Charlie

By Centaur

 

Seventeen-year-old Charlie sat looking out the window as wind and rain pelted against it. He wasn’t watching the wind or the rain. He was only seeing his own reflection. He saw his own image as it was covered in dried blood, however he had no injuries. His once blond hair matted in dried blood, dried streaks of the same ran down his face.
The images of the last half hour kept playing in his mind, over and over.

~*~

“Charlie, are you heading over to Kevin’s?” Charlie’s mom called out.
“Yeah, Mom, I want to be there when he wakes up,” Charlie replied as he came out of his room.
“Any idea what he’s going to look like?”
“No. Mrs. Wilkins said he was going to come out as a Hybrid of some kind.”
“Well you had better be going.”
“Thanks, Mom. See ya later.”
Charlie went past by his four sisters, sitting in the living room, as he made if way to the front door. It was rare to find all of his sisters in the same place at the same time. Each had their own hobbies, of which the others held no interest.
Charlie’s older twin sisters sat on the couch. Since they went through Morphs within hours of each other, they were no longer identical twins. Except if you were to shave them bald and cover their eyes, then they would look identical again.
Joyce would be considered the older of the two as she came out first. Her trip through MORFS had not changed her or her sister physically, just some cosmetic changes. Joyce’s hair and eyes were blue, while her twin sister Laura’s hair and eyes were iron rust red. Each of them had also gotten the same power but in a weird way. They both became Bio-Elementals, that isn’t in itself, strange. What was strange, was that they both had to be together for it to work. Neither one could use the power without the other making some kind of skin contact. When they were apart, they could see or feel a problem with in someone. However, they were unable to do anything about it, without the other twin being there. Another power, which was a bit personal only to them, was telepathy only between the two of them. If another telepath mentally talked to one sister, the other was automatically part of the conversation.
They were seniors and had graduated at last week’s ceremony. Both were going to wait a year before heading to college. Charlie hoped they all would end up at the same college as he planned to go to, right out of high school next year when he graduated.
On the loveseat sat one of his other sisters, Megan. Megan was born after Charlie. Megan was the fashion queen of the family. If it was ‘in’, she wanted it. Once the current designer fashion passed by, she wanted nothing to do with it any longer. If Megan hadn’t been as smart as the rest of her sisters, she would have fallen into the typical ‘blond, blue-eyed bimbo’ roll. She and Charlie had one thing in common that none of the others had, they hadn’t gone through MORFS.
Charlie’s youngest sister of fifteen was laying on the floor playing with her e-com. Mindy was the geek of the family, after her bout with MORFS nothing had changed on her, she still had her brunette hair and brown eyes.
“Oh, sisters of mine, what knowledge do you pass down upon this lowly male,” Charlie spoke as he stepped in to the living room.
His sisters cracked up at their brother’s theatrics.
Joyce spoke up for the rest of her sisters. “We just wanted to ask you to let Kevin know we love him no matter what.”
“I’m sure he would love to hear you love him,” Charlie said, referring to a longtime crush Kevin once had on the twins.
“Not like that!” The twins screeched in unison.
“I know, and I’m sure he does, too,” Charlie replied as he left the house.
Charlie walked at a brisk pace to get to his friends house. The two of them had grown up since pre-school. Most people would mistake them for close brothers rather then the best of friends.
Charlie entered his friends house, without knocking, has he had done since he was twelve.
“Hello? Where is every one?” Charlie called out.
“Up here Charlie,” came a reply from Kevin’s mother.
When Charlie entered Kevin’s room the sight that he saw shocked him to the core of his being. There on Kevin’s bed lay what he knew was his best friend. However the hybrid on the bed no longer bore any resemblance to the computer geek he once knew.
On the bed lay a Hybrid snake. From what Charlie could tell a king cobra snake. Charlie had no problems with MORFS survivors and the outcome of such; like Kevin’s. However Charlie knew something his mother didn’t. Kevin was deathly afraid of snakes. Charlie had the unfortunate opportunity to watch Kevin dance on top of a tabletop like a little girl because he seen a garter snake once.
“Quick! Call an ambulance.” Charlie yelled at Kevin’s mother.
“Why?” asked Mrs. Wilkins with a questioning expression.
“Because Kevin in deathly afraid of snakes. If he wakes up and sees himself… I don’t know what will happen. We can’t let him see himself.” Charlie said as he threw Kevin’s leather duster coat over the dresser mirror.
“Well he’ll just have to get use to it. Everyone has to accept the change.” Mrs. Wilkins replied.
“Please call! NOW!” Charlie yelled with determination in his eyes.
Charlie knew what could happen. He had read every once in awhile about it, someone that couldn’t accept the change.
Morin Wilkins ran from the room, not sure if she was doing the right thing or not. The terrified look that she had seen in Charlie’s eyes scared her. She had known Charlie most of his life and he had never yelled at her like that like that, before. He had always been respectful.
Charlie watched as Mrs. Wilkins ran from the room, however it was too late. Charlie turned to find Kevin sitting up looking at his hands, shaking.
“Kevin, lay back down.”
Kevin looked up to his friend with his black eyes. Kevin stood, and stepped toward his dresser mirror.
Charlie stepped in front of him.
“Please, Kevin, you don’t want to look.”
Kevin went to move around Charlie and found himself blocked. He tried to go around again but found himself restrained.

