The Danning Beginnings – Chapter Two

I was so excited at being in my twenties (?) again, I never even thought about the repercussions.

The first thing I discovered was my son was not pleased. After I came out of the bathroom grinning like an idiot, he yelled at me that I had been stupid to drink the potion, that it could have been poison, and then he took off running out the door.

The second thing I discovered was just because I was young again didn’t mean I no longer had the physical ailments. I tried to go after Cal, but after I jogged a few steps I felt as though I was going to collapse from the pain, so I just trudged back inside and collapsed onto the couch.

I’m still having these problems, I thought, staring up at the ceiling. Of course. I still have my womb. If I had a broken leg or cancer, I would still have it. I clutched my belly at that. How stupid it was to think this was going to solve everything. But… I suppose being young and in pain is easier to deal with being old and in pain.

The third thing I discovered was the fact I couldn’t go out anymore. In the morning I received a phone call from the school, letting me know Cal had skipped out on his classes again. I apologized to the principal and then he asked why I sounded so odd.

I just clutched the phone. I sound young as well, I realized. And if I go in to talk to the principal, I’ll look young and he’ll see that. Everyone will see it.

I slumped down onto the couch, barely listening to the principal anymore. If I went outside like this people would see and comment. They still knew me as the crazy pregnant guy. Citizens here in town still despised me and my son. How would they react to me suddenly getting younger? Oh, it wouldn’t be right away. But slowly it would get out. Newspapers would probably print something about experiments. If they knew about youth potion, everyone will go nuts.

I felt sick to my stomach and my heart plummeted in my chest. I have to leave Sunset Valley.

*

“Dad–I’m home from school!” Calcifer came into the house, trying to look innocent. I looked up and thought about demanding to know where he had been all night, but I just didn’t feel like it. “Uh, Dad? What happened?”

“Nothing,” I said with a fake smile.

He stood by the couch, just staring at me. “You’re hardly ever this awake at this time of the day. Don’t you have work tonight–” Suddenly he stopped and narrowed his eyes. “You quit?!” he shrieked.

I was startled by this and shrank back on the couch. “How did you know?” I asked.

“Why did you quit?” he demanded. “And you didn’t even give them warning so you can’t get a recommendation or anything–or retire… what–what’s going on, Dad? You can’t just quit like that, we have bills to pay and–“

“Where were you last night?” I inquired, mostly to get him to be quiet and stop chewing me out like I was the kid and he was the parent.

“Don’t you go changing the subject!” He pointed a finger at me, practically in my face. All I could do was smile, seeing him like this. “What’s going on?”

“I should have thought things through last night,” I said with a shrug. “I can’t go out like this.” I spread my hands out and waited for a reaction that didn’t come. “Cal, I’m in my twenties again. That’s not going to go unnoticeable. Your principal–” Here he winced, realizing I knew he had played hooky. “–already commented on my voice sounding different. So did my boss. I go in, my boss and co-workers will notice. People are going to notice.”

“What are we going to do then?” he asked seriously, sitting next to me. “Should I get a job?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “No way. You’re only fourteen. The simplest solution to this is…” I sucked in some air, a bit worried about saying this. How would he take it? He wasn’t exactly doing well in school and he didn’t have many friends. But I doubted he’d just take this news easily. “Well, the best thing to do is to sell the house and move.”

I was right. He wasn’t going to take this easily. “WHAT THE HELL, DAD?!” he screamed, jumping to his feet. “What do you mean, move? I can’t move! We can’t move! This is our house! I’m gonna be starting high school in the fall and–what about Penny? Do you know how stressful a move could be to her?”

I stood up as well, a bit too quickly. I swayed a bit from dizziness and pain but managed to get out, “Penny isn’t real, Cal!” He looked as though I had hit him and I felt as though I had hit him. I remembered all those times my father had hit me and I just wanted to cry. “Cal. I’m sorry.”

“Just forget it,” he growled and stormed off to his room, slamming the door shut.

