I It was the summer of ’99. I knew things were changing, but my youth
required me to be ignorant. Soon, I knew, it would be the turn of the century,
and the millennium, but that was almost it. My friends had about the same
level of knowledge.
Every once in a while, my parents would be talking in whispered voices. Not really wanting to know what they were keeping so secret, I ignored them. That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was to break up with Drew. You couldn’t blame me--the guy had the intelligence of a grain of sand. But I needed his sweetness and compassion for what was coming.
The third and most serious mistake was to disobey my parents. I know, everybody does sometime or another. But this time my obedience would have my life. If only…
Anyway, I had just gotten over a roller-coaster relationship with Drew when this really hot sophomore invited me to a party at Mike Taylor’s house-Mike Taylor!! I said yes right away. I was not about to miss the party of the millennium!
My parents said no. I didn’t listen. Later that night, I told them I was going over to my friend Jaime’s to study. Classic getaway.
When I got to the house where the party was being held, my stomach got this weird churning feeling-like I was nervous, confident, scared, and ready to collapse all at the same time. After sitting for a few minutes, I felt fine and got out on the dance floor.
Sometime around nine o’ clock, the feeling returned. It was a stronger, pukey feeling this time. I ignored it and continued to dance. I didn’t notice again for another hour.
This time, I fell to the floor. My hands were shaking so much that I could not move them on my own. My face was drained of its color, and my eyes were dull. Someone grabbed a glass of cold water and dumped it on me, but it just made me colder and shakier. That was when the knock came.
At first it was a soft tapping at the back door. Then crescendoing, it became such a disturbance that the DJ turned off the music and the party came to a halt. Everything went black.
I woke up to screams and sobs filling the stuffy room. Around me, there were people lying in random order, as if someone had just knocked them down where they stood. The pools of blood proved I was right.
A girl I knew, Carrie Thompson, was closest to me. Her body was shaking with silent sobs. I touched her shoulder and she jerked her head up. Her golden-brown curls were going flat, and her cheeks were stained with streaks of mascara in an intricate maze. “The men,” she shuddered before she fell suddenly, the mark of the gunman’s perfect aim. I knew I was next.
The next thing I saw was my parents and younger brother around a zipped bag. I knew they crying because my mother kept wringing her hands and dabbing ate her eyes in her nervous way. My dad had his head bowed, his brown-gray hair covering his forehead and eyes from view. My brother was turned away, trying not to let my parents see him cry. Then, with a sudden sharp pain, I realized why. Not being able to think about my non-existence drove me from the room seeking a companion with whom to share my concerns.
In the next room I found several other parents and a few doctors. Continuing, I saw a hunched figure sitting in an uncomfortable-looking chair. A boy, about my age (13) was kneeling next to the boy in the chair and trying to console him. I moved closer, trying to get a glimpse of the face. Finally, the more upset one looked up. Startled, he stared at me. I returned his gaze and silently prayed he wasn’t dead also.
My fears were confirmed. Drew, his friend, me, and several others were no longer. Moving together, we formed a small group, and were joined the few other victims from the deadly night. Grim faces with eyes downcast.
The cries of mourning family members could be heard from down the hall. Shuddering, I turned away from the group and started back to the room where I had last seen my parents. They were still there. Moving closer, I put my arm around my mom’s shoulders. She flinched, but didn’t seem to notice I was there. After a few minutes, I moved over to my dad, then my brother. I had tears streaming down my face, not from my own death, but for the violent shootings of so many other young, innocent lives. And because we could not be seen, just felt, and could not be heard, even by the ones we loved the most.
Rejoining the group, I had a sinking feeling in my gut. My head began to throb. The white light swallowed us. Not a destination, but an empty space. We were just a crumb-the white vastness seemed to stretch forever. With fear, I clung like a baby to Drew’s arm, and he didn’t take notice.
