Preview — Volume II — Legacy

And So On…
5:00 a.m. the clock buzzes.  It rings at the same time every morning—even weekends.  It’s rung at this time for the last four years.  During the summer it rings two hours later at 7 a.m. but the routine stays the same.  Braiden trails to his eight year old son’s room every day to make sure the clock wakes him.  Mieko doesn’t need the clock anymore.  His body is just used to it.

Mieko sits at the foot of the bed every morning at 5:02 eagerly awaiting his creeping father’s entry to his room.  He’s already in the process of pulling on his socks followed by his jogging pants.  He’s always got a smile for his father.  It’s what Braiden looked forward to most.  They race each other to the bathroom both reaching the sink at the same time—every time.  They stifle laughter to keep from disturbing the lady of the house.  The routine is always the same.  They brush their teeth and wash their faces, two men at the sink, father and son.  It was a prelude to training before the work day began for either of them.

They stretch and twist before finding shoes and coats.  Short of sleet and heavy snow, they run.  It’s their thinking time more than conditioning.  Braiden thinks of his friend lost so long ago, why he covets his son so closely.  He’s watchful.  He’s observant, always observant of his surroundings.  The first few years he actually felt paranoid.  Years tend to reveal things, things like growth.  His son was getting older as the days passed.  His son had school.  He had martial arts training.  He was blossoming as character.  He had friends.  And he knew already having lived a lifetime that these things were going to build with every experience Mieko has.  He can’t protect him forever.  He’d even considered that the worst had possibly passed, that the world beyond may no longer have an interest in his child.  He never understood it, the significance of his family, his blood.  He had no choice but to believe the stories he was fed by his granddad, his uncle Ellsworth.  But he himself couldn’t trace his lineage as far back as the might Titans, the gods of myth.  He didn’t have the experiences Anthony had.  He could only dream what had transpired all those years ago in the mind of his unborn child.  The only adventure he knew was in books.  He had no reason to practice honing his abilities for greater purposes than to move something out of the way he didn’t feel like reaching for.  He was always healthy, but thanks to his wife he was more fit than ever.  It was one of the things he wanted to share with his son.  He also wanted to share the pass time of sneaking junk food absent of Vivian’s knowledge—fun times shared between father and son.

They ran the same route every day.  In between thoughts they talked.  They laughed about school.  Mieko told new jokes while Braiden shared old ones.  They paced themselves trying to make it back home the same time.  They passed the same homes, the same trees, the same man posted there against one on pleasant mornings with his newspaper trying not to be obvious but obviously watching them.  Nothing was different at all except today instead of passing a nod Braiden felt the need to stop.

“Go on and run ahead, Mieko.” He waved him on, “I won’t be long.  You know you still owe me a race, so don’t get winded.” He approached the man by the tree that had yet to lower his paper past eye level.  “Al, is it?”

“I’m sorry?” the man tried to sound confused though he was obviously not great at acting.

“We met about eight years back, when my son was being born.” He kept a reasonable distance, just close enough to speak privately.  “I last saw you standing outside my friend’s room.  What I’m getting at is, I don’t understand why a member of the CDC would be posted at this corner every morning just to watch me and my son run.  Let’s face it, you never get on the 5:20 bus and you can’t tell me you’re taking in sights with a two day old newspaper covering your face.”

The man folded his paper and tucked it beneath his arm, “I have to say, you weren’t this direct the last time I saw you—rather—we spoke.” He extended his hand.

Braiden stared at it hesitant to take it, “A lot has changed in eight years.  If you meant harm, I’d have known it by now.  I just don’t understand why you’re watching.  Who are you really?” he studied his face, “You haven’t seemed to age really over the years.”

“You’re very observant.  Not to mention you have a spot on memory.  It seems you’d be more suited for this job than I.”

“I’m an artist, its habit to be so observant.  My question to you is what your purpose is in watching my son?” Braiden was firm.  His eyes were insistent on answers.

“I shouldn’t do this.  But—I was made.” The man laughed in embarrassment.  “Listen, have lunch with me.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a card.  “I already know where you work, give me a call.  This goes against my better judgment, but I’ll explain everything to you.  And yes, the name is Al.” Braiden nodded accepting the card.  “Now go catch up with your son.  He’s going to get worried.”

