“They’re after me, aren’t they?” I ask, a bit despondent and looking at the floor of the van. “You’re in danger because of me.”
“Ryker, you don’t understand. This isn’t your fault. You’d be least at fault in the end, if anything, you’d be a victim,” Mr. Yaw replies, guilt creeping through.
“But this has to do with me being able to hear people, though, right?” I ask.
He nods, I see Mr. Gerald glance back at him before returning his eyes to the road.
“Just listen to me though, please,” he says, begging a bit.
“Back in 1995, I was a scientist at this research lab. These people were obsessed with death, just what happened after, preventing it, just, all of it. I didn’t like it but they were the only ones willing to hire a college graduate at the time and I didn’t know how far they were willing to go when I first accepted the job. So, they wanted to see if they could create someone who could predict death. So, they started experiments, on willing, volunteer adults, but people started dying and others dropped out, became not so willing,” he started quietly.
“Eventually, the government wanted to shut us down from the death count and unwillingness. But the researchers weren’t willing to give up yet, in 1998, they brought the first of what would be eight babies to the lab. The baby could protest but it was easier to ignore it’s crying because it couldn’t speak like the adult test subjects. And no one would miss a few orphans. The babies also seem to be able to endure the experiments, at the very least. But with the experimenting came consequences. The babies' brain waves started to disappear, we couldn’t tell if we were making progress or not. Eventually, the government found their lab and shut them down again,” he continues.
“All the kids went into foster care, the children had an array of powers though, or those were the rumors that were heard over the next decade and a half. Their brain waves came back and on the outside, they appeared completely normal. Aside from what they heard and their counterparts heard if in close contact. Ryker, you can hear everyone’s soul aside from Porter’s. You are what they called a “Death Predictor”, you can give a varied prediction of when someone is going to die based on the volume of their death song. Porter on the other hand is an exception, his soul is silent, a “Silent Soul” or “Silent Assassin” is what they called him. It was a side effect but, in the end, they thought about using ones like him if the “Death Predictors” ever went AWOL,” he explained.
“There’s a reason I’m silent?” Porter asks.
There were six others like us. But I’d never heard about any of them. I hoped they’d kept more silent than me.
“Do they know Porter’s one of them?” I question.
“Probably not, if they look too deep into the records though, they’ll find it,” Mr. Yaw answers.
“You should lie down, I know it’s a lot,” Mr. Yaw continues getting up and moving to take the passenger seat beside Mr. Gerald.
“Where are we going?” Porter asks.
“Somewhere safe,” he replies.
I laid down on the mats and blankets in the back of the van looking up at the ceiling of the van. I took my glasses off and everything went out of focus, I hung them on my shirt. We’d left Maya behind. I wonder who told them I was at the school. Probably my father. I just realized, he wasn’t my father. I was adopted, too. Maybe he despised me more for that. What about Ezra? Did he know?
The van swayed back and forth as we drove along the highway. I could hear gravel get kicked up by the wheels and hit the side of the van with a “Ting!” Porter sat by my head, looking down at me.
He could have stayed behind. Had a normal life. I guess they would have gone back for him eventually, and he wouldn’t have gotten the same warning though, they might have even attempted to send him after me because I couldn’t hear him. I shut my eyes, listening to Mr. Yaw and Mr. Gerald’s life songs, and the hum of the radio and engine. I was so tired, but I couldn’t sleep.
We drove for hours, I wasn’t sure how far since I kept my head down.
“Ryker?” I heard Mr. Yaw call.
I opened my eyes, allowing them to adjust to the light. I pulled my glasses off my shirt and put them on. I rolled over and looked up at him.
“We’ll be there soon,” he stated quietly.
I sat up and looked out the front window. There wasn’t much to see other than the fields of snow. I could see lights in the distance. It was getting dark out.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Alliance, Nebraska,” Mr. Gerald answered.
They were on the run now too because of me. These…former scientists? Military? Whoever was after me, didn’t want them. They wanted me, to… I don’t know, predict their deaths, prevent them? I still had no clue if that was even possible. But I guess they were going to try.
We drove, into the city? Town? I didn’t know anymore. Everything was covered in the fog of tiredness. I was hoping there was a bed wherever we were going and that I’d exhaust myself and be able to sleep.
We drove through the place, shrouded in darkness, with their glowing porch and front door lights casting orange light out. The street ones were a paler whitish-yellow. Mr. Gerald turned into a neighborhood and pulled up to a house. It was a dark brown one with white trim and a black roof.
“We’re here,” Mr. Gerald states.
I glance at the house nervously. Where was here exactly? And not geographically. I meant where, as in: Whose house was this?
Mr. Yaw notices my nervousness.
“You’ll be fine. It’s safe here,” he reassures me. “Wake Porter.”
I shake him gently and his eyes flutter open, dark saucers in what little light is around.
“We’re here,” I say quietly.
“Where’s here?” he questions looking out the front passenger window.
Mr. Yaw and Mr. Gerald hop out. Mr. Yaw pulls open the sliding door on his side to let us out. Porter climbs out first. He offers me a hand, I take it but it feels weird for some reason. I climb out and start on the snow-covered sidewalk in the street light.
“Should we bring our things in?” Porter asks.
I’d practically forgotten about our suitcases.
“Sure, watch your step, it might be slippery,” Mr. Gerald says unlocking the front door.
I stepped inside, there was a figure standing by the back-patio door. I stopped in my tracks out of fear at first. The figure looked familiar though.
Mr. Gerald flipped on the lights exposing the figure’s light brown hair and blue eyes.
