Chapter 4: Stranger
Two painstaking days later. Nothing ever happened over the weekend in a town of such a little population and even the polar shift wouldn't change that. Monday morning finally came and right after Wednesday for it's paradoxical reasoning, it's the worst day of the week. As usual, Miles was having trouble getting out bed and his mother wasn't around to yank him out if necessary. All he had was his brother, who was spending his time in the master bedroom with his fiancée Jamie, who did nothing but lounge around the house all day.
“You're going to be late for school,” Chuck mentioned as he passed by Miles room. “Allison is already waiting for you outside. She won't come in. Why won't she come in?”
“I won't let her in,” Miles explained. “Mom always cooked the best breakfast, at least in her opinion. If I let Allison in, then she and my mom would get into girl talk and I'll never get a ride to school on time.”
“Mom's not here anymore.”
“But now there is Jamie and I can't take the chance that they won't develop some kind of connection for girl talk of their own. Guys tend to be attracted to girls that remind them of their mothers.” Miles was finally out of bed and began to change his clothes.
“Apparently that doesn't apply to everyone,” Chuck continued. “Allison let it slip that your crush has discovered the joy of the same sex. If she's found anyone yet, it would be a crime not to ask her to videotape that. Unless one of them is fat. I'm not into that.”
“I thought you were going to hire a private investigator.”
“I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I called the agency yesterday and, surprisingly, I got an answer. They said someone would be by today to discuss. Because of the polar shift, they might be able to send one that'll work for free.”
“That doesn't mean you get a free ride. Either you or Jamie needs to get a job. Immediately.”
While Allison and Miles began their day at Hyde's Park High School, Drake Sarkassian began his day across town at the hospital. He hadn't stopped thinking about the lighting strike. How did he know it was going to happen? He didn’t think anything was off about his realization until after he pushed Allison out of the way. Was it luck? Was it a reflex? Or was it that the polar shift was having a metamorphic effect of him?
Drake hopes it wasn't the last option. If the polar shift gave him a sixth sense reflex, he knew it could give him something else. “Morning Sarkassian,” the janitor said quietly as he passed him.
“Good morning,” Drake replied. “I'm sorry. I don't remember your name.”
“Well, then. I'm not going to tell you.” The janitor scoffed with a slight smirk and returned to his sweeping. Why was he sweeping? The floor was perfectly clean. Drake ignored it and began to climb the stair. Drake never took the elevator. He had heard stories about death by elevator, which just so happens to have occurred in a hospital to a doctor and Drake was determined to avoid being part two.
Drake exited at the third floor and approached the come guy's room. No one was around and Drake felt confident in talking radically to a man who was nonresponsive. “I blame you. You have this awesome solution to the polar shift and then you decided to get yourself in a coma and can't do anything to stop it.” Drake stopped his rant. What was he saying? Why would the coma guy know anything? The solution the polar shift was just something that Allison pulled out of thin air.
Still, it made sense. Hyde's Park wasn't known for the occasional crazy guy. They were always on a mission “I have to find out more.” Drake pulled out the man's wallet. The picture on the driver's license was old. The man in the picture had a crew cut and the man in the hospital bed had shaggy, curly hair. Everything else about his body was the same. Looking further, Drake discovered a small sheet of paper with a phone number.
“Girlfriend, perhaps? Maybe a boyfriend. Only one way to find out.” Drake already had his cell phone out and was dialing the number. After two rings, a female voice picked up. “Hello?”
“Yes. This is Dr. Drake Sarkassian from the hospital in Hyde's Park, Rhode Island. I was wondering if you know a man named--”
“He's in the hospital?”
“Uh—yeah, he is.”
“I'll be there by the end of the day. Thank you.”
The lady hung up. “Okay. That went well.”
Miles and Allison were in for a shock of their own when they arrived at school. “The courtyard,” Miles observed. “The courtyard. It's full. Of students. More importantly, it's students I’ve never even seen before. What the Hell is going on here?”
“It's Monday,” Allison explained. “When have Monday’s ever made sense?”
