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Vista di Sogno
Author's note: The song 'Angels On The Moon' by Thriving Ivory was huge inspiration for this piece. At the time it was my favorite song.
It had been long since the Chosen One had last been Taken. One thousand years, to be exact.
But that meant nothing. The word "year" was a meaningless concept, as were "long" and "one thousand." He enjoyed the way they sounded. It was odd to hear them, after, apparently, one thousand years. He couldn't remember the last time he had used his mouth instead of his mind to speak. He also couldn't remember being the last Chosen One. Had he looked so young? So… substantial? What a strange thing to say. Nothing was substantial here. It was yet another odd thing.
The First Chosen One beckoned him closer, and he looked and tried to remember.
"We're home!" Nicole yelled, rushing through the door with Maria hot on her heels.
"We've got news!" Maria yelled, leaping over the threshold, her eyes sparkling. "Guess what guess what guess what?"
Their mother was coming down the stairs. Nicole saw that she looked preoccupied. "Oh, dear. Did you just get off the bus?" Her voice was tired. Nicole could see that this wasn't the best time to tell her the news. She hoped that her mom wasn't going to see Thomas. It would probably ruin Maria's good day.
Maria jumped in front of her mother. "Guess what?"
"I made it into All-County band!"
"Did you try out for it?" their mother asked in a nervous sounding voice.
"Of course I tried out for it! I told you about the auditions, like, ten years ago. Don't tell me you've forgotten!" Maria sounded angry. Nothing irritated her more than forgetfulness.
"Oh, dear, I guess I have. Well, that's nice. Where is my coat?" Their mom bustled off.
Maria's happy look was erased. For an instant her face took on a blank look, then anguish filled it.
"I knew you shouldn't have told her first," Nicole muttered to her sister. Maria was so sensitive sometimes. "Go find Pen. She'll be glad, at least."
"Oh, great idea!" Maria exclaimed, and raced upstairs.
Nicole turned, and came face-to-face with her mother, who was heading towards the door. "Nikki, do you know where David is? I don't think I heard him come home- oh, there you are, David! What a silly boy!"
Nicole frowned. Why was her mom staring at the sofa? She wandered over to look.
David lay curled up on the sofa, fast asleep. Nicole's mom strode over and placed her hands on each of David's shoulders. "Wake up, dearie," she said, shaking him.
David's eyes flew open. They were the color of warm dark chocolate. "Wha- what is it, Mom?" he asked, blinking lazily.
"I need you to do a favor for me, David. Can you please look after Nicole and Maria for a while? I'm going-"
"Can't Pen do that?" David asked hurriedly. "She's older than me, and knows more about girl stuff." There was an anxious look to his eyes. Nicole knew he hated being in charge of anything, including his sisters. She wanted to tell him that it probably wasn't that bad, but her mom started speaking before she could get a word in.
"Pen is packing up for college. She's too busy to mind your sisters. You must get used to not having her around. Now goodbye. I'm off to see Thomas-"
Maria was coming down the stairs at that moment, and caught the last words of her mother's sentence. "You are going to see Thomas?" she screeched. "Mom! Get over it! He's not a part of our life anymore, stop "checking up" on him!"
Their mother looked frazzled. "Darling-"
"Don't call me darling! This is- is- unbelievable!" Maria turned and stomped upstairs.
Nicole looked up at her mom, expecting to see some form of unhappiness on her face, but all that was there was a blank look. She silently turned around, opened the door, and stepped out, closing it gently behind her.
Nicole sat down on the couch, and David scooted to make room. He caught her eye.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Maria always makes a big fuss over things," Nicole grumbled. "It's just Thomas, sheesh! He's still a part of our family, even if Mom can't take care of him. He's a part of her."
"But he was adopted, you know," David said softly. "Thomas is someone else's son now. I'm not sure if he ever really was ours in the first place."
Nicole shot him a sharp glance. "Why did you fall asleep when you came home?"
"I- I don't know," David said, sounding confused. "I guess I was just… sleepy."
"Yeah, sleepy," Nicole said, smiling and leaning against her favorite sibling, who smiled back at her and stroked her hair. "You're great."
David stared into space. "I know."
David Steeley watched as his sister Nicole ran up the stairs. When he couldn't see her anymore, he sat back against the couch and ran a hand through his tousled brown hair. It always seemed to be unwashed and uncombed, and it stuck up in the back.
What happened? He wondered. It wasn't like he had had a long day at school or like he had woken up early in the morning. David never fell asleep during the day or afternoon; he found it embarrassing. But this had felt… inevitable. Once he had gotten home from school, he had felt a distinct pull towards the old sofa. It had been very odd. David had never experienced anything like it before. Thinking it must mean something, he had sat down on the couch.
The next thing he remembered was his mother shaking him awake and telling him to mind the girls… Why had he fallen asleep? He didn't even remember getting into a sleeping position, and yet when he had woken up he had been curled up on his side, his head tucked under his arms. It had felt so comfortable, but if he had just fallen asleep as soon as he sat down, then how could have curled up the way he always did without any conscious thought of the action?
David shook his head slightly, let it slump back, and slowly closed his eyes. You're over-thinking this, Dave, his mind murmured, talking to him the way it sometimes did. You just need more sleep at night, that's all. It was nice to believe that his mind actually was talking to him, but he knew it couldn't be true. Still, the words did feel quite mysterious sometimes… And that's another thing. You love anything to do with ellipses. Dave, you're going crazy. David sighed. So true. What normal person loved the word "ellipsis?" Who in their right mind inserted an ellipsis in between every five sentences during creative writing assignments?
It's just my mind, he defended himself. My thoughts come slowly.
David let out another, longer sigh and opened his eyes. Recently his family had been in a kind of turmoil. Pen was going to college… He would miss Pen. She was two years older than him and a good friend. Sometimes she seemed to understand exactly what was on his mind. Well, only Nicole truly got it. But back to Pen… Pen cocked her head to one side when someone was talking to her, like what dogs supposedly do. She also had pretty brownish blond hair, the same of David's mother. Both were alike in so many ways.
The second youngest child in the family was Maria. She had long brown curls that fell over her face when she was upset, and a high-pitched voice that screeched when she was angry. David wasn't very fond of Maria, but when she threw a tantrum he tried to remember how Pen had acted at age twelve. Exactly like that… Maria played the clarinet. She was pretty good. David was glad to hear that she had made it into All-County. He would have taken band as an elective in middle school, but the band didn't offer the instrument of his choice. So he had taken private lessons on acoustic guitar.
The last kid in the Steeley family was Nicole. She was the youngest and David's favorite. He loved her because she was cute, and only ten years old. She acted much older than ten, though. Sometimes she would use some weird word like "hexadactylism" or "sesquipedalian," and he would wonder where she got such an extensive vocabulary.
Yes, Nicole was a very strange girl. But David knew that he was her favorite sibling, and he felt the same way for her. Without her, the family wouldn't be same. Sometimes it seemed as if she was the one who ran the household, instead of their parents. Especially not Dad… Don't think about him. Who cares if he's never around anymore? You don't. Mom was never around either, at least in the afternoon. She either went shopping then or visited Thomas. Thomas… He wasn't part of the family. No one talked about him or Bailey anymore. David didn't waste time thinking about either of them. It would probably be better if Mom stopped seeing Thomas. That way the family might be able to function more normally.
David sighed one last time and gradually got up off the couch. He had homework to do.
