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Serch Bythol

By Deborah Brenner All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Romance


David Pierson is a gifted musician and a brilliant student, but he is 16 going on 30, thanks to the six-headed dragon entity he has fought in his recurring nightmares since early childhood, leaving him with a sense of a dreadful yet unknown guilt that haunts him. When his family moves to Yorkshire, England, his nightmares becomes reality—the farmhouse they move into has a real ghost, a ghost with a name—Nathaniel Ley. Nathaniel is in love with David’s mother, but David himself appears to be the source of the tormented spirit’s anguish. In time, David will discover why he holds the key to releasing Nathaniel from his ghostly existence and understand his own guilt, but it will be no easy journey. David learns to travel between the worlds thanks to Nathaniel’s daughter, the beautiful, ephemeral Cecilia, who takes him back to another time, a time when the grand 18th century abandoned mansion next door was splendid and full of life, and helps him to remember the past. Once more they share undying passion as they relive their vow of everlasting love, which started long before they lived as Daniel and Cecilia. Two haunted houses and two ghosts, but one of them is not a ghost at all.

Chapter 1: Keepers

The foreboding sky grew ever blacker until the last trace of daylight disappeared. It was not the comforting, soft darkness of night, but a primordial darkness, a sky devoid of stars. Along with the light, all air, movement and hope also vanished, until he existed in a vacuum. Navigating the mists and shadows of this wasteland quickly depleted his energy, and he had no idea what to do next. How could he continue without a trace of light? He could sense his enemies, but since he could not see them, he was brandishing his sword to no avail. The six-headed behemoth had him just where it wanted.

He stumbled around, seeking an escape, but collided with something that felt human. Suddenly, the beast, whose presence he could always feel, spewed its venomous flames, and in the spurious light, with dread, he found himself confronting the body of a man hanging from a tree.

“Forgive me,” the corpse whispered. Those words, that voice, so distinctive and familiar, filled him with a pain that was worse than anything he’d yet endured. He started to respond, but then felt wild rage mushroom inside, and screamed, “Never!”

With the fire providing momentary light, he could see all six heads of the monster looking down. He knew that the mammoth, menacing twin head in the center, Lamagir, the mastermind whom he recognized with the most aversion, wanted him back. And he knew that if he returned, it would be over, as his return to darkness was what Lamagir had intended. The memory of Tammabukku, and how he’d abandoned the dark path aeons ago began to surface, but he couldn’t bear to remember.

Those enormous scarlet heads before him glared with their black hole eyes, trying to exercise some of the control it once had. He turned away, lest he be sucked back into the dark realm that this twisted monstrosity called home. His ancient adversary tried using mind control to compel him to meet his gaze, but he steeled himself and refused, enduring the lashing of the flames as his punishment.

“Don’t tell me you still think you’re my equal!” the twin heads mocked, their flaming mouths opening as if to swallow him. Bright blue flames burned his flesh as he choked on the smoke and stench.

The least malignant head, the Pale Head, looked at the speaking corpse in misery, and the Master Head, infuriated, breathed blue flames on both the Pale Head and the corpse. In the smoky blue light, he could see the mouth of the corpse screaming, but couldn’t hear anything. Seeing the anguish with which the Pale Head looked at him was confounding—it hardly appeared to have the upper hand.

Suddenly, Iviacus the Impaler, the three-horned head, pinned him to the ground with his breath, and bent his gnarled horns over him until he could feel their tips touching his flesh. He was enveloped in a preternatural fatigue, and the idea of surrendering to the abyss became increasingly seductive. As always, the Cloaked Head remained mysterious and mute, but under the cloak, he could sense a female who embodied anything but positive feminine attributes. Anfri the Henchman, the chameleon-like sixth head, simply towered there, smirking. Having no real personality of his own, he was just his master’s puppet.

And then, out of the sultry light of the dragon’s flames, Nathara appeared. Trying to assume the persona of his beloved, she beckoned him to follow. When he hesitated, she shed her robe and began dancing. Although her naked body was lushly voluptuous, he was not deceived. Those calculating eyes projecting a hypnotic will were not the eyes of the girl he loved, who, when she danced, danced with her soul, and Nathara had sold hers a long time ago. In repulsion, he vehemently shook his head. Nathara may have ensnared him in the distant past, but he had long since become immune. With what strength he had left, he spat at her. She screeched like a banshee, retreating into the shadowy flames, whence she came.

The twin Master Head scorched his flesh, then healed it, and then scorched it yet again. There seemed no way out of this hell, and feeling wholly broken, he capitulated. This exhaustion was more than he could bear. Though he couldn’t muster the strength to mount his battle horse, his heart was boiling with raw loathing.

In the midst of it all he heard the spirit of his grandfather telling him that one cannot fight hatred with hatred. As always, his grandfather’s wisdom reached his soul, yet try as he might to feel compassion, in this moment he could only feel revulsion as he looked at the odious heads blocking his way to the peace he knew he would find beyond the brilliant white door. Every time he tried to reach that door, Lamagir appeared.

The Pale Head was still looking down at him. The merciless hatred with which the other heads held him was not present in those eyes. Rather, he saw a tear, and this tear evoked something much worse than the physical pain that Lamagir had inflicted with his flames.

This time it is hopeless, he thought. Letting the black hole swallow him seemed his only way out. Embracing Lamagir and the darkness again was unthinkable.

“There’s always hope, Horatio!” a most welcome feminine voice assured. A scintilla of light appeared in the sky and beamed down on him. He couldn’t see her, but knew it was her. His beloved remained out of sight, but standing before him he saw the resplendent lady who had always called him her own. Angharat. She was an enigma—part angel, part goddess. Seeing her luminous face, feeling the depth of her love, and the magnitude of her power revived him.

All of the dragon’s mouths, except that of the Pale Head, now issued flames, but there was a strength in Angharat’s light against which Lamagir had no defense. The Cloaked Head, although still veiled, had suddenly become riled. Small fire beings surrounded her, trying to help her launch an attack on Angharat, but to no avail. The twin Master Head looked at the Cloaked Head with distress. The dragon then fell into a weakened state, and was foaming like a gored bull.

He realized this was his window of opportunity, and spotted an escape route. Garnering his strength, he bolted from Lamagir’s clutches. He heard the snide laugh of Anfri the Henchman vowing it would never be over. Iviacus charged him with his three-pronged impaler, but he wrested it away and, mustering all his strength, threw it like a javelin. Without his weapon, Iviacus skulked into the shadows. Anfri then blocked his path, but somehow he managed to get away. It seemed he was finally free until Anfri, disguised as a crippled beggar woman, once more manifested out of nowhere. Since he was thinking about his beloved, he didn’t see the dagger flying towards him...

