the q and a had been going on all morning and Jim seemed to be convinced of John’s new friend.
“They haven’t contacted me yet so I’m just gonna keep having fun with this until they do.”
“What does fun entail ?”
“That’s the tricky part”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know what fun is Johnny?” John could barely make out the words while Jim giggled them rather than spoke them.
“Kind of, he only knows things I’ve read, heard, seen and experienced and you of all people should know how limited we’ve been.”
“and to have real fun you first need to find out what real fun means rather than the G rated fun we’ve been having” again he laughed and John joined in this time.
“Oh Jimbo only you would call what we do G rated.” John laid back and for once enjoyed the fact that only a single cloud was drifting through the blue sky.
“John if you insist on sleeping in my class could you answer the question before I send you to the principal’s office again?” Mr Jarvis had that condescending smile on his face. The one he got when he knew he was about to make some poor kid look like a fool in front of the whole class. John stood up from his desk and rubbed his eyes, some kids in the class started laughing and you could see the annoyance on Mr. Jarvis’s face
“Surprise surprise guess who has to stay awake and do all the work?” John smiled which drew some quizzical looks from the class. “The cosmographical idea on which the poem is founded is extremely simple. First, within the centre of the universe the earth is a fixed point. Man or the race of Adam inhabits the northern hemisphere. In the seas of the southern hemisphere stands the isolated mountain known as purgatory, which was unexplored at the time at which the poem was written, that’s just a little fun fact for all of you. Extending one beyond the other are the seven heavens, also above the earth on every side. Oh and by the way, the seventh is infinite in extent. In conclusion, Hell is a central core of evil in the earth's interior.” John looked at the stunned face of Mr. Jarvis and decided to rub it in some more, “It aint rocket science Mr.J so believe me when I say I can afford to take a nap bud.”After what seemed a whole ten minutes of shell-shocked silence Mr. Jarvis sent John to the principal’s office. Red faced and completely humiliated he stepped out with John and headed for the teacher’s lounge where they saw him light a cigarette.
“We sure did a number on him Johnny”
“It was partly your fault but I couldn’t help myself”
“Serves him right, besides we didn’t read that long ass poem for nothing”
“We read the poem because it’s good literature”
“No bud that’s why you read, I read for revenge”
“Final warning huh?” Jim asked John who had left early after finishing in the principal’s office. He stood across the counter from where Jim was slipping notes into its correct slot inside the till.
“Yep I don’t really think they can expel someone for sleeping in class and as far as ‘disrespecting’ a teacher is concerned I don’t think I’m the first person to do that.”
Jim stood up straight and faced John, turning his face completely serious and gnashing his teeth “John one more time and I’m gonna knock your dick in the dirt.”
John started laughing but quickly stopped and mimicked Jim’s impression of the typical Principal figure, “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.” Both of them burst out laughing.
“So Johnny what new magic tricks have you learnt?”
“I’ve got a couple more languages under my belt. I spent last weekend with our church’s gospel group”
“Wow you hear the calling man?”
John giggled, “Nah I was actually just learning to play some instruments. I’ve got the guitar, piano and saxophone down but there are some I haven’t quite mastered yet.”
“Sounds like fun but to be honest man I thought you’d be doing crazier things.”
“You know good friends aren’t usually enablers” he looked at Jim with a grin on his face, “You right though I have thought about other things so I read a lot and someday when I’ll need those things I’ll know it but for now I just want to learn some of the things that were on my bucket list.”
This went on for weeks. All that knowledge consumed him. From the things he learnt to all the things out there for him to learn. As if it were an addiction, they just wanted more. John always was the obsessive type, when he did an assignment he wouldn’t rest until it was thoroughly researched and then completed but now there was two of him. It wasn’t necessarily bad like Dr Frankenstein so he was still in the clear. He still visited Jim but their time together became less. Nobody was concerned with his behaviour not that anyone took much notice before. The two of them were a perfect couple although they’d only recently started communicated it was clear that they were together for a long time. The sub although a part of John was not a clone. He couldn’t just do everything one would expect a super brain to do but he needed John. John had a part to play too, he couldn’t just say “I’m gonna sleep and you do your thing.” John asked the right questions that enabled the sub to do his thing. John looked in the right places and always knew what to do and when to do it. They had learnt and done so much in such a short amount of time but somehow they knew there were more to learn and more to do. Most importantly, they knew they had to go out and find those things.
“That sounds like a plan Johnny, not a well thought out plan but a plan nonetheless.”
“Did I just hear James Floyd ask for a well thought out and researched plan?” They laughed together and Jim got up to leave. John stood outside his door watching Jim leave knowing that he just put the ball in motion, there was no turning back now. The situation wasn’t as dire as it sounds.
John had scraped by this semester due to unforeseen circumstances; his attention was elsewhere. Despite his grades, this had been the semester that he’d gained the most knowledge he’d ever had. It was summer holiday and after some convincing (the sub was very persuasive when it wanted to be) he decided to leave. Where he would end up no one knew but the journey was what he was after. Everything you have to learn and everything about life, love, the world, all of it cannot be learnt, read or experienced through literature.
“We’re living life through someone else’s eyes bud and I for one am not a big fan.” that was his closing statement and John couldn’t help but agree. One major thing John and Jim had in common was that they didn’t plan too far into the future and most times they didn’t plan at all. Therefore, the plan for this venture was that everything would work itself out on the road. They just needed the cash, there first destination and just like that all would be right. In the meantime, John kept reading, watching documentaries, interviewing people that had interesting things for him to know.
He did voluntary work at the clinic, he did an internship at Bryan’s garage and waited tables at the Diner. “All that work and this is all we get. You really aren’t a people person Johnny; most of your customers stiffed you.” the pay wasn’t good but John wasn’t there only for the money. He had other ways of making money and as summer holiday drew to a close he knew he had to resort to those methods. There wasn’t a time limit on when he had to leave but he wanted to do it in the holiday. The great beyond would be much more fun if everyone was in silly season mode. Jim had been around the block quite a long time. He’d been the carefree character all his life and if John were to need someone’s help the best person to go to would be his best bud Jim. He sent Jim out to help him complete phase one of plan ‘go where no man has gone before’ (the sub may have been sarcastic when he suggested the name).
Let’s say one gains the ability to communicate with one’s subconscious mind and through that gained higher mental capabilities too, you wouldn’t really see yourself working nine to five so you can make money to do something in the next couple years. So the first thing that pops into your mind when brainstorming quick and easy ways to make money would be gambling and running scams, it may not always be legal, honest, ethical but hell you were blessed so why let that gift go to waste even if it is for no one else’s benefit but yours. That’s what John and the sub agreed upon.
The night chill was biting into his neck and John stepped up the pace urging Jim to follow. They arrived at an inconspicuous looking apartment complex and the two stood across the road looking at it, hearts beating faster and faster. For the first in what seemed like forever both of them didn’t take their usual ‘anxiety medication’ before doing something like this. They walked inside and everything seemed simple. The place was empty and looked nice, not your typical motel scene. They got into the elevator and headed for the third floor finally, they spotted someone standing outside an apartment.
“That must be the room we’re looking for,” said John
“Yeah I don’t think this place offers large muscular bodyguards to all their guests,” Jim replied and with that they approached the bouncer, “Charlie’s expecting us, you can tell him it’s Jim” after looking them over the bouncer opened the door and moved aside gesturing them inside.
“So much money to be made bud look at all of this” the sub sounded so eager because all around the apartment things were happening. The apartment was large and had a lot of open space, which the men that were occupying seemed to make good use of. There was a wet bar and a man mixing drinks, other men sitting by some tables some circular others shaped like blackjack tables which they probably were. There was a section separate from the other with a table covered in boxes, stacked on top of one another about 11 boxes wide and 11 high, the horizontal one’s were marked A and the vertical B John later found out that this was game was called pool square. They walked toward a couch and John was introduced to the man watching T.V.
“Hey Charlie this is my friend John”, Charlie nodded John’s way and he nodded back
“So Jimmy tells me you can take these fellas for all they own.” Charlie said to John with a smile but clearly, it wasn’t all giggles. Jim already told him they would be suspicious of him for obvious reason, one being his age and another would be where he had acquired enough money to buy into their game.
“Piece of cake,” John smiled innocently and Charlie was convinced, at least for now. This was more like a casino than the underground gambling ring, at least the way John imagined an illegal gambling ring to be. There were other games besides pool square and they had only practised for two of the games there so John sat down at the green felt table that held the Blackjack game.
The dealer threw out a three, “+1” John said (Not aloud)
“Yeah Johnny I can see”
“Just do your job and speak only when you need to besides they’ve got like four decks here not to mention the thousand other things we need to do in between.”
“Why’re you tense bud.”
“Your constant talking usually amuses me but this is so not the time, also don’t forget to divide by four okay,” The voice just laughed in response and the two kept counting.
The game went on like that and occasionally John would crack wise and make a joke. All of the guys at the table and the one’s standing around had constant drinks handed to them and the tense mood that had started the game dissolved into a lively occasion. John did the on-site jobs, the one’s that could be seen on the surface, which included the talking and changing bets according to the calculations the sub said. It worked well for them, not that they were winning every hand and had piles of chips but well enough that they could see themselves leaving with a substantial amount.
Charlie came over and after standing on the side watching he started laughing, “I see why you hang out with this kid Jimmy, he sure is smart.”
“I attract a specific kind of people man.”
“He’s on to us Johnny”, He sighed, “And just when it was getting good.”
John broke all the laughter, “This has been a blast so far but I sure could use a smoke.”
“I see the specific kind of people you attract Jim,” Charlie said looking at John, “You boys mind smoking that outside? Never been a fan you know.”
John blew heaps of smoke from his lungs with plenty of encouragement, “That’s more like it Johnny.”