After what seemed like an hour, the light suddenly flashed brighter, blinding me like the sun. Then we fell, all landing in the same room where we were sucked away. My head hit the floor. Beginning to forget the night’s previous events, I shouted, “Ow!” A few people laughed, others stared. I quickly quieted. Looking around me, I counted everyone. Seeking familiar faces in the crowd of eleven, I moved through the room. Just as I was about to celebrate that none of my closest friends were dead, I saw Jaime. My heart sank into my stomach. A small cry escaped my lips. My best friend was dead.
Jaime saw me and ran towards me.
“Where are we?” she asked, eyes pleading for an answer.
“I don’t know,” I replied, then casting my eyes to the floor, and letting my thick brown hair fall into my face, “I’m sorry, Jaime.”
She smiled faintly, then sighing and rolling her eyes upward, she motioned for me to follow her. Down the hall, around a corner, to a double door at the front of the building. We paused then looked at each other.
“Want to try?” she asked quizzically.
I smiled. Stepping forward, we each moved until we were each up against a door. Another step, and we found ourselves outside. The rest of the victims were there, waiting.
“Maryanne is missing,” said a dark-haired, guy I didn’t know. My heart sank even deeper into my stomach. Maryanne had lived next door to me for years.
Suddenly, a buzzing sound filled the air. A moment later, Maryanne was standing next to me. A relived sigh echoed around the hospital walls that surrounded the courtyard we were in on three sides.
“Where were you?” I interrogated her.
“Think of a place you would like to be. Describe it in your mind. Picture it. And close your eyes.”
I did as she said. Picturing the Potomac River, near Montacello, without any people. When I opened my eyes, I was there. Then, picturing the hospital courtyard, I returned to the group.
Within a week, we had mastered the traveling. We were able to go anywhere in the world at any time. We had also begun to get used to the idea of being only presences, not ghosts or living beings.
I was checking on my dad at his office. On my way out, I stopped to stare at a computer screen that had momentarily been left unattended.
Jan 1st, 3000
The world will be mine!
Startled by what I had seen, I hurried back to alert the other victims.
They called everyone together for a quick meeting. What I had seen convinced
me it was real. The others decided to go to the office building and search
for more information.
We found dozens of password-protected computer files on “D-Day.” Joe, a computer wiz, was able to tap into the system and access the documents. What we found would astound even the most advanced scientific and technological minds in the world. In fact, that was the plan.
I suddenly realized what my parents had been so concerned about. They must have known, but not have been able to prove their theory. Setting my mind in a split second, I decided to try and stop the plan. The other quickly sided with me.
Everyone split up. We only had a week to destroy the program, and, (I know it sounds corny) save the world. Every species on earth was about to be wiped out, and they had no idea. And my family. I had to do it for them. So each person was assigned a part of the planet to observe. We pinpointed the major cities, which seemed to be where the major problems were. Sydney, Beijing, Washington, DC, Chicago, London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janeiro. Our information bank quickly grew. We had three days left.
All those who seemed to know about the plan just called it D-Day when they spoke of it. No one mentioned what the destruction device was. We had no idea.
December 31st finally came. We were all heartbroken, unable to imagine what would happen. Everyone gathered around the crystal ball in New York City, faces white with anxiety. My hands were knotted in a tight ball, and I was sweating, despite the freezing temperatures. Just as the countdown of the last 10 seconds began, my heart skipped a beat. I knew what it was! I transported (that’s what we call the think-travel) to Sydney. There was a subway system that had been deserted since 2010, when solar cars had been standardized. “Primitive people,” I muttered under my breath. But I didn’t
have time to waste.
I located the device with five seconds to go. I couldn’t describe it, but there was something alluring about it. Like a magnetic field, I don’t know. C’s in science were good enough for me.
I pulled the plug and transported back. The crystal ball lay shattered on the ground. The whole city was deserted. Faded, dull, empty. I saw white.
This time it wasn’t just the victims of the party massacre. The whole world was there. Billions of people and animals filled the white. Their eyes were bright with fear. I spotted my parents. They must have been in New York, too, because there was no way I could have found them otherwise. I moved over to them. Hugging my tearful mother, I whispered, “I’m sorry, Mama.”
Then a blinding, thicker, whitish-gray light swallowed us. And not a word was uttered, the only sound the echo of my last words to my mom, rattling in the silence.