Authors: Parker Peevyhouse
KATHY DAWSON BOOKS
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
Copyright Â© 2016 by Parker Peevyhouse
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-16291-4
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Peevyhouse, Parker, author. Title: Where futures end / Parker Peevyhouse. Description: New York : Kathy Dawson Books,  Summary: “Five interconnected stories that weave a subtle science-fictional web stretching out from the present into the future, presenting eerily plausible possibilities for social media, corporate sponsorship, and humanity, as our world collides with a mysterious alternate universe”â Provided by publisher.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015022984 / ISBN 9780803741607 (hardback) Subjects: | CYAC: Science fiction. | BISAC:
/ Science Fiction. |
/ Concepts / Date & Time. |
/ Social Issues / General (see also headings under Family).
Classification: LCC PZ7.1.P444 Wh 2016 | DDC [Fic]âdc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015022984
Cover photos courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Cover design by Vanessa Han
who plans for endless futures
WHEN WE ASKED THE IMPOSSIBLE
(one year from now)
Dylan asked his first Impossible Question when he was five, when he could still hear music in running water, still find gilded kingdoms trapped in beams of sunlight.
Why do I see things no one else can see?
Impossible to say, son,
Dad had answered with a smile, closing the cover of the book they'd been reading,
The Blue Fairy Book.
Are they real, the things I see?
Dylan's older brother, Hunter, hated questions like that.
Stop pretending you're special,
he would say.
In a storybook, an Impossible Question might be a riddle that could never be solved, a challenge that would bring the quest to a standstill.
In real life, an Impossible Question might be easily met with a shrug or a sigh. But it might also carve the whole world into pieces as small as dust motes so that you could
hardly breathe for fear of scattering them all.
At the age of eleven, Dylan asked Dad an Impossible Question for the last time, when they were getting hot dogs at Alki Beach in West Seattle. It wasn't that Dylan never saw Dad again after that. It was just that there were no more jackets tied like capes, no more laughs that went sideways in the wind, no more perfect burn of salt spray and spicy mustard. The story of Dad and Dylan came to a standstill.
In the years since the day at Alki Beach, Dylan had become an expert at Impossible Questions. He would creep into Hunter's room after lights-out to ask,
What's at the bottom of a black hole in space? Is a red blanket still red in the dark? Why don't zombies eat their own flesh?
Hunter would pass one of his earbuds to Dylan and they'd let the Sonics or the Rolling Stones answer as best they could.
Why do I sense things no one else can?
Dylan asked himself now, standing outside the prep school gymnasium where his brother's basketball game was taking place. He knew the crowd was about to roar. He felt the hum in his bones, without even seeing the action.
And sure enough, a moment later, the cheer erupted.
He opened the door and stood in the doorway. Gray-and-purple banners emblazoned with
were slung on the walls. “Heavily Perspiring,” Dylan and his friends had used to joke, sophomore yearâbefore Dylan had gotten kicked out for cheating. Now it was fall of his junior year.
A boy in a gray Hevlen blazer edged through the doorway: Blaine, who used to sit with Dylan at lunch so they could program modifications to their favorite PC games. He tipped his carton of popcorn toward Dylan and said, “Is it true that some kids carry knives to class in public school?”
“That's why we get those metal rulers,” Dylan said, reaching into the carton. “Levels the playing field.”
The air in the gym was warm, but Dylan suddenly wished he'd worn a jacket, because Blaine was staring at the peeling letters on Dylan's T-shirt that spelled out
Put on Your 3-D Glasses.
“It seemed cool in my mom's pawnshop,” Dylan said. “Anyway, my old Hevlen uniform's too small now.”
“I wish I didn't have to wear this thing.” Blaine flicked the collar of his blazer. “Think I should defect? Try my luck with metal rulers?”
Dylan tried to laugh, coughed out a popcorn kernel instead. Blaine eyed Dylan's slouching frame. “Hevlen has to expel
at the end of each year. To keep the rest of us sweating.” He studied his popcorn carton and shrugged. “Probably only picked you because you were on scholarship.”
Dylan tried to give off an air of
leaning back against the doorway. That odd electricity hummed in his bones again and then, what do you know, out on the court his brother sank another three-pointer. The crowd chanted his name:
The other team called a time-out. The hum in Dylan's
bones subsided. He had a clear view of his brother standing a head taller than the rest of his team. Everything about Hunter's face was ruggedâsheer-cliff forehead, wide chin. Even his sideburns looked like they were trying to reclaim territory ceded to his ears.
