Ethan thought to himself. Lately he had been having this problem with buzzing in his ears from time to time. It didn't last very long usually. Sometimes it was louder than other times and sometimes it was faint. This time it was on the faint side. It was still really annoying. He had just gotten out of the shower and he thought maybe he had some water in his ear, so he put his finger in his ear and wiggled it a few times, trying to clear the water out and maybe make this buzzing go away. It didn't stop so he finished drying off and headed to his room to get dressed for school. In the kitchen he saw his mom and dad sitting at the table having breakfast before leaving for work. His dad had a teaching position in Biochemistry at California Baptist University. His mom worked for Millipore in Temecula, a Biochemistry company. He said good morning to them as he headed to the cupboard to get some cereal for breakfast. He sat down and ate his breakfast. The buzzing eventually went away while he was eating. His mom had to leave first as she had the farthest to drive. She said goodbye to the two of them and headed out the door. His Dad's first class wasn't until ten am, and it was in nearby Riverside, so he had time yet. Ethan finished up, grabbed his backpack and said goodbye to his dad before leaving for school.
At school he locked up his bike and headed to his homeroom class, Language Arts. Partway through class he heard the buzzing again for a few moments before it went away. From time to time during the morning the buzzing came back, but it was usually only for a few moments before it went away. He didn't have any problems during PE, so he was thinking finally it was going away. He went and got a can of Coke from inside the cafeteria to go with his lunch and looked around to find a place to sit. He saw a table that had room and started in that direction. As he walked between the tables heading toward the open seat, the buzzing suddenly started again, but not like it had been before. It was louder than he had ever heard before. It was enough to cover the noise of all the kids that were around him. It caused him to become a little disoriented and the can fell from his hand, hit a table and the bench and then fell to the floor. When it hit the table, it sprayed the guy sitting right there and then again when it hit the bench.
"Hey, what the hell?"
The boy looked up with an angry look, but it faded as he saw the pale, glassy eyed look on Ethan's face. His face turned to one of concern and he stood up to help him.
"Dude, you okay?"
Ethan turned to look at him. He blinked a couple of times to bring his eyes into focus on the face of the blond haired kid who had, by this time, gently grabbed his arm and was guiding him to a seat. One of the other boys at the table picked the dropped Coke can from the ground. It had picked up a lot of dirt from the ground around the opening. So he threw it away.
"Dylan, I'm going to go get another drink for him. This one's got dirt and crud around the opening."
Dylan nodded absently in acknowledgment of what Josh had said. He eased Ethan to the seat beside him, forgetting all about the spilled Coke that was on the seat. Josh returned a few moments later with another can of Coke. The commotion had gotten the attention of other kids nearby, but since nothing more happened they went back to eating, although a few glanced their way from time to time.
Ethan leaned his head in his hands for a few moments, while Dylan rubbed his back. When he looked up, his eyes were clear and he looked around for a moment as if trying to figure out how he got here.
"Dude, what happened? You looked like you were going to pass out."
"I don't know, I just hear….uh, got a little dizzy for a moment. Thanks."
"You're welcome. Do you have these dizzy spells often?"
"No, never did before."
"Maybe your blood sugar's low. I've heard that can make you dizzy. If you eat then you'll probably be okay."
Ethan nodded and started eating. Dylan's hand was still resting on his back and he hastily dropped it when he realized that. To cover his slight embarrassment he introduced everyone.
"Uh, let me introduce everyone. On the other side of me is Josh and beyond him is Jamie. Over there is Dakota, the guy with long hair, he's part Indian, I mean Native American…"
Dakota scowled at him. "Indian is fine, my dad always said that people who worry so much about titles need to get a life."
"Fine, Indian then, and next to him is Sean. The next two across from you are Ian and Logan and my name's Dylan."
"Hi, thanks for helping me. I'm Ethan."
"Cool. Welcome to the group. Although I hope that tomorrow you don't go spilling coke all over me."
Ethan gave him an apologetic look.
"Sorry about that. I'll try not to douse you next time."
"Just kidding, dude. So what class do you have after lunch?"
"Science with Mister Elsmore."
"I thought so. I've seen you in the class. In fact I think you have the same schedule as the rest of us."
Ethan took a sip and nodded.
"Yeah, I've seen you guys in class."
"Why don't you join us for lunch tomorrow?"