A thunderous knock catapulted him back to consciousness. “I need to see you in the kitchen right now!” his father’s stentorian voice announced. He heard him go to his brother’s room with the same request before returning to his door.

“Did you hear me, Dave?”

“Yes! Just give me a few minutes,” he yawned, still shaken from this ongoing nightmare, a.k.a. his life.

Would it ever end? The episodes were too vivid to be dreams. It often felt like he was being sucked into a parallel universe. There’d been a new undertone to his battles with the dragon over the past months, and David got the stark feeling that the colossal heinousness was about to finish him off. Who was the radiant feminine force that destabilized his arch foe and brought the light? And the girl’s voice that called him Horatio? Hers wasn’t the same voice as the girl who appeared when he was five, yet they seemed like the same being. Who was she and why did he long for her with such intensity? And why was it that during the nightmares he knew everyone´s name, but only Lamagir’s name didn’t slip into the recesses of his mind as soon as he awoke.

He got on his feet, eager to learn why he and Tom were being summoned to the kitchen so early. He’d suspected something was brewing, as the last few nights his parents had stayed in his father’s office for hours, speaking in low voices. He ran a comb through his black hair, which was nearing the base of his neck, to please his mother. Lately she’d been dropping hints about his lack of style. She was a good mother who never interfered with his mind or spirit, even if she did buy him preppy clothes and pester him about his appearance. Although it annoyed him, he put up with it because he loved her, and appreciated the space she gave him in the important areas.

He and Tom met at the top of the stairs.

“I wonder what’s up,” Tom yawned, scanning David’s face for clues.

“We’ll find out soon enough.” David gave Tom an affectionate pat on the back.

Tom often seemed younger than his 13 years, which made David protective of him, but in his way, Tom also looked out for David. Tom had a way of making him laugh when no one else could. When David felt shattered, and all semblances of his sanity lay broken on the floor, Tom still made him feel like his idol. Puberty had exploded like a missile on his little brother’s body the last few months. The boy with the sandy hair, hazel-green eyes, and freckles was now a gawky adolescent with zits all over his face. Tom was having a tough time with the transition, and still tried clinging to childhood. David could understand why his little brother wasn’t in a hurry to grow up, since his own childhood had passed in the blink of an eye.

Together they followed the aroma of freshly-baked biscuits and chicory coffee down the hallway to the bright blue and yellow kitchen. Their mother gave them hugs. After sharing a glance with David that conveyed this gathering was going to be important, she poured coffee for him and orange juice for Tom. David had been a coffee addict since early childhood from years of getting ready for school after being awake half the night with nightmares.

“Your father will be here in a minute.” She pulled her shoulder-length hair into a ponytail with the violet scrunchie that had been around her wrist. She seemed more jittery than usual, and tied and retied her ponytail several times. He mused how his mom’s hair scrunchies always matched her clothes.

David and his mother had a unique spiritual bond. His father joked that she was high-maintenance, but he disagreed. He found living with her to be easy. Like his, her needs were few, but exact. She understood him, and although she couldn’t directly help him with his troubles, her unconditional love was all he needed. She was almost cool, and he loved the hell out of her. Theresa Niles was beautiful inside and out, with a heart always ready to understand and to dry tears of pain. Her tenderness was a magnet. She was in her early 40s, but still turned heads. She was tall and slender with chestnut hair, a porcelain complexion, and a pouty mouth. Her greatest asset was her disarming and contagious smile which clung to her lips like creamed honey, and illuminated her large wide-set, forget-me-not blue eyes.

David and Tom sat down at the cedar picnic table in the breakfast nook. The open windows were like nature’s speakers, and David felt calmer as he listened to the sounds of spring. He loved birds and smiled at their songs, wishing he too had wings.

His mom clasped her hands. “Did you boys see the pair of cardinals in the red mulberry tree?”

“I’ve been keeping an eye on them.” David was puzzled she didn’t remember that they talked about the cardinals a few days ago. “It’s a treat to have them right by the window.”

“Yes, they’ve inspired me to paint birds again. The last time I did birds, every painting sold. My white-breasted nuthatch went for over $600.”

In that moment, the mood changed, as Gerald Pierson strode into the kitchen and approached his sons in full-blown orator mode. David sensed this was going to be one of those times when his father would try to convince them about the merits of a decision he’d already made. How he resented these authoritarian pretenses at family harmony. In truth, they were merely there to be informed and won over. Gerald’s eyes briefly met David’s, as if expecting trouble, then quickly looked away so as to keep things smooth.

How his parents had stayed together this long was one of David’s big questions. He understood his mother well enough, but his father was another specimen altogether. His dad had emotionally destroyed him countless times while oblivious to the damage inflicted. Although wickedly smart, Gerald Pierson was everything David didn’t want to be, a migraine waiting to happen, but despite that, David loved his father.

“I have excellent news,” Gerald began. “I am now the new Professor of Biology and Director of the Doctorate program at the University of York.” Gerald paused to gauge the stunned expressions on his sons’ faces. “I am ecstatic and I know you will be as well. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me and for all of us. The position starts in September. We’ll need to leave for England as soon as school is out so that we can get settled in. I will need time to prepare before the semester starts.”

“I thought you said that job wasn’t right for you!” Tom jumped to his feet. “You’re not really telling us we’re moving to England in a few months?!”

Gerald took a deep breath. He had anticipated an emotional reaction from his younger son. “No, son. The position you’re referring to was with another university. A former colleague of mine suggested that I apply for this one when I was in England this past January, but I’d given up on it when I heard they filled it from within. Apparently that didn’t work out and they chose me out of all the other candidates. As you know, I’m a person who craves new challenges, and this is something I’ve wanted for years. Besides, it is my belief that we’ve all reached a plateau here.” David was not surprised when his father then tried to use their mother as the deal closer. “Your mother and I also feel that living in England will open new horizons for you boys. Imagine the traveling we can do during vacations. Won’t it be great to visit the lands of our ancestors?”

“Yeah!” Tom snapped. “If there’s a round trip ticket from Toronto!”

Theresa put her arm around her younger son. “I’ll be the first to admit it’s a big change, Thomas, but I think we should go for it. I’m 42 and I’ve never left the continent. I’d love to see Europe. I want to take my art to another level, and a change like this might bring that about.”

“You’re sure quiet,” Gerald continued, turning to David. “Your brooding silences usually spell trouble. Someone as intelligent as you must see the merits of such an opportunity.”

David’s mind was racing, but he remained calm. He wondered why his mother hadn’t given them a hint this was coming—she never kept secrets. It was so like his father to say they’d all reached a plateau. He was sick of his father’s manipulative methods. “Whether it will be a great opportunity for Tom and me depends on how we play the hand you’ve dealt us, Dad. You‘re the decision maker here. Let’s cut the pretense this is a group decision, okay?”

