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How this all happened tends to be a question I cannot answer with any distinct certainty and, as a certain consequence as I near the end of my days, rightfully can be called one of my life’s largest regrets. For it’s an absolute truth, were I able to perfectly recall every stringent detail, every salient fact, that I could leave this world in peace. I’m sure you will eventually find, as I have, that as that youthful light fades, the small regrets tend to melt away as well. Knowing your certain end is coming, though fearful, tends to strengthen the true disappointments you’ve faced in life. A lost love, a missed chance at greatness, these things will haunt you, make no mistake. But, in my particular case, those failures, those regrets, have nothing on what I am about to tell you.
Perhaps you’ll choose to believe me, perhaps you won’t, in the end, at least to me, it won’t matter much. I’ll be dead, you likely won’t. So why share this tale, this story, this . . . this event? I fear that if I do not tell what I remember, what I may have learned, that others, unknowing others, will suffer an even greater fate than mine. Though as I depart, I will, as previously stated, regret my failure to recall every detail, I shall go somewhat peacefully knowing that you, and others, will be armed with enough coherency to be stronger than I ever could. Guard this information well.
G. Parlonski III
“What in the heck does that all mean?” Jesse Waters had a knack for getting to the point.
I folded the yellowed parchment.
“My mom gave it to me yesterday, she says it’s something from my grandpa.”
“Does the ‘G’ stand for Gordie, just like you?” Rachael Thoms pointedly asked.
I nodded, “Yup, that’s why I’m Gordon Parlonski the fourth”. Regal sounding, I enjoyed saying it aloud.
“Where’s the enclosure?” Jesse asked. Her green eyes were alit.
Reaching into my backpack, I pulled out a red and cream colored shoebox. An envelope was taped onto the top of the box: “FOR GEEFORE ONLY”
Rachael eyed the box, “Who’s Geefore?”
“Me” I answered, “that’s what grandpa called me.”
Jesse smiled, “Yah dummy – couldn’t you figure that out – you’re supposed to be the smart one.”
Rachael blushed and flashed an angry smile at Jesse, “I was asking for your benefit.”
I sat down on the ground and looked at the box. Mom had given me this last night at dinner. She’d been away the previous week helping with Grandpa’s “affairs”, as she called it. He’d passed away so quickly, I had not quite come to grips with him being gone. I’d cried a bit, talked about it some with Rachael (her grandma had died last year), but I wasn’t ready to let go. Anyway, during dinner, Mom handed me this box. I had asked her what was in it, but she said she didn’t know. Only that it was obviously meant for me. I could tell she was a little angry – probably from having to deal with being away from work – she was a little serious like that. I suppose she was also a little like me and hadn’t quite figured out how to deal with Grandpa being gone.
“Should I open it?”
Rachael and Jesse both nodded vigorously. We’d been friends since first grade. Some of my guy friends thought it weird that I spent most of my time hanging out with two girls, but I didn’t care. They liked the same stuff as I did – exploring untamed woods, coming up with outlandish stories, camping, reading, and, well, basically a lot of the stuff my other friends thought wasn't “cool” anymore. We were on summer break – in between sixth and seventh grade – and if this summer was going to be ½ as fun as last summer, well, I’d take it.
“Go ahead Gordie, open it.” Jesse broke my spell.
I lifted the top off the box, completely unprepared for what was inside.
Letters. Lots and lots of letters. They were all addressed to me, but different dates were on each envelope. There was also some map of a place I did not immediately recognize. Jesse reached in and grabbed a couple letters.
"That's strange" Jesse was eyeballing one of the letters.
Rachael also grabbed a few and began examining them. I also took a handful and saw what was perplexing Jesse.
The dates. The dates on all of the envelopes were marked in the future. I began shuffling the letters in my hand.
June 22, 2009 . . . July 29, 2009 . . . 3 p.m., June 25, 2009 . . .
"These dates are all off. Why would your grandpa do that Gordie?" Rachael questioned.
"Yah, these dates haven't happened yet - must be a mistake." Jesse began laying out the letters.
Rachael glanced at Jesse's collection, looked at hers, and then gasped, "All these dates look like they happen this summer - give me yours Gordie."
