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Premonitions: Act III

Trent pushed open the door to Kevin's room. "Hey, Kev," he said. "Hey, Dave. You're still playing that thing?"

"Hey, Trent," Kevin said, putting Dragon Legend III on pause.

David put down his controller and pushed his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose. "Hey, Trent."

The three teenagers had been friends since third grade, and often caused double-takes when standing side by side. Kevin, struggling for five feet, struck observers as the sort of sensitive waif that would blow away in a stiff breeze; people often wrongly assumed from his dark wardrobe and perpetual faraway look that he was involved in the high school's drama program. David -- a fellow junior of average height with a perpetually unruly brown head-mop -- made up in weight what Kevin lacked, and was the self-described nerd of their trio, often to be found in the library flipping through his role-playing books or the latest video game magazine. And Trent, a year ahead, had a freakishly tall, steely body hardened by years of track and field. Their shared interest in role-playing games -- especially David's discovery that some of the newest computer RPGs had enough multi-controller support to make playing a social experience -- kept them, and their imaginations, active.

That Sunday, though -- two days into winter break -- Trent was having none of it. "Seriously," he said. "It's been four days." He ran his fingers through his spiky blond hair. "Aren't your parents sick of it enough to kick you outside yet?"

"The last time I was outside," Kevin said, "I got hit by a car. I think they're just glad to have me lying here, recovering, with my friends visiting."

"He is looking much better," David chipped in. "Plus we're almost all the way through DL3 again."

"And you," Trent said, walking over to David. "You shouldn't encourage him. We haven't even finished Chrono Frontier yet. At least play something new."

Kevin sighed. "Please, not this again."

"We might find a valuable clue to what happened!" David said, hoisting himself out of his chair.

"With all due respect to Kevin as a friend," Trent said, "a character did not walk out of a video game to help him."

"I trust what he saw. And with Dennis Redwing and his -- and his therianthropes," David said, stumbling over the word, "on the television, and magic being thrown around to stop riots in Los Angeles -- why not Rosalind?"

"That's different," Trent said, crossing his arms.

"Guys, please," Kevin said. "I don't want to argue about that right now."

Trent looked grateful to change the subject. "That reminds me. I never did hear what the police said about that shed you woke up in."

"The owners were out of town," Kevin said after a moment's hesitation. "So they said I must have staggered into the shed from the scene of the accident in order to get out of the rain, and then passed out there."

"That's such bullshit," David said. "You wouldn't have closed the gate and the door behind you if you were that hurt."

"Someone else probably carried him in," Trent said. "The gate was just a couple of yards away."

"Rosalind," David said.

"Oh, please," Trent said, rolling his eyes.

"David? Trent?" Kevin said tiredly. "I'm serious. Please. Forget the accident." He leaned over and switched off the Super NES.

"Hey!" David said. "We hadn't saved our game since Fire Mountain!"

"We'll just replay it again later," Kevin said. "But right now, I need something more important. I need my best friends back, the ones that don't argue about my life like I'm not even here."

The room fell into awkward silence.

Kevin stood up, and his voice took an edge. "I should be dead. Maybe I am. How do I know I didn't really die when I got hit by the car? Ever since I woke up, the whole damn world's been crazy -- batshit crazy, upside down crazy, dragon crazy -- and my parents are fending off calls from reporters and nobody believes my story and I just need something around me that makes me feel like I belong."

Kevin looked back and forth at his friends' faces, sighed, and shuffled over to sit down heavily on his bed.

"I believe you," David said in a small voice.

Trent took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Kevin. I'm just ... starting to worry, you know? Something really weird happened to you, and we have to know what it really was. That's all."

"Something weird happened to me?" Kevin asked. "Earth turning into a fantasy role-playing game isn't weird enough?"

"No," Trent said quietly. "No, it isn't."

"Huh?" Kevin said.

"It's not weird enough for me," Trent snapped. "Or -- more to the point -- I'm not weird enough for it!" He gestured to David, who blinked quizzically. "We're not. Nobody else here. Except for you. People are turning into dragons and werebeasts and flinging magic spells -- out there, someplace else, on the television -- but not a single damn thing in Pitt Creek has changed. Except for you. Kevin, you're the closest thing we're ever going to have to magic, and if you don't figure out how you really fit in to these bigger changes, you could be in a lot of trouble."

"Hey," Kevin said defensively. "I didn't ask for this, okay? I got hit by a freakin' car!"

"Well, maybe you'd better start asking!"

"Trent!" David cut in, agitated.

Trent opened his mouth, then glared at David. "What?"

"Don't be so harsh," David said softly, looking down. "We're a team. You're best buddies. Don't go after him like that."

"We are a team," Kevin said gratefully. "Look, Trent, this wasn't my idea. You know I'm not trying to cut you out of any of this. I'm trying to figure it out too. Believe me, if I had any idea of what was going on, you guys are the first I'd tell."

