Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 38

For those who may not know this about me, one of my hobbies besides writing the spiritual content I do for this blog, is to write young adult fiction. Many years ago, I actually completed a novel that was set up to be the first in a series, but unfortunately, my addictions got in the way and that series fell to the wayside. That’s why I decided about a year ago that the only way I was going to get back into this hobby again was to commit to writing at least a chapter a month. So I chose to start over and begin a new fantasy series, about a 12-year old boy who gains magical abilities far beyond anything he could ever have imagined for himself. Hopefully this story will one day be the first in its own series. Regardless, if you haven’t read any of the prior chapters for this ongoing novel, it’s never too late to catch up. I always include a link to a PDF file for all the prior chapters at the beginning of each of these monthly entries. Thus it’s my hope that each of you may join in to this ongoing adventure with Andy and his Zodiac Crystal, as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you do…

(Press here for the PDF file of Chapters 1 to 37)

Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 38

The anticipation of how my Grandmother knew about my crystal and being a Keeper was killing me inside. Unfortunately, talking about this with her “a little later” ended up being much later, much to my dismay. Because after our rounds of ping-pong ended, there just wasn’t any other moments that evening to ask her any further questions.

First it was dinner out at a seafood restaurant in Oyster Bay, which is one of the next towns over from Glen Cove. There, I had my favorite seafood meal like I always do, that being a cup of clam chowder to start and the beer battered fish and chips with a ton of tartar sauce for my main course. All that was finished off by a delicious slice of cherry cheesecake. Next it was family game night once we returned to my Grandmother’s house. There all of us played Trivial Pursuit, a game that I rarely do well in. My Grandmother on the other hand was always incredible at the game and seemed to know just about everything. She won of course and by the time we wrapped up the game, it was well past 11pm, at which point my parents declared it was bedtime for my sister and I.

I really had a hard time falling asleep that night but when I finally did, my dreams were quite bizarre, one of which being about a Guardian who looked an awful lot like my Grandmother. The next morning, I awoke around 7am feeling somewhat unrefreshed, but thankfully the smell of fresh baked popovers and cinnamon oatmeal wafting through the air quickly changed that. I looked over at my sister who was still sound asleep. As silently as I could in an old home that creaks a lot, I swiftly headed downstairs to the kitchen.

“Good morning Andy!” My Grandmother greeted me cheerfully.

“Hi Gran!” I responded just as cheerfully while noticing the door down the hallway to my parent’s room was closed. It appeared as if they were still asleep as well.

“Why don’t you grab yourself a bowl of oatmeal from the stove and a popover Andy and let’s have that chat I promised you ok?”

“No arguments here Gran!” I said as I grabbed a heaping portion of the homemade oatmeal and poured it into a bowl. I then slathered a large amount of butter on one of the popovers and grabbed a seat at the small oval kitchen table.

“So I’m sure you want to know how I knew you were a Keeper right?”

“Yeah! How do you know about any of this Gran?”

“My great, great, great Grandmother Andy was a Guardian and her husband was a Keeper just like you.”

“No way!!!”

 “As the story goes, he was a great tribal leader of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. They met during a peace-keeping session and soon fell in love.”

“Ewww, gross.” I said jokingly.

“One day you’ll fall in love with someone too Andy!” She said with a grin. “Now back to the story…Soon after they fell in love, the two of them went exploring one day in the wilderness and discovered a secret cave just like you did. One in which the very crystal you are now the Keeper of was deep within it. When they emerged from that cave, five years had passed, although to them it had been only mere hours. Everyone thought they had either been killed by some animal or taken prisoner by another Indian tribe. No one believed their story like no one believed yours and they ended up becoming shunned by everyone. So they left the area and began a new life in upstate New York where they eventually learned the crystal’s abilities and why they were the only ones who could see the markings on it. The Council had chosen them just like it chose you, to help during a time when it was most needed. As it was then that a dark zodiac crystal also came into existence and the Council knew a Keeper and a Guardian was needed to thwart the rise of this darkness.”

“Gran, did you know that one of my powers is being able to talk with animals? And I initially learned about this Native American man from a female bear if you can believe it? Even stranger is the fact I had a dream last night where a woman that looked like you was a Guardian. Weird huh?”

