Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Package

Kate woke to the smell of pancakes and bacon. She headed downstairs in her pajamas and made her way to the kitchen where she found her mother serving out plates piled high with yummy goodness. As usual, James and John had beaten her to the table. There was nothing quite like food to grab their attention.

They waited until the last pancake was removed from the stove and the plates were served before digging in. Kate was surprised at just how hungry she was, and then remembered that she’d not eaten anything substantial since 5 pm last night and it was nearly 10 am now. That was almost 15 hours without food. The pancakes tasted incredible. That and the orange juice she drank washed away the last remnants of the darker events in the basement last night. It was hard to feel worried or disturbed when you were drinking sunshine and eating fluffy clouds, she mused.

She chuckled at the visual that thought conjured in her brain and the twins looked at her in surprise.

“What’s so funny, Kate?” they asked at the same time.

“Just a picture that popped in my head. I was thinking that the orange juice was like liquid sunshine and the pancakes were as fluffy as clouds. Then I thought about what it would look like to actually drink sunshine and eat clouds,” Kate explained.

“Weird,” was the twin’s conclusion as they returned their attention to eating.

Kate snorted in amusement and returned to eating her own food. The twins seemed to possess very little by way of imagination, and they were rarely able to keep up with her in conversation. Kate’s mother supposed it was because the twins had been fairly neglected as children and not talked to very often. Kate couldn’t imagine living like that. Her parents had always enjoyed talking to her and had always been involved in her life. When she was tempted to get impatient with James and John, she tried to remember all that they had gone through.

“Did you have any interesting dreams last night, Kate?” her mother asked.

“Actually, yeah I did,” she said to her mother. The twins, she noticed, slowed down their eating to listen.

“I was dressed all in white and I was standing on a wide open field. There were all these people gathered on that field – probably as many people there as live in this city. At the front of all these people there was this king, except that he wasn’t the real king. I knew that he wasn’t. The people hated him, but they couldn’t attack him because he had them under a spell. Every time they tried to attack him, they would see their mother, or their sister, or their wife, or whatever. I was the only one who could see him for what he really was all the time. So, I knew I was the only one that could help these people. I knew I had to help them, and the only way to do that was to get the crown away from that man. That’s it. That was my dream. Pretty weird, eh?” Kate finished.

“Sounds like a great story for a book,” her mom mused.

“Yeah, I guess. It would be kind of a cool story,” she said. “What about you, Mom?”

“I don’t really remember my dream, to be honest,” her mom said. “I’d have to actually sleep for me to be able to dream. What about you, James and John? Did you have any interesting dreams?”

The twins looked at each other for a moment, silent, as if they were communicating telepathically. Then James spoke, “Well, kind of. We had this dream about building a space ship to the moon, only the space ship was made of Jello and it kept falling apart because all these little men kept eating the Jello. It was totally weird.”

“That would be awesome,” Kate said, “A spaceship made of Jello? That’s crazy! I love it!”

Her mother smiled, “Did you boys both have the same dream?”

James blinked and the two of them nodded. “We always have the same dreams.”

Kate wondered what that must be like, to always share dreams. Maybe she wasn’t too far off in thinking that they communicated telepathically. She remembered reading somewhere that even twins separated at birth shared some of the strangest things in common, often marrying women with the same name, naming their children the same things, and choosing similar careers. It was hard for Kate to imagine sharing that much of her life with anyone, even when she was married. She wasn’t sure she would like it, but it seemed to work for James and John.

As they were finishing with breakfast, there was a knock on the door. “I wonder who on earth that could be,” Kate’s mother said as she headed to answer it.

A few minutes later, Kate’s mother returned with a small package in her hands. The package was the size of a shoe box wrapped in festive paper with ribbons all around it. Kate’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Who brought that, Mom?”

“I don’t know, Kate, there was nobody there when I answered the door. The note, however, says that the package is for you,” her mom replied, smiling.

Kate looked at her mother in surprise. “For me? Does it say from whom?”

“No, as a matter of fact it doesn’t. Although the most likely candidate would be your young friend from last night,” her mother answered as she handed Kate the package.

“Open it up, Kate, we want to see!” James and John cried eagerly.

Kate suddenly felt shy. She wondered if maybe the package had something to do with last night’s meeting. She wasn’t at all eager to open it in front of anyone, given that she’d been sworn to secrecy. “No, I’ll open it later,” Kate said as she set the package beside her.

The boys looked so disappointed she almost relented until they began chanting, “Katie has a boyfriend, Katie has a boyfriend” over and over again. It was just plain annoying. Kevin wasn’t a boyfriend right now. He was just a special friend. He hadn’t asked her out or anything, and she wasn’t entirely sure she would say yes if he did.

