Chapter Twenty-Nine

I slept better that night than I had in what felt like weeks, certainly at least since the accident that had ultimately landed me where I was.

Where I I got there...the thought lingered on my mind as I lay in bed awake but not wanting to get up quite yet. It was Sunday morning and the house was very quiet.

Half the guests had gone back to where ever they had come from after last night's dinner, the rest of us moving into the smaller parlor with the bar where Randi had fine tuned my mind reading abilities. The talk had been light hearted and happy, mostly about Benny's two month stay at the hospital and how great he felt to be among the living once again. Benny, Harry, Ronnie, Steven and Paul were all slowly getting buzzed from mixed drinks made by Randi from the bar, while she and I both drank Mountain Dews. She had asked Harry if she could make herself one to celebrate Benny's recovery with them, but Harry, playing the role of a caring and concerned father, reminded her that she still had a few more years before she could drink the hard stuff. She wasn't happy with his disciplinary decision, but she only pouted for a few moments before the issue was accepted and forgotten like an obedient daughter and she had as good a time as the rest of us while she mixed drinks for the others and sipped her Dew. I had simply never been much of a drinker. I didn't see the point in feeling fuzzy in the head all night just to have it pound you awake in the morning as you swear never to do it I had never really started.

Sometime shortly after ten, we had called it a night and everyone congratulated Benny one more time on his amazing recovery as we all adjourned to our separate rooms.

So there I was, in a strange bed looking at some strange paintings on the walls in a strange looking house that had tried to look like an ancient castle owned by a slightly eccentric weatherman I had only seen on TV before the last couple of weeks. Also living here was a very strange teenaged girl genius who could read minds (and whom had taught me to do the same) and who's parents had also died as mine had, suddenly and without warning and both at the same time. There was a very wealthy old Texan that had moved into one of the rooms at the end of the hall after having a brain tumor miraculously removed from his head by a five year old girl. And there was Harry, an incessantly happy old, bald, black man from Louisiana that claimed we were all here for a reason, that we had been brought together for a purpose, that we were family.

Three months ago, when I had been living by myself, working by myself, content with my daily crossword puzzles and a routine existence where each day was predictable and so similar to the previous day it was sometimes hard to tell them apart, now seemed more like three years ago.

Now I lived in a world of mind readers, of shiners and gut feelings that were trusted and accurate more often than not, of sand boxes that magically sent messages into the air with floating grains of sand, of miraculous healers. And of God and Lucifer and some incredible immortal race that I never fathomed could even exist...though I still had a few doubts about that one. But then, how much more far-fetched was that possibility from the possibility of a five year old girl removing brain tumors with the touch of her hands? Benny's mere presence at the house and the supposed bafflement of Dr. James was proof enough that it had really happened.

My world had changed. It felt as though it had changed for the better, but the jury was still out on that one. It wasn't until that very moment, laying in the strange bed, thinking about what Katelynn's daughter had done for Benny, that I finally decided to verbally accept Harry's offer to be considered one of their own, to become a part of this strange family. I figured my new ability brought about from my accident (and briefly wandered again for the first time in a while, if it had indeed even been an accident at all) made me no stranger than the rest of them. I belonged here. I'd commit myself to sticking around. I wasn't yet committed to believing everything Harry had told me of Paul's findings and the history of mankind, but at least until I could prove otherwise, I would let Harry know of my acceptance into his family over breakfast this morning.

With that decision made, I felt a weight lift from my being that I hadn't even known was there. I got out of bed with a self-assuring smile and headed for the bathroom to prepare for the new day, and the new me.

* * * * *

I found Harry already up and poring over the morning paper. He had a strong look of concern on his face and this time, unlike the previous day, didn't even notice I had entered the kitchen. Next to his feet on the floor were more newspapers, a stack of papers a foot and a half high. Granted it was Sunday, but not even the annual Thanksgiving edition of the Star Tribune was that thick. He must have had ten different Sunday papers at his feet, unless they weren't all Sundays, but that would have meant they numbered better than two dozen.

"I've heard of keeping up with the news, but that looks a little obsessive, don't you think?" I said jokingly, as I moved towards the pantry to see what kind of cereals Paul kept stocked.