“Damn it, Kevin. Don’t!”

Kevin wasn’t thinking as he threw his best friend to the side. He reached out, and pulled the duster from the mirror.
Charlie flew to the side like a rag doll, landing on the foot of Kevin’s bed frame. He felt the pain as the bone in his left upper arm snapped. 
“NOOOO!”  screamed Kevin as he saw himself.
Charlie stood up as Kevin ran from the room, and down the hallway. He chased his friend down to Kevin’s parent’s room. Charlie stopped at the doorway to catch his breath. His arm hurt like hell and moving it to run hurt it even more. Charlie stepped in to the room, to find Kevin putting the barrel of a shotgun to his mouth.
“No!” Charlie screamed as he ran to his friend.
Kevin turned his back to his best friend, shoved the barrel into his fanged mouth, and pushed the trigger.

~*~

Charlie kept looking out the window not seeing the rain or the trees swaying in the wind. His tears had dried long ago along with the blood caked on his face and shirt. He looked up as he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked in to the lavender eyes of a female officer.
“Charlie, right?” The officer asked
Charlie only nodded.

“How are you doing?” she asked as she sat down next to him.
“Depends. How should I feel with the brains of my best friend stuck to me?”
 “Ok, wrong question. I’m Cassy.”
“Hi. I guess since you’re a telepath you want to rummage in my brain and see what happened.”
“How did…” She was cut off as Charlie tapped her caller indicating the TP pin she wore on her caller. “Perceptive I see.”
“Not hard,” Charlie replied as he turned back to the window.
“Then may I?”
“Yeah.”
Charlie continued to look out the window, every once in awhile he would feel a slight pressure or the feeling of a feather across his scalp as if he were bald.
Charlie didn’t know how long he sat there, only that his parents had shown up, and were being kept in another room. The body of his friend had been taken away, long ago.
Charlie’s mind wondered as he sat there looking out the windows. Fifty-two years ago a virus had been released upon an unsuspecting world by terrorists. However, the virus didn’t do what it was suppose to do. It did however create MORFS (Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome). It caused the body’s DNA to rewrite itself, giving people like Kevin a changed body, and sometimes powers like Officer Cassy. In some cases even a sex change. Not everyone was affected the same way. Some people that were crossed with animals could have any type of change. Some only have slight changes like Officer Cassy. As far as he could tell she only had lavender colored eyes and hair, along with her telepathic power.
Charlie thought about his other friend, Jimmy, who was an absolute hybrid. He looked like bear with bat like wings.
Charlie was again brought out of his thoughts by someone sitting next to him again.
“Good evening, Councilor. What can I do for the MORFS’ center telepath or are you here to rummage though my brain like the officer did?” asked Charlie not caring one way or the other.

“I was told you were perceptive, Charlie. How did you know I was from the Center?”

“You were the next obvious person to seek me out, besides my parents, whom I suppose are being kept away from me for some reason,” Charlie told the slightly graying man.
“They’re not being kept from you. Your mother is with Morin and your father is with Frank. They do plan on spending time with you, later. I, however, came to check on you. How are you doing?”
“Like I told the Officer, How should I be doing with the dried brains and blood of my best friend all over me?” Charlie replied sarcastically.
“Well, why don’t you tell me,” the counselor asked.
“All right, Doc. I’m angry because I couldn’t stop him, disappointed in myself for trying as hard as I could to reach him, only to find it wasn’t enough, resentful at the monster that made this damned bug, and sorrowful because I know I’ll never see my friend again. Finally, I feel alone, because we were like brothers. Also, my arm is killing me. Does that answer your question?” Charlie replied through clenched teeth.
“Charlie, I’m not your enemy. I’m…” the counselor was cut off.
“No, Doc, you’re not. However, right now, you’re rubbing salt in a very open wound in your endeavor to find the answer to why Kevin killed himself. I can easily tell you why. Kevin was deathly afraid of snakes. He was so afraid of snakes, that I’ve seen him jump on top of a table to get away from a harmless garter snake. Now, think about how bad it would be for someone to wake up being their own worst phobia?”
“I would say terrifying. Tell me something Charlie. What is your phobia? What are you deeply afraid of?”
Charlie stood not knowing what his fear had to do with this situation.
“I gotta go, Doc. But to answer your question, I don’t have any phobia about animals, insects, or heights. My only fear is loneliness, so alone you’re not loved, not liked or even acknowledged, so alone people just look through you. Goodnight, Doc.”
Charlie stepped from his friend’s home in to the rain. He paid no attention to it or how wet he got.
*You're not going to do something stupid, are you, Charlie?*
*You’re the telepath, Officer Cassy, you tell me.*
*No, I didn’t think so, but I had to ask.*
*Goodnight, Officer.*
*Goodnight, Charlie*
Charlie stepped around to the back of his house. In his rebellious stages, Charlie had used his ground floor window to slip in and out of the house without his parents knowing. This was how he’d slipped in to his room without his four sisters knowing that he had returned.
Without thought Charlie slipped out of his clothes and tossed them to the floor next to the laundry hamper. After slipping in to the bathroom he stepped into his shower. Not until he looked down at the water running off of him did he notice the crimson color. The emotions he held in check for so long came rushing at him like a freight train.
Charlie panicked as he grabbed the scrub brush and started scrubbing his skin. He scrubbed for what seemed like hours, but was only minutes. He collapsed in the tub tears flowing from his eyes, his skin scrubbed raw in places.
Charlie never noticed when the hot water ran out, or when his four sisters entered the bathroom. He never noticed as his two older sisters pulled him from the freezing shower, and healed his broken arm. He didn’t know that all four of them almost carried him to his room. He never felt them dry him off and dress him his nightclothes.