“That was really awesome man; I couldn’t even follow all of it.” Jim said as enthusiastically as he could, which was not much “You tried counting with me?” asked John “Yeah when you explained it, I got it so I figured I’d try. Lost it after about half an hour” John stretched his legs, “It didn’t feel that long but how long where we playing?” “A very long time man, Anyway you gonna keep this up?” “No can do Jimbo. Charlie knows.” “So that’s what all the smart talk was about but how’d he figure you out man?” “His crew may be door stumps but he seems to know a thing or two. I’m not sure but I think it’s the fluctuation. It’s my betting variation Jim, that’s the only thing I can think of.” “I see, so do we bail?” “You chicken?” Jim laughed, “I’m only concerned for your safety Johnny. What you did may not have been illegal but this isn’t really a legal and respectable establishment man.” “I get it but let’s just see what happens. If it goes south then we bail but right now Jimmy it’s time for you to become a ghost” “Spooking” Jim asked, “Sure let’s do it”
They walked back inside and at the Blackjack table a new game was underway, “You in Johnny?” asked Charlie.
“With these bozos no thanks, I’m starting to feel bad for taking all their money.”Answered John
The room erupted, “This kid is something else” said Charlie and sat down in the couch not too far away. “Think I’m gonna try my hand at some poker” John said smiling at Jim “Be my guest, might not be as easy as Blackjack.” Charlie waved them away as he continued to watch T.V.
“This fatso is not serious, look at him Johnny what idiot can’t see his tell?” John smiled as the sub’s astute observation amused him. There were five people at the table but they were only playing against two. The drunk across John was sitting in front of a mirror discreetly placed up against the counter behind him. Jim was passing on signals from Terry’s hand, Terry was drunk enough to keep showing his hand to Jim and he was kind enough to pass that information on to John. They started the game with six players but after Jim completed his job, he left to focus on project Terry. Then last, there was the fatso John didn’t know his name but boy was he an idiot, he didn’t have any of the skills required to be an even average poker player but here he was playing high stakes poker. The other two at the table John was playing against was there for the exact same reason he was.
“You better watch our competition bud” “Yeah I already saw them palm away some of the winnings when they pushed the pot” “Do we out them?” “Nah they seem like amateurs” “Cause we’re professionals” “No I meant they only know petty hustler tricks and they know theses idiots are a sure thing, so let’s ride it out a little more”
The game went on uneventful for most but the three conmen had a different story. John was right about them as he ended up with a little more money than he did in Blackjack. He didn’t have to stack the deck, mark the cards, peek or use any of the other tricks at their disposal. “Too much liquor and cards don’t mix boys,” Charlie said when he saw John get up with his winnings, “You’re a smart and very lucky kid,” was his parting words to John as they left.
“Add this to the little stash we already have and we good to go bud.” “Sure.” Replied John unmotivated “Cold feet Johnny?” As hesitant as John felt right now he knew that he couldn’t stay grounded here for much longer, “We’ll see in a couple weeks.”
He had to keep working at Bryan’s garage pro bono but more for the good of himself than the public. One of the first things John learnt was electronics, and now he put that knowledge to good use. He fixed the washing machine and (to the displeasure of the sub) bought replacement parts for the thousand other broken electronics in their house. His mother must not have known about her son’s ‘early graduation’, just didn’t care or she truly believed they were only summer jobs but the subject of John’s working or the fact that somehow he’d recently come into a lot of money did not come up even once. For the last two weeks he’d been buying take-out for the two of them, sometimes they’d eat together other times John would eat in his room. The only reason he felt this tinge of guilt for leaving was because she would be alone, if there was someone else it would be much easier but nevertheless he needed to do this and he needed one last thing from her before he left.
They sat next to each other on the couch watching T.V, they weren’t completely comfortable alone with one another but they’d settled into a nice and happy routine theses last few days, and in some unknown way this odd environment they shared at this time felt nice to them.
“I’m leaving.” John thought about telling her the truth but decided against it, “I’m doing kind of a road trip thing with Jim.” “What about school?” it sounded like a genuine question not the parent reprimanding question. “That answers our question, she doesn’t know.” This would make things much easier John thought, “I guess I’ll miss the first couple days.” “So that’s why you been collecting money, I won’t even ask where you got it.”
“I’ve been working.... Watch what you say Johnny...but while we’re talking I wanted to ask about John senior.” John did not remember a lot about his father as a matter of fact he could barely remember anything from his childhood. The sub showed him the little bits he now remembers, it was just a bunch of images shown to him but at least now he knew what his old man looks like.
“You don’t need to know anything about him.” “I get why you’d hate him. I understand all that but please, I don’t need to know about everything that happened with you guys just give me something.” “He was an obsessive bastard that only used people. He was selfish John and nothing good can come from me telling you anything about him.” She looked straight at John when she said this; those were going to be her last words on it. “What do you think is gonna happen? What do you think I’m gonna do? Look at it from my point; he’s my father even if our lives were better without him in it.” John wasn’t trying to manipulate his mother and he had a feeling that would do the trick.
She sighed reluctantly and through clenched fist she spoke, “John worked at the university where we used to live, he was very secretive. All I know was that he was the head scientist there, you know the other things about him John.” She was angered at having told him that and burst out, “or do you want me to tell you his eye colour, shoe size and favourite food.” “So I’m just supposed to be grateful for that piece of information.” As sarcastic, as John tried to sound he actually was grateful for what she’d told him, he was happy for getting any information at all. “He doesn’t care enough to write or call on your birthday or any other day so why should we care about him John?” she was screaming and from her anger, John could’nt help but believe her. “There goes the idea of her knowing an address.” John put his hand on her shoulder, “If that’s all you know then it’s fine mom. I just wanted to know that’s all.” He’d calmed her down just as quickly as he’d gotten her to talk. “So is that our first stop Johnny.” “Our first priority isn’t looking for him but we’ll get to it, eventually.”
“Finally we are done,” The sub dragged the words out as if just finishing an exhausting task. They were finishing there last shift at Bryan’s but that wasn’t what he was referring to. John had asked Jim to stop by when he had time.
“That is nice man. For this pretty lady I’d be working for no pay too.” Jim looked at John’s finally finished 1960 red (or used to be red) Ford pick-up.
“It’s not as much fun as you’d think.” The reason he worked at Bryan’s pro bono was that he used the parts at the shop, along with their tool, machinery and facilities. The engine, gears, carburetor and everything else he needed to know he’d learnt from research and from prior work he’d done there. It was supposed to be a learning experience and nothing more but when Bryan came back from an auction, towing in that beaten up rust bucket. That’s what the sub saw but John thought it was a little too harsh, there was potential. After a lot of convincing John was given the task of fixing the suspension, fixing some dents, re-allying the wheels, and all of this after he thoroughly cleaned it. By thoroughly cleaned I don’t mean washing it John had to clean every nook and cranny, he had to strip it down clean and replace almost every part. A new paint job was the final task on the list but due to time constraints and money getting tight John decided to leave that.
John sighed heavily as the two of them stood, looking at the truck, “Well Jimmy nothing keeping me here anymore” “It was bound to happen sooner or later man. Why don’t you drop me off at home and we pick this thing up again on D day.”
John’s mother had made some sandwiches for their ‘trip’ and for the first time in her life had given him the ‘be safe son’ speech. For John it made leaving things ten times worse but she’d pull through, maybe it was wishful thinking but somehow he knew it was true. She watched him drive away, waving and smiling. He was beautiful, got the best of her features and the best of his father’s. She knew he was special so that must be why she’d bought that nonsense about him just sight-seeing with Jim, she knew there was more to it. It would be tough not having him around. When her husband left she didn’t cling to John, emotionally scarring him but instead they had their own peculiar relationship. Just knowing the other was there was what comforted them. Sometimes she hated the way he was, the fact that he didn’t really act out from his father abandoning him, that he never really needed her or worst of all, in his own way he sometimes took care of her. His charisma was infectious and his embrace life attitude had even rubbed off on her. His job, his car, his woman companions and partying was something she overlooked because of that infectious personality of his. He would be something great she just knew it, after everything he went through he would come out victorious, he would be that beautiful treasure. Despite all the pride and love she felt for her son at that moment deep down inside she couldn’t help but feel regret. Regret that she didn’t tell him but that smart ass probably knew already.
“What did you tell them? Did you tell them we are going to Mount Doom,” John turned to him widening his eyes, “Our quest is to be done in the shadows, we know not who follows us.” Jim burst out laughing, “What you talking about man, they’re all smiles.” “Your dad looks pissed and your mom looks worried, I think she’s gonna cry as soon as we drive.” “Music festival man.” “That explains it,” John smiled and they started their journey
The radio in the rust bucket picked up stations both of them didn’t know. It played hip-hop, classic rock, indie and even bluegrass but somehow it always played the right thing at the right time. With acoustic guitar, it set a beautiful scene for John as he watched his beloved town in the rear view mirror. With a plane it would take them 8 hours to get to the beach house, the bus would take a day and a half and with the rust bucket, well no one really knew.
Jim was visiting his sister at her husband’s beach house. John thought it would be best to drop him off somewhere. You could see him as baggage but that wasn’t what he was. He was amazing to have around and John knew he would be better off with Jim alongside him. However, that was selfish the guy had a life, plans maybe not that much plans but nevertheless John couldn’t just drag him along on his escapades.
They would take turns driving, John drove most of the time because of his impeccable concentration and that neither of them approved of driving under the influence, something Jim was most of the time. John never knew how much he loved the road. Like something, he had been doing his whole life but forgotten. Sometimes he’d lay in the back of the truck, in the open. He did this at night and watched the stars. He would look down at towns when they drove up the mountain and all those lights would make him feel like an astronaut. Jim wasn’t a speed freak so he could enjoy every little sight along the way and somehow every route they took was the scenic one. His mind was clear, a weight lifted from his chest and John would lie on the grass wherever they would pull over. The two making jokes, chatting with strangers and enjoying every attraction every town had to offer. It truly was the honeymoon period and both of them knew it would eventually end but it didn’t feel that way and they made sure they enjoyed every bit of it.