“Your grades weren't really that bad, though, were they?” Blaine asked. “You were on the team that went to math regionals.”
“I cheated on my finals. Zero tolerance rule. Whatever.”
Blaine's eyes widened.
“We actually debated the legality of that zero tolerance rule in philosophy class,” Dylan said. “Whether it's really fair to kick someone out for a first offense.”
“They have philosophy in public school? Huh, wow.”
Dylan didn't answer.
On the court, Hunter slid past the point guard and flipped the ball up to the basket.
Blaine's mouth hung open. “It's like someone spliced dolphin DNA into his.”
The air in the gym was way too warm, the popcorn smell stifling. “I'm gonna go,” Dylan said. “See you online sometime?”
“You know my gamer tag.”
Dylan strode toward the bench where the second string was watching the game and grabbed Hunter's jacket. It would be cold out in the parking lot.
As Dylan turned back toward the door, he was startled to see Dad sitting in the bleachers. What was
doing here? He never came to Hunter's basketball games.
I'm seeing things again,
Then the crowd shifted and he glimpsed another face that didn't belong: the face of a girl he hadn't seen in ages, except in his memories. His stomach twisted.
Definitely seeing things.
The buzzer signaled the end of the game. Dylan lost sight of both Dad and the girl as the crowd stood to cheer. He found a ski cap in the pocket of Hunter's jacket and tugged it on over his ears as he hurried outside, bristling with confusion.
Out in the parking lot: pale twilight. The cheers gave way to leaves skittering over asphalt, car doors popping open. The typical Seattle smell of rain and salt was in the air, plus a brewing wind. The tops of the distant maple trees shook as if a monster might charge through the branches at any moment, like something out of
That soundâleaves rustling in the dark. Dylan closed his eyes. Waited a beat, and then opened them. He half expected the trees to have disappeared, half thought he'd be transported to somewhere else. Where, he couldn't say.
Why do I see things no one else can see?
In his head, Dad's voice asked,
What kinds of things?
He'd seen that girl in the gym before. Seen her face lit by sunlight. But where? Who was she? A phantom from his memory, someone he had known long ago. But who?
Dylan angled himself toward the doors to the gym. Did Dad come to Hunter's games all the time? Maybe he did and Dylan just never knewâsnuck in and out without
saying hi because he knew how much Hunter hated him. Not that Dylan was keen to see him either. Last week's phone call was as much as Dylan could take for this month:
Mom's fine, Hunter's fine, school sucks, bye.
“Nice game, Yates.”
Dylan turned at the sound of his last name, startled. Then he remembered that
was written on the jacket he was wearing.
“Thanks,” he mumbled to the back of a guy in a school uniform.
What kinds of things do you see?
Dad asked again in Dylan's head.
Blue light sparked along the skin of the guy walking away, and then fizzled out as he maneuvered around the cars in the parking lot: a physical manifestation of post-game excitement. Dylan had seen it before.
He had a name for his ability to see such things, one he'd come up with back in the first grade, when his teacher had read “Jabberwocky” aloud to the class.
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
Over time, he had somehow dropped the
The vorpal went snicker-snack.
That was the exact feeling he'd get. His vorpal would flicker and he'd sense something others couldn't: rain getting ready to fall, squirrels sleeping in nests of leaves, Mom's worry, Hunter's dark moods. He never told them about it. Only his dad had understood.
“Yates, nice job,” someone said behind him.
Dylan turned, expecting disappointment or
You're not Hunter, sorry
. But it didn't come. The boy looking back at him was short, bad haircut, definitely a freshman. He kept on talking.
“That hook shot in the third quarter? The defender thought he had it until he almost got an elbow to the face.”
Dylan waited for the kid to realize his mistake. Dylan was three inches shorter than Hunter. His shoulders weren't even as wide as Hunter's rib cage.
It was happening again. The weirdest thing: People mistook him for Hunter.
Dylan knew it was his vorpal's fault. It made him see things, hear thingsâbut it also made people around him see things. Sometimes because Dylan
to change what people saw, and sometimes it happened by accident. He wasn't great at controlling it.