~*~

Jessica and Paul Nichols stepped in to their house in the early hours of the morning after comforting their friends, after the tragic loss of their son. Without comment they each shared a similar thought as they made their way down the hall to their son’s room.
Without hesitation Paul pushed open his son’s door. Neither parent was surprised to see all their children piled in one bed. They looked upon their children. Their four daughters outlined their only son in an embrace of love and support.
Jessica leaned in to her husband as he put his arm around her. Paul kissed the top of his wife’s head as he closed the door to his son room.
“I guess our daughters have things well in hand,” Paul said as he led his wife to bed and a well-deserved rest.

~*~

Charlie stepped in to the school hall the next day, with his twin sisters bracketing each side of him. All of his sisters begged him not to go, that his teachers would understand, and there was only three days of school left. His only reply was that their common friends had to be told.
“I hear your freak friend off’ed himself last night Nichols,” Reggie Jackson called out as Charlie passed him by.
Charlie watched Reggie as he passed by, trying to control his anger. He had no idea how the bigot heard about Kevin.
“One less freak to worry about,” Reggie spoke to his anti-MORFS friends, just loud enough that Charlie could hear.
Without warning Reggie found himself pressed to a locker being held by his throat.
“Listen real close, Reggie, because I’m only going to say this once. Kevin Wilkins was my friend, and if I hear you say one more thing about him being a freak. I’ll make sure you won’t have to go through MORFS to be a freak, either.”
“He got what he deserved. He wasn’t pure.”
“Don’t spout that crap at me. Everyone has the gene to morf, even you. What are you going to do if you morf, Reggie? What are you going to do when all of your pure friends turn their backs on you and the Morf survivors that you have taunted won’t have anything to do with you?” demanded Charlie.
“Let me go heretic. God will judge you. Only the Pure will be left unchanged.”
“Yeah, he’s testing me even now. The question remains, will he test you? Look me up when you have the answer.”
Charlie walked away heading to his first class. He had just entered his class and seated himself as the last bell rang. He then quickly pulled a piece of paper from a folder and placed on the desk where Kevin always sat, before taking his own. He then discovered that he didn’t have to tell his friends anything as the principal made an announcement.
“Your attention please, I have just received some disturbing news concerning a fellow classmen. Last night Kevin Wilkins committed suicide after he awoke from MORFS. I’d like for the next minute for all those that believe in a religion to say a prayer, and for all those that do not have a religion, please sit and remember him.”
Charlie sat and remembered his best friend. He sat in remembrance not because he didn’t believe in God, but because that’s how he chose to use his minute before the Principal returned.
“Thank you. Counselors are available at anytime. Charlie Nichols please report to the office.”
Before Charlie left the class he stood over Kevin’s old desk and read once again what he had printed out ‘Kevin was here.’ For whatever reason he could never tell why, he pulled a pen out, and signed the bottom.
As Charlie walked out the classroom door he happened to glance back at Kevin’s desk. What he saw amazed him. Other students, without a spoken word, stood to move to the paper to add their own signature to the bottom.
Charlie felt proud as he made his way to the office. No matter what the day brought, one class of students would always remember Kevin.

~*~

Charlie found himself at lunch. He barely remembered his classes. He found himself surrounded with his friends, all asking what happened and why he was called to the office.
“Dude, what happened?” Jimmy asked.

