Monday, 20 February 2017

Lighthouse, Now Available On Amazon


In days long past, Lighthouses were built on dangerous coastlines, their Keepers protecting ships at sea. But these are not those days.

Kate is a Lighthouse Keeper. For seven generations, her family has manned the Beacons that keep the great Airships afloat on the Sky-Lines across the Himalayan Mountains.

It's a lonely, isolated life, but she's never wanted a different one. But one day, her Lighthouse is put in jeopardy, and with it, the Airships that follow her Beacon to safety in the unending storms.

For the first time in her life, Kate must venture off the mountain. With the help of her new friends among the crew of the Airship 'Windchaser', Kate is in a race against time, because if she's too late, her home, her friends, and many others will fall from the sky...

'Lighthouse' is a novella length adventure story with a unique setting.


***

I published this one in parts, long ago, and have since revamped it, added several scenes, changed some of the science involved, and created what I feel is a better, well rounded story.

So, for your reading pleasure, in one complete story, the 'Director's Cut' of Lighthouse.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Read To Me, Now On Amazon Kindle!

Now available, for the first time in its entirety, the new "Director's Cut" of my original short story: Read To Me

***

Morgan cannot read, not even the alphabet. Megan cannot draw, not even fingerpaints. From kindergarten onward, they have both been isolated in the world. Until their unique connection began.

Before they knew the other existed, Morgan and Megan were part of each other in a wonderful, meaningful way that protected and saved them from the hardest parts of their lives. Their extraordinary link created a lifelong friendship that defied logic, and made no sense to anyone who didn't know how special they were to each other.

And then, unexpectedly, something happens that threatens to pull this lifelong friendship apart.

"Read To Me" is a short story, from the author or "The Lostkind" and "The Welcome Back Diner."

Available Now, on Amazon!

***

So, the story has been up less than a day, and has already broken to Top 900 for it's Kindle Category! I'm hoping that with a little help from you fine people, we can keep that streak going!




Monday, 17 October 2016

Newton's Third Law, and The Trap of Hard Sci-Fi

“Newton’s Third Law. The only way humans have figured out how to move forward is to leave something behind.” - TARS (Interstellar)

For the last three years, there have been major, blockbuster, award winning Science Fiction movies. Gravity. Interstellar. The Martian.

And that's not even counting the really big numbers like Star Wars and Avatar.

So why do I focus on these three movies? Because they have something in common: They're 'hard' sci-fi.

For the uninitiated, a 'hard' sci-fi is one based on real science, real physics. The sort of movie or story where the spaceship can actually exist and do everything you see on screen, if only it were built. The Martian is a good example of this genre. With one or two exceptions, every single thing you see in the book or movie is based on real fact.

'Soft' sci-fi, is a story where the rules are made up for the plot. Star Wars is a good example of this. Until someone makes a working lightsaber, or a hyperspace drive, it's purely imagination.

Don't get me wrong, I love both; but 'Hard' sci-fi has an inherent weakness that Star Wars does not share. But we'll come back to that.

Today, a patent was filed for the EM Drive. A patent is a matter of public record. Up until now, this technology has been kept a secret, except in academic circles, until they could confirm that it worked as advertised. They all agree that it did, though none of them could understand how. Even when walking, we can only push ourselves forward by pushing our feet back against the ground. Action, reaction. This thing somehow manages to defy that basic law of physics. Or at the very least, find a loophole.

And now that it's patented, the race is on to build a 'next gen' version for actual use in space.

I've been geeking out about this for weeks. The EM Drive first came on my radar in 2013, and at the time I didn't believe it. The idea that we could now generate thrust without exhaust or using fuel? It was laughed at by most. Nothing humanity has created has been able to do this. To create motion in one direction without requiring force in the other direction? It, literally, disputed at least one of the concrete laws of accepted physics.

It underwent a ten week peer review already, and even NASA admits that it seems to work as advertised, though the science of 'how' eludes them.

I've been following this on and off for a while now, and they say that if it works like they hope it will, this kind of engine could reach Mars in ten weeks.

And that brings us back to the point of today's lesson, class. Because if this works, then the hard Sci-fi of our generation, including The Martian, and Interstellar? They just became old, outdated science fiction. Seriously. The whole plot point of The Martian was that the hero was a year from rescue at least. If they could have built a probe to get Mark Whatney re-supplied in ten weeks? Instead of a year? Whew.

The opening quote in today's post is direct from interstellar, and gave us the whole Climax of the film. If that crew had a space drive that didn't need fuel, the film would have turned out very differently.

This is not a new situation. This has been happening since the days of Jules Verne. We just keep lowballing our own future. Two years ago, I wrote a blog post about technology in fiction and I mentioned that in the early episodes of Star Trek TNG, the characters bragged that the Enterprise had two terabyte computer. And back when the early seasons of TNG were made, it seemed like a wide enough margin between fact and fiction. Surely it would take until the 24th Century before anyone needed a whole terabyte, right?

Hard sci fi has a special place for fans, because it is realistic, but at any second it could all become obsolete.

The reverse is also true. Hard Sci-Fi said that by 2001 we'd be at Jupiter.

Well, who knows? We might just have a shot. Another five years, we might have a whole new fleet of shuttles or space probes that don't need fuel. Science Fiction is always the precursor to Science Fact, so if the EM Drive works, we're effectively rewriting everything Arthur C Clarke came up with.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Age of Dreamers


That girl in the next cubicle, is she really a secret poet? That guy in the coffee shop, is he thinking about work, or creating another language from thin air? The kid on the bus you never speak to, is he rewriting Harry Potter in his head? 

Until five or six years ago, that's where it would stay. In our heads. The Internet came and we could offer up our thoughts, but not like this. How many of us have the drive to create, but couldn't do it before? How many of us have never had the nerve to write a poem and offer it to someone's eyes?

This is our time. The age of the idea. Not of printing, or binding; but of words. Not of organizing an orchestra or securing a contract, but of making music.
This is the age of the idea. The age of the dreamer, and the dream. This is the age where content is greater than advertising and the readers are more powerful than the media.
This week, Amazon is celebrating indie works, published through their services. Speaking as someone who's published all his stories this way; I'm happy to join the chorus. 

I like being an Indie Author, because I can finally do it. I've lived my whole life with these things filling my head, and at last I can share them with people. I know we all dream of a publisher running to us and saying: "We want to pay you a million bucks for your next book!"

But in the meantime, we keep exploring the universes in our heads. 
This is our time. The time for people who have always wanted to tell a story, but never had the right forum for someone to hear us.
Here's to us, Indie Authors! 





#PoweredByIndie

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Welcome Back Diner, Now on Amazon

The Welcome Back Diner was a short story I wrote, and published on this very blog in multiple chapters. But after receiving some positive feedback, I decided to try publishing a Collected Edition as my first short story for Kindle.

Here it is, in it's complete form for the first time, with an all new cover; for just 99c. (The cheapest I could make it, I promise.)

After less than a day on the Kindle Store, this story broke the Top 900 in the 90-Minute Reads Category, and the Top 3000 in the Short Story Category of the Amazon Best Seller's List.

Follow This Link to the Welcome Back Diner.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Read To Me (Part Two of Two)



Megan had been right. His hands had healed faster than her eyes. Their parents had never questioned why the two of them had become firm friends, and when they’d discovered that they lived so close, the two families didn’t hesitate to let the kids stay close as times got tougher after the accident.

Mom had to take a job too, because of the hospital bills, so they’re glad to have me stay with a friend they know. Especially since I can’t be trusted to walk around my own damn house without smashing things any more” Megan whispered to him one day after school. “But they think we’re weird. We sit here all the time, but we don’t say much.”

What is there to say? What we do is way more interesting.” Morgan asked rhetorically. “Okay, I don’t use oils that often. What do you think?”

Megan shrugged. “I can tell the difference, but… I don’t know, it’s not like seeing lines. Oils are different. Maybe I’m only seeing the brushstrokes?”

Maybe.” Morgan shrugged. “And that one was an ‘e’ by the way.”

Megan froze. “What?”

The praile.”

Braille.” She corrected.

Whatever. The bump was an ‘e’. You were going over it in your head, and trying to pick out the letter.”

How did you know that?” She wavered.

I told you. I can’t understand letters, but Braille is just dots on the page. That’s almost a drawing, and that’s something I can do. I can hear you trying to pick the letter in your head, the way you did when you read normal letters.”

You can hear me reading again?” Megan seemed overjoyed. “I thought… I thought my side of it was gone forever.” She tapped the thick page. “It’s strange, going letter by letter.”

Why? Isn’t that how it was when you read a normal book?” Morgan guessed, going through his art supplies. “You get letters, and they make words. When you read, didn’t you go letter by letter?”

Megan shook her head. “You get used to it so that you don’t just see letters. You go through the sentences, and when you get to the end of the page, it’s like you’ve forgotten you’re reading words. It’s more like someone’s describing something to you, and you see it.”

Morgan shrugged. “Well… then how is it different than looking at a picture?”

A picture stays the same. A book, you can make it look like whatever you want.”

I can do that too.” Morgan huffed. “Here, watch.”

Not funny.” She groused, but a moment later, she could see him drawing again, her gaze aware of nothing but his work. “What are you drawing?”

These pencils were a gift from grandma. She called them ‘watercolors’.”

The lines in her mind filled out suddenly, exploding into much fuller shapes that seemed to fill her world with color for a moment. Then more lines, and she realized what he was doing. A glorious emerald evergreen took shape, surrounded by a bright blue sky, and fields of endless gold and red.

He was drawing her an Emerald City.

It took him half an hour to draw it, and then the watercolors were spread out by brushes of water, making the flowers pop and the clouds grow and the jeweled towers shine… Megan had a huge smile on her face, reaching one hand out as though she could walk into the picture he was making for her…

And then, the artwork done, it started to fade, and she was left in darkness again. Megan found she was breathing hard. “Thank you, Morgan. That was beautiful.”

Morgan nodded. “Keep working on your thing. I wanna know how how the book ends.”

You haven’t seen the movie?”

Well, yeah. But I like it better when you read to me. The book is always better.”

She beamed. “I agree!”

It took her months to realize what he’d said without either of them noticing.

~~*^*~~

I have to say I don’t get it.” Maura admitted.

Me neither.” Sarah sighed. “But to be fair, they’ve always been like this.”

They were watching their kids through the kitchen window. Morgan was painting at an easel. Megan was in her usual outdoor lounge chair, right next to him, with her book across her knees. Neither of them spoke a word to each other.

I know they talk to each other at some point, but... “ Maura shook her head. “I talked to Morgan about what they do when they come over here. I suggested that maybe painting her a picture isn’t the kindest thing he could do right now. He told me that he knew what he was doing.”

I had the same conversation with Megan. She insists she doesn’t mind. In fact, she asked me to keep every painting somewhere safe for her. Ever since the accident… He just paints the sky. Every day, just the sky, as seen from the backyard. Every day another one.” She sipped her coffee. “I know, it’s odd. But frankly, I don’t care. Everything changed, except for them. When Morgan’s here… it’s practically the only time she comes out of her room any more.” Sarah looked miserable. “The world got so big and scary for her. She never goes out any more.”

Maybe you should try and get some of her friends to come around? See if they can talk her into it?”

Sarah scoffed. “Her friends? They all begged off. All of them. Except for the one that saved her life.” She looked out the window. “He blames himself, doesn’t he?”

I think so. But I don’t think that’s why he’s here.” Maura sighed. “You know something else? He asked me to find out where you bought her those Braille books… He’s saving up his allowance and buying some for himself.”

Sarah’s lost without her books. That’s been the hardest part of this whole thing.”

~~*^*~~

Months passed. Megan grew proficient reading braille, and their dynamic returned to what it was, but Megan never left the house. Morgan insisted sometimes, and she went for walks with him, but never anywhere with other people. He brought over music, but they had very different tastes. He offered to take her shopping for music of her own, but she turned him down.

They both graduated. Morgan went looking for work, Megan continued with her classes for as long as the teachers were willing to teach her, but eventually they told her was ready and kicked her out.

That one was an ‘e’, by the way.” The phrase just kept going around and around in her head. She didn’t know why, but it haunted her. “Braille is just dots on a page. Practically a drawing.”

And then it hit her.

~~*^*~~

Morgan came by in the afternoon, as he always did. She came down to the backyard and felt her way into her usual chair, He had already set up the easel. “I’ve noticed you don’t use pencils any more.”


He shrugged, though she didn’t see it. “Skin’s a bit stretched over my fingers. What can I say? Easier to handle the brush.”


She didn’t say anything more. At least, not with her voice.


“Tuck Everlasting.” Morgan heard her as she ran her fingers over the title.



"Ever read it?” She asked.

“You’re kidding, right?”


Megan opened the book and started running her fingers back and forth. He caught a jumble of letters and half-words, until she found her place, and they continued their routine. “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from barmy spring, and those that-”


“Balmy.” He corrected suddenly. “Barmy means ‘crazy’. ‘Balmy’ means warm. You meant ‘balmy’.”


“No, It said Barmy.” She said, unconcerned.


“No, it-” Morgan caught himself.


She shut the large book hard. “How would you know that, Morgan? Your memory isn’t that good.” She said silkily.


Morgan was silent. His paintbrush had stopped.


“You can read braille.” She said softly.

Awkward silence.

She shrank into herself, crushed. “You can read braille. Because whatever juju keeps us linked like this, it only stretches as far as written words. Braille is a loophole that means your brain can figure out shapes and dots.”

Megan-”

What was this?” Megan demanded. “When were you going to tell me?”

I didn’t want to tell you.” Morgan admitted.

You didn’t want to tell me, because then I’d know that all this time you were just humoring me! Tossing a bone to the blind girl!” Megan snapped. “Dammit, Morgan! All my friends vanished when I stopped going to school. None of them could face me. You were supposed to be the one person I had left! You were supposed to be my best friend! And now the only thing that I can do for you is just… Is just you feeling sorry for me!”

Oh please!” Morgan snapped. “This isn’t me feeling sorry for you! This is you feeling sorry for yourself! In the two years since finishing school, you haven’t done anything but read those books and look at whatever images I draw! People who lose their eyes still work, still go out, still have friends, still date! You don’t leave your room. I draw them all for you because I want you to have them!” His voice got low and cold. “And by the way, for the first time in my life I’m able to read. First time in my life. Everyone’s happy about that fact except my best friend!”

Get Out!” Megan yelled.

Imagine me drawing a picture of the door slamming behind me!” Morgan snarled and stormed out.

~~*^*~~

That boy saved your life.” Sarah reminded her daughter, voice hard.

He lied to me.”

So he can read? Isn’t that a good thing?”

Megan wanted to yell at her mother for that. Sarah didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, or about what she and Morgan had.

Megan, most people can read. All your friends can. Morgan’s the only one that measured up when you needed your friends.” She grabbed her daughter by the shoulders. “Do you really need to have that little advantage over him so much that without it, you can’t face him again?”

