This cannot be happening to me again!
Seefer Elliot hugged the wall of the cold, dark basement below Harrison Middle School. A few weeks ago, he grew quite familiar with this subterranean corridor and the workshop at the end. At one point, trapped inside while would-be alien captors ran amok in the school above him. This time, however, he was on the outside of the uninviting room while a gun-toting secret agent beckoned for him.
“Those stairs are blocked off, son. This room is your only way out. You might as well come back in here,” called out the man. “Now, or the cop gets it!”
“Don’t listen to him, Elliot! Find a way out!” Officer Booth yelled into the dark hallway. With a bullet already in him and a barrel looking to finish him off, Booth used his fleeting breaths to encourage Seefer away.
Seefer heeded Booth’s advice. He wasn’t about to face an armed man, but was not exactly free to escape either. His entire left leg was formed in a cast, a result of injuries he received from battling a giant gigaverm. Instead, he waited in the shadows of the corridor. How did I get myself into this mess?
That morning, Seefer sat atop an exam table with his casted leg extending forward. In recent weeks, he grew familiar with Dr. Gene Hunter’s office. The exam room had all the typical tools and decorations expected at an orthopedics’ office: a model skeleton, posters of the muscular and skeletal systems, prescription samples, the little rubber hammer that they bang your knee with and so on. There was nothing special or entertaining in this room to look at, which made it an incredibly boring place to wait.
Seefer’s mom quietly sat in the guest chair next to the exam table. She looked as tired as her son from all the waiting. With her head resting on her hand, she was close to nodding off, but thankfully, the door opened.
“Sorry about that, folks.” Dr. Hunter entered holding an X-ray on top of his notepad. He fixed it to the light board mounted near the exam table. “Mr. Elliot, it looks like the bone is healing nicely, but you still have a few more weeks until we can remove the cast. A comminuted fracture is a much more difficult break to heal.”
Seefer sank in his seat. This was news he could do without.
“How does it feel?” the doctor asked.
“Itchy,” said Seefer.
“Understandable. Nevertheless, you have to realize that it’s the only way you’ll fully recover. You have two pins in that leg. We can’t have them moving around while the bone is healing.”
Seefer sighed. “Yeah, I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.”
Mom interjected. “So how many weeks are we talking?”
“Four, maybe six. I want you to keep using the crutches as much as possible. No unnecessary weight should be placed on that leg.” Dr. Hunter thumbed through a medical folder he had under the X-ray. “Your practitioner forwarded me a copy of your records. I saw a recent history of headaches. How have they been under the current circumstances?”
Seefer thought for a moment. He surprised himself with the answer he derived. “None, actually. Not since this happened.”
“I guess that’s a lucky break,” the doctor said with a cheesy grin. His audience was not impressed. “Right. Well, we’ll see you in a couple more weeks and we’ll see about getting off those crutches.”
“My insurance must love you guys right now,” mom said to the doctor.
He laughed. “No, but we sure love them!” He packed up his folder and left the room, leaving the door open.
“I don’t get that. Why would he love our insurance?” Seefer said with puzzlement.
“Because this doctor is getting a boatload of money having you as a patient,” she said. It was true. Seefer had paid Dr. Hunter five visits already, including a minor surgery to have pins inserted into his shattered bones. “At least your head is feeling better. We can stick to one doctor at a time.”
“Joy,” Seefer said sarcastically. He eased off the exam table using his mother’s hand for support. She handed him his crutches, but before they could make a move toward the door, it swung open.
Closing the door behind him, Officer Booth looked at the Elliots with hasty concern. “Mrs. Elliot, Seefer, we don’t have a lot of time. We need to talk.”
“Oh no!” Mrs. Elliot argued. “You’ve done this before. My boy was barely out of surgery when you and your FBI friends started asking him tons of questions.”
Since the attack on Harrison Middle School, Officer Daniel Booth had been overly connected with all subsequent investigations. He became the most knowledgeable witness in the wake of the event. He was the first responder to the scene, felt the full force of an alien perimeter shield, then engaged in battle with hypnotized 12-yr-olds. He had visited Seefer on two occasions with at least one other federal agent in his company. In both cases, Seefer gave them no information to go on. He maintained the advice given by his custodial ally, Pavo: remember nothing!
“I guess you didn’t like my answers?” Seefer quipped.
“Correct,” Booth said bluntly.
“Officer,” mom said. “This is not the time nor place to be asking my son anything else. If you need to discuss Harrison School more, then set up a visit.”
“Please, hear me out. We won’t be able to talk this discreetly again.”
Seefer’s mom folded her arms and allowed Booth to continue.
“I suffered from a few bumps on the head that day at Harrison. When I came to and people were flooding onto the campus, I wasn’t right in the head. My initial accounts of the day’s events were littered with words like aliens, monsters, and a flying boy. Fellow cops in my precinct were good enough to keep those comments off-the-record.”