The world is full of weirdo’s and everywhere they went, they would attract them as if they’d sent out a signal calling them. Days melted into one another, everything flowed beautifully to the rhythm set by these two larger than life characters.
It wasn’t just roads and parties on their travels but towns too. They came across different kinds of towns each special in their own way but special doesn’t always mean good. Special bad isn’t really special at all, it’s what they’d call a drive through. The name says it all, these towns were boring, lifeless, and monotonous it went against everything they came out here to do. They would spend a day driving through these towns looking for fun people or fun places, anything at all but to no avail all they would find was half dead people looking for the exact same thing but never able to do anything about it, it was depressing to be honest. Both of them knew however that everything couldn’t always go well so they’d make as much fun out of these places as humanly possible and head on out to greener pastures. One drive through did have a spectacular view of their town from the water tower.
“John did I ever tell you about the government hiding aliens.” Jim said as they sat looking at the little sparkles from the lights in the streets and home.
“No, do tell,” said John
“They are here Jimmy, that’s why there is a UN.” “Not for World peace but for aliens?” Asked John
“Yes sir, people have been fighting for centuries, it’s just human nature for people with power to hold to it by all costs, and then go looking for more power. So why would they come together all of a sudden for world peace?”
There have been revolutionaries all throughout history Jim. What if Malcolm X or Che finally got through to them?” John asked
“I wish that were true but it’s because there is only one thing that can unite people like that Jimmy, there is only one thing that all men fear.”
“Death?” John asked
“Nope, above all else man fears the unknown”
“And what’s more unknown than aliens.”
“Exactly,” said Jim and for the rest of the night hey sat silent on that water tower just staring at the stars.
The special kind was magnificent it was a town that already had people like them. Drifters that were grounded there for a while or people that were fun but wasn’t planning on leaving. It was magical, they would show up and the next thing they’d know they would be on a beach around a bonfire singing and dancing and ingesting party enhancers and sometimes this would go on for days. It wasn’t all party and drugs, the rock star lifestyle but rather enjoying the company and the locale because wherever you were there was still the beautiful nature all around. John had come for the experience and the sites but the people took him by surprise, there wasn’t a word to sum them up. They were fun when he needed fun, listeners when he needed to talk, teachers when he wanted to learn and they were everywhere with so much more to offer, it was beautiful.
They embraced experiences. Jim’s most uncomfortable period was when they went cliff diving, bungee jumping, rafting and learnt surfing (in his defence he thought it was shark infested waters). This was when they’d travelled with a crew of adrenaline junkies, it was new which most times spelled fun.
They embraced religions, which just confused John. He was Buddhist, catholic and a new age religion that wasn’t really recognised by anyone. He didn’t go to their places of worship or take part in a ceremony to induct him but rather he embraced some of their philosophies and tried to live his life by the teachings that he liked and understood. His favourite was when they travelled with a mystic, he was an Indian guru, the living embodiment of Osho himself and to make it even weirder he preached Osho’s message. He fit in with the two effortlessly because despite his appearance, he was just as nutty as they were, humorous and embracing everything life had to offer all the while implementing a diverse understanding of it which showed in the message he was preaching. Coincidently enough this was the one person that the sub hated. You could understand his aversion to the mystical because he spoke of the mind as merely a tool for us to use, it doesn’t experience things like joy it instead thinks about joy but we live and we need to live in the moment. Everything made sense in its own way and the best part was that they were already living this way without even knowing it they had belonged to this church long before they even left their home.
They had passed Jim’s sister house by miles more than once and headed to neighbouring and distant towns in their travels. They’d put it off for a long while and time flew by because of the fun they were having or just that both of them felt fulfilled on the road. School had long since started and guilt was settling in as he saw his mother sitting alone in that house waiting for him. This was the reason he eventually got around to getting Jim to his destination, he felt guilty for dragging him along although he knew that Jim was having just as much fun as him and that if John asked he would tag along all the way. They had discussed it and they could not keep her waiting either so when they pulled up at the house they felt the exact opposite of what they’d been feeling the whole time they’d been on the road.
Jim’s sister wasn’t as liberal as her younger brother but she loved him, that much was evident. She made lunch, which mostly consisted of fruit, and out on the balcony overlooking the ocean John didn’t mind one bit. They told her tales of their adventures but sugar coated the gory details and when she asked them about their plans, even she couldn’t help but join in on their laughter. Her husband was working late and John wanted to get moving before he was suckered into what he assumed would be a vegan dinner.
John sat in the truck and waved one last time at Jim’s sister, “It’s been a blast kiddo.” “Just drive Johnny, this is hard enough.” John laughed, “If you ever head back home mind checking in on the old lady for me.” “Sure thing man, turns out the apple didn’t fall to far from the tree. “These aren’t really ordinary circumstances so cut me some slack.” He started the truck, pulled out of the driveway, and waved as he drove off. Twenty minutes later, he was at the petrol station using their toilet. When he got back to the truck, he recognised a familiar face in the passenger seat. “Damn I thought I’d finally gotten rid of you.” “One more minute there with them and I’d be doing two counts of life.” John was laughing as he started driving again, “Too bad, not everyone’s as chipper as me Jimbo.” “They’re anything but chipper right now especially after I had him break the sound barrier to catch up with you.” “He sure did a good job of it and it’s a good thing he did especially since there’s no other way of you getting in touch with me... oh wait.” “You know I’d probably just lose a phone man but look at this Johnny,” he took a wad of cash from his pocket, “a little please don’t come here again/thank you for leaving early gift from our friends.”
What should have been them parting ways turned into another fun stop on the road and both of them couldn’t be happier.
They had not been grounded at one place for a long time but this time it wasn’t so bad. They’d been in the village for quite a while. Calling almost a year ‘quite a while’ was a bit of an understatement but time went so quick that it like ‘quite a while’.
Time was a teensy bit slower with Jim gone but he was due back any time now and John knew things would change when he did. The sub was content and that surprised John but he enjoyed it.
After leaving the beach house they drove north towards the mountains.They hadn’t picked up a hitchhiker or let alone come across any people but nonetheless they kept going. The drove past a small desert and up a swivelling mountain pass, hidden not too far from civilization was a small village. It wasn’t that small but compared to the towns we see every day it was tiny. It was a bizarre sight, unbelievable to be honest. On the mountainside, practically hanging off the edge was brick houses. Some dilapidated, others restored but almost all of them on the edge of the mountain. The sea was raging against the rocks over the edge of the mountain and these people built houses that looked to be sliding right into it. You could climb further up the mountain and find houses on the upper level of the mountain in the exact same place, in the exact same state. Inland, what the sub called the safe zone were larger buildings that looked like a school and rec centre.
This former Portuguese colony was well off. The people stared at them as they slowly entered and two large men approached the truck, one seemed like a field worker judging from his muscular body, the other just looked big build. “Ola estranho,” said the man with a smile.
Jim immediately looked at John who, to no one’s surprise was somewhat fluent in Portuguese, “We are just travelling; we aren’t looking for any trouble. We’d just like to sight-see then we’ll be on our way.”
The two men burst out laughing and the larger one walked away and explained the situation to the rest of the town’s people that were standing around, “Sorry for all that my friend but we don’t regularly have guest here you see.”
He was one of the few English-speaking people in the village, Jim quickly charmed him with that cheery nature of his, and just like that, they were getting a tour around the village. They hiked up the roads; some of them paved others just made from the constant traffic that ran through there. From a nice vantage point at the higher parts of the mountain/village, they had a wonderful view. To one side was endless field, some cultivated and growing different fruit, vegetables and other vegetation. To the other side were the ocean and other paths for them to follow that would probably lead to better views for sightseers.
The altitude and fear of falling was something they would probably have to get used to but either way both of them immediately loved this bizarre village, in its own way it was beautiful. There wasn’t a government in place here in this secluded village so the man that had first approached them and that now gave the tour was the town mayor in some way but they referred to it as more of an elder, the person they turned to. After the tour, the two visitors took their own tour and as usual relaxed on the grassy hill overlooking the ocean for a smoke break.
“Jimmy I don’t know how to explain it but I love this village.” “I know what you mean. It’s untainted from western influence, it’s beautiful man,” Jim replied “Even the sub loves it, this place must be special.”
They made their way back to the centre of the village, the elder asked them to stay for a town feast later that night, and they could not refuse, not that they would. In the meantime, they played soccer and another local game with the kids. The kids were quite adventurous themselves and encouraged a nervous looking Jim to try a new type of Kiteboarding in the not so calm ocean. John went first and by the time Jim started enjoying this Kitesurfing he’d already made his way back to the truck.
John was on his way to get one of his many books from the truck when he saw a group of young children around it. Some of them were inside pretending to drive, there was two other rusted vehicles parked at the rec centre, which he assumed were off limits to them. He stood and watched them and as a parent came to reprimand them, he interjected. “Seu bem deixa-los jogar,” John quickly said to the woman before she spoiled there fun.
They saw him and as the woman left they continued, he approached them and they became hesitant, John quickly told them they could continue and they did. One of them was playing with the guitar, which was a gift from a group they travelled with for a while.
Young people against pollution were their name and they were on their way to try to stop more devastation to this wonderful planet from greedy corporations. The two travellers quickly joined their cause but left not too long after because of their need to keep moving. They camped out anywhere while they travelled and John was one of the musicians that played music around the fire so when they went their separate ways, Pete (The other musician) gave John that guitar as a parting gift.
John told the little boy to be careful with that and took his bag as he left them to carry on with their games. He sat on the rocks watching Jim and the other boys play in the water, and started reading where he’d last stopped. A small group of kids had followed him from the truck and was paging through one of the other books he had in his bag. The mystic had given John that book about some tales from his homeland that had pictures in them which greatly interested the children. None of the children spoke English but John’s Portuguese was not rusty.