“Not really. Nothing surprises me these days Andy, especially now that I know the story I was told as a young girl was true. So one of your zodiac abilities is actually being able to talk with animals?” 

“Yup!”

“Well maybe you can talk to all those birds outside who keep pooping all over my birdbath and ask them to do that somewhere else ok?” She said jokingly. “Anyway, you should know that this story has been passed down from daughter to daughter and has come to an end with me, seeing that I don’t have a daughter myself. Regardless, my mother never believed that this was anything more than a simple bedtime story passed on for generations. I must say I thought this as well until your father told me the details of what you said the day you returned to your family home three years after your disappearance and discovered they were no longer there.”

“Yeah, that was a pretty scary day for me Gran…”

“I can imagine. Anyway, the only other part of the story I was ever told is that the crystal shows up whenever it’s most needed to fight off a potential surge of darkness that comes from a rising Keeper of the dark crystal.” 

“Gran, I’ve actually crossed paths already with the Keeper of that dark crystal! His name is Carl Dillard and he’s terrifying. But thankfully, my Guardian, who is also my best friend Chris, has been training me to learn the crystal’s abilities and how to counteract his evil.”

“I wish there was more I could tell you Andy that could help you in that fight. What I can tell you though is that I know the Council wouldn’t have chosen you if they didn’t think you’d be able to defeat this Carl Dillard. Nevertheless, now you have me for moral support as well. Just think of me as another member of your superhero team ok? Now why don’t you start eating some of your breakfast hon before it gets totally cold…”

I looked down at the bowl of oatmeal and the popover next to it and realized I had been so absorbed in her story I hadn’t even eaten any of it so I immediately began scarfing it down.

“Slow down Andy, it’s not going anywhere.” She chuckled. “So I’m curious, how does this crystal work anyway?”

“It’s pretty simple really. I just say one of the 12 zodiac signs verbally and it activates a range of abilities within me.” I said as I chomped down on a mouthful of food.

“That’s it?

“Yup!”

“So do you know what my birth sign does then?” 

“You’re an Aquarius right?” I said completely forgetting that I had just activated the sign by saying it. I had been so caught up in hearing her tell me the story and had started thinking about that fearful day when I re-emerged out of the woods, just before I met those two strangers who were living at the home I thought was my own.

Suddenly, I began feeling totally dizzy and my eyes were growing extremely blurry. I closed them for only a moment, hoping the feeling would pass. When I reopened them, I wasn’t at my Grandmother’s house anymore and sitting at her breakfast table eating my food. Instead, I was now sitting on her kitchen chair at the edge of the woods I once used to play regularly in, staring at my old backyard, my old porch, and my old backdoor I used to come and go through so often. But what stood in front of that door at this very moment was the most alarming thing of all, as it was me, talking to Mrs. Sampson…

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson 

Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 37

Q: What kind of horses are usually found outside when it’s dark?
A: Nightmares!

Click here for the PDF of Chapters 1 to 36.

Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 37

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for things to return to normal after I deactivated Libra. Beyond the hugging that seemed to go on for far longer than Chris probably wanted by my mother, it was as if nothing had really happened at all, that is at least from everyone else’s perspective. I, on the other hand had gone through an entire month of unhealthy eating and unsanitary habits, so I was pretty ecstatic to finally get a hot shower and use a working toilet again when I returned home. Oh, and if you’re wondering what Chris’s excuse was, as to his whereabouts during those 24 hours? He said he had gone for a hike in the woods after he had checked in with his parents, got lost, and realized he had forgotten to bring his cell phone, but eventually he found his way back. It was an exceptionally outright bold lie and trust me, I planned on holding it over his head for a good long time!

Anyway, the next few weeks right up until the day before Thanksgiving passed by in the blink of an eye. Other than having some exams to take in a few of my classes, life was rather uneventful. That was mostly due to the absence of Carl Dillard though. He had seemingly disappeared into thin air, as even a new assistant principle had now taken his place, much to my relief, but I still worried that he might show up at any moment.

I did get some great Zodiac training in with Chris during the weekend before Thanksgiving although it had been extremely cold outside by the pond during it. While Chris supposedly knew what all the other sign’s abilities were now, he had opted to continue perfecting the ones I already knew. In fact, I was getting fairly skilled at each of them. Using Cancer for underwater work and Taurus for strength testing was a breeze now and so was doing combination attacks of activating and deactivating one sign after another. One of the coolest moments though came during my work with Leo’s abilities.

Of all the signs I had worked with so far, this one had been my least favorite and felt somewhat useless to me, that was until Chris had me practice honing in on each of my senses with it activated. After teaching me a focusing technique that he learned from the Council of the Zodiac, I was actually able to see things as far as a mile away! The same held true with my hearing and smell as well. But it still felt odd though with things such as my sense of taste when the sign was active, as food either tasted incredibly good or phenomenally gross. For example, some things I usually liked such as a turkey sandwich tasted awful, while other things I usually felt were kind of blah such as carrots, tasted heavenly.

Nevertheless, I was beginning to feel a lot more empowered now because of all the training I had gone through, as well as the fact that Chris and I had several ways to deal with Carl Dillard if he were to show up again. I wasn’t feeling as afraid anymore, but I remained concerned about what Dillard’s next move might be.

“Andy, wake up we’re almost there!” My mother said cheerfully from the front seat, putting a pause to my thoughts of the past two weeks.

“I wasn’t asleep Mom…” I mumbled, as I lifted my head away from the window. Although I was feeling overly exhausted given how early we had gotten up that morning.

It was close to 11am and we had almost arrived to my Grandmother’s house in Glen Cove, New York, where we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday each year. We always left during the wee hours on the day before, hoping to beat out traffic, but somehow we never did. This year the 90-minute drive took over 3 hours!

My grandmother lived in a decent sized home in a quiet neighborhood. Her red house was a little smaller than ours and definitely much older in age. I had grown quite fond of it though, even with the peculiar smell that always permeated throughout most of it, which would remind most of days of old.

I really loved my father’s mother and considered her one of my best friends. Her name was Elsa, which I thought was a pretty cool name. She and I always talked about the coolest of things and often played a lot of ping-pong games on her old table in the basement when I was there. She had lived alone for many years now, as her husband had died from emphysema long ago, yet that never seemed to bother her. I honestly can’t remember a time when she wasn’t upbeat and cheerful.

“Hopefully you don’t plan on having us spend a month down here…” My sister whispered playfully in my ear as we pulled in my Grandmother’s driveway.

I had told her already all about what had happened when Chris had visited the Council, having paused time for as long as I did. She was obviously trying to poke fun at me.

“No, but I might just teleport you away somewhere if you aren’t nice to me while we’re here!” I whispered back with a grin.

She then punched my arm and exited the car. By the time I had my own piece of luggage in hand, my Grandmother had emerged onto her front porch. I immediately ran over to her and gave her a huge embrace.

“Hi Grandma!” I said. “Ready for a few games of ping-pong?”

“Let’s get you all settled first and then we’ll find some time for that ok Andy?” She said in her usual joyful tone.

“We would have been here sooner Mom if we hadn’t hit some heavy traffic on the Throgs Neck Bridge.” My Dad said sounding exceedingly tired himself.

“You know the Whitestone Bridge would have been a much better one to take Lew…”

“I know, I know, but when there’s no traffic at all, that bridge usually takes longer. Oh well there’s always next year…” He said with a chuckle, as my Grandmother opened the front door while we all filed in behind her.

Thirty minutes later, everyone had their luggage put away and were hanging out in the kitchen. I had already poured myself my favorite thing to drink whenever I was down there, which was my Grandmother’s famous ice tea and lemonade mixture. I swear she had invented the Arnold Palmer drink long before he had!

“So how about that game of ping-pong Grandma?”

“Why don’t you and your father go play a few games while the rest of us girls catch up for a bit ok Andy?”

“Fine…” I said sounding slightly disappointed.

My father and I frequently played ping-pong back home together, which I usually won, but my Grandmother was a far more formidable player. For the next 45 minutes, my Dad and I stayed surprisingly competitive with each other. He even beat me a few times, which I of course told him it was because he had home advantage given he had grown up playing on that table.