They finished lunch and walked out to the basketball courts. They checked out a basketball and played some half court three on three. Ethan and Sean sat out the game; Sean because he wasn't very good at basketball and didn't like playing and Ethan because of the dizzy spell earlier. Except for Dakota, they weren't that good, but they did have fun. The bell rang and they turned the basketball in and went to their lockers to get their books for class. Dylan, Josh and Jamie went with Ethan to his locker for a couple of reasons, one was to find out where it was, and the other was just in case he was dizzy again. They met up with the others in Science class.
For the rest of the day Ethan didn't have any problems with dizziness or that buzzing in his ears. It was a nice change from what had been happening earlier in the day. He was still worried about what had happened at lunch but maybe his blood sugar had been low. After it happened he wondered if he should mention it to his parents, but it hadn't happened for the rest of the day so it sort of slipped from his mind. After school was over, they all went to get their bikes. Dylan found out that Ethan lived just a few streets away, so he, Ethan, Josh, and Jamie rode together. Ethan was the first to peel off. When they turned into the neighborhood, they paused for a moment to say goodbye.
"Hey Ethan, we'll meet you here tomorrow morning, if you want."
"Sure, that'd be cool. See you tomorrow."
Ethan turned and headed home. The others continued on their way. Dylan was the next to peel off, and then Josh when they got to the condominium complex he lived in, leaving Jamie for his longer ride home.
When Ethan was almost home, he felt that buzzing in his ears again. He passed by a group of boys playing basketball just before he got to his house. He put his bike away and went inside. After a little while the buzzing went away again. He decided to talk to his parents about it when they got home.
During dinner that evening he brought up the subject of the buzzing in his ears.
"Can I ask you guys something?"
"The last few days I've been hearing this buzzing in my ears. Sometimes it's just for a short time, sometimes it lasts several minutes."
"Have you had any other symptoms, nausea, headaches, dizziness, or anything like that?"
"Oh yeah, I felt dizzy today at lunch. Some guys had me sit down with them. It was only for a few moments, but right before that, the buzzing was real loud. After a few moments, once I sat down, the buzzing went away and so did the dizziness."
"Have you hit your head somehow recently? Falls from your bike, or getting knocked down in PE, anything like that?"
Ethan shook his head, "No. It just started. I didn't hit my head or anything like that."
"Ethan, I think we should have the doctor look at you. I want you to stay home from school tomorrow and I'll call the doctor in the morning. He should be able to see you."
The next morning, Dylan, Josh and Jamie stopped at the corner where they were supposed to meet Ethan. He wasn't there, so they waited for a few minutes until it appeared that he wasn't going to show. They left for school so they wouldn't be late. As they rode off Dylan looked down the street that Ethan had turned down the day before with some disappointment.
Later that morning Ethan was in the doctor's office. The doctor checked him over and asked him about the dizziness and the buzzing in Ethan's ears. Ethan gave him the same answers he had given to his parents.
"Missus Merrill, I'd like to schedule a few more tests. I would like Ethan to have an MRI and some lab tests. If they come back negative, then I don't think you have anything to worry about."
"So when do we do these tests?"
"I'd like to do them tomorrow morning because I want the lab tests to be fasting blood tests. That means nothing to eat or drink in the morning before the tests."
"I'll call in an appointment for you at the hospital and they can take care of all those tests there. Remember, nothing for breakfast tomorrow."
Ethan and his mom left the office and she dropped him off at school since it was just a little before noon. She checked him in and they had him wait in the office until lunch started. Once the bell rang, he was released to go to lunch. He grabbed something from the cafeteria and went looking for his friends. At least that is what he hoped they were going to be. He found them in the area that they usually sat in.
"Hey Ethan. Where were you this morning?"
"I went to the doctor, because of yesterday, you know the dizziness."
"Is everything okay?" There was concern for Ethan in Dylan's voice and on his face.
He smiled and shrugged. "He didn't find anything when he examined me, but I have some more tests tomorrow morning."
"How are you feeling Ethan?"
"Okay, nothing like yesterday."
"Good. So I guess we shouldn't wait for you tomorrow morning?"
Dylan cocked an eyebrow and sounded slightly sarcastic. Ethan became apologetic.
"Oh, sorry about that, I forgot about meeting you guys this morning. No, my mom will probably drop me off here tomorrow after the tests are over. But I will meet you guys at the corner the next day."
Ethan had no problems with buzzing or dizziness all the rest of the day. He said goodbye to his friends when his mom came to pick him up.
The next morning Ethan and his Mom went to the hospital for the tests. They did the blood test first and then went to Radiology for the MRI of his head. It took a couple of hours for everything. His mom asked if everything was okay. The technologist running the MRI machine told them that their doctor would get the report within the next day or so. Once the tests were done, his mom dropped him off at the school in time for lunch again. He got something from the cafeteria and went to join his friends.
