Chapter 3

The Inheritance

5:10 P.M. – Back at the Café in Benton

The last thing Mattie remembered was reaching over to place her hand on Trevor’s during the best conversation she’d ever had with a guy.  The hours felt like minutes as they talked about everything in their lives that had brought them together.  It had even started raining, in fact, pouring as they sat under the awning, yet they were completely oblivious to the weather and everything around them.  It felt as though they had always known each other.  Now she was lying on the cool, hard ground, struggling to focus on what appeared to be a few people standing over her talking in hushed tones.  She sensed that someone was holding her hand and supporting the back of her head.  Everything was a bit blurry.  As the light began to fill in the colors of clothing and people’s faces again she saw the concern in Trevor’s eyes as he watched her face for a sign of recovery.

“Don’t move, Mattie,” Trevor said kindly. “Take your time; there’s no rush.”

She began to realize that he was the one holding her hand and supporting her head as he knelt close to her.  She felt warm inside and a sense of complete trust in him.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, Mattie.  One second we were talking and the next you grabbed your head again and passed out.   I laid you down on the ground so you wouldn’t fall and hurt yourself.  You’ve only been out for a few seconds.”

“I dreamed something or saw something in my head like before.”

“Before?”  Trevor was confused.

“Yes.  Something’s happened to my parents.   My father’s alone somewhere in the forest.  He’s hurt and he needs my help.”

“Do you feel like you can sit up, Mattie?”

“I think so.”  Mattie sat up and tried to remember if her parents had said where they were taking her on the picnic.  It was going to be a surprise for her; somewhere that was special to them since they used to take her there when she was a little girl.

“Come on, Mattie.  Let me take you home.” Trevor helped her up to the chair, “I’ll go get my car; stay here.  Will you be alright?”

“Sure…sure,” she stuttered. “Thank you.”   After Trevor left, Mattie noticed her fingers were beginning to tingle.  When she looked down at her hands, they were surrounded with a glowing blue light.  She glanced around to see if anyone else was watching.  When it started raining everyone went inside, except one of the waitresses who remained to clear a table on the other side of the patio.  Mattie stuffed her hands into her pockets, shoved the chair back sharply with her legs and started running.  The further she went the further the blue glow moved up her arms towards her head.  She didn’t know what was happening, but she knew she didn’t want Trevor to see any more of the freak show than he’d already seen in one day.

It was strangely dark and had been raining unseasonably hard for such a mild afternoon so there was scarcely anyone in the streets, which helped her get back home without being noticed.  By the time she walked into the house her whole body was surrounded by a fluorescent blue glow and her eyes were as bright as flood lights.   She felt strong and powerful like she had never felt before.  As she stared at herself in the mirror the glow that surrounded her body popped to a bright white light and then stopped instantly.  It was gone!

“What on earth?” Mattie shook her head in disbelief as she slumped down in her favorite chair by the fireplace in her bedroom.  “Well, I guess that’ll be the last time I ever see him,” she said to herself sadly, feeling stupid inside.  She thought about how wonderful he was and how completely crazy she had been.  If first impressions meant anything, she knew she’d never see him again.

*******************************

8:00 P.M. – Somewhere Near the Forest

Kash lay in a heap where he had last seen Amber; soaked, bleeding and lost in a swirl of thoughts that were paralyzing him.  He had lost all track of time.  With great effort he managed to stumble back to the car where he fell asleep in the front seat for several hours.  Finally, he woke up still dazed, peering through the rain splattered windows to the stars that were now shining brightly through the clear night sky.  He struggled to stay awake as he drove home to Benton.  Kash drifted into the driveway, finally jerking to a stop.

Mattie saw the headlights through the living room window where she had been pacing all night, waiting for her parents to return.  She threw the front door open and called out from the porch.  “Dad!  Where have you been?  It’s two in the morning!” Mattie hurried over to the car, “Where have you been? Dad?”

“Mattie…I…a-a-a-a…”

“What’s wrong Dad?  Where’s Mom?  Why are your clothes all muddy and torn?” She reached through the window to help support his head.  “What happened, Dad?”

“She’s gone.”

Mattie wiped the dirt from her father’s cheek with her sleeve. “Who’s gone?”

“The lightning…”

“The lightning’s gone?” said Mattie with a puzzled expression on her face.

Kash rolled his head towards Mattie and hung his arm out the window, “It took her!”

“You’re not making any sense, Dad.  Let’s get you inside.”  She carefully opened the door and pulled him out of the car.  He kept mumbling something about a red light and footprints.  “Come on Dad, you’ve got to help me get you inside; I can’t carry you by myself.”

They stumbled into the house and up the stairs towards his bedroom before she collapsed under his weight on the rug at the foot of his bed.

“Get up, Dad!  You have to help me!”

Kash was unconscious and there was no way she could get him into his bed alone.  She did her best to remove most of his wet clothes, placed a pillow gently underneath his head and covered him with a quilt.  Then, she went back out to the car to see if she could find any clues as to where her mother was.  All she found was the smashed in window, a picnic basket, and the blanket in the back seat.  She also noticed a faint odor of chocolate.  She took the leftovers inside and went back out to pull the car into the garage before “old lady Schnettle” began her early morning snoop around the neighborhood.  She had always been a source of trouble for the family and took every opportunity she could find to discredit Amber.  She was such a jealous old bitty.

She paced the floor for another hour or so as her mind raced with concern for her mother.  She didn’t know where her mother was or what had happened to her father.  Unexpectedly, a warm, peaceful feeling came over her as though someone was telling her that everything would be alright.   She checked on her father one more time and was finally able to lie down and fall asleep herself.

Her dreams carried her fretfully through the events of the day.  Each time she reached the part at the café where she had felt a sharp pain in her eyes she would flash from her experiences to what appeared to be her parent’s experiences during the same time frame.  She was living everything through her mother’s eyes until there was nothing left to see anymore.  Each time she arrived at the abrupt end of the information she became upset and would wake up.  She laid in bed trying in vain to figure out what it all meant until she fell back to sleep, only to start the dream sequence again. She saw the red footprint in town, the chocolate powder on the stick shift; the crumpled tape on the floor and the mean elderly man in the forest that disappeared over a blue footprint.  This happened in three separate dreams; each becoming more detailed than the one before, painting a clearer picture of how all the pieces fit together.

Morning finally arrived and with it came an awful feeling of loss for Mattie as she awoke.  All she wanted to do was ask her father a million questions.  She remembered that she had left her father on the floor and immediately jumped out of bed to go check on him.  She threw her robe on and ran into her parents’ room.  Her father was nowhere to be found.

“Dad,” she called out. “Where are you?  Dad?”

She ran from room to room, fearing that he had fallen somewhere and couldn’t respond since he was so weak the last time she saw him.  As she was leaving the kitchen she noticed the refrigerator was angled slightly forward away from the wall.  “That’s strange.  Who’d pull out the refrigerator like that?” she thought.  As she drew closer she could see a small opening behind it and could faintly hear a muffled voice repeating something over and over again, but couldn’t quite make it out.  She wedged her body between the fridge and the wall, expecting that she would need a lot of leverage to push it open further.  To her surprise it glided easily away from the wall, revealing a small doorway that led down a set of winding stairs.  As she crept quietly down the steps the chant became clearer though a bit slurred.

“By bloodline you’re destined, by marriage we’re tied; let the strength of our love bring you back to my side.  By bloodline you’re destined….”

“Dad?” Mattie called out as she recognized her fathers’ voice. “Dad…what are you doing? What…is…what is this place?”

She glanced around the dimly lit room while her eyes were adjusting to the light.  What she saw was the strangest thing she had ever seen.  The room was draped with beautiful, full, dark blue velvet curtains that covered every wall.  The ceiling was painted in the same deep blue and was covered with jewels that resembled twinkling stars; smattered from edge to edge.  In the center of the room there was a platform that was surrounded by a plush, burgundy rug.  On the platform she could see her father wedged tightly inside of an elaborately carved, three-sided box where he stood, slumped and tired; repeating the chant over and over again.  His bare feet were placed exactly over a pair of metal footprints that were shaped perfectly to match them.  The interior was lined with satin cushions that were sown in a diamond cut pattern.  The open face of the box was bordered by two brass bars on either side and reinforced by heavy rubber sleeves that connected them to the floor and ceiling.  Another thick rubber pad covered the top edge of the box itself where her father’s forearms rested for support and acted as a buffer between surfaces.   Mattie could see that her father had been holding onto the bars so tightly that the blood had been forced out of his knuckles, leaving them as white as powdered bone.  Directly facing him was another such box with porcelain footprints and white satin cushions, except it was empty.  Mattie could hear him quietly repeating the same phrase, “By bloodline you’re destined, by marriage we’re tied; let the strength of our love bring you back to my side.”

She approached Kash slowly, quietly, and without hesitation she reached up to gently place one of her hands on top of his.

“No, Mattie!” Kash yelled out with what little strength he had left in him. “Don’t touch me!”  His warning came too late.  The moment she touched him a burst of energy started from out of their hands, warping the air flow.  Tiny, silver strands of light bound both of them tightly to the bar.   The particles formed a beam that swirled outward, completely filling every crevice, every fabric, every inch of the previously dimly lit room.  When it felt like it was impossible that it could get any brighter the light was drawn inward towards the empty box.  It outlined the shape of a person that grew clearer and more formed with every passing second.  The blue box began pulsing with a bluish light that illuminated her father as he began to stand tall and strong.  His face began to beam with its own energy and he appeared to be growing younger in years.  Mattie tried to let go of the grip, but couldn’t.  Her hand felt like it had melted into her fathers’ and the bar appeared to have turned to glass.  She was terrified, but couldn’t get away.  When she looked back toward the white box she could see that it was her mother that was forming out of the white light.  She was hovering within it as though she were made of extremely fine particles of light herself.  The sight of her mother brought a sense of peace, reminding her of the feeling that had come over her during the night.

“Amber,” Kash said excitedly.  “Is that you?”

Amber smiled lovingly.  She appeared to be happy and content.  Her lips were forming words; still the room remained completely silent.  She was repeating the same words over and over again, but neither Mattie nor Kash could make them out.  Finally, she clasped her hands together over her heart as if to say, “I love you both” and immediately began to fade.

“Don’t go…” he whispered. “Please don’t go!”

Suddenly, Mattie got another sharp pain behind her eyes.  “Dad…my gosh, Dad…what’s happening?”   Her mother’s entire life started playing like a fast forwarded, three-dimensional movie that was being projected on the tiny particles that still remained.  She saw cities and times of the world that had long since passed away.  She felt the pain and joy of people she didn’t even know.  Curiously, her compassion for all those strangers and their struggles burrowed deeply within her soul.  She could see a thousand scenes that were all changing because of her mother’s presence.  She saw her grandfather, his mother and on and on as each generation of her ancestors produced a single representative to carry on the unusual inheritance.  She felt the love, support and guidance they all had towards her mother in a whole host of unexplainable dangers that surrounded her on every journey.  Her mother’s knowledge, experiences, joys, fears, struggles and beliefs filled her up and blended with her own as each generation had done before her.  Mattie felt as though she was connected to all of them and had a clear understanding of each person that was in her mother’s line and it seemed like there was no beginning to them.

Then she knew!  She was like them!  Everything was clear to her and every event made sense.  She had a full recollection of her mother’s journeys for the past 10 years and felt every emotion her mother had experienced.  An overwhelming feeling of appreciation and admiration welled up inside of her as she saw her father, at great physical cost, ‘split’ time for her mother to return to the present after each Divvy.   They were a team!  They did things that couldn’t be explained to anyone; not even Mattie, until now.

The light began to dim and she felt her hand separate from her fathers.  She noticed he was changing back to his old self except he was aging beyond his normal appearance.  It was as though he was gaining a year for every second that passed.  When the room finally became still, Kash reflected his true age of 45.  He typified a weary, middle-aged gentleman rather than the vibrant, young man of 25 that Mattie was used to.

Mattie wasn’t sure she could take any more.  The experience left her feeling extremely weak herself as though she had lost two straight nights of sleep.  She moved in close to her father and helped him out of the box.

“It’s called a Time-Keeper, Mattie!”

“What is, Dad?”

“The box,” Kash said as he moved sadly away from the footprints, “and I’ll never enter it again.  She’s gone isn’t she, Mattie?”

“I think so, Dad, but I’m not sure.  I can’t believe how amazing you are Dad and what wonderful things you and Mom did for thousands of people.”

They stumbled up the staircase together.  Mattie helped Kash sit down for a moment while she went to turn off the lights in the secret room.  She slid the refrigerator snugly against the wall and went back to help Kash up.

“You shouldn’t have Inherited yet, Mattie; you’re way too young and you don’t have your own Splitter yet.  I don’t know how much you learned through your transition.  I don’t even know if there will be a limit to your powers or not until you reach the proper age.  You weren’t supposed to Inherit for another 17 years.”

“Come on, Dad.  You need to lie down and we’ll sort all of this out later.  I’ve got to sleep, too… I’m so tired.  Is this how it was for you and Mom every time she Divvied?”

“Yes.  However the recovery time is quite short in comparison to what you would think.  By the time we get upstairs you’ll be completely recovered, or at least you should be.  I don’t know what will be different with you now.”

“What about you,” Mattie asked. “Won’t you recover fast, too?”

“Not anymore,” he said with a tone of regret in his voice, “not anymore!”

CHAPTER 4

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