Categories > Books > Generation X > Mindquake

Chapter 2

by Awestruck 0 reviews

Jessy’s world is a difficult place to be, and it’s about to get even harder. To this point her life has been a strange mixture of little girl innocence, and the kind of cynicism that only comes...

Category: Generation X - Rating: R - Genres: Sci-fi - Published: 2013-06-03 - 1967 words

When Jessy opened her eyes it was to watery gray light coming in Ma’s bedroom window. She felt someone in the room with her, and after a few moments she collected enough energy to raise herself up on one elbow. The giant was curled up on a pallet on the floor next to the bed, snoring gently; the guitar was leaning against the wall beside him. She realized with a little thrill that sometime during the night her sleeping brain had supplied a name for Grannyma’s instrument.
She wondered where Ma was, and the shopkeeper, and how they were getting along. With all the stuff he had to trade, no doubt there was a fine friendship developing. But, to get her bedroom, he must have promised most of the stuff in his shop. She had never actually entered Ma’s room before, and she looked around, noting all the nice things she had; her men friends were quite generous. She also wondered, briefly, if the shopkeeper would make use of Ma’s other services. She quickly put that thought out of her mind, not wanting any such images in her head.
Jessy fell back and covered her eyes with her arm. She still felt a little fuzzy, but other than that, relatively normal, on the inside. The outside was another matter. She noticed that the wound on her chest had been bandaged, and she had on clean clothes. She breathed in the fresh smell and fingered the soft linen tunic she wore; unable to believe she was actually awake, surely this was just a dream? She removed her arm and opened her eyes. Everything seemed quite real.
The shopkeeper came in, carrying a tray covered with a white cloth. He looked very different than he had the night before. His wounds had also been tended, and he was wearing a loose, pearl gray shirt and dark pants. She realized that he was not as small, or as old, as she thought at first. But then, anyone would look small next to the giant. His hair was black, and his eyes, which she had thought were dark, were actually a smoky blue-gray; they twinkled at her now, as he nudged the giant with his foot. The big man sat up, yawning and stretching, and moved out of the way. “Glad to see you’re awake,” he greeted her. “Thought you might be hungry.” The tray was placed, carefully, across her lap, and the cloth was removed with a flourish, revealing real eggs, juice, milk and toast.
She looked from the tray to the shopkeeper in astonishment. She had never seen so much food at one time. He grinned at her. “Cooked it myself, with my own two little hands,” he informed her, wiggling his fingers in the air.
She regarded him for a moment with her wolf-yellow eyes, processing the fact that someone had cooked for her, especially him.
“What about him?” she asked, indicating the giant with an inclination of her head. He smiled, blinking sleepily at her.
“His, is in the kitchen,” the shopkeeper said, pointedly. The giant rose, and still stretching and scratching, ambled out of the bedroom in search of his breakfast.
“Where’s Ma?”
“I suspect she’s down at my shop, collecting payment for our room and board.” Ma would be happy about that. Jessy flashed the shopkeeper a wide smile and tucked into her food. She knew this couldn’t last, but decided she might as well enjoy the unaccustomed luxury while she had it. He sat on the floor and talked while she ate.
“Gangs keep breaking through the barrier and looting my shop, and I was getting ready to move the first time you came in. But, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find you if I moved.”
That gave Jessy pause; she stopped eating and looked at him in surprise. “Why’d you want to find me?” she asked, frowning.
“I had seen you around, and I felt there was something different about you. I wanted you to have this guitar because I could see in your eyes that you knew what it was for.” He reached for the guitar and strummed the strings lightly. It made a beautiful sound, and she listened hungrily. She was disappointed when he stopped playing and continued talking. “I see all these kids around, and I don’t see much in their eyes, but you, well, I could tell there is somebody in there, behind those eyes. Somebody special.” He put the guitar aside and stood, walking over to stand beside her. His eyes were intense now as he gazed down at her, the twinkle gone. “If this world is going to survive, kids like you have to be found, and given the opportunity to develop their potential. If this world is to have a future, kids like you are it.”
She was very uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was taking; she wasn’t all that interested in his plans for her future. “Can you play that?” she wanted to know, redirecting the subject back to the guitar. He sighed, realizing that it was too soon, he was too intense; he was not the best one to prepare her.
“A little,” he conceded.
“Enough to teach me?”
“Enough to get you started.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “What would you want in return?”