"Ethan. Is everything okay?"
"Don't know yet. They said it'll take a day or two to get the results to the doctor, so I'll have to wait."
"How are you feeling?"
"Okay, as far as I can tell."
"Good. C'mon, sit and eat."
Ethan smiled as he sat across from Dylan. They told him what he had missed that morning so that he knew what homework that he had to do. After eating they went out to the athletic fields. Some of them played touch football with some of the other boys, while the others sat and watched them play. Dakota was one of the better players out there. Sean especially liked watching him play. The rest of the day was uneventful and Ethan did not hear any buzzing in his ears, which made him feel better. Maybe it was over, whatever it had been.
On Friday evening at dinner, his mom told Ethan the results of the tests.
"Ethan, I got the report from the doctor. He said everything looked normal. You're okay. Have you had any more of the episodes?"
"Nope, nothing at all."
"Good. Well, if you have any more of those episodes, please let us know."
Ethan promised them that he would tell them if it happened again.
Over the weekend he had a couple of instances of the buzzing in his ears, once when he was a little bored and went to a skate park to watch the skateboarders for a little while. There were a lot of kids there that day. He didn't get dizzy or anything like that, but the buzzing was there. The other time was on Sunday, when he went with his parents to Hemet Valley Mall. They were getting a new washer and dryer. The large appliances were in the basement level. The buzzing started after they had been walking through the mall for about half an hour. When they got down into the basement area, the buzzing went away. There weren't a lot of people on that floor. While his parents were looking at the washers and dryers, he told his parents that he was going over to where the televisions were on display, they nodded and he walked over there to look at them. He wandered around the area, looking at the displays.
"Man, I'd love to have that in my room."
Ethan nodded when he heard that, "Yeah, me too."
The young twenty something man who was standing nearby looked over at Ethan. "What?"
Ethan saw the curious look on the guy's face and wondered what the problem was. "I….uh, was just agreeing you."
"Agreeing with me? I didn't say anything, kid."
"Oh, uh, sorry. I thought you said something."
Ethan ducked his head and quickly walked away. He went over to where his parents were talking to one of the sales associates about getting the new washer and dryer that they had picked out delivered in the next few days. His mom smiled at him and reached out and gently rubbed his arm. He gave her a faint smile. Inside his mind was whirling about what had just happened over by the televisions. With the delivery arranged they left the store and went to Polly's to have a piece of pie before heading back home.
When they got home, he told his parents that he was going for a ride on his bike and he would be back later. He rode around for a little while and eventually found himself at Gibbel Park. He found a shade tree in the park where he could sit down and think for awhile. What had happened at Sears was still bothering him a little. He was sure that guy had said something but the guy had denied it, so Ethan guessed he hadn't said anything. Maybe it had just been his own wishes about the television and the guy had just grunted or something. He sat there for half an hour or so before he decided to head home. He wished there was someone he could talk to about this. He didn't want to say anything to his parents, partly because he didn't know what to ask them. He eventually gave up trying to figure it out and got on his bike to ride home.
As he got on his bike, he glanced towards a nearby corner of the park where the small skate part was located at. He decided to go over and watch the skaters for a little while before going home. When he got there he recognized a couple of his new friends, Dakota and Sean. The two boys were leaning against the fence and watching the skaters.
Ethan smiled as he headed over to where they were standing just inside the fence. He dropped his bike on the ground and greeted them, "Hey guys."
Dakota and Sean both turned around to see who it was. Both smiled and waved.
"Hey, Ethan, what are you doing here?"
Ethan shrugged. "Not much, just riding around and then I thought I'd stop by and watch for a while before I headed home."
"Dakota and I were riding around too, and he wanted to come and watch the skaters."
"Yeah, I'd like to be able to do some of these tricks. I've been watching so that I can get an idea how they do it. I think it'd be cool to skate like them. Like, watch that guy that's coming this way."
Ethan looked where Dakota was pointing. There was a guy who was a little older than them. He jumped his board up and did a slide on a rail, landed back on his board and continued over to a small jump, launched himself up, did a 360, continued up a small ramp, getting a little air at the top and then back down over the small jump, doing another 360 and then turning. The skater then turned, jumped over a small rail and then, right as he was turning his board to do another run, a younger kid headed right in front of him. When he tried to not ram into the kid he turned sharply and all his balance went to the rear of the board and it shot out from under his feet, he stumbled off the board and didn't quite fall, but the board rocketed right towards Dakota and Sean. Startled, they got out of the way and the board hit the fence, right where they had been standing. The kid headed towards them limping a little bit and glaring at the younger skater who was oblivious. As he got near them, Dakota picked the board up.