Eventually my Grandmother came downstairs and took over for my father, as he wanted to go look into making a reservation for some restaurant we were going to that night for dinner. Right off the bat, she killed me in the first game. You know for a woman who was in her mid 60’s, she regularly acted like she was in her early 40’s. But the games I played with her each time I was visiting were never so much about the competition between us, they were more about my bonding time with her.

“You’ve been practicing I see Andy!” She said as I took a commanding lead in the second game.

“Yeah, Dad and I have been playing quite a bit back at home.”

“By the way Andy, I just wanted to say I believe you…” 

“You believe what Grandma?”

“I believe the story you told everyone about what happened during those three years you disappeared.”

“You do? You’re not just saying that?”

“Of course not dear. I would tell you if I didn’t believe you and I’m sorry that your parents didn’t.” 

“Why didn’t you ever let me know that on any of the times we talked on the phone then?” I said as I served the ball rapidly across the table.

“Because it wasn’t the right time…” She said with a forceful hit back.

“What do you mean, it wasn’t the right time Grandma?” I said, as I sliced the ball with a slight curve, hoping she would miss it. 

“It wasn’t the right time to tell you that I always knew you were meant to be a Keeper of the Zodiac.” She said as her paddle connected with the ball, curving it quickly back towards me.

“WHAT? How do you know about that? No one but my friend Chris and Laura know…” I said dumbfounded, watching as my paddle completely missed the ball and bounced onto the ground behind me.

“I know a lot more than you think Andy about what you’ve been through and are probably going through right now. We have much to discuss, but for now, serve me the ball and we’ll continue this conversation a little later ok?” She said smiling brightly. 

As I picked up the ball and served it as hard as I could, my heart raced excitedly about something I never expected to come out of my Grandmother’s mouth…

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

 

Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 36

Q: What did people say when the first shovel was invented?
A: This is truly ground breaking!

Click here for the PDF file of Chapters 1 to 35.

Andy and the Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 36

“Do you know how long you’ve been gone?!” I said rather excitedly to Chris.

“It’s been about a month right?” Chris said not sounding concerned at all.

“How did you know that? And do you know what I’ve had to go through since almost the day you left?”

“The Council let me know a bunch of things during my visit to them, including the fact that you were ok and that everything was happening as it was meant to back here. But if I was to make a guess, you probably ended up pausing time and it’s still paused right now isn’t it?”

“Yes! And it’s all because of your parents calling my mother when they couldn’t track you down! My mother’s actually downstairs right now in mid-dial to your parents. She saw the mess in your room and immediately thought the worst!”

“You did the right thing Andy. And in a few minutes, you can un-pause time and let things get back to normal.”

“Trust me, I can’t wait to take a shower again!” I said with a chuckle. “So what was that word you spoke to Carl anyway?” 

“It’s a self-defense tool that only a Guardian can use and when activated causes pure light to surround the keeper of the dark crystal, rendering it useless and causing them extreme pain.”

“Man, that’s awesome! Any other things you learned that can help defeat Dillard?

“A few, but right now, I need to tell you something far more important.”

“What can be more important than something that’s going to help defeat Dillard?”

“Andy, you can never give up your crystal to him ok? And I mean never!” Chris said sounding almost afraid. 

“Chris, you realize I almost did that right? If you hadn’t reappeared when you did, it would have been too late!”

“Well that’s precisely why I returned when I did. The Council let me know the precise moment when you were going to need my help. And it’s a good thing you didn’t finish that statement Andy. It would have had dire consequences, not only for us, but really for the entire planet as well.” 

“What? Now you’re just speaking gibberish Chris.” 

“Seriously Andy. Without the light crystal in our possession, there is nothing that would be able to stop Carl from ruling the world, which is precisely what he wants to do. Remember Adolph Hitler from our history studies?”

“What about him?”

“You’re probably going to find this hard to believe, but he was an earlier keeper of the dark crystal.”

“No way! Seriously?”

“Yes, I’m dead serious.”

“Well how did Hitler get defeated then? History says it was due to the strength of the Allies overcoming him and his army.”

