TJ302043 had left me in the waiting room. Lucky there was a few old magazines that I could read while waiting for my turn. I knew I still had one Jump left before I was going to become a fully-fledged Time Jumper. I was determined not to jump ever again.
I soon found out that waiting was tiring and closed my eyes for a minute. Next minute, when I opened them, I was outside Riana’s locker. Riana was talking to me and Isabelle and Sam as if nothing had ever happened. As if I hadn’t just appeared out of nowhere. But I was standing here earlier.
“Oh, hey look, it’s Calum!” Riana squealed. I turned my head and coldly looked over at some random who Riana was pointing to. She waved him over. Ok, so he wasn’t some random- I know, I know, I tend to do this a lot- it was the guy who was staring at me like I was fairy floss in sport. Isabelle gave me a look. I knew what that look meant. It meant that she knew that Riana was going to mentally stalk this guy until she found out everything about him. That meant Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, MSN if he had it, sports he played, subjects he enjoyed and maybe, even where he lives. I rolled my eyes back at her.
And then there was Sam. Nervously toeing the ground and avoiding all eye contact with me.
“Elodie, Isabelle, Sam- this is Calum. He’s new here.” Riana introduced us to Calum. He looked into my eyes and didn’t move his away. Sam shook Calum’s hand and I bit my lip and then shook some hair out of my face. “This way guys,”
Riana led the pack as we walked around the corner and I put my hand on Sam’s arm, trying not to shudder although his skin was absolutely normal. I knew what his true form was and I knew what it would look like if his blood were spilled.
I pulled Sam back and as we slowed behind Isabelle, Riana and Calum, I spoke to him the way I would always speak to him- after all, he was always going to be my best friend, no matter what.
“It happened again. I jumped accidentally and I have to get back, can you use your Ending stuff to stop time so I can get back to this afternoon?” I asked. Sam nodded.
“I’ll nod at you when it’s time.”
“No offence but I want to go and meet some other people…” Calum trailed off. Riana stopped and shook her head hard. I knew her so well. She really wanted to make an impression on this guy.
“We can introduce you to people. Don’t leave.” She pleaded. I touched her arm.
“Ri, if he wants to go, let him go.” I said firmly. He stared at me and I stared at him. I held his gaze until he looked away. Riana nodded, glanced at me, then at Calum. I knew she was going to be rather rude to him now. She pointed down the hall.
“Turn left at the end. The jocks hang out there. I’m sure you’d fit in perfectly.” She said. It sounded so nasty. He put his hands in his pockets and turned around. He got to the end of the hall and turned around to see me still staring at him. Sam nodded and as someone passed in front of me, I forced myself to Jump.
The last thing I saw was Calum’s face, and when it disappeared, I was grateful.
“Holy hell…” I muttered. I had returned to the waiting room and looked up at the clock in the middle of the wall. Its hands didn’t change for a minute. “What?”
I knew that when people jumped, time stopped in the present, and began again when they returned. But I didn’t think that you could return to the present and keep it stopped. I looked up at the clock again. It was exactly the same, down to the last second.
Maybe someone was playing a joke on me; maybe TJ302043 had actually taken me to a Time Ender lair not the headquarters of the Jumpers. But if time had stopped, that meant that my meeting wasn’t about to go ahead. I sat down and slumped forward.
I closed my eyes. And then when I opened them I heard footsteps. I could hear voices from the next room and I peeked up at the clock. The hands moved for each second. I smiled.
Maybe I was just seeing things.
“Elodie, you can come in now.” I heard. I stood up and barged into the room, opening the door and then slamming it behind me.
“Look, I don’t know what your way is of doing anything around here is but if I don’t get all of this crap explained to me then I’m out. I don’t care about your rules and policies and the Jump three times and you’re a true Jumper, mate. I’m just so confused….”
I threw myself into a chair. I got a look at the man in the chair. He reminded me all at once of Gandalf, Dumbledore and Professor X all at once. He had the wheelchair, the long, white beard and the wise look planted in his face. He had blue eyes which stood out in his old and wrinkled face. He wore a suit, frayed at the sleeves as if it had been worn for years on end. But seeing that Stone was 452 years old- give or take- who knew how old this guy was.
He produced a bowl from under his desk. He held out a spoon.
“Would you like some apple Danish custard and ice-cream?” He asked me. He passed me the bowl and the spoon but I declined. He inclined his head a tiny bit and then held out a bag of grapes “The ice-cream is delicious, but I guess it is a choice- would you like a grape?”
I shook my head.
“I don’t want food, ok, I’m not hungry. I want to know everything.”
“Everything?” I was asked.
“Can you start with a name?” I asked. I was given a glance which seemed harsh.
“Knowledge may be power but it corrupts people.” A wise sentence from a somewhat wise man, I nodded. He was right.
“That may be true, but if I had it my way, I’d rather be a normal kid not a Time Jumper so- shoot. Gimme all the info I need.” A fleeting smile passed his face.
“My name is Caspar. I am one of the Reserved, and you just passed the first test.”
“Why is everything so complicated around here? It’s always like a code. If you could have just told me that I had to do a test, I would have made sure that I was here on time, I would have made sure that-”
“You have a temper on you, I see. That can be dangerous for a Jumper; we’ll have to see to it that you don’t lose it often. Your Double is Stone or otherwise known as Chester. You have lived in Holt, Michigan for most of your life with a host family. You have two host brothers, a host mother and a host father. You were recently informed that your best friend was a Time Ender and began to have nothing to do with him although you have used him as an advantage for your own benefit. You aided Stone in losing one of our Fire Knives and then caused a fellow Jumper to die at the hand of your Double.”
“To be fair, she had turned and she tried to kill us first-”
“Hush, child. Do not speak out of turn. It results in bad consequences.” Caspar whispered. His voice wasn’t as strong as it had been when he began talking. His voice had become raspy. I wished Stone was the one explaining. “I see you also stopped time when you returned a few moments ago. There are only two other Jumpers who have the power of Enders without turning to the side.”
“Who are they, you ask? Why, Stone and me of course. Did he not tell you? The Reserved who takes your meeting is usually related to you. I am your father, Elodie. Your real father.”
I shook my head, stood up and stumbled backwards. He nodded and smiled, suddenly pulling a picture out of his pocket. He handed it to me. A lady I didn’t recognise stood with her arms around what I recognised as a younger version of Caspar. They held a baby. I knew the baby was me; there was no doubt about it.
We had a picture similar to it at home. But it had mum and dad holding me not these two strangers. I shivered as I held it. Was it true? Was my past a lie? Was this Caspar in front of me really my father? I shook my head and threw the picture back at Caspar. He caught it with surprising ease. He folded it back up and put it in his pocket.
“It was the only picture I ever had of you. I was determined to keep you and when it was time to send you to your host parents…. I broke. I left for the 1300’s- this was about 15 or 16 years ago. I’ve lived there for about 700 years, that’s why I look older. You see, we do age to a point although it is slowed immensely. I continued from the 1300’s looking like the man in the picture, stayed there until I was older, wiser and more experienced in the world. I only returned a few weeks ago when I knew that it would be time for you to gain knowledge of your true heritage. Trust me, Elodie. This is just as hard for me as it is for you.”
I snorted. I doubted his truth.
“You’ve grown up so well. I hope you can forgive me.”
“So, where does Stone come into all of this?” I asked. I crossed my arms. Caspar gestured for me to take a seat again. I obliged. “And how come Stone is 452 years old and still looks normal?”
Caspar laughed. I didn’t find it funny. My whole life was in ruins and it was pretty much his fault.
“I’m over 10 000 years old. I was 9300 years of age when we had to let you go and aged still while I stayed in the 1300’s onward. Stone- and you- will grow old as I have in thousands of years. I was not there when your mother died unfortunately. But I do have the misfortune to be the bearer of bad news.”
I bit my lip, waiting for him to continue.
“Your host family are all at your home now, awaiting your return. You have to return there and explain what you are. You mustn’t let them stop you from packing your things and leaving. Then you will return to Stone.”
What if they resist?” I asked shakily.
Caspar held out a sheathed Fire Knife and waited for me to take it.
As I took it, I shook my head. I had an inkling of what he was expecting me to do with it but I didn’t think that he would actually say it.
“If they resist, you have permission to slaughter them.”