Gerald ran his hand through his thick, straight dark brown hair, and removed his black-rimmed glasses. Tall and muscular, he cut an imposing figure. His body looked more like a wrestler’s than a scientist’s. But much as David sometimes resented his father, he also loved him, and in those complex brown eyes, David could see the pain he was trying not to show.

He sat beside David on the bench. “I know it’s hard to leave people you love. I know how close you are to your grandmother, and putting your band on hold will be tough for you and Julian. And then, of course, there’s Madison who calls you all day long.”

“It’s not going to be too hard for me to leave Madison, Dad, but I will miss Gran and Julian beyond words. You forgot to mention Jericho and Orenda—they’re the best godparents for which Tom and I could ever ask. And you are right. I can’t imagine not having Oblivion—not even for a day. The band is what keeps me sane.”

Theresa put her hand on top of his. “I know Julian will come to England the first chance he gets—he has family in London. And even though Jericho and Orenda will be out west most of this year, I’m sure they’ll also come as soon as they can.”

David’s thoughts were on Julian. The two of them had been inseparable for the past nine years, having clicked right away in elementary school when the Graham family had moved to Toronto from Barbados. David liked to joke that he and Julian were twin brothers from different mothers, and he couldn’t imagine this life without him. Julian was a year older than David, but he often joked that David was the elder, being 16 going on 60. Yes, they would be able to Skype all the time, but how would they keep the band going at a distance? This had to happen just as he was so pleased at how much his keyboard playing had improved over the past year, and he and Julian were really into writing songs. It would be over a year until Julian graduated high school and was free to travel. How could he survive a year with the band on hiatus? It was such a reality check how life can change in a day.

Gerald’s eyes went from David to Tom, trying to anticipate their next comments. “I need you boys to be with me on this. I don’t want to think that I’m forcing this move on you.”

“But that’s exactly what you are doing!” cried Tom.

David acquiesced. “Tom and I aren’t idiots, Dad—we know when you’re imposing something on us. I totally understand about the job, but I don’t like the way you’re selling this.”

His father stiffened visibly at this. His teeth clenched, and the veins around his eyes started to bulge like they always did when things weren’t going his way. “I guess a sense of adventure is a gift not bestowed upon my offspring,” Gerald muttered.

Closing his eyes, David took a deep breath. “Dad, the manipulation is so obvious, I don’t know whether to yawn or scream. Just give it to us straight. Tom and I deserve better than this pile of steaming crap.”

Tom nodded. “Thank you, Dave!”

Gerald pounded his fist on the table and glared at the boys. “I’m trying to improve the life of my family, and every single thing is a fucking uphill battle with you two!”

Theresa looked at her husband angrily. “There’s no need to shout and pound your fist. And such language doesn’t belong in a family discussion. We can talk about this in a civilized manner.”

David was painfully aware in this moment of how allergic he had become to his father’s sales pitches and manipulative ways, and he sighed. “Dad, what you want is for us to cheerfully walk away from everything we’ve known, and have a great attitude about it, so you don’t have to deal with energy that you deem negative. I have enough shit to deal with—I don’t need your snide remarks. Insult me all you want. I’ve been on to it for years, and it no longer has any effect on me.”

“As usual, I can count on you not to mince any words,” Gerald retorted with a simper. He started shredding a napkin to avoid another angry outburst.

“Look, Dad, I’m up for an ‘adventure’, but I have to let this sink in,” David snapped. Reaching across the table, Theresa placed her hand on his cheek. He knew his mom understood what was going through his mind—that he was thinking of his grandmother. Leaving her was going to be a big issue, as she was the one who’d always guided him through the maze of his myriad psychological problems.

“I talked to Mom last night,” Theresa began. “She’ll come over as soon as we’re settled, and promises to visit often—I wouldn’t go for this otherwise. Mom doesn’t want to be away from us either, especially with Dad gone.” David noticed that his mother’s voice still cracked when she spoke about her father. “Maybe in time she’ll move to England. Believe me—I understand how you boys feel. Mom and my friends were big issues for me.”

David was anxious to talk to his grandmother about this upheaval in his previously well-ordered life, as well as about the latest installment of his ongoing nightmares. “I think Gran should come over to England with us,” he said, bitterly adding, “It seems that Tom and I are the last ones to find out we’re moving overseas.”

“Mom will be here shortly,” Theresa told him. “David, she only found out about this a few days ago and I pledged her to secrecy for the time being. I didn’t want to say anything to you and Thomas until—”

“Until she was certain herself,” Gerald finished her sentence with a roll of his eyes. “A position offering a lot more money and prestige—I’d have thought it was a no-brainer. We’re talking about moving to England here, not Bumfuck, Egypt.”

“Just because you’re not emotional about these things, doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t!” Tom retorted, folding his arms. “I’ll miss Gran too, and nobody mentioned that I’ll also be leaving my friends! We’ve lived in Toronto our entire lives, and you just up and tell us we’re moving, without even giving us a chance to be part of the decision. I’m feeling like luggage right about now.”

David looked at his brother. “Tom, there’ll be something in England for us too. I understand Dad needs a new challenge, and an offer like this is hard to turn down. It’s just a lot for us to process all at once.”

“Well, at least we still have some time,” Tom sighed. “School doesn’t end for another two months.”

“We’ll have to leave the week after school’s out,” Theresa told them. “The realtor said we can get the asking price for the house almost as soon as it goes on the market. We’re going to be listing it tomorrow—I wanted to tell you boys first. I’m shipping lots of things next month, so we’ll have most of our things on arrival. We’ll have to live the minimalist life for a month. I can’t handle an unsettled house for more than a few days—our things must be there when we arrive. Luckily, the house we have in mind is beautifully furnished. I wouldn’t want to rush into buying new furniture. You know how hard I am to please about these things.”

“Will we be living in York?” David asked. He remembered seeing pictures of York with its ancient walls and found it beautiful.

“We found a great old farmhouse about 30 minutes from York in a beautiful wooded area near the town of Pickering,” Gerald replied, relaxing as he sensed acceptance. He went to get his laptop and then opened it. “Wait until you see this place—I think we should go for it. Your mother found it, actually, and was immediately drawn to it. She told me she clicked on the wrong link and there it was!” He turned the computer around so David and Tom could see the photos. There on the screen was a traditional stone farmhouse surrounded by manicured gardens, orchards, and fields. As Gerald clicked through the images of the interior and exterior, one particular photo of a centuries old estate down the road from the farmhouse riveted David.

“What’s the deal with that creepy old place?” asked David, unable to take his eyes off the old manor house with the gargoyles and Pan fountain in front.

“Both places were once part of the same estate,” Gerald declared. “You know those named estates in English literature? Now we’ll be living in one of those. Tell me boys—how cool is that?”

