Shadows of Tomorrow
A Samuel Light Junior Story
By John Pirillo
He kicked up his heels. Literally. School was out. No more crazy days trying to get homework done while fending off earthbound spirits, no more students trying to copy his homework, no more teachers grousing about how horrible they have it. Not that they didn't. He just thought they ought to get together and actually do something about it, instead of always complaining.
"Today's the day I have fun, fun, fun." Sammie told himself as he stepped into Bus 101, the bus he always took home.
"Howdy, Samuel." Mister Faraday told him. He was the bus driver. He had a green aura that bobbed around when he laughed, but lately his aura had sprouted a large dark area around his heart. Samuel wasn't quite sure how to relate to that. Usually, a dark aura meant the person was being negative, or mean, or both. But when it was just a tiny area. He'd have to talk to his mother about it when he got home. She was up to that kind of stuff. He was still learning.
"Hey Mister Faraday! How's life treating you?"
"It's great to be alive." He answered, his smile somewhat fading, but then he perked up. "But actually, it's just great. Get seated, Samuel, I'm closing the door and leaving."
"Gotcha!" Samuel said, climbing into the seat next to raven-haired Wendy. He called her Wendy, but her real name was Petunia, which she hated, so he called her Wendy after the witch that Casper befriended. She liked that. It made her feel special.
"Sam." She greeted, not looking up from the phone in her lap, on which she was flicking through a series of WebPages.
"What's cool?" He asked.
"Getting home." She answered a bit too shortly.
That sent off an alarm bell. Her father must be drinking again. No wonder she was riding the bus.
"Alive." She finished.
"I'm sorry." He told her.
She looked up, startled by his words. "What do you mean?"
Her eyes began to water. "Bug off, Sam; you're starting to get on my nerves."
He took the hint and slid over to the other side of the bus. It was an empty seat. He wasn't afraid of her; he just respected her desire to be private. Before he had slid over, he had touched her binder and felt a shiver of information stream from it up his arm and into his brain. It took only a couple moments to decipher it.
She was in a heap of deep doo doo.
He kept his eyes on her, not sure exactly how to help her. You see, Samuel's problem is that he doesn't like to see anyone sad or hurt. It's something he picked up from his Mom, who was always helping the luckless, the unloved and the unwanted. She worked as a volunteer at the local hospital and went to Old Age homes to read stories to the elders there who couldn't get about, and to comfort the ones who were sad. This pretty much fitted the description of every one of them. Alone and feeling abandoned by their loved ones and betrayed by life and the God they had believed in.
He knew most of it was surface and they didn't really feel that way, but sometimes their loneliness over rode their heart and good sense. That's where his Mom came in. She told them about what death was really about. A transition. That's all. Just like stepping from one car into another. Many of them laughed when she said that, and he smiled at the thought of that. Some grew angry, saying it was blasphemous, they were going to hell and she was leading the way. But most of them felt comforted by her words, less fearful.
"I'm sorry." Wendy said to him from across the bus.
He looked over.
"No problem. Wanta talk?"
"No!" She growled and looked away again.
She looked up and scowled at him. "Why are you laughing at me?"
"I'm not laughing at you; I was just thinking how silly we human beings are."
"Well, you for one, Samuel Light Junior, are one of the most silly of them all. You're..."
Her next words were lost because Mister Faraday slumped over in his seat, gasping in pain and the bus swerved hard to the left. The kids up front saw and screamed. Samuel looked over and saw what was happening. The bus was about to slam off the road and it was a good forty feet down from there.
He dove off his chair and dashed to the seat where Mister Faraday sat and grabbed the wheel. The bus stabilized, but Mister Faraday's foot was still on the gas.
The kids grew more panicked when they saw what Samuel was doing and screamed even louder, making it harder for him to concentrate. Finally, he was able to see Al beside him.
"Steer right gently." Al said.
The bus rounded a curve gently, but still a bit fast.
