“The stars are like letters that inscribe themselves at every moment in the sky. Everything in the world is full of signs. All events are coordinated. All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together.”
With the excitement of the job at the Denim Nexus fading, Deb was becoming increasingly perplexed by Nick’s behaviour. This vibe he was giving off was the one he conjured when he was looking to score with a girl. She had lost count of the times she had seen it since the first time in Grade 3. She had witnessed its use on friends, visiting cousins and out-of-town acquaintances.
She was shocked now, and frightened (for him mostly), to conclude that, at this very moment, Nick Morrison was working that vibe on her.
She had thought about him so much recently — the dream, the banshee, his possible death. She felt mostly sad just then. In a what-might-have-been sort of way, she had wondered why she had not fallen for Nick. Everyone else certainly had no problem doing it.
He was inspiring and confident. This was probably because, he was the tallest, most athletic, most handsome boy in every class he had ever been in. If you asked anyone else they would put smartest on that list as well. But not Deb Holcroft. Sure, Nick was a straight-A student, but there had never been any doubt in her mind, that Andy Crowley was far and away, the brightest and deepest among them.
Maybe that’s why she was impervious to Nick’s appeal. In all the ways that mattered to her — certainly not all the ways that mattered to most of her friends — Andy had cast a shadow over Nick Morrison.
But she did love him deeply. He had always been there, not just for her, but for Andy too.
What was happening to him? She looked into her enormous stein of beer to avoid seeing him looking at her that way.
“What do you want to talk to me about?” She said. Wiping foam from her mouth with the back of her hand. “Me helping you with schoolwork was a shitty cover, by the way.”
Nick looked bewildered then, like he’d been possessed and the offending demon had departed abruptly for a better catch. Suddenly, he realized he had not been himself and sat dumfounded, embarrassed and speechless.
Deb reached across the table and put a hand on one of his.
“Jesus Nick! What is going on? You are not yourself at all.” Her concern was genuine and deeper than it normally would have been. She suddenly realized that Andy hadn’t convinced her Nick was really going to live.
They just looked at each other for a while. Then Nick squeezed Deb’s hand in his and hoisted the stein of beer to his mouth.
He paused and said, “Lots on my mind, Deb,” before taking a drink.
The hand squeeze was familiar to her. It was the one she knew from the years they had spent together and it dispelled the romantic innuendo that had unnerved her. When the time was right, she pulled her hand away.
“Is it a girl?” She felt like — strategically — it was the most sensible thing to say.
She was dismayed by how sad his eyes looked then.
“No.” He was completely deflated. Then, half-heartedly, determined to move past all the weirdness he had created between them, he glanced sheepishly over at the table where his friends were and said, “Can I come with you… and your friends… to Club Cedars this Friday?” They both did their best to ignore how awkwardly he had inserted the “and your friends” part.
Deb could not hide her amazement at the question. She caught her jaw slackening and rushed another sip of beer to recover. The question hung while the sip turned into a gulp.
“But D&D night?” she finally said.
“Yeaaaah, I know,” Nick’s response attempted to convey disapproval of playing D&D. But Deb knew him too well. She could tell he didn’t mean it. How many times had she heard of the exploits of half-elf ranger, Argwain Cirth over the years? She felt a piece of her heart breaking.
“Of course,” she said, playing along. “The girls will be ridiculous about it,” Deb rolled her eyes. Nick responded with an eye roll of his own.
“I just want to go,” he said. “And I don’t want to go with St. Pierre and that crowd. Peckerheads eh?”
“No shit!” Deb laughed and Nick joined her. She gave him a perplexed look and then jerked her head to indicate the other table. O’Finnegan was pointing out something in the Star Frontiers rulebook. “What about them?”
Nick scrunched up his face and bobbed his head back and forth. “They don’t want to go. Not their thing.”
“Andy?” She knew the answer, and found herself wondering why she’d asked. Andy wouldn’t be caught dead at Club Cedars. Deb didn’t like the look that came across Nick’s face then. He looked… angry.