Tom remained petulant. “There’s something about both places that I don’t like. And besides, this is the Boonies. When did we become freaking farmers? We’re a few minutes from downtown Toronto here. I like civilization. What do kids do for fun there anyway—round up the sheep and goats?”

David read the raging displeasure on his father’s face and that he worked to control himself so as not to lose ground.

“It’s all about the mindset, Tom. Look at it this way. This is the information age—you’re connected to everyone everywhere at all times. I know this news comes as a shock to you, but try to find the positives, and there are many. I’ll give you guys a little history of the house. The big manor house is called Beak’s End. It’s been unoccupied for ages and they’ve been trying to track down the descendants of the original family. The realtors told me that they were there through the early part of the last century, but since then, it’s been deserted. The farmhouse was built by the owner of the manor house, but something happened and he died shortly afterwards. At some point his descendants split the property. The original family kept the manor house, while the rest of the family sold their part. The farmhouse is completely renovated and has had different occupants over the years.”

David kept repeating the name Beak’s End in his head. “What attracted you to this particular house?” he asked, looking at his mother. “It’s not like you to jump at something without seeing all the possibilities.”

“It’s cheaper than the others—like half the price,” Theresa laughed, “and that’s attractive. Real estate is pricey in England. As a painter, I always dreamed of living in this kind of countryside. And yes, I’ll admit that I’m attracted like a magnet to this house.”

As David continued staring at the photos, he too felt the same pull as his mother, but with it came something else he couldn’t pin down. “There has to be a catch. It may be in the countryside, but this is a beautiful house and the setting is to die for. Something doesn’t add up. I’m doing a quick search right now and much smaller houses in that area are over double the price.”

Gerald glared at his eldest son. “Every time something good happens, you immediately assume there has to be a goddamn catch! I know the world can sometimes suck, but amidst all the suckitude, occasionally good things do happen. Maybe you could try lightening up on the cynicism a little there, Dave.”

“Gerald!” Theresa reprimanded, “David’s almost an adult now and you’re faulting him for being skeptical? I know what he means—I had the same thoughts. It’s well below market price. ”She turned around and addressed David. “I can’t see any major drawbacks, but perhaps some parts are a little fixer-upper. They admitted there are occasional plumbing and electrical problems, but they’re working on them. I’m willing to put up with some inconveniences to live in a setting like this, and the money we’ll save can be put toward other things.”

“I suppose it’s cheaper because it’s a little out of the way,” Gerald said in an exasperated tone. “The closer you are to town, the pricier the real estate becomes.”

Scrolling through the photos of the grounds, David said, “I have to admit that the land around the house is gorgeous. Look, it has its own creek with a bridge. And these woods are... something else again.”

“It’s alright looking, I guess,” Tom mumbled, “for a place you never wanted to live in the first place.”

Theresa turned to her younger son. “You’re on overload, Thomas. News like this needs time to sink in. My intuition says that this move is the right thing.”

The more David stared at the pictures, the more his head hurt. He felt drained, and the images from this morning’s nightmare came back to him. He pushed the computer back to his father.

“Imagine how great a place this will be for your mother’s art. The house is huge and light pours through every window. You boys have the rest of your lives to live wherever you choose. Right now, this works for your mother and I, and we’re the ones paying the bills.”

It crossed David’s mind to stay in Toronto with his grandmother until he was out of school, but he couldn’t do that to his mom or brother. He knew he had no choice but to go—he was needed. His calico cat, Grace, jumped on the table and gave him a head butt. “I guess you’ll have to find new places to explore, Gracie,” he told her as she settled in his lap. Her purring and affection soothed him a little, but he still felt off kilter, no matter how hard he tried to center himself.

“What about school?” Tom asked, shaking his head. “It’s going to be tough in another country.”

“I heard the schools are excellent,” Gerald began. “Tom, adaptability is the key to survival in this world. You’ll make new friends and you’ll be fine. When I was a boy, we moved many times and I was always the new kid in school. I had to start over and over, and if I’d dared to challenge my father, I’d have been in deep doo. Nothing was a family discussion like this when I was growing up—my father was a dictator. I wasn’t resentful of that either. He was the one paying the bills. Even then I knew how this world works.”

“So only those who pay the bills have rights?” Tom snapped. “You could’ve at least thrown us a carrot by going through the pretense of asking us how we felt.”

“Throwing carrots is not my style, and I’m sick of this conversation!” Gerald yelled, losing his patience again. “I’m not moving you to the center of Hell—you’ll adjust. Military kids move all the time and they deal with it, unlike you. You’re a fucking teenager now, Tom! Start acting like it and stop being such a damn drama queen!”

David winced—Tom hated it when their father called him a drama queen. Gerald, knowing Tom loathed that appellation, used it as a weapon. Pissed, David said, “Give him a frigging break, Dad. It’s a lot to assimilate all at once.”

“You know, Dave, if there ever comes a day when you’re on my side about anything, I’ll probably drop dead of shock and not even get to enjoy it. You may be his older brother, but I’m his father. This is my house, and it’s my rules that he has to abide by. He doesn’t need a break, he needs a reality check. I’ve been offered a much better position. This is what everyone wants—to ascend the ladder of success, and I will ascend it.”

“Fine—you win, I lose, Dad! I’ll put up and shut up!” Tom shouted, bolting out of the room.

David watched as his parents exchanged opposing looks. “You could’ve used a little more tact, Gerald,” Theresa began with barely disguised disgust. “I know you had a strict upbringing, but my parents raised me as their equal, and I believe we should all be part of this decision. You were much too harsh with Thomas.”

“I tried to start off nicely,” Gerald groaned. “I don’t come from a background of having to ask my 13-year-old son’s permission to accept a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity.”

Theresa shook her head. “Paying the bills doesn’t give us dictatorial rights.”

“I beg to differ,” he replied. “Breadwinners have the final say on these things.”

“Well, Dad,” David cut in, “I make money with the band and have contributed around the house, so following your thinking, I have rights.”

Gerald let go with an exasperated sigh. “Why is everyone busting my balls at a time we should be celebrating?”

As she made ready to leave the room, Theresa spoke. “I am celebrating with you, Gerald, but Thomas’ feelings also matter. I’ll go see if I can calm him down.”

David and Gerald stared at one another in silence. Gerald was just about to speak when his cell phone rang. He looked at David with a scarcely hidden pleading in his eyes and asked him to wait a minute while he took this call.