“You can’t read?” John asked, “Only our own language sir” answered a little girl politely “Do you want me to read that story.”
They had stopped at a picture of a lion stuck in the mud near the river. John read the story to them and their wide-eyes expressions brought him endless joy, and the same went for the sub. More kids joined and John kept reading stories until it was time for them to head back the village. In the village centre, long tables were spread out that were filled with food. A large fire was in the centre and two smaller ones at the side and a group of young men were beating on drums while some women sang, at some point the elder joined them in song. There was merriment all around, the little feast seemed more like a festival and Jim already joined in the laughter, dancing and eating of course. At some point in all the revelry, a lamb was slaughtered and John saw it much later on the fire. Some older men were playing cards and after hurriedly learning the rules, he joined them. There was young couples holding hands and jumping over fire and people telling stories around the other fire.
“How do you like all of this?” the elder walked over and put his arm around John’s shoulder “If it’s for us, I think it’s too much to be honest but I still think it’s amazing.” “You see how much fun all these are having and it’s no problem this season has been good to us,” He said with a big smile on his face, “You two enjoy and tomorrow you can be on your way with a wonderful memory of our village.” He drank some locally brewed concoctions; he didn’t know what else to call it because if that was alcohol then he didn’t know what he’d been drinking all this time. “I see you like our drink.” John sat down next to the elder who looked to finally be tiring. “Yeah this is something else.” “I heard you were reading stories to the young ones, they really enjoyed it.” “Although it may be hard to believe I think I may have enjoyed it more than them.” The elder laughed heartily, “Whatever the case may be I just wanted to say we appreciate it. They are by the fire waiting for more stories if you feel like it.”
John smiled at him and made his way over to them, the little girl from earlier immediately jumped up and ran to him. John sat down next to her and the listened to the other stories until they pulled John up from his seat to tell his. He told children’s stories he’d heard when he was younger and other stories from his time on the road. They loved every tale, as it was different from their usual tales also it was a different perspective. Some parents left and John wanted to keep entertaining them to the best of his abilities so he asked them
“Do you want to hear scary stories?” they yelled yes, some jumping up screaming from excitement. John started the horror fest but didn’t want to scare them too much. These kids, some much older did not scare easy so he stepped it up a notch. His theatrics was impressive and as told the tale he acted out the scary bits frightening some of the young. Jim did not understand or speak the language but he knew which story John was telling and played his part in scaring them too. John did the build up and when the time came, Jim sprang out from behind them with a bent piece of plastic in the place of his hand, it was in the shape of a hook and Jim snatched at them with it. The tale of The Hook was his go to story and yet again it showed it’s worth
“Works every time bud.” Other people laughed as kids jumped up and enjoyed themselves with the glee of their young children. Time didn’t fly but they sure were having fun and at the end of all the festivities they were offered a room and a pad to sleep on which they did as soon as they laid down. When they got up the next morning, mothers were hanging up clothes, children were playing in the street and everything was already cleaned so well that the events of the night before seemed like a dream. They packed there things into the back of the truck and after John was bombarded by a herd of children they prepared to make their way.
The elder met them at the truck, “Farewell friends, you are very special people bring such happiness here.” “That was all you man,” Jim quickly replied. They laughed and John said, “Thanks for everything.” They got inside and everyone dispersed to go and do their own thing, “I don’t have a reason but I want to stay for a while.” “I saw your face last night Johnny, you really love it here and I get it I’d stay too but every night isn’t going to be like last night.” “Yeah I know but that’s not it.” Before he could say one more word, Jim interrupted him, “Say no more Johnny we’ll stay.”
John’s Portuguese was fluent; you’d swear it was his mother language. The first few weeks they walked around, explored every crevice of the mountainside village. They learnt the local games, which were simple enough, and on cool evenings, they’d play cards with the old timers. Their bodies had adjusted to the daily swimming, at first they’d surf for a couple hours and when evening came they’d be in pain. Now it was different they surfed and played all day it was all good when it was time to turn in. This was very important as they later started to help in the fields, Jim would drive the crops and any other things up and down the village only helping with the manual labour some days but John dug in. John worked with them every day but eventually he cooled down and only put in a few shifts.
The start to his happiest period in the village came when the school faculty noticed his storytelling and relationship with the children. He’d sat in on some lessons, which consisted of some math, language, a tiny bit of literature. The school had a limited number of books that was a donation from a mobile library group, which were used since the school’s inception so they were in a bad state. They dusted off some older English children’s books and brought John in to teach the kids a new language.
He was nervous when the other teacher sat in on his class the first day but these kids were the same one’s he played with and told stories to so he quickly settled into the job. Jim helped on some days as some older children and adults came back early from the field to learn a little bit of English. The young men and women were very eager to learn as they may have seen themselves leaving this place and having the English language under your belt would come in handy. The adults only learned so they could practice with their kids or because nothing new had happened in their lives in such a long time that they couldn’t help but want to learn.
The young adults and some of the children finished the books they had and read the books John had brought with him, they wrote some stories but it wasn’t encouraged. The limited paper and pencils was to be used for maths but they had quickly made immense improvement and it brought both great joy and awe to John. He was barely teaching anymore but only advising or assisting them.
If the two travellers had kept on driving, leaving the village in their rear view mirror they would have come to a forked road. One road carrying on at the heel of the mountain the other going in the exact opposite direction, you could say the other road headed to civilization. Past the hidden village was farm central, to be more precise it was a farm archipelago to be even more precise it was a series of farms stretched across a very long road. This part was an entire different district so they had everything a normal town would have but just scattered. First, to get from the village to the first farm was long enough then you had to drive another hour to get to the next.
Further on the stretched out road the scarcity in houses, farms, occupied land become fewer and more building could be seen. John saw the largest school ever when they drove further and not much longer, they came to their destination. A building that looked almost exactly like the rec centre in the village the only difference was that this one looked like it actually passed structural regulations. Inside was wide-open space probably reserved for events like AA meetings, slave master conventions and other similar things judging from the vibe of this whole place. To the left was a door that led to a small office, the elder went in with his muscular sidekick and John, Jim and one other younger boy waited outside. Ten minutes later, the elder came out and gestured the two inside.
Jameson was a large white male, John was big for his age but this man towered over him like a bear to child, “Mathius told me a lot about you son, you’ve been doing good but don’t think you can come in here and mess with the order of things. Especially since it’s been working so good for all of us.” The man was intimidating and although John may have been wavered, the sub sure as hell wasn’t going to be scared by anyone other than God himself, “With all due respect sir you’ve been profiting not them, we aren’t asking for much here. We need teaching equipment and these kids need books, paper and stationary, things you probably have too much of,” that annoyed Jameson; it was all over his face. “They have been supplying you with labour and raw materials and all you give them in return is access to some of your facilities. I get that here’s not much of a democracy or equality but come on man you cannot be serious with this.”
Jameson swallowed obvious anger and answered John directly, “Well what if I give you all that you ask for then what? then I just keep supplying your little village with things and soon teaching equipment turns into farming equipment and before long I’m dividing all our towns things in two huh ?
John was about to have a screaming match with this man and that was not what they needed right now, especially with his aptitude for humiliating older think-they-know-better-than-everyone-else men.
Jim quickly interjected, “We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes here but it’s clear to me that you need us as much as we need you. And another thing that’s clear is that you want us to sweeten the pot. So you see that dashing young man outside.” Jameson looked out at the younger boy that drove along, “Well what would you say if I told you he’s only 14 and judging by the big field at the school and the rugby post I’d say that you could use some big boys.”
“Look at the shmuck’s eyes Johnny, we’ve got him.” Jameson surely had been persuaded and his angry scowl turned into a menacing grin but still he couldn’t give in that easily and that’s what John quickly realized. So to help him save face and before he could say anything John proposed, “Also all the field’s maintenance will be taken care of by us. You obviously need it to host games right?”
Jameson stuck out his hand, “You’ve got yourself a deal, I’ll personally drive up tomorrow and bring everything you asked for.”
“Aint that nice of him Johnny to drive up himself and if he happens to run across some young physically gifted youngsters then it can all just be summed up to a happy coincidence.” John laughed with himself, they made their way back home or at least home for the meantime.
The elder was happy with their performance but was not entirely convinced, “What if we lose all our young to them?” He clearly was not used to change and the new ideas frightened him a little. John consoled him, as he needed it, “it’s not that bad. You and everyone else will get used to it. Look at everything we get out of it, finally we can have a proper school and a few boys will have to go into town three or four times a week. These are good children, they won’t change.” He trusted John and knew that what he said was true but there would always be a bit of hesitation and fear in his heart. For his comfort Jim added, “Besides they will probably get the best education from Jameson, Those associations usually have academic requirements of their players.”
John turned to his friend, “You’ve been getting a lot of props for your performance back their Jim, you really good at negotiating.” “Oh Johnny you’re too kind.” “I never said they were from me,” John said
They’d settled into a routine and although routine sound monotonous and boring this one was not like that, not even a little. John would teach, read, help in the field and explore the whole Island, mountain or whatever you called endless miles of unexplored land.
John lay on a little hill that had the greenest grass in the entire village. Like most of the hills, edges or any place in the village, it overlooked the ocean. It was a tranquil place for him to read, collect his thoughts or write in his little book (something he’d hidden in the past). One of his young students interrupted his quiet time.
“Senor ha estranhos na aldeia. Voce tem que vir rapida,” She yelled as she ran toward him. He jumped up quickly to go and see who these strangers were and why she was telling him to hurry but quickly realised that it could only be one person. “It has to be our ol bud Jameson.” John lifted the little girl onto his shoulder and leisurely made his way to the village where he knew he’d have to bite his tongue.