Trent sighed in frustration. "I know." He sank against the wall by the door. "That's what worries me. We don't know."

"Then why are you so sure that it wasn't Rosalind that saved Kevin?" David challenged.

"Because it makes no sense!" Trent said. "Nobody else from Dragon Legend has shown up anywhere in the world. Nobody else! And she just conveniently shows up three blocks away, casts Cure, and says something cryptic about breaking rules? No! The game is just fiction!"

"So were dragons," David countered. "Until Wednesday. Now there's Dennis Redwing."

"Guys!" Kevin said, exasperated. "Don't make me kick you out. I don't want to hear it anymore. You've been arguing about that like, what, once an hour since I came back?"

David cringed: "I'm sorry." Trent, silent, looked away.

"What is it, Trent?" Kevin said.

"Nothing," Trent answered. "Wanna go take a walk? We can throw a Frisbee around the school parking lot."

"Um," Kevin said, "I still kinda hurt all over."

"Aw, c'mon," Trent said. "That's cause you've been in bed for a few days. You have to stretch all those muscles or you'll keep feeling like crap."

"Frisbee sounds good," David said. "We've got some sun again, finally."

Kevin glanced over at the dark TV screen, then his face stiffened in resolve. "Alright. Let's go."

The three gathered their jackets, and David excused himself to go use the bathroom before they left. As Kevin was uncomfortably squirming into his coat, Trent said quietly: "Kevin?"

"... Yes?" Kevin said reluctantly.

"Seriously, buddy. This is big."

"Trent --"

"No. Wait. Let me just say this. What happened -- what happened to you -- is big. You're caught up in these ... these Changes. You can't wish that away. You can't take that lightly."

"I'm not, Trent. I'm not. But look --"

"You've got to --"

"Trent! We've been over this."

"And you're still not listening."

"I am!" Kevin said. "But there's nothing we can do about it. I'm sick of everyone trying to build this up into some huge ... I don't know, some omen that nobody understands."

"I know. That's why --"

"Look. I'm starting to think you're right. It wasn't Rosalind. It was all just a hallucination or something."

"Hang on! I didn't say that," Trent said defensively.

"No? You yourself said it makes no sense! What else could it be?"

"I," Trent stammered, "I don't know."

"Then please shut up," Kevin said darkly.

The bathroom door opened, and David walked out, pulling up his zipper amid the gurgle of the flushing toilet.

"Someday, they'll write stories about the changes," Kevin said, adjusting his sleeves. "Big, epic ones about the dragon and his army of mages. All the people who fought and changed Earth. That's not me. I'm not even going to be a footnote. So will you please just let get back to my stupid life?"

David looked back and forth between the two. "Uh," he ventured, "did I miss something?"

"No," Trent said, picking up the Frisbee with a disappointed glance at Kevin. "Let's go."





News: Based on reader feedback I've revised and expanded the conversation between Kevin and the policeman back at the end of Premonitions II. It changes nothing in story continuity, so there's no need to reread it, but if you were dissatisfied with the original exchange it's worth going back and taking another look.

It's far better to change these things before posting them, of course. So if you're willing to provide feedback in exchange for seeing sneak previews of new material, leave a comment below or e-mail me at baxil at. tomorrowlands dot-org.

Annotations: As the story progresses, I'll be posting bonus author commentary in the comments section. Today's story is annotated; see comments for a deeper look into the novel and its world.

Comments

baxil
Nov. 14th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
Author annotations
... Aaaaaaaaand we meet two more of the characters in the journal's user icon. ]B=8)

> with Dennis Redwing and his -- and his therianthropes," David said, stumbling over the word, "on the television, and magic being thrown around to stop riots in Los Angeles ..."

Readers new to The Tomorrowlands Universe -- an alternate-Earth urban-fantasy setting that diverges from our own history in late 1996 -- are getting an unfairly brief and distant introduction to the world. This is, in some respects, unavoidable, because this is very much not a typical TTU story; it would be unfair to spend a great deal of exposition time on events that are barely relevant to these characters and this plot.

The major arc of TTU history during which this story takes place can be viewed at length elsewhere. Or, for the view from the ground as events unfold, you can read such stories as Ward C, 10:12 p.m.; Right Here, Right Now; and Shelter; or browse through media clippings such as newspaper articles and interviews. My 2004 novel Notes From The End Of The World examined The Changes from the half-distant perspective of a normal guy trying to make sense of it all. While "Legend of Hero" is designed to be basically self-contained, it's really a horrible introduction to its setting.

> "Someday, they'll write stories about the changes," Kevin said, adjusting his sleeves. "Big, epic ones about the dragon and his army of mages. All the people who fought and changed Earth."

... Hey, was that the sound of the fourth wall developing a hairline fracture?

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Tales from the Tomorrowlands

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Legend of Hero
[001]. Premonitions
[013]. Incursions
[026]. Companions
[043]. Complications

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