~~*^*~~

Megan stopped being angry as soon as she calmed down. She wanted to call him back… But she couldn’t do it. Because he was right. She’d been hiding in her room since the accident. And Morgan had been humoring her, giving her beautiful gardens and amazing scenes to look at, plucked from the pages of the books she’d read to him without ever speaking aloud. It was always their dynamic. Her books gave her doorways into other worlds, more interesting than their own, and she had taken him on a tour of these worlds, while he drew them into life for her, showing her the world around him in vivid details that she never would have noticed. A dynamic that had grown so much stronger after the accident.

She was hiding in her books, and he’d made it easier to hide.

Feeling sick, she went downstairs. “Mom?”

I’m here.”

Things have gotta change. I gotta start making plans.”

I’m glad to hear it.” Sarah nodded. “So, I take it you sorted things out with Morgan?”

No. We haven’t spoken.” Megan sighed. “I will. When I’m ready.”

~~*^*~~

It was a full two days before she realized there was something missing. There was nothing new being drawn before her gaze. She saw the scribbles when he absently checked to see if his pens worked.

Morgan wasn’t drawing any more.

~~*^*~~

It was another two years before they ‘spoke’ again.

Megan had learned several new skills. He knew from experience that several of the tools that a person who couldn’t read were audio based. If she was writing with a speech recognition computer, he wouldn’t hear her. He never heard her when she was just speaking aloud, or hearing words spoken back to her. He could hear her typing, or reading manuals, or filling out forms...

Morgan still picked up when she was reading, but she never read for fun any more. He wasn’t sure if it was spite, or if she simply didn’t enjoy it any more. The thought that she might not enjoy her books because of him made his teeth hurt.

Sarah and Maura were still close friends. They spoke often. Sarah was grateful that Morgan had given his daughter the push she needed, but both mothers were worried that a close friendship had been severed. Morgan learned through his mother that Megan had found herself a job, and had mastered a computer designed for working with the blind.

Morgan had heard this and looked into something similar. There were smartphones that came with special cases, which translated the screen text into braille. His new skill had opened up his world.

But finally, she wrote him a letter. He was working in an arboretum. Still functionally illiterate, finding work had been hard for him, but he liked working outdoors, around plants. And then, for the first time in years, he heard her voice, clear as a bell. And for once, she was talking to him.

Dear Morgan.” She said, and he smiled a bit despite himself. Wherever she was, she was writing him a letter. “I don’t know if this still works after going so long without you, but I want you to know: You were right, and I was wrong. I was hiding. In my room, in my head, in your pictures. I’m sorry I bit your head off. I’m so sorry that I froze you out. I want you to know that I took the hint. I have a job now, and I have friends. Real ones, like you. A few from my training classes actually got me involved in an art course of my own. Just something to fill the time… I hope you like what I came up with. I actually haven’t seen it myself yet.” He could hear the smile in her thinking. A smile he hadn’t heard for a while.

~~*^*~~

When he came home from work, he found the box waiting. She’d Fed-Ex’ed him something.

It took him a while to figure out what the abstract shape was, until it suddenly struck him: It was a recreation of the Emerald City, from the Wizard of Oz movie. The proportions were all different, the details were inconsistent… But he imagined it painted green, and that was exactly what it was.

After a long moment, he smiled broadly. It was creative output. Megan had no ability to so much as doodle stick figures in her margins, but she’d made something and sent it to him, in honor of something they shared.

It took him a while to dig the box of watercolors out of storage.


~~*^*~~

Megan jumped when the lines suddenly appeared in front of her. Morgan was sketching again. He was using the watercolors. It took her a while to realize what he was drawing her. He was recreating the sculpture she had sent him. It was the first time she’d ‘seen’ it.


~~*^*~~

Morgan finished the picture, and after a moment... the phone rang.


He answered it, and her voice came before he could so much as say 'hello'. “I missed you.” She confessed.

Comfortable silence.

Listen. I’ve been talking to some people…” Morgan said finally. “There might be a way to get you back your eyes.”

~~*^*~~

Her mother was thrilled with what the doctors were telling her. “They say the transplant went well, and that the stem cells are working better than expected.”

I’m not getting my hopes up.” Megan said with forced calm. “Anyway, it’s a beautiful day outside; go enjoy it. You’ve been sitting here next to me for three days. Morgan is here, and you don’t want to get caught by the rain; it’s probably going to hit sometime in the next hour.”

How do you know what the weather is like?” Her mother asked lightly.

Megan smiled secretly to herself. Morgan was over by the window, sketching the view for her.

Well… I guess I should check in at home…” Her mother said slowly. “I hate to leave you here…” She glanced to Morgan. “But I guess she’s safe with you, huh?”

Guard her with my life.” Morgan promised.

I'm sure, if you ever put that pad down you could be quite intimidating a bodyguard.” Megan could hear her mother smile. “You know, I’m glad you two have reconciled, but I never knew what to make of your friendship, since you two never seem to speak to each other.”

We make do.” Megan promised.

I suppose you must.” The older woman sighed, and turned to the young man. “Morgan, I know you didn’t want us to make a big deal out of it, but it IS a big deal.”

Morgan froze, shaking his head wildly. No!

Morgan, she deserves to know.” Sarah turned to her daughter. “Megan, the operation? Morgan paid for it.”

Silence.

What?” Megan croaked. “How did he pay for the operation?” She shook her head. “Wait, why am I asking you? MORGAN, WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!”

Well, I’ll let you two talk.” Megan’s mother said brightly, before she turned and bolted.

How did you pay for this?” Megan demanded.

What did you think I was doing for those two years?” Morgan offered.

But why?” Megan demanded. “I was… I was so awful to you!”

We were friends.” Morgan was staring at his shoes, barely loud enough for her to hear him speak. “And then we weren’t any more. I thought… I thought that maybe if we could go back to the way we were, back when this started, then maybe…”

Megan held a hand out. He came over and held it. “I will pay you back.” She promised.

I know.”

She pulled him closer so that she could rest her fingertips on his cheeks. She felt the muscles shift. She could feel his expression shifting. “Morgan…” She bit her lip. “Have you ever had a best friend before?”

She felt as he shook his head. “First day of school, I couldn’t spell my own name. Third grade, I was still the only one that couldn’t. When the teachers and the kids think you’re too stupid to live, you don’t want to talk to people. Not even about the things you do know. Not even about the things you’re good at.”

And the thing you were best at, you didn’t have to talk about it with me, because I already knew.” She finished. “Did anyone else at school even know you could draw?”

He didn’t answer for a while. “You’re the one person I could talk to about what made me special in any way. I was too scared to tell my own parents. I’m willing to forgive a lot to keep you.” He let out a breath. “And… It was me across the street that day, so-”

Oh my god, Morgan; is that what this is about?” She was stunned. “You blamed yourself for the accident?” She clapped a hand against her eyes. “Of course you did. And then I sent you away. I’m so sorry I made you think that way! I shouldn’t… I’m so sorry!”

You didn’t make me think that way. But that was what I was thinking.”

I should have realized that.” Megan said morosely. “I should have known, but I was in such a bad place after the accident.” She said suddenly. “I felt worthless. But you couldn’t figure out words and letters… I feel so sorry for people who say they don’t like to read. I don’t understand those people. How could you not enjoy this?” She reached a hand out for him, and he took it swiftly. She felt along his arm until she rested her open palm against his heart. “I felt worthless, but I could still offer you my reading skills. It was like being able to see for someone else, the way you do when you draw for me. I don’t know what this weird psychic hotline we’ve got is all about, but I know that once I learned how to read Braille, you were the one thing in my life that hadn’t been lost.”