Others at the table wanted to ask the same, but were afraid to.
Charlie looked up at the big winged bear. “Kevin was a hybrid.”
“What’s wrong with that? A lotta people end up as hybrids.”
Charlie shook his head trying to remove the images of that night.
“He became his own worst fear. He became a Snake hybrid. I tried to stop him; I tried to keep him from looking in the mirror, but…”
“How did…” was all Jimmy was able to get out before he received a kick under the table.
“He ran in to his parent’s room and grabbed his dad’s shotgun,” Charlie replied as he was reliving the memory.
Gasps were heard around the table as they realized how Kevin had done it. An eerie silence soon followed, as no one could think of the right thing to say.
Madelyn spoke up after several minutes had passed. “What did the principal want with you?”
“They wanted to send me home.”
“Why didn’t you go?” asked Ann.
“It wouldn’t happen to have to do with the papers you have been leaving on Kevin’s old desk would it?” Madelyn asked.
“I didn’t want to,” Charlie said as he looked at Ann, “and yes,” he replied as he turned to look at Madelyn.

~*~

Charlie sat though his last class of the day. He had only been paying half attention as a young student stepped into the classroom near the end of the day. She had quickly handed a file folder to the teacher, and had left again.
Mr. Harrison stepped up to the front of the class.
“All right class. There is only fifteen minutes left of the day. If you all promise to behave like young ladies and gentlemen that you are, you may leave early.”
“No disturbing the other classes.” Mr. Harrison called out to his students as they piled out of the classroom. “Charlie, can you stay a moment please?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“This just came for you. I let the class leave early so you could have a minute while you looked at it.” Mr. Harrison sat the folder down in front of Charlie and stepped away to give Charlie some space.
Charlie opened the folder to find all the papers he had left in all of his and Kevin’s classes. Everyone had student signatures from that class. At the top were the periods and the teachers’ signatures. As Charlie flipped over the last paper in the folder, another one had been placed in the folder.
“It’s not complete if it’s missing the last class of the day,” Mr. Harrison said.
What had started as an innocent exercise to help him cope with the loss of his friend, had turned into far more then Charlie could understand.
“Charlie, you know you don’t have to come to school these last two days. You’ve passed all of your finals.”
“I know and appreciate that, but in the last three years, Kevin and I have never missed a day of class. It just wouldn’t feel right to start now.”
“I understand, go ahead and go. I’ll see you in class, tomorrow.”

~*~

Charlie walked behind his parents with his sisters trailing behind him. He pulled at collar of his white dress shirt, trying to loosen the black tie. His black suit barely fit him anymore. It was only worn on special occasions, or in this case, Kevin’s funeral.    
He followed his parents down the aisle of the funeral home to the front. They passed the mahogany casket that held his once longtime friend. It was a closed casket service, of course.
Once past the casket the family made their way to Kevin’s parents, who were standing to one side.
The service started soon after. Charlie took a brief look around and found the little chapel in the funeral home was half full. Most were family to the Wilkins, and the rest were friends from school, and other survivors of MORFS that Kevin knew.
As the service ended Charlie stood with his father and four others as they made their way to the casket. Charlie had been instructed before the service that he and the others would be pallbearers.
Charlie walked around to the other side of the casket from his father. Without a word he lifted with the other pallbearers. Charlie found it strange that he thought the casket felt light.
The pallbearers made their way through the little chapel to the hearse waiting outside. Behind the pallbearers Mr. Wilkins held his wife tightly as they followed. Behind them followed the rest of the Wilkins extended family, and then family friends. Among the first behind the Wilkins family was Charlie’s family.
Charlie slipped in to his parent’s minivan after the casket had been placed into the hearse. He sat in the back, sandwiched between his older twin sisters.
Like Charlie, the whole Nichols family had taken Kevin’s dead hard. Charlie’s sisters had adopted Kevin as the brother that lived down the street. While Charlie’s parents loved him as if he was one of their own children. However, the women of the Nichols family worried about Charlie.
Charlie had always been protective of his sisters, especially after two of them had gone through MORFS. Whatever it was, Charlie… and by extension, Kevin… had been there for each of them. Now each felt the need to be there for Charlie, through this hard time.
Charlie’s father secretly worried about his son. Death could change a person, especially someone just becoming his own man. What worried him the most was the way he was faced with his first death of a close friend, which had happened so very violently. Paul Nichols always held his son in high regard for his maturity. Some of that maturity, Paul figured, was attributed to living with four sisters.
Charlie stared straight ahead, oblivious to the worried family around him. He wasn’t even paying attention as the funeral precession made its way through the cemetery, or the light drizzle that started to fall. He only barely heard his mother mention she hoped that a tent was set up, or every one there would be soaked before the end.
The van pulled to a stop, and Charlie stepped out to resume his duty to his friend. He once again grabbed the handle on the side of the casket with the others and carried it to its final resting place.
Charlie finally noticed the drizzle as it started to get a little heavier. He looked up and noticed the darker clouds rolling in. Workers hurried to get a tent erected under the pending rain.
“I will try and make this as brief as possible,” the preacher said as he walked up to the head of the casket.
Charlie bowed his head as the preacher started a prayer. Then Charlie noticed the rain had stopped. He looked around and noticed that no one else had noticed yet. He looked to the sky and saw a lone sunbeam break through the clouds. Charlie fallowed the beam down to the casket. The sunbeam was the diameter of the casket and fit it perfectly. He looked around and noticed rain falling all over the rest of the cemetery but not on the funeral it’s self.
Charlie looked over the small crowd of people, and spotted one lone girl in the middle looking up at the sky smiling. Charlie could only figure she was an elemental of some sort, and wanted to stay dry like the rest.