He sped off up the street to catch Mieko.  He thought of what the afternoon may hold for him.  What answers should he be looking for?  Even now, as much as he’s tried to avoid it, Mieko’s life still contains secrets with answers he doesn’t have for him.

Mieko’s had his secrets too.  The fact that he’s been having migraines is one of them.  Call it fear or not wanting to worry his parents.  He’s complained once or twice in a few weeks that he’s had headaches, but he didn’t want to raise concerns.  He hated doctors and needles and all the things kids usually feared.  And he knew if he continued to complain, that’s where he’d end up.  There were other things that factored along in that.  He was feeling different, in ways he couldn’t explain.  He didn’t know how to verbalize the changes he was going through.  His skin was sensitive, not in pain or inflamed, but things seemed to take on extra textures.  At times he thought he could hear the minds of others.  Sometimes he’d reach for things and he could swear they’d move on their own.  Sights and sounds, all his senses were acute.  He could even anticipate things before they happened.  He even had visions of things that were long before his time.  He had knowledge of things that weren’t found in books.  They came in blips and flashes, sometimes his sleep.  There was even a man sometimes in his dreams.  They didn’t interact, he just sat there on a boat holding a fishing lure at times—sketching something on a pad other times.  It wasn’t a constant thing, but it was enough for him to notice.  He couldn’t tell any other adults, they’d think he just had an over active imagination.  Even at the age of eight he knew how most adult minds worked.  He fought the urge to grab at his head when he heard his father pacing up behind.  He blinked hard when his vision blurred from the pain.  He felt himself slowing.  He wasn’t winded but he was entirely as energetic as he usually is.  He tried the breathing exercises that his martial arts instructor taught him.  In through his nose, out through his mouth, he breathed.  He locked his fingers behind his head and again, in through his nose, out through his mouth, he breathed.

“Is everything okay, son?” Braiden asked taking lead.

“Oh—um—I was waiting for you to catch up.” Mieko lied, “Who was that guy?”

“Nobody…” Braiden said low, “Nice way to change the subject by the way.  Tell me now or otherwise I hope you’re ready for our race.  We have time to make up for.”

They raced home to the front door.  They ran in wrestling with each other at the door like a tiger with its cub.  It was time for the workout to begin before showers and breakfast.   Braiden had turned their basement into a gym of sorts when Mieko was a baby so that one day he and his son could work out together.  He equipped it with a weight bench, treadmill, punching bags, and pretty much anything that would make it look like you needed a membership just to go down there.  Of course there was a living area with a large television, mini-fridge, coffee table, and seating.  But the highlight was the gym décor.  When Mieko began martial arts training he made use of it.  Now it’s their daily routine to exercise in the morning before the day starts and the evening before bed.  He liked to think of Mieko as an average child that only excelled athletically because of the time he’d put in with him in nurturing his interests in fitness.  He liked to think his son was a prodigy ranking in adult standings because he aided in preparing him for it.  He knew differently.  He could always feel the rising presence inside Mieko, more so today than any other.  He knew his son wasn’t being honest when he asked him if everything was okay.  He knows the process of an awakening.  He knew the migraines.  He knew the changes the body undergoes based on the attributes in ability.  He also knew that if today was the day, there would be a lot of questions.  He’d have to answer for a lot.  He’d have to bring his wife into the light after all this time.  He just wished there was a way, any way, to stop an awakening or at least prolong it.  For the moment, he couldn’t sense anymore pain within his son.

They hurried to the basement and began warming up.  Mieko shadow boxed before his father set up with the focus mitts.  Today it was accuracy and power strikes to the bag.  Tonight they hit the floor with push-ups and crunches—light weight lifting.  Braiden never exceeded thirty pounds to the curl bar for Mieko.  Tomorrow after their run it will be the opposite, hitting the floor in the morning and hitting the bag at night.  More recently Braiden had been thinking of Audrey during their exercising.  He thought of how he hadn’t seen her baby after she gave birth.  He wondered if the boy looked like Anthony, if he’d know him if he saw him.  He wondered if he acted anything like his father.  He was haunted by his thoughts sometimes, but he kept moving forward.  Braiden clapped the pads together.  Reflexively Mieko set his feet and stance.  He held his hands up, palms up, fingers relaxed and spread.

1—2..!” Braiden commanded.

