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Authors: Bryce Clark

Red Shirt Kids (9 page)

BOOK: Red Shirt Kids
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22

BRIGHT SUNLIGHT PAINTED
a cheery glow on the walls of Amy’s room. It was only 7:30 a.m., but Amy was already dressed for school and doing some last-minute homework. She looked up from her paper as Laura peeked her head inside the room.

“Breakfast’s ready,” said Laura.

“Okay, thanks, Mom.” Amy’s cheery voice belied the knot of fear that was growing inside her stomach.

In his room, Mike was still asleep on the top bunk.

“Michael! I told you to get up five minutes ago!” chided Laura as she came into the room.

Mike rubbed his eyes as Laura scooped dirty clothes off the floor and shook Mike’s legs. “Breakfast is ready,” Laura said.

“Okay. I’m up.” Mike swung his legs over the bed and let them dangle as he blinked the sleep out of his eyes.

Laura smiled at him and quickly headed out the door, failing to notice the plasma TV on the wall. Mike had forgotten to crumple the drawing.

Mike and Amy headed for the front door in a hurry, and Laura raced after them with sack lunches in hand. “You forgot your lunches,” Laura said.

They rushed a quick “thank you” as they snatched their brown paper bags. Laura eyed them suspiciously.

“Are you sure you want to ride your bikes?” asked Laura.

“Yeah, Mom, all the kids do it,” said Amy.

“Well, just be careful.”

“We will. Oh, and remember, we’re going over to Sam Mayfield’s after school,” said Amy. “I left his number on the fridge.”

“I remember,” said Laura.

Mike and Amy ran down the front steps and grabbed their bikes from the walkway. As they pedaled away, Laura came out onto the front porch.

Mangled wires jutted out from the torn sockets where porch lights used to shine. She muttered an exasperated, “Oh, for crying out loud,” and slammed the door as she walked back inside.

Mike sat at his desk in class, trying to act like it was a normal day. Kids rushed into the classroom and took their seats as the bell rang.

Ben sat in his seat with a freshly washed face and combed hair. He was wearing a brand new Red Sox jersey with new jeans and new shoes. Mike smiled at the transformation.

“What are you looking at?” Ben accosted Mike. His new clothes apparently had no effect upon his demeanor.

“Nothing. Sorry,” Mike suppressed a smile.

“Punk,” spat Ben.

Mike tried to turn his attention to the flag ceremony, but his mind kept drifting to the previous evening—when he had been able to use his power to make something right. It felt great.

23

THE SCHOOL BELL
signaling the end of the day chimed, and kids bolted from the front of the school. Sam, Mike, and Amy headed for the bike rack.

Amy led as Mike and Sam followed. They ferociously pedaled their bikes down Main Street, their enthusiasm palpable. They rode around the bend and into the town green where the carnival had taken place. They rode through the empty park, past the statue of the Civil War hero Ulysses Falton, and up to the edge of the forest, where the two trees leaning toward each other formed a natural entryway.

Mike, Amy, and Sam dismounted from their bikes and let them fall to the ground. Amy walked up to the edge of the forest. “In here, I think,” she said softly.

Mike, Sam, and Amy tiptoed through the thick foliage of the forest. The tall trees blocked out the sunlight, and the forest was dark. As they crept further into the brush, the trees seemed to sing a wistful tune with the rhythmic creaking of the branches and rustling of the leaves.

“This way,” said Amy, leading Mike and Sam deeper into the woods.

Just as it seemed that they were heading into complete darkness, they came to a clearing. Sam looked around. “Hey!” Sam pointed beyond the distant tree line.

“What is it?” asked Mike.

“Look! There’s my house,” said Sam.

Amy and Mike followed Sam’s gaze and saw the very top of a large Victorian house.

“Okay,” said Amy. “So your uncle’s house should be this way.”

They headed off to the left, leaving the clearing and heading back into the thick shrubbery.