Seefer nervously laughed. “People must have thought you were crazy! Right?”
“They did. I thought I was crazy too. I clammed up. I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. A part of me thought that maybe the concussions altered my memory, making dreams seem real or something like that. Who knows? While I was unsure, I didn’t want to put my reputation on the line.
“I proceeded to assist the FBI in their investigation of the siege. We made many visits like the ones we made to you. Even though we turned the case over to the federal investigators, officers like me provided a friendly local face for children and their parents to relate with. In the end, our efforts were fruitless.Nobody remembered anything.”
“So that brings you here because…” mom steered him.
“Because that’s not exactly true. I remember everything. And I may not be the only one.” Booth looked down at Seefer. “I’ve had a long time to reflect on the events of that day. I know what I saw.”
“And what exactly is that?” she asked.
“Your boy flew, Mrs. Elliot.”
She snorted from her sudden burst of laughter.
“Officer, that must have been one heck of a bump on your head.” She slipped her pocketbook strap onto her shoulder preparing to leave.
“I may have been the only one to see it, but I don’t think I’m the only one who believes it. An agent approached me three days ago about the subject. He flashed FBI credentials and wanted to know about the flying boy. Now, I haven’t spoken a word to anyone since those incoherent ramblings I rattled off in the school parking lot, but somehow that much got out.
“I dismissed the agent and later checked the system for his identity. He didn’t exist. Someone out there thinks the rumor is credible enough to go on. It won’t be long until they start putting things together and start looking at the only boy who was running around the school during the whole episode.”
A look of concern flashed over Seefer’s face. His mother saw fear in his eyes and then turned back to Booth. “You’re scaring my son, Officer. I hope you’re happy. Can we please leave now?”
Booth, opened the door, stepped out of the way and
held out his business card. “Watch yourselves. I don’t know who these people are. If you see any suspicious activity, call.”
Mom grabbed the card on the way out the door.
“Come on, Seefer.”
Booth quickly stopped Seefer and stuck another business card in his hand. “And if you have anything that you want to talk about, feel free to use that card.”
“Thanks.” Seefer looked up at Booth, whose face was hungry for answers. Seefer considered speaking to him further, but ultimately shook him off. “Got to go.”
He clopped away on his crutches.
The Elliots’ car drove away from the doctor’s office on the way back home. Seefer sat in the back and faced 90 degrees so that he could rest his casted leg along the empty seats beside him. He nervously clenched and released pieces of clothing as he watched outside the window.
I knew someone would find out! Pavo’s plan is crap. I need to do something about this.
“What aren’t you telling me?” his mom asked. She had been watching Seefer squirm in silence through the mirror.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about, mom. I don’t remember anything.”
“Come off it, Seef. You have that look in your eye. You’re lying. I can’t believe all this time has gone by and you haven’t spoken a word about what happened behind that … that … energy field. Honey, I saw weird things that night and I was standing out on the street. You were on the school grounds where it was all happening and you don’t remember anything? Please!”
“None of the others remember, mom!” Seefer retorted.
“But you weren’t with the others. It sounds like someone else is putting that together. If there is something you’re hiding, you have to tell me!”
Seefer remembered why he had to keep things to himself. It wasn’t just because Pavo instructed him to do so. He had a lot of time to think about the reasons for the secrecy. He had to protect the naïve. If people knew what he did and what he was capable of doing, they would be at risk. And he didn’t want harm to ever find his mother.
“I don’t … there’s nothing.”
“Ugggh. Honey, you’ve got to learn to trust me.
You don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed of anything you did. Nor do you have to be worried about getting in trouble if you did something wrong.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong!” Seefer was appalled at the suggestion.
“Well, how would you know? I thought you couldn’t remember anything?”
Oh crap, she got me. Seefer was at a loss for words, but instead of keeping his mouth shut, he made things worse. “Well I can remember some things. Enough to know that I’m not in trouble.” What am I doing? Why did I say that?
“Like what, Seefer? Tell me what you can remember.”
Seefer huffed. He gazed out the back window to hide his face from the rearview mirror. He paused for a moment and stared at the car in back of them. He collected his thoughts. “I remember…” Come on. Think! Something that wouldn’t give anything away. “A big fire.”
“That’s it?” she asked slyly.
“And!” Seefer pointed his finger toward the car roof to emphasize his eureka moment. “The school was completely empty when you dropped me off.”
“Nothing else?” Mom asked with a raised brow.
“And! The power was off.”
“Okay. I can tell you are making light of this situation. Those are all things that have been heavily reported on the news. I know you know those things.Why don’t you tell me what you did when the school was empty and dark?”
Seefer couldn’t escape the questions. They would just keep coming. “I…I…” I wandered around as if I owned the place.
“Or can you tell me why you were in different clothes between the time I saw you in the front of the school and then the next time when the smoke cleared?”
Because my first outfit was covered in gloke slime.