Breathing in, Mieko snapped his lead arm out at the pad situated beside his father’s face as if he was driving his palm into his eye socket.  Breathing out, he stepped into the next strike planting his palm into the pad situated before Braiden’s chest giving it a full extension and stepped back set into place.  He continued the breathing process and continued the steps, 1—2, 1—2!

“Good Mieko, good, 1—2..!” he commanded again.  His hands were hurting absorbing the force.  He felt the shock behind the wind of Mieko’s initial face strikes.  Mieko could focus his power and strength, yet, this was different.  After the next palm to the face he moved the mitt in front of his chest and stepped back as Mieko followed through with the next strike.  His palm didn’t connect but the force still pushed him back.  He felt warm energy radiating from the palm.  He allowed himself to stumble hoping that Mieko hadn’t noticed what really happened.  “I’m sorry, son, I wasn’t ready yet.  Wow, you’re getting strong.” He shook his hands rapidly and dropped the mitts.  “Let’s do some bag work and then hit the showers.”

Mieko basked in the warmth of the beading water from the massaging shower head.  He watched the steam rise and lifted his face up to the water.  He closed his eyes and an image jumped at him from the blackness.  He stumbled back almost sliding in the tub looking around frantically.  He didn’t scream out.  He tried to remember what he’d seen.  It almost looked like an image of him, much older, drowning.  A hollowed voice called his name during the flash.  He pulled the shower curtain back and scanned the bathroom making sure he was alone.  He thought of telling his parents he wasn’t feeling well, that he wanted to stay in from school today.  He knew he didn’t feel right but never mind.  He was never the kid that played sick to stay home.  His father instilled a work ethic in him strong enough that he’d tough out nearly anything, even a spooky flash and passing migraines.

He dashed down the stairs and straight for the kitchen where he smelled breakfast.  He wasn’t running for the food, he never did.  He was running to his mother to share their first hug of the day.  It was ritual.  It was routine.  Her breakfast making skills were delicious, sure, but he adored his mother.  She always had a hug and a kiss waiting for him at the table.  A coffee mug was always set out in front of her beside a book that she’d thrown herself into.  She didn’t read the paper.  She wasn’t watching a day time talk show.  She was an attentive mother and a loving wife always thrilled to see her boy first thing in the morning.  After hugs Mieko ate his full breakfast of bacon, toast, and oatmeal.  Braiden was soon in the kitchen wearing his suit chewing on a piece of toast in bead for the door.  He paused long enough to kiss his wife on the cheek and signal Mieko for the door tapping his watch.  Mieko swallowed the last of his oatmeal and went for his jacket and book bag.

Just like routine, Mieko always waited in front of the house at the sidewalk for the new girl who moved in down the street about two months ago, Natalie.  From the day she and her mother moved in they had been close.  He always waited for her so they could walk to school together.  And every morning he turned to his father to wave only to be greeted by his smirk and popping eyebrows.  Once his father told him that he was never too young for puppy love, just limit it to holding hands, none of the kissing stuff.  They walked to school and parted at the crossing.  She always looked over her shoulder and said, ‘BYE!’, in her squeakiest voice.  Today was no different; accept he felt weighted down by something.  He didn’t cross as the other children had when signaled by the crossing guard.  Instead, everything seemed to move in slow motion to him.  His heart pounded in his chest painfully.  He was short of breath.  He practiced his breathing again, in through his nose, out through his mouth closing his eyes.  He cleared the cobwebs and walked into the street following a passing car.  He didn’t hear the screeching tires of the car coming closer.  He didn’t hear the crossing guard yelling for him.  He didn’t see the other children screaming, waving for him to run.  He turned when it was too late as the old modeled rust colored boat sized car carrying four passengers impacted on its own momentum.  All that metal caved in the front sending a ripple through it.  The engine was destroyed.  The body was crushed like a soda can.  There was blood from the passengers being knocked around violently by the shock of force.  Mieko was frozen in shock.  He couldn’t move.  He didn’t know that the car at the back of him had completely caved in the backside.  He was dizzy.  The world was spinning around him.  For Mieko, everything faded to black.

-Huh.  It happened sooner than I thought.

-What happened sooner than you thought?

-Oh, nothing Viv, just thinking out loud.

-You’re not making any sense Uncle Ell.