Laura puttered around the kitchen. She opened the fridge and noticed that a few pieces of cheesecake were missing. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said to herself. She walked upstairs and into Mike’s room, looking for telltale crumbs. She froze at the sight of the fifty-inch plasma screen TV but then quickly regained her composure and stomped down the stairs into the kitchen. She picked up the receiver of the kitchen phone and dialed David’s number.

“You didn’t buy him a fifty-inch plasma television? Well, for some reason he has one hanging on his wall!” she yelled. “I know you have a client, but … an explanation for a three-thousand-dollar television in our son’s room? I’d like to hear it.”

“Something’s going on around here,” said Laura as she hung up the phone. “More cake is missing too.” She put her hands on her hips and slowly opened the refrigerator.

24

SAM, MIKE, AND AMY
walked slowly toward the charred remains of an old Victorian home.

“This is it,” said Sam.

The structure of the home was still intact, though it had been charred a crisp black.

“Why didn’t they tear it down?” asked Amy.

“I think my grandma wouldn’t let them,” said Sam.

They headed up the wrecked stairs and through the front door. Sam led, and Amy and Mike followed him into the front room. Dust and ash had crusted over the windows, obscuring any natural light. The darkness was thick inside.

Mike turned to Amy. “You have your pad?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“We need a flashlight.”

Amy flipped open her sketchpad and began to draw.

Laura paced the kitchen floor, holding the phone to her ear. In her hand was a scrap of paper with the word, “Mayfields,” inscribed in pencil along with a phone number. The phone rang over and over, going to voicemail each time she called. Finally, she left a message.

“Hi Kathy, this is Laura, Mike and Amy’s mom. The kids said they were going to your house after school. Can you call me, please?” Laura’s voice cracked.

Laura clicked off the phone and stared out the window at the forest as the sun began to set.

25

MIKE HELD THE
high-quality, army-style flashlight that Amy had drawn to life. He shined the beam of the flashlight up the main staircase inside the charred home as he led Sam and Amy up the stairs. Amy carefully folded her drawing of the flashlight and put it in her pocket.

“This house is a lot like ours,” said Mike.

“It’s a little smaller than yours, but it’s exactly the same as mine,” said Sam.

“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked Amy.

Mike looked back at her with a smirk. “Don’t be a wuss.”

Amy forced a smile as they came to the upper landing. Mike shone the light up and down the hallway. There was a cord hanging from the door in the ceiling. “Attic,” said Mike, as Amy moved past him and reached for the cord.

The attic was filled with dust and molded ash. Sam and Mike followed Amy up the stairs, and they stood in the middle of the rotting room.

“I can’t see anything,” said Amy.

Mike shone the flashlight around; the room was completely empty except for a massive oak bookshelf wedged in the far corner. Mike’s flashlight caught the bookshelf, and the kids headed over to it.

The bookshelf held only one book. It rested in the middle shelf, perfectly centered. It was a thick book and had a gold lock on it. As Mike got closer, he saw that the lock was a replica of the lion’s head that was on the chest they had found in the attic of their own home.

“Sam, do you have your key?” asked Mike.

Sam reached beneath his shirt and pulled the key out. As expected, the key and lock melded together, and the lock clicked open.

Mike hefted the book off the shelf and placed it in front of Amy. Mike shone the light on the book as Amy opened it.

“It’s a photo album,” said Sam.

Amy turned the pages slowly, carefully. Old-fashioned black-and-white photographs were framed with decorative ribbons and sequins. Someone took a lot of time making this album.

Amy turned another page and saw a picture of a young woman with two boys about eight or nine standing next to her. They were all smiling.

“That’s my grandma,” said Sam.

“Who are the boys?” asked Mike.

“Is it your dad and Francis?” Amy asked Sam.

“Yeah. I think it is,” said Sam.

Amy turned a page to a series of photos of Francis and Sam’s father playing baseball, throwing a Frisbee, wrestling in mud, playing street hockey—and standing arm in arm in front of a fort built up in a tree.