“They've usually followed the rules of plausibility, though. I’m getting to the bottom of this.” Miles, followed close by Allison, entered the courtyard and walked into a group of friends. Miles approached the tallest guy, a black guy who had at least six inches on Miles. “What are you doing here? This is not your school.”
“You don't think I know that?” the kid replied, pushing Miles back. “I go to school in Providence. This better just be temporary. I don't want to stay in this little Podunk town any longer than I have to. Once my school reopens, I'm out of here?”
“Closed?” Allison intervened. “Who closed your school?”
“The superintendent,” the kid replied. “You didn't know that? All the schools in the district are closed. All the remaining students and teachers were transferred here.”
Miles still maintained his bravado. “I'm surprised you're still here. I guess a guy as stupid as you just forgot how to drop out.”
“You got jokes,” the imposing kid observed with a smile on his face. “I'm glad. I like jokes. You're going to need your jokes to survive now that I'm in charge.”
“And who are you exactly? Not that I care, of course.”
The kid smiled again. “I'm the Devil.”
It was 10:00 A.M. And Jamie was just now waking up. She had spent most of the night memorizing every building in Hyde's Park she would have to go to in order to prepare for the wedding. The only problem left was figuring out how to pay for it and no one in the Westin household was working. Miles would rather die than get a job and Chuck was too preoccupied to preserving the Westin family name by retrieving his mother and the missing cash.
If Jamie didn't know that she was the only choice left, she was about to. “Jamie, you know I love you, right.”
“If you're asking because you want it to be a given and you won't have to say it anymore, think again.”
“Actually, it' because I need to ask a really big favor of you. I'm going to be meeting with the private investigator frequently and Miles is busy with school, so I would really appreciate it if you could find a job. It's just until I find mom. Then I'll get a job. Deal?”
“What for? You said this’d be over fast.”
“I embellished the speed a little bit. Chances are, the private investigator is incompetent. We got him for free. This could take a while.”
“Insulting the private investigator who is doing you a favor is not the way to start out a relationship, Mr. Westin,” came a sultry female voice as it entered the room. The voice was attached to a beautiful brunette with that soulless, lack of empathy look. She glanced at Jamie before returning to Chuck. “You mother is, at least has been recently, in Cancun. I already have a plane ticket and will be leaving momentarily.”
“What,” Chuck began. “You're the private investigator?”
“Yes,” she replied in a monotone voice. “I finished the introductions quite a while ago. Thank you for finally catching up.” Chuck hoped she was being sarcastic, but everything she said was in the same voice, so it was hard to tell.
“How'd you figure out it’s from Cancun?”
“For starters, the postcard is from Cancun. There is a small odor of nachos, margaritas, and sweaty naked teenagers on the card. At that point, it's just a matter of process of elimination.”
“Okay,” Chuck said in disbelief. “You get on that.”
The first handful of classes was a pain. No one knew each other. New teachers weren't accustomed to the teaching implements put in place by Principal Ling. Mr. James was the only one in glee as he had his own plans for the new students. Only Allison, Miles, and Ashley remained from his former class. Miles was uncomfortable that one of his new classmates was the loudmouth demon he met in the courtyard.
Finally, lunch came. It was the only time Miles to retreat back into his comfort zone and Allison had decided to evade the concept all together and leave campus for lunch. Miles declined to join. He had someone else to talk to. Ashley was sitting by herself as all of her old friends had dropped out.
“Ashley. You told me something that totally came from left field on Thursday and I'm not sure you fully understand the gravitation those words hold, so I'm going to need you to run that by me again. Are you a lesbian?”
“Yes, I am,” she said with such conviction that sent a shiver down Miles's spine. “I am a lesbian. I don't like guys, and that includes you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Do you really need me to repeat it?”
“It couldn't hurt.”
“Yeah, that hurt.”
“Well, while we're on the subject, I need to ask you a question. Do you know if Allison is seeing anyone?”
“You’re not doing this to me,” Miles demanded. “You can crush my heart into little pieces and you can even date some other guy to make me jealous, but you are not about to use me as a go between for your lesbian relations. I can't believe I just said that and can still claim I have powerful masculinity.”
“You're embarrassing yourself now.”
Miles cell phone began to ring. “You're lucky,” Miles told her before answering his phone. “A couple more second and some of that embarrassment may have rubbed off on you.”