It was a completely unexpected sight in the village centre when he finally got there. Jameson was nowhere in sight but instead there were long tables set in front of the rec centre and two unknown people in white T-shirts standing behind it. Jim was next to the girl making her laugh (harder than she should have) and the other male was filling out some papers.
Mathius approached John before he got to the crowded tables, “That man has come to pay his part of the deal. He brought boxes full of everything we need and also some volunteer doctors to give us medicine.” Jim came toward them, behind him the female was giving one child a shot while the others stood quivering in fear with parents nudging them on behind him. “I don’t mean to sound cynical but can you trust him with this medicine,” Asked John “Yes we have seen these people do the same thing in his town so I will take my chances today.” He was convinced but didn’t look completely happy. It was understandable; all this change must have been tortures to him. “Our crafty buddy chose three boys to come up next week for trials,” Jim filled him in on all the happenings he missed. “You go away for two minutes and all of this happens huh. You seem to be having fun Jim?” “Oh Johnny I’m in love man.”
Both of them were the type to easily fall in love with the fairer sex and it wouldn’t be a big deal but it happened far too often with Jim, “You don’t say?” “Yep that beautiful thief has stolen my heart Johnny, she a doctor on top of that.” “Say no more man.” They laughed and walked over to the table where Jim introduced his new love to his oldest friend and the men helped the volunteers. It took almost the whole day and all classes were cancelled. The doctors had their arms twisted and stayed a while longer. They received the usual special welcome although not as grand a one as John had received. The man thoroughly indulged in the local drink and after dancing with the young folks, they were thrown into the sea. More precisely a little tidal pool formed from large rocks around a small part that was near the sand at the entrance to the sea.
Liz was a nice girl and John could see his friend obsession with her, even if he’d only known her for one day it wouldn’t make any difference to Jim. The sun was going down over the rocks and both the people from the village and the doctors were exhausted from the day’s festivities. The usually busy village was deserted except for the old men playing cards outside. John stood next to the minivan that the doctors drove
“So you really are leaving me for her, for her Jim.” Jim laughed, “Don’t feel bad man but believe me when I say it’s not you it’s me John. “ Both of them burst out laughing, “So what’s the plan here.” “Beyond all the farms are towns that need a dose of Dr.Liz so I’m just gonna help her out you know. Besides Johnny I’ve found my soul mate I have to follow her.” “Forever and ever and ever and always.” “Johnny you scaring me,” he giggled and threw his bag into the minivan, “it’s gonna be a while so you going to have to try and manage without me.” “I’ll try Jimmy.” with that, they drove off.
He played a couple card games with the old men; they amused him. He stayed outside looking at the stars, which was one of his favourite things to do. Here in the village it was a hundred times better, the sky was clear. No skyscraper or anything to block your view and the best part was the weather. It was warm at night, something that absolutely delighted John. It was warm but never hot with the occasional cool breeze and it put you to bed perfectly especially after a fulfilling day. It was beautiful.
One of the kids from the village, one of three that had made the rugby team brought John a message from Jim.
John I hope you are ready man. You know what they say about all good things. Speaking of good things mine is about to come to an end. I’ll be there in about two days. See you soon
It was short, no surprise there but it was right. It was time to move on, either he left now or stayed here forever but one thing was for sure, that he couldn’t postpone his departure for much longer. He truly loved this place, John was always easily pleased but it was a unanimous love from both him and the sub. He was fulfilled, he fit in and best of all everyday he got something wonderful out of the little bit he was doing. This place was beautiful too but he knew they would be others like it out there. For only the second time in his life he left true heartbreak at having to leave, the only other time was when he left his mother and his first home.
Jim was due today and the last two days was magnificent just as all the others. It went by relatively quick but not too fast. He immediately told everyone the news and after initial sadness, they all grasped the idea. John gave them a pep talk, a little pick-me-up speech and things went on as if the message had not come. They wanted to have another village party and after a year in this place, he knew what that meant. He had some say now and told them he absolutely did not want one.
Classes were a bit longer that week and the children as well as everyone else went to bed a little later. They enjoyed the last two days together and he only got an hour in his quiet time place. Every day since telling them a parent, child and even Mathius would come, tell him how grateful they were and to thank him. They understood that he loved it here just as much as they loved all the changes and new things. He felt a bit sorry for them because they thought he had it all figured out, John had the plan and that he had started all of this. He only played his part in the new order here and he felt bad because they were scared. They were scared it would all fall apart and they were scared that it might all go back to the way it was. John had done his Job, he had taught these people everything he knew and everything they would need, he taught these men to fish. These people would get through all of this, whatever problem came along they would be able to deal with it. He believed that, he knew it.
Jim had hitched a ride to the fork and walked back to the village from there. They threw there things in the back of truck and said there goodbyes. Jim’s wasn’t as heartfelt as John’s but both was short after all he had said his goodbye for two days. The entire village was outside waving at the truck as it drove off. It was unbelievable. He was so happy to receive so much love, it was a first for him and also he had made a difference, he’d done something.
“The big guy can take me now.” “I hate to say it but I couldn’t agree more.” “Not so fast Johnny, we still have a lot of living to do,” said Jim
They were on the road again and like a perfectly fit glove, it just slipped back into place. It felt like the first time and although John thought that leaving the village would change him it didn’t. He still felt sadness, loss and even regret from leaving but the road healed all wounds. They kept to the foot of the mountain, Jim letting him in on everything that lay beyond Farmsville.
“So what happened with you and your little doctor friend?” “You see Johnny she’d done her fair share of living and wanted to settle down for a while.” “And you’re too rock and roll to be tied down?” John asked “That’s why I’m doing this with you man, you understand me,” Jim replied
The next part in their journey, as they later thought of it was their worst, their lowest. Before then they thought that the drive through towns were the worst. This was a possibility but they never thought that it would actually happen and after being on the road so long and having gone through all those things they thought it was only a myth.
They were on a desert road, cactuses on each side and huge mountains on the horizon. It was a wonderful sight, something they’d only seen on movies but after a day’s driving it seemed never-ending. John kept on driving right through the night and only stopped at noon the next day, not by choice. He pressed his foot down on the accelerator but to no avail, he turned off the road and onto the dirt road. They waited in the smouldering hot sun for any sign of life. Turns out this planet they so happily stumbled upon was deserted. They wanted to move before night came but the nighttime they dreaded was actually a big help. The night cooled down the desert and brought great relief to the two travellers. Relief that didn’t last long as they weren’t that high on supplies.
Jim snacked (By snack I mean devour) on the road a lot. They needed to find something to eat and definitely needed to conserve the two Pepsi bottles full of water that they had. John collected dried up roots, twigs, branches and sagebrush then started a fire at the entrance of what he hoped was a rabbit hole. His assumption was correct as he quickly smoked one out. As it ran out John swung at it with a rock but missed, hunger had made Jim far more accurate and he clubbed the rabbit before it could get away. They had a rabbit, a rat and many desert insects.
They sat and tried to muster the courage to put any of those things in their mouths. “Eventually you gonna have to eat, so just do it Johnny.” The sub was right but both of them seemed resigned to waiting until they were hungry enough to do it. The sun was coming up over the mountain and they could not face another day in this place without eating anything. They made a fire and baked the rat and rabbit on the ash, as they skinned it and roasted them over hot coals. They ate some of it but definitely needed to come at this from a different angle, because forcing anymore of that down would just end in them puking it all up.
They dug a hole, lined it with leaves, making sure to cover the coals below and poured most of their water in. They added the other ingredients to the rabbit/rat stew and just when the sun changed from hot to super nova, they ate all of it. Jim left a note on the truck’s window saying
Need gas. Please help. We went to go find other life forms please do not steal this beauty or cause her physical harm. Thank you.
They walked deep into the desert and hid under the shade of big rocks when they were on a break. They walked and walked and in the smouldering heat it felt like hours,
“Hey Johnny aren’t we supposed to see a patch of really green grass with a little pond and palm tree by now.” All three of them wished they could see a mirage, anything other than sand, rocks and sun. The sun was going down again but the coming of the cool wasn’t much of a relief this time. Both of them would not be able to do any hunting tonight and with that last bit of resolve, pushing them on the hallucinations came.
First, two large men gave them men water and helped them up. They were carrying wood and when the men gestured to follow, they did so. It was all hazy until it became perfectly clear. They just needed that water and power nap because when John woke up they were in a tent. He woke Jim up, got out and found whole lot of tents some lined up others scattered. They saw a fire and headed towards it.
Dressed in yellow they stood in a circle. Two men and a woman, two men and a woman until the pattern completed the sphere. Right in the middle, hovering just above their heads was a big white egg. Illuminating yellow rays shone from its centre. You could feel the energy move between them as the followers swayed from side to side. Its coming was near. Little cracks appeared but stopped. They should not become too eager, it’s not time yet.
John heard a stream; he could not understand how one could survive in the desert. After he followed the sound he came to a multicoloured stream. Its water flowed continuously. Blue, green, purple, yellow, red – all colours, all radiant and bright. An Old man stood next to stream dipping a wooden bowl into the water and when he raised the bowl from the stream, the water inside contained only one colour. Before him stood a long line of people that each drank from his bowl. Some purple water, some black, to each their own colour. He moved closer, fearful of the colour water. When a person took the bowl into their hands an animal appeared in its coloured water. The people felt great relief then as if there long search had provided the answer. They then drank, able only now to communicate and prosper.
A rainbow appeared from the sky and landed on the ground. All its colours pulsed and the heavy light rays hardened. It became a bridge, a solid walkway from the heavens. He looked upward and far of he saw people coming. Walking, gliding, flying and even on horseback, all coming along the great rainbow bridge.