And then you found out I could do it too, just like you did.” He finished for her.

And that was it. I had nothing to offer anyone.” Morgan nodded.

Long silence.

Megan, just so you know…” Morgan scrubbed his face with his hands. “I never tried braille, until I brought you those books. The starter books? The ones that teach with the raised letters? I still couldn’t tell the letters apart. I never would have known what each letter was if I hadn’t had you there reading them, over and over while you learned. I never would have been able to figure it out without you there. I saw the dots, and I had you whispering the letter or the word in my head… I only learned it because you did. You taught me to read. Something that an army of teachers and doctors couldn’t do. You gave me that. You’re right, all those people who never picked up a book again? I feel sorry for them, but if it wasn’t for you, I’d be one of them. I never said thank you.”

You never had to.” Megan was crying a bit. “Once I got over myself, I finally realized that.”

Thing is, you weren’t entirely wrong.” He confessed. “I couldn’t read. The teachers humiliated me about it, so you can imagine how my classmates went at me. And nobody else cared. And then I got you, and you were so in love with your books, and you were so caught up in your characters; and I could only see into that world when you did. Part of me was so jealous that I had to depend on you to get through a book. And then you couldn’t read any more, even if only for a little while… I know that you stopped completely once our feud happened.”

Well… That’s not just because of the accident. I shifted to audiobooks for some stories, long before I lost my vision, just so that you wouldn’t hear them. What can I say? Some things a girl wants to read to herself.” She joshed slightly. “It’s hard reading teen girl romances when you’re telepathically narrating for a teenage boy. Let alone any of the really trashy escapist stuff.”

Thank you for avoiding that.” He drawled. “Lady Chatterly’s Lover was bad enough.”

Morgan giggled. “I was so mad at the universe, and you were the only one that stuck around long enough that I could take it out on you. And what do you do? You fix me.”

Someone had to.”

Yeah, you really did. You were right. I was hiding behind… all of it. I’m better now, figuring out stuff beyond our link. If you hadn't given me a swift kick in the butt, I’d still be in my room. Thank you for that.”

Gentle silence.

When do they take the bandages off?”

Another couple of days.” She took a shuddering breath. “To be honest, I’m really scared.”

They say it worked.”

That’s what scares me. I’ve been through this before.” She held his arm tightly. “What if I get my eyes back, and I can’t recognize anything? What if I remember it all wrong? My room? My mom? You? When it happened, everything changed, except for you. I didn’t know you from a very intense dream, and you didn’t know me from a voice in your head, and then I was suddenly all alone in the dark, and what we had never changed. And then I found out that things had changed for you after all, and I couldn’t take it. I had nothing left in the world that I recognized. What if that happens again?”

You think that I was your friend just because I wanted a book club?” He sighed. “Even if I can read, and you can sculpt… what made us special never changed. How many people in the world can hear each other think?”

Maybe they all can, and they just don’t talk about it either.” She smiled a little.


Silence.


Now there's a thought that's going to haunt me for a while.” He said finally.

After a moment, that thought made them both burst into long, happy laughter.

~~*^*~~

It was a rainy, miserable day, with overcast skies full of dark, ominous clouds.

It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She recognized the streets instantly. Her mother was just as she remembered. But there were differences too.

I’m trying to decide if things are different now, of if I just remember them wrong.” She murmured. “The street wasn’t so… orange.”

They planted a row of maple trees. Part of a council refurbishment.” Her mother reported. “Lot more tree cover in our street now, and at this time of year, the leaves are all changing colors.”

Beautiful.” Megan said approvingly.

~~*^*~~

I thought he’d be here when we got you home.” Sarah said, displeased. “He put so much effort into it, you’d think he’d want to welcome you back himself. Especially since he wasn’t there at the hospital.”

Megan smiled to herself. By the time she was halfway home, he’d been drawing her street and her house. By the time she’d gotten sorted, and made her way to the front door, the car and her family had been added to the picture. “He’s here. He’s waiting for you to leave so that we can have privacy.” Megan said simply. “Don’t be offended mom, it’s our way. Or at least, it was two years ago.”

Sarah gave her a knowing look.

Megan flushed. “Not for that.”

You know…” Sarah said slowly. “If it was that… If you wanted the place to yourself for a while, I’d understand.”

Megan choked on her tongue. “Seriously? I can’t believe you just said that!”

My blind daughter can see again, kid.” Sarah said seriously. “This isn’t some stranger trying to pick you up. I know Morgan. You two have a long history, and after what he did for you… This isn’t like sending back a drink some guy sends you in a bar. I’m just saying, I know Morgan. I like Morgan. And if you guys can’t say… whatever it is you need to say with me around, I can understand that too.”

It’s not like that.” She promised, but gave her mother a hug anyway. “It’s good to be home.”

~~*^*~~

Her mother left, promising to be back in an hour. Megan bet that she was on her way to see Maura. She looked around the house for a while, reminding herself what it looked like for a while, and suddenly realized she didn’t have pens or pencils anymore. And why would she? She hadn’t seen anything she’d written or read in six years. Her days of jotting down a note were long gone.

But after a moment, she found a tube of lipstick, and wrote on the mirror, like something out of a movie.

~~*^*~~

Are you coming in or not? He heard her voice read in his mind.

Morgan smirked and put his sketchpad away.

***

She opened the door for him before he could knock. It was the first time she had seen his face in years. “You look different.” She said softly.

Without a word, he pulled her hands up to his cheekbones. She shut her eyes, just to make sure she had the right guy, seeing him the way she had a week before. And then she opened her eyes, and saw his hands around her wrists. She let out a gasp. “Your hands!”

The skin on his hands had changed, now somewhat patchwork. She could see the differences, the lines that separated the taught burned skin from the softer, more natural look. “Skin grafts?”

After the accident.”

When you smothered the fire before it could burn me.” She almost started to cry again, but she blinked the tears away furiously, wanting her vision to be clear. “I seem to be getting in the habit of thanking you for things too late.” She cradled his hands in hers. “Do they hurt?”

Sometimes.” He confessed. “You would have done it for me.”

Yes.” She said seriously. “I would have.” Please believe that.

After an emotional silence, she took his hand and led him into the house.

Silence.

I have something for you.” She said softly. She pulled out an envelope and handed it to him.

He opened it. The slip of paper was recognizable to him, though the words on it were still gibberish. “A cheque?”

Megan nodded. “I told you I’d pay you back.”

Where’d you get the cash?”

I… sold a book.” Megan admitted. “I wrote a book, and someone bought it. It’s a story about a girl who falls into a depression after an accident, and pulls her life back together once someone wakes her the hell up.”

You wrote a book.” He repeated. “How did you manage that without me knowing it?”

You don’t hear conversations.” She smiled. “I dictated it to a word recognition app, and then I had my mom correct the errors, punctuation, things like that. It’s not the whole operation, but it’s a start.”

He knew that she wouldn’t let him refuse, so he put the gift in his pocket, and held out a hand to her. “Can I show you something?”

He lead her upstairs to her original bedroom. After the accident, she had switched with the guest room, since it was on the ground floor. Her original room… was full of pictures. Sketches, charcoal pictures, watercolors, paintings…

And she knew them all. It was every picture and painting that he had done for her. Her whole world, shown to her in the darkness by her closest friend, suddenly brought back to life in her room. She felt her jaw drop open at the riot of explosive color. “You kept them all?” She breathed.

