Colby Stevens grew up on an uninteresting street in an uninteresting neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. He always felt it was uninteresting nevertheless. Car-lined streets added an oddly suburban-feeling to this small pocket of the city that high-rise apartments, condominiums, stores, and multi-story walk-ups stood surrounding the area. No Colby did not see anything strange about his home and why should he, it was planned to blend in with the rest of the city.
Colby got up from the dinner table and took his plate to the kitchen. After finishing dinner, he decided that it was best to retire early in preparation for the next day's festivities. Tomorrow was not only Colby's birthday, but it was also the first day of summer. The summer solstice was one of the biggest holidays that Colby's grandmother celebrated. She always claimed that it was no coincidence that he was born on such an important day. These two facts combined with some old tale about being the first-born male in five generations, blah, blah, blah… Colby just wanted nothing more than to turn sixteen and get his driver's license.
Before heading off to bed, Colby decided to log into his computer and check his various social networking accounts. Unfortunately, prior to getting started he was unable to get any work done. His computer faulted into the dreaded blue screen of death, but this time something was different than the typical segment fault of poor programming and rushed to market software. Strange white symbols appeared on the screen and swirled around on the blue background. He recognized many of the flourishing marks as similar to runes from a popular game at school. In the center of those symbols was one predominant golden and round symbol that he could not quite make out before a headache began.
Colby closed his eyes from the mounting pain behind them. The dizziness swirled in his head as colors flashed from behind his tightly closed eyelids. His head tilted back and lolled to the side as he slumped and fell from his chair.
From the darkness, his eyes could just barely make out the vision of shapes moving in the distance. Two men, tall and thin, so similar they were indistinguishable from one another. They moved in the shadows of blurry dimness. Except for the glow of each form, they seemed identical. One shone with an aura of blue that sparkled like the Caribbean Sea under the high sun of a bright day. The other he observed as surrounded by a reddish darkness that seemed to swallow the light.
They fought and shouted though Colby could not make out what the men said. He strained to hear what the two strange men argued about, but could make out only one phrase as he saw the object they each grasped trying free it from the other's hands. ‘You shall not control the Nibiru.' Darkness enveloped Colby, leaving him in the blackness of the void between sleep and wake.
Colby Stevens' dreams were often vivid enough to convince him they were real. So real, in fact, that he made a habit of not consuming liquids after eight o'clock in the evening, for fear of dreaming he was in the bathroom. A wet bed may be a right of passage when you are a little kid. This is not the case when you are waking up to your sixteenth birthday, and you're soaking wet to the bone from head to toe.
He followed his rule the night before, and he did not dream of using the facilities, but he woke up wet all the same. This time he woke wet from the sweat he expelled while running away from something he never imagined before. He was running from a vision of himself. He also did not remember getting into bed. The last thing he had remembered before the strange visions were the blue screen of death on his computer.
Today was supposed to be the best day of his life so far. He was a sixteen-year-old teenager now, and that meant he was no longer a little boy. He could tell that his Nana was trying to make him a favorite breakfast, banana and peanut butter French toast. Trying to make breakfast that is since Nana is not the best cook by a long shot. The smell of burned peanuts and scorched banana bread wafted up from the kitchen and assaulted Colby's snot-covered nose as he woke. If the smell had not woken him, the smoke alarms would have.
"Colby dear, come down for breakfast," Nana shouted. "I made your favorite and it will get cold."
Colby wiped his eyes clean and opened them to find his sister leaning in the doorway of his room. "Are you lost Shelly?" Colby raised an eyebrow as he looked at his sister's blood red lips, smoky eyes, and powdered face. She reminded him of a corpse freshly painted for a viewing.
"Why are you all wet? Did you piss the bed?" she asked without seeming to move a muscle in her blank, expressionless face.
Colby got out of bed, dry from the waist down. "Obviously not, I must be getting night sweats or something." He lied, knowing he was running in his dream and that his perspiration-soaked the bedding. He stripped his bed and turned to walk up to his sister, and then closed the door in her face. "Mom still sleeping?"
Shelly laughed throaty and without mirth. "Mom is taking off work today. I'm sure her head hurts since she crawled back to bed."
"Sangria Sunday yesterday? Not even the smoke alarms will wake her," Colby said then sighed and started cleaning up.
"You better hurry and get downstairs before the witch burns down the kitchen making you that slop," Shelly said from outside the door. "Oh, and happy birthday cheese-curd." Her voice faded with the accompaniment of the clomping made by her two-inch soled shoes as she walked down the hall.
"Thanks, smelly," Colby said.
He hated his sister's nickname for him, but it was not the worst name he gets called. Colby went to the bathroom while dropping his sheets in the laundry chute. After stepping from the shower, he spent several moments before the mirror, checking his face and chest for signs of hair. Aforementioned became part of his morning habit since early childhood when his daddy would tell him he would become a man soon after he started shaving. He did not remember ever hearing his father say that since he has been missing for ten years, but somehow he sensed his father's voice in the back of his mind.
"No signs yet," he told his reflection. "Maybe tomorrow."
Once he finished checking his gangly frame and fuzzless chin, Colby got dressed and brushed his hair and teeth. Before he left his room, he stopped at his bookshelf and reached for the old watch left behind by his father. Colby treasured the watch since the day his father disappeared without leaving a note or trace of where he was going. He never considered wearing the dusty old timepiece before, but today was his special day, and strapping his father's watch around his wrist just seemed right somehow. He donned the weathered old accessory, admiring its jeweled face and ‘non-working' quartz timing.