"Hey thanks. The board didn't hit you did it?"
"Nah, it just hit the fence."
While he was talking Dakota was looking the board over and running his hands over it. It had some cool decorations on it. "It looks like it's okay, dude."
Sean noticed the kid had limped up to them, "You're limping. You okay?"
The kid looked down and smirked, "Hazards of the trade, I'm always spraining something, getting scraped up or something. I've dislocated some fingers and even broke my arm once."
Dakota glanced at him as he got an idea and held out his hand. "I'm Dakota, these are my friends Sean and Ethan. Could I ask you something?"
"Sure. I'm Ryan by the way."
"Cool, nice to meet you Ryan. We've been watching you skate, you're real good. How long have you been skating?"
"I don't know, about three or four years I guess, since I was eleven or twelve."
"I got a favor to ask, could I try out your board? I've never skated on a good board like this. I…I'd like to try it out and see how it feels. I want to see if it handles different from a cheaper board."
Ryan looked at him with a cocked eyebrow. "Have you skated before?"
"Yeah, on a cheap board, but not on one like this."
Ryan paused a moment more before nodding. "I guess I could give my ankle a rest. If you break the board, you owe me a new one."
Dakota smiled and nodded as he grabbed his bike helmet from his handlebars and put it on. Before starting he held the board in his hands for a moment and something made him close his eyes. When he opened them a few seconds later he grinned and trotted forward and then dropped the board in front of him. He jumped on and started skating around a little bit, weaving around the obstacles and getting a feel for the board. Once he felt balanced, he headed to a rail, he easily jumped up and slid along the rail, he headed up a ramp and got some air, then back down the ramp, to a small jump. He went up and did a 360 before coming back down, jumped over a small bump, got his speed up again, headed towards the biggest ramp, went up the side, caught air with a 360 and then back down, headed to a rail, slid on that, hopped over another jump and then skated back to his friends. Dakota's friends and the skater kid, Ryan, were just staring at him with surprised expressions.
"Dakota…that was major cool. I didn't know you could skate like that."
"Oh, uh, I don't think I ever skated that good, but it just felt right, you know. Everything flowed just right. It must be the board. That's a sweet board."
"That was cool dude. How come I've never seen you here before?"
Dakota shrugged. "I don't know, I don't skate too much, and my board is not as good as this one."
"You ought to come out here more often, next time bring your board man. Well, I gotta go."
"Uh, okay. Thanks for letting my try your board out."
Ryan bumped fists with Dakota and turned around to leave.
Sean looked at Dakota with a big grin on his face. "You are so cool Dakota."
Ethan nodded, "Yeah, I think so too."
Dakota and Sean looked at Ethan.
"You think so too, what?"
Ethan looked at the two other boys who were looking at him curiously.
He looked at Sean, "Did….didn't you just say something?"
Sean shook his head and gave a little shrug, "No, I don't think so."
"Oh, I guess I meant that was cool what you did Dakota."
"Oh, yeah, thanks. C'mon Sean, let's get going. Which way are you going Ethan?"
Ethan pointed and they smiled.
"Cool, we'll ride with you for a little while."
The three friends started for home. When they got to where Ethan had to turn off to enter his neighborhood, they bumped fists and went their separate ways.
As they rode off, Sean rode beside Dakota for a few minutes before he looked over at him. "I didn't know you were that good on the skateboard. How long have you been skating?"
Dakota shrugged, "Not too long. I just watched what that Ryan kid was doing, and some of the others were doing, and it made sense when I was on the board so I tried a few things."
"Dude, you were real good, better'n most of those guys that were there. For someone who hasn't been skating for too long, I think you were at least as good as Ryan. I mean you were doing 360's, jumping, and catching air. You made it look easy. Have you been trying to do those kinds of tricks?"
Dakota blushed a little from Sean's praise. He hadn't been lying when he said that it made sense when he got on the board. In his head he could see how to do a trick and when he tried it, it worked. "No I haven't really done those kind of things much, but I've tried to do some of them. Today everything just seemed to make sense."
Sean didn't say anything more and they rode in silence for a little while longer until it was time for them to split. Dakota held out his fist and they bumped fists and turned away from each other to go their separate ways.
Later that night, Sean was on his computer looking for Hlander. They eventually connected via a hacker chat room.
Seadak: Hlander, I need to ask you something.
Hlander: Sure, what do you need?
Seadak: You're not a teenager are you?