Seefer stayed silent despite the truth scratching at his tongue.
“Or how you, of all people, managed to bruise and break your body while everyone else had a few scratches?”
Because I saved the freaking day! Seefer so badly wanted to tell her, but resisted the urge and buried the truth. “I don’t know.”
Mom shook her head. “I’m disappointed to hear that. If you do suddenly remember everything, please remember that I’m always here to listen.”
“Okay.” Seefer hung his head. Yeah, you’re here to listen, but are you ready to handle the stuff that I have to tell you? He tore himself in two trying to decide how to act. On one hand, there seemed to be a growing threat to Seefer’s anonymity that would spell trouble for the Elliots no matter what. On the other, if some rogue agents ever took them in for questioning and his mother was full of information, she would be at more risk than she is now.
As Seefer gazed out the rear window debating on whether to confess or not, his mom drove the car through an intersection, just making the light before it turned red. The black sedan in back of them, previously following at a safe driving distance, suddenly zoomed through the stop signal. Cars moving in the other direction slammed on their brakes and honked at the oblivious driver.
Holy cow! What a maniac! Seefer kept his eyes glued to the car. Once it passed safely through, it slowed down to maintain its safe following distance. Slowing down? Why in such a rush two seconds ago?
Further down the road, there was an entrance to the highway. Seefer’s mom turned on her blinker and veered to the right. Seefer, watching the black sedan the whole time since the intersection, saw it lean toward the same direction. When the Elliots entered the highway, the black car did the same thing five seconds later. Is he? Seefer entertained a conspiracy theory for a moment. Nah!
For ten minutes they drove on the highway. Seefer occasionally looked back and, sure enough, the black sedan was there. The Elliots’ car never moved out of the right lane and neither did the sedan. Other cars would pass in between while getting on or off the highway, but that sedan never strayed far. He noticed how difficult it was to see the driver. He could make out a figure behind the wheel, but either the sun’s reflection was too bright or the glass was too dim.
Their house’s exit was only a quarter mile away. Mom signaled her blinker. Seefer turned to see if the car was doing the same. Just keep going. You’re not following us. Just keep driving to wherever it is you need to go. The Elliots’ car entered the exit ramp. The black sedan hadn’t motioned to follow. Phew! But then it made a quick swerve into the exit lane and started following the Elliots again. What the –! Seefer considered pointing the vehicle out to his mother, but didn’t want any response to somehow turn into a lecture.
With one main road left to go before they turned onto their cul-de-sac, the black sedan still remained five car lengths back. As they came closer to their house, that distance began shrinking. Why is he getting closer?
Okay, this is real. “Mom! This car is following us!”
“What?” asked mom.
“It’s been following us from the doctor’s I think!”
“Now’s not the time to be joking, Seefer. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a little annoyed with your antics right now.”
“This isn’t an antic! Look!” He pointed out of the rear window. The car had encroached to about a car length.
“We’re almost home, Seef. Let’s see if he follows,” she said with a smirk as she signaled for a left turn.
Their road was just ahead.
“No! What are you crazy? He will know where we live!” Seefer freaked out.
Mom gently braked to make the left turn. The black sedan slowed with them, but then passed the Elliots on the right. Seefer tried to get a glimpse of the driver as it drove by, but the glass was tinted.
“That guy is really bad at following people,” mom said slyly.
“I’m telling you he was,” Seefer insisted.
When they arrived home, Seefer went straight to his room – or as he saw it, his cell. For the last month, he had little acquaintance with the outside world other than visits to the doctor. The cast and crutches were too clumsy to deal with, so his mom decided home schooling would be the best approach until he healed.
While all his other schoolmates got relocated to a new building to resume their schoolwork, he was left to dwell in his boring home. It only took hostile alien creatures destroying his school for him to realize how much he had missed it.
He threw his crutches onto the bed and sat in the chair at his desk. He flipped on his computer and waited for it to boot up. While the system was loading, Seefer tapped his fingers on his desktop and looked out the window. His room faced the front of the house and provided him with a view of his entire cul-de-sac. This had become a familiar sight since his injury.
A swarm of fallen leaves blew briskly across the road. Mrs. DeSoto walked her Pekingese down the sidewalk. A pair of squirrels chased each other up and down a tree. It was an average, boring day on Wrigley Lane, until a black sedan with tinted windows slowly turned onto the road.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Seefer said to himself.
The dark vehicle adhered to the posted 10 mph sign as it rolled by each house. As it neared the circle, Seefer crouched lower so not to be seen in the window. The car rounded the circle and passed by the Elliot house.
Seefer watched intently, trying to find some clue about who the driver was. The dark windows made it too difficult to see into the vehicle.
After it passed the house, he tried to make out a license plate, but there wasn’t one. The car drove past Seefer’s neighbor to the right and then stopped in front of the next house down. The driver parked the car and let off the brake, but then sat idly. No one exited.
“Okay. Got to call Officer Booth now.”