David nodded, his mind drifting to the complex relationship he had with his dad. The first four years of his life, he could do no wrong in his father’s eyes. He spoke in complete sentences at one, read children’s books by the time he was two, and at age three, knew his multiplication tables. He had a photographic memory which his dad never grew tired of testing. A kid with an IQ through the stratosphere was his dream, and frankly, the offspring he expected. Modesty wasn’t one of his father’s strong suits. Gerald Pierson lacked the patience for many things and didn’t suffer fools gladly. For a while, David was the apple of his eye, but then, little by little, in his fourth year it had started. The horrific nightmares from which he’d awaken inconsolable, the blackouts from which he’d remember nothing, the warring voices in his head, the supposed hallucinations... and then the pull toward the black hole which both terrified and attracted him. He’d call for the girl, but couldn’t remember her name, only her light and energy. He drew intricate symbols on paper that no one understood, and then there was the six-headed dragon from the lowest depths of Hell who’d been his nightly companion for a decade now. Although there was always a mask behind the mask, Lamagir’s vile presence was unmistakable, and David was well aware that his sworn enemy sought more than just the destruction of his physical body. Lurking and stalking during his waking hours, would go in for the kill when David fell asleep, making it clear that his death was just another page in his far-reaching book of revenge.

David’s early childhood was a series of doctor’s offices, tests on his brain, and a battery of psychological examinations. When both his verbal and nonverbal communication became erratic, they were sure he was autistic, and he got slapped with the autistic spectrum label. Despite the fact that none of their tests proved anything, at one time or another, besides being called autistic, he was labeled bipolar, ADHD, epileptic, schizophrenic, and manic-depressive. The doctors explained that brain scan technology can help diagnose many things, but tougher cases often escaped detection, and given the severity of his problems, he had to be one of those cases. The doctors asked him to describe what he saw and felt. He knew they were full of shit when they tried to gain his trust, but he talked to them anyway—what choice did he have? He was a little kid going through a system governed by a bunch of people who were trying to fix something they couldn’t comprehend. He did as they asked and told them what he saw and felt. In return, they patronized him. Their conclusions were a lot of psychological mumbo jumbo that meant they had no frigging idea what was going on inside his head. Although they often disagreed with each other, they did agree about one thing—he had a distorted sense of reality and was prone to hallucinations and delusions. After all, he talked about a girl who wasn’t there, and a multi-headed dragon who sought his soul. He tried to defend himself by explaining that reality was a subjective thing, but they ignored him. Instead, they asked why he thought the dragon and the girl were real. His response had been to inquire why they didn’t ask him if they were real. They made notes—that’s what they did. He spent countless hours watching one specialist after another write and write, but nothing ever improved, and what little light there was in his world grew darker by the day. They called the girl his imaginary playmate—a figment of his imagination created by his loneliness and pain.

Although he wasn’t schizophrenic, they gave him anti-psychotic drugs anyway. His mom put an end to those pills when he had cluster headaches, couldn’t sleep, and his body constantly shook. His grandparents went ballistic when they heard, and threatened to sue the doctor. Even his dad was livid about those side effects. Next they started with the ADHD drugs which made him a functional zombie. His father was alright with that because he seemed a little more normal, and normality was paramount to him, but his mother wasn’t okay with it. She’d had enough of all the medications by then, but his father reminded her that he couldn’t attend a normal school unless he was on the drugs. He had to be drugged to be acceptable—it was literally a requirement for “kids like him”. They would not enroll him into the school unless he was on his meds.

If his symptoms were in check, the doctors thought he might be able to handle a regular kindergarten when school started. It was even suggested that because of his advanced skills, he belonged in the first grade. He already knew how to read, write, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and could find any country on a map, but they decided that for social reasons, he should stay with his age group. The consensus was that he wasn’t prepared for the pressures of first grade despite his IQ, and even attending a regular kindergarten was a big step for an “atypical kid like him”. There was never a shortage of reminders that he was lucky to be in the same class with the “normal” kids.

It was his grandmother who put an end to all of it. With a rare display of Wiccan power, she forced his father to bow his head, shut the fuck up, and let her take over. That was the summer he lived with his grandparents at their wooded retreat an hour north of Toronto. Adamant that there was nothing wrong with his mind, his grandmother insisted that his problems were spiritual. Being a man of science, Gerald Pierson had a hard time with anything he couldn’t prove, but he was under the thumb of his mother-in-law at that point. Through much of his ordeal, he remembered his mom seemed paralyzed with agony—as if the origin of the situation was familiar, and she was unable to do anything but give him her unwavering love.

“I’m sorry,” Gerald said, coming back into the kitchen. “I got rid of the call as soon as I could.”

“No problem, Dad. I was just thinking back over some things.”

“Dave,” he began in a conciliatory tone, “I think this move is the right thing for everyone, otherwise I wouldn’t have accepted the position. Maybe a new environment is exactly what you need to help you with your depression. Things don’t seem to be getting much better here. I heard you making horrific sounds right before I knocked on your door earlier, and I hear those sounds coming from your room almost every night.”

“Dad, how many times do I have to tell you that I don’t suffer from depression? You’re a frigging scientist—you know the literal definition of depression, so why do you keep saying that I’m depressed?”

“I’m trying to help you and you insult me. Some things never change.”

“I didn’t mean to insult you. Don’t try to diagnose me because you can’t.”

“Only your grandmother can, I guess. Eleanor is still the soul whisperer.”

David’s defenses went up. “Don’t start. Gran understands things most people don’t.”

“Oh yes, she tells you the root of your problem lies in the spiritual realm, and thus you don’t need to see any more professionals or take medication that might ease these screaming nightmares you have almost every night. Not to mention these episodes when you seem to become another person. And, of course, your mother goes along with it. Call me a fool, but I fail to see how this has treated your problems, but I’ve known for a long time now that you’re their son before you’re mine—I only sired you. I know you always wished your grandfather was your father and it hurt, but I don’t blame you. Derek had a much more agreeable personality than mine.”

The mention of his grandfather made him even more moody. “I’d rather not talk about Gramps. I’m still struggling with his death.”

His father became emotional. “Did you ever stop to think that I might miss him too?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive—I know you two were close.”

Gerald nodded. “Derek and I argued about some things, particularly your problems, but he was my friend, and there was no one else like him. Look, the hippies were right about a lot of things, and I’m sure I’d have been one myself if I’d been born fifteen years earlier. I draw the line though when it comes to treating problems like yours with herbs and yoga.”

“Dad, doctors write prescriptions, and the more the better, since they get kickbacks! I know you remember the side effects of some of that shit they gave me. If I actually had a mental disorder, it would make sense, but I don’t. And I don’t need uppers either because I’m not depressed. I have my own method for relaxing.”

“Yeah, I know what that is,” Gerald guffawed. “Whenever you’ve been out with Julian you come home with these bloodshot eyes, and you’re actually in a good mood. Look, I’m not going to be a hypocrite—I was the biggest party boy around, but even weed doesn’t replace medication. You can’t stay high all the time.”

“I wish that taking pills could make these nightmares go away, but numbing problems doesn’t make them disappear.”