“Ezra, we just escaped from people, don’t go spooking us,” Mr. Gerald said crossing his arms.
Ezra had grown up. His chin had a five o’clock shadow and his lanky limbs had become muscular.
“Hey, little brother,” he commented standing up straight.
“What are you doing here?” was all I could muster out.
“A few weeks back I started getting strange calls, people looking for you. I tried calling you, you didn’t pick up. I guess the fact that I’d changed my number wasn’t helping in that regard. Our father called me and told me some people were looking for you. He said he told them where you were. But something was off about all of it. I called the school and they told me you’d left for Christmas break but I knew you weren’t at dad’s so I attempted to explain what was going on to Ryū, he figured out that they were coming back for you. So, he got Maya to call you, so you’d come back early. He told me where to meet you,” he explained.
“So, you know?” I ask. “Everything?”
“Ryker, I grew up with you. Regardless of where you came from or what our dad says, you are my brother,” he replies touching my shoulder.
“Where’s this boyfriend I heard so much about now?” he continues on to reel of normal shenanigans.
Porter comes in with the suitcases and sets them against a wall.
“Who’s this?” Porter asks wearily.
“Ezra,” Ezra says offering his hand.
Porter shakes it, uncertain.
“So, you’re his brother?” he inquires.
“Yeah, thanks for looking after him for me,” Ezra states.
“You kids want food?” Mr. Gerald asks.
“Hey, I’m not a kid,” Ezra states annoyed.
“You’re twenty years younger than me, you’re a kid,” he retorts. “Now, do you want food or not?”
We hadn’t eaten since early this morning but despite my stomach growling, I wasn’t sure I could keep anything down.
“We have to leave in the morning again, Tom,” Mr. Yaw says.
“You’re leaving?” I ask looking back at him.
“We have leads on the other kids, we’re getting as many of them out as we can,” Mr. Yaw answers. “We’re leaving you with money and if this place becomes compromised, Ezra has the next location.”
“I’m part of the reason you kids, even exist in any capacity the way you do. It’s my job to get you out now,” he continues.
“Have some food and get some sleep, don’t worry about anything else, okay?” he finishes.
I don’t say anything.
“I’ll show you to your room,” Ezra states nodding up the stairs to the second floor.
I and Porter follow him up the stairs. Porter drags the suitcases up behind him. Ezra leads us down the hall to the last room on the left. He opens the door. There’s a queen bed inside all made up and the moonlight is shining through a giant glass window in the side of the roof.
“My room’s just across the hall, okay?” he tells me.
Porter sets our bags by the closet.
“We’ll be downstairs if you want to join us, okay?” Ezra finally continues.
I nod this time.
Ezra glances at Porter before slipping out.
I approach the window and look out over the streets of Alliance. An uneasy shiver runs through me.
“You okay?” Porter asks approaching me. “Do you want me to bring some food up for you?”
“No, I think I’m going to try and get some sleep,” I reply quietly not looking at him, crossing my arms over my stomach.
“Okay,” he replies awkwardly.
He steps back opening the door, he glances back at me one last time before he closes it.
I sigh and sit down beside the bed. I throw my glasses onto the nightstand and tug my winter clothes off. I toss them all into a pile and rub my face. I tug the comforter off the bed and wrap it around my shoulders. I bury myself under it soon, blocking out the sounds of the surrounding world.
I lay down on the floor letting the darkness consume me. I don’t wake until hours later. Porter is laying on the floor beside me, he should have slept in the bed, he looked silly contorted around me. I got up, laying the blanket over him. I grabbed my glasses off the nightstand. My stomach growled, aching with hunger. I went over to the bedroom door and opened it quietly. The moonlight spilled into the dark hall.
I pulled the door until there was barely a slit of light coming through and went downstairs. Everyone must have been asleep. It was pitch black down here aside from the moonlight and street lights. I went to the kitchen which was beside the back patio door. I opened the fridge and stared into it. There was some Ginger Ale, wine, milk, yogurt, and fruit. I took a Ginger Ale and an apple. I went and sat on the living room couch. I noticed a newspaper sitting on the table. It wasn’t the Alliance, Nebraska news though, it was from Blue Hill. Mr. Yaw or Mr. Gerald must have picked it up well they were there.
I noticed the front page, I recognized the woman. Alice, the waiter who had a short life span at that café.
Story on pg. 12. The subtitle read. I didn’t even want to look at the title. My eyes moved up slowly to it though. Young woman dead after hit and run. Her death song started playing in my head as if she was here with me. I got up and walked back up the stairs. I noticed on my way back to the room there were two other rooms in the hall. The first was open a bit, inside there was a piano and all the walls were sound-proofed. The other was most likely, the master bedroom.
I went into the piano room and closed the door. I sat at the piano with my Ginger Ale and apple. I cracked the piano open and the hinges squeaked from disuse. It was dusty. I stared at the keys. I started playing “Would You Come Home” by Tyler Blackburn.
I was glad for the sound-proofing, I really needed to play right now, as a distraction from, just everything, I guess.
I didn’t sing, I just hummed along with the melody.
Now I won’t look away.
My fingers danced across the piano keys, letting notes ring out. When the ending came I slowed down and then stopped letting my fingers rest on the keys.
Where does it all end? In war, no one wins, we all lose. If only we could all understand that and not be so selfish. But instead, we started fights over physical possessions and took lives, instead of valuing the time we did have. Fought over stupid things like who we loved or wanted to be.
I took my hands off the keys and let them come back up. I left the room and went back to the bedroom, I laid under the blanket with Porter. I kissed him on the forehead, lightly before resting my head against his chest to sleep again.