"Samuel, you'll need to hit the brakes next."
"But he's in the way."
"I know." Al said, his white hair flopping into his eyes as he spoke. "But I know you can do it. Use your imagination!"
Samuel was about to complain about doing it when he saw why he would have to brake. The lights ahead turned to red and railroad guards began descending as a huge train began rolling up. "Holy!" Samuel started to say.
The kids around him screamed even louder yet, guaranteeing that Samuel would lose his hearing for the next two days.
"Now, Samuel!" Al shouted.
Samuel reacted like a frightened puppy, but instead of running away, he threw himself on Mister Faraday's lap and slammed both feet on the brake.
The bus swerved right and left as he tried to hang on and steer at the same time while pressing the brakes. Mister Faraday was crying out in pain behind him.
The railroad guards neared rapidly. They were ten feet away, then six, then one, then...
Amidst the chaos of screams and brakes that sounded like they were going to explode and streams of fire and smoke hurtling up from the overheated brake hubs, the bus came to a stop, its nose barely touching the train railroad guard.
Samuel flicked off the engine, and then got off Mister Faraday.
Not a voice anywhere in the bus.
Then he turned around. The kids were all looking at him, as if seeing him for the first time. He raised his hands. "I'm going to open the doors. I want all of you off the bus immediately."
He opened the doors. Everyone flew past him at the front and debarked from the bus.
Samuel leaned over Mister Faraday. The black spot had grown over his heart. Samuel felt Al looking at him, but didn't pay him any further attention, but instead pressed his right hand over Mister Faraday's heart.
He could feel the warmth building there, and then a green light of a soft lambent nature began spilling out from between his fingers and into Mister Faraday's chest. As green light intensified Mister Faraday's eyes flickered open. He looked into Samuel's face and smiled. "You always were a good boy."
Then he sighed and stiffened.
His eyes didn't blink. They remained open.
Samuel was frozen in that moment when a grown man's hand touched his shoulder. "Son, better let me get to him."
Samuel backed away and a tall policeman with a warm face and a thick mustache leaned over Mister Faraday and felt his pulse. He then put his keys near the man's nostrils and looked their surface. A fellow policeman looked in.
The tall policeman shook his head at him.
Samuel forgot most of what happened next, because it didn't really matter. He had tried to save Mister Faraday, but it didn't happen. He had died.
Samuel sat on his bed late that night, his Mom seated next to him, her arms around him, holding him as he cried. "I loved that man, Mom. He was so funny and so kind. Why did God take him away like that?"
She kissed his hair and brushed it lightly, trying to soothe him. "God has a plan and it doesn't always fit our pictures."
"I don't think I like that plan."
His Mom started to laugh, and then she stifled it and held him closer. "You will, Samuel. You will. You just need some years to absorb everything you're learning now."
Samuel wiped at his eyes and leaned back into her more. As he did so, he saw Al standing before the foot of his bed, smiling.
"You did well, Samuel."
"No you didn't." Al and his Mom said at the same time.
"I couldn't save him. What's the point of my having so much power if I can't save someone when they need it?"
His Mom held him tighter.
Al spoke. "You can't save everyone, Samuel. Remember that!"
Al faded away, still smiling, but his eyes filled with warmth and kindness.
Samuel hugged his Mom and she held him tight. He had a lot of growing up to do yet. A lot!
The next morning he got on the bus and Wendy was there too. He looked at the new bus driver and began to shake a little inside. He felt a hand touch him lightly. It was Wendy. "Sit with me, Sam."
She took one of his hands and squeezed it. "I'm sorry I was so mean to you."
She put a finger to his lips to shut him up. "Shut up and let me apologize."
He laughed so hard; she had to take her finger away so he didn't accidentally bite it.
And even though yesterday had been terrible in some ways, this morning was a new day and right then that moment, he was having fun sitting next to Wendy, who began telling him everything that had been bothering her. And in those moments they were as close as any souls could ever be or want to be.