“Many people outgrow these things and don’t need the meds anymore. When I urged you to take them, it was with the idea of one day phasing them out.”

David sensed his problems were not the kind that would disappear with age, only confrontation. “Look, Dad, I know you’re coming from a logical place, and I do respect your way of thinking. It’s just not right for me.”

“I only want what’s best for you,” Gerald sighed, seeming to be at a momentary loss for words. “I hope you realize that. Whenever I hear those agonized moans coming from your room, it breaks my heart. I know you tolerate me more than you love me, but I love you. You’re my first born son.”

“Come on, Dad! Don’t say that I tolerate you—that really hurts. Of course I love you. But you’re too heavy-handed.”

“Dave, look at nature around you. Evolution and progress don’t always come gently and sweetly. As Darwin said, those who survived were the ones able to adapt to any situation.”

“I can’t argue with Darwin, but we’re also spiritual creatures, and I’m not sure the same rules apply there. I need a lot of space and quiet—that’s the way I’m made. Speaking of which, I’m on overload and need to go chill in my room now.”

“Dave,” Gerald called, just as he was about to walk out the kitchen door.

“Yes?” he replied, turning around.

“You’re not going to tell me in a few days that you want to stay in Toronto and live with your grandmother, are you?”

“The idea did cross my mind,” David admitted. “Losing Julian and the band for an extended period is a killer. Mom and Tom would be devastated though, and I can’t do that to them. And yes, Dad, I’d miss you too. You can count me in.”

When he got upstairs to his room, he climbed to the top of the oak bunk bed which had been his sleeping chamber for the past seven years, and Grace jumped up beside him. As he sat there stroking his cat, he focused on the blue Tibetan sand mandala on the wall that his grandmother made to help center him when the void threatened to suck him in. The void, another layer of his problems that he’d been dealing with since puberty, followed an existential sense of loss and separation that sometimes overcame him, putting his head in a dangerous place. Aside from his grandfather’s death, the events of his teenage life had been rather trauma-free, save the period when his parents were going to divorce, which he’d handled much better than Tom. There was nothing to account for these feelings of irreparable loss, yet the sorrow was all too familiar. This was what his father insisted on calling depression. It wasn’t depression. There was nothing in his life other than the death of his grandfather that caused him to be depressed, not even this news he just received. He was glad that his dad got the promotion he’d wanted, and that his mom would have a new environment for her art, even if the impending move hadn’t sunk in yet.

A few minutes later, there was a soft knock that he recognized as his mother’s. “May I come in?” she asked, opening the door a crack.

“Have I ever turned you down?”

“No,” she replied, “and I’m honored.”

“Then I guess I’m failing to live up to my reputation as difficult.”

“You were never difficult to me,” she smiled, becoming emotional. “We’re cut from the same cloth, David. The hard part about it is that I can’t help you as much as I want to sometimes since we’re so much alike. I swear from the moment I first held you in my arms, you were so familiar.”

“You’re the only mother for me and I love you, but I am a little upset you didn’t clue Tom and me in that all of this was going on.”

She walked toward the bunk bed and he knew she wanted to sit next to him on the bottom bunk like they often did. He used the bottom bunk for his relaxation space, hanging out with friends and family, and playing music. When he started to climb down, she put her hand out for him to stop. “I’ll climb up to you today,” she said, ascending the ladder. “I never come up here, and I could use the different perspective.”

Sitting cross-legged beside him, Theresa took a deep breath before beginning. “I’ve been vacillating for weeks about whether I was going to make this move—I’d considered staying here in Toronto. As you’re aware, I was involved with someone else last year, and that caused Gerald and I to almost call it quits. I haven’t seen Rafael for months now, but the finality of moving overseas hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew I’d no longer have the comfort of telling myself that even though I wasn’t going to see Rafael, I could if I wanted to. Rafael still texts me all the time—he doesn’t want to accept that it’s over. Eventually he’ll move on—everyone does. There is someone I long for, and although I care for Rafael, I know it’s not him. I promised Gerald I’d give this marriage another try, and that’s what I’m doing. It’s hard to sustain a relationship for this long. Even though Gerald and I are together in the physical sense, we’ve grown apart emotionally.”

David knew that even though his parents loved each other, their relationship was often not harmonious. He thought about his grandparents, as well as Jericho and Orenda, who had the kind of marriages he hoped to one day have. Neither union was marred by infidelity. “Gran and Gramps were as much in love when Gramps drew his last breath as they were on their wedding day.”

“I tried for years to have the kind of marriage that my parents and godparents did, and I’m still trying. Sex and love can sometimes seem like two different things.”

Although his mother admitted that she was the one who strayed first, it was still hard for him to grasp, as his dad was the one obsessed with sex, and who claimed that monogamy was against human nature. Retaliation for his mother’s one affair led to a succession of lovers for his father, one of whom was a student of his. When his father ended the relationship last fall, the girl’s obsession led to stalker-like behavior, and she’d park her car across the street from their house, waiting for hours until he’d come outside. Gerald had to handle the situation with extreme care, since the girl threatened to tell the University. David had never been more dismayed by his father’s behavior—he should have known better than to get involved with a smitten student less than half his age. “I understand your hesitation Mom. Dad’s conduct this past year would make anyone think twice before pulling everything up and moving overseas. I remember him disappearing right after New Year’s for an entire weekend without a word.”

“I called a lawyer the following Monday to start divorce proceedings. When he realized I meant business, he begged for another chance, and he’s been on his best behavior for months now. Since he’s been making a real effort to save this marriage, I thought I owed him that chance. I never thought I’d stay with anybody this long, but we’re a family and it’s hard to walk away from that. I finally made up my mind over the past few days. I didn’t want to say anything to you or Thomas until I was sure. We’ve put you through enough already.”

“I kind of guessed you were of two minds. I have to hand it to you for sticking it out—Dad’s a tough customer. ”Changing the subject, he said, “So has Tom calmed down?”

“He’s somewhat better. As we all know, Gerald uses too much force to accomplish his goal. He thinks everyone’s made like him.”

“Or at least that they should aspire to be like him. When he doesn’t want to hear something he makes sure he doesn’t hear it. You know Dad, ‘Mr. Never Bring Me Any Bad News’. I know how to handle him, but Tom is still trying to find his voice.”

“Poor Thomas is having a hellacious puberty. I’m sorry about the timing, but I know he’ll adjust. It’s amazing how resilient human beings are. I have a feeling that this move will end up being good for him.”

“Maybe it will be,” David replied, “but it’s never easy not having a choice. I’m giving myself a choice. I choose to go with a good attitude and see where it takes me.”

“You’ve always been so mature for your age. In my heart, I know you’ll be okay. Madison will take the news pretty hard, I guess.”

