SWITCH

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Chop Chop

Pots and pans clanging in the kitchen woke me. I was groggy, The window was on the wrong side of the room, and the ceiling fan blades should be walnut. I ran my hand over the back of my head. The question mark scar I expected to find was right where I left it. I wasn’t at home I was still on the base—right where I didn’t want to be.

Carl and Ann were in the kitchen frying up taco meat and chopping tomatoes while Richard and Gerald stood on the back porch visibly engrossed in a debate. The smell of spices and the browning meat reminded me I hadn’t eaten all day.

“Hey there, you made it back.” Carl examined my eyes before he put his hand out and helped me to a tall chair at the end of the breakfast nook. It gave me a good view of the back deck and the two men arguing on it.

“Yes, I seem to have all my faculties. What is going on outside?”

“I am sure Ivan is trying to convince Richard to let him flatline you again.” Carl’s voice held a hint of contempt when he spoke about Ivan. I got the impression he did not approve of our recent drug therapy sessions.

“I’d love to go back except for this pounding headache. Have either of you died for any length of time?“.

“I haven’t.” Carl turned to Ann and pointed at her with his chopping knife.

“Yes, yes don’t be waving that thing at me. I did but I don’t remember anything. I was revived quickly. Why did you see something?”

“Somebody actually. I want to go back as soon as possible,”

“I don’t think that is a good idea. We barely got you stable today. You shouldn’t screw around with this Calynn.” Carl sounded angry. I knew he was right, but I wanted more.

“I will take your word for it. The last thing I remember was being tossed around in the golf cart. I lost some time today. Damn, it’s already six. I need to get ready for tomorrow.”

“Whatever you need I will stay and help you. I’ll be on-site all weekend if you need me.” Ann, always willing to help was there again offering me her time.

“Thank you, I want to bake some cookies. Dave loves fresh chocolate chip cookies. I need to cover up my bruises too. Maybe some makeup and a long sleeve shirt.” Ann nodded in agreement as she popped a handful of shredded cheese in her mouth.

“You recovered much faster than normal. Let them see the bruises. Do they know what you can do?” Carl raised a valid point. I was a bloodied mess the last time David saw me. How was I going to explain my miraculous recovery?

“No, and I don’t want them to know. This is going to be a fricken disaster.”

“You just need to try to take each question as it comes. It will work out however it works out. You can’t control everyone’s reactions to your abilities.” Carl wasn’t watching while he angrily chopped the onion in front of him. He finished with it and moved onto a lettuce wedge that needed shredding.

“You better watch what you’re doing.” No sooner did I speak than Carl sliced into his knuckles. He dropped the knife, grabbed a dish towel, and headed towards the bathroom cursing. As he brushed past me, my knuckles started to bleed. Carl stopped and took the towel from his hand. I could see his hand was repaired.

“Calynn was that you?” He asked in amazement.

“Sure as hell wasn’t me,” Ann replied, wiping the blood spotted lettuce off the counter and into the trashcan. “If you used the lettuce knife this wouldn’t happen.” Ann stuck her tongue out at Carl. He shook his fist at her in response.

“Here hand me the towel I’m starting to drip. I saw your cut and felt my hand heat up. I didn’t hurt. Let me see if I can think about fixing my hand.” I cleared my mind and focused on the image of my hand perfect and undamaged. I opened my eyes and saw the cut was gone. Carl plopped down on the couch across from me and examined his hand and mine carefully.

“Gerald was right. His drug treatment opened more of your abilities. I’m grateful for your help Cal, but I am also afraid for you.”

“Ivan won’t hurt me. He planned today. I’m sure of it.”

“I’m not.” Carl protested. “Monday let me hypnotize you. We can stimulate the same areas of your brain and get similar results without such extremes.”

“Sure, if you think you can. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I’ve never been hypnotized. It’s just not something I can do.”

“That’s under normal circumstances. None of us with extra abilities can go completely under but I can get you under enough to make a connection, that’s all we need.”