I went back down onto the couch and rubbed my temples. Great, my son hates me. I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling feeling so lost. Had it been a mistake to that potion? I at least should have waited. Thought it through. Cal. I had hurt him so much but… how could he still be pretending that doll was a real, albeit invisible, person? Who am I to judge? It made him happy and that’s what should matter.

Didn’t go about this right, I realized. Should have–“Ah!” I clamped my hands over my mouth to stop my yelp of pain from being heard in the room next to me. Can I live forty more years like I’ve lived the last twenty?

The answer was a big, fat NO! And then I remembered the phone number Kay gave me so I slowly sat up and reached into my pocket since I was still wearing the same clothes as the day before. The scrap of paper was small and the number was scrawled; but I could read it clearly so I got to my feet and took a few steps closer to the kitchen.

I dialed the number nervously and pressed the phone against my cheek, heart pounding as it rang on the other side. Was Kay even still in Sunset Valley or did he leave after he gave me the potion? But he did give me the number…

“H-hello?”

I breathed a sigh of relief when he answered. “Um, er, Professor–it’s, um, Jacob.” I suddenly felt very nervous. Please be able to help me! I begged in my mind.

“Jacob!” Kay said brightly. “Hello! H-how are you d-doing? Have you taken the p-p-potion?”

“Yeees,” I drew out, glancing over at Cal’s door. “It worked. I think I’m in my twenties again.”

“I’m s-so glad to hear that!” he exclaimed, sounding genuinely pleased. I started smiling again. “I th-think it’s supposed to p-put you at your early t-twenties again. I know wh-when my sister took it and ch-checked she seemed to b-be twenty again. Oh! B-but you’re not j-just calling me about th-that, are you?” Before I could even answer, he plunged on. “The p-problems you were having are st-still g-going on, r-right?”

I began nodding then felt like an idiot for it. “Uh, yes. Actually, yeah I am. They’re just as bad as ever.”

“Y-your body and inner w-workings are all t-twenty again,” he said simply. “B-but th-that doesn’t mean what w-we did you just disappeared. I am s-sorry. B-but I think I can help! Oh! But it w-will take some time and… you m-might have to take a trip with me to see my s-sister.”

I lowered my voice even more so Cal wouldn’t hear. “I have to leave Sunset Valley anyway. The townspeople might not be too accepting of me suddenly becoming young again.”

“I d-didn’t even think of that,” he mumbled. “My s-sister isn’t in the p-public eye very much, sh-she’s usually in R-Riverview at a lab there.”

“Riverview?” I asked with surprise. “I thought you guys went to Twinbrook!”

“W-we did,” he said quickly. “I did. Th-that’s where I live. She s-stayed there too, f-for a while. She comes b-back now and again to… to yell at m-me. Th-that is where we’d go and I’ll c-call my sister in to come and f-fix you up. It sh-should be simple enough.”

Twinbrook, I thought, rolling my eyes to the ceiling. Better than Bridgeport. I was gonna miss Sunset Valley, though. “Are you sure this–this will work?” I asked after a moment. “Will your sister be able to… help?”

“Wh-while we haven’t d-done anything m-more with male p-pregnancy, we have d-done some more r-research about it,” was his answer. “I th-think I know what the trouble is y-y-you’re having, and I’m about… s-seventy percent sure w-w-we can get it f-fixed, if you’re okay with it.”

“All right,” I agreed because what choice did I have? “I’m going to sell this place and–and I guess try to find somewhere in Twinbrook to live.”

“Y-you and Calcifer are w-w-welcome to stay w-with me until y-you find a place to l-live,” Kay stammered, sounding a tad bit embarrassed by his own suggestion.

“Thanks, but it’s okay I’m sure I can find somewhere inexpensive–“

“No-no, I insi-sist,” he said firmly. “It w-will be come time before you’d be able t-to get a job anyway, what w-with recovering from the operation we’d have to d-do. And th-this way we can g-go back as soon as possible to g-get you fixed up and n-not have to wait t-t-till you find a buyer. B-besides, the h-house I’m in has th-three bedrooms, f-fully furnished.”