My name's Samuel Light Junior, but all my friends call me Sammie. My Mom calls me Sprung, because I've grown like a wild weed lately. My best teacher calls me Leech, because once I get my eager hands on a new novel I won't let go. I just read and read and read until my eyeballs become so weary they look like red lobsters that have been just boiled.
I have this gift. Sort of. It's not really a gift so much as a legacy, an inheritance, a kind of genetic light up that cause me to do weird things like see dead people, relive other people's past lives...as if our own weren't enough, heal people...not all the time, just certain times...and levitate...not very far, depends on the occasion. I think you're getting the drift from what I've said so far that I don't have a lot of control over my abilities.
That's what Al says, he's my angel friend who used to be Albert Einstein on the Earth, but now spends all his time...at the time I see him...in a ghostly form, egging me on to do better, acting the better part of a Yoda, and sometimes the worst, and dancing and singing a lot with M...the golden blonde of Hollywood flame who caused many a sailor and soldier to wish they knew her better. Al and her get along great. Nothing sexual going on. I don't even know if angels are even wired that way, at least these kinds.
I haven't seen any with wings, though I've been assured by my local Church pastor that they do exist, though when I ask him what they look like, he's a bit vague. Myself, I can describe Al and M to the last detail, and even their unearthly habits...remember they're not humans like us anymore, though some might say they're more human than most of us.
So on one of those nights when I've put in a long day on the field and track, or slamming a ball across the third base for a home run and hightailing it about the bases before I get my you know what tagged, I'm usually drained and ready for bed.
"Mom, heading for the shower." I told Mom as I entered the front door with Jimbo trailing me with a handful of chips and a coke.
"Dinner in thirty." She yelled at us as we ran up the stairs to my second floor bedroom that overlooks the front yard. It's a beautiful yard, especially in the Spring when all the daisies and roses spread their petal wings and dance in the winds, showing off their bright colors and casting off their fragrant scents.
Slam! Jimbo shut the window.
I gave him the look. He shrugged and sniffed. "Allergies."
"Allergies, my baseball bat." I cried out, putting my bat in the corner of my closet.
"Really." He insisted. I gave him another of those looks, but he didn't flinch.
The better part of valor with Jimbo, my gnarly, rebellious Texan immigrant, is to usually give in, because he's bigger than pretty much everyone, except me. I top him by two or so inches. But what I have in height, he has in girth. He's one big dude. Built like a bulldog with enough teeth to take down a Bengal Tiger. Don't ever tell him I said that or he'll bite both of us and spit us out for breakfast.
"Me first." I yelled as I dashed for my bathroom and the shower. I slammed the door in his face before he could cut me off.
I tossed my clothing on the floor. It was caked with lime from the field markings, dirt, weeds and green stains from the grass between the markings.
I shuddered a moment as a stream, more like a blasting arctic wind, caught me in its cruel claws and ripped me open from the inside out, exposing my wind interior to a furious blast of shivering cold water. I yelped like a dog howling at the moon.
I heard laughter over the shower stream. I couldn't figure out why.
Finished, I got out, my whole body shaking, then saw Jimbo turn on the hot water pipes again.
"You dog!" I cursed at him.
"Bark bark." He shot back at me with a big Texan man-eating grin.
I shook my head, causing my mop of blonde hair to shower him with cold water.
He shot up so fast he banged his head into the sink door. "Owww!" He cried out.
My Mom's voice hammered at the bedroom door. "You two scoundrels at it again?"
"No Mom!" We both said at the same time.
She laughed so hard that both of us fell into stitches, realizing how stupid and silly we were both acting. To show Jimbo I had forgiven him as he took his own clothing off to shower, I snapped my wet towel across his buttocks with a loud snap.
"Yell!" He cried out, turning to look at the red mark I had made.
I grinned. "You always wanted to look like an Indian."
He started to chase me, and I slammed the bathroom door in his face. "Come after me and I'll eat all the food before you can get any." I warned.
The door knob which had been forcing in my hand relaxed.
The door banged open, sending me flying across my bed.
After he showered and I had rubbed some ointment on my own red bottom and generously passed some on to him for his, we both stomped downstairs, happy and hungry enough to eat a bear.
Mom had made us a huge basket of bread rolls dripping with butter, corn on the cob, a bowl of beans and fried chicken.
We dug in and she watched us with amazement as we managed to eat every single piece of food on the table. After we finished, she quizzed us on how track and baseball were going, and we filled her in.
Mom looked at Jimbo. "Sticking round for the night?"
He looked at me. I shrugged. He gave me a hurt look.
I turned to Mom. "I'd love the big old goofball to stay. Can he?"
"If you promise not to trash the house with your antics."
"Cross my heart and hope to die." He said with a very serious look on his face, even as he was kicking me under the table.
I refused to do the same. "I can't cross two hearts with one hand." I told him.
We helped Mom clean up the kitchen, then took out the garbage and helped her clean the house. I took the living room and Jimbo the dining room. We usually did that when he stayed. It was also good for Mom, as she could kick back and watch her favorite news program.
Finished, we were more than tired enough to go to bed.
"Early to bed." I told her with a light kiss on her cheek.
"Earth to rise." Jimbo said giving her a sloppy kiss on her other cheek.
She shoved him back. "Jimbo!" She giggled.
He smiled, then we headed upstairs.
We dug into my pile of Marvel comic books and read until about nine, then turned out the lights. He slept on the left side of the bed and I on the other. He slept in a sleeping bag he left for himself and I under the covers.
In moments he was snoring loudly. Needless to say, I wasn't snoring or sleeping.
I lay there a long time thinking about how many ways I could shut him up without killing him, but nothing seemed to work except murder, so I decided to tough it out.
Just when I thought things could get no worse, there was a pounding in my closet. I sat up, startled. Nothing. I started to lay back down and the noises started again, like metal shifting about. I didn't have anything metal in my closet.
I jumped up, grabbed my bat and went to the closet. I threw open the door and aimed my bat over my head. "Come out or I'll bash you over the head!"
Something very, very large rose from the floor until it towered over me. I backed up and it stepped out of the closet and quietly withdrew a sword almost as tall as I was. The sword was bloody red and almost seemed alive. It gave off a blaze of energies like none I had ever seen before.
The Black Knight stood there gazing at me with mournful eyes through a head mask of pure burnished black metal.
"I am the Knight of Nights and I challenge you to a duel to the death."
"Wait!" I said, holding a hand out.
"I was only kidding. I thought you were a burglar or something."
The Knight wavered, his sword dropping somewhat. "A what?"
"A thief!" I answered.
He charged me. "I'm no thief!"
Before he could strike me with the sword Jimbo sat up, rubbing his eyes. "Who's the damsel after you, Sammie?"
The Knight froze in horror. It looked at itself as if seeing itself for the first time, then wheeled to face Jimbo. "Prepare to die, knave!"
Jimbo laughed. "No one talks that way anymore!"
The Knight screamed and charged the bed.
A loud pounding struck the bedroom door.
"You two fighting again?"
The Knight froze, turned its helmed head to look at the door.
"Did you hear me? Don't make me come in there and hurt you?" She warned.
The Knight began to shake with fear and back into the closet. "What manner of female demon lives in this house?" He asked us.
Jimbo grinned. "His mother."
The Knight slammed the closet door on himself the same time as I flipped on the lights and opened the door for Mom. She peered inside, saw Jimbo in his sleeping bag, then eyed me closely. "Bad dream?"
I grinned. "You could say that."
"Good night boys. Up at seven. French toast."
Jimbo saluted her. "Yes, M'am!"
She laughed and shut the door. The moment she did, we both sprang for the closet door to open it. We threw it open, but all that was inside there were my clothes and boxes of comic books.
Jimbo looked at me and I looked at him.
"Don't ask me." I uttered, then shut the door and went back to bed.
He did the same.
Jimbo tapped me on the shoulder. "Your life scares me sometimes."
"Yeah. Me too."
"Love it!" He whispered, then. "Night, Sammie!"
Today is the first day you won't see an ongoing novel being posted. I've decided to instead focus on telling shorter stories that relate to my novelettes and my novels. This allows me to give more depth to my characters, spend a little more time on their backstories and history, and thus also giving you quick i insights into my characters and their lives, hopefully making the longer pieces more interesting to read and something to look forward to as well.
So today we begin with
The Stuff of Magic, " A Samuel Light Junior Story."
When he woke up that morning, it was unlike any other. His baseball was no longer on the dresser in front of his bed. The baseball bat was not next to his bed. The mitten he used to catch the ball with was hanging from the ceiling like a bat ready to attack its victim.
"Hello!" He said to no one in particular.
"Hello back at you!"
He jumped up in his bed and looked around the room for the owner of the voice. It had not been a frightening voice, other than the fact that no one should have answered him.
He saw nothing. Just his usual cluster of clothes on the floor beside his bed, where he had kicked off his dirty jeans and socks, and his baseball cap which should have been in the closet, but which he had been afraid to open last night and put it away. He wasn't afraid something was going to hurt him. It was just that...well, the Knight of Nights, lived in there with that hugeeeee sword.
"Where are you?" He asked, barely above a whisper, his voice cracking.
"Where you least suspect."
Sam again searched the room. Nothing. No one. Nowhere. No how!
He reached back to his bedroom window blind and let it flap upwards noisily into its socket, filling the room with morning light. Still nothing. What could possibly hide in morning light that bright he thought, his own eyes tearing from the brightness of it.
Rattle. Bang. Boom.
To his left. He looked that way, expecting to finally see something. Nothing.
Ting. Tang. Tong. To his right.
He jerked his head that way. Nothing.
"This is stupid." He growled finally, angered at whatever it was that was taunting him.
He looked behind him and saw a pair of eyes watching him sadly from the bedroom wall. They were so perfectly blended into the wallpaper that at first he thought they were flowers like the rest of the decoration on the paper, then two flowers blinked.
"Yowl!" He cried out, jumping from his bed. "That's creepy!"
The two eyes began to water, and huge tear drops began to form. "No one loves me."
Sam suddenly felt terrible. He couldn't explain why he should. After all, it was his bedroom, not whatever that strange wall creature was.
"Look, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, but you don't belong here."
"Oh, but I do. I was born here, you know." The voice came from somewhere about the eyes, but with no specific location of issuance.
"I don't get it."
"No one ever does. That's why you and your mother were able to rent this house so cheaply."
"Mom's not gonna like hearing that." He told the teary eyes.
"They never do. Always think I might one day decide to eat their child. And then where would they be? No one to scold and to blame their problems on."
Sam laughed. "Not my Mom."
The big eyes made a grimace, which he later decided was a kind of smile, if eyes could smile that is.
Sam scowled at the eyes. "My Mom would never want me to leave! Ever! Ever! Ever!"
"You don't know Moms so well, do you, Samuel?"
He scowled at it, making an even fiercer stare. "I know enough!"
The wall eyes sighed, causing the wall paper to ripple somewhat.
"Always the same story. The same excuses. When will a young boy live here who understands me? Understands!"
"What I understand is that you shouldn't be here!" Samuel said firmly.
He reached towards the eyes and as he did, his right hand began to flare a bright red color.
The wall eyes fled up towards the ceiling and out of his reach. "No need to hurt me!"
Samuel looked at his glowing red hand. "Wow! I'm fireworks!"
"Remember. You said that. Not me." The wall eyes told him.
Samuel sat back on the edge of the bed and eyed the wall eyes. "What do you want?"
"Everything wants something."
"I only want to exist."
Samuel stared at the eyes a long time, and then nodded. "Okay. Just don't let Mom know you're here."
With that he made up his mind and began grabbing his clothing to put on for school.
"Where are you going?"
"A place where there's eyes all over the place watching you." Samuel said with an amused look.
The wall eyes opened wide. "Oh, how horrible."
With that Samuel finished putting his clothing on and left the room.
The wall eyes stared at the door Samuel went through, then sighed. "I wonder what school is like."
It made that same smiling grimace look, and then vanished.
Samuel felt a touch on his right shoulder and sat up, startled. Mrs. Murdoch was staring at him angrily.
"Samuel Light, Junior. I'm really disappointed in you. Falling asleep in class!"
Samuel rubbed at his eyes, and then frowned as the other kids in the class began to laugh at him. He hated when they did that. It reminded him that he was different. Separate from them. He didn't like thinking or feeling that way. It made him angry with himself. Sometimes he wished his powers would just go away, but instead of doing that, he would sprout a new one.
Then he looked up at the highest point of the classroom wall. A huge set of eyes hovered there just above the wood paneling. He smiled. It smiled
Outside the classroom the Principal, Morgan Stanley, an overly weighted man who stood about six and a half feet tall, wobbled along the class papered walls that were hung with the latest geometry shapes, places in the world and spelling problems. Clean and sterile, the corridor reminded the kids of how empty their lives felt when they left the safety of their classrooms, which were strung with teacher delights everywhere, intended to seduce them into thinking their world was safe, when it was far from the truth. For education, Morgan knew, was so restricted by the laws and ignorance of so many, that kids were not protected at all, but held back from knowing the truth. But what could he do? He was one man battling against a monolithic bureaucracy way out of control.
Pieces of confetti twisted to look like Christmas chains. Paper stars dangling from ceilings. mobiles made of paperclips and Popsicle sticks. Popcorn balls the kids had made, but were never eaten. Terrariums with captive crickets and spiders. Gold fish bowls. Struggling green plants starved for real light. Desks with scribbling on their underside, like "I love you. School sucks. Free on Friday."
It was high school. The adult world's closest idea of what prison should be for their hormonally challenged offspring. A place they could safely ensconce them and not have to worry about having to help or nourish them. Others could do it. That might sound skeptical, or even negative. But truth was, the Principal saw all of that and more. Kids bringing guns to school to prove their self worth, gangbangers who tore their bodies apart to prove their strength, girls having babies who were not much younger than themselves.
He had seen a lot in the years he had been a Principal. Mostly he chose to look the other way, because between the adults of the community and the government, no one was really serious about improving education. They just wanted good babysitters, and so he was elevated to the status of Chief of the Babysitters, and his teacher, God bless them all, had to struggle through year after year of declining resources and angry, rebellious children who were indifferent to learning and to doing what was right.
Yes, this morning though was different. He was going to retire soon, and he was in a great mood as he was making his morning rounds. That happy smile on his big face was shattered like the dreams of his youth of becoming an astronaut when he heard the scream of Mrs. Murdoch and then dozens of children stormed out of the classroom, followed closely by Mrs. Murdoch. Uncertain what was going on, he peeked inside cautiously.
Samuel was the only kid there and he was sleeping.
The Principal gulped, not ready to do anything more, and shut the door.
"Thanks wall eyes." Samuel said, not opening his eyes.
"You're welcome." The wall eyes told him. "Maybe we can do this again tomorrow."
Samuel didn't hear the wall eyes. He was snoring and lost in the dreams only he could reach safely.
If you think young Samuel was something else, then you'll enjoy reading about the mature Samuel Light in his the first novel of a trilogy, "Hammer of the Gods," available now in a beautifully crafted paperback book.