In January of 2235 I fell into a major conundrum. I had a vision and when I woke up from it my hands were shaking and my brain felt like I was on a roller coaster. After washing my face and calming down enough to go back to bed I just couldn’t go back to sleep. Checking something on my phone didn’t help at all.
No, I couldn’t. It’s not right.
In the morning I slowly ate breakfast and just stared at the wall. Joy shrieked for attention until she finally pulled me from my thoughts. I took her out of her high chair and we went to her room to play for a while though my mind wasn’t completely there. When she wanted to go play outside I got her bundled up and let Dakota take her out. I had to talk to someone about this.
“Grandpa?” I knocked on his door. “Grandpa?”
Grandpa was sitting on the edge of his bed when I came in, his hands frail little fists as he rubbed his eyes. He looked so fragile. He was in his eighties now, and worry rushed through me. “Are you feeling all right?” I asked.
He gave me a big smile. “Yep! A little sleepy but I’m okay. Why? Are you okay?”
“Er. Sorta.” I sat down and tried to calm my pounding heart. “Had a vision last night.”
“Oh? A bad one?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Well. Might be good. But even if it’s good, it’s probably bad.”
Grandpa tilted his head to one side. “You’re not making much sense, Poliwag.”
My fingers twisted into my suspenders. “I saw something that will happen in ten months. I know the date exactly because there was a newspaper.”
“Something you can prevent?”
I shrugged. “Probably not. That’s not really the, um, problem. The problem is I saw a stock crash. Like, big time. It went from very high to very low.”
His mouth formed an ‘O’, resembling Joy. She actually looked so much like him… how did I not see that before? Did she get anything from her mother’s family besides the hair? And since Grandpa’s sister had been blonde, I couldn’t even be sure Joy hadn’t gotten the hair from the Danevbie side. “Are you saying what Specter thinks you’re saying?”
“I checked the stock last night. It’s relatively low. I could afford to buy several shares, and then sell them the night before they crash,” I said bluntly. His ‘O’ got even bigger and his eyes seemed to match the size. I stood up and began pacing. “Grandpa. I don’t know what to do. I can’t believe I’m even thinking about doing it. It’s–cheating. It’s wrong. I know exactly precisely when to sell to make the most money, that’s not–I shouldn’t. I can’t.”
Grandpa scurried over and grabbed me by the shoulders. “Buy it.”
“What?!” I stared in shock at my tiny little innocent grandpa telling me such a thing.
“Poliwag. I know you don’t mind doing what you’re doing, but you can’t be a, um, a, uhhh, a, uh, hooker–“
“Escort,” I injected quickly.
“–escort all your life. How much can you make from buying the stocks?”
“Thousands?” he asked and I shook my head. “Hundreds of thousands?” he whispered and I gave a tiny shake of my head. “Millions?”
“Several,” I mumbled.
Grandpa began shaking me. “DON’T BE STUPID AND GO BUY THOSE RIGHT THIS SECOND, POLIWAG! Think of your future. Think of Joy’s future!”
“B-but Grandpa, it’s wrong, isn’t it?!”
“Says who? There’s no laws or rules in place pro… proh…profiting psychics from playing the stock market. Prohibiting psychics from playing the stock market,” he corrected himself, I assumed from grandfather.
“It’s insider trading! That is completely illegal!” I hissed at him.
“Nobody told you the information.”
My stomach flipflopped around as I pulled away from Grandpa. “No. I can’t. It’s illegal. It’s wrong. I can’t. People go to jail for buying and selling with information the public doesn’t know.”
“How can anyone prove you did that?”
A bubble of laughter burst out. “A psychic who suddenly made millions on the stock market? Brilliant.”
“Then buy various stocks. Don’t just go for that one. Buy five or ten or so different stocks. Put the same amount into each of them. You’ll get a profit anyway right?” Grandpa asked in a slow tone indicating he was just repeating what Grandfather was saying. “Don’t tell anyone else you had this vision. We won’t tell anyone.”
Over the next month I bought shares in half a dozen different companies. The third being the one I saw in my vision. I bought from one other that was around the same price, two more expensive, two less expensive. I mentioned it to nobody. Not even Sam. Not that I didn’t trust him I just wanted to wait till after the fact. Of course I used up all my savings for this so I upped my dates for a couple weeks so I wouldn’t have to panic about bills or paying Dakota. And I still felt a nagging sense of wrongness.
“She fussed for so long tonight,” Dakota said one night when I got home in the wee hours of the morning. She sat on the couch, her feet tucked under her, an open book in her lap.