John stood in a crowd as hundreds of people
pushed and shoved him from every side. All of a sudden their hands moved
towards their necks. Simultaneously all the people started strangling
themselves. In the distance he could hear a female’s voice. Their faces blue
and eyes bulged, the great crowd all fell down. As their bodies decayed and
became one with earth thousands of babies came in their place. A deep male
voice thundered and more babies were born, more than people in the original
Clouds formed and a giant castle came out of the earth. Inside John saw a beautiful woman clothed in cherry blossoms standing next to children. Suddenly the castle burst into flames. She burned along with it. As the wind blew the ashes of the beautiful cheery blossom woman and her castle – her children still stood standing, unharmed.
The big egg cracked and from it came a being whose great aura was almost crushing. From the rainbow bridge approached a group of people whose beauty almost blinded. Everyone gathered - People in loincloths, some on the back of a giant serpent. Animals that took the form of man just for this moment and so it went on. Extraordinary creatures, each taking their turn to speak. Each telling a tale that was displayed by the very air in the sky, the great bonfire, the stars and the passing clouds. There was stories about a supreme being that created, preserved and then destroyed. An old Vagabond that hung from an enormous tree. He even saw the world from space. A little spherical light amongst the infinite chaos.
When all was done the storytellers were satisfied. The people listening, the followers all had renewed faith and went about with joy and purpose. John became lost in the entire splendour. After all that, he never made his way back to the living. He floated around until he lost consciousness and woke up in the back of the truck.
“Last night was crazy man, how’d we get back here Johnny.” “No idea, if you are talking about that crazy fire then to be honest I’m starting to think last night was a dream.” “Caused by dehydration?” Jim asked “Yeah but that doesn’t explain why my clothes smell like fire, why both of us had the same dream and the fact that I clearly remember blacking out deep in the desert not in the back of the truck,” John answered. “What difference does it make man. We had an awesome time with a tribe we don’t know, drank some killer juice and woke up somewhere else, so all in all sounds pretty good to me.” Said Jim “Sounds good to me.” Added John
They sat in silence waiting for a miracle and one came not too long after. A car came up on the horizon and the two waved frantically. The car didn’t slow down and kept going. Another car came and did the same thing. “Do we look like psycho killers?” John told Jim and they all laughed. They didn’t bother to waved to the next car but lucky for them the third time was a charm. “I got a call about a broken down truck. That you guys?” A plump man said sticking his head out the window of his tow truck. “We didn’t call but we sure could use your help man.” The man hooked up the rust bucket and they were on their way. “Aint we lucky huh bud.” “You think they helped us out,” Asked Jim “I don’t even know if they exist.” Said John and It was a question they never found the answer to.
They should have checked on the driver of the tow truck but they were just too happy for the rescue. Superman had a beer between his legs and a cooler keeping a couple more cold on the floor next to him. They were sitting in the rust bucket because they thought second hand smoke wasn’t good for the driver but if they knew he was downing beers by the minute it probably wouldn’t be a problem. They reminisced about their travels because for the first time neither of them had to drive so they lay in the back and in this case, that was not such a good thing.
The sub noticed the veering but never said anything because they were having too much fun. Their intoxicated rescuer veered into the wrong lane and this particular time took too long to correct it. A SUV came roaring around the bend and when he yanked the wheel the other way it didn’t have the desired effect on the rust bucket being towed behind. The SUV collided side by side with the rust bucket, it broke loose from the tow truck and went spiralling across the dirt road sending both passengers flying.
John rolled through rocks and broken branches, he was full of cuts, bruises and something might have sprained in his left and arm but nothing important. Jim on the other hand was knocked out as soon as his face hit the ground. They were a distance away from the pickup and John knew he shouldn’t move Jim but he didn’t care, he wasn’t going to call an ambulance and he wasn’t just going to wait.
When John first grasped his abilities, he was always scared that would change him, not for the better but instead make him arrogant. You know, absolute power corrupts absolutely but now he couldn’t care less. He bent down in front of Jim pulled him onto his back and carried him to the truck. John put him in the passenger seat (going in through the driver’s side because the passenger door was smashed shut)
“Hey I called the ambulance, are you...Oh God, Oh God,” the driver of the Suv. A man with faded denims and a shirt that had drops of blood on it. As soon as he saw the unconscious figure in the passenger seat, he went nuts. The man started crying, he held his hands over his face and kept whispering to himself. John had the lift-a-car adrenaline going and he barely looked at the man, he had ideas flying at mach speed through his head.
“Time to get moving bud.” John ran over to the tow truck and rummaged through his things, he found some clear tubing, just what he need. The driver still lay unconscious, his head resting on his steering wheel. First, he had to take care of Jim’s bleeding; he wasn’t going to treat him so he just wrapped oily cloth, some clothes and any fabrics around the open wounds and tied it up tight with duct tape. He did the same to his open wounds; they couldn’t lose any more blood.
“What about him?” asked the sub “The ambulance is on their way, he can wait,” John replied
John put the tubing into the tow trucks gas tank and starting blowing, as soon as he saw bubbles he started sucking and filled the Pepsi bottles they used to keep water. He filled their tank and got moving. The crying man was having a panic attack on the side of the road and John could only yell from the window as they passed him, “We’re fine, don’t worry about it.”
They were in a town again but this place was different from their suburb-like home. For one thing, it was diverse. There was a rich area, grimy area, slum area and even a little bit of everything area.
To judge a book by its cover was bad but in the case of these two travellers, it was accurate. West Hermanos General hospital gave them one look and decided they were bad news, they didn’t give a reason, they didn’t give a suggestion for treatment or even refer them to another hospital they turned their backs and made as if the two never came through the door.
The fuel John borrowed wouldn’t last forever so when he dragged Jim into Hermanos Mercy it was definitely their last hope. This time they did the judging and by the looks of that place, they were definitely welcome. Someone helped Jim onto a bed and wheeled him off; John sat in the waiting area too tired to argue his way in there with his friend.
“The accident did a number on me too so I’m sorry bud but you’re gonna feel a little discomfort.”
“You sure have perfect timing. Whatever just do it.”
John felt an excruciating pain in his back and his head felt like it was about to explode. The onset of all these pain zapped away the last bit of energy that he had. His legs gave way and John slowly slid from his chair to the floor. He nor the sub realised how much they were holding back and when he opened the floodgates he didn’t realise what kind of toll it would take on him, both of them didn’t. It was too much and like a dam, it flooded in too fast, too much for them to control or put back. One minute he was trying to grasp the extend of all that was coming, trying to fight it and the next it was all over, he was gone.
John woke up in that same place with a nurse knelt over him. She gave him an ice pack, pills to take and an ointment. This was more of a laissez-faire hospital with nurses taking on the jobs of the doctor. After regaining his composure in the waiting area, he saw why. There were people with stab and gunshot wounds, serious head injuries and that’s only the ones that were conscious. This place was like a free clinic and the nurse didn’t over step her boundaries because she wanted to but because she had to.
John took two of the pills, maybe they would help but it’s been a long time since pills (the medical kind) had any effect on him. He went out to the truck and came back with his notebook and a pen. He went around to each person asked them a few questions and checked the extent of their wounds. He was a bit of a self-taught doctor and even though he didn’t have a PhD there wasn’t anyone that could self teach like he did. He wrote down every answer and added his own like side notes such as additional hazards, contamination and so on. When he was done with all that, the nurse that barely said anything read his work. She left without a word and came back with different colour ribbons, which they put on the patients according to the degree of damage indicated in John’s assessment.
He didn’t do his back any favours as he got into a fight with a middle aged man. John had put an old homeless man ahead of him and he was not happy. “Why do you need to treat that bum, just forget about him.” This upset John more than he’d thought and soon fists were flying. Common sense won and John gave the man a top priority ribbon just to shut him up. The doctor came into the waiting area and the nurse sent the man into the exam room.
“Your friend will be fine, although that was a nasty head injury.” Said the doctor “He thinks we’re dumb Johnny, a nasty head injury that’s what you tell a stupid hysterical mom.” He was right and John agreed, “What else can you tell me doc?” the nurse came over and spoke to the doctor, she handed him the notebook and the doctor looked John over before answering. “He had a laceration to the scalp and resulting hemorrhage in the skin. You seem to know a thing or two so you know we can deal with this. Don’t worry too much.” “Thanks Doc, can I go see him?” “He’s awake and needs to rest but you’ve more than earned the right.”
He walked to Jim’s exam room, “He needs to rest, why do doctors always say that.”
Jim was lying in a small room. Your typical hospital that smelt of surgical spirits, a small desk next to him, two chairs and a big open window that had a spectacular view of the parking lot. “We were better off walking man,” Jim was in good spirits even with his head split open.
“Tell me about it” “Thanks for getting me here.” “No problem Jimmy. I had to, I thought about leaving you but then realised who’s gonna keep me entertained on the road. “I could definitely do with more friends like you man.”
John spent the night in that little room crammed in a chair for a bed, “This place is depressing Johnny lets go outside.” Said Jim The nurse only gave them a cold stare and let them walk out supposedly for some fresh air. Jim got into the truck and pulled out his bag from under the seat then they got in the back and lay in their backs looked at the stars and lit a little pain relief. “Even for you that’s a bad idea,” John said Jim shrugged his shoulders, “hah what you gonna do? Right.”
John spent many a night crammed in a chair beside Jim or sleeping in the truck parked outside his window. He was there all the time and soon earned the trust of the staff. He started working there first just sorting out patients in the waiting room then patching up little wounds and stitches. Eventually they sent him out on house calls as the doctor’s assistant and when it was really busy (which was most times) he would go alone.
Some houses were cool, like when he had to treat a woman’s hurt foot she would have a good-looking daughter or niece but most were awful. Either they had dogs chasing him or he’d be sent to the nicer side of town because they wouldn’t be caught dead driving there. They were ungrateful, rude and downright obnoxious everything he hated in people. It amazed him that he never met any of these people on the road; this was his first encounter with snobs of any kind.
