Authors: David Pandolfe
Wouldn’t you think I’d have had bad dreams about drowning
and getting shoved out of giant trees? I would have thought so too, but the
only dream I remember from that first night was the one about Bethany.
In the dream, Bethany was running through a field, her
eyes wide with fear. She kept looking over her shoulder like something was
chasing her. Wherever she was, it was either early morning or sunset, the
sunlight flickering through trees on the horizon. Bethany was breathing hard,
gasping and struggling to keep going. Then I heard the sound of someone’s feet
pounding the earth behind her. Getting closer. I couldn’t see who it was.
“Bethany!” I called out.
She didn’t hear me.
Bethany kept running.
I shouted her name again and finally she stopped. She
turned in my direction. “Henry?”
But it wasn’t Bethany’s voice. I opened my eyes to find
that I was still alone in my imagined bedroom.
“Henry, you should probably wake up now.” It was the same
girl I’d heard the day before, although I couldn’t tell where her voice was
coming from. “I’m Naomi, by the way. We’ll meet shortly. When you feel ready,
please step outside.”
I was definitely curious to meet someone other than Jamie
and Nikki, to put faces to the other voices I’d heard. At the same time, I
couldn’t shake off that dream.
“Did I mention there’s a meeting?” Naomi said. “It’s
What could I do with that but get out of bed? As soon as
I did, the bed disappeared. So did the house. I stood outside under the same
gray sky, but at least I wasn’t back up in the tree again. It was drizzling
rain, more a foggy mist than anything I felt against my skin. I looked around
and into the surrounding forest. It seemed like I was totally alone.
I looked in the direction of Naomi’s voice and saw a
giant yellow butterfly fluttering nearby.
“Sure, I guess.” It made as much sense as anything to
talk to the butterfly. The butterfly dipped in its flight, as if nodding. Then
it flitted off, leaving me alone again for a moment.
Jamie appeared first from out of the mist. “Just guessing
you might be feeling kind of disoriented. True?”
“Well, yeah. My house just disappeared, and it wasn’t
even my house.”
Jamie laughed. “That kind of thing can get to you at
first. Sleep okay?”
I tried not to think about the dream, the terror in
Bethany’s eyes as she’d tried to outrun whoever had been chasing her. I told
myself that it was just a dream, nothing more. “Not bad, all things
considered,” I said.
“Okay, then here we go.”
One by one, the others appeared, as if the vapor in the
air collected to form people. Nikki appeared next to Jamie, dressed the same as
yesterday but wearing ballet slippers instead of roller skates. Just behind
Nikki stood a lanky girl with blonde hair. She wore a plaid yellow dress and
knee socks, something I’d only seen in old movies or TV shows about the 1950s.
She looked to be around ten, maybe a little older.
Somehow I just knew. “Naomi?”
The girl smiled. “Hello.”
Next to her stood a kid who looked about fifteen or
sixteen. He wore a black leather jacket and jeans rolled up at the cuffs over
muddy boots. His hair was combed back and held in place with some sort of gel.
“Are you Simon?”
Simon nodded. “Hey, mate. Don’t suppose you’ve got a fag
I had no idea what he meant by that. I looked to Jamie,
thinking I must have heard wrong.
“English slang for cigarette,” Jamie said, “from the
sixties. As you might have already guessed, Simon’s a bit of a twit. English
slang for idiot.”
Simon raised his hands in confusion. “What?”
“Dude, he drowned. Don’t you think any cigarettes would
have gotten wet? Also, why would it matter? You don’t smoke, but if you did you
could imagine your own.”
“Just asking. Kind of an icebreaker sort of thing where I
“Okay, sure. I guess it must have been the thing to do,”
Jamie said, but he wasn’t looking at Simon anymore.
Behind the other four, someone else had just appeared. A
tall guy with long red hair who remained standing back in the fog. His narrowed
green eyes met mine, cold and hard, until I looked back at Jamie.
“And that’s Curtis,” Jamie said. “Curtis, this is Henry.
Curtis didn’t say anything. He just kept staring at me.
“What’s up with him,” I whispered.