Mieko stirred at the sounds of his mother and Uncle Ellsworth’s voices.  “M—mom…”

“Glad to see you back with us kid.” Ellsworth was at his side smiling with relief.  Mieko always saw him as a jolly old man.  He felt warm whenever he saw that wide smile that made crow’s feet around his eyes.  Even then, he understood the wisdom behind those eyes.

“What happened?”

Vivian rushed to his side rubbing the top of his head, “They said you fainted after an auto collision that happened in front of you.”

Mieko saw a flash, a faint memory.  He remembered the damage to the car, the injured passengers.  He didn’t remember sounds, just a funneled vision with black spots.  He saw it grainy.  Everything was grey.  He remembered walking sluggishly to the corner and a lot of mortified faces in a crowd.  The pavement moving closer to him is the last thing he remembered.  He tried to rationalize what his mother said but he didn’t see in his vision the cars colliding with one another.  He felt nauseous as the room began to spin and settle around him at the same time.  The sound of school bells rang piercing his ear drums.  It was clear he was still in the nurse’s office.  He sat forward from the table swiftly to avoid the urge to vomit, “The people—were they hurt?”

“Well, yes…” his mother said caught off guard by the question, “I’m more concerned about you though.  They had no business speeding in a school crossing zone.”

“I don’t think they were mom.”

“Obviously you didn’t see the damage of the impact then.  I’m just glad they missed you.” Vivian hugged him tightly with tears streaming down her face, “I don’t know if I could’ve handled that.”

Mieko peeked around his mother’s shoulder and saw Natalie standing in the doorway.  She was frightened and tense.  She was concerned.  He smiled at her to indicate he was fine but she bolted in the opposite direction clutching her school books.

“Ah, puppy love…” Ellsworth teased, “She likes you, kid.  She was just worried about you like the rest of us.  They couldn’t get her to go to class until she saw you were okay.  You are okay, aren’t you?”

“I think so.”

“Do you remember anything?”

He wanted to say yes.  He wanted to describe exactly what he’d seen.  But he thought about the story his mother told him.  He thought that maybe his imagination was telling him that he was standing there when actually he wasn’t.  He didn’t know what to think, so he could only answer, “No.”

Ellsworth rubbed the top of his head with a nod.  He wasn’t going to try to force anything out of him.  He realized that Vivian was still very much in the dark about her extended family, about her child, about herself.  That was what he hated most, making the conscious effort to keep her out of the loop.  “Well, they’re sending you home to rest.  I’m going to meet your dad for lunch.” He rested forward on his cane.  “I’ll be by later tonight to share some—bedtime stories.” He wiggled his fingers at Mieko making spooky eyes.

“Uncle Ell.” Vivian said abruptly, “Please don’t rattle Brady with this.  If you do tell him, keep it light.  There’s no reason for him to worry.”

Ellsworth nodded and trailed from the room passing the nurse in his exit.

“You gave everyone quite the scare young man.” The nurse said walking closer to the table.  “I just want to take your temperature one more time.” She pulled a thermometer from her smock and shook it, “Just a little peace of mind for all of us, yah.”  She tucked it under his tongue and reached for the top of his head.  Mieko jerked back at the sight of her hand.  He hated having the top of his head touched.  He only tolerated it from his mother and uncle because they were concerned at the time.  The nurse made no fuss about it.  She pulled her hand back and tucked it in the pocket of her smock in show of respect for his boundaries.  “Okay, let’s see what we have here.” She pulled it from his mouth and read it, “97.5, that’s a lot better than it was when you came in here.  Mrs. Siede, you can walk to the main office and sign him out.” Instead of reaching for his head she rubbed his shoulders in amends for causing any discomfort, “We hope to see you tomorrow, Mieko—feel better.”

He waved on his way out the door in tow with his mother.  He passed an awkward looking kid in the hall.  It made him stop for a moment.  The boy looked so uncomfortable in his skin.  It wasn’t because he was new either.  He felt that he somehow knew him although this was the first time he’d seen him.  He was compelled to say something the words wouldn’t travel past his lips.  He just tipped his head and continued to the office.  He thought maybe he’d see him tomorrow—maybe.

 

Braiden waited patiently at his favorite dinner seated across from Al.  Ellsworth wasn’t always known for his punctuality.  It was one of the things Braiden had come to rely on about him.  If he tells him to be somewhere at 2:00 he could expect him around 3:30.  He learned to purposefully bump up times just so that Ellsworth could arrive on time.  This wasn’t one of those particular occasions.