They released Jim and the three of them moved into an abandoned house not too far from the hospital. It was old not quite broken down yet but not too far from it either. It was the only house on the street without a number and was regularly avoided apparently there had been to deaths (On separate occasions). It was big, two stories but only two rooms were safe for staying in. It even had a garage that had a lot of junk; it seemed that not everyone that left here came back for their things.
Anna a very helpful, very beautiful nurse moved in with them. In the beginning, John found himself beyond jealous when he found out about Jim hooking up with her. Firstly, she was gorgeous; she was older and most important she was a nurse. The three became best friends, she loved hearing stories about their travels and John’s mind completely fascinated her. Hermanos didn’t get these kinds of people so at first she was confused by their lifestyle and philosophy but like everyone that comes in contact with these contagious beings, she was infected. They had the life or when looking from the outside in he saw that Jim had the life. He’d read stories about it but seeing this was beautiful. It was the story of an aspiring writer or journalist, something like that. He lived in a tiny apartment but couldn’t care less because he had his beautiful soul mate. The girl that loved the tiny apartment just as much as he did and didn’t mind eating scraps every day. Their whole life was a rom-com montage and it was spectacular. They had had two steady income flows and she instructed Jim to recover.
“Honey I’m home” John screamed as he stepped inside “Ohsweethearthow was your day?” Jim replied, “Let me get you a glass of scotch you hardworking beast of man.” Anna embraced and loved everything about them but she could never understand how they could always be like this. The fact they never took anything serious mystified her. She got up from the couch and walked out to the garage, which held the only working fridge. “Johnny pop the question.” “Jim serious face here, when are we leaving? Someone’s been nagging me all day.” “I’m recovering man,” He yelled from the couch, “Someone should chill out.” They sat on the couch and did the one relaxing they knew. “You’ve been home for two minutes and already you two are lazed out smoking that stuff,” Anna wasn’t the biggest fan of smoking but indulged more than once or twice herself. She came in with cold cheese and was preparing to make her famous grilled cheese sandwiches, a supper they had grown accustomed to.
He had to make a living although the money he made being a makeshift doctor wasn’t half bad. However, that was all going away money, John wanted to make it up to Jim. He wanted a treasure full of gold when they left. He wanted them to live lavishly because he couldn’t help feel a little guilty for the accident. He did after all put the idea in Jim’s head and drag him along not once but twice.
The Job was rewarding in other aspects than the women and John enjoyed the women. Meeting amazing children, he loved smart children and occasionally he’d treat them and it was especially good because kids don’t really have the snob gene although with parents like this it’ll probably kick in later in life. They were jerks and he used that to his advantage. They loved to pay on the spot, they’d count it out in front of him to show “Yeah this is nothing, I sleep on a bed of hundreds.” Then John would simply reply, “Due to unforeseen circumstances we’ve had some increases but if you need time or can’t afford it we could let this one slide,” they would argue at first and John would just play hard to get, “That’s fine we understand your situation, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” That sealed the deal, the snob ego would never let that one go and the suckers would pay up whatever amount John decided to charge them depending on how irritating he found them.
The three roommates would take the five-finger discount at some stores, mostly for food, which would be bread, and cheese sometimes they mix it up with spaghetti, chicken and so on. John and Anna did moonlighting (With the recommendation of the doctor at their Hospital) and they have pudding cups, jelly and toilet paper to last a year. Anna didn’t know it but John in his infinite wisdom managed to get his hands on some morphine, yet another ‘muscle relaxer’ her roommates occasionally indulged in. That was among other pills and medicine he stole from them, the morphine-based medicine got monitored and recorded so he only took a few of those and kept that to himself and Jim. The other less effective pills he sold to dope heads and idiots that believed whatever he said it would cure.
The Jerks he sold those pills to would drive a hard bargain and John would let them get away with it because the ornaments, art and knickknacks he borrowed from them fetched a nice price at the pawnshop. He was the Robin Hood of Hermanos; he stole from the jerky and gave to the cool. He had bits and scams he played on them, they were suckers and he’d read and watched enough Simon Lovell to con circles around these people.
As soon as they regained movement in their arms from the morphine high, they dived straight into a smoke. In the dilapidated garden of their mansion, they put out two beach chairs and looked at the clouds as if they were on the riverbank of their hometown. “You know Johnny I’m all healed up.” Jim said “Good news at last. You know Jimmy, I might miss this place.” John replied throwing his arms in the air “What?” asked Jim “No I mean this house, the land, places, architecture not the people.” “You had me worried there for a second man, anyway Johnny I wanted to talk to you.” John laughed, “We can stay for a while Jimbo, just don’t knock her up and get us stuck here forever.” It was Jim’s turn to get the giggles, “You read my mind but honestly man I think you should go.”
“And why’s that?” John asked “For the same reason I left you back at the village man, we’re staying here for different reasons. Don’t settle Johnny go have fun and we’ll meet up again.” “You make a good point but I’m cool with settling for a while... unless?” “Unless I’m not just settling for a while, yeah I’m going for it man,” Said Jim
They laughed and John went into the garage to get two beers, “that’s great Jim; I’ll stay for a while then head on out.” “I figured you’d say that. John both of us know what lies beyond this crappy town,” Said Jim “Yeah but we were just gonna pass it anyway,” John replied “You gotta go man. I’m serious just go check it out,” Jim put on his most serious face; it only lasted until the end of the sentence though. “It’ll be a hassle but I guess I could see what’s up.”
They heard the door slam and knew with the stench of morphine in the house, the smoke and beer in their hands they were in for quite a tongue-lashing. They laughed, each one reading the others mind,” You know Johnny she wanted to come with.” “You don’t say.” Said John “Yeah she said if we’re leaving soon, she’s coming with us.” “Sounds like her, you’re in for a treat Jimmy.”
They sat in the battered and bruised rust bucket and if they weren’t the kind of people they were (or under the influence) they would be crying buckets now. John knew the road wouldn’t be the same without him and a little part hated that he was going to stay with Anna but it softened him up too, he loved them both to be honest. She was an amazing girl and they deserved each other so John was happy to have brought this kind of happiness to his friend. He was glad dragging him along and putting his life in danger more than once ended well, a little better than well.
Anna was still sleeping; John’s going away party was a little too much for her. She was after all knew to the lifestyle.
“I’ll try to write every day. I can’t only talk to this jackass in my head,” John said “That’s real nice bud, I have feelings too.” “He’s not that bad but I’ll check the mail,” They got out, hugged and saw Anna coming out. “You were not gonna leave without saying goodbye? I’m gonna miss you John, maybe not as much as the tear eyed Miss Floyd over here.” She hugged John and when she was done, she kissed him, the kind you’d give your boyfriend. “She’s a good friend Johnny.” Then she went inside. “If I ever go back I’ll check in on your mom okay,” Said Jim “Thanks, I really hope that when I stop at gas station you’ll be in truck when I get out,” John said “Who knows, good luck to the both of you.”
With that, John made the short and dreaded drive to their next destination. “I guess it’s true what they say.”
“And what’s that.” John asked “All roads lead home.”
They were on the road, it was all smooth sailing and not the fun kind. It’s one long dusty road and before they knew it they see the sign ‘Welcome to Wild Misty’. “Home not- so sweet home.” John laughed and although they’d dreaded coming back to their original birthplace, they knew it wasn’t that bad here.
He had friends in the neighbourhood but when you’re five it’s not that hard to make friends. He learnt to ride bike here, played catch with the old man, had his first crush, all the those childhood memories you suppose to treasure when you get older. All those memories were hazy, the sub had to dig deep for some of them and even then, it was vague images. They drove to the old house, which wasn’t easy when you’re five you don’t really have much of internal compass. John thought it might bring back some of his memory if he saw his old street, old house or anything in fact; also, they had to find out where his father was. To them this was a get in, get it done and get the hell out of there job but when they got there it was not what they expected.
“White picket fence, manicured lawn and even a tire swing. Jeez what kind of people lives here?” John thought it would be best to try to find information elsewhere and where better to find info than at the local watering hole. It was a cool afternoon and whoever’s at a bar, drinking this time of the day definitely knows a thing or two. “Vaccines, it’s nice name for a bar.” John found exactly what he’d expected, a couple old men drinking in a dark dump in the middle of the afternoon. The place was all doom and gloom and it was going to take some convincing but he had to blend in. After two beers and gradually adding his two cents to the local sports news John started asking the questions he came here to have answered,
“Damn this place hasn’t changed one bit,” he yelled “You can say again.” Answered Ed, he was the bald drunk next to him. “Believe me that aint a bad thing, still better than those big cities with their gay rights and women’s lib bullshit.” Charlie said. He was playing pool with another man that didn’t say anything but laugh. John broke in with laughter, “I used to visit here with my dad, and he had a friend that lived in the house up in Greenwich. He was some kinda scientist.” “Smart as a whip that fella.” The Barman was first to respond and that opened up the floor. “Yeah my wife said he was some kinda witch,” “he sure was a dumb bastard to let that pretty red head go.” “I heard he was working on some top secret project.”, “I think I saw the feds at his place one time.” John had heard enough, “any of you know where he’s at these days?” “Aint he still in that house in Greenwich?” asked Ed “No there’s a new couple living there now,” said the Barman. The man that never spoke a word yelled from the pool table, “Hell he’s probably living in that damn lab, person that chooses work over his own family aint right in the head. No other place he’d be but there.”
It didn’t take John long to find the university, he took a private tour of the campus but was unable to find the lab. Eventually he started talking to different students, he said he was considering coming here and wanted their opinion. John used his vast knowledge to get them talking, not just about the curriculum but other things too, like rumours. One of the rumours being the mysterious lab in the basement, the one that’s never spoken about, you never see any people there just things being delivered, “I saw them wheel in a body once, I mean I didn’t see the body, it was a silvery body bag,” said one girl that he spoke to.
