Credo Ergo Sum
In a typical suburb on earth, nothing of interest happens, usually. In Kas's life, though, a lot changes in a very short time. He thought he was a normal Dutch school kid, until he bumps into a man he wasn't supposed to see. Now the man, who who doesn't bother much with pesky thing like consciences, is after him in an attempt to save his job. To make it worse, his house burns down, his parents get hurt and he has to move to the States.
A talent Kas's always held close and quiet turns out to be more common than he thought, and makes him eligible for recruitment by the Soul Viewers, be it with honey or with vinegar. Away from his friends and family, there is preciously little in the way of help or comfort, or even sanity, to be had. His cousins help him as well as they can, but they are not aware of the danger. His world is starting to look more and more like a computer game, him on the run and a thousand monsters to eat him, and he has no idea how to turn it all back.
If Grandfather had been a young lad living in Sherwood Forest roughly 800 years ago, he would have had a quiver full of arrows. He would have had tights on and posed on rocks sticking out of the ground and hidden in trees and practiced his bird calls. He was not young, however. He was an old man with white hair and a dozen lines around each eye when he smiled. He had a wrinkled forehead and yellow teeth that were still his own, mostly. So he did not have a quiver full of arrows. Instead, he had a quiver full of proverbs, that he shot at anyone that was annoying him, that asked him for advise, and also at anyone that didnít ask for advise.
He also didnít live in Sherwood Forest in the Middle Ages while John was being a bad king and Richard an absent one. He lived in a rather pleasant one-story house in the older part of the same neighbourhood as his eldest son, which he rather liked. It meant that his oldest grandson, Kas, could come by on his own whenever he liked. And Kas did it often. He and his wife had babysat Kas while his parents still thought him too young to be at home alone, and when no friends could be found willing to play with Kas. Consequently, Grandfather saw a lot of Kas every week. Even now, when Kas could technically stay at home and watch as much TV as he wanted, or play computer games or whatever it was that young kids did these days, he didnít.
Maybe because Grandfather wasnít like most grandfathers. For one, he was only sixty, and so could still do practically everything he wanted to. And, like Kas, he loved being outside. They often went on walks together, to the nearby woods or fields, or, if they didnít feel much like adventuring, the park and sit on a bench and talk.
Kas told him how his day had been. That he still wasnít good enough at maths to satisfy his teacher, and that he sometimes had to work in the break, which wasnít fair since it meant Roy got to be a keep a lot more than he did. How the girls in the school did mysterious things in groups, like braid or make weird figures with paper or sit around and talk all the time or, most irking of all, grow taller than almost all the boys in the class.
Kas also told him about his Secret. How he could look at people and see something that they didnít. How he could tell things about people. Heíd never told anyone else, but Grandfather knew. To Kas, when he looked in that special way, Grandfather did wear tights and a quiver full of arrows, and had a green cap on his head with a red feather in it. The arrows would turn out to be made up of words, Kas said, when he looked close at them, but Grandfather liked that he looked that way all the same. Kas had once made him a picture, when he was seven. It was still taped to the living room door. Grandmother liked it too, though she didnít understand it, and thought that Kas had a great imagination.
Grandfather returned Kasís stories with more bland ones of his own. He would tell how the painter had forgotten to do one of the sides of the door, so that Grandfather had to ring him up again so he could do it properly. What kind of trouble Kasís father and uncle had gotten into when they were children. Kas liked those stories, just as he liked the descriptions of how things used to be, when Grandfather was young. He said it was more interesting than what some dead king or politician had gotten up to a few hundred years ago.
But today, Kas was telling Grandfather something that worried him very much indeed. He wanted to try and tell his parents about the Secret.
"Why Kas?" he asked the boy. "I really, really donít think itís smart."
Kas was looking at him with a determined expression on his face, the one where he drew his eyebrows together so much he looked almost angry.
"Why not? I think I have to do it sometime." He sat back and stared at the ducks in the pond as if they had bitten him. "Remember I told you about the time, last week, when I accidentally turned it on during dinner?"
Grandfather nodded "Yes, I do, about the time bomb."
"Uhuh. It was SCARY! I was just eating and then the chair of my father suddenly swelled and became a huge bomb with clocks all over it." His stare was now so intense, it could not have been worse if one of the ducks had been a serial killer. They took no notice. Kas barked a laugh. "He still doesnít understand why I turned white and yelled. He keeps wanting to have father-and-son chats." The last words were pronounced on Kasís dunce-tone, the one he used for things he considered ridiculous.
"I could have a father-and-son chat with him, if you want me too," proposed Grandfather, and got the expected reaction.
"Noooooh!" said Kas, and looked at his Grandfather again. "I do not want to happen again what happened last time, ever."
"Okay," Grandfather said, "then what do you want to happen?"
"Well..." Kas was quiet for a moment, licked his lips, and said, "Iíd like to be able to feel like I can relax at home. Iíd just like mum and dad to understand I think. I know things keep happening all the time, when Iím tired, or not concentrating, something like that. The switch just gets flipped at random moments if I donít watch out, and Iíll suddenly be on someoneís channel."
To be "on a channel" was Kasís term for seeing the things about that person that no one else saw, like Grandfatherís outfit. He found it easiest to compare his Secret to a telly. Except for the activation of it, this, according to him, felt like turning on the light. "As if someone suddenly turned on a bright lamp somewhere," heíd said. When the Secret was still new to Grandfather, heíd asked Kas to describe what it felt like a few times. It had become a tangle of images that Grandfather couldnít really understand, and eventually gave up on trying to. It would only have frustrated both himself and Kas.
"It sometimes shocks me when it happens, and Iíll react," continued Kas. "Coming up with a fake explanation, not having anyone believe me, itís hard. So, I figured Iíd tell more people. I mean, youíre not always there and my friendsíd think Iím nuts, and Iíd like mum and dad to know."
Grandfather put a hand on Kasís shoulder. "I do understand, my lad." He did. Kas wanted to feel safe with his parents, any child would. Kasís friends, though he saw them at school all day, were not the kind of friends you would entrust with something as delicate as this. Josh was something of a push-over, and would tell anything when asked. Roy, great boy, but not very sensitive. Mark, brilliant but a braggart. And he was, he thought with a pang of regret, not always present when something bad happened in the boyís life. Other concerns, the ones that had moved him to dissuade Kas from this course of action in the first place, surfaced. "Kas...have you thought about how your parents would react?"
Kas shook his head. "No," he said, "but I want to tell them anyway." Uncertainly, he added, "You think they would be mad?"
"Not mad...just disbelieving, I think," Grandfather said. Kasís parents prided themselves on being down-to-earth, very normal people that knew when they were being made fun of. This would present problems if Kas were to tell them something they would very likely think of as "the delusions of a growing boy" or "vivid imagination." It wasnít helped by the fact that Kas had made up stories, mostly ones ridiculous, in the past to cover up being late for school or not finishing a chore.
"Well yeah, so I thought Iíd tell them something I wouldnít know without the Secret."
Which would be even worse, thought Grandfather with a sinking stomach.