“Why are we waiting for your uncle again?” Al asked bordering impatience.

Braiden sipped his milk shake and basked in its smooth rich strawberry flavor.  Finally he sighed, “He’d know more about what you have to say than I do.  I trust him, not you…Not yet.” It sounded nastier than he’d intended, but he couldn’t take it back.

“So um—what made you call me so early?” Al asked trying to break the tension.

“I had a few free periods and I figured we’d get this out of the way.  I’m really curious about what you have to say.”

The cowbells above the door jingled just then, “You know I had the damnedest time trying to find this place.” Ellsworth came in spouting the usual excuse which was usually a lie.  In actuality he really just took his time.

“Sure you did Uncle Ell.” Braiden stood until he’d found a seat at the table.  Manners never eluded him when it came to respecting his elder loved ones.  “So, this is Al.  Al, this is my uncle, Ellsworth.”

Al respectfully extended his hand only to have it sized by Ellsworth.  He quickly snatched it back, “Okay then…”

“I don’t like you.”

“Uncle Ell, you don’t know what he has to say yet.” Braiden’s cheeks burned with embarrassment.

Ellsworth propped his cane against the table, “That’s okay.  I don’t need to.  I don’t like the feeling he gives me.”

“A sensitive one…” Al smoothed his tie, “I assure you, I have the best interest of everyone at this table, and those not here.”

“Well, not to be rude, but now that he’s here let’s cut to the chase shall we.” Braiden slid forward on his chair, “I may have free periods, but they’re not unlimited.”  He cut a narrow eye at Ellsworth in regard to the time.

“Yes, well, I see.”

“And I see you’re scarred.” Ellsworth observed, “Battle scars I’d suspect.  You’re not a pencil pusher.  Aside from the suit you’re wearing, nothing about you fits it—from what I see.”

Braiden gulped his milk shake hard and closed his eyes like he had a brain freeze.

Al extended a hand to suggest he took no offense, “Well, you also suspect that I’m not a member of the Center for Disease Control.”

“Oh hell yeah..!  I knew that right off.” Ellsworth slapped the table with a shoulder hunching chuckle.  His eyes danced between his nephew and Al.

“Right…” Al popped his eyebrows, “I take it that you know your family history.  It was apparent you do, Braiden, as protective as you are of your son.  You’re like a lion to his pride if you want to be.” He said admirably.  “In truth, I only wish to protect your prize too.”

-Cough—bullshit!” Ellsworth snickered.

“Uncle Ell!”

“No, it’s fine.  I don’t blame him for being so apprehensive.  I wasn’t exactly forthcoming the first couple times we met.” Al slid his fingers across the top of the table, “Your wife, there’s no way you can’t tell she’s special.  All the years you’ve been with her there have been hints.”

Braiden nodded.

“You can tell that she’s also not one of us, a Neural I mean.”  Al paused, “I’ve infiltrated a government cell implanted within the C.I.A. assuming the identification of another agent.  Fortunately I didn’t have to kill him for his ID nor did I really have to change my name, not my first name at least.”

“What’s that got to do with my wife?”

“Her family has a history with the United States government, Project Neuro.” He lowered his tone to a near whisper to keep from arousing strange ears.  “It was the true super soldier program.  Ever since there has been a military establishment as far back as the Romans, mankind has always strived to create the perfect drone.  A drone so potent in battle that it didn’t matter he couldn’t be controlled.  Through the centuries every faction has found ways of finding closeness to their goals.  The ancient way was rigorous training and potions made by sages and shamans—the brews of witches.  And around World War I the experimentation had become more scientific than physical.  Neurals, in an effort to show good faith, allowed themselves to be tested and experimented on.  Every governmental faction across the globe agreed to keep the existence of the evolved a secret as long as they could use the subjects for development.  Finally, during World War II, the Russians achieved near perfection creating psychic soldiers based off a serum compound made up of the proteins found in a Neural with the active trait.  They increased the proteins, altered the chromosome arrangement and created in humans with the inactive Neuralian traits, abominations.  They were mere imitations of what we are.  The Americans also achieved similar results and changed the face of warfare on highly secret levels.”