~*~
Two weeks had passed since the day Charlie’s Best Friend had committed suicide. Charlie couldn’t find anything to do. He found himself looking out the window again. Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. A moving van had backed up the driveway.
Joyce, one of his older sisters, had gone out to find out what was going on.
“What’s going on, Sis?” Charlie asked as his sister stepped in to the house to open the garage door.
Joyce had a worried expression on her face as she turned to Charlie.
“I don’t know how to tell you this. So I’ll just come out and say it. The Wilkins are moving and they boxed all of Kevin’s stuff and sent it over here.”
“I wonder if I should go over there.” Charlie thought aloud.
“Yeah, I think you should. You go ahead; I’ll take care of Kevin’s stuff.”
“Thanks, Sis.”

~*~
Charlie stood at the front door to Kevin’s house. He had the urge to run in, as he had always done. But now, with Kevin gone, he wasn’t sure if that was appropriate. He was saved from further debate as the door opened, and Mr. Wilkins stood there.
“Hello, Charlie.”
“Hello, Mr. Wilkins.”
“I suppose you’re here because you received Kevin’s stuff, and found out that Morin and I are moving.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Well, Charlie, after the funeral we decided it was best. Kevin grew up in this house… so did you, practically. The house has a lot of fond and joyful memories, but now they haunt us, as a reminder of what happened.”
“I understand, I think.” Charlie wasn’t sure if he understood or not.
“Look, Charlie, I still have a lotta packing still to do. It’s been nice seeing you. Take care.”
Charlie quickly pulled out one of his e-cards, a small electronic holographic business card.
He handed it to Mr. Wilkins, saying, “I hope in time you will let me know how you both are doing.”

Mr. Wilkins took the card and smiled at Charlie.
“Yes. We will, Charlie, in time,” he replied as he closed the door.
As Charlie made his way home, he couldn’t help the feeling of loss. The Wilkins had been like a second set of parents. Charlie would confide in Mr. Wilkins when he was seeking reasons to why his own father did things. Charlie had found that Kevin had done the same with his father. Now he not only lost a best friend, but he felt he lost another set of friends due to circumstances beyond any one’s control.   
~*~

Charlie looked over the boxes that had been put in the garage. Seventeen years of his best friends’ life was packed into just twenty boxes.
Charlie opened the first box of many before him. It wasn’t in his heart to go through them all, now. However, his father told him to do something with them, as they were blocking the carport where his mother parked.
Opening the box, Charlie found Kevin’s D&D role-playing stuff. On top was the smaller stuff, the dice and game pieces. Below them were Kevin’s maps and charts, and finely the D&D rule books.
Fond memories drifted over Charlie as he looked in to the box. Kevin was always the DM (Dungeon Master), and Charlie always had been one of his three paladins… Galgare being his favorite.
Charlie closed the box and taped it shut forever closing that part of his life off. After the box had been taped closed, Charlie made a note on top of the box and on the side, about its contents. He then placed it on a corner shelf that he’s father had cleared for him.
Charlie heard a faint beeping sound as he neared the next box. As he pulled the flaps to the box open he found Kevin’s black felt Stetson hat, just below that Kevin’s tablet was giving off a low battery warning beep. Charlie took out the tablet and set it on his dads’ workbench. He returned to the box to find the charger, just under the black leather duster that he had tried to block the mirror with.
After the tablet was plugged in and charging, he returned to the opened box. The rest of the box was full of stuff that had once been around Kevin’s room, odd assortments of memorabilia, models and other things that would be found in a boy’s room.
Charlie went through four more boxes filled with mostly clothes and the odd breakable items thrown in for their protection, before he called it quits.  He looked back to the tablet to find he had forgotten to repack Kevin’s duster and Stetson. He picked up the three items and headed for his room. The rest could wait for another day.

~*~

Charlie sat in his room looking at the pages of a book in his hands. If anyone asked what he had read, he wouldn’t be able to answer as the words just didn’t seem to stick. His mind kept wandering. He had caught himself many times wondering what Kevin was doing, and then shaking the thought from his mind. A soft knock at the door broke him from his thoughts of Kevin.
“Come in,” Charlie called out.
Joyce and Laura, Charlie’s twin sisters, stepped in to his room.
“Hey, whatcha doing?” they both said in unison as they sat next to Charlie.
“Nothing much, just trying to read, but I’m just not into it,” Charlie replied as he placed the now closed book on his nightstand.
An uncomfortable silence fell over the three for several minutes before Charlie finely broke it.

“What can I do for you ladies?”