“Of course that’s what’s going to be recorded in all the history and text books. It’s all they know. But the real truth from what I was told by the Council is that they had to send a number of their Keepers here to turn the tide in the war. I guess it was the closest our world had ever come to being surrounded in total darkness.”

“Holy Crap! That’s crazy!” 

“Now do you understand why Carl Dillard wants your crystal so bad Andy?” 

“Ten more seconds and he would have had it Chris…” I said sounding extremely concerned.

“I know and I totally get why you wanted to give up the crystal and all this responsibility.”

“Chris, I’m friggin only 12 years old and I’m tasked with the burden of preventing the world from being taken over by another Hitler? Really?” I said a little too sarcastically. 

“I know. But it’s not just on you. WE have the responsibility together. You’re not alone Andy and Council wouldn’t have entrusted you with the crystal if they didn’t believe you were the one who was meant to bear it and keep this world safe.”

“Chris this is a lot to take in! Do you know what this past month was like watching everyone remain frozen, eating nothing but junk food, and not being able to do things like use a toilet, a shower, or anything electric? I haven’t been able to talk to anyone or even seen my father or sister because they weren’t home when I paused time! Being a Keeper hasn’t been much fun for me lately dude and honestly, I’ve never felt so lonely in my entire life as I did this past month. I think that’s why it was so easy for Carl to convince me that it really wasn’t worth being one anymore.”

I was pretty upset and extremely overwhelmed with the news Chris had just thrown on me. Life as a Keeper was no longer feeling very pleasurable. While it had originally been the best thing to ever happen to me, especially since it brought Chris into my life, it had rapidly turned into a curse of sorts. And I was actually beginning to resent having the crystal at all.

“Andy, I get it. But that’s why you’re the keeper of the light crystal and Carl the dark. It’s in his nature to live in the shadows, to be manipulative, to control those around him and to spread nothing but more darkness. But you’re not that way. You have a good heart and care about people, about nature, and do your best to bring light into the world.” 

“I guess I’m a little scared right now Chris. This really is a lot to process.” I said somewhat dejectedly. “Anywayso does all this mean that Carl Dillard is somehow related to Hitler?” 

“All I know is that there was a connection on Dillard’s father’s side to him.”

“Man. I’m finding it really hard to believe all this…”

“I know. I couldn’t believe it myself when the Council told me.”

“So where do we go from here then Chris?”

“Well how about for starters we deactivate the Libra ability?”

“That’s fine, but I need to get back downstairs first, as I’m sure it will look kind of weird if my mother doesn’t see me standing in front of her once time resumes.” 

“Yeah, that would probably be the smart thing to do.”

“Hey Chris know she thinks you might have been taken by somebody right?”

“You mean like kidnapped?”

“Yeah, she really never got over my own three-year disappearance and I’m sure that’s why she’s freaking out right now so much about you.” 

“Does she still think you were kidnapped during all that time?”

“Chris, that’s what everyone still thinks. And they believe I’m too traumatized to tell the truth as to what really happened to me.”

“Man, if they only knew…” Chris said shaking his head.

“Yeah, tell me about it…” I said wishing I really could tell everyone the truth. But I was grateful that at least Chris and my sister knew.

“Alright, well let’s go downstairs and get ready to deactivate Libra. I’m going to go outside and come in the front door right when you do.” 

“Wait so what are you going to tell everyone about where you were?” 

“Well, for once, I’m going to have to make something up…”

“What!!! Stop the presses. You mean you’re going to lie! Holy moly! Hell is going to freeze over!!!” I said laughing, feeling slightly relieved of some of the tension.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Chris said with a grin as we started to head downstairs.

I was really glad I wasn’t alone in my responsibility of somehow keeping this world safe. Although it was pretty strange to think two twelve year olds were actually in possession of something that could turn the whole world upside down if it fell into the wrong hands.

I had just reached the kitchen where my mother was still standing in mid-dial, cordless phone in hand and I couldn’t wait to give her a big hug, one that she would now be able respond to. I looked down the hallway and saw Chris giving me the thumbs up letting me know he was ready.

“Libra!”  I said with anxious anticipation of the return of a little more normalcy.