Funny, why did it feel as if the couch was pulling him back? Like it didn't want him to leave? It's an inanimate object, Dave, he reminded himself. David pursed his lips, grabbed his backpack off the floor, and headed for the stairs.
Nicole shoved her homework onto the floor. "Done!"
"How can you be done already? You're two years younger than me, and I'm still on the third problem!" Maria lay stretched across her bed, head bent over a math book, and an angry expression on her face. "I have no idea how to do this thing!"
"That's what you get for being in an advanced class." Nicole hopped off her bed. "I still think you cheated. What's the homework?"
"Not like you could do it," Maria muttered, but she handed the math book over to Nicole without another word. "Find the circumference of a circle."
Nicole turned the page back to the one before it. "Look, it says right here that to find the circumference, you've got to multiply pi times the diameter, or pi times the radius times two. If you don't remember how to do the problem, turn the page back and it'll say right there. I thought you knew that."
"Oh… Thanks, Nicole. I guess I forgot."
"Great. I'm going to see Pen." Nicole skipped out of her room. She heard Maria call after her, "She won't give you anything, you know!"
Nicole didn't know. She was sure Pen would have to leave something behind when she went to school. How much could you fit into one dorm room?
Pen's door had a sign on the front. PENNY STEELEY'S ROOM. KNOCK BEFORE ENTERING. Below was a smiley face and on the sides were little pink and blue swirls. Pen was big on art.
"Knock," said Nicole, opening and entering.
Pen lay on her back, headphones on and listening to her Lime Wire CD. She held up a hand when Nicole came in, signaling silence. Nicole waited until Pen let out a long, slow breath and said, "Hey, Nicole." That was one thing Nicole loved about her sister- she never raised her voice while listening to music.
"Which song was that?" Nicole asked, sitting down at the end of Pen's bed and being careful of her feet.
"I'm Yours. Jason Mraz. Here, the next song is something you'd like." Pen took her headphones off and held them out, offering them to Nicole. Nicole was surprised. Pen usually didn't let anyone listen to her CDs, especially the ones she'd burned from Lime Wire. She took the offered headphones and put them on tentatively. Instantly a raspy tenor voice filled her ears.
Do you dream?
That the world will know your name, so tell me your name.
Nicole's eyes found Pen's, asking the question on her mind. Pen shook her head in answer, telling Nicole to wait for the chorus.
Don't tell me if I'm dying
Cause I don't wanna know
If I can't see the sun, maybe I should go.
Don't wake me 'cause I'm dreaming
Of angels on the Moon
Where everyone you know
Never leaves too soon.
Pen watched Nicole attentively. Her eyes were full of frozen surprise mixed with wonder at the beauty of this song. Something about this expression made Pen think of David. He had the same color eyes as Nicole, though hers were a bit lighter. Pen half-smiled at her thoughts, and then something happened.
Nicole's eyes… changed. They hardened with shock and… anger? The David-ness was gone from her expression, to be replaced by somebody else. Pen felt something shift within her, a feeling of love and loss together. It was as if someone she loved had been cut out of her life, and it strangely felt like the song Nicole was listening to was to blame for it.
Nicole hit the pause button and answered her own question.
"Angels On the Moon?"
"Correct." Pen's voice was almost relieved.
"Oh." Nicole didn't know what to say next. "Why did you let me hear that?"
"Um, I just thought you'd like it," Pen said quickly. Her eyes were soft, but a bit nervous looking. "You should have seen the look on your face… Never mind. Why'd you come in here? Were you hoping I'd give you a going away present? Something I don't need?"
"You got that!" Nicole smiled, pushing away her previous feelings. "Got anything that you really don't need, that you don't want, that I'd like?"
Pen rolled her eyes. "Well, Speckles is now officially yours," she announced.
Nicole glanced over at the table that held Speckles, Pen's black and white speckled hamster. She smiled again. "I'll let Maria share, though," she answered. "Do you have anything to give me that I can actually keep for myself?"
Pen looked down at her CD player. "Well…"
Nicole's eyes brightened. "Well what?"
Pen's voice was whispery. "Take that CD."
Nicole instantly grabbed the CD player and popped the lid open. She took the CD out and poked her finger through the hole in the middle. "Thanks. Why?"
Pen fell silent. She looked down and stayed that way for a long time. Finally she looked up.
"Nicole, I know this might sound crazy to you, but I got this really bad feeling while you were listening to that song. It was like- I don't know. It was like that song had… killed David or something. I know, absurd, right? But it was really convincing. And…" Pen broke off. "And- Nicole, you have to believe me on this one- it felt spooky. It felt menacing. I'm afraid that if I leave, something will happen to David, something bad. I don't know what happened just then, because it wasn't exactly a premonition, but more like-"
"Intuition." Nicole said. "I get feelings like that sometimes. Why David, do you think?"
"I don't know!" Pen almost wailed. "I've got no idea. But"
There was a sound of the door downstairs opening and closing. "I'm home, kids!" their mom called. "Can you help me with something?"
Nicole shot a look at Pen, then got to her feet and bounded down the stairs. "Hi, Mom!"
"Hello, Nikki." Her mom was carrying lots of grocery bags. "Help me with these, would you?" She closed the door with her foot.
"Sure, Mom." Nicole picked up one of the bags and took it over to the kitchen area.
Pen was coming down the stairs. "Not more food, Mom?" she commented. "I don't get why you keep buying more. We have tons of stuff to eat now, surely we don't need it all?"
"Tons of food?" Their mom glanced towards the kitchen area. "How much did I get?"
"Three bagfuls, Mom," Nicole commented. "We do have a lot."
"Then I guess we have it all now," grumbled their mom. "What do you want to eat?"
Nicole looked at Pen. Then they both yelled together, "Spaghetti!"
"Well, if we have spaghetti stuff, I'll…." Their mom trailed off as she went over to the kitchen area. "Where are David and Maria?"
"Maria's upstairs doing homework. David's upstairs reading," answered Nicole. "We do have spaghetti stuff. Hooray!"
Pen sat at the table with Nicole as their mother prepared dinner. She asked, "So how were the Oleanders today? How was Thomas?"
Mrs. Steeley paused for a millisecond. "Well, Jill seemed to be expecting my visit. She was very kind- offered me the opportunity to stay for dinner. I declined, of course. It's been a long time since we've had a traditional dinner here at home."
At this point Mrs. Steeley's eyes grew bright. "Thomas is fine. I can't believe how big he's gotten! I guess I didn't realize how quickly children seem to grow when you haven't seen them for a long while. His blue eyes are starting to fade already. I think they'll turn out to be brown, just like his father."
And like David, thought Nicole.
While her mother babbled on about Thomas, Nicole zoned out and daydreamed. When she wasn't really paying attention to what was going on around her, she could hear the thoughts of the people in the room she was in. Nicole had never thought of this as odd, she had just accepted this gift as something special about her.
Her mother's thoughts were mostly the same as what was coming out of her mouth. Nicole preferred not to listen to them if they were about Thomas. Thoughts about the Oleanders, however, always intrigued her.
Lisa was playing with Thomas when I got there. As soon as I walked in the room, though, she got up off the floor and stalked out. I don't know if I imagined this or not (probably did), but I'm sure I saw her glare at me. I don't know how she could dislike me, it's not like I'm over there all the time…
Lisa Oleander was in Nicole's class at school. Nicole knew she hated anything to do with the Steeley's, and purposefully avoided anyone in that family. Pen's thoughts suddenly flooded her mind.