Miles turned away and focused on Allison's voice on the phone. “Weird coincidence,” she started. “I was making some calls and found out more about our Devil. He's not actually the Devil.”
“Oh thank you. I was extremely worried that me might actually be evil incarnate and have been watching my back all day for the pits of Hell to swallow me whole.”
“His name is Michael David Ross. He's a senior from Central High School in Providence. Your basic big man on campus. He ran everything behind the scenes and I can guarantee you that he'll want to regain his throne in the final days of the Earth.”
“I'm not scared of some bully with good bravado.”
“He's not like Gary. Unlike Mr. Derceto, The Devil isn't afraid to get physical and you're not the strongest person around. All I'm saying is to be careful.”
“I 'm not scared. When are you getting back.”
“There are no good places to eat anymore, so I'm heading to the hospital to check up on the coma guy.”
Not much else meanwhile was getting done at the hospital. Except for the orderlies and nurses who would feel bad if they didn’t give the necessary medication to those who need it or those employees who remember Allison's threat from the day before, no one was doing anything. This included Drake, who was still waiting for the woman he spoke to that morning. The woman never answered the phone every time Drake tried to call her back. She had no idea who to expect.
“Dr. Sarkassian!” Drake instantly spun around with his eyes wide open. He shrugged upon seeing who it was.
“Allison Dreary, I believe. Never mind.”
“You were expecting someone else?”
“Yes, I was. I call a phone number the coma guy had in his wallet. The woman seemed genuinely concerned about him being in a hospital and said she would be here immediately. I tried to call her back and give her more details, but she never picked up and she doesn't have an answering machine.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“Mom. Girlfriend. Wife. Sister. Cousin. Daughter. Niece. Aunt. I could be anyone. I just know it was a woman who cares a lot about this guy.”
“I'm his sister,” another voice joined the conversation. She was a brunette with glasses, fairly tall and was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. “Is he alright?”
“No, not exactly,” Drake began explaining. “He was hit by a car. The driver said he was running sporadically and jumped in front of the car. He's in a coma and it doesn't look like he's going to come out of it any time soon.”
“Might I just interject here before this conversation gets too involved,” Allison began. “Hi. I'm Allison Dreary. I will give you this lovely ten-dollar bill if you could refrain from using any part of your brother's name in conversation. I don't want to know it.”
“You don't know his name?”
“I do,” Drake explained. “I have his wallet. I have his driver's license, his social security card, and his year pass to Busch Gardens, his worker's visa—his worker's visa? He's not American?”
“That's not his name,” the woman said as she glanced at the card. “I've never heard of Carmen Cortez. This must be something he come up with on his investigation.”
“My brother was an amateur scientist. He saw the polar shift coming, but no one believed him. He started looking for a solution, but he couldn't tell if his theory was right until the actual shift began. He told me it worked, but I don't know how. I just know he called me while I was watching the director of the science center give his speech.”
“So I was right?” Allison said in disbelief. “This guy I hit actually does know how to reverse the polar shift?”
“You hit my brother?”
“Never mind that now. How much do you know about the investigation.”
“As much as you do,” she replied solemnly. “I was never really interested in it. All the information that could save this world is trapped within his little head and if the doctor is right, it's not coming out. I'll take his wallet back, please and I'll take that ten dollars as well.”
“Wait. Give me the worker's visa.”
“You may want to give up, but me and my dream team are going to finish what your brother started.”
“Dream team?” Drake asked.
“Yeah! You. Me. Miles. His brother Chuck. Maybe even Jamie. Probably Gary if necessary. Hopefully he’s not necessary.”
“Fine,” she said, handing Allison the card. “Do whatever you want. Just don't bother me with questions.” The lady walked over and sat next to her brother.
“Dream team?” Drake asked again. “I'm flattered, but do you really need to bring me into this?”
“You're the most important part. Not only do you have daily access to the coma guy, but also the polar shift seems to have given you precognitive powers. We might be able to trace this back to its source.”
“I thought you were just doing this investigation for fun.”
“That was back when I thought the investigation led nowhere. Now we have something and we are going to see this through until the end.”