“I’ve always been honest with her. She’s been my friend since I was six, but she’ll never be like, the one.” Madison was considered the hottest girl in school and she was crazy about him, but he still thought of her primarily as a friend. She was much cooler as a little kid when she wasn’t so aware of her looks and hadn’t ditched her individuality to follow whatever was chic and trendy. He did have an intense loyalty to Madison as she was his only friend before he met Julian when all the other kids were treating him like a pariah. There was another reason for his loyalty that involved Lamagir, but for some reason the episode had become hazy, which confused him as he was known for his outstanding memory. David wasn’t sure if Madison remembered the incident or not, but he noticed that whenever he’d mentioned the twin Master Head to her in the past, her expression was one of uneasiness and fear. All she ever said about the subject was that she also had a few nightmares about an ancient enemy that despised her.

“I like Madison,” Theresa began, “she’s always been very warm with me, but I sense that she isn’t deep enough for you.”

“Madison is gorgeous, and smart in a feral way, but there’s a cunning quality to her that puts me off. We want different things out of life. I think she’s only fixated on me because I’m the one she can’t get in that way. Almost every guy salivates over her except the one she calls her boyfriend. It drives her insane when I say we’re just friends.”

“She’s had a thing for you for years now. Lots of girls do, you know.”

David shrugged. “I don’t know what to say. I guess they like an image—I actually think I’m pretty boring. I don’t even try to be all hot and cool.”

Theresa laughed. “Don’t you know that the guys who don’t try are the ones who turn thinking girls on the most? I never could stand a guy that gave off that ‘check me out—I’m hot’ vibe. You’re such a looker, David. You have those electric ice blue eyes, that killer smile, and a perfect body.”

David tried not to roll his eyes. Over the past few years, he’d grown allergic to hearing about his smile, and didn’t use it that often. Girls loved it, but he had nothing to offer them other than friendship. He wasn’t gay, he liked girls, but he was emotionally unavailable to them. “What does it all mean anyway?” he laughed. “That I’m the lucky winner of the random genetic lottery? Attractiveness is arbitrary.”

“But yours isn’t just on the outside. You’re super sensitive—another girl magnet. You haven’t bothered much about your appearance lately though. You’ve gone from Goth to neo-grunge. That’s quite a stretch.”

David put his finger up to signal her to pause. “Correction, Mom. I don’t call it neo-grunge. I call it not giving a shit. I never gave a hang about labels and trends.”

He made her smile. “Grunge, or not giving a shit, was the 90s, you know. I went through my grunge phase, but back in the day that was the thing.”

You were grunge? Now that’s something I have a hard time picturing.”

“Excuse me, but I did have a life before I became ‘Mom’. In 1991, my friends and I bought front row bootleg tickets to see Nirvana in concert at The Opera House. I spent every penny of my paycheck, but had the time of my life.”

David looked at the picture of Kurt Cobain on his wall, between John Lennon and Bob Marley—an area Tom dubbed the Dead Heroes Gallery. “God, you’re so lucky. I wish I could’ve seen them live. It must have been phenomenal.”

“It was,” she said with a wistful smile. “I met Gerald when the concert was over, you know.”

“I didn’t know Dad was a Nirvana fan.”

“He liked them, but they weren’t one of his favorites. You know him—he’s much more of a Metallica, Radiohead, and Guns N’ Roses kind of guy. He never passed on seeing cool bands when they were in town though.”

“I’m sure he didn’t. That’s where all the hot chicks were.”

Her expression became nostalgic. “We brushed against each other leaving the concert, and I noticed that his eyes never left me. I remember he followed me out to my car singing ‘About a Girl’. He asked me out, and although I thought he was kind of cute, he wasn’t my type, so I turned him down. I thought I lost him, but a few minutes later, I saw that his car was right behind mine. I remember his quirky persistence charmed my girlfriends. When we stopped at a convenience store, he followed us inside. He just wouldn’t relent. He bought me not one, but two dozen roses and then started reciting Shakespearean sonnets. I flashed on something—I don’t remember what—and he finally broke me down. I agreed to go out with him. A few nights later he took me out to dinner and picked up the check. It was a five-star restaurant.”

“Five stars, huh?” David teased. “Now I know why you married him.”

She shook her head. “Nah, I married him because he was incredibly good in—“

“No!” he laughed and covered her mouth with his hand. “That’s way more information than I need.” She removed his hand from her mouth and giggled. He could see her looking at the pictures on his wall and wishing they had a frame. It drove her nuts that he tore pictures out of magazines and taped them to the wall.

“Can I order some frames for you when we get to the new house?”

“Why did I know that was coming? No, Mom, I’ll be the same dude in another room in another country. Only the keepers get framed.”

Theresa’s eyes went to the few “keepers” he had in his room. On those small shelves were pictures of their family vacation to the Maritime Provinces two years ago, his grandmother as a golden starry-eyed flower child at Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love, he and his grandparents the summer he lived with them when he was five, he and Tom with Jericho and Orenda at Six Nations, one of his drawings of the symbol with the knots and two trinities, his favorite of his Celtic Tree of Life drawings, Oblivion, and the sketch he drew of the faceless girl. He knew it was she who told him there was always hope in the darkest moment of his hell this morning. The angel from his nightmare who could illuminate his darkness... “When will that girl have a face instead of just a ray of light, David?”

“I wish I could see her face. Sometimes I glimpse it in my dreams, but it’s always gone by the time I wake up. But she’s a keeper alright. She’s literally the girl of my dreams.”

His mother’s eyes now had a distant look he’d seen before when they talked about this subject. She looked at him and knew he was reading her so she lightened the mood. “Bear is framed in a box,” she laughed, referring to the huge plush Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House that she gave him for his third birthday. “I’m glad you still have a piece of your childhood on display.”

“Yeah, that dude was the best. He never lost his temper with all the annoying stuff he had to put up with, and just kept right on doing the cha-cha. I loved the way he talked to the moon every night. Yeah, he’s a keeper.”

“I love your blue moon,” she said, referring to the cobalt glass blue moon that hung in the keeper’s corner. It was the only thing he’d ever bought himself in the way of decorations.

He gave her a playful smile. “And just like Bear, I talk to it every night.”

“Does it answer you back?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, it tells me not to lose patience with my mom when she tries to frame my Wild Beasts and Bon Iver posters, dress me in preppy clothes, or chase me around with shampoo and a comb.”

She laughed that beautiful girlish laugh he adored. “I know I can overdo it sometimes, but I can’t help it. The picture of St. Petersburg, Russia belongs in a frame. That city is to die for beautiful. I also feel an affinity for Russia. I’ve always wanted to go there.”

David shook his head. “It doesn’t belong in a frame since I don’t know whether it’s a keeper or not. I’m just trying to figure out why it intrigues me so much.”