I sent them on to you when we weren’t speaking. When we made up, and I started making up for lost time, I kept sending them to you. Your mom kept them here. She felt that telling you about a bunch of artworks you couldn’t see would be a cruel taunt.”

Mom would never understand what we have.” She agreed. “But she kept them all?”

She had a photographer through when you were in hospital. She felt it was a good human interest story. A blind girl and her illiterate artist boyfriend trying to show her the world? She was telling the magazines and the papers all about the way I came over and painted you the sky every day.”

Boyfriend?”

I told her she was way off about that, but she said it made a better human interest story.” He looked down. “Some of the newer ones… There’s a small gallery on the edge of town that’s interested in sponsoring me. So, you did pay me back, even without this.” He held the envelope back out to her.

She took it hesitantly.

He reached into his bag. “And I’ve got you something.” He pulled out a box of multicolored pens. “I noticed you have no pens around any more.”

She took the box with a smirk. “Thank you. Again.” She sniffed and suddenly brightened. “Oh, I know!” She took his hand and dragged him downstairs into her current bedroom.

Okay, don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered-” He started to stammer out as they came into view of her bed.

She swatted him. “Not that, dummy.” She went over to her shelf and took down a row of large braille editions. “I don’t need these any more, and they’re the only ones that you can read.” She blushed a little. “Mom kept bringing them to me. I couldn’t explain to her that I wasn’t reading for fun any more because I was having a tantrum.” She sighed. “Audiobooks did it for me until…”

Morgan took the books and ran his fingers over the titles. “Thank you.” He whispered. But then he paused and handed one back to her. “Treasure Island. The one my class was reading when it happened.”

She nodded.

You know, I never did get to hear you read the end of it.” He said softly. “I’ve seen one of the movies, but… the book is always better.”

I will, if you do something for me.” She held out her colored pencils. “Draw me the sky, one more time?”

He smiled a bit. “You don’t need me to show you the sky any more.”

You don’t need me to read to you any more.” She reminded him.

They smiled warmly at each other, and without a word, went to their place in the backyard, between the homes where they grew up together, seeing the world once again.


~~*^*~~

END

Read and Review!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Read To Me (Part One of Two)


We can’t really explain it.” The Doctor said. “His brain just doesn’t process the written word. There are some things, like dyslexia that can account for that, but this is something different. There aren’t any of the standard markers.”

So what does this mean for him?” His mother asked, worried.

Well, fortunately, there are all sorts of ways around the problem.” The Doctor explained. “If this had happened twenty years ago, he’d have no chance at a normal life.”

Morgan looked down at the notepad the doctor had given him. There was a scrawl of written words along the top of the page. He could tell when someone else had written them, but he just could not comprehend the story.

But the pen was in reach. Almost as a nervous habit, he picked it up and started sketching absently.

~~*^*~~

But I can’t draw!” Megan insisted. “I don’t know where it’s coming from!”

Give it a try.” Her mother insisted.

Megan picked up the pen, her hand trembling a bit, and she tried to slide it across the page. She could see the image so clearly, unfolding in front of her eyes. It wasn’t a photo or a half-remembered dream. She could see each mark appearing in front of her, like an invisible man was drawing it in front of her.

She put her mother’s pen to the pad, and tried to make it trace the lines… And her hand suddenly went sideways. The lines just wouldn’t line up if she was drawing them. Megan tried again, turning the neat sketch into a raw scribble… The failure made her want to cry. “I can see it!” She insisted. “It’s… I don’t know, an office somewhere! There’s a man in a coat, and three pictures on the wall!”

Her mother didn’t force her, pulling her into a tight hug. “It’s okay, sweetie. You’re young. Who knows, maybe you’ll grow into a real artist. But until then, don’t worry. Your brain is probably remembering things you’ve seen. A TV show we flipped past, a picture out of a book…”

Megan didn’t really believe that, but she didn’t say anything. She wasn’t getting a flash of memory, she was watching someone draw in blue pen. But there was nobody there. She watched the drawing evolve for a while, but it suddenly stopped, half finished.

She waited a while, but after a moment it faded away completely.

Megan noticed her mother staring at her, and the girl realized that she’d been gazing at a blank page for almost five minutes. She immediately pointed at the bookcase beside her bed. “Book!”

Her mother smiled, and pulled it out. “Okay. Can you read it? Your teacher says you should practice your reading as part of your homework.”

Megan smiled, because she liked this one. “Wise-d of ooze.”

Almost.” Her mother smiled, and traced the words with her finger. “Wizard of Oz.”

Megan nodded. “Chapter eleven.”

~~*^*~~

Well, the good news is, it’s not your eyes.” His mother said kindly. “But I didn’t think it was. You can see every detail of pictures and video games easily enough. And anyone who can sketch like you can…”

My teacher says they’re the best in class.” Morgan said proudly. “I get to use the good pencils, everyone else is stuck with crayons.”

Worth a thousand words.” His mother agreed.

Just then, someone else spoke. “Even with eyes protected by the green spectacles, Dorothy and her friends were at first dazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City.” A voice said. It was a little stilted, a little awkward, and the voice had to repeat things once or twice, but Morgan could hear a girl his age, speaking so clearly that he turned to look around. But there was nobody else in the car.

The streets were lined with beautiful houses all built of green marble and studded everywhere with sparkling emeralds.” The girl kept going. “They walked over a pavement of the same green marble, and where the blocks were joined together were rows of emeralds, set closely, and glittering in the brightness of the sun. The window panes were of green glass; even the sky above the City had a green tint, and the rays of the sun were green.”

Mom?” Morgan asked, a little nervous. “What’s an emerald?”

She seemed surprised by the question. “It’s a kind of jewel. Like a diamond. Very expensive.” She smirked a bit. “A little gaudy, but not enough to ever turn one down.”

Someone would have to be pretty rich to build a city out of emeralds.” Morgan guessed.

His mother smiled. “Ah. You’ve been watching ‘Wizard of Oz’.”

Morgan had never heard of it, but he nodded anyway. At six years old, he knew everything a person could know about secrets. Imaginary friends included.

But why does my imaginary friend have to be a girl? He wondered to himself. They’re icky.

Nevertheless, he listened to her, as she told him a story in his head. She stopped after about ten minutes, but somehow he knew she’d be back. 

~~*^*~~

Morgan and Megan kept each other a secret. Megan had tried to tell her friends once, but they thought she was weird, and stopped being friends with her. Megan had learned very early that nobody liked different things.

Morgan had always known. He told exactly one friend about the girl in his head, but he’d never heard the end of it afterward, and he’d learned the same lesson.

Even so, Morgan was glad to have her. When he’d gone back to school, he’d heard her voice again. She was reading a book that his class was studying. His teachers assumed that he was just a slow reader, and they had plenty of those.

Imaginary girl, you kept me from repeating kindergarten.” He beamed at his eventual report card that year. “How can I ever thank you?”

As usual, there was no answer. She never answered him, or any of his questions. He didn’t understand that, but discovered in first grade that she was only audible when she was reading a book.

Morgan didn’t quite understand that, but supposed if he was strange, then it made sense that his imaginary friends would be too.

~~*^*~~

Megan hated crafts. Her complete incompetence with crayons apparently extended to cutting out shapes, or gluing them together. After gluing her own fingers together twice, and accidentally slicing part of her shirt, she was allowed to sit out the art classes.

How you managed to cut your clothes with safety scissors, I will never understand.” Her mother chuckled. “But, you’re apparently doing well in everything else.” She tapped the report card. “You read and write at a fifth grade level, which isn’t bad for a first grader. You scored really high in observation skills.”