The twins took a quick glance at each other before Joyce spoke up.
“We’re all worried about you, Charlie. Not just us as your sisters, but the whole family. You’ve shut us all out, and we all want to help.”
Charlie sat there in thought before speaking.
“I’m sorry. It just feels like a part of me was ripped out, with no rhyme or reason. It’s taking me some time to accept Kevin being gone.”
Laura leaned in to her brother, giving him a one armed-hug.
“We know what you mean. We weren’t as close to him as you were, but it still feels like we lost a brother, too, when Kevin left us…”
“Don’t let us lose you, too,” Joyce finished for her twin as she leaned in to hug his other side.
Charlie put his arms around his sisters.
“Thanks,” he said as he returned their embrace.
“What’s that?” Laura asked pointing to the tablet in Charlie’s dresser.
“That’s Kevin’s… sorry… That was Kevin’s tablet. I had to bring it up here to finish charging it,” Charlie replied.
Joyce reached over and lifted the tablet, her finger momentarily touching the screen. Joyce looked at the screen once it had lit up.
“This is a newer model then you have,” Joyce said as she read through the contents. “What’s this? A graduation trip?”
“Yeah, his dad had just bought it a few months ago. That’s a trip Kevin and I had planned to go on, after graduation,” replied Charlie as he watched his sister open the document.
“You have six trips listed here. Were you guys going to go to on all of them?” Laura asked.
“No, we were going to eliminate them down to one.”
“What’s this?” Laura asked as she pointed to an icon.
“I don’t know,” Charlie replied as he took the tablet and opened the icon, “Looks like a video file.”
Charlie and the twins watched as the video file began to play. It showed a tired Kevin, before his MORFS, looking back at them.
“Hey, all. I’m making this video to document my change. I don’t know what I’ll do with it afterwards but what the hell.”
Charlie and the twins watched the video Kevin strip down to his briefs, climb into bed, then eat an energy bar and pop a pill. The video seemed to speed up and then slow down when someone entered the room and left, or when Kevin woke up and ate another energy bar and took another pill.
“Why is it speeding up and slowing down when someone enters the room?” Laura asked.
“Time lapse. It’s only taking one picture a second instead of the normal thirty pictures to make one second of video. You’re seeing an hour of time in one minute. When someone walks in the recording goes back to the standard thirty per second, so the motion is normal,” Charlie replied as he watched the video.
They watched as a very shaky Kevin woke up and stumbled out of the picture. While he was gone, they watched as Mrs. Wilkins came in and quickly changed the sheets on the bed. She exited the room before Kevin returned.
For the next several hours they watched as Kevin transformed, first losing his hair, then his ears receded, then his skin started to change to scales, as his head became more flat and wider.
The end was the hardest for Charlie to watch, as he heard himself. He wanted to turn away, to look somewhere else. However, his eyes were glued to the screen. He watched himself desperately try to stop his friend from seeing himself, only to be thrown across the room. Charlie subconsciously rubbed his hand up and down where his sisters had healed his arm.
Charlie watched and remembered that night, both synchronized to the events of that night. Charlie didn’t have to have the video, as his memory took over when Kevin and he ran from the room, his memory filled in the rest, as he relived that night. The last thing Charlie remembered was a gunshot, his sisters jumping in shock as he screamed at the same time he screamed on the video.
“NO!”
Then darkness took him.

~*~

Charlie awoke to his parents and a lavender haired police officer standing around his bed. He looked up to the officer and choked out.
“I’m innocent of all charges, it was my evil twin.”
“Well, I know he’s ok now, if he can crack a joke,” Charlie’s father Paul said.
“What happened,” Charlie asked as he tried to sit up, however his mother had other plans and stopped him.
“Whoa, lie back and rest a minute,” Charlie’s mother Jessica said with a look that said there would be no argument.
“You relived that night Kevin took his life,” Officer Cassy said. “It seems when you watched the video on Kevin’s tablet that your mind was forced to relive it. When it ended, your mind shut down.”
“While you were out of it we watched the video son. I’m sorry. We hadn’t realized you actually witnessed what Kevin did. We should have been there for you, more,” Paul said.
The looks on Charlie’s fathers face was one of sorrow and worry that he had let his only son down.
“Don’t worry about it, Dad. You and Mom had your hands full with Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins.” Charlie looked back at the officer. “So how did you end up here?”
“I heard a call for help. I recognized the voice so I came. I was on my way home, only a few blocks away,” Officer Cassy replied.

Charlie looked at his parents skeptically, “Who called?”