The Oleanders hate us! Sure, Jill's nice, but… Why can't Mom see that? She should stop going over there to check on Thomas. Normal people wouldn't do that…
Nicole prepared to exit her sister's mind. It was always hard to that if-
Circumference equals 2piR. I need to remember this, can't fail math class…
Yum, spaghetti. I wonder if Mom made the sauce by herself like she used to? Naw, she wouldn't have enough time. Still, it'd be great if… what is wrong with my bed? Just can't seem to get comfy…
Nicole leaned back hard against her chair, which jolted her out of Maria and David's minds. She was shocked for about two seconds, then recovered in time to hear her mom yell, "Dinner!" Blood pounded in her ears. She was amazed that now she could hear the thoughts of people who weren't in the room, but couldn't help wondering why this change had come about. Was it something that she had brought upon herself?
Feet pounded on the stairs- Maria leapt to the ground floor, skipping the last three steps. David followed after her more slowly. Maria skidded to a stop in front of the kitchen table and asked, "How much spaghetti is there?"
"I don't think there's enough for seconds. Sorry, honey…" But Maria seemed unfazed. She grabbed a plate off the counter and started heaping spaghetti on it.
While Nicole stood in line with her plate, David looked down at her, smiling. Nicole was suddenly filled with fear. Harm was going to come to David if Pen left. She remembered him lying on the sofa, asleep. That had been uncharacteristic of him. Also, it didn't seem to have been a very restful sleep, because there were very light, faint circles under his eyes. Any normal person wouldn't have noticed, but Nicole wasn't a normal person.
At that moment, she knew what to do- stop Pen. Pen must not go away. If she did, David may get hurt. Nicole knew instinctively that this was true.
She only hoped that it wasn't fate for this to happen, because you can't change fate- or can you?
David sat on the old black sofa, tuning his guitar. He plucked a string and grimaced. Much too flat. He fingered one of the knobs on the side and then twisted it backward, tightening the string.
It was two days since Pen had left, and ever since then Nicole had been acting really different. David recalled her asking him for his CD player, even though she didn't own any CDs. Nicole had also started giving him odd glances, which suggested that she knew something that he didn't. But why would she hide anything from him?
Not he hadn't been acting different after Pen left, but… Maybe Nicole was just wondering why she had come downstairs the past mornings and found David lying there, asleep. She always questioned him, but his response was that he honestly had no idea. David's bed just didn't seem very comfortable to him these days…
Here she came now, down the stairs. David pretended not to look at her. He plucked another guitar string and watched what Nicole was doing out of the corner of his eye. So far she was acting normal: walking to the kitchen area and opening the fridge. David twisted a knob on the guitar randomly, noticing that Nicole now had a Sprite can in her hand. She turned and came towards him, whistling something David didn't recognize. In his mind he translated the notes into their musical, letter names.
AFEFEFEFAFE. Nicole whistled it again and came to sit down on the woven rug.
David strummed his guitar softly, and then played Nicole's mystery notes. AFEFEFEFAFE. "What song is that from?" he asked.
"It's called Crush," Nicole responded. "I like it."
"Where'd you hear it?"
"A CD Pen gave me. The guy who sings it has the same name as you." Nicole snapped back the pop-top on her Sprite can and took a sip.
"What, David Steeley?"
"No!" groaned Nicole. "I only meant the first name. His last name is stranger than that."
"Well, what is it?"
David didn't see the point in guessing something that Nicole knew. "Oleander," he muttered, only half sarcastic. It was the strangest last name he'd ever heard.
A grin slowly spread across Nicole's face.
"WHAT? I actually got it right?"
Nicole's grin turned a little wicked. "No, silly Dave. I was just kidding. His last name is Archuleta."
"David Archuleta. That's not too strange. Do you know anything else about him?"
"Like where he's from? "
"Well, yeah." David wondered briefly if Nicole knew what he was going to say next. "Where is he from?"
Nicole's face turned blank. She looked totally unreadable. "Utah," she mumbled.
"See? Archuleta is probably normal for Utah. So… why'd Pen give you a CD? You don't even have a CD player, and I don't exactly appreciate you taking mine."
Nicole's face went utterly, completely unreadable. When she spoke, her voice was monotone. "I wanted it."
"And she just gave it to you? That's not very… Pen-like. I guess she didn't like the songs on it. What's on it besides Crush?"
"Ummmmmm… Hot and Cold, Sober, You Found Me, I'm Yours-"
"I'm Yours? Pen loves that song."
"My Life Would Suck Without You… what does suck mean?"
How hard to explain. "Well, I guess it means… hmmm. I guess it means… stinks, or bites, or… my life would be terrible without you, how's that?"
Nicole took another sip. "Adequ-"
A loud yelling suddenly came from outside. "Open the door, woman!" This was followed by violent pounding on the door.
David froze. "Dad," he gasped.
Nicole's eyes widened. She darted to the door.
Charles Steeley staggered across the threshold of the house, a beer can in his hand. "Damn it," he muttered under his breath. "Where the hell is your mother?" Nicole wrinkled her nose.
"Out," she responded quietly. "I think at the Oleander's."
"Well, that's just perfect," their dad grumbled. "Outta my seat, boy," he slurred, eyeing David.
David tried to say something, but he was paralyzed. His lips moved, but the words were caught in his throat. Nicole stared at him, her eyes filled with fear. She mouthed, Do something!
But David could do nothing. He was afraid of his father. "Su-sure, Dad," he stuttered, grabbing his guitar and getting off the couch slowly. His dad sat down. David took the opportunity to escape.
Once safely in his room, David set his guitar down and practically flew to the bed. He was filled with anger at the fact that he couldn't stand up to his dad, and now he couldn't get comfortable on his bed. It felt like there was a gravitational pull coming from the couch downstairs, calling his name. David snarled and punched the pillow next to him.
Nicole chose that moment to walk daintily into the room and sit neatly on the floor. She whispered, "You know what?"
David looked down at her. "What?"
"Dad sucks," said Nicole softly.
"Yeah," said David. "I think I agree."
Nicole lay in her bed. She felt extremely anxious, the way one would feel on the morning of a holiday or a birthday. This was because a few days ago, she had discovered another extension of her mind-reading powers. Nicole flashed back to the day it had happened.
She had been sitting on the bedroom floor, listening to Pen's old CD. Crush had been playing loudly in her ear, and she had been thinking of the song Angels On the Moon, slowly drifting away. Then all of a sudden, a voice had filled her head, a voice exactly like the one singing Crush. Nicole had been shocked and struggled back to reality, but not before learning what had been going on inside the singer's mind during the recording of the song. She had also dug up some memories by accident.
That was how Nicole knew that the singer was David Archuleta and he lived in Utah. There were some more facts she had found out, but her David hadn't asked her about those.
Now there was more to contemplate. How could she have read the mind of someone who hadn't actually been with her? How had she heard thoughts that had been formed in the past? Nicole was convinced that it hadn't been the thoughts of someone else in the house, because the only male at home that day had been her David, and his voice was much different- more of a light, sweet tenor, a honey-voice, then the breathy timbre of this Archuleta guy. Plus, David hadn't known that the song existed until she had said so. But how could Nicole read the mind of a recording?
