“What was he like?”
My words pierced the quiet air of the cemetery. There wasn’t anyone else around, just me and my mom, our feet squishing into the springy grass.
“I don’t know,” Mom said, reaching over to put a hand on my back. “I never got to meet him. None of us did. He died when your grandfather was just eighteen. But Dad always used to talk about him.”
We stopped in front of his gravestone and I put the flowers down, looking at the name that was so familiar to me now. Jacob Danevbie. I had spent the past three months staring at the plaque, wondering about Doug’s last words. Jacob, my mother, me, my children. One child. I knew which child he meant now, though. I figured it out. I figured a lot of things out.
“He was very brave,” Mom said, folding her arms and looking down at the grave as I straightened up. “The first man to get pregnant.” She smiled at me, elbowing me slightly.
“I didn’t know that…” I kept staring at the name. Date of birth. Date of death. “He wasn’t very old when he did, was he?”
“No. He had health issues because of the pregnancy, this was before a lot of the medical advancements.” Mom unfolded her arms and reached up, adjusting her glasses a bit. “My Dad never did forgive the scientists that did that to him.”
“The Reddings,” I said, as if to confirm it.
Mom nodded. “Yeah, the Reddings. Jay and Kay Redding.”
“Why did they choose him?” I asked, looking over at Mom.
“What?” she asked, frowning. “What do you mean?”
“The Reddings. Why did they choose him to be their… experiment?” The word sent a shiver down my spine. Doug. It had been four months since I left him about to die on the floor of the hut. The first month had been a blur of nightmares. Every night for four weeks straight, every time I closed my eyes all I could see was his staring eyes, his bloody fingers reaching out of the darkness…
“I don’t know.” Mom’s voice pulled me out of the darkness that had come out of no where. “He really wanted children. I suppose they knew this and thought he’d be willing to undergo the experiment.”
“Professor Redding… he was the one to donate,” I said, wringing my hands. “So that would make us part Redding.”
Mom’s body stiffened and I saw a muscle in her jaw tense. “Yes…” she said very slowly. “Yes, we are. Part him, though. Not her.” I thought of the Doctor and shuddered, feeling sick at the thought of being part her. Although I liked being part of Kay, who had sent me an e-mail not long ago. How he had gotten my e-mail, I didn’t know. It was very short, stating he had come back for me in the middle of the night and was relieved to see I was gone. No mention of what happened to Doug’s body, though. I replied back to Kay, thanking him and asking if I’d ever see him again.
Still no reply on that.
“Why?” Mom asked, once again bringing me out of my thoughts.
“No reason,” I replied, the lie coming easy. “Mom, is there something special about me? That makes me different than Viola or Zari?”
I looked at her, waiting for an answer. If she gave me one. Except, I already knew the answer even if she didn’t. She said the right thing, about how she loved us all equally. I just smiled, nodding. I knew why she’d never admit it. I wouldn’t admit it to any of my children, as I did love them all equally. But there was something special about Serenity. Something different, something I couldn’t quite figure out. I knew that was the child that Doug had sensed.
He had a vague connection to Serenity as he did with me, and my mother. What set my mother apart from her siblings? What set me apart from my siblings? That plaque. I just wasn’t sure why.
“I always thought you gave that plaque of Jacob’s to me because I’m weak,” I said and then pressed on when Mom opened her mouth to talk. “I know different now,” I assured her. “It wasn’t because I was weak. It’s because I’m strong. Like you. Like your father. Like Jacob.” I hunched my shoulders and looked down at the grave again.
“You are very strong, Sebastian,” she said, putting her arm around me and giving me a partial hug. “I am so proud of you. Always have been.”
I merely nodded in response again. What was it? The words haunted me, even though the nightmares had stopped. Because of why they chose Jacob, that was the connection Doug had to me. Then Doctor Redding’s breakdown at the end, when Professor Redding threatened to leave everything. She kept going on about ‘them’. Their brains being more advanced… was it also to do with the connection?
One thing I did know. I was going to give the plaque to Serenity. I wasn’t planning on giving it to any of my kids but now I knew I had to. I didn’t know why I knew, but I did. she was part of this… whatever it was. That I was part of, that my mother was part of, that her father was part of. That started with Jacob.