WHOOSH.

Chris quickly walked in the door and closed it rather loudly to indicate his presence. And just as my mother was finishing dialing the number to his parents, she looked down the hallway and saw him heading towards us.

Before she had a chance to say anything to him, I immediately hugged her, as I was so grateful to finally see her “alive” again. A few tears then fell from her eyes, most likely because she knew Chris was safe now. Little did she know though just how unsafe she and the rest of the world really were and how her own son and his best friend were somehow the chosen ones to protect them all…

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 35

Q: How does a billboard talk?
A: Sign Language!

Click here for the PDF file containing Chapters 1 to 34.

Andy and The Zodiac Crystal – Chapter 35

At first it wasn’t so bad adjusting to time standing still. In fact, it had been pretty cool to see everything in pause mode initially not just with my mother holding a strange position with phone in hand, which looked rather comical, but also with things like ground animals jumping in mid-air outside, birds hovering in flight, flags frozen in rippled waves, and people in mid-action pulling garbage cans to the street or getting out of their cars. But when the days of seeing this turned into weeks, it began to grow old and quite lonely. Even worse was the fact that it was constantly dark outside, as the sun had set prior to me using the Libra sign.

I had never gone this long without talking to anyone and was beginning to lose track of just how much time had really passed. I had read about monks before who spent years in silence and couldn’t imagine how they did it, yet here I was starting to do the very same thing. Life was becoming monotonous though with every day repeating the same routine over and over again.

After getting some sleep, which felt odd because I was always waking up at night, I’d start my days by riding on my bike over to Chris’s, hoping he might have returned and was maybe frozen in time somehow with everyone else. But it was always to no avail. My next destination after this was about a mile away, where I’d go to the local grocery store to pick up a few things to eat to hold me over for the remainder of the day. I realized pretty early on that I couldn’t consume all the food in the house because I wouldn’t be able to explain that to my mother when I unfroze time.

And if by some chance you’re wondering what I ate, most of it wasn’t good and I constantly felt guilty about the reality I was stealing it from the store. I wish I had had some other solution, but I ultimately hoped Chris would return soon, as I honestly couldn’t imagine continuing to sustain my life by eating a combination of Doritos, string cheese, and fizzy water for much longer.

After each of my daily treks to the supermarket, the rest of my waking moments were then usually spent reading books or magazines or taking walks around the neighborhood. I totally missed doing things like watching television or movies, but sadly every channel was paused on the same scene and I couldn’t seem to make the DVD player work either.

With no real concept of time, I also wasn’t really even sure of whether 24 hours were passing during each of my waking moments. There was one good thing that was coming out of this though. I hadn’t seen Carl Dillard since I activated Libra, so I assumed he wasn’t fully exempt from my crystal’s abilities either and was frozen like everyone else.

Nevertheless, if I had to guess on how much time had passed since I had activated Libra, I would have to say it was coming close to a month. Knowing that was tough, especially given that I hadn’t seen my father or my sister during any of that time at all. My Dad had still been on his way home when I used the Zodiac ability while Laura had been out on a date with some new guy in her life. I did find a little comfort though in seeing my mother in Chris’s kitchen every day and occasionally I’d talk to her passively or give her a hug, usually in tears.

I was lonely, more than I had ever felt before and wondered whether Chris was ever going to return. What if it did last for several years? Could I survive for that long? Would I go insane seeing all these strange mannequins around me every time I walked outside or went to the store? How long should I leave life like this before I give up? These were the questions I pondered every waking moment and the only thing I knew was that it felt like I was beginning to lose my mind.

My stomach suddenly grumbled for something to eat, as I had just woke up a short bit ago on the couch downstairs and was reflecting on all the time that had already passed. It was still the evening outside of course, yet my body clock felt like it was time for breakfast. Man did I have a craving right now for eggs and bacon, but unfortunately, I discovered you can’t cook in Libra mode, as things like using stoves don’t work the way they do in real time. And as embarrassing as this is to mention, because of the limitations of using Libra, I haven’t been able to take a shower or flush the toilet at all the entire time. I really feel like I’m starting to stink and bottled water to freshen up can only go so far. As for going #1, that was always done outside. #2 on the other hand, well let’s just say that most of the neighbors aren’t going to be happy when time gets un-paused.