More questions came up. Why had these new adaptations taken place? Was it because Nicole would need them soon? Had they always been with her? But the most important question was this- did these changes have anything to do with the harm that Pen had foretold to come upon David? And what sort of doom was it, anyway? Nicole was afraid it might take the life of her favorite brother. Why did he act so tired now? Every morning after Pen had gone, Nicole would find David asleep on the sofa. He was never able to explain how he had gotten there. Despite all the sleeping, David didn't look too well rested these days. His face was starting to look kind of washed out, with dark purple circles under the eyes. Was this some kind of disease?
And one last question- where did the song Angels On the Moon fit into this mess? Pen had told her that it felt like the song had killed David. But that wasn't possible, was it?
Nicole realized she had zoned out and was now watching Maria's dreams. She exited her sister's mind quietly, then sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bed. Moving swiftly and silently, she crossed the room and darted down the stairs.
Not to her surprise, she found David asleep on the sofa. Nicole lay down behind the couch, curling up and matching her breathing with his. She tried to make her thoughts and his thoughts flow into each other.
A land of white mist, with pastel colors all around. Figures revolve towards him, touching the back of his hand. He brushes them back, hearing the constant lap of waves in the background. Home. Home. He dances off into the mist.
"No, David!" Nicole gasped, shooting up and bounding across to the sofa. She shook her brother hard, trying to wake him up. Her mind filled with images of David drifting into the realm of death and never coming back.
It was very hard to wake him. Nicole finally resorted to pinching David in the most sensitive spot on his body. Even then, it took a long time for his eyes to open. When they did, the warm chocolate color turned hard as David demanded coolly, "Why did you wake me up?"
Nicole backed away. "I- I think you were dying. You were in the land of death."
"Little girl. I was in the land of dreams. Can't you tell the difference?" David turned his head back and closed his eyes. "I wish to sleep."
Nicole was shocked. This was not David. Maybe it was an imposter sent back from the land of death. No- the land of dreams. Whatever, it still sounded too formal to be David. What could make him act that way?
"Nicole?" Mom's voice. She came down the stairs in her gray bathrobe, eyes blinking blearily. "What are you doing up this early?"
"It's David, Mom. He's sleeping down here again. And he was dreaming- he was dying- I woke him up, but he doesn't act the same- he's being mean to me- help, Mom!"
Only after the words had escaped her lips did Nicole realize it sounded totally lame. She half expected her mother to roll her eyes. Instead she said-
"I'm sure it was only a dream, sweetie pie."
Which was even worse than the eye rolling would be.
"No- no, it's not, Mom. David's down here."
"Well, David," began Mrs. Steeley, striding towards the front of the sofa slowly, "if this is sleepwalking, then it is beginning to be a real problem. Wait- David are you awake?"
"Yes. Are you sure it's sleepwalking, Mom?" Nicole wished her mother would understand her sometimes, or at least listen to what she was saying. Right now Mrs. Steeley was peering down at her son, wondering if he was asleep or not.
Nicole pinched David in the same place. With a "Hey!" his eyes jumped open. "Why did you do that again, girl?"
"To wake you up," Nicole said innocently.
"No! I mean, why did you wake me up again?" David sounded more irritated then angry. His eyes glared into hers, and then Nicole noticed something. Was it possible for a person's eyes to change color? David's eyes were darker than they had been yesterday- or was that just the light? Nicole started to lean in closer, to get a better look, but just then her mother moved forward, blocking out Nicole's view.
"Are you feeling all right? Have you been getting enough sleep? You've always slept so heavily, like a rock. Now you're downstairs on the couch every morning, and I'm stumped. There should be no reason for sleepwalking." Nicole noted that her mom was worried, and a bit annoyed. She listened for David's response.
"Go away. I want to sleep. Both of you leave now."
Mrs. Steeley looked lost. "There's no need for that tone, either. Are you sure you're feeling okay?"
Nicole decided to intervene. "No, he's not sure. In fact, David is not well at all. He has to stay home today." She begged in her mind, Please believe me now!
Her mom's face took on a blank look. In an incredibly slow monotone she said, "Okay. David will stay home from school today." Then she turned around and made her way back up the stairs, even slower than her words.
Nicole's brain processed what had happened. Then it screamed at her. Oh no! No! I just brainwashed my mother! How the heck did I DO that?
Another power. Nicole had received a new power. To be used for good or evil, I wonder? So far it seemed to be for good, because Nicole was sure David could not go to school. What if he fell asleep in class and the teacher called on him? This always bothered Nicole when she was at school- wondering what her siblings was doing, if they was all right, what thoughts were running through their heads at the moment. No need to worry today, she thought, staring down at her brother, and sighed. She wished Pen hadn't left. That way Nicole wouldn't have to worry about David every day, because Pen would be there to help him. She might have gotten more feelings of intuition that explained what exactly would happen to David. Now she was gone, and everything was changing.
Nicole watched David's face for a little while longer, and then she went to the stairs.
"Aaaaaahhh!" was the sound that tore from Nicole's lips as she came crashing down into the dirt. Behind her, the bus closed its doors and she heard Lisa Oleander yell, "Have a nice trip! See you next fall!"
"Classic," Nicole mumbled to the unresponsive dirt.
She sat up and brushed herself off. Lisa was the most despicable person she knew. It seemed as if everyone were friends with her, which had turned them into brats. Now almost all of the fifth grade hated Nicole, just from Lisa telling lies about her family.
Nicole didn't hang out with many people at school, and the ones she did hang out with never returned her friendship. They had never called her, invited her over, or written her letters. Nicole was a loner, but she preferred it that way. How was she supposed to think her own thoughts or listen to thoughts around her if someone was always chattering in her ear, breaking her concentration?
Not that Nicole ever really listened to the thoughts of people at school. She didn't need to know their private feelings. There had been several bad occurrences in the past that had come from reading people's minds, and she would hate to repeat them. There was the time she had learned that one of her classmates was throwing a party, so Nicole had asked her if she was invited. Unfortunately, the party hadn't even been talked about at school, so Nicole was left trying to explain how she possibly could have found out in a way that was both logical and legal. She hadn't been invited.
There was also the time when Nicole really hadn't known the answer on a quiz, so she had read the mind of the person next to her. The answer hadn't been the right one, and she had wondered all day if that made her a cheater or not. Nothing good had come of reading the teachers' minds either. Nicole had found out things that she really shouldn't know about at her age- or, things her mother hadn't told her. She never read the mind of an adult stranger again. Mind reading was sometimes a burden, and never failed to surprise her with the facts. This is what Nicole reflected on as she trudged home from school, alone. Maria had after-school band practice and would have to be picked up later.
As the house came into sight, Nicole began to feel agitated. What would she find inside? Her mother gone and David asleep on the couch? Hopefully that wouldn't be the case.
Nicole scowled as she turned the knob. Hopefully. It was misused all the time.
"I'm home!" Nicole yelled as she stepped across the threshold. "Mom?"
A call came from upstairs. "Nicole? Is that you?"
"Mom, where are you?" Nicole asked as she threw down her backpack and slipped towards the sofa to check on David. Behind her, she heard the soft clatter of slippers on a wood floor as Mrs. Steeley appeared at the top of the stairs.
"Oh, it is you," Nicole's mother breathed, relief in her voice. "Where's Maria? Didn't she come home with you?"
"No, Mom. She had band practice. Don't you remember?"