Ellsworth’s eyebrows arched as his ears perked.  “I always thought that story was created by conspiracy theorists.”

“It’s so perfect that it seems impossible doesn’t it?  That’s how our governments work; the knowledgeable are passed off as crazed.  It keeps balance between people and their trusted societies.  It keeps the control out of the hands of the people.” Al sighed, “The experiments were unstable back then.  The soldiers could use their abilities but at a limited capacity.  They were dying young.  Many of them survived long enough to breed.  The children were born different and it quickly became apparent.  Their abilities were more natural, enough that they could sustain themselves without destroying their minds or bodies early on.  When the government became aware of this they began monitoring those families that took place during the experiments.  Some children would be born with no hint of ability where others would be obvious.  Some babies would be taken at birth and covered up as still births.  They were implanted in programs and harvested like crop for future tactical usage—even in the pursuit of counteracting Neuralian activity done in the open.  This is actually how M.I.N.D. was developed, countermeasures for countermeasures if you will.  Other children were monitored for the first several years of their lives to be seen at a distance in case ability developed.  They never stopped with the experiments, they continue to this day masked as vaccinations for soldiers before their deployed overseas for assignments.  A lot of them are changing without their knowledge.  Legal jargon that is often overlooked for fine print secures the government in case of any legal action—kind of sadistic—isn’t it?  The point I’m getting at is this, your wife shares ties to one of those families dating back to World War II.  Of course she’s unaware of any of this as most of the Neuro children that drift in society are.  I wouldn’t imagine it makes for good table conversation.  Your son, Braiden, is a hybrid.  That doesn’t make him unique, but that ensures he gets monitored.  It was better me than an actual agent.  My mission is to protect the vessel that carries the seed of hope.  Your son is that vessel.  Right now, though I continue to assume the name Al Wakea, I am what many people call an angel, using his vessel.  I’m the sylph, Michael.  We exist together sharing the same consciousness.  I don’t only seek to keep unwanted eyes off your son, I seek to shield him from the darker entities that would claim or otherwise destroy him.  As much as you want to give your son an average life, in the end, you cannot stand in the way of his destiny.  You can only strive to preserve his integrity.”

Not a thought, not a word formed on the lips of Ellsworth or his nephew.  Stunned was only a concept for what they were at the moment.

“I guess what they say is true.” Ellsworth sat back in his chair.

“What…?  What did I miss?” Braiden turned to him eagerly.

“No, nothing…It’s just that you’re never too old to learn something.” He laughed pointing to the expression on his nephew’s face.  “This is classic.”

“What do you really think of what he’s saying?”

Ellsworth cleared his throat, “I still don’t like him.  But he makes a lot of sense with what he’s saying.  That Anthony kid, he went through hell just to make sure nothing happened to your boy in his sleep.  He paid one hell of a price for it all to mean nothing.  And Vivian, face it, I knew she wasn’t a Neural.  I just didn’t know exactly what she was until now.  And this guy,” he darted his thumb in Al’s direction, “He knows an awful lot.  And if he meant harm he wouldn’t be having this conversation with you.  You and your entire family would be dead right now.  He was in plain sight not really putting any effort into hiding according to you.  That should tell you something.”

“I enjoy how you talk about me like I’m not even here.” Al shook his head with a half cocked smile.

“Yeah—yeah—sure guy.  So, tell me about Al.”

“I, err, Alemana is of a Hawaiian warrior tribe.” He began, “The tribe exists only to the general public as myths.  They exist to the Neuralian populace as legend. They live throughout the island chains like shadows among nature.  They serve the order of the Ring of Fire.  Alemana was a willing vessel dedicated to the preservation of the Hope entity and descent from the god Wakea.  He’s proven to be a great and wise warrior in his class, the reason why I chose him.”

“This is like the stories you used to tell me when I was a kid.” Braiden suddenly felt overwhelmed.  Even before Mieko was born, even with the loss of Anthony and knowing why, it never felt more real than now.  It was like a repeat nightmare that he can’t seem to wake from anymore.  It was hard enough seeing the world clearly without the panes of sheet glass separating him from the blissfully ignorant dwellers of society.  Now he has to acknowledge the shades and textures of the world, the real world masked under the façade of normalcy.  He has to acknowledge it for the sake of his son.  He has to imagine the world unseen and see it vividly enough to not underappreciate the vastness of it.  Now, he knows that his son is marked, his life is marked.  But he’d continue to shelter him in the hopes that it misses him like a passing storm.