“Think we'll take Grady Prep on Thursday?” the boy asked.
“Our cheerleaders could take Grady Prep,” Dylan said, because it was true.
could take Grady Prep.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dylan caught a flurry of movement among the parked cars. His mom darted around a BMW, flapping her hands at Dylan. “SorryâI missed the whole thing, didn't I? I'm sure you were great.”
She strode up to him and gave him a peck on the cheek, turned to the freshman. “Was he great?”
Realization finally dawned on the freshman's face:
That's not Hunter Yates
Dylan's mom turned to look at him. Dylan half hoped she wouldn't realize her mistake, that she'd keep seeing
him as Hunter. She was always so glowy with Hunter.
But she jerked her hand away from his shoulder. “Dylan.” Half surprise, half accusation.
Dylan's face went hot. Skinny as a spider monkey, but even his own mom mistook him for hulking Hunter.
Because of his vorpal.
His mom was looking at him, jaw clenched. Dylan ducked his head. “I'll wait in the car,” he said, giving up the idea of watching for Dad. Over his shoulder, he called, “I can work at the store tomorrow,” by way of apology; for what, he wasn't sure. Then he made for the Tahoe, his ears full of the sound of trees crackling in the wind.
The pawnshop was a trove of old guitars and DVD players and a pair of cracked leather boots that had Dylan's name on them if he could get ten more dollars. Everything in the store had once been great but was now only kind of cool, and only to someone like Dylan, who wasn't currently in a position to buy anything not-used.
He went to a shelf in the corner that held a row of fantasy novels everyone reads by the time they're twelve. Wizards and monsters and magical relics. Stuff Dylan was too old for. Even so, he opened a copy of
Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
and studied the illustrations. He made himself do this from time to time. He was trying to convince himself that the girl who haunted him wasn't real.
Her face floated to mind more and more often lately, bright with wonder or squinting in concentration. And
now he was seeing her even in Hevlen's gym, like his brain didn't know when to quit. He couldn't say how he had met her, or where, or when. Couldn't remember anything else about her.
Except for one thing.
He had the distinct idea that she was a queen.
Obviously impossible. How does a kid in Seattle meet a queen? That was how he knew he was only remembering a character from a story. A picture from a book, maybe.
He flipped a page and found a drawing of Alice with a crown and scepter. But her inkblot eyes held nothing familiar.
The bell on the shop door jingled, and a customer walked in. Dylan poked his head around a shelf. Not a customer. Hunter, lumbering around like he owned the place.
“What are you doing here?” Dylan called. “I told Mom I'd work today.”
“Good for you,” Hunter said, heading toward the back room.
Dylan shoved the book back in with the others on the shelf and wandered toward the counter. “What's the movie we used to watch when we were kids?” he called to Hunter. “The one with the girl who's a queen?” Could be that's where Dylan remembered her fromâa movie.
No answer from the back room. Hunter had a terrible memory for movies. He never watched one twice unless it included an exponential number of explosions.
The NeverEnding Story
?” Dylan wondered aloud. The girl in that movie was technically an empress. Close
Dylan thought he heard someone rummaging through the bins near the door. A customer after all. He closed his eyes and tried to guess exactly where the customer was standing.
The bin on the far leftâDVDs
. He didn't have to guess. He could feel it in the way the air movedâcould sense it with his vorpal. He checked the mirror in the corner of the ceiling and saw that he'd been right: a girl in a canvas jacket stood at the DVD bin. Dylan slid behind the counter and propped himself against a stool to wait.
Hunter emerged from the back room carrying the cash box. “We watched too many weird movies when we were kids,” he told Dylan. “How am I supposed to remember aÂ .Â .Â .”
“Girl queen. She had these eyes like”âDylan pictured them in his mindâ“like cracked ice.” He waited for some hint that Hunter knew what he was talking about. He could swear he heard a clicking sound coming from Hunter's brain, thoughts shuffling and reshuffling.
“I'm not really sure she was from a movie,” Dylan admitted finally.
Or a book,
he added to himself. “I might have met her somewhere.”
It was always dangerous to say something like that to Hunter, that he'd met a real queen in person. Like he'd stumbled across her in a coffee shop or maybe over in snooty Bellevue, ha-ha. Those kinds of admissions made Hunter deeply unhappy. A
Huskies losing to Oregon
level of unhappy.