Author: Tim Emery
Genre: Young Adult
Title: The Fire Breather's Daughter
Adam nipped over the low wall between his mom’s house and their neighbours. His bulging backpack hung off one shoulder. Guy’s black cat rubbed against his leg and purred softly. Adam bent down to stroke her. This always went the same way – the more Adam stroked Sooty, the louder she purred; the louder she purred the rougher Adam stroked. He loved to feel the tremors through her fur as she purred. This game always ended with a flash of yellow eyes and a curled body with claws and teeth gently gripping Adam’s hand.
Today was different. Adam had things on his mind. Sooty nudged her head against his wrist, demanding attention. After just one short rub, Adam spoke softly.
“Hey Sooty, what would tempt you to a new world - eh? Mice to chase? How about a handsome boy cat? Or, you and me could see Dick Whittington and his cat – would you like that?”
Since Adam wasn’t playing properly, Sooty slinked way and miaowed at the front door. Adam paused on his haunches, his eyes following the cat. “I thought I’d get a better reaction from you Sooty. I know what I’m going to get from Guy.” As he rose, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. Walking to the door, he selected the ‘Tripudio’ app.
He was sure that his best friend and computer fraud partner would never approve of what he planned to do. He knew that Guy would want to exercise caution. Guy would want to test the app, to check, to document and to check it all again. Adam needed Guy to be his back up but he hadn’t got Guy’s patience. There wasn’t time to be patient.
Adam preferred to use default coordinates. There was less likelihood of error in taking current position. But not this position; not out here. The residents of Hikers Avenue probably wouldn’t notice whatever he did, but he needed to show Guy what he could do. A demo would grab Guy’s attention and support. He would leave notes, but action speaks louder and all that.
He waggled his fingers in he air then strummed them against the back of the phone. This was going to be good. This was going to be so, so good. A little dangerous maybe but hey, life is as only as real as you make it. Slipping the phone back into his pocket, he bounced up to the front door of number 42 and rapped the knocker. In his mind it was the tune from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. To anyone else it was a few oddly spaced raps.
Through the small frosted pane he could see Laura, Guy’s 14 year old sister. He smiled. He was pleased to catch Laura before he left, just in case things … well, just in case.
With the door barely off the latch he pushed through almost as quickly as Sooty. Laura was surprised to find herself whirled around with her back against the door. There was a weird moment of silence. Laura wanted to speak, but Adam seemed to be examining her face; then her body; then her eyes. Pulling her shoulders back, she moved her right hand to her hair. Finally, he was noticing her.
His voice was calm and deep. Adam stepped even closer; his palm now against the door. “Laura, oh Laura … you’re going to be such a heart breaker.” As his lips gently touched Laura’s, her eyes closed. She reached her hand to his side but he was gone. Adam was bounding up the stairs two and three at a time. Her shoulders dropped. Her head fell back. What was that about?
Adam burst through Guy’s bedroom door. A noisy entrance was always necessary to draw Guy’s attention away from his laptop.
“Guy, you’ll think this is nuts but I’ve found our story. It’s on a literary agent’s system. Their electronic slush pile I suppose. Guy it’s a story about US. We’re just … we’re just characters in a story. None of this is really real. Our world is no more than a virtual reality.” Adam gestured to take in the room, finishing with a thump on the wall – which only demonstrated its solidity. This had sounded better when he rehearsed it in his head. “But it’s ok. You see, we can get into other stories. We can have fun in different worlds. I’ve developed programmes that can take us to other story worlds. It’s just about resolving virtual positions, that’s all.” Adam paused. He needed a response from Guy. He wanted Guy to be as excited as he was.
“Eh? What are you on about? Does it mean I can be Superman?”
Adam shook his head. “I knew you wouldn’t get it. You’ve got no imagination Guy. You can’t be Superman, Spiderman, or anyone else. You can only be Guy. You’re Guy and I’m Adam, we can’t change that. Think about it – we’re 17 year olds, consider how good we are at hacking, at computing. A bit too good to be real perhaps? Like characters in a story?” He paused. “I’m sorry pal, I’m a bit cool and you’re a bit geeky – that’s just how we’ve been written.”
Guy stiffened. His talent was real. He didn’t think of himself as a geek. Ok, not really into sports like Adam, but that didn’t make him a geek.
Adam registered Guy’s body language as an improvement on sarcasm. “But we have got powers Guy. We can read ahead. That’s something. We can see the future by reading ahead - then we can change things. Better than that, we can read other stories and change them. And we don’t have to stay here. With my app we can go where we want.” Adam pulled his phone out.
“You’re talking garbage mate. Just sod off.”
Adam knew this would be difficult. “It’s ok Guy. You’ll believe me when I show you. I’ve created a folder on the network called Slushfiles. You’ll understand when you’ve read the notes and followed a few links. While you do that I’m going to disappear; to help someone called Vicky. Vicky’s in a different story; a different world. You don’t know her and, well … she doesn’t know me yet, but I need you here, to help me to help her.”
“Story worlds! Adam this is -”
“Shut up and just watch – then read the notes.”
Guy tried to speak. “What -”
Adam held a palm forward. “I wanted to include you from the start Guy, but I can’t let you slow me down. I know how you are. Vicky needs help. Her story needs to be changed and I need you here … you know, just in case things don’t work. I know I can count on you.”
Laura appeared at Guy’s bedroom door, still flushed from the kiss. She hadn’t heard the name Vicky before. “Who’s Vicky?”
Adam grinned at Laura, then at Guy. “Guy, look after Laura. Oh, and don’t give your brother so much money. He WILL get into gambling trouble. Believe me, though you’ll see for yourself … one way or another.”
“But we’ll all be ok in the end. It’ll just be easier if you’re less generous with Sam. Change our story – change our lives.”
“But what’s Sam got to do with anything?” Guy tugged on his right ear lobe, as his brow furrowed and nose wrinkled. Adam seemed seriously nuts but nuttily serious.
“I’m ready Guy."