“Wait a minute,” said Mike.

Amy held the book open on that page. “What?” she asked.

Mike pointed to the picture of the two boys in front of the fort. “Look closely.”

Amy and Sam squinted their eyes and focused on the picture.

“Holy crap,” said Sam.

Amy looked at Mike with wide eyes. “They’re wearing red shirts.”

Mike nodded and looked back at the picture. He could see the faint outline of the red shirts the boys were wearing over their clothes.

“They had them too?” Sam wondered aloud.

There was a loud crash from below, and Mike jumped to his feet. “What was that?” he asked.

Amy and Sam rose slowly as a distinct rumbling began to build. “That doesn’t sound good,” said Sam.

“Maybe we should go,” added Amy.

The house shook fiercely, and a beam crashed from the ceiling and through the floor.

Amy looked up as the beam above her fell. Sam leapt across the room and caught the beam with one hand before it hit her.

“Thanks, Sam,” she said, giving him a hug.

Sam smiled.

“Come on!” yelled Mike as the shaking became more violent and the house began to crumble.

Sam grabbed Amy by the hand and followed Mike as they rushed for the stairs, debris crashing all around them. Sam half dragged, half carried Amy down the attic stairs and followed Mike to the main staircase.

They raced down the stairs as the house collapsed in on itself. They saw a clear path to the door and raced toward it. Amy stumbled, and Sam flung her onto his shoulder in one motion and kept running.

Mike jumped backwards as a piece of the ceiling crashed in front of them, blocking their pathway to the door.

Sam set Amy down gently. “Look out, Mikey,” he said calmly.

Sam strode forward and lifted the large chunk of ceiling so that Mike and Amy could pass through. Mike held Amy’s hand as they jumped through the open doorway and into the night.

Mike looked back at Sam, who still held the chunk of ceiling in the air. “Come on, Sam!” Mike screamed.

Sam tossed the debris aside and turned to the door. There was an ear-piercing screech, and the house buckled, engulfing Sam with charred wood and cement.

“Sam!” Mike cried.

Mike and Amy were flung to the ground as the house fell in on itself. There was a giant sucking sound as the ground seemed to inhale the house.

Amy got to her feet in an instant. “Sam!” she screamed as she ran for the house.

Mike grabbed her arm. “No.”

They watched as the house completed its crash to the ground. Then there was silence as the destroyed home settled. Pieces of wood, glass, and cement were all that remained. Amy started to cry.

They sat in front of the house, staring for what seemed like ages. Then Mike heard something. “Wait,” Mike whispered, putting a hand on Amy’s back to quiet her sobs.

The sound was barely perceptible at first; then it grew louder as the wreckage of the home began to move. Wood rose into the night, and walls, doors, and debris were flung into the air as Sam rose from the ashes. He tossed beams aside like they were toothpicks and doors as if they were nothing more than playing cards in his hands. His red shirt glimmered brilliantly in the moonlight as he stepped out of the wreckage and dusted off his pants.

Mike and Amy both laughed, giddy with relief.

“Sam!” Amy shouted and ran to him. She hugged him tightly. Mike put his arm on Sam’s back. “Way to go, big guy!”

Amy held onto Sam a little longer, then released him with a shy gaze. “I’m glad you’re okay, Sam,” Amy said.

“Me too,” said Sam, beaming. “I should get trapped in charred houses more often.”

Mike laughed and rolled his eyes, but the smile on his face vanished and was replaced by terror. Before he could say anything, he quickly stripped off his flannel shirt and disappeared.

Amy turned her head in the direction Mike had been looking and screamed. Sam followed her horrified gaze to see the man in the cloak gliding towards them.

Sam moved protectively in front of Amy.

The man in the cloak came within two feet of them, his hood concealing his face. “So nice of you to visit,” he said in a raspy voice.

The man in the cloak raised his hands, and the trees began to sway. Liquid amber dripped from his fingertips.

BOOK: Red Shirt Kids
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