The watch had not worked for as long as he could remember, but that didn't take away from the desire to keep it close. It was the only familiar piece of his father that remained, and he always felt a deep need to keep it safe until the day he could place it back in his father's hand.
He pushed the pin and set the correct time then headed for the kitchen. He never paid much mind to the fact the watch never worked. Although Colby had an ingrained ability to take things apart and fix them or make them better, he never dared attempt such with the watch. This morning the unexpected ticking of the timepiece stopped Colby in his tracks.
When had the watch started working, he wondered. Over the years, Colby tried setting it, and it never worked. Every time he attempted to open the back to change the battery, he was unable to remove the plate. He pushed the side button and smiled as the face lit up.
His smile faded as the scattered memory of his last night with his papa flooded his thoughts. He sat holding his bleeding foot as his father sat him down and kissed him goodbye. The tears welled in his eyes as the feeling of emptiness tightened within his gut. As he dwelled on the emotions, a tingling came over his skin and a spark jumped from the watch on his wrist.
"What the hell?" Colby snapped out of his emotional tailspin and looked at his wrist. Nothing. He shook his head and cleared the pent-up anger and sadness that mixed his mind into a smoothie of emotions he bottled up inside, then scolded himself for allowing the outburst.
"Keep it within, for without it harbors a dangerous energy," he muttered to himself. He went downstairs playing the mantra over in his head, something his nana would often tell him when his emotional state became turbulent.
The smoke was clearing from the kitchen through a half-open window above the sink as Nana fanned the room with a dishtowel and small cutting board.
"Sit down my little fart-blossom. Eat up, your gonna need all your strength today." She picked up a plate and slid it in front of Colby with a broad, toothless smile. "Happy Birthday, Colby."
Nana called him fart-blossom because, as a little boy, Colby had a habit of sitting on people's laps just to let one rip.
Nana must have noticed Colby's silly grin and realized her gums were bare. He held back a giggle as she reached into her housecoat pocket to retrieve her teeth. Once properly seated in her mouth, she flashed Colby a proper smile.
Colby sat down before the plate Nana set out on the counter. He imagined a condemned man in Guantanamo being served better. Blacked toast was oozing a dark roasted brown sludge, all covered in a mountain of syrup and powdered sugar, sliced bananas, and whipped cream. The smell alone was more than Colby could bare, and he dry-heaved.
"Oh dear, that wasn't supposed to happen," Nana said taking the plate away. "Perhaps it's different with boys, I really don't know."
His grandmother continued mumbling and threw the breakfast away, plate, and all. She paced the kitchen floor, muttering to herself and shaking her tightly permed blue head.
"How do you feel this morning?" she finally asked. "Dizzy, shaky, sweaty…"
"I did wake up all sweaty this morning. Otherwise, I was fine until I sat down," Colby said. He closed his eyes against the visual of the plate that she took away but left an impression he could not shake. "And I dreamt of symbols and runes from a game we play at school."
"Oh blessed be, it's the quickening," Nana said, "I knew it."
Colby looked at his grandma. "What are you talking about Nana?"
Nana started for Colby but was stopped short when Shelly stepped between them. "Sickening, she said sickening. You are probably coming down with something." Shelly glared at her Nana, who frowned back in return. "See…you're making me sick as we speak." Shelly grabbed a fresh banana from the bowl on the counter and tossed it to her brother. "Eat that, safer than the crap the old woman was gonna feed you."
Colby took the fruit and dropped it into his book bag. It was the first day of summer, but he attended a private academy that held session year-round. The sound of the bus coming up the street put an end to any further conversation. Colby jumped up from the counter and headed for the door.
"Gotta run, see you after school Nannie!" Colby ran out the back, waving his hand.
Shelly went after him at a less frantic pace. She looked back at Nana before continuing toward the door. "You shouldn't fill his head with nonsense."
Nana walked from the kitchen shaking her finger at Shelly. "What nonsense, Shelly? He is the one, and you know it, my ma told you as much." Nana put her hands on her hips and stared up at Shelly, glaring through half-closed lids.
"Just because some dusty old ghost decides to keep me awake at night, does not mean she was making any sense." Shelly stomped around the kitchen before looking out the back screen door. "That mangy cat is back," Shelly shouted. "Stop feeding the strays."
"I still feed you…ya little witch," Nana said as she opened the door and leaned down to retrieve the pathetic looking cat. "Come inside Fizzlewink, I have some leftover French toast for you."
The tattered blue cat looked up at Nana, sniffed the air, and meowed in protest. He abruptly turned and ran off, following the path taken by Colby.
Nana watched after the strange feline then turned to Shelly and continued their argument. "I said that it was no coincidence that Colby was born on the solstice," Nana explained. "You mark my word something special will happen to that boy today."
"Is that what the junk in the bottom your teacup told you this morning," Shelly said as she headed for the back door.
"No, I just mean…Never mind. I just hope he holds that pent-up anger of his in check today, that's all."
Shelly stopped and turned to her Nana before leaving. Her face took a sudden concern that could have melted away the gothic makeup and arrogant facade. "Do you really think one of his fits could cause something…magical?"
Nana looked at Shelly with worry in her eyes. "My dear I am afraid with the power that boy is about to gain, it could cause a great deal more than we can imagine."
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