Regardless, it was time to start my daily “morning” trek to Chris’s house, which most likely was only going to end in frustration. As I hopped on my bike and headed down the road, I looked at two squirrels nearby who had been chasing each other across one of the neighbor’s yard. A few houses down, I glanced for the what seemed like the hundredth time at a man and woman who were apparently screaming and yelling at each other on their front porch when I had paused time. I continued to wonder what could have made them so angry with each other.

I soon pulled into Chris’s driveway and left my bike laying on the pavement. When I approached the front door, I noticed it was slightly opened. Did I forget to fully close it yesterday? I must of. I walked in and headed upstairs. As I entered his room and expected to see it empty as always, I instead saw the looming figure of Carl Dillard sitting on Chris’s bed.

“What? Did you think pausing time was going to freeze me as well?” He said mockingly to a very startled-looking me.

“You…you’ve been around this entire time?” I stammered out.

“Uh huh. And I’ve been watching you cry and remain miserable during all of it, as you keep hoping desperately that your friend will return from Council with some way to get rid of me for good. Good luck with that!”

“So why now? Why show up weeks later and let me know you’ve been around all along?”

“Because I wanted to see you suffer for a spell and I also decided to give you one more chance. One more opportunity to give me your crystal. All you have to do is say you release it to me and I will leave you and Chris and both of your families alone from here on out.” 

“I told you already I don’t have the crystal! It’s with Chris…” 

“If you release it to me right now, he will be forced to return with it immediately.”

“Yeah right, I know you’re lying!”

“I can understand why you might think that, but actually I’m not.”

I half considered his offer for a moment. In all actuality, I was tired of living with time paused. What if releasing the crystal to him really did force Chris to come back? At least then he’d be home safely and we could just return to a normal life again.

“You want your friend back don’t you? Wouldn’t it be great Andy to return to your old life where your only worries were getting your homework done and when would it be time to play outside again?”

“Shut up! Get out of my head!”

“For once, I’m not actually in your head Andy. But I can tell you’re seriously considering my offer. Think about it. Chris would be back and I would then disappear for good. Wouldn’t it be great to have a new assistant principal who isn’t trying to come after you every day?”

“How do I know that releasing the crystal to you would really bring Chris back and that you’d disappear from our lives for good?” 

“You’re going to have to trust me on that one Andy. But I give you my word and I rarely do that for anyone.”

“Well, it would be great to stop dealing with all these worries. I haven’t had fun with this Zodiac thing since you came along anyway.”

“See, you already know what to do Andy. All you need to say now is “I RELEASE THE POWER OF THE ZODIAC CRYSTAL TO CARL DILLARD.” and that’s it. 

“That’s it? It’s that simple?”

“That’s it Andy. It’s that simple.”

I really was tired of my life and it sounded like a much better option than waiting around for who knows how long for Chris to return. At least he and I could get back to a normal life and just be friends, hanging out and doing normal friend things. I’m sure in time I’d totally forget about the Council, the crystal’s powers and everything else that had been part of my life the past bunch of months.

“Ok. I’ll do it.”

“Finally! So you’re not going to fight me anymore on this then?”

“No, I’m tired of this. You’re right. I’m sick of all the responsibility that comes with having the crystal’s abilities.”

“Well then you know what to do next.” Carl Dillard said with an extremely cynical smile sprawled across his face.

I knew I was making a mistake but I just didn’t care anymore.

As I started saying the words, I felt a strong sense of guilt inside…

“I RELEASE THE POWER…”

BOOM!

A rush of wind abruptly interrupted the release process and was followed by a torrent of paper flying around the room. Chris then abruptly shot out from the center of the mini-tornado and shouted at the top of his lungs a single word as soon as he saw Carl Dillard.

“Foteinos!”

“Aaaah! Dam you!” Carl screeched as a huge beam of white light appeared around him. It apparently was having a very painful affect upon him.

Within seconds, he muttered Capricorn and was gone…

“It’s about time you got back…” I said with a weak smile, glad that my exile in a paused world could now be finally over…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson