Little Jordan hated going to the father/son picnic. Every year it was the same. In scouts, if you didn't have a dad, you went with a volunteer. This year's volunteer happened to be some jerkwad named Dillon Strong. A guy so buff that all of his muscles made him look like an action hero star. Even his name was Strong. Normally, Jordan might have loved bringing a guy that everyone knew wasn't his dad, but he was smaller than other boys his age. He was twelve but he looked nine or ten. He had sandy blond hair and was stick thin. Of course, part of the reason that Dillon was going with him was because Dillon was dating his aunt Claire. Both of them were in their twenties. Jordan didn't live with his parents since their death when he was five. He didn't remember them all that well. Aunt Claire was nice most of the time but always made him feel like he should feel guilty for being there. He always wished he had a magic ticket to adulthood that would mean not being around people like Dillon.
Dillon always made him feel like he wasn't good enough. He always tried to make Jordan do all sorts of sports but he wasn't good at any of them. Rather than tell him it was good to try, Dillon always had to say things like "Can't you try harder? C'mon, don't embarrass me, squirt." He was cocky and full of himself, always making his pecs jump in public. It was partly humiliating to never hear anything encouraging and partly jealousy over the fact that such a jerk got to have perfect looks and a HUGE body that everyone envied. He had thick, black stubble that was more like fur. His arms and body was noticeably hairy. He exuded masculinity.
At the picnic tables in the rather large park, which bordered a lovely wooded area, Jordan met up with his friends Skyler and Parker. Skyler and Parker were next door neighbors, and Jordan lived just a few streets down from them. They let him hang out with them and were the same age, all twelve, but Parker and Skyler were more like inseparable brothers than anything. They talked about merit badges and then for a while talked about how they were excited about all of the games they were going to play.
Meanwhile, the adults were getting together across the way near the barbecue pits. Dillon Strong knew both of the dads of Jordan's friends. They were all gym buddies, and sometimes went dirtbiking together. Dillon Strong was in a blue muscle tee, and was ready to flex in front of all the hot ladies there that day. His girlfriend was at home but if he could get some pussy on the side he might as well try and get something out of this crummy day. Having to spend time with his girl's orphan nephew. God, the kid was so boring. He didn't like to do anything real men did. Kid was probably some faggot, all faggots started out as little wimps anyway, he thought. His two buddies, Lou McMann and Adam Barnes stood around shooting the shit, waited for their burgers on the grill.
"So Adam, when are you gonna get a job, bro? You've been unemployed for what, a year now?"
"Yeah but I have enough saved up so that it's become like one long vacation, you know?" Adam was taller than the other two, at 6'5", with short brown hair (always wore a baseball cap), and although he filled out nicely, he didn't really have much ambition in life. "I mean, jeez, the economy is terrible. I try online mostly, and that's just to get the paychecks coming. I'm thinking of actually making a push in a few months. I know a guy who might need me for some construction but I figure I should just take it easy, you know, enjoy it while it lasts. Get high here and there."
"As long as your kid doesn't get your weed stash. You are hiding it, right?" asked Lou.
"Yeah, Skyler's a good kid. Besides he has no desire to do drugs. He's a good kid. Unlike me!"
The three laughed. Adam was notoriously lazy, a real goofball. Ever since his wife left, when Skyler was two years old, he had been on his own with the kid. But Skyler always brought a maturity level to his dad that usually belied his real age. The kid was definitely taking after his grandad in that respect.
"Well all I have to say is, my kid better not do drugs or I'll beat him senseless." Lou said, getting a beer and scratching his goatee. Lou had really nice genes, and was as strong as Dillon Strong, but even better looking, and with tats and a real man's man as they say. Hung out at biker bars, and other low class establishments. He just topped a half inch over six feet but was far more imposing than Adam ever was. He had a mean look to him. He was always ready to confront someone for a fight to prove what a big man he was. He was bringing up his kid to be a fighter but the kid didn't want to even start boxing.
"Let's face it, none of our kids are turning out like we thought. Or your soon-to-be stepson," Adam said. "I mean, Skyler is like a genius in school. His teacher says he could be a physics or math major easy, make some real dough if he goes into engineering. It's like I don't even have to worry about him there, but he really doesn't want to loosen up. He's the complete opposite of me. And your kid, Lou, Parker is all about acting and theater."
"Yeah, I know. I have nothing in common with Parker," said Lou. "I've taken him to dirt bike races, or wrestling. He always pretends to be interested. But he's not, he'd rather read books. What about Skyler? Is he into sports yet?"
"He doesn't like watching them. He just wants an investment portfolio. He keeps talking about what he's going to invest in and I'm like shit, I have no idea what any of that even means, you know?" Adam said, laughing at himself (which he did a lot).
"Yeah well at least you two have a clue. I'm only 24 and now I have a kid to deal with and like, I don't even know what to do."
"Is Jordan into anything yet? Like sports or hobbies?"
"I don't even know what he likes to do. I hang out with my friends and we try to get him to play video games with us, he doesn't want to do that. I try to get him into sports but the only sport he wants to do is karate, but he don't really have the money for that. He's super into computer programming but I don't know anything bout that shit."
"Dude, you should totally get him into the martial arts. He's gonna need them. He's so little for his age." Adam noticed, looking over at the boys.
The day went along pretty nicely. The potluck dishes were all pretty tasty. Boys and men ate together and scoutmasters talked about the importance of passing on proud traditions. Adam, Lou, and Dillon exchanged clueless glances. What could they give to their kids? They barely had anything in common with the next generation, their progeny. And it was pretty much devoid of female influences at Adam's house. Lou had a sister but his wife and he had divorced and she happened to be serving time for grand theft auto. Not exactly the best of circumstances. Maybe that was why Parker didn't want to do anything his father did...he didn't want to wind up in biker bars with a track record with the law. Lou had quite an extensive one.
The games were pretty fun. Hot potato with beanbags, flag football, all sorts of obstacle courses. The kids were having fun at least, even though they were competing they had forgotten that aspect and were just living in the moment. Dillon sidled up to Jordan while they were alone.
"Okay dude, we gotta make a push, we're in the lead and we could totally win this thing."
Jordan looked at him in disbelief. "This is just for fun, though."
"Dude, winners are winners and it's no fun being a loser. Do you want to be a loser? It's survival of the fittest. We're the biggest of the pack. Biggest in the pack calls the shots in life. That's why I'm in charge managing at the car lot." Jordan rolled his eyes when Dillon wasn't looking. "Come on, bud, we're up. Don't disappoint me. Come on! YEAH! WINNERS COMIN THROUGH! DILLON IN DA HOUSE!" He clapped his hands and whooped loudly, embarrassing Jordan who simply blushed.
The next event was the relay race. Jordan tripped a number of times and Dillon just seemed put out by this. Jordan soon felt he wanted to go home and curl up with a book. Dillon was pretty much sucking the fun out of what was left of the day. He frowned to himself and Dillon huffed as other dad and son teams won.
"Way to go, bro," Dillon said sarcastically. Jordan adjusted his glasses, walked away, and heard Dillon muttering under his breath about what a wimp Jordan was.
By the time it was nearly over, Skyler and Parker asked Jordan if they wanted to hang out that night at Parker's house. Jordan asked Dillon if it was okay. He didn't love Parker's dad Lou but he needed some time away from Dillon after the disaster that was spending time with him today. Dillon talked with Lou about him getting a ride to school the next day, and then took off after saying good bye curtly. Jordan seethed for some reason at this. Dillon didn't really care about him, he just hang around because he had to. It just sucked.
That night, they all ate at the McCann house. Parker had the idea that they could tell ghost stories up in the attic. They asked his dad if it was okay and he was watching Nascar and started to light up a cigar and just grunted fine but clean up, don't leave a mess for me.
Parker's aunt was out so they spent the next hour in the unfinished wood interior of the attic, with only a small lantern lighting the center area. The left and right were filled with old crates and boxes, most belonging to long dead relatives, especially Parker's deceased grandfather. Eventually they got sick of telling spooky tales and decided to explore, even though Parker's dad really didn't want him poking around, and had said as much. His dad hadn't had time to separate what was something that could be a valuable antique from something he wanted to keep for sentimental reasons.
They found some old books, and then some really old books. Leather thicker than Jordan or Skyler had ever seen in a book, with deep carved runes and strange shapes that resembled plants with jaws and tentacled monsters with eyes at the end of starfish shaped heads.
"That's not very interesting. I read it. It's just a bunch of dumb science fiction stories," Parker said. "And I looked it up online. No one's even heard of this on Amazon. Necronomicon. My grandad had horrible taste in books."
"I like Harry Potter, though," said Skyler. They all agreed Harry Potter books were all really good.
"It's weird how we're like, into books, but our dads aren't." said Skyler.
"I wish you two liked video games more," said Parker.
"Yeah but books are way better, you can do anything with a book." said Jordan. "It just feels more real. You can escape."
"I guess. I read books so that I can make movies one day," said Parker.
They dug through more stuff. They found a bunch of cool uniforms, army uniforms. Grandad had been in the military. Lots of knicknacks and artifacts that looked like they were from an island in the South Pacific. Tiki masks and shell necklaces. Lots of old photographs of people smiling in Hawaii.
"Cool," said Skyler.
"Hey, look at this, my granddxad had a journal! And it's from his time in the military! Oh now this I am gonna read, he probably killed spies and stuff."
"That would be SO cool!" said Skyler. Jordan was more interested in an old trunk. It was a steamer trunk with big, heavy iron locks that luckily had keys inside them, so undoing them was easy. The latches gave way and were filled with correspondences from across the world, stamps on letters from Thailand, Egypt, Finland, Australia, and Brazil. The boys leafed through them.
"Your granddad knew people everywhere. Probably military people," Skyler said. Jordan remained shyly distant and went back to the photo album. "Whoa! Look at all this stuff!" Skyler looked at some tuxedo suits, some ties, lots of vintage suits that were very classy, a few shirts, cufflinks, and a lighter. Also a baseball mitt, some old cologne, some strange carved figures, a bunch of photos inside an envelope titled "Wedding Pictures" of what looked like UFO's.
"This is getting totally fucking freaky," Parker said quietly.
"Don't curse, your dad might hear," Jordan said, and walked over to see. The boys looked at photos taken by Polaroid camera from what could have been the 50s or early 60s. Some were grainy, in black and white or sepia and white, and some were in unspectacular color. Most were unclear. All had UFO's in them. Most hovered above a platform with several men in suits on the far side. Some of them showed strange wavering distortions, like blobs, appearing in midair.
"It's like that video game. The one where the spaceships come through wormholes!"
"Which video game is that?"
"I don't know, there's like ten of them like that."
"Jesus! Are these real, Parker?"
"I don't know! I don't know and keep your voice down," he whispered angrily.
"Hey look, a ring," Skyler put it on after he said it without even thinking about it.
"Lemme see!" Parker grabbed Skyler's hand. It was an old looking ring, thick and filled with carvings.
"What's this thing?" Jordan asked, picking up a flat plastic square with minor indentations and covered with geometric red shapes.
"Take it off, I don't want my dad to find out. Shit, what if he wants to sell these or something?"
"You can't let him do that!" Jordan whispered angrily back to Parker.
"Uh. Guys? I can't get the ring off." Skyler winced and huffed.
"Here. Stay still." Parker tried to yank it off.
After five minutes came ten, all unsuccessful.
"Okay. Don't panic. Um. You guys are staying the night. I'll get my dad to let us sleep up here. Hold on." Parker went down the ladder.
"Oh man, I did it again. Way to go, Skyler," Skyler said to himself. Skyler had the tendency to stress out much more than most adults during unfortunate events.
"Okay we can stay up here. I have sleeping bags. Did it come off?"
"Well that's not good. Oh well."
"Oh well. Your dead grandpa's ring won't come off my hand, dude!"
"So? It's not like my dad knows about it. It's your problem now." Parker returned. "Look, just get some Crisco for your dad," he said as Skyler's eyes bulged to the size of dinner plates.
They talked some more about their dads and their wishes. Jordan wished Dillon would go away or at least talk to him differently, and that Parker's dad could be his dad.
"You don’t want my dad. My dad sucks," Parker said. "Seriously, my dad is a biker. You don't want to see him angry, ever. He's always getting into fights, it's totally scary."
"My dad just gets stoned all the time. I have to clean the house, make all the meals." Skyler said.
"What does your dad do?" Jordan asked.
"Mainly he just watches TV. And smokes pot. And works out. And smokes more pot."
"Oh. Well, does he like, spend time with you and stuff?" Jordan asked.
"Dude I've been over to his house," Parker interrupted as Skyler began to speak. "His dad acts like he's still a kid. All he does is play video games and he smells like my dog."
"It's true. And we don't even have a dog," Skyler said.
"I'm going to sleep. Night guys."
"Night, Parker. Night, Jordan."
Parker turned the lantern off.
During the middle of the night, Skyler awoke to what appeared to be a dim light. In between the crates in the attic, a space had appeared. Funny, a space hadn't been there before, he could have sworn. The attic was so little. And yet there was now a pathway. He rolled over. Both of the other boys were sound asleep. A faint sound came from his left. He looked to his right at his sleeping friends. Then left again.
The pathway was now bigger. And...it extended. That was too weird. He must be dreaming. It can't be bigger in here than before. Especially when it was now a long hallway. Curious he got up and started walking down the clean, wooden attic floor. Which then became a type of cement, very cold, even through his socks. A glow was visible at the end of the hallway and it was getting further away from him.
The passage was getting longer. Oh great, he thought. I hate this kind of dream. I'm going to start walking in slow motion now or something.
Only, something else happened.
Skyler stopped being able to move. A strange clicking sound could be heard.
He was paralyzed. He panicked, but you would never know since he couldn't make a sound. He could breathe and stare and that was it. He was moving towards the glow but he was now hovering. His body, perfectly still. Standing, arms at his side, he floated silently down the hallway.
At the end was a strange, triangular door, which opened automatically. There was no way he could fit through it; it was too short. Suddenly he was tilting back and scooted through efficiently, now floating on his back. A large warehouse opened up before him, with odd ill lighting, dim and gray and tall. Whispers could be heard from dark corners. Someone walked past his peripheral line of vision, no features visible.
More clicking sounds. Slurping sounds. Strange, icky sounds. Slime falling against something then oozed over a metal escarpment.
He was on a slab of stone which then rose up and he was lying on it and it was floating down a corridor. Strange lights, manifesting inside the veins of the ceiling like the inside of a giant green whale, rib shapes crawling up and then becoming like plant tendrils. What the hell is going on, he thought.
Cloaked figures came into view. Strange nimble hands he could feel but not see explored his legs, his arms, his torso. It tickled a bit but he couldn't laugh. He couldn't do anything. One of the fingers touched his, the one finger with the ring and it lingered there, feeling it.
In the chlorophyll shaded recesses, the voices muttered, and before he knew it they were inside his mind. INSIDE HIS MIND.
"dO NOT fear," said one. "you ARe FORmaTIVE."
"He has not formed."
"We should (unintelligiable)
"YESYESnoYESnoYES then we must."
"What do you want what do you seek?" the voices implored him.
"I want to be in charge when I go home. I want us to be in charge, not our dads." Skyler thought, it was the only thing he could think of right off the bat.
"interest of interest creatures hierarchy age based."
"they are linear."
"contacted us through time slice opening"
"fabric path lost"
"transit operatives left debris."
"ah yes lost found young all young we are old."
"we should EXperiMENT."
"data overflow needs arrangement."
"subsistence on carbon organic plants even animal forms'
"unable to procreate yet"
"cerebral link established we follow."
"experiment in progress"
"we see components reactions data hierarchy"
"to understand dominant trait pattern emergence"
"opening thin veneer great time space forever chart pattern set"
"subject genetic retrieval (unintelligible)"
Skyler opened his eyes.
It was now morning and his friends were getting up to go downstairs to get breakfast. Hurrying, he went to catch up with them.