Her mom sounded puzzled. "I don't know what's happened to me today. I can't seem to remember anything I've done. I don't even know if I've gone to the office today. Now isn't that funny? Maybe I'm losing my mind."
"Well, do you remember what happened this morning?" asked Nicole, her agitation progressing to stress. What if she had permanently damaged her mother's brain?
"Y- no. I somehow recall you saying something about a land of dreams, and David being rude to me. But what happened? I can't figure it out."
"Maybe you should call the office and ask if you came in this morning," suggested Nicole. "Then why don't you go pick up Maria? She'll be waiting for you at 4:30"
Her mother smiled as she came down the stairs. "I guess that's just what I'll have to do." She drifted towards Nicole, who moved away from the sofa, trying to hide David's presence. "Can you please tell me what happened in the morning, though? I just don't understand it!"
Nicole wondered briefly if she should tell the truth or make something up. It somehow didn't seem right to say, "I brainwashed you into thinking that David was sick so I wouldn't have to worry about him in school today and then you went into your room and closed the door so I told Maria that you had gone out and then we walked to the bus stop together."
What Nicole actually said was, "You woke us up in the morning like you usually do. Then you fixed us breakfast and went upstairs to get dressed. Maria and I walked to the bus stop like any normal day."
Mrs. Steeley frowned. "I have no idea what could have been on my mind… No matter. You're a lifesaver, Nikki."
As her mother bent down to hug her, Nicole moved in closer to draw her away from David. She glanced back at the sofa, hoping that she could keep him a secret. Luckily, Mrs. Steeley never noticed Nicole's preoccupation. She went up the stairs to get dressed, still in a bathrobe and pajamas.
Once her mom was out of sight, Nicole headed back to the couch. She was going to sit down when a loud RING came from the kitchen area. Nicole rolled her eyes and made towards the phone, pulling it out of its cradle and jamming it against her ear, then groaning in a monotone voice, "Hello, Steeley residence."
Nicole's eyes widened. "Pen! You're ali- I mean, you called! How is everything? Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm alright- and of course I'm alive! Why wouldn't I be?"
Nicole sighed. "I just wasn't expecting you to call, that's all. I thought you might be too busy with your college life to even remember us."
"Well, of course I remembered you! School isn't that great, you know. Anyway, you'll never guess who's at my new college. That's right- Ari and Kate! I thought I was never going to see them again. Why didn't they tell me they were going here?"
Kate was one of Pen's girlfriends. Ari was- Nicole shuddered to think "boyfriend." She listened as Pen described sharing a dorm room with another girl, and about her painting classes and how good she was so far. Nicole sensed Pen was winding down when she said, "Well, enough about me! What's been going on in the wonderful world of Vermont?"
Nicole thought hurriedly. "Maria is practicing a lot for her All-County concert. I hate listening to that thing- it squeaks so much! I'm sure her concert will be fine, though."
"Go on." Pen sounded interested. "How about Mom? Is she okay?"
"Yeah, she's fine. She's been making all our favorite dishes for dinner recently. It amazes me at how much food we have now, almost enough to feed us for a year! I keep thinking, Is Mom just scared of us starving?"
Pen let out a giggle. "Well, that's one thing you don't have to worry about," she said. A pause. Then, in a lower voice, "So how's David?"
Nicole paused too. "Um-"
"Listen, if anything's happened I think that I should be the first one to know. It was my vision, after all-"
"Like you would be able to do anything," Nicole mumbled, cutting her sister off. Then, "Well, actually I bet you could do plenty of things. But none of them would really be able to help."
"What do you mean? Is everything okay? What happened?" Nicole could tell that Pen was worried.
"Well, for example as to what happened to David, he's sleeping on the couch right now."
"What's wrong with that?"
"He's been asleep all day."
Pen paused. "What?"
"Just like I said- all day. I- tricked Mom into thinking that he was sick so I wouldn't have to worry about him in school-"
"Hello?" Mrs. Steeley's voice suddenly came on the phone.
"Oh, no, I forgot!" Nicole wailed, and hung up.
Nicole stood there wondering what to do. She had forgotten that her mother would be calling in to the office. Now Nicole hoped that Pen knew what to say. She turned and walked back to the sofa.
David was still asleep, still dreaming. Nicole woke him up, hoping that this time he would listen to her and stay awake.
"Oh, it's you, girl," David said, sounding bemused but not too angry. "What are you doing, waking me up again?"
Nicole reached over and took his hand. She decided she would pinch the back of it if he started to fall asleep. "David, I want talk to you about something-"
"Can you tell me later, please? They're waiting." David's eyelids slowly drooped forward.
Nicole pinched the back of his hand. "No, I cannot tell you later! Who are "they," David? What's wrong with you?"
David opened his eyes for a few short seconds, and then closed them again.
Nicole bit her tongue, feeling spooked. What had happened to the color of David's eyes? Certainly eyes couldn't get darker, but these had gone from milk chocolate colored to the color of mud in just one day. What was wrong?
Nicole straightened, got to her feet. If David was sick, did that mean the whole family would catch the disease? How could she possibly protect him? Why did he call her "girl" now and not Nicole? And lastly, what was she to do about her new brainwashing powers? A shiver went down Nicole's spine as she pictured bending the will of people she knew, making them work to serve her.
She shook her head fiercely. No! Not evil! Nicole was sure her fate was not to become a monster. Besides, she didn't even want to use her new powers of control. She might erase someone's memory totally.
And yet, with the power to control others, maybe she could get back on Lisa Oleander and her little clique of preps. She might even be able to save David from his own fate!
A smile began to spread across Nicole's face, the first one of the day.
And at that moment Mrs. Steeley appeared at the top of the stairs. She was fully dressed now, and she was holding the phone- her own private one that was kept in her room.
"Guess who's on the phone right now? Pen! We've been having the loveliest conversation." Nicole's mom was grinning. "Would you care to talk to her, Nicole?"
"Yes, please." Nicole bounded up the stairs, snatched the phone out of her mom's hand, and said, "Hello, Pen?"
"Hi again, Nicole. What were you saying to me before?"
Nicole hung up.
David lay asleep and dreaming, as he had been for the entire day. His mind wandered as the dreams grew more vivid. Was this an alternate world? Who knew and who cared. It was a new place to explore, and that was all that mattered in David's mind.
The city was big and shiny, not like any city on Earth. The buildings were the color of pearls and white marble, the sidewalks smooth and tinted pink. It was hard to see if the rest of this world looked the same, for everything was shrouded in fog. It was as if a city had been built inside a cloud.
There was obviously more to this world then just the city, though. David could hear the constant pounding of waves against a shore, beating in time with his heart. His attempts at finding this hidden sea had been foiled, however, for the inhabitants of the dream world would not let him go. There were so many of them, all shaded pastel colors, all in shapes a human wouldn't recognize and all saying strange things.
You are Chosen, child, one of them sang. It was pale yellow and looked a bit like a lizard with wings and long, curved claws. At least, it was shaped that way. You belonged to us ever since they day of your birth, and so you will be Ours.
Yes, yes! You will be Taken! Cried another one. Heads- or appendages where heads should be- nodded in agreement.
But I still don't understand, you guys, David complained, and was immediately silenced by a light orange being. No, you do not understand. We have told you time and time again not to talk with your mouth. Sound carries faster here, and words from other minds are loud enough. You see, using your mouth here is like screaming on Earth.
Earth? David thought towards the creature. Is that where I come from?
Yes, a pale blue creature crooned. It looked sort of like a very thin man with a flowerpot on its head. Yes, you do come from Earth, but once we are done with you, you will not remember.
Test him! Test him! The yellow creature yelled. Other inhabitants squealed the same two words. Test him!
The blue figure looked at David. He does not need testing, it said. Already he has forgotten the names of the ones he lives with. Soon he will forget that he ever had a life besides this one. And when that day comes- it paused for a moment. When that day comes, we will be ready!
Sudden but brief pain jolted David out of sleep. A young girl was staring into his eyes.
"David, can you hear me? Do you understand?"
Why is this girl talking to me, he wondered. "Yes, but this is-" David squinted- "the fourth time you've woken me up today, girl. Who are you and what right do you have to do that?"
The girl looked a little shocked. "David, I'm your sister. I'm your Nicole. I just woke you up because it's dinnertime."
Nicole. Didn't ring a bell. David shrugged and said, "Okay, I'll join you, but I don't want you to wake me up again. You got that?"
"Got it," the girl mumbled, and then turned around.
David sat down at the rectangular table. What is it with the lighting in this room? The kitchen area was dark and shadowy, as was the living area. David put a cooked carrot in his mouth and chewed, looking back at the sofa. He was dying to go back to sleep.
The woman and the older girl didn't pay any attention to him. They were arguing about something. The younger girl kept staring at him with a worried look in her eye- though it was hard to tell with the room as dark as it was. David finished his dinner before anyone else, put his plate in the kitchen sink, and went back to his couch. He lay down.
"Hey, could you turn the lights on?" he murmured with his eyes closed.
"They are on, David," one of the girls said. Probably the older one.
David rejoined the land of dreams. I'm back, guys!
The blue creature floated up to him and brushed his shoulder. Good. Someday you will be back forever.
When will that be? David asked. Why can't it be now?
The being laughed. It will be soon enough, it answered. But you don't want that to happen, anyway. He does not take mercy on the weaker ones.
Who is He?
The One who was Taken long ago. One thousand years ago, to be exact. In the year 1008. The thing sounded amused. But He was prepared for it. You are not yet ready. Have patience, my friend.
My friend. That sounded good. I promise to have patience, David swore. The beings beckoned. Come! Come join us!
And so David had fun with the souls of the world of dreams. From the outside, though, no one would be able to tell what he was doing.
No one, that is, but the ones who could see inside.
No one but Nicole.
Nicole sat outside on the porch swing. The sun was going down, but there was still no sign of Mrs. Steeley and Maria. What could be taking them so long?
Or was it really that late? The sun did go down early in October. Tomorrow would be Halloween. Nicole didn't have a Pen to help make her costume anymore, so she had made do with her mother. Nicole wondered what the other kids around town would think of her angel costume- a reference to Angels On The Moon- but only briefly. Her heart just wasn't into Halloween this year.
Nicole pushed the swing back with her foot, humming her AFEFEFEFAFE notes from Crush. She was trying to block out David's dreams from her mind, but now there was no choice. A week ago, the thoughts Nicole heard around her by choice had filled her head permanently.
It annoyed Nicole to hear David talk with the soul-beings as if they were his friends. Couldn't he see that they were trying to kill him? They wanted to Take his soul, but first he just had to be brainwashed. Well, not that brainwashing was a bad thing, considering that Nicole herself had been using it on her family members a lot recently…
Every morning was her mom's brainwashing, to make her forget that she had seen David on the couch. Then came Maria and Mom's brainwashing, to make them think David had gone to school. Once she got home, Nicole would try once again to wash David's dreams from his mind. When that failed, she would try three more times. The last brainwashing of the day was on Mrs. Steeley, to make her think that David had gone to bed. Maria seemed cool with David sleeping on the sofa.
Nicole worried about how distant David seemed to grow from the family every day. He still joined them for dinner every night, but he was starting to only pick at the food on his plate. Every night before going to sleep he would complain about the lighting in the room, and every night the lights would be blazing. Nicole was mostly afraid of what was happening to David's eyes. Last night they had been the color of rich dark chocolate. That wasn't normal, was it?
Soon Nicole would have to start another brainwash- one on both Maria and her mother so that they would think David had eaten dinner each night. The thought of more brainwashing made her weary. Every time Nicole erased or filled in a memory, it took some of her strength, until she was totally drained by the end of the day. She wanted to give up; yell "I surrender!" and then sit back and let her mom deal with David. That was out of the question, though. Her mom wouldn't understand what was happening, unlike Nicole.
Speaking of Mom, what had happened to her? It was raining now, and the shiny red Honda was nowhere in sight. Nicole hoped she hadn't gone to visit Thomas and then forgotten about collecting Maria. She pictured Maria standing alone in the band room, forlornly clutching her clarinet case. Nicole shook the image from her mind, and then rocked the swing gently. A conversation came to her from the dreams of David-
A Tapestry. First you must make a Tapestry if you want to join us someday. When His time was right, He made a Tapestry, and the next day He was Taken.
A Tapestry? Do you mean a real one with threads that hangs on a wall?
You definitely need to forget some more. No, that is not what I mean. I'm talking about the art form called Tapestry. Have you ever heard of it?
Nnnnno. I didn't know there was such a thing.
Well, it is very difficult to describe. All I can say is that it is very beautiful, and yours will be no exception.
Suddenly a car door slammed as Maria streamed out of her mom's Honda. "LEAVE ME ALONE! STOP TALKING TO ME! DON'T DO THAT TO ME EVER AGAIN!" Her anger filled the air and made it crackle. Thunder boomed in response while Maria stormed into the house.
Mrs. Steeley came up to the porch, tears in her eyes. "Nicole," she murmured, and opened the door. As Nicole stepped carefully across the threshold, she could hear Maria yowling upstairs.
"What happened, Mom? What did you do to her?"
Her mother didn't look up. "I saw Bailey."
And Nicole forgot. She forgot the desperate need to hide David; she forgot her mother's brainwashing. She forgot how angry her mother might be if she said this and blurted, "Why did you do that, Mom?" Her mother really was insane…
Mrs. Steeley didn't turn to meet Nicole's probing eyes. She just stood there, making little whimpering noises.
It scared Nicole. She ran up to her room.
She ignored Maria, who was lying on her bed with her face buried in her pillow. She ignored Speckles, who was scratching at the side of her tank, asking for food. She just flowed over to the dresser by her bed and opened the top drawer.
Nicole stared at the photograph in her hands. It was the only picture ever taken of Bailey Steeley. Her mom was smiling at the camera wielded by Pen, holding the twins in both arms. Bailey and Thomas Steeley. David and Maria stood on either side of the hospital bed, grinning down at the newborns. Nicole hadn't wanted to pose for the picture. The hospital made her nervous.
She stared and stared at the picture. Everyone had tried to forget Bailey. Bailey, who had only had a three-day lifespan. The death was the worst thing Nicole had ever experienced, not because it pained her but because it had broken her mother and eventually led to Thomas's adoption by the Oleanders. She had watched, listened to everyone's thoughts, and wished she could do something that would help her falling-apart family. In the end, she had done nothing at all. The only thing she could think of was to form a better relationship with everyone, and so she had tried. Her parents, however, had become aliens to her. She had shut them out.
Now Nicole could do something to help. Closing her eyes, she found the mind of her weeping mother downstairs and silently erased all memory of Bailey
What color am I?