“You may not realize it, Braiden, but even the activities you participate in with your son—the training—the exercising, you may think of it as recreation.  You’re subconsciously preparing him.” Al said.  “He’s going to have phenomenal focus.  His prowess will be great.  He’s going to be ready when his real training begins.”

“You say this like tomorrow is guaranteed.  Things change like the wind, they always do.”

“If that’s what you’d like to believe.  Eventually, you won’t be able to fall back on denial.  You’ll have to see things for what they are.” Al stood, “There’s nothing no matter how small, how minuet in scale, that isn’t set in stone.  Thank you for hearing me out.  I’ll pay for brunch.” He dropped a twenty dollar bill on the table and walked away.  “I’ll be watching.” He said over his shoulder as he disappeared out the door.

“Yeah buddy, we’re sure you will.” Ellsworth said low without the effort of trying to be heard.  “Do you have a minute Braiden?”

Braiden sat staring into space, withdrawn from reality, confined to his thoughts.

“Braiden…”

“Huh?”

“Snap out of it.  I’m going to order a coffee, do you have a minute?”

He looked down at his watch, “Um, why not—sure I do.”

“If you don’t, it can wait.” Ellsworth insisted.

“No, if I could take the time to hear him, I can hear what you have to share.  Obviously you wanted to tell me in private.”

Ellsworth nodded and flagged a waitress.  He ordered his coffee and thought carefully about his approach.    “It seems our boy experienced his awakening today.”

“Wait a minute, what?”

Ellsworth remembered his promise to Vivian before continuing.  The waitress sat a cup in front of him and poured a steady steaming stream of coffee until it filled to the top.  He pressed two dollars into her palm and blew the excess of steam from the top of cup, “Vivian called me earlier today— she didn’t want to disturb you.  Now before you get upset, there’s no cause for alarm, he just had a little spell.  He was released from school early because he didn’t seem to feel well.  But the moment I saw him, I knew what was happening.  He’s a tough little son-of-a-gun.” He seemed prideful when he reflected on Mieko.  “Listen, I still don’t like that Al guy but he has a point.  You need to wake up.  You’re not average.  Your wife isn’t average.  And your son sure as hell is far from average.  I never understood why you chose to keep these blinders on.  You’re like one of those horses the police ride obscuring your view from left to right only seeing straight.  You could have learned so much more about yourself had you let me teach you.  Do you really think it’s fair to keep the blinders on your boy too?”

“He’s not going to get swept up into this world of—of—fantasy!” Angst was building inside him.  “He’s going to lead the life of his choosing, not by the design of others.”

Ellsworth sipped his coffee, “Have you considered that maybe the choice isn’t his?  That no matter what path he chooses it’s going to lead to whatever destiny was always intended for him?  Let’s be fair nephew.  He doesn’t deserve to be blindsided if that day should come.” He tapped at his top pocket reflexively looking for cigarettes.  He hadn’t smoked in years, but it was still a part of him.  “I don’t want this any more than you do.  But fair is fair.”

“I hear you.  I really do.”

“Well, I told him I’d be by tonight to tell some stories before bed.”

“If you’re telling me this to say that you intend on opening up his world, don’t.” Braiden pushed his melted milk shake to the side, “I don’t mind you telling him stories, but leave them at stories.”

“You’re his father.” Ellsworth sighed, “I’ll never betray your confidence.  Please, just don’t wait until it’s too late and he finds out the hard way.”

“Maybe he won’t.  Whatever happened today, he’s still young.  He’s liable to forget.  I’ll make a deal with you.  If his abilities seem to progress and he grows curious, we’ll both tell him.” Braiden checked his watch again, “But, if this was just a passing thing, we don’t bother to mention it at all.”

“Sure Brady, whatever you say.” Ellsworth picked up Braiden’s briefcase and handed it to him, “I’m sure you need to get back to work soon.  I’ll see you later this evening.”

Braiden could feel his uncle’s disappointment.  He thought to himself that maybe he was being selfish.  He thought again that one could never be too selfish when it comes to protecting those they loved.

He prepared himself to deal with whatever situation when it comes.

As of now he wanted to forget.

Life—if only it was that simple…

 

 

 

 

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