“Is she sick or just wanting me?”
“I think she just wanted you, but I’ll keep an eye on things in case it’s something like an ear infection.” Dakota licked her lips and unfolded her legs, standing up very slowly. “Um, I was–I needed to talk to you.”
Since she never stayed up for me like this I had figured it was something like that. Please don’t want to leave… three years with her, how could we survive?! “What’s up?”
She bowed her head, eyes focused on the floor. “I can wait till after your shower. I just wanted to let you know, so you won’t go right to bed.”
“If it’s something important we can talk now…”
“No. That’s okay, I know how much you–erm–need your showers.”
I sighed and marched past her so I could get a fast shower. What is wrong? Is she wanting to leave or did something happen with Joy…? No she would have told me right out. Is Grandpa okay?
Usually post-sex-dates my showers took half an hour. This time I spent maybe 6 minutes at most under the water, dumping shampoo in my hair and speedily ran a loufa over my body. I jumped out (nearly slipping) and into some clothes. On my way back down I peeked into Grandpa’s room and saw his sleeping form. Joy’s room was right next to the living room so I couldn’t check immediately on her.
Dakota rose to her feet again when I came in. “That was quick.”
“Yeah.” I pushed my wet hair back. “So, uh, what’s going on?”
She began wringing her hands. Not a good sign. “Apollo… I have something very important to discuss with you and please, let me–let me finish things. It’s complicated. And–strange. Very strange.” She pushed her hair back, eyes rolling a bit wildly towards the ceiling. “Okay. Where to start. Watcher. I don’t know. Okay first of all. I… I’ve uh…”
“Dakota, are you wanting to leave?” I asked, my voice dropping a bit. Please no.
“Oh! Of course not, no. I mean, if you want me to go I can but let me finish. This is difficult. Very difficult. I knew it would happen yet I didn’t plan for it.Okay gonna lay it on straight since I think we–I mean, you’re my boss but we’re… I think we’re…”
“Friends?” I offered. “I think we are too.” Then another idea. She didn’t like me did she? We got along great, watched a lot of the same shows, and hung out sometimes, and there was something pretty about her. We never got together but there were a few nights I felt a weird momentary attraction to her. I mean walking in and seeing this pretty woman my age holding my daughter–but the moments always passed. Did she have those moments? Did they not pass?
Dakota began chewing at one of her nails. “I’m not who you think I am. I’m part of a group of… ugh, I don’t even know, not really scientists. I mean some of us are. I’m not. Okay, see, there’s this big problem going on in the world. I’m sure you’ve felt it. Like magic is being messed up. Like something is going wrong. And there’s this scientist who made a machine that can graph the–the magic balance in the world, okay? Like, track it and judge what’s happening in the future. Not like, seeing the future, but sort of seeing how magic is–going to be in the future? Ugh, it sounds much more weird than it really is!”
“Dakota, I can see the future,” I pointed out. “So it’s not something that sounds too weird.” Uh, so please continue?”
She took in a very deep breath. “So this organization is tracking and graphing the magical balance and there are these huge spikes, as we call them, upsetting the balance. Possibly with devastating consequences. So we’re trying to… fix the world. I guess would be the best, uh, explanation.”
I couldn’t help but snort and her cheeks reddened. “I know. It sounds so stupid,” she whimpered, “but it’s true.”
“And this is what, your side job for money?” I asked, then frowned. “Except you rarely go anywhere. Wait. This–is this…?” I trailed off now, feeling a bit sick.
Dakota glanced away from me. “There’s a big spike coming. Not the worst. But one that might upset the magical balance so badly it could… destroy things. Um. You know.”
She shrugged. “Yeah. Maybe. And a lot of these–a lot of these spikes have revolved around you and your family.” Now she squared her shoulders and looked straight into my eyes. “Like the destruction of the school. And when your father died. That was a bad spike that turned out to be not as bad as it could have been? We think? See, my boss didn’t start charting this until after that happened, actually I think it inspired her to chart these cause she saw how close the world came to being thrown into chaos from magic and–“
“Dakota” I interrupted. “What the hell are you saying? That this group is following me?” Then it hit me and I took a step back. “Watcher. I’m so stupid. You are. You’re here to… to spy…? On me?”
Her momentary confidence dissipated. “Sorta. Not quite? But sorta.”
“Apollo, l–listen to me please!” she begged. “It isn’t my main boss that believes you’re really involved, it’s my other one, the Professor, he’s much nicer and much smarter, and he–we–he and I think–and then there’s that vision you had, of the world maybe being destroyed and it sounds like it ties in with the big spike coming up in a couple years! We think that is is, and it if we can figure out exactly what it is, maybe we can stop it!”