Megan’s smile vanished, but she tried to put it back quickly. What her mother didn’t know was that her talent for observing details had come from her ‘ghost-painter’. She saw his pens and paints drawing the school, the park, the mall… All the places she had gone at one time or another. It was easy to observe details when she was watching someone draw them carefully wherever she looked.

~~*^*~~

By third grade, Morgan’s imaginary friend was starting to worry him. He was old enough now to know that normal people didn’t hear voices in their heads. Much less voices reading books that he’d never heard of. But it wasn’t just books. He could hear her reading street signs, and shopping lists…

And things around him. Sometimes, he could hear her voice so swiftly after seeing the confusing jumble of letter-shapes that he wondered if he was developing the ability to read after all. The teacher would read something off the blackboard, and either a few minutes before, or a few minutes after, he would hear the words again from his imaginary friend.

~~*^*~~

Megan was starting to feel better about her imaginary friend. At first, the drawings that she had seen scrawled across the air were off strange, nonsensical things, but as time passed, and she became more aware of her world, the pictures made more sense. She was seeing drawings of streets and parks and even the school. Whoever was drawing things in her head, they were getting better at it.

And then, one day, she had to stay home from school.

~~*^*~~

Morgan’s class was reading Treasure Island. Morgan was sitting in his chair, staring at the page, a jumble of shapes he didn’t understand, bored out of his skull, as everyone else in the room seemed to enjoy an adventure.

He still understood when the other kids were speaking aloud, so he let them paint him a picture. It was nothing like when his Imaginary Friend did it for him. That was warm and exciting. The kids were all reading in a very stilted, awkward tone. Their teacher was terrifying, and quick to jump on the slightest mistake. There was no fun in it. It was a chore.

Still, he made the best of it. As the others used the words to figure out what was happening in the book, Morgan palmed a short pencil and started sketching out what they described, just so that he could follow it..

~~*^*~~

The picture in her mind was coming clearer. They weren’t just lines, or random marks. She tried again to follow them, but she just couldn’t make her hand work the same way. She could write letters, but… She just couldn’t do it. Her hand just wouldn’t draw the line.

But she could see it. She could see every mark being drawn. It was so clear against the blank white page, even if she was the only one that could see it.

The lines were… Clouds? What else… A ship?

She smiled broadly. The more the picture filled in, the more certain she became. She’d seen this image before. She immediately went to the shelf and drew down a book. Treasure Island was one of her favorites. She opened the book and flicked through the pages until she found the illustration in mind. She held up the book and compared it to the sketch that was drawing itself before her eyes. It was a match.

What are you trying to tell me?” She whispered. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

After a moment, she got back into bed and started reading.

~~*^*~~

Morgan? Since you have time to draw, would you mind reading the next chapter for us?”

It wasn’t fair. The teacher knew he couldn’t do it. All his teachers knew he was disabled when it came to words. Most of them were sympathetic… But Mrs Damon was one of those teachers that was convinced a student who couldn’t do something was just too lazy. It wasn’t that he had to fumble or stutter. He just couldn’t tell the difference between one letter or another. They all knew it, but only Mrs Damon forced him to do it every single time. It was ritual humiliation.

Without a choice, Morgan opened the book. He couldn’t even tell what the page numbers meant.

“There was a great rush of feet across the deck. I could hear people tumbling up from the cabin and the forecastle, and slipping in an instant outside my barrel, I dived behind the fore-sail, made a double towards the stern, and came out upon the open deck in time to join Hunter and Dr. Livesey in the rush for the weather bow.”

The words just suddenly started appearing in his head, and without thinking he started reciting them. “A belt of fog had lifted almost simultaneously with the appearance of the moon. Away to the south-west of us we saw two low hills, about a couple of miles apart, and rising behind one of them a third and higher hill, whose peak was still buried in the fog. All three seemed sharp and conical in figure....”

He wasn’t reading it. The letters were still a messy jumble on the page. Just blocks of vague shadow on a white background. He wasn’t reading, he was reciting something that someone was saying to him.

But as the class stared with their jaws hanging open… He read three pages before the Damon Beast let him stop and sit down.

But his imaginary friend was still going. Suddenly feeling much better about things, Morgan started sketching again.

~~*^*~~

The sketch in her head paused for a while as she read the book to herself… and then started to shift subtly. Now there were new things. Dolphins were leaping out of the water, fireworks going off in the sky. The cover of Treasure Island was suddenly a far more magical sight. It felt like her imaginary friend was rewarding her.

She smiled and kept reading.

~~*^*~~

Even after he put the book down, the words kept rolling through his mind. Mrs Damon was still looking at him oddly, wondering how he’d done it. As she did, Morgan sketched a few additions, just to be spiteful.

~~*^*~~

Megan giggled as the pirate ship in her mind added a gangplank. After a few moments, the person walking the plank became obvious. “Mrs Damon.” She giggled. “Or Mrs Demon, according to her students…”

Megan’s voice trailed off as the implications sank in. She didn’t have a class with Mrs Damon. It wasn’t the first time her imaginary artist had drawn things from her world, but she had assumed that it was her imagination running away with her. This was something entirely original. She’d never had a class with Mrs Damon…

Where is it coming from?” She asked herself. And her wonderfully quick mind, fed on stories of fairies and magic, made the connection. “Or… who is it coming from?” She looked up at the room. “Can you hear me?”

No answer. The image in her head was starting to fade. She glanced back at the book. The drawing in her head had come from a book, and then rewarded her with new details when she read it. But she’d been ‘seeing’ these images for a long time, so…

I can’t draw!” She whined.

There was a knock on her door. “Sweetie? Did you call me?”

No, mom.” Megan said immediately. “Can… can you pass my notepad?”

Her mother did so, checked her forehead, fussed a bit…

The second Megan was left alone, she asked the question, scratching out the words she didn’t dare say out loud.

~~*^*~~

My name is Megan. Are you real, or am I just crazy?”

Morgan twitched. His imaginary friend had never asked him a question before. Never spoken to him directly at all. He’d just heard her reading stories. Ones he didn’t know or recognize, but others that he knew from school.

And apparently, she had a name.

Crazy?” He answered, trying to whisper. “If one of us is nuts, it should be me. I’m the one hearing voices…”

Morgan, is there something you want to share with us?” Mrs Demon was quick to pounce.

No Ma’am.” Morgan assured her quickly. How am I supposed to answer if I can’t answer? He asked himself awkwardly. He didn’t even notice as his hand scratched out a quick doodle of a question mark.

~~*^*~~

Megan could ‘see’ a question mark appear before her gaze, and then a few more joined it.

Taking that as an encouraging answer, she kept writing.

~~*^*~~

Where are you?” He heard her voice.

How do I answer you without speaking? Morgan thought to himself, looking around for inspiration.

~~*^*~~

A new picture started coming into existence, one swift line at a time. Whoever was doing it was better than stick figures and boxy images. He was drawing in three dimensions. Megan was fascinated by it. She had no grasp of such things, and whoever her imaginary friend was, he was finally responding to her in some way she understood.

The picture was a sketch of a classroom. A classroom that she recognized. “Mrs Demon.”

Megan chewed her lip for a moment, and wrote again. “You’re in my school?”

~~*^*~~

Morgan heard that, and burst out laughing. He had to stifle it instantly, because the teacher sent him a hooded glare. Laughter was an uncommon sound in her purely evil presence.

But Morgan was fighting down a smile. It had never occurred to him that of all the kids in the world, his imaginary friend was real, and close by.

Thinking about what to send her next, he quickly sketched out the school cafeteria, and circled a table near the door. It was the closest thing to an invitation he could send.