“Pfft.” The look of disgust was too genuine for Deb’s liking. “Has Hell frozen over?” All traces of lost and smitten Nick were gone now. This was champion of rink and rugby pitch Nick. Any other girl would have swooned.
“Of course,” she laughed. “Totally, not his thing.” And her smile peeved Nick all the more.
On his neon green BMX racer, Andy came around the ramp off of Highway 14 into the Quinte Mall parking lot with the speed of a rabid leucrotta. He spotted Scott St. Pierre’s pickup truck about half-way around curve.
He should have known they would be there. Every Saturday after hockey, they parked at the entrance to the parking lot to scout for girls coming to the mall.
His heart leapt with the new joy he had felt on the bus the other day: a fresh and thrilling sensation! A grin like a Jack o’ Lantern marred his pale face. Just as it had on the bus, years of discipline and deep understanding about the mystic importance of compassion simply disintegrated. This time though, it was more intense. He allowed the feeling of power to swell up in him. He had never felt more vigourously — more completely — alive.
Deb loves me! lit up his mind! We can do anything, whispered in his ear like an ultimate truth. He was so enthralled in the moment, did not even wonder at the we.
His mind flitted to his astrological charts, Mars was in ascension in his birth house today. Perfect. He could see St. Pierre’s face clearly now. The hockey player’s hands were clenched into fists. His eyes were fixed on Andy’s. His teeth flared that primal invitation.
Andy Crowley was a taut, coiled spring of raging glee!
The hands that crushed the handlebars released to facilitate a dismount like a cheetah that became a gazelle. His discarded bicycle rocketed onward without him as he transitioned perfectly into a long landing gait that maintained the momentum hurling him toward Scott St. Pierre.
This is not Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, he whispered through a red haze. This is not farm boy makes good! I write this myth.
I am Andy Crowley…
Then, after three long strides, and a left like a lightning bolt thrown by Zeus, his fist halted just a hair-breadth shy of St. Pierre’s nose.
… Sole Sorcerer of Sanctuary! He roared the words in his mind. A heroic fanfare worthy of John Williams accompanied them.
Even as he looked hard into St. Pierre’s eyes he began to wonder why he had stopped himself. A fear welled up in him.
Then something else took his thoughts. There was no fear in Scott’s eyes. He had not attempted to retaliate. He had not so much as flinched.
Andy spasmed his fist in front of Scott’s face as though to hit him now. Still nothing registered. Andy was impressed — and baffled.
He stepped back and lowered his fist to his side.
“Mr. Crowley,” Scott said as though he were an English butler introducing him at tea. Not Ansy. Not even a derogatory tone. Andy looked around. There were terrified expressions on the hockey players’ faces. Not one of them moved. He wasn’t sure what had them more frightened, his display of newfound courage and his olympic level athletic execution, or the cold, superhuman calm and composure being displayed by St. Pierre in the face of it.
Too much to process here. Andy Crowley determined it would be best to post-mortem the strangeness that had just transpired from a safe distance.
“A fantastic day for conspicuous consumption, eh boys?” he said as he gathered his bike. Just as he expected, there was no response.
“Enjoy the mall!” He shouted over his shoulder as he pumped his bike into the parking lot to make for the main entrance.
He was thrilled at how the first punch he had ever thrown had worked out. His Tai-Chi training in the heavy-gravity dimension had certainly paid off. For an instant he wondered how word would travel at school. Then more concerning questions arose in his mind. Why had he not hesitated in the slightest? From where had this sudden courage come? Then he shuddered to recall Scott’s unnatural cool in a situation that should have terrified the bully. What was that?
And through all his thoughts, he had no recollection whatsoever of the vision of the night before — the experience of merging with the tiny black monolith with the grey apple in it.
Scott St. Pierre’s eyes followed Andy Crowley into the parking lot. They gleamed with an alien hunger. The mind that had taken up residence behind those eyes marvelled at the athleticism he had just witnessed from the Earther.
Now was not the time, sorcerer, said the voice in St. Pierre’s head.
But most assuredly, that time is coming.
To be continued in Chapter 10