I handed Rachael the letters. She sat down next to Jesse and began placing all the letters out like a calendar.
"Ok, what's today's date?"
I looked at my watch, "May 30th."
Rachael looked at the collection of envelopes, "Look, here's the earliest date - it says 8:00 a.m, June 4, 2009."
"That's next week," Jesse exclaimed "Let's open it!"
"Hold on, hold on, let's see how many we have and how many dates there are, there has to be a good explanation for this." Rachael looked up at me for approval.
"Uh, yah, OK." I was trying to think why my grandpa would have done this.
"Hey - there's one dated today!" Jesse yelled. She pulled an envelope out of the box that we had overlooked.
"See? 12:15 p.m., May 30, 2009." Our eyes widened.
I looked at my watch again, "It's 12:10 . . . holy crap!"
"I think we should wait until exactly 12:15 to open it." Rachael cautioned.
"Me too," Jesse chimed in.
My heart was beating fast and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I looked around half expecting to see someone come rushing out of the woods. We were standing at the entrance of Fort Banks Lake Park - an old abandoned military base that we loved exploring. I looked at my friends.
"OK. Is there anything else in the box?" I returned my attention to the box's contents.
Sure enough, there was a black pen and a spiral notebook. On the cover of the notebook was written "Correspondence." It was definitely my grandpa's writing.
"What do you think that is for?" Jesse asked.
"Writing I guess." I opened the notebook and flipped through the pages. They were all blank.
"What time is it?" Rachael came over to me and grabbed my wrist.
"12:15!! Open the letter!"
I took the letter from Jesse's hand. I carefully opened one side of the envelope and took out a folded yellow piece of paper.
"What's it say?" Rachael and Jesse both exclaimed.
I took a deep breath and began reading.
If you are reading this, good. That means you are reading this at 12:15 p.m. on May 30, 2009. Had you tried to open this letter any earlier, you would have only found blank paper.
Understandably, you are probably most confused at this moment. I was too. Worry about this later, for you have much work to do and, I fear, so little time.
Unfortunately, my time runs short as I write this. So I shall present you with the broad strokes. I know you are smart enough to figure out what I may miss. First, only open the letters at the appropriately marked times. The consequences of opening early I have already explained. Opening the letters later than designated cannot be an option you entertain. Either way marks a path of failure. Second, you should have found a notebook and pen in the box. I need you to take it out now.
I looked at my friends and shrugged. Taking the notebook out, I continued to read the letter.
This is how you can communicate with me. I do not have the time to explain to you now why this is or how it works. You must trust what I say. Take the pen now and write in the notebook 'I understand.'
My hands were visibly shaking. He was dead! What was he talking about? How could I write to him? How would he know I understood? With some apprehension, I took the cap off the pen and wrote in the notebook: “I understand.”
Jesse shuffled her feet impatiently, “Well, now what?” I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was starting to get scared. I tried giving her a shrug to indicate that there was nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, as tough as she tried to portray herself, Jesse could be spooked by her own shadow.
Concentrating on the letter, I read on: Now close the notebook.
I flipped the cover closed.
Now open it.
I opened the notebook and immediately felt like I had been punched in the gut.
“What?” Rachael grabbed my arm.
I was too stunned to speak. I pointed at the page and showed it to her. Jesse peered over as well. Their eyes collectively widened. Jesse starting inching backwards.
“Holy crud! That’s impossible!” Jesse yelped.
“Is that your handwriting?” Rachael looked at me.
I grabbed the notebook and stared down at the page. Sure enough, my phrase, “I understand” was still on the page. But that wasn’t what Rachael was talking about – it was what was written underneath.
My grandpa had written back.
I read the words carefully to myself.
Good. Good boy. I knew I could count on you. Finish reading the letter. We’ll talk soon. The most important step has been taken. Do not worry Geefore, as long as you use your head and carefully read my letters, we’ll get through this together. I must warn you though, DO NOT SHARE THIS WITH ANYONE. I can trust you will be able handle the danger ahead. However, I do not know, nor wish to concern myself with the harm that may befall others if you involve them. Should you need help or seek council with others, you (and they) do so at their peril.
G. Parlonski III
No way. This was impossible. I felt my legs giving out from under me. I could not let Rachael and Jesse know they were in danger . . . I couldn't fathom actually putting them in harm's way. Though they didn't know it, I always have kind of thought of myself as their personal protector. Not like a bodyguard, just more of a guardian angel. Usually it was stupid stuff, like going down a bike trail first to make sure we knew where all the exposed roots were, or taking the first plunge into the lake, just in case some sort of creature lurked beneath. But as I looked up at both of them, I knew that this was different, I slowly realized that I could not NOT tell them. As I met their gaze, I could already see fear and doubt slowly creeping into their thoughts. They were freaked. And now, I had to freak them out even more.
Measuring my words carefully, I spoke slowly, "Guys, um, I'm not sure you want to know anything further."
I didn't really think this would persuade my friends to forget the letters, I was merely stalling for time and hoped for some sort of cosmic intervention that would help me make a decision on how to tell them what my grandpa had written. I tried holding their hands.
"Gordie! What is going on?" Jesse snapped her hand back. Rachael did the same. O.K., now I felt a little awkward.
"Just read the dang note!" Rachael made a move to grab the notebook.
"NO!" And instead of saying "No" firmly, I screamed, I mean really screamed at Rachael. As much as Jesse tries to make people not think she's afraid, Rachael does the same with her "feelings." She hates getting yelled at. It tends to make her cry. She won't tell anyone - well, except for me and Jesse - it's because that's what happens at home a lot. Her mom yells at her, her dad yells at her, even her brothers yell at her. It's not because they're particularly mean people, it's just that they like things done certain ways. Rachael, being on the rebellious side, tends to try and buck their rules every chance she gets. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a lot of shouting matches. She confided in me once that as a little girl she started crying as a defense mechanism, as a way to stop the yelling. For a couple years, it worked. However, as she got older, the crying became automatic, people yelling at her did not. In fact, lately, Rachael told me that her parents would hit another level of screaming at her whenever she cried. This has resulted in repeated episodes of her running out of the house, running down Ward Street, and banging on the door of my house. Good thing she liked my mom's cooking. Watching her hold back tears, I knew I had only a couple seconds before she'd either break down completely, or, worse, sprint off into the woods.
"Rachael, I mean, shoot, I mean, I, uh, I . . ." Skilled in the verbal arts I was not. Luckily, Jesse had the foresight to step in.
"Rach, don't listen to Gordie, he's spooked out just like us. I mean, how would you feel if this was your Grams that was writing all this?" Jesse's voice could have a soothing quality when she put her mind to it.
Unfortunately, the mention of Rachael's Grams opened the floodgates.
"SCREW YOU GUYS!!!" Rachael collapsed on the ground, sobbing.
Jesse gave me the evil eye. She sat down and hugged Rachael.
"Just read the stupid letter Gordie" Jesse hissed.
I sighed and took a deep breath, "OK, but you guys really aren't going to like this."
I read the entry in the notebook quickly and waited for my friends to respond. Jesse whispered something in Rachael's ear. Rachael nodded and whispered back. They both looked up at me.
"Sweet!" Through her reddened eyes, Rachael was smiling.
I thought she'd gone crazy, "What do you mean 'sweet'? Didn't you hear the part about 'harm' and 'peril'?"
Jesse took a look at Rachael and smiled, "I agree, this is sweeeeeet. We're in for an adventure!"
My jaw dropped. I thought these two were smart enough to know when something bad was around the corner. That the both of them were now excited, well, something definitely was not right with the universe.
"I don't understand how you guys can't be scared by this."
"Gordie, come on, seriously?" Jesse stood up.
Jesse's tone did not make sense to me. Why wasn't she scared?
"Yah, Gordie, you're taking this a little too far aren't you?" Rachael wiped her nose and joined Jesse.
I couldn't speak.
Jesse turned to Rachael, half laughing, "Oh my god Rach. Look at poor Gordie, he didn't think we'd figure it out!"
It slowly dawned on me -- they did not believe this thing with the letters and notebook was real. They thought I had made everything up! They thought I was playing some stupid game!
. . . to be continued . . .
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