The man, who Sean knew was Hlander, didn't answer right away. He was trying to decide whether he should lie or not. Sean, on the other hand, watched the screen. He knew he was right, but he wanted to hear Hlander admit it. Finally the answer came back.
Hlander: No, I'm not. I'm an adult.
Seadak: I thought so, you didn't seem like you were a kid. If you had said you were, that would've been it, we'd be done.
Hlander: So where do we go from here?Seadak: Are you one of the perverts I've read about?
Hlander: No, but how would you know anyway.
Seadak: I guess I wouldn't. Just don't be expecting me to be meeting you anywhere.
Hlander: I did not have that intention when I talked to you.
Seadak: Okay. Since you are an adult, maybe you can answer a question.
Hlander: Go ahead, I'll try.
Seadak: Have you ever heard of someone being good at something that they have never done before.
Hlander: Some people have unusual talents. They have natural talents. Things just come easy for them.
Seadak: I know, but don't they have to learn it somehow first, not just be real good the first time that they try it.
Hlander: Maybe, and maybe there are people out there that are gifted in some way. You know, a natural.
Seadak: What do you mean gifted?
Hlander: Well, there are some people who can do things that other people can't. Sometimes what they can do, can be pretty amazing sometimes.
Seadak: But if they have never done it before, how could they know how to do it?
Hlander: Why are you asking me about this, have you seen someone do something like that?
Sean did not answer right away. He thought that this Hlander seemed to know something about it, but he wasn't sure about how much to say. Hlander looked at the screen as he waited for Seadak to answer. While he waited he opened another file on his computer and started typing some notes into it. He quit typing when he saw Seadak's next entry.
Seadak: I saw a kid do something that was like that. He was able to do something as good as, or better, than this other kid, but he said he hadn't really done it very much.
Hlander: Okay, what did he do?
Again Sean paused, wondering how much he should say, but so far the guy hadn't told him that he was crazy. Besides, he hadn't given out any information that the guy could use to find him or Dakota, so he thought he could say some more without revealing anything.
Seadak: There was this guy who had never done fancy tricks on a skateboard. Today, he borrowed a board from this guy we were watching do a bunch of those tricks and he was able to do a lot of those fancy tricks, just like he had been doing them for years.
Hlander: Hmm. That is interesting. Have you ever seen your friend do anything else like that?
Seadak: No. I mean he is real athletic. The best one of all of us when it comes to sports things.
Hlander smiled when he heard Seadak mention his friends. He thought about what he could do to draw out anything more about his friends.
Hlander: Maybe that is it. He's just good at anything athletic. There are people like that. Do any of your other friends do anything like that?
Seadak: No, not exactly.
Hlander: Not exactly?????
Seadak: I don't know.
Hlander: None of your other friends are gifted like that?
Sean wondered if he should say anything about when he had the bloody nose and Ian helped him. After a few more moments he decided not to.
Seadak: Nope, well gotta go, bye.
Sean signed off the computer. He wondered if there was something besides Dakota's athletic ability. He guessed it was possible to watch someone closely and maybe pick up some ideas about how they do something and then if you are good enough with that kind of thing, you might pick it up quickly. He shrugged to himself, not quite satisfied but no closer to any answer either.
Hlander finished up some more notes on his computer before he got up and went to get himself a cup of coffee. He grabbed a jacket and went to sit outside on his porch. It was getting kind of cool outside. His breath was visible as he sat there thinking. He hoped that he hadn't scared the boy off by admitting he was an adult. Although the boy had continued talking to him after his admission so maybe all was not lost. He wanted to make sure he kept the boy's trust. If the boy contacted him again, and he was pretty sure he would, he thought he might show some more hacking skills to the kid. He seemed to have a knack for it. Hlander was sitting there when a man stepped out onto the porch with a covered travel mug in his hand.
Hlander looked up. "Hey Gabe. Everything good?"
"Yep, I was just heading to my bunk."
Gabe had started to walk down the porch steps when Hlander called to him. Gabe stopped on the steps and turned around.
"Just as a heads up, I think it's getting to be time to move."
Gabe looked at him and nodded, "How soon?"
"Not sure yet, still a few things to work up. Not right away, but soon."
"We'll be ready, sir."
"Excellent. Well, goodnight."
"You too, sir."
Gabe turned around and walked off into the darkness. The man known as Hlander to Sean, let a small smile of satisfaction come to his face as he thought about his plans possibly, and finally, coming to fruition. He had waited a long time. Now maybe he could do what needed to be done, but he still had to be careful. He didn't want anyone finding out anything until he was ready.