“They are still going at it out there. What could possibly take that long to argue about?” I watched as Gerald walked away from Richard rubbing his forehead, frustration contorting his face. Richard looked pleased. A smile formed at the corner of his mouth.

As Gerald turned away from Richard, his whole body glowed green. I looked at Ann and found she glowed orange, Carl was pearl white, and Richard looked bright blue. Looking around the room, I could see where everyone touched a surface or leaned on the furniture. Carl looked at me with deep concern.

“What are you looking at Calynn?”

“Color, it’s everywhere, and nothing looks normal.” I was scared, my heart was pounding and my breathing quickened.

“This is easy to fix. Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth, slowly for a count of eight.” Carl placed his hand on my arm a calm wave moved through me. “Is that better?”

“Yeah, it’s gone now. Hot damn I can see again. God that was weird. I went blind and then everything was a bright color.” I looked around for smudges of color but couldn’t see any.

“We need to work on your meditation skills. Monday you come to see me. Gerald opened up something you may not be ready for.” Carl sounded concerned. I nodded yes in agreement then quickly tried to change the topic.

Ann knocked on the back-door window and waved Gerald and Richard inside.

Everyone found a place at the dining room table and sat down to eat. Carl didn’t mention my repair on his hand or the colors that blinded me. He kept the conversation steered toward the weather and the local real estate market.

“I would love for the guys to move closer, but Dave would need to sell the house and find a job here, and Matt may not want to switch schools.”

Gerald behaved strangely during dinner. He looked as if he wanted to jump across the table and stab Richard in the face with his fork. Whatever they were arguing about wasn’t over, and it was not going to be resolved tonight.

“Richard I’m curious what’s the nationality of the name Wolfe,” I asked.

“It’s Polish, shortened from Wolkowycki. My grandfather and his younger brother immigrated through Ellis Island in 1910. They were in their late teens. The man in front of them had a long last name. The registrar laughed at the man, said he couldn’t spell it, and shortened it for the guy. My Grandfather decided to say their last name was Wolfe to avoid the hassle and sound more American.”

“I’ve heard similar stories from people whose ancestors immigrated. Too bad the registrars weren’t better educated in those days,” Ann replied.

“Ah, it worked out fine for us. My family is in the sheep business. Wolfe’s Wools always gets a laugh from people. They remember the name.”

Dinner continued with light conversation and ended without any fatalities. I helped Ann clean up the kitchen, and we put a few batches of cookies in the oven. The men gathered in the living room discussing football issues.

My boys were set to arrive at ten in the morning on the first shuttle of the day. I would have to talk with Richard before he would leave, and I knew Gerald wanted to discuss the afternoon’s test privately. Once the first oven full of cookies was put out to cool, I decided to tackle each issue out in the open.

“Richard, with the excitement today we haven’t gotten a chance to talk. Was there something you needed to discuss with me before my family arrives tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I need them to get fingerprints and photos for their ID cards. Julie from my office set up a packet for you. Nick will help get them squared away from that point. There are activities Matt might like to check out. I’ll send Misty over on Friday night to get him for video games and pizza at the technology building. I think it’s Halo this week.”

“Matt will jump at that. Misty is the young woman from the Snack Shack?”

“Yes, she also helps run our teen programs. All kinds of activities are set up for the kids on open weekends.”

“Great, thanks for getting that done. Let me walk you out. Ivan can you stay for a few minutes. I’ll be right back.”

“Yes, I’ll be here, waiting to speak with you.” Gerald was still fuming over something. His anger now seemed directed at me. I grabbed a stack of hot cookies, wrapped them in a paper towel, and walked Richard outside. I didn’t stop until we were down the path and out of earshot.

“Thank you for springing me from the dungeon earlier today. I hope I didn’t get you in trouble.”

“You’re welcome. I can handle the good doctor, don’t worry about me.”