Charlie’s head whipped around as the officer replied, “You did.”
“Don’t look so shocked.” Cassy said, as she tapped the TP pin on her collar of her uniform.
“Many telepaths pick up on everyone’s thoughts around them. Yours, however, screamed out above everyone else’s, and I had to investigate.”
Charlie was able to finally sit up without his mother pushing him back down. He picked up Kevin’s tablet and sat there looking the screen, seeing the file that Kevin had recorded.
“Delete it. There is no reason to keep it. I took a copy of it for police records. It’ll only be painful to keep it around,” Cassy said.
Charlie tapped the file and then tapped the delete key. A warning popped up asking if he was sure. His finger hovered over the yes button for several long moments before he hit yes. He wasn’t sure if he felt better or worse. The last images of his best friend were gone forever.
Charlie double clicked the ‘graduation trip’ icon. After it had come up he started scanning through the.
“What are you looking at?” Charlie’s father asked.
Charlie explained the graduation trip like he had to his twin sisters to his parents and Officer Cassy whom was still present.
“This is all news to me. When were you planning on telling the rest of us?” Charlie’s father asked.
“Kevin and I had planned on telling everyone once we settled on a destination before the end of the school year, but now I think I’d like to go here, before the end of summer,” Charlie said as he pointed to a destination.
“I’m sure I can get a week or two off from…” Charlie’s father started to say but was cut off.
“No, Dad. I need to do this on my own. I’m sure I can borrow an old clunker car from Jimmy’s dad at his dealership,” Charlie replied.
“I’m not sure I like…” Charlie’s father was cut off again.
“Actually, it’s a good idea. As a telepath, I’ve learned a little about psychology and the mind. This will help bring closure,” Officer Cassy said.
“How?” Charlie’s mother asked.
“Charlie and Kevin had planned this trip for a long while. If he doesn’t go on it now, in a year… when he graduates… he’ll be remembering that this was the time he was supposed to be going on this vacation trip. Instead of a time of joy at the end of his senior year, it’ll be a time of sadness. However, if he goes on the trip now, he can bring closure. By the end of his senior year, he can reflect on the happy times he spent with Kevin during his life. He also will not have to think if he will go on the Kevin/Charlie trip, as he will have already done so,” Officer Cassy said.
“I really don’t feel comfortable letting my son go on a trip alone.”
“I won’t totally be alone. I’ll have my e-com and the navigation system in my tablet. I’ll get the GPS’s in both of them to send updates to Kevin’s tablet. Everyone will know where I’m at every step of the way,” Charlie said as he typed a few commands in to Kevin’s tablet and a map with a blinking icon showed up on it.

~*~

The day came when Charlie climbed in to the truck Jimmy’s father had loaned him. It was an older truck. Charlie thanked him over and over. Jimmy’s father finally had had enough.
“It was old when I got it, it’ll still sell for the same price when I get it back, no matter how many more miles you put on it. Go do what you have to do.”
Charlie had just started to back out the driveway when he had to stop as a police cruiser pulled up behind him with its siren chirping.
Charlie waited for the lavender haired officer to walk up to his window. “License, Registration, and proof of insurance, please.”
“Look Cassy, I’ve got everything.”
“Good, then you won’t mind showing me,” she said with a smirk.
Charlie grumbled under his breath. He pulled out the information and handed it over to the officer.
The officer ran everything then handed it all back to Charlie, “I’m sorry Charlie; I just want to make sure you have a safe trip.”
“Thanks, Cassy.”
“Another thing, if you find yourself in trouble with no phone, just give a mental shout. Another telepath may hear you and might be able to help.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”

~*~

Charlie had spent three days in the road. He was now on the middle leg of his journey to some camping in Wyoming. He had taken a smaller little used highway off I-40 heading north. He watched the scenery pass by as he drove the twisting two-lane road. Little did Charlie know that a bumper sticker he had overlooked would cause him some trouble.
Charlie paid no attention to the group of men as he walked into the nearly empty little diner.

“Hey you! You the one in that little red truck?”

Charlie looked over to the man addressing him. He had to suppress a chuckle as the man was wearing a green ‘John Deere’ hat, quilted vest with all kinds of unknown stains, flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off, old faded blue jeans, and a belt buckle with the ‘Ford’ emblem just under his beer belly. He had thought he was too far north to see a southern redneck.
“Yup, Just passing through,” replied Charlie as he turned back to his food.
“Make sure you keep passing, we don’t like your kind here.”
“My kind?” Charlie spoke aloud while not think about it.
“Yeah, animal lover,” sneered the overweight redneck.
“Let me finish my meal in this fine establishment and I’ll be on my way.” Charlie knew this guy was itching for a fight for no other reason than to fight.
“Pansy,” Charlie heard called his way.
“Ayup,” was all Charlie said to them as he finished his food, paid his bill with a tip and left.
Charlie walked around the truck checking to make sure everything was still secured, when he happen to looks down at the bumper. Neatly attached to the drivers’ side near the edge of the bumper was a big black and white sticker that read “MORFS are people, too.”
“Figures. Purists.” Charlie mumbled under his breath as he climbed in to the truck and left.
Charlie had only been driving a few hours. He had his e-com hooked up to the trucks audio system playing his favorite tunes. He enjoyed the passing scenery and the fresh smells of the outdoors filling the cab through the open window. He never expected to be rammed from behind him.
Charlie gripped the steering wheel hard, his knuckles white. He looked into his review mirror and saw a big pick-up truck with a heavily reinforced bumper barreling down on him. He quickly clutched, dropped a gear, and stomped on the gas pedal. He looked once again to the mirror. It wasn’t the big four by four, or the redneck from the diner that scared him, now. It was the weapons they were waving around as they whooped and hollered, encouraging another ram of the big truck.
Charlie kept his eyes clued to the road, hoping nothing would happen to make him have to stop. He knew that the moment he did, he would never see the light of day again. He held on and fought the steering wheel to keep the smaller truck on the road as he got rammed, again. He soon realized the multiple rammings where just taps. They were playing with him, taunting him. He looked down to the speedometer to see its max speed was ninety. He was well past that.
Charlie decided he needed to call for help. In all the excitement his e-com had fallen to the floorboard. He leaned down to grab for it. He never heard a sound as he was showered with glass from the rear window. He sat up to see a hole in his windshield at eye level.
A new fear shot through Charlie as realization came to the front of his mind how close he had come. He couldn’t understand why a bumper sticker would cause so much trouble.  He reached down and grabbed his e-com once again, holding it up he started to hit the buttons to call for help.
He never had a chance to hit the first button as holes appeared in the windshield again. He never felt the pain, as the e-com blew apart in his hand severing his middle finger. His heart raced at the realization he had lost a finger and blood rushed out of the open wound. He looked up in time to make the next curve in the road.
Charlie had had it. He didn’t want to go out in pieces, and if he was going to die he planned to go out with a bang. He reached under the seat and pulled out a small .38 caliber pistol. His father told him that he had put it in the truck without his mother knowing. That it was for protection from wild animals.
Charlie soon realized that it was useless to him. The trigger lock was on it, and the key was on the ring that had the truck key, and that was in the ignition. Plus, he was right-handed, and he didn’t think he could fire it with a missing finger.
Charlie was by no means a world-class driver having only gotten his driver’s License last year, but he could tell from the high-pitched whine the little four cylinder engine was making that it couldn’t hold out for forever. He hoped that his next move didn’t cost him his life and make it easier on the rednecks chasing him.
Charlie had the pedal down as far as it would go. His leg almost locked down on it. He kept an eye on the big truck behind him as well as the up and coming curve. The warning sign on the side of the road warned that it was a 35 mph curve. He took it at 55. At the last second as the truck was halfway through the curve he slid in to the oncoming traffic lane and stepped hard on the brakes. He fought with the wheel again to keep the truck from spinning around and flipping over.
The big four by four flew by Charlie, but he could see the brake lights come on. He knew they would stop and turn, figuring that he had turned around and was heading the other way. What they didn’t think of was Charlie deciding to play ‘blind man’s chicken’.
Charlie had read a book once, where the hero of the story raced at an oncoming car in the same lane. This was called ‘chicken’, as the one who swerved lost the ‘game’. However, this was being done on a curve, and you didn’t get to see the oncoming car, until it was almost too late. Charlie just hoped he didn’t end up like that hero… namely, being dead.
Charlie revved the engine, and then popped the clutch. The truck groaned as it fought to get traction, the light bed of the truck offered little in the way of weight. Once the tires had grabbed, the truck quickly sped up, on its collision course.
The redneck had cursed as he had flown by the little truck. The bigger truck had taken more roadway to slow down and turn. He quickly turned around and sped back the way he’d come in his correct lane.
Charlie held on tightly to the wheel, his injured hand now starting to throb. He held steady as he saw the bigger truck round the corner. The crash was imminent, if both drivers were playing by the rules.  Charlie held his course, however the survival instincts of the redneck took over, and he pulled hard on his steering wheel to avoid the collision. Charlie’s gamble had paid off.
Charlie just had enough time to look back out his broken rear window to see the big truck slam into a ditch and stop.
Charlie drove for only a few minutes before the adrenaline crash hit him. His hands started to shake. The throbbing pain in the hand with the missing finger, hurt like nothing he had ever felt. His hands had trouble holding on the steering wheel. His eyes fought to stay open.
Charlie spotted a small overgrown drive. He quickly pulled in, and drove the truck down the dirt road, until it turned, taking him out of sight of the main road. He then shut down the truck and stepped out.
He had to grab a hold of the truck door he stepped out, as his feet and legs almost collapsed beneath him. His body shook with spasms. He made his way around the small truck eyeing the holes in the tailgate. He made his way to the passenger side of the truck. As he opened the door, what was left of his e-com and his severed finger, fell to the ground. He picked up the destroyed e-com, not noticing his severed member. There was a hole in the screen and the whole back was blown out. He threw it back into the truck in disgust.
He noticed the red piece of meat on the ground. He picked up not knowing at first what it was. Realization hit him, as he saw the fingernail being held on by a small piece of flesh… likewise, the bone. He then dropped to his knees and began to retch up the meal he had just eaten.
As he tried to stand, dizziness came over him, then darkness.

~*~

Hundreds of miles away, a tablet started flashing, going unnoticed by the family. The tablet had lost its signal and had begun to flash its alarm.

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org


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