I held up my hands. “Dakota this sounds–“
“I know it sounds crazy,” she pushed on, “I know, but it’s the truth. And my name is Danielle. Not Dakota. I came here because the Professor and I both feel like you’re the key, cause so many recent spikes are about you specifically, like when you went to the Hollow where your father died, and the haunted house before that, the McCormick house.”
I stared at her in disbelief. She was a freaking stalker. Then…
“You’re her! The girl who–who saved us at the house! Except… you had green eyes. You looked a lot like… like…”
“Like a Danevbie, I know,” she whispered. “I really admired your father, and I would wear green contacts a lot to change my eye color, and sometimes I had fake freckles on too. I didn’t mean to be seen that night, I wasn’t supposed to intervene, but I felt like if I didn’t then someone would be hurt bad, or killed.”
I sank down on the rocking chair–the nearest seat–and put my head in my hands, trying to wrap my brain around all of this craziness. She was a freaking stalker obsessed with my father so much she purposefully tried to look like him. Now here she was in my house, helping me raise my daughter. She had lied and was living with us. She was obsessed with my family, with my father.
My head began throbbing and a little bit of rage began building up. She had lied to me, for years–freaking years. A total stranger stood before me. Lied, to get in my house for whatever reason. A liar holding and caring for my baby, my baby.
Without realizing, my hands curled into fists. Dak… Danielle gave a whimper. “Please. Believe me, I–”
“Believe you? You just stood here, telling me everything was a lie but to ‘believe’ you?!” I got back to my feet, fury taking over.
“Apollo, please! You’re–you’re important, you’re like, the key to all of this. Somehow. I don’t know how, but you are. That vision you have, we think that’s the catalyst. The tipping point. Where the spike shoots up and could destroy the world. You’re there that night, you’re somehow involved in… in…”
A sharp hiss escaped. “In what? Saving the fucking world?”
“Like your father.”
Now rage boiled over and I spun around, kicking the wall hard.
“He saved the world,” Danielle whispered.
“He DIED.” Memories of when I first went to Moonlight Falls resurfaced. How much like my father I felt. “And I’ll die. That lightning strike hits me, and I’ll die. Saving the world? You want me to just–hand my life over?” My words came out shaky.
“You don’t know that you’ll die!” Danielle seemed like she was struggling to stay calm and soothing; it wasn’t working.
“Neither did he!” I snapped back. “Get out, just get out of my house! You’re–you’re fired!”
Danielle paused and then gave a barking laugh. “Fired?! Watcher! That’s not–”
“GET! OUT!” I screamed. “Get the HELL out of my house!”
“FINE!” she screamed right back. “I TOLD him this wouldn’t work! ‘Oh he’ll understand’!” She threw her hands in the air. “I’ll leave but I’ll come back. We need to talk this over. And Joy needs me–“
“You are never getting near my baby, ever, ever again,” I snarled.
She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t be so stubborn. This is important.”
She stormed out of the house, hair swishing behind her. I followed and slammed the door the second she stepped onto the porch. I wanted to yell after her. Cuss at her. Or call the cops. Something. She lied? She assumed someone else’s identity and just waltzed in and pretended to–well, all right, she didn’t really pretend to take care of Joy, she–she did a good job of taking care of Joy. But she pretended… to… be something else. Someone else. She lied to me. Everything was just a lie.
I looked over at Grandpa. He leaned in the entrance of the hall, looking frailer than ever. “I guess you heard some of that?” I muttered.
“Oh! No. But Specter heard everything and told me.”
Ugh, double great.
“Joy is crying,” Grandpa added.
I stomped to Joy’s nursery and took a few deep, calming breaths before opening the door. She wasn’t really crying, just letting out small little sniffles and whines. She stood up in her crib when the door opened and put her arms out. When she saw it was me, she put her arms down.
I felt like crying at that.
Then I did cry. Just a few tears. But Watcher I couldn’t even hold my own baby. She was upset, she wanted snuggled. I couldn’t give her that.
“Hey, baby girl.” I stopped the tears and went over, bending down to give her a hug. She clung to me tightly, her tiny little hands gripping the back of my neck. “You okay?”
“Heard yelling,” she whimpered in my ear. Then she unlatched her hands and sat back in the crib, eyes watery, lips trembling. “Scary yelling.”
I swallowed. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I just–I was mad.”
One hand reached down and smoothed her hair. “It doesn’t matter. It’s okay. You go back to sleep. I’ll sing you a song, all right?”