I don't know.
What does color mean?
I cannot explain.
The light blue creature had a smile in its voice. Good! Very, very good. You are forgetting perfectly. Soon your Tapestry will be made, at this rate. I hope He will be ready.
David half-smiled at this. Compliments were good. His friend had been testing him all day on words, and now he had finally received feedback, whatever that meant. He supposed he was good at forgetting.
But then a memory climbed into his mind, slowly and calmly. David frowned. He wasn't supposed to remember the words used in the other world. Maybe this didn't work on him… Oh, well. There was a question with the memory. He decided to ask it now, and forget later.
Being? Is there something more to this man you call Him? Is He God?
Now the creature had a glare in its voice. You shouldn't remember things like that. They are of no use to you. Forget about it.
But I can't! David insisted. I know I'm supposed to forget everything I know about the other world, but you've just got to tell me if there is a God or not. No one is really sure about this, y'know… Plus, it's an irresistible topic! If He is God, than that means this is Heaven, doesn't it? I've figured you guys out!
No, the creature stated coolly. He is not divine. He was once a human, as you are. I told you that He was Taken, and so He was. It happened one thousand years ago exactly, so He would be too young to be anything else. This isn't Heaven, you haven't figured us out, and now you must forget everything I have just told you.
David obeyed him and forgot. The creature said, Now I have a gift for you, my friend. He received it, so now you must too. Then it called, Colors!
They came out of nowhere and danced across the sky. Hundreds- no, thousands- no, millions of vast, swirling colors, in every shade ever invented and in every shade yet to come. As one blew by David, he had the oddest sense of dissolving into nothingness. Another one passed, bringing the feeling of lightning sizzling in his veins. David staggered, and was when they took the chance.
The colors flew at him and entered his mouth. From there they sped down into his throat and began smoldering, burning his delicate larynx. David sensed they were warping it, changing his timbre and altering his vocal cords, but he couldn't be too sure right now. At the moment the colors had leaped into his mouth, he had been filled with all the senses they gave. Filled with them, but there was no brim. David had become a vessel for all the sensations of the world, and a color to go with them. And they just kept coming-
And coming, until he wanted to scream, STOP!-
But it was over now. The colors had fled, but not without marking him. David sensed that his voice would never be the same anymore. Ah, well, what did it matter? David turned to the blue creature and thought, So what now?
It responded, Go home, David. Next comes the Naming.
"Ow! Would you quit that?" David groaned. The… whatever the word… had pinched him again to arouse him. It looked worried, and a bit frightened. "David, it's dinnertime and Dad's here. It's one of his better days- he isn't nearly as drunk, but you've still got to be on your guard. David?"
"I don't know what you've just said," David told it, and then they both froze.
A scratchy, raspy voice had come out of David's mouth, nothing like his former tenor tone. It was a new voice, all his own, almost shared by another but not completely. To David it was unique. As David pondered over this great change, the thing became shaky and suddenly agitated.
"What's happened to you? Where's your honey-voice? You sound kind of like a girl! Your eyes… Oh, my gosh, what's wrong?"
David was still confused. He didn't understand what the thing meant by honey-voice. Also, what were eyes? Weird word. This place he had found himself in was extremely dark. David wished he could see this thing that was talking to him better. He blinked.
The thing gaped- or, at least, that's what he thought it was doing. "Have you gone insane or are you just losing your memory?"
"Hey!" came a voice from another place. "Nicole, get in here! We're eating!"
"Come on!" the thing called Nicole gasped, tugging on David's whatever-it's-called. "We have to eat now."
David unwillingly got up and allowed Nicole to lead him to the other place. There was probably a better, more formal word to use than just "place," but he had forgotten it. Through the haze and shadows of this place, he could just barely see three more things like Nicole seated around a- oh, what's the word? Who knew anyway. One of the things was small, a bit bigger than Nicole. Another one was taller than both that thing and himself, and the last was huge and kind of…wide.
Nicole pointed to a flat surface held up by four stick things. David glanced at it. Nicole whispered, "Sit down!" David obeyed.
David looked down at what he was supposed to…eat? Was that the word? Anyway, it was hard to tell what it was. The shadows blocking his vision also blocked out the sight of the… oh, whatever! David couldn't remember what anything was called. He glanced at Nicole for help.
A quiet, Nicole-sounding voice filled his mind. David, it's actually very simple. Pick up the thing by your plate- it's called a fork. Use it to spear the food and bring the prongs to your mouth. Take the food off- not with your hands!- and eat it. Chew it up, then swallow.
Okay, eleven words that David didn't know- simple, plate, fork, spear, food, prongs, mouth, hands, eat, chew, and swallow. He tried to find this "fork," but he was nearly blind in this world. He groped for it.
"Hey, boy. Why haven't you started eating yet?" Something was talking to David. He tried to determine which thing it was. "I can't see the…food," he muttered, and was once again stunned by his new voice. The thing talking to him stopped eating.
All around the eating-place, the things stopped eating.
"David? What's wrong with your voice?" It was the first tall thing. Its voice was soft, low, and a little on the edge.
David swallowed. He didn't know what to say. My friends made colors go into my mouth and now I sound different? He wasn't sure if the things would understand what he meant.
I have a sore throat.
"I have a sore throat," David repeated.
The second small thing turned its…thingy to stare at David. "That doesn't sound like a regular sore throat. That sounds almost as if your voice changed timbre. But that's impossible, of course…" It trailed off.
David shrugged, not sure what to say. He decided that he'd had enough and got up from the eating-place. The creatures of the ethereal city were calling. He heard one of the things shout, "Hey, come back here!" Another said, 'David, where are you going?" He didn't listen to them.
Ah, his sleeping-place. It was still warm from where he had been curled up. David sat down and was about to curl up again when something stopped him.
A swirl of pale pink light danced at the corner of his eye. David was amazed. Out of the eating-place came the short thing, Nicole. It stood there for a while.
"David, what's wrong with you? I hear your thoughts. Why don't you recognize me?"
Blue green light lit up its face, then quickly faded away.
"I know you don't remember my name or what I am to you, but I remember. I'm your sister, David. I'm Nicole."
Sister? What in the world did that mean?
"I miss you, David. I want you to come back to me. I want you to stop spending so much time in the dream world and live in reality."
Yellow light drifted past David's vision, and David drifted too.
"I want you, David. Stop talking so strangely. Stop acting like you don't know me."
David heard the feeling in Nicole's voice. It was sadness, deep sadness, and black, black fear.
"Stop doing this to me! Stop making me worry about you! I'm brainwashing my parents to protect you! Is that what you want to happen, O Powers Of The Dream World?" Nicole was shrieking now. Her voice was tight.
There was a sudden murmur from the eating-place. Nicole crossed the room in no time and got to David's sleeping-place.
"Please- stop breaking my heart." It sobbed.
David held Nicole, not feeling her pain. Pain could no longer touch him. He saw swirling colors and heard a voice that called, Come back, David!
After a while, Nicole lifted her head and stared up into David's eyes. Orange light flared briefly, showing him that there was water on its face. David had a sudden feeling that the water should mean something to him, but it didn't.
"David, please don't go to sleep again." Its voice was desperate.
Hi, friend. I- I don't think I want to go into the other world again.
That's all right. You don't have to. Soon your Tapestry will be made.