Harry didn't even look up, still engrossed in whatever story he was reading.

I shrugged it off and found a box of Chex and a banana and grabbed some milk out of the refrigerator and took them to the small table that Harry was seated at where the staff probably usually ate. After looking through a couple of drawers and cupboards, I found the appropriate silverware and a bowl and took a seat across from Harry. He still hadn’t looked up from his paper.

I sliced up my banana, added some milk and was already half way through the bowl before Harry finally put down the story that had apparently required his full attention and acknowledged my presence.

"Morning, John," He said as he dropped the paper to the floor on one side of him and picked up another from the stack on the other side. He had a worried look on his face that seemed totally out of character, at least from the short time I had known him.

"Bad news?" I asked.

"I’m afraid so," he replied.

He opened the paper he had just picked up and flipped through it a moment until he found the story he was looking for. Creasing the page open, he slid the paper across the table towards me. "Read this."

As I began to read the story he had already circled with a red marker while continuing to eat my cereal, he picked up another paper and started flipping through it looking for another article.

The paper he had given me, I noticed, was the Canadian Press. The circled story was entitled "Exploding Toads in Hamburg Pond Baffle Scientists."

BERLIN (AP) - More than 1,000 toads have puffed
up and exploded in a Hamburg pond in recent weeks,
and German scientists still have no explanation for what’s
causing the combustion, an official said Wednesday.

Both the pond water and body parts of the toads
have been tested, but scientists have been unable to
find a bacteria or virus that would have caused the toads
to swell up and pop, said Janne Kloepper, of the Hamburg
based Institute for Hygiene and the Environment.

"It’s absolutely strange," she said. "We have a really unique
story here in Hamburg. This phenomenon really doesn’t seem
to have appeared anywhere before."

The toads at a pond in the upscale neighborhood of Altona
have been blowing up since the beginning of the month, filling
up like balloons until their stomachs suddenly burst.

"It looks like a scene from a science-fiction movie," Werner
Schmolnik, the head of a local environment group, told the
Hamburg Abendblatt daily. "Thebloated animals suffer for
several minutes before they die."

Biologists have come up with several theories, but Kloepper
said that most have been ruled out.

The pond’s water quality is no better or worse than other
bodies of water in Hamburg, the toads did not appear to
have a disease, and a laboratory in Berlin has ruled out the
possibility that it is a fungus that made its way from South
America, she said.

She said tests will continue. In the meantime, city residents
have been warned to stay away from the pond.

By the time I had finished reading the article, Harry had two more lined up for me to look at next, each circled in the same red marker. I pushed the one about the exploding toads back across the table towards Harry and read the next one without comment on the first.

The next story was in a British paper. It had nothing to do with exploding toads but was equally strange. This one reported that hundreds of birds had been falling out of the sky over the past week, already dead by the time they hit the ground, in the small town of Tarporley, about forty miles southeast of Manchester. Scientists, environmentalists and ecologists were again completely baffled by the phenomenon and could find nothing wrong with the birds or the atmosphere in the area.

Finishing up my cereal, pushing aside the British paper and the empty bowl, I looked at the next article Harry had circled, this one in the Richmond Times out of Virginia. This article was even accompanied with a picture of the oddity it was describing. Just two days ago, a farmer had discovered a group of trees in his orchard had all been somehow "bent." The article was entitled "The Bowing Trees." Eighteen trees, forming a rough but obvious circle, had mysteriously bent over towards the circle’s center as though bowing, though none had cracked or broken trunks. They had simply bent over like iron that had been heated up and shaped, their branches leaning over and gracefully scraping the earth out in front of their roots. Again, no explanation could be decided upon by the experts in related fields of science on how this impossible phenomenon had could have possibly occurred. They were simply stumped.

I looked up at Harry. He had three more articles in front of him waiting for me to read if I wanted to see more.

"What’s all this about?" I asked him, pushing the one about the bowing trees back across the table. "What’s it mean?"

Harry gave me a grave look, hesitated, then in a sullen voice with a slight tremor in it, he said, "It’s starting."

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty


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The Master Plan

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine