Of Alex and Anne
Chapter 1: Alex Speaks
So yeah. Living on a higher plane of reality? It’s not so bad.
There might be other places I’d rather be, but nothing really comes to mind off the top of my head. I mean, maybe there’s a real heaven out there somewhere, and if so, we’re probably missing out... but all in all, this deal isn’t so bad. We get our instructions every morning (yes, by owl, and don’t knock it, it works) – help this one, leave that one alone, keep an eye on the other situation... how we do it is up to us. After a thousand years or so, we’ve pretty much got it sorted out who does what best.
Like me. I am killer at doing the “little voice in your head” bit. And don’t tell me you’ve never had one of those moments. You’ll just be sitting there, doing whatever, and this little voice in your head suggests something. And maybe it’s something totally awesome. Like an idea for a really great new story you could write and make all these people happy...
But whatever. If you’ve had it, you’ve had it, if you haven’t, tough. Trust me, it exists. Now most of the time, that little voice is you. Your subconscious or unconscious or something, don’t ask me, I’m not a doctor. But a very small fraction of the time, that little voice isn’t you at all. It’s me.
Look, over here, I’m waving. I look like that one famous kid, except a little older and without the glasses...
Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Alex, by the way. Don’t think we covered that. And I’m probably coming off kind of different here than I did in the main story, but come on, you don’t think we honestly talk that way all the time, do you?
But anyway... I keep getting off on tangents, don’t I? Just hit me if it happens again. Anyway, I was talking about doing the “little voice in your head” bit. And there was one day I had to really finesse a job like that – and I pulled it off big-time. Want to hear?
Sorry, I didn’t catch that. But if you said yes, just keep reading, and if you said no, you can leave, the Back button’s right up there... I’ll wait.
So. Where were we?
Oh yeah. My best job ever. Well, probably my best. There was that time in...
Ow! Mags, I didn’t mean you!
Sorry about that, everyone. Back on track.
So Rick, the boss man around here, was starting to get worried because his Heir was going to be in kind of a bad situation fairly soon. Heir stuff doesn’t worry me so much, since I haven’t got one anymore... my last descendant died in the 1600’s, he was an actor, actually, worked with Shakespeare for a while. You know Puck, the really cool fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The original Puck, in the first ever performance – that was my Heir. Isn’t that wicked?
But yeah, he died without having kids. That wasn’t so good. So it’s me and Sophia and Brenna and Paul, all in the “who gives a care” category on the topic of Heirs. Not really, but you know what I mean, it kind of loses some of its immediacy when it’s not your Heir we’re –
Ow! That was my foot, Paul!
Yeah, all right, fine. Anyway, Rick and Maura were in a bit of a tizzy, ’cause it’s their Heir we’re talking about, last of their line and all, and he was going to be having major life problems. So they sent a petition Upstairs.
Don’t ask me Who, or What, is Upstairs. We don’t really know. But experience teaches us that when we do what He, She, They, or It (covering all my bases here) tell(s) us, good stuff tends to happen. And we have to get permission before pulling a major intervention, which is what Maura and her dad were after.
The word comes back from The Big Guy Upstairs (just randomly picking a gender here, no offense meant to anyone) with just the plain go-ahead, which meant He’d already decided intervention was allowable and had the set-up all ready for us. And it was one hell of a set-up – I mean, it went back like forty years or so... time’s kind of flexible here, but it still runs more or less straight ahead... must be damn confusing up there –
Geez, Adam, you’ve got bony elbows, boy!
Anyway, the focus point for the intervention was this girl, about twenty or so, with the most amazing hair I’d ever seen – it’s brown, nothing unusual there, but it stands out about six inches from her head all around – honestly, she must either take an hour with that stuff every morning or not bother with it at all. And not a bad body, either –
Lay off, Sophie, I am NOT scamming on her! And yes, I know she’s taken! But she wasn’t taken then, was she?
Yeah, this girl was your total stereotypical bookworm/homebody type. But the important thing about her is that she was a latent. She had magic, but it was dormant – never came out, never made itself known. Latents are rare – there may be more of them than we know about, just because their talents never “woke up” – but they’re usually really powerful.
So Rick’s idea was to give this girl special talents in place of some of her “normal” type magic. Stuff she’d need in order to help out his Heir. I’m not going into what it was he gave her, because if you’ve read the big story you already know about it, and if you haven’t, then when you do you will. If that made any sense at all.
Yeah, Brenna, I know it didn’t. That’s why I said... never mind. Moving on...
So yeah, see, the problem with latents is that their magic doesn’t come out unless they have some kind of shock. And the shock this girl was due for was a nasty one. This is the part I hate about the whole demi-god bit – when you have to let the bad stuff happen, because the world doesn’t work right without it, but it’s not fair on the people who have to suffer...
She lost her parents. Both of them, at the same time. And we had to sit up here and watch it happen – and trust me, that sucks. ‘Cause she didn’t have anyone else. No boyfriend, not even a friend-friend. What she did have was a baby sister, not even one yet. So now she’s in shock, grieving, and totally responsible for herself and this little girl... and of course, she doesn’t think anything of it when she starts having weird dreams.