Jamie winced. I had no idea why since I didn’t yet know
the Rules. For example, whispering at a meeting had no effect since everyone
there had the right to hear what was being said.
“Tell him what’s up with me,” Curtis said.
Jamie sighed. “Not now, okay, Curtis? He just got here.”
“I realize that. Hence this delightful meeting. But I
showed up, so I can go now. That’s the Rule.”
“Fair enough,” Jamie said. “You did what you had to.
Nothing more, as usual.”
Curtis smirked scornfully. “We do what’s required. The
rest doesn’t matter, obviously. One of these days, years or decades you’ll
figure that out.”
“Or maybe you’re wrong,” Jamie said. “Thanks for coming.”
“Whatever.” Curtis turned and started walking. He spoke
over his shoulder. “Tell the River Rat he got at least one thing right. The
rain that came with him. Suits this place.”
The fog swirled in around Curtis and he disappeared.
An uncomfortable silence followed and we stood there
shuffling our feet. I got the feeling Curtis was always tough to be around. So,
I figured I might as well jump-start things by asking a question.
“What did he mean by me bringing the rain with me?”
“Not to mention the fog,” Naomi said. “Which, I have to
say, does interfere a little with my butterflying. But that’s okay, I don’t
really mind for a while if it’s something you need.”
I had no idea what she meant.
“We’re cool with it for now,” Simon said. “We can dig it.
Not so keen on the rain, though. Kind of reminds me of London that last summer
when me mum and I—”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Nikki said. “Please use modern
English. Or French. Or Hindi. Who cares? Just stop acting like you just got—”
“What Nikki is trying to say,” Jamie said, turning to
face Nikki, “is that we all bring certain habits or cultural traits with us.
It’s totally natural that we hang on to them for a while.”
“Try losing the kimono,” Simon muttered under his breath.
“You grew up in California.”
“How about you lose your head,” Nikki shot back at him.
Simon shrugged. “Wouldn’t really matter.”
Nikki narrowed her eyes. “I’ll find a way to make it
Simon looked at the ground, which gave me the feeling
Nikki could make good on her promise.
Naomi stepped forward. “Please, everyone. Henry is new
here and this is his meeting. This is never easy, not for anyone.”
A quiet voice spoke from behind her. It took me a moment
to realize it was Nikki.
“True,” she said, softly.
“But he has to know,” Simon said.
“Yes, he does.” Jamie looked at the others. “Everyone
They all nodded.
Jamie turned to me. “Ready?”
“Yeah, I guess.” I had no idea what I was getting ready
for but whatever it was didn’t sound like fun.
Naomi did her best to smile, but I could tell that her
soul wasn’t butterflying. “We all get through it,” she said. “It’s basically
the bee’s knees from there, okay?”
“I was just thinking,” Nikki said. “How about I catch up
with all of you later?”
Jamie stared at her. “We should be there for him.”
Nikki glared back. “You know I hate this.”
“Everyone hates this. Not exactly happy stuff. Ready,
I waited, thinking the others were supposed to respond.
But I guess they didn’t have to since suddenly everything around me
About David Pandolfe
David Pandolfe is the author of two novels,
Streetlights Like Fireworks
. Currently, he’s working on a
Jump When Ready
, to be published in 2014. His short fiction
has also appeared in literary reviews.
While he’s still writing about himself in third-person,
David should probably also mention that he lives outside Richmond, VA, with his
wife, two kids and a dog who’s terrified of thunder (not the best situation
since it thunders from spring until fall in Richmond).
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Jump When Ready
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Thanks to my wife and kids for putting up with me while I
obsess about writing and publishing and while I also hog counter space in our
kitchen where I keep writing when I’m not in my office writing (love you
guys!). Special thanks to Jody Escaravage, Tracy Banghart and Jennifer Mantura
for being such wonderful beta-readers for this novel (you are awesome people
and your time and honest opinions are so very much appreciated!). Thanks also
to everyone who read and reviewed
Jump When Ready
on Amazon, Barnes
& Noble and Goodreads. This indie publishing adventure has been loads of
fun so far, especially because of your encouragement and support over the past
year. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it’s meant other than to say