Her mother quieted the boys but gave a quizzical glance to Kate. Kate just shrugged and finished eating, then took her plate to the sink and washed out her dishes. She was dying with curiosity about what might be in the package, but she wanted privacy before she opened it. She didn’t want to do anything that might put Kevin or people that Kevin knew in danger.

She headed upstairs to get dressed, grabbing the package on her way out of the kitchen. She put the package carefully on her bed and picked out an outfit appropriate for the day. She decided on a pair of jeans and a red blouse, then brushed her hair and her teeth. After she got dressed, she was tempted to open it right then, but the worry that her mother might come in and see something got to her. She put the package in a satchel and decided she would take Bones out for a walk in the park and open it there.

She got Bones’ leash from the basement and went outside to collect him. He seemed so happy to see her, whining with eagerness when he spotted the leash. His tail wagged nonstop as she clipped the leash to his collar and opened the back gate. It was a warm fall day, the temperature never dipping past 70. It was hard to believe it had been 22 degrees at midnight, but that was life in Elko. Up one minute and down the next. Bones seemed to enjoy the walk.

She tried to figure out a nice quiet spot to open the package, and finally settled on the same bench in the cemetery she’d been sitting on yesterday evening. The spot was quiet and unlikely to be disturbed, and she would feel safer about visiting it with Bones there. She was right about the area being deserted. There wasn’t a single sole in sight as she took her seat.

The handwriting was the same handwriting that had graced the front of the invitation she’d received last week. She’d been right. This package wasn’t about boyfriends or girlfriends. It was about the Chosen. She carefully unwrapped the package and opened it up. Inside was a book entitled, “A Warrior’s Guide”. She opened the book and noticed an inscription on the inside cover.

“To Kate, a woman with a warrior’s heart. – Kevin”. She smiled as she read the inscription. So, it was both. It was both a gift from him, and was something to do with the invitation she’d received. It felt odd to think of herself as a warrior, as someone who would be or even could be called upon to fight any kind of battle. She’d never fought anything in her whole life. What could he possibly have seen in her that had him so convinced she was the right choice?

She flipped past the title page and began to read the first chapter. It wasn’t a manual or a field guide. It was fiction! She laughed in surprise. Kevin was proving himself delightfully unpredictable. She decided she’d read more once she got home. She wondered what other surprises he might have in store for her.

As she went to pack up, she dropped the book and a thin note card fluttered out from between the pages, tumbling like a fall leaf before drifting lazily to the ground. She snatched it up just before it landed. The note simply said, “Meet me tomorrow before school at the band hall”. It wasn’t signed, but she recognized the handwriting. It was Kevin’s.

She tucked the book and the note in her bag and finished walking Bones. They visited the doggy park and she let Bones off his leash to go run. He seemed almost young again as he frolicked in the grass, and it made her heart so happy to see him that way. While he played, she read a little of the book. The story was a mix of science fiction and fantasy with a healthy dose of crazy stirred into the pot. It contained flying animals and portals to the moon, strange people and even stranger places, and that was just the first three chapters. She wondered where Kevin had found this particular book.

Too soon, it was time to call Bones back and put him on the leash again. The walk home didn’t take very long, but she noticed that suddenly Bones seemed very tired. The energy that had revitalized him at the park had also, apparently, completely drained him as he approached the house. She gave him a hug when she let him off the leash again in the backyard, and he gave her face a half-hearted lick before curling up to sleep. She shook her head, sighed, and went inside again. There was no help for it. Bones was getting older and there was absolutely nothing she could do about that.

She headed back inside and went upstairs to finish reading the book. She found it so absorbingly absurd that she couldn’t put it down. Before she knew it, it was time to get showered and dressed for bed. It had to be the single oddest day of her life, and the story fit right into that kind of oddity. She felt almost like she’d been dropped into the middle of the twins’ dream with their spaceship made of Jello. She couldn’t wait for tomorrow. That night, she dreamed again.

She was making her way through the crowd, slipping between them like water through the cracks in the ground. No one paid her any heed, nobody even noticed she was there. They were all too focused on the man at the front of the crowd. He had them absolutely riveted. She knew that this would be the easiest part of the journey, even though it seemed to take her forever to make any progress. The hard part wouldn’t come until she had the crown in hand, until she’d nearly achieved victory. Then, she knew, he would unleash this crowd’s rather on her head. She had to be firm. She had to be secure. They would try to stop her, but she couldn’t let them. The crown was too important. The mission was too important. Failure was not an option.

Thank you for reading Chapter 5: The Package. If you enjoyed this, you can continue on to read Chapter 6:The Proof  from my Nanowrimo novella: The Chosen.

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