~~*^*~~

Megan saw it, and jotted down her reply. “I’m sorry. I’m sick today. Mommy calls it a Stomach Bug. She says I’ll be back in school tomorrow. I want to meet you.”

A smiley face appeared next, and she settled down with her book, satisfied.

~~*^*~~

Morgan was nervous. His imaginary friend had a name, and if she didn’t show up the next day, then he was crazy. When his mother picked him up from school, he didn’t dare bring it up.

Okay, sweetie. Like before.” His mother pushed her smartphone at him.

His mother had been trying to teach him life skills that he could use without words. One of which was following maps on her phone. The GPS spoke directions aloud in real time. Whenever Morgan rode along with his mother on her errands, he got a clear picture of the map. His grasp of shapes made the maps easy to remember, but his lack of words made them tough to navigate for another person.

Left, right, pass two, left, pass three. Morgan knew the directions by rote. He could have walked to school with his eyes closed.

You are now passing Alda St.” The phone chirped robotically. “In forty five feet, turn left onto-”

Alda Street!” Morgan sat bolt upright in his seat. “I know that name!”

Of course you do, we pass it every day, before and after school.” His mother reminded him.

Mom, pull over!”

~~*^*~~

Megan was sitting in the kitchen, eating a snack, when her mystery classmate started drawing again. It took her a moment to realize what she was ‘seeing’. It was a quick sketch of her front door. She jumped up. “Mom, there’s someone at the door!”

Knock knock.

Good ears, sweetie.” Her mother grinned.

Megan bolted, and her mother quickly strode after her, catching up at the front door. “Sweetie, you know to let mommy answer the door, okay?”

Megan nodded, bouncing on her feet. Her mother opened the door, and there in front of them was a woman that Megan recognized from some of the drawings… and a boy her age, putting away a sketch pad. She caught a glimpse of the top page. It was a drawing of her house, identical to the one that was fading from before her eyes.

Hello.” Megan’s mother said politely. “Can I help you?”

I’m not sure, you’d have to ask my son.” The other adult took it in stride. “I’m Maura; we live on the other side of the block… in fact, I think we’re the house directly behind you.” She looked down at her son. “Morgan?”

Morgan. Her imaginary friend had a name.

Megan pushed past her mother and quickly wrapped Morgan in a tight hug. “You’re real.” She whispered in his ear.

So are you.” He whispered back, both of them quiet enough that their parents hadn’t heard them.

Well, I guess they know each other.” Megan heard her mother say wryly. “Pleased to meet you, Maura. I’m Sarah.”

~~*^*~~

How did you find me?” Megan asked once they were alone.

Every now and then, I noticed the names of streets. The signs were still a jumble to me, but my family was teaching me ways around the need for the written word. The GPS in mom’s phone spoke aloud, and she had me watch the map as it moved on the little screen. A map is almost a drawing, and that was something I can memorize perfectly.”

So when I read street signs on the way home from school, and you noticed some of the same names…” Megan realized.

Yeah. We were never that far apart, I guess.” Morgan looked awkwardly up at her bookshelf. “Have you read all those books?”

Some of them.” Megan nodded, and as she looked up at her shelf, he caught the echoes. Goodnight Moon. Where The Wild Things Are. The Hobbit. Watership Down. Kidnapped. Secret Garden.

Your lips aren’t moving.” He murmured. “But I can still hear you reading the book names.”

I never hear it when you read.” She pointed out.

He looked down. “I can’t even figure out the alphabet.”

Megan twitched. “I can’t figure out fingerpaints. Maybe that’s just how it works for us.”

Morgan didn’t answer for a while, still looking at his shoes. He looked smaller now, shamed. “At school, the teachers read to us. But when you do it… it’s like I'm reading it myself, only there isn’t a book there. It’s not like when you hear someone else saying stuff.”

She nodded. “When you draw in my head, it’s not like being in an art gallery. It’s way more… more than that.”

Maybe that’s just how it works for us.” Morgan almost whispered. “Why us?”

I don’t know. But I never met anyone who can’t read.” Megan said… and promptly pulled down a book at random. “Good thing you have me.”

~~*^*~~

A unique friendship formed within a few days. Neither of them had much in common, but for their odd connection.

Their respective families didn’t think there was anything unusual about them. To their parents, it was just two kids who knew each other from school, and found out they were neighbors.

What I don’t understand, is why they’re spend so much time together.” Maura wondered aloud as Sarah served her a cup of coffee. “You know what Morgan asked to do when we had Megan yesterday? He wanted to go to the library. He can’t spell his own name, but she took him through the whole library like she was giving him a grand tour.”

Megan loves her books. The other kids made fun of her a lot when she was younger. When she got past the whole ‘fingerpaints’ stage, they left her alone, but she doesn’t really trust people as much as a kid her age should.”

I know what you mean. Morgan went through it too.” Maura sipped her coffee. “Kids are animals. Way worse than when our generation were in school. You either join the pack or you get eaten. Our kids… I’m really glad they found each other.”

So am I.” Sarah agreed.

~~*^*~~

Years passed. They finished their first round of schooling and made it to High School. Megan went to a different high school, further away than Morgan’s, but they still lived on the same block, and with some experimentation, they discovered that distance made no difference to their connection.

When Megan’s class made field trips to the nearest art gallery, Megan sent pictures of the artworks on her smartphone. Morgan made quick sketches of the sculptures, and Megan was able to bluff her way through her classes, despite her complete blindness to all things artistic. After school projects like fundraisers and student body campaigns all took place after school. When volunteers were needed to make posters and banners, Megan put her hand up, and Morgan helped her every step of the way. Seeing things through his view made her aware of details she never would have noticed on her own.

~~*^*~~

What makes you think she’ll drop out?” Morgan asked with interest, still painting at his latest work.

That sketch you did?” Megan told him quietly, not looking away from her book. “I saw the stance you drew. I never noticed it before; but her posture has changed over the last month. She’s carrying herself more leaning backward, but with her head bowed. Plus, her wardrobe has changed. Apparently, my lack of understanding about colors and shapes extends to fashion, so I didn’t notice, but she’s stopped with the jeans and exercise tops.”

She’s putting on weight.” Morgan translated.

And she’s trying to hide it.” Megan agreed. “So either running for Student President is making her stress-eat her way off the cheerleading team, or the rumors about her fooling around with Timmy Faraday are true and she’s now cheerleading for two.” Megan agreed. “Either way, I might just win this thing now.” She turned the page. “Thanks for your help yesterday, by the way.”

If you ever tell my mother that I was helping you shop for prom dresses again…”

Well I can’t ask my mom, I’d go to school dressed as a nun. And I can’t ask any of my friends, because they don’t know that I can’t tell blue from green.” She smirked, turning the page again. “Do you have any idea what it’s like being a teenage girl who has no idea about clothes? It’s the high school equivalent of being a three legged puppy.”

Morgan snorted. “What do you think of this one?”

Megan didn’t have to look. His brushstrokes were appearing before her gaze, giving her a much clearer picture than anything she could see from simple canvas. “It’s the ballroom scene from Anna Karenina, right?”

Right.”

I like it. It was just the way I pictured it.” She nodded. “You know, if you put that skill into more generic scenes, you could probably sell some of these. If you did the train station scene, it’s just a mother and kid in an old-style station, on a misty night in an exotic land.” She shrugged. “I’d buy it.”

~~*^*~~

Morgan found that there was less reading involved in High School than he thought. His problems with letters apparently hadn’t extended to numbers, and he dropped the English classes as soon as he could. He’d become adept in bluffing his way through the rest of his classes by paying attention to what everyone said. Enough of his finals were oral exams that he could keep a decent grade, with Megan to help her with the rest.