“I made a breakthrough of sorts with Carl. He cut his hand and I moved the cut to my hand—heal myself. But I’m not entirely sure how I did it.”

“What, you didn’t say anything. Have you told Gerald? That’s a huge leap. Can you do it again?”

“With practice maybe. I’ll figure it out. I don’t see why but Carl was rather freaked out. He didn’t want to talk about it around Gerald. Carl wants to hypnotize me on Monday. Will you be back by then?”

“Yeah, I’ll be back Sunday last transport of the day. Do you want me to sit in?” Richard looked puzzled by my request. I wasn’t sure how to explain what I needed from him, so I decided to be blunt.

“I wanted to make sure you would be close just in case things go badly,” I explained

“Just in case what goes badly exactly?” Richard looked confused.

“Nothing is real afterward. What I mean is I can’t tell what’s real. You would stop me from hurting people. Ivan won’t. He doesn’t have it in him to stop me.” I watched Richard’s expression change from confusion to disgust.

“You don’t think? You think I’m going to what, shoot you?”

“There is more than just the ability to heal a minor cut waiting to claw its way out of my head. I can feel it and if I can’t control it. You have those two guys with the guns practically living in the trees over there watching me. I assume their guns are loaded for a reason.”

“You can see them all the way out there?” Richard asked.

“They both have good energy. There are two of them and they trade off days, right?”

“Yeah but you’re not supposed to see them.” Richard pulled out his two-way and called to the man in the tree line. “Craig, did you know that the object can see you?”

“That’s a negative Sir. Not possible at my current distance.” The man replied laughing.

“She can see your energy, Craig. Come on down here say hello and have a cookie. You are relieved for the evening.”

“Craig is there to protect you at this point. How long have you been able to detect energy?”

“Realized this morning, and there was a short episode of color overload after I fixed Carl’s hand.” The man came out of the tree line. I waved not knowing how to greet him. He smiled back half-heartedly seized a cookie from Richard’s stack. They exchanged a few words before Craig started down the path toward the base.

“He’s not happy you can see him. What am I going to do with you? We need daily meetings to keep me up to speed with your progress. This is really great news.” Richard seemed relieved as if some great shadow moved past him.

“Did you smoke years ago?” I was embarrassed to ask the question, but the orphaned memory from earlier in the day bothered me.

“Yeah, we all did. Why do you ask?”

“The process today. I remembered things. I could smell spearmint gum. But then I remembered you smoked and you quit.”

“Everything we... of course you would remember I smoked. You hated the smell. Said it was a white trash vice that made me weak, so I quit.” Richard brushed the hair out of my eyes and pulled my sweater together protecting my bare neck from the cold night air. “Enjoy your weekend. I’ll see you Sunday night.”

I watched Richard walk down the path for a few moments. I could tell there was no one else outside. It was peaceful, empty, and calm. Inside the house was a different story. I still needed to deal with Gerald, tell him about Carl’s hand, and recap my experience in the great beyond.

I looked up at the stars. I tried to soak up the light that traveled so far for me to be able to see it. The heavens intrigued me. I wanted so badly to go back to my peaceful meadow and my shimmering man, but I considered Carl might be right. It’s probably not smart to go poking death with a stick. What I saw was powerful and unraveling. Maybe nothing matters in this life or maybe every moment of it does. It hurt my head to ponder the enormity of the questions I never gave any thought to before.

What if we do have many lives? What if I spent them with the same group of people? The roles we play with each other switched around at random. How many of my lives have I spent with Ivan? How many times he has he actually brought me back from the dead.

I took a deep breath and walked back to the house. There were more cookies to take out of the oven and an angry man to deal with before I could go to bed. In my waking hours, I’m 180 degrees away from the perfect peace I felt in my meadow.

Ivan and Carl were politely disagreeing with each other as I approached the front door. I breathed in the hot sugary aroma of fresh baking cookies and found the energy to deal with Ivan for a little bit longer.

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