Far away, Nicole stared down at David's sleeping body. She wiped the tears off her face, feeling embarrassed. Her father came out of the dining room.
"You okay? What happened to that boy?"
Nicole knew she should probably erase his memories, but she decided against it. Alcohol would work just as well. Her father regularly drowned himself in beer. Addiction led to death, she knew. Nicole wouldn't mind too much.
However, her sister and mother's minds would need the washing. Nicole ignored Mr. Steeley and searched for her mom and Maria's minds. But as soon as she found them, she stopped.
I hate this! Cried a silent voice in Nicole's mind.
Sighing, she withdrew her mind. It was time for them to face the truth.
She ran up the stairs, never answering her father's question. Once upstairs, she tore down the hall to her room, then flung herself down on the bed and let it go.
At night, Nicole was woken up by a noise in David's room. She slowly got to her feet and tiptoed to the door. Peeping out, she saw- wonder of wonders!- David coming down the hall carrying his guitar case.
Nicole followed as David padded down the stairs. What is he doing at this hour? And he's actually awake? She watched him glide out the door. Nicole followed.
Bathed in moonlight, David seemed exhausted but content. He took his guitar out of its case and strummed it. Nicole didn't recognize the song until he began singing.
Do you dream?
That the world will know your name, so tell me your name
Nicole gaped. David's voice matched the song completely, and he was playing a similar guitar part. It sounded a lot like the recording of Angels On The Moon, by the band whose name Nicole had forgotten. She listened with bated breath as David reached the chorus.
Don't tell me if I'm dying
Cause I don't wanna know
If I can't see the sun, maybe I should go.
Don't wake me 'cause I'm dreaming
Of angels on the Moon
Where everyone you know
Never leaves too soon
A revelation suddenly came upon Nicole. She listened silently to the end of the song and watched as David turned back towards the house. If he saw her standing by the door, he didn't say anything. David lay down on the sofa again. In seconds, he was asleep.
That was what David's disease had to do with the song Angels On The Moon. He didn't want anyone to wake him up because that's what he was dreaming about- angels on the Moon. Well, he was dreaming of angels, at least. The dream world may not be Heaven, but it was the place humans went when they died.
Nicole strolled over to the couch. She kissed David's cheek. "I understand now, brother. Go. Let the world know your name. I don't mind. You have my permission. Go join your angels on the Moon." Then she tiptoed to the stairs.
"I love you."
Nicole sat on the sofa next to David, listening to Maria play her clarinet on the chair near the couch. In the kitchen area, Pen sat at the table, chatting with Mrs. Steeley. It was Thanksgiving, and Nicole was wondering where the time had gone. November couldn't have flown by any faster if it had been on wings.
Of course, it wasn't like November was over yet. There was still Thanksgiving to get through. Nicole had had a weird feeling all morning, a sense that something big and bad was going to happen. It worried her. She didn't want a sad ending to a happy story.
Everyone's lives were going well. Maria's All-County concert had been fantastic. Pen had a nice life in college. Mrs. Steeley had stopped visiting Thomas quite so often, and Nicole had given her memories of Bailey back because she knew that her mother could be trusted with them. The Oleanders had warmed up to the Steeley family. Even Lisa was friendlier. Mrs. Steeley had decided to take control of her life and had filed for divorce.
Maria's clarinet hummed a tune, and Nicole was surprised to find that she recognized it. AFEFEFEFAFE. Maria put down her clarinet and said, "You know this one, Nikki?"
"I didn't think it was a very popular song," Nicole muttered.
Pen heard. "Oh, Crush? No, it's not very popular. In fact, I bet a lot of people haven't heard it yet, it only came out on CD this month."
"WHAT? Then how did you get it on Lime Wire?" Maria stuttered.
"Then how did you know that song?" Nicole demanded of Maria.
"Oh well, I just heard you whistling that. Pen, you've got a lot to explain!"
Pen shrugged. "It's a secret. Let's just say I know a guy, okay? I have my ways."
Nicole saw Maria roll her eyes, but she herself didn't care. Pen was practically famous. She wouldn't be too surprised if she knew David Archuleta himself.
"Come to think of it, I'm not sure if a lot of the songs on your CD exist yet," Pen added to Nicole. "I never said I got them off Lime Wire, did I?"
Well. Maybe Pen had powers, like Nicole. Maria looked shocked. Nicole zoned. She didn't care about Pen's explanation. What she did care about was all of her amazing powers. They had disappeared the day after David made his Tapestry, leaving behind her original mind-reading power and a permanent link to David's mind. It had felt strange to lose them, but relieving, too.
He hadn't woken up since the night of his Tapestry. His mind was oddly silent and calm. All Nicole could see in it now was white mist, which frightened her. What if today was the day he was Taken? What would Pen think?
Nicole had told her family about everything except her powers and David's dreams. On the phone, she had told Pen everything. Both of them were nervous about David being Taken. Nicole absentmindedly rubbed David's shoulders as she thought about this. She didn't like the way he was so still, like he was barely breathing.
SQUAWK! Went Maria's clarinet.
"Dinner's ready!" called Mrs. Steeley.
Nicole smiled as she got up from the sofa. Dinner. Lunch was always called that today.
She sat down at the kitchen area table and analyzed the food. Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and those cute little olives Nicole liked to put on her fingers. Maria hated olives, but Nicole couldn't understand why. For dessert there would be pecan pie, homemade by Mrs. Steeley, like every Thanksgiving before.
Maria heaped green beans onto her plate. Pen shoveled turkey into her mouth, forgetting good manners. Their mom dug into the cranberry sauce. Nicole reached out and carefully plucked up five little olives. With a glance at Mrs. Steeley, she put them on each finger of her right hand.
And at that moment a gasping sound came from the couch. Nicole suddenly found herself clawing at her head, trying to sever the link between her and David as pain exploded throughout her body. She knew what was happening. David was being Taken. His pain was her pain.
Somehow Nicole got over to the couch. Pen, Maria, and their mother hurried after her. "David!" Pen cried. He was shrieking with pain, an inhuman sound. Nicole tore at her own body, having no choice but to share her brother's pain. She was sucked into his mind-
AHHHH! AHHHH! David twisted, trying to make Him stop the Taking of his soul. He understood now- his soul-being friends of this world were humans who had died before when their time was right. Taking meant to cut someone's soul from his or her body while he or she was still alive, not ready to leave this world. Now He was Taking David's soul, and the pain was unbearable.
Stop it! He raged in his mind. Stop causing this pain!
Your soul won't come loose! He yelled back. You need to be Named!
"Yes, Him! Name David! Do it now!" Nicole shouted, and then screamed. "Please!" she choked. "Let him go!"
David writhed, clearly suffering. If He didn't Name David now it would be too late.
He touched David's hands, feet, ankles, wrists, elbows, and knees with His lips, and then kissed David's forehead. David, I Take this name from you. David is dead. By all powers of the world, I Name you Singer. SINGER! Be it so!
Nicole gasped suddenly as the pain left her body. Beside her, David went limp. His wide eyes turned from deep black to a light, pale, ice blue color. Then cracks appeared in the iris, fragmenting the new blue color with splinters of blackness. The eyelids drooped, and a sigh whistled from the lips. Nicole felt his heart stop beating.
Pen and Mrs. Steeley burst into tears. Maria turned to ice. She stood frozen, blank, at a loss.
Nicole spread her arms out and embraced the world. She embraced life and death together.