He sighed, again. “I just want you to find, and reach, your full potential.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I want you to understand how special you are; you have talents, gifts, that are unique.” He put his hands together, palm-to-palm, as though praying, and leaned toward her. “I don’t want you wandering around the streets, at the mercy of the animals out there not worth the attempt to salvage, in danger of being injured or killed by some creature not worth the dirt they’re made from. You are a very bright little light; I don’t want you snuffed out.”
She closed her eyes and let her newly realized senses test his sincerity. She felt that from him, and a deep concern. It felt as though the weight of the world rested on his back, and had for a long time.
She opened her eyes and regarded him steadily for several moments. She recognized that this was a profound moment, she was at a crossroad, and the path she chose now would forever influence her life. Her returned her gaze, thinking to himself that her eyes were those of an ancient soul, and they did not belong in a twelve year old body.
“You’re a lot more than a shopkeeper, aren’t you?” she asked, finally.
“Let’s just say…that’s not all I do. We’ll talk about that later, right now, let me ask you something; how often do you do that thing you did with your mind?”
“I’ve never done it before, I don’t even know what I did, exactly.”
He nodded. That was what he suspected. This kid had more untapped power than anyone he had met so far, maybe more than anyone else in the program. It radiated from her in warm waves that a sensitive like him could feel from far off. It was rare, and precious, and desperately needed. Only a mind like hers could fly the ships. This one had that, and something more, she had what it took to deal with whatever she encountered out there. He had to introduce her to Stella, and soon. “I have someone I’d like you to meet,” he told her, without meaning to speak.
She resumed eating, without acknowledging his statement. Here was the catch she had been expecting. He wanted something from her, probably something she was not prepared to give. Only the benign sincerity she could sense in him kept her from bolting.
“Will you come with me?”
She surprised herself by shrugging. “I don’t know, maybe.” She handed him her now empty plate. “Do you do something as stupid as coming down here very often?”
He shook his head. “No, as a matter of fact that was a first for me. I reached a new level of stupid. I had to find you, though.”
“To bring me the guitar, not because you wanted your knife back,” she stated, skeptically.
“I knew about the knife, turns out, it was a good thing you had it, wasn’t it?” He grinned at her.
“How did you know?” she demanded.
“I noticed.”
Now she was really curious, he shouldn’t have noticed. She decided she would press for more, later. “But, you didn’t care, you weren’t chasing me for the knife?”
“I cared, but not about the knife.”
She nodded to herself. That explained her silent alarm. “If I come with you, where will we go? Who will be there?”
He hesitated. How much to tell her now? He was terrified of driving her away. “I will be there, and a woman named Stella, and several kids who are special, as you are. I can’t explain the where, it’s not close. Have you ever seen an airplane?”
“I’ve seen them sometimes, in the sky. I’ve never seen one up close.”
“We would fly, in an airplane, to a different part of the world.”
Her eyes grew very large. “I don’t know very much about the world,” she confessed. “Grannyma had a book with some pictures, but I don’t know where they went.”
“If you come with me you will learn. Can you read?”
She dropped her eyes. “No, Grannyma taught me how to talk, but she didn’t know how to read, so she couldn’t teach me.”
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” he reassured her, “would you like to?”
“Yes, but I’d rather learn to make music on the guitar…can you teach me that?” she asked, eagerly.
The shopkeeper laughed. “I think we might manage both, if you’re willing.”
Jessy was quiet for several moments, thinking. “Can I leave anytime I want to? ‘Cause now, I come and go as I please, and that’s how I like it.”
He hesitated. She would know if he lied to her. Could he let her go? He would have to be willing, but he was determined to make sure she didn’t want to. “Absolutely. Anytime you want to leave, the door will be open. I hope you’ll want to stay, though.”
“You teach me to make music on that guitar, I’ll probably stick around.”
He regarded her with an expression she could not decipher, and it made her feel strange, not in a bad way, but like she might really be a little bit special.
“You know, I don’t even know your name?”
She laughed, “I don’t know yours, either.”
“Mine’s Daniel,” he said, holding his out to her, palm sideways. She looked from his hand to his face inquiringly.
“It’s called shaking hands, and it’s what people do when they’re introduced,” he explained.
She put her hand tentatively into his, and he smiled as he raised and lowered them together. “Now, you tell me your name,” he prompted, letting her hand go, before she grew uncomfortable.
“Jessy,” he repeated. “I like it. I think you are going to do some very important things, Jessy. Things you’ll be proud of, and your grandmother would be proud of.”
It was like he knew the exact words to say to remove any lingering doubts. “When do we go?”
“Any reason you wouldn’t be ready tomorrow?”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing to keep me here.”
“Then, we leave tomorrow.”
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