She looked at his quantum physics wall. “It pleases Gerald that you’re so interested in science. He’s hoping you’re going to follow in his footsteps and go into that field.”

“Yeah, but I’m into quantum physics to try to bridge this world with other dimensions, and Dad doesn’t believe in any of that, except to acknowledge that energy can never be destroyed.”

“Gerald’s just a ‘show me’ kind of person. If he can’t see it, he can’t believe in it. When your Uncle Kevin became fanatical, it further intensified his hostility to organized religion. He even denies the concept of an afterlife, since religion uses Heaven as a bargaining tool. I always remind him not to throw the baby out with the bath water.”

David knew this was an area where his parents sometimes clashed. His mother was a born again Christian, but not in that fervent kind of way. Like him, she was spiritual, but feared religious fervency, viewing it as a malady. “Maybe we have to believe in it in order to see it. I think the belief creates the reality, and not the other way around. It’s our creative powers that make it real, not a reward for blind faith.”

“Exactly!” she replied. “When I was younger, I couldn’t understand the concept of faith and prayer. People would tell me that you had to have faith. I didn’t know what that meant and it annoyed me. Now I understand.”

“Some people don’t realize the full power of thought. Our thoughts create our reality. Once you know the true nature of God, it seems to me you should be empathetic and compassionate.”

Theresa sighed. “That’s why I don’t understand a lot of what’s going on in the world today.”

“I don’t even think it’s about religion. It’s about power, and those that have it just use religion to bait these lost souls into doing their dirty work. They brainwash them with their shit, and then use them as pawns. I believe in Jesus and what we call God, but I don’t subscribe to any religion. I do what Thomas Jefferson did. I take what I want from the holy books, and discard what insults my intelligence. There are infinite paths to God.”

“I always qualify my Christianity as meaning a believer in Christ. It is He who defines my Christian identity, not the Bible or the church. I ask His guidance on all my decisions, and that included this move. That’s how I found clarity on the matter in the past few days. I only wanted this if it was the best thing for all of us.”

“I know you always put others first, Mom, and I can see clarity in your eyes.”

Her eyes drifted out the window and her expression became peaceful. “This world can be Hell. All we can do each day is to turn whatever darkness we can into light. I wish I could use my art in a more meaningful way. I have so many ideas that I just don’t know how to express in my paintings.”

It was David’s belief that his mother was a gifted artist, but held back from baring her soul. Thus, she had yet to realize her full creative potential. There was something she feared, as if loosening her control could lead to mayhem. His grandmother had told him that she believed her daughter’s soul was once traumatized, and that something happened from which she still hadn’t completely recovered. She was both attracted and repulsed by magic and the occult. David noticed that even her own mother’s Wiccan rituals sometimes put her off. She’d put her toes in the water, then pull them right back out again. But as they sat here together this morning, he sensed that was going to change. “You’ll find the way to convey those ideas in paintings, Mom—I can feel it.” It pleased him to have this feeling, since for so many years he thought his mother’s art never rose above the level of pretty pictures. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate the beauty in her depictions of robins or lilacs, but he believed that her gift was meant for something even greater.

“I love you too much, David,” she said, hugging him. “I’m certain you’ll make your contribution to the world, and it will be enormous. You can write your own ticket into whatever college you please. You have the best grades in the district and one of the highest in the entire province. You’d definitely be an Ontario Scholar if we stayed.”

“Yeah, but I’d still be damaged goods,” he said, laughing at what had once hurt him so much. “History has no shortage of brilliant nut jobs.”

She gave him a playful punch on the shoulder. “Stop talking like that! You’re one of the sanest people I know.”

“Yeah, right,” he guffawed, “in my battered, shattered, and broken to smithereens sort of way. Look, I know it wasn’t you, Mom. If I didn’t joke about it, I’d go insane.”

“You’ll prove to Gerald that the course we chose was correct. He’s stubborn alright, but what concerns him the most is that the nightmares are still going on, and you go into that... well, you know... scary zone sometimes. I keep telling him it’s a process. I trust your instincts.”

He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “I’m waiting for the day Dad can tell me the same thing. It would be nice to hear him compliment me on something other than my grades. Oh yeah, he loves the band too.”

“You and Julian are getting serious about your music, aren’t you? Lately I’m really beginning to see it happening.”

“We’re definitely going to do the band for a few years. On my end, it’ll either be physics or music.”

“There are great colleges with excellent physics departments in England, if that’s what you choose.”

“Julian and I have talked about this, and we both have decided to postpone college a few years for the band.”

“I think music is your path—you and Julian are some team. I’ll support whatever decision you make, but Gerald won’t like hearing about college being postponed—I don’t think I have to tell you that.”

“I have to follow my instincts, Mom. The response to our music lately has been beyond my wildest expectations.”

Her head dropped onto his shoulder, and they sat in silence for a few minutes until they heard the unmistakable sound of his grandmother’s vintage Karmann Ghia in the driveway. Just before his mom started to climb down, the corners of her mouth turned upwards, and he knew she was going to say something she thought would please him. “When we were looking at the photos of the new house earlier, did you notice that bedroom with the stone walls? The moment I saw that room, I thought it had your name written all over it.”

“You mean the one with the arched wooden door like a castle? I loved that medieval feel. I was hoping it’d be mine.”

The words had no more than left his mouth when David had a strange vision of an uncannily familiar man. He was wearing old-fashioned clothing and standing in the middle of that very room, looking at David. “There’s something I want to show you, Daniel—something you ought to see,” the man told him with the kind of pain tantamount to malice. A moment later, the man was dangling from a rope on a tree. Although dead, the man’s eyes penetrated his. “I loved you, My Boy. How could you betray me in my hour of greatest need?”

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Paulette Martin: I've read the Stone Knights at Amazon and love the series. Been wanting something on Tripp. There are some editing issues so far, but thanks for a story on Tripp.

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Marielle Acevedo: I love this book and it would mean the WORLD to me if the author would update sooner. I know that she is busy and I sont want to sound rude or anything it's just that I really love this book and I really want to see what happens next

Just Mars 🥀: This book is great

samanthanaicker7: Interesting trail of events...kept me glued to da pages....😍

kisabel2211: I loved it! But I strongly recommend that you be careful changing to one pov to another’s and to first person to third person.... it’s confusing at times and it change a little the feeling of the book. But overall it pretty good and I loved it!

Rosalyn Morello: Please update. I really love your story. You should keep writing. Your story is wonderful. So please continue this lovely story. Some people are getting mad and using profane language in the comments sections because you haven't updated for a while.

Anahata Kshatriya: I really apologise to the author of this book... for not writing a review before. I had read this book a long time before...and then when the author published it's sequel I couldn't stop myself from getting carried away. Both the books are really great. It’s a BIG YES from my side to read this bo...

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