~~*^*~~

I won’t help you cheat.” She said seriously.

I know you won‘t.” Morgan agreed. “And I don’t want you to.”

No, you just want me to be over here, casually reading a textbook while you’re sitting for your exam.” She retorted.

Look, it’s not like when were were in kindergarten. I can plead illiteracy with a lot of my teachers, and they make allowances. But for this one, I need you. We’ve been studying for this all month, you know where I’m at; you know how much I’ve learned.”

Enough to pass your tests.” She said seriously.

I know. But I need help reading the questions.” He explained. “It’s design and technology. The answers are mostly diagrams and pie-charts. I can handle those. But I need to know what the questions are first.” He held out an envelope. “I got a copy of last years exam from a guy who graduated my class last year. I haven’t read it. I don’t want you to read me the answers, I just need to make sure that I got the questions right.”

Megan sighed. “Fine. Where’d you get this, by the way?”

Jason.”

She flushed. “You bribed my boyfriend for his old homework?”

Hey, if I have to ‘listen in’ to you two sexting each other, I gotta get something out of it.”

She winced. “Oh no, you can ‘hear’ my text messages too?”

Only the ones you write, or the ones you read; same as always.” He teased. “He’s surprisingly creative for a seventeen year old boy.”

She flushed darker, and returned fire. “What about you? I saw the sketch you did of Penny Hartwood. You drew everything except her acne.” She nudged him jokingly. “Let me guess, you draw her portrait, make it look prettier than she really is, she ‘notices’ you looking and give it to her as a gift. She asks if that’s really how she looks, and you say it’s how she looks to you, and she swoons right into your arms?”

It’s the only reason any guy ever picked up a paintbrush.” Morgan smirked.

~~*^*~~

Their ability to help each other through each other’s lives had created an odd sort of symbiosis. When one of them left on vacation, even internationally, their connection stayed. She could still only see his artwork, even if only doodles; but their generation had grown up with emoji’s and text messages, and their semi-telepathic communications became more of a two-way street.

With only a year of school left, the future was in front of them, and neither of them knew for sure where it would lead, but neither of them expected anything like what really happened.

~~*^*~~

Megan was in class, and so bored she was afraid she was going to pass out.

Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored!

Morgan had the words scrolling through his head as she scribbled them down in her class notes, over and over.

He drew her a huge, frustrated exclamation point, then a small doodle of a stick figure hitting himself in the head with a hammer.

So bored! I’m losing brain cells, that’s how bored I am! I can actually feel time stopping! She wrote down for him to hear. Both their schools had a strict policy about texting or using smartphones in class, but what they had couldn’t be confiscated. Entertain me, before I start to melt into a puddle of boredom.

She saw a picture of a smiley-face, rolling its eyes.

You too, huh?

Another stick figure, this one lighting himself on fire.

Do you think teachers go into this line of work because they’re so boring, or does school make them that way?

A quick drawing of a school building, but the doorway and windows changed to look like a set of bloody jaws and cruel eyes.

I agree.

The school building stayed, but this time the drawing included a stick figure climbing out the window and running away from it.

She smothered a smile. You wanna play hooky? The idea had occurred to her too. In fact, a third of the class was doing the same. This close to the end of the year, there wasn’t really any reason to stay. She’d have been surprised if any of her own teachers would notice.

~~*^*~~

He was ahead of her. She knew, because he was drawing the street in one of his sketchpads. He had a knack for drawing a three dimensional image. She held her head still, and the image seemed to settle in front of her. The curb of the street, the points of a wooden fence along the road…

It was a game she played sometimes, to see if she could make the lines of his drawing match the real world precisely. He had come along this road, and his unique view gave him an almost photographic memory of the street. She could see cars in the image, smaller than they were in front of her, and she stepped quickly. He was somewhere up ahead, telling her where to find him. When the drawing matched the world, she’d be where he was…

And she saw him. Another ten feet ahead, just across the street. When she got closer, the lines of the sketch would match the world. The only thing he hadn’t added to the picture was himself, looking down at his omnipresent sketchpad…

She stepped off the curb, intent on sneaking up behind him. She kept her head very still, so that the image would line up perfectly…

Which is why she never saw the truck.

~~*^*~~

There was something on her face. She tried to reach up and pull it off, but she couldn’t move. “Uhh…”

Baby?!”

Mom?

Baby, just lie still; I’m going to get the nurse!”

I can’t see. The thought came to her. There’s something on my face and I can’t see.

And she passed out again.

~~*^*~~

When she came to again, she was a lot more alert. They told her everything. The accident, the fuel splashing, the fire…

Her first question: “Where’s Morgan?”

I’m here.” He called groggily from opposite her, and she knew instantly that he’d been hurt.

It could have been a lot worse.” Maura told her. “Morgan pulled you away before the fire caught you. Not in time to keep the fuel from doing damage to you both, but enough to keep you from third degree burns. He put the fire out before it got more than your clothes and hair.”

Megan felt a sudden cold premonition. He’d put the fire out before it could hurt her too badly? “Morgan, your hands?”

They’ll heal.” He said roughly.

Silence.

What about me?” She asked weakly. “Will my eyes heal too?”

~~*^*~~

Nobody had an answer for her. Not for another three days. The doctors took the bandages off… and there was nothing. No vague shape, no outlines. Just darkness. Her mother stayed and wept with her until visiting hours were over. She heard Morgan’s mother whispering something quickly across the room, but couldn’t make out what. The hospital went quiet. “Are they gone?”

Yes.” Morgan hissed, sitting up in bed.

What did your mom say?”

Nothing I didn’t already know.” He promised. She could hear blankets moving. She could hear him hissing in pain, the squeak of wheels on the IV.

No.” She put a hand out. “Don’t come over. Save your hands. Don’t pull on the IV line.”

Are you sure?”

Distance has never been a factor before, babe.” She whispered to her friend. “What did the doctor say about your fingers?”

He says I’ll be able to keep them all. Some of the motor controls might be… awkward for a while, until the skin grows back.” He chuckled darkly. “There goes my dream of being a hand model.”

Megan went numb. “We’ve been here… five days, right?”

Right.”

Not one friend from school has come to visit either of us. I know they announced it. Nobody. Not even Jason, and I let that rat get to second base.”

Yeah, well… we’ve made do without them. And let’s face it, we can’t be honest with them.” He scoffed to himself. “You know the first thing mom said when I woke up? She wanted to know how I could be so stupid as to cut school. You’re still wrapped up like a mummy, and the first thing mom does is kindly remind me that I should be ashamed of myself about study hall.”

Parents.” Megan scoffed. “No matter how bad your day, they can always lay a little guilt on top of it all.”

Morgan was silent a moment. “Thing is… she’s right. It’s my fault we were out there. It was my idea, and my drawing that distracted you.”

Megan sniffed. “I can’t read any more, Morgan.” She started to get choked up. “This always went both ways, but I can’t…” She sniffed. “Your hands will heal fast. My eyes won’t.”

She could hear his pencil scratching on the paper, and another simple crooked face appeared in front of her sightless gaze. He was trying to send a smile to her. “Stop with your hands.” She told him. “They’re hurt.”

I know. But…”

Put it down!” The girl barked, and Morgan obeyed quickly. The awkward, broken smile he’d drawn her faded, and there was nothing again. Their connection had been severed. It had been part of them so long that she couldn’t remember life without it, and now her eyes and his hands didn’t work.


END OF PART ONE