She rocked back and forth, holding her feet, deep in thought. Then she nodded. “Okay, Daddy. Sing!”
By the time I finished two songs she had gone back to sleep and my temper had cooled a lot. I returned to the living room and found Grandpa still there, sitting on the couch, worry etched in his lined face. “Not tonight. Please,” I said.
“Ooookay,” he drew out, sounding so much like Joy. “In the morning we have to talk. I think what Dakota said was really, really important.”
I grit my teeth. Did Grandfather relay everything? Such a the fact Da–nielle seemed to want me to die for the world just like my dad did? How the hell could Grandpa and Grandfather be okay with that?! Fucking Grandfather fucking DIED in that same BATTLE and he just… they just… UGH! “In the morning,” I agreed then fished out my cell phone. It was so late. almost four in the morning now. Still I dialed Arty and Kiley’s home phone number. I had to call a second time before anyone answered and it took several minutes to reassure my sister that nothing big had happened, nobody had gotten hurt or died.
“Dakota had to go unexpectedly and I don’t know if she’ll be back,” I explained. “I just need someone to help for a bit. With Joy.”
Kiley arrived in less than fifteen minutes. She was still in her pajamas and robe, her hair a total mess. She just gave me a kiss on the cheek, made me swear to tell her everything after sleep, and then disappeared to Joy’s room.
I trudged to my own bedroom and collapsed down. I didn’t think sleep would come. I felt so keyed up and stressed out. However within minutes the darkness overcame me.
Small hands and a big voice woke me up just after noon. Joy crawled all over my bed and bounced around, giggling. “Wake up, Daddy! Auntie Kiley here! Where Kota?”
I groaned and pushed myself off the bed. My head pounded from a mixture of a hangover and all the events. “Dakota went away for a while.” I didn’t add that she might not come back. I’d save that for another time.
“Okay, Daddy.” Joy hugged me and left wet kisses against my cheek. “Lunch!”
We went to the kitchen where Kiley was fixing a delicious smelling lunch. She laughed when she saw us. “I’ve been holding her back for two hours now, I couldn’t anymore.”
“That’s fine, my alarm usually goes off around now anyway,” I promised. How weird to find Kiley standing there and not Da…nielle. I put Joy in her high chair then took my seat next to her and across from grandpa. Kiley put plates of open faced toasted sandwiches and fries. She gave Joy finger sandwiches and cut up fries. Joy squealed and began stuffing the fries in her mouth.
As soon as Kiley sat down she asked what happened. “Not right now,” I said, giving a quick glance towards Joy. Then I reached for the orange juice.
My hand stretched out over the space of the table and into empty air, farther and farther until I stumbled forward since I wasn’t sitting at the table anymore. I rebalanced myself, standing up straight, looking around in confusion before freezing at the sight of Danielle.
She stood in front of a man in a wheelchair. She looked angry, he looked upset.
“HOW DARE YOU NOT TELL ME?!” she screamed. “HOW COULD YOU NOT TELL ME SOONER?!“
“I’m s-s-s-s-sorry,” he stammered, his body shaking as bad as his voice. “I d-d-d-didn’t know f-for sure, it didn’t s-seem… possible…”
“YOU SUSPECTED HE WAS MY FATHER THOUGH!” Danielle spun around, tears falling from her face. “Apollo TOLD me!”
What?! Me?! I had no freaking clue who her father was and why was I even telling her anything anyway?! She lied to me! In fact, seeing her being lied to… or have been lied to… or whatever this was… just a little poetic.
“I’m s-sorry, I r-really am. Y-you’re right, I sh-should have t-told you my suspicions and t-tried to find out the t-t-truth,” the man said, head drooping. “B-but my sister, she s-suspected too, and d-didn’t want… t-to… look into it… or hve me l–look into it… and I w-was worried if I did and it t-turned out you were, she’d w-want to get rid of you.”
“Oh, your sister, your precious sister,” Danielle said then finally broke into sobs. “I could have known this ages ago, Professor. I could have known more about my identity. I’ve wondered all this time, and you could have told me that you might have a trail…”
He wheeled over to her and put a hand against her arm. She didn’t pull away like I would have. “You’re r-right. I should have t-told you. I m-made a mistake. I kn-know it d-doesn’t mean much but I was p-planning on telling you when th-the project was over and we c-could find out the t-truth without risk of my s-sister firing you.”
Danielle’s eyes were wet but they blazed with anger. “No, it doesn’t mean much at all.” Now she did wrench away. “You should have told me that you thought that Zaid Danevbie was–and probably is–my father!”