But around about November (her parents died in August, by the way, just so you know), when the little kid she’s been dreaming about moves in down the block with his aunt and uncle – yeah, that’s kind of going to get her attention. And so she goes and tries to do something for him, starts babysitting for him a lot – and here’s irony for you – if we hadn’t completed the gambit, she would just have made the poor kid’s life worse. Because of course she didn’t treat him nearly as badly as his aunt and uncle, so he made a fuss when they did, and when he made a fuss, they treated him even worse.
The world’s a weird place... you learn that when you’ve been around it as long as I have...
Hey, Mags, no double-dipping, girl, you already got me once!
But yeah. We did complete the gambit. And that’s where I come in.
See, the girl hasn’t just been dreaming about the little kid – she’s been dreaming about a guy, and his friends, and all the stuff that happened to them – death and betrayal, secrets and Secret-Keepers, you know the drill. And she’s liking the guy she sees in the dreams – but she has no idea he’s real, and he has no idea she even exists, much less that she knows what he needs to know. So it’s my job to get them together. And I did a pretty damn good job, if I do say so myself.
Shut up, Paul.
It’s a good thing time’s flexible up here... they’re both stubborn brats when they want to be. It took me almost an hour to convince him to get up and go out for a drive, and about the same to convince her that it would be a good idea to take the kids out to the park. Because it had to be subtle, you know, nothing aboveboard, nothing open at all.
Might be nice to get out of the house for a while, I’d tell him. Won’t be able to go out tomorrow or the day after. Get a breath of fresh air, just relax for a little while.
It looks like rain, I’d remind her. Don’t want them sitting in the house all day. Should go out now, before the rain starts. Get them to run around a little, burn some energy off.
A solid hour with each of them, coaxing, whispering, nudging. But it finally paid off – I got them both moving in the right direction.
I almost lost her when she realized halfway to the park that she’d forgot her purse and felt like it’d be easier just to stay home, and I almost lost him when he turned right instead of left at a kind of important corner. But a little encouragement to her and a little directional nudging to him (which had to be really subtle because of the whole men-never-stop-for-directions bit) got them both right back on track.
All right. We’re at the park, she said to me – not knowing I was there, of course, just thinking she was thinking. We’re staying five minutes. Maybe.
Oh, but they’re happy, I said. Let them run around for a while. Book in your purse. That got her – books are probably her biggest weakness. She wasn’t going anywhere. I could get on my other case.
Ooh, look, I told him. Parking space. You can show off how well you parallel park. Always appeal to a man’s pride and a woman’s vanity – or is that the other way around? Anyway, it worked. He parked the car and got out.
Feel good to stretch your legs, I said. Get a little exercise before you’re stuck in the house for two days. There’s got to be a park around here somewhere. All right, so that was a little obvious, but he swallowed it, and he just thought he was a smart guy when he took exactly the right turnings to get to it.
It’s funny – sad people are easier to get to than happy people. I guess they’ve got less to lose, so they’re more likely to listen to little voices in their heads. And both of them were pretty sad that day. Him more than her, of course, since she had two other people depending on her – having to be strong for someone else limits your options a lot of times. But getting her out to the park was more or less the easy part, so it evened out.
Anyway, he found the park and sat down – with his back to them, of course. And he had some pretty damn gloomy thoughts, which I’m not putting here, since you know them already. So after he came to his conclusion about what he was going to do, he started looking around. Good. Now all I had to do was get him to notice the kid. Then she’d notice him, and then the dominoes would be falling...
Good grief, Adam, ease up, I wasn’t even half a sentence off topic yet!
Children are incredibly easy to influence. Especially when you’re telling them they can do something they’re normally not allowed to do. Push the boy, I told the little girl. Go on, push him.
She did, twice, and the result was perfect. The guy noticed the kid, and the girl noticed the guy, and the story started coming out. Now I only had one job left – making sure he believed her. Because if you think about it, her story really was pretty damn unbelievable. “Oh, I just happened to dream all this stuff, and I just happen to be connected to you in all these strange ways...” Yeah, not happening. Except that it did. Go figure. Big Guy Upstairs again... or Girl, like I said, I’m not particular...
Ha-HA! Missed that time, Maura Smarty-Robes!
So I hung around his mind and ever so gently suggested it might be a good idea to believe what she was saying... after all, how else could she know these things... it had to be true... honestly, he wasn’t too hard to convince. He was pretty desperate for something good to happen in his life – not surprising, considering all the stuff that got dumped on him the previous few months.
And I didn’t have to do anything else. Once he believed her, they did all the rest themselves. And you know where it went from there. Happiness and sunshine and all that good stuff. Except that my ultra-great-nephew feels fine... he’s going for a walk... yeah, I’m just going to stop with the cultural references, they’re not going anywhere. Put it in a nutshell, they’ve got big problems ahead.
Good thing they’ve got each other, huh?
And to think... they wouldn’t, if it weren’t for me –
Her aim’s improved.
Anyway, so that’s my story, and do me a favor – don’t tell them about this, huh? It would probably kind of freak them out if they knew we were, more or less, playing with them. And maybe we shouldn’t, but I’ve seen how that side of the story comes out, and... yeah.
Speaking of playing, I’m going to have to designate a few honorary Heirs here, just to keep my hand in...
But that’s another story.
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