Except, why did it start with him? I turned away from the grave as Mom and I started heading back to our car. If it was because of the pregnancy thing, then wouldn’t it had started with Grandpa? Not Great-Grandpa? And why him, and not his parents?
All of it made my head whirl so I decided to just forget about it for now. Perhaps one day I would figure out the mystery, but right now I wanted to focus on spending my time with my family.
It didn’t take me and Hal long to figure out that one of the kids did have Doug’s ability. We sat Duncan and Serenity down to talk to them about this, explaining to them lightly about their biological father’s abilities and then asked them if they were experiencing anything like that.
They both denied it, and as I suspected–Serenity denied it a bit more vehemently. Because she had the powers, and like Professor Redding had suggested they were a lot stronger than Doug’s ever were.
She was the one who wrote the note. It wasn’t quite her handwriting (I figured she used her left hand or something) but the word ‘enclothed’ gave it away. She was a smart girl, but she still had some trouble remembering the difference between ‘s’ and ‘th’ in words like that. Her powers were so strong she could sense me from even this far away and was able to pinpoint that spot on a map.
I wanted to talk to her about it but left it alone, not wanting to push her. She knew she got these abilities from her father and knew that he was the one who took me away. She didn’t want to think about, so I figured. So I let it alone. For now.
“Foolish mortal…” The voice was like oil sliding on water, and coming from all through the corridor. Alexandre gripped the hilt of his sword and slowly unsheathed it.
“Show yourself!” he commanded. His muscles were tensed as he waited for the monster to come out from the darkness. This was the moment he was waiting for. He was ready to slay the beast. This dragon will pay, he thought as he took another step forward.
The monster laughed and slowly began sliding out in front of Alexandre. His eyes went huge as he saw the scales glistening in what little light the corridor offered. It was a snake, not a dragon. Well, he thought. I owe L’andaa an apology. But he lifted his chin and looked up at the monstrous being. The snake looked back, its eyes as dark as bottomless pits…. dark… dark… dark, dark, dark eyes… glittering… dark…
I pushed my chair back from the desk, frowning at the screen. I reached my finger to hit the backspace but then I just grabbed the mouse and saved the document, closing it down. I didn’t want to look at the words anymore. Same place I always got stuck at.
“Hey, working hard?” Hal asked, coming in the little office we built onto the house after I sold my first book.
I stood up, stretching my legs. “Hardly working,” I said. “Hardee-har-har.” I went over and put my arms around him, squeezing his waist. “Hey there, birthday boy. Looking forward to the party tonight?”
He made a face. “No, I’m going to get all wrinkly and ugly. You’ll laugh at me.”
“I won’t laugh at you,” I said, though it was hard to hide my smile. He noticed and pretended to look offended, so I kissed him. “You’ll always be the handsomest man in the world, you know.”
“Nah, I have some competition with a cute little blonde I know.” He nibbled at my ear and I laughed, pushing him off of me.
“Now, now! You’re an old man of forty today,” I said. “Stimulation could be fatal. You should get some bed rest. I’ll make you some chicken soup.”
“Uh-huh! I’m going to say the same thing when you turn forty in a couple years,” he said, tickling my side until I was laughing too hard to even breathe. “My plans for the night do involve a bed, though not so much chicken soup.”
I smacked his arm then went back over to my computer, looking down at the keyboard. Hal came over and leaned against the desk, watching me. “Working on that fantasy novel?” he asked, trying to look at the screen.
“I was, but I got to a difficult part…” I just stared at the screen. My background was a great photo of all six of my children, taken on Duncan’s thirteenth birthday. My beautiful children. “I don’t want to write another mystery one, though. Maybe a romance novel.”
“Romance?” he inquired.
“Yeah…” I looked up, smiling. “I’m thinking… a prince. Locked up in a tower by an evil, evil, evil man. Then one day…” I went to him again, my hands on his hips. “A handsome knight shows up to rescue him.”
“A prince in distress…” Hal tapped his chin. “I like it. Though some people may be in riots over that.”
“True story, though. The knight even showed up on a steed!”
Hal laughed hard at that and rubbed his nose against mine. “The knight couldn’t stand to see his prince in distress. Any distress. How does it end? Will they ride off into the sunset?”
“Oh you know… ride off into the sunset and then live…”
“Happily ever after?”
I shrugged, and then leaned forward to kiss him. “What else, my shining knight, when they had each other?”