He snuck downstairs easily; opening the door to the lab, the smell of chemicals immediately overwhelmed him. It was a big lab, not what he expected though. It looked like the old man got this lab in the 60s and never changed a thing. He expected to see all white walls with glass sliding doors that opened when you approached but instead it was the complete opposite, it really looked like a basement, unpainted walls with a rusted door. He hoped to see some high tech equipment and touch screen computers up against the walls but instead there were pages everywhere, a very old computer and Bunsen burners, the sort of things you’d find in a high school science class.
There were noises emanating all around, the outdated equipment hard at work. However, above them all he heard someone speaking rapid and incomplete. It was a male voice talking to himself and John recognised the crazy talk, not the voice. The only reason for speaking like that was when you’re overflowing with ideas and they’re coming to fast. “You are not allowed in here, please leave.” The man didn’t look up, he just kept jumping from on board to the next scribbling alien equations. He looked the same, just older. His dress, lab, way of speaking made him seem a little crazy. “That’s a cliché Johnny, a senile genius scientist really?” “I’m here to talk to you.”John said while stepping closer so the old man could see him He sighed loudly and was about to dismiss the young man. When he saw John, he immediately recognised him, you could see it all over his face, “John is that you?” He asked “Yeah, in the flesh.”He took John’s face his hands and scrutinized it then his arms and legs “can we talk?” asked John. He wasn’t up for doing the reunion banalities so he decided to get down to business as soon as possible. “Of course of course,” he pulled two chairs closer and they sat in front of the blackboards.
They started with the usual, “What have you been up to?”, then the awkward, “How’s your mother doing?” and the inevitable, “Why’d you split up?” It wasn’t complicated, he was obsessed with his work (still is) and although the family was amazing it was not enough. John wanted to ask him about his gift but thought it better to get to know the old man first.
They had a lot in common, obviously there intelligence. John senior was overjoyed at having someone he could talk science with, he walked John through his equations and John weighed in too. The old man was a free spirit in his day too and listened to John’s stories without any judgment or parental need to address his behaviour. He took out an old record player and played Jefferson Airplane from a vinyl he bought before John was born. He told his own stories and for a scientist who is living in his lab with no human contact he sure was livewire back in the day.
John senior made omelettes as the afternoon became night and they carried on with the pleasant conversations. As it was late and John hadn’t made any living arrangements he stayed with his dad in the lab, luckily he had a futon available.
John woke up in the middle of the night, the futon was extremely uncomfortable but that was not the only reason. He thought that Jim being missing was part of it, after all he had not taken anything since they split up. Another reason would be that he had an amazing time with his long lost father, the excitement may be what’s keeping him up, either way it didn’t matter he was up and had enough energy to run a 100 kilometres.
He got up and went exploring, it wasn’t his intention to snoop around and uncover some dark and grisly secrets but the road to hell is paved with good intentions after all. He skimmed over pages, opened closet and room doors then browsed the computer. At first he didn’t find anything but unfortunately for the both of them he knew something, something he’d read a long time ago. That the most interesting things lay buried deep under a pile of nonsense that the file covered in cobwebs is the one you want to read.
He found that file in a box covered in cobwebs but even knowing what he did he didn’t fish for secrets, his reason for studying the contents of this box was pure curiosity. It had pictures of him and his mother, of the three of them at the beach, his mother when she was young, a little hot wheels car even a old wolverine comic, the box contained all his father’s treasured memories. At the bottom of all that was a file with no name, inside were crumpled pages as if someone threw it away once but changed their mind and decided to keep them instead. In the top left corner were photos of him attached with a paper clip. In one of them he just stood up straight, like a before photo. Others were of him in a chair with electrodes attached to his head, him in a sensory deprivation tank, at a table with a man answering questions. All those photos painted one picture, that they did tests on him when he was a kid and kept a documented account. John was unable to be dumbstruck since the age of 14, not by anything, disappointment, death or any revelation. Even now, he simply grasped the situation before reading any further; he simply digested all of it.
“My father did test on me, what does that mean?” “It’s the number one reason for you not remembering anything.” “Probably explains you.” “Okay when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad bud, you know all’s well that ends well.” “Yeah but obviously there’s consequences, like side effects or something. When have you ever heard of something like this working out alright, I mean if it did do you think we’d be living in some suburb or that these files would be buried with old crap he never looks at?” “So you saying this is his things-that-went-sour box.”
John sat there mulling it over. The sub had a point about it not being that bad but even for him being the forgiving, understanding and embracing everything liberal type this was extreme. He loved those kids he taught in the village and would never think about doing anything like this to them and here is a man that did it to his own flesh and blood.
John sat in the truck with the box occupying the seat that once held his best friend, the one he needed now. He reached under the passenger seat in a hope of finding a gift left by Jim and indeed, there was one.
Smoke filled the rust bucket and John took out the journal, not his one but the one that held detailed descriptions of what went on during the experiments.
It was laid out like a diary, everyday they did something else and summed up in one paragraph his dad said what happened, he then went on to thoroughly explain each procedure and how it was done. It started with ten pages on preparation then got into the gory bits.
The heading was a question, more like the question. What happens if one bridges the gap between the conscious and sub-conscious? John only read the summaries; he didn’t need details he wasn’t going to try it so why bother upsetting himself with a trip down torture lane. The first entry said, throughout the experiments, we have given the subjects a steady dose of nootropics to increase brain function. A picture of a red haired boy hooked up to an I.V drip accompanied this entry and that was a recurring theme, each entry had a picture that showed what they did that day.
The second entry was a bust; it had a line drawn through it, Boost glial cells below he wrote terminated – causes verbal difficulties, in the long term could lead to dyslexia. After that blip in form they were back to winning ways, we have sped up communication through a thinner cortex thus; the neurons appear packed more densely.
Mid experiment John senior got another idea, can unusual brain structure in key areas improve spatial and reasoning skills? To test this sub theory we have reconstructed select subjects’ brain by making it 15% wider than the average giving it a more spherical shape. We have adjusted other subjects’ parietal lobes to be more symmetrical and these were the only entries that did not have a picture attached. “Yeah its sounds gruesome enough without pictures bud.”
John was the lucky winner in the next test picture; we achieved more processing units with cortical areas through decreasing space between cells by means of smaller mini-columns. To activate savant-like skills we have shut down higher-order cognition by use of transcranial magnetic stimulation to inactivate a small area of the cortex.
The last entry was another sub-theory and had the same picture of four different children including John. The question posed was simply, REM sleep. All subjects entered sensory- deprivation tanks after gradually receiving a combination of drugs including lysergic acid hydroxyethyliamide, Bufotenin, Psilocin and Ketamine to enable REM sleep. The subjects’ brain waves, temperature and consciousness were monitored throughout. In the pictures, the tanks had water in it, they floated on their backs with wires attached to their temples, and I.V drips in their arms. John still felt calm although he knew all the other emotions were there. He could feel angry if he wanted, sad or even forgiving but he left that for after he slept on it.
In the morning he was all packed to leave just in case and approached his father. “I saw the files and I know what you did to me?” His father immediately knew what he was talking about and dropped his head in shame, “I’m sorry son.”
“That’s not why I’m here, John said, “I want to hear your side of the story, why you did those kind of things to children?” “I was obsessed with the idea son, I thought I could make everyone better, I was always one step away, nearly there just coming up short,” he spoke fast one sentence after the other. He stared at John wide-eyed, “John why did you come here, did it work, are you different? How do you feel?”
“Yes I am,” Said John, “You have indeed succeeded but that’s it for you dad. Answer one question, did my mother leave because she found out what you did?” He dropped his head again, “Yes, she didn’t understand, it wouldn’t kill you, if it worked you’d be great, it did work, you are marvellous.
John felt guilty for leaving his mother, for not hugging her or telling her, he loved for what she did but also felt it all melt away when he saw his father’s eyes light up. John knew what was going on the man’s head and he didn’t need to have a super brain to guess what his father was thinking. “What you did was wrong on so many levels but I’m not the judging type” John sighed heavily, walked out, and before he’s father could protest John was already in the rust bucket on his way to the post office.
“You could have at least thrown a punch Johnny.” “That would ruin it, think about it the guy spends his whole life trying to coax you out, he loses his family even, so here I am the success, the perfect specimen. I wave it front of him and when that excitement comes back, that obsessive urge of his. I leave,” said John “I wouldn’t have fancied you a tease Johnny.”
Anna came home with a manila file; their house did not have a number so Jim had to get his mail at the post office. They checked every second day for mail from John and today they received the first. Jim sat on the coach and opened the file, inside was a book, a crumpled folder with pictures and a letter. John threw everything else aside and read the letter first.
I don’t have much to say, you can probably guess how it has been here. First things first though I met the old man and he was great. He’s a cuckoo scientist, funny, quite the party animal back when partying was the norm. I had a lot of fun with him and decided not to ask about the voice in my head. There’s a folder with pictures and pages torn out of a journal I threw away, you don’t have to read all of it except the last page and I suggest you sit down and take something before reading it too. Jim it’s been a blast hanging with you and I’m glad we left for the music festival.
I’m gonna keep going, ride this out you know, See you around man.
Jim read the files and definitely needed to smoke something after that. He looked at the book, On the road by Jack Kerouac, the book that started it all. He flipped through the book and found the torn out journal page John was talking about, the last and most important bit. After reading the last page Jim felt mostly happy for his friend, John had found the answers, he was living a wonderful life with an amazing gift and a spectacular new outlook on life very few people had the chance to know or see.
Anna grabbed the page from his hand and read it, after locating all test subjects; we have discovered that activated sub-conscious has increased cognitive function and unlocked unlimited amount of potential in subjects. The project has been officially terminated due to the loss of all test subjects; the genes in the body could not be changed to accommodate the increased brain activity as such the body and mind ages or reaches it limitations faster. We predict that after activation the subject has roughly two to three years before complete shutdown.