As soon as possible. I looked over at the door to Cal’s room. He didn’t have much school year left, just a couple weeks. And it would save me the risk of someone coming in to see the house and me being all young. This way I could set it up through a realtor and not have to deal with people here again. Leave Sunset Valley. I had come here with a dream. Things had gotten so crazy… so much had changed.

“I need to warn you if you do allow us to stay at your house,” I said, focusing back on the phone call. “Calcifer–er, he talks… to himself. A lot. Well, not himself. Well…” I shook my head and wished this wasn’t something I had to say. “It’s his doll–that doll you and your sister sent, at least I assume it was the two of you. Ever since he was a little kid he pretends that she’s real. Sometimes it can be a bit weird–but he’s a good boy!” I added quickly, hoping this wouldn’t make him feel uncomfortable. Except for the pranks he plays, I added in my mind. I just hoped if we stayed with the Professor that Cal would be on his best behavior.

“He… does?” Kay sounded more pleased than freaked out. I squinted at the phone, wondering if I heard his tone right. “Th-that’s great! I m-mean, it… it’s k-kinda hard to explain in d-detail but let’s just s-say that I can help with th-that, too.”

“I see,” I said, though I really didn’t. Help with… what? My son being fourteen and still best friends with a non-existent person? “It will still be a couple weeks. He has a little less than a month left and I don’t want to take him out of school right now, but once he’s done we can come. I have enough money that can tide us over till then.”

“Okay,” Kay said rather brightly. “I’ll g-go back to Tw-Twinbrook and get the house r-ready, and I will let m-my sister know what’s g-going on. When you’re r-ready to move, j-just give me a call. I…” He hesitated and then mumbled something I didn’t quite catch. Before I could ask about it, he spoke up quickly with, “If you n-need anything at all, l-let me know. Um, I w-will talk to you l-later. B-bye!”

After I said goodbye, I hung up the phone. Now, I thought, looking at my son’s door again. To try and tell him about all this.

*

The next month was pretty busy. As tempting as the free vacation Cal had won for me was, I stayed home (which really annoyed him) and focused on packing. It took a lot out of my to get things packed up especially since I couldn’t leave the house. Cal took over the grocery shopping and brought home boxes for us to put what little we had in them.

If I had been full of energy, everything would have been packed up within a week. As it was, it took me ages–especially since Cal refused to do any of it. He just sat around and complained loudly about what was going on, and kept insisting it was ‘stressing’ Penny out. I remembered when he was a little kid and would say how he felt through Penny (if he was tired, he’d say Penny was tired), so I took his words to mean this was stressing him out more than I thought it would.

He skipped a few classes during that month though managed to scrape together a just-barely-passed-everything report card. His last day of school, I called Kay and it was the next day we’d be moving. Cal helped me get the last few things packed up (such as the TV). I hoped we were able to take everything with one trip since the drive between Sunset Valley and Twinbrook was more than I’d like.

The next day, Kay showed up with a moving van and professional movers that packed away our furniture.  It was weird seeing my little home so empty, since it had been built from the ground up just for me. The house I thought would be the starting point of a grand life, the house I had not-long-ago assumed would be the one I would die in. But here it was, empty, me and my son moving out to a new place. Hopefully I’d be able to get a good job and afford a decent place.

I tried to think of something meaningful and poignant to say but Cal began blaring the car horn and telling me to hurry up. So I just locked the door and went with Kay to his car, settling in the front seat and then watching my home of the past thirty-some years disappear from sight.

*

The trip took longer than I would have liked since we had to keep stopping, because of me. Every couple of hours we pulled over so I could stretch a bit and try and massage the ache out of my body. Between each stop I tried to last as long as I could until the pain was so much that I wound up whimpering a bit. Kay would always hear the whimper, and pull over, and tell me to please do whatever it was I needed to do to feel better.

Cal was very quiet most the trip, though he had headphones on for pretty much the whole time. He also had that doll sitting in his lap and just clutched at it like it was the only thing in the world for him. One time I thought he was whispering to it but he could have just been singing along to his music.

Kay had the radio going the whole time and I was rather cheered up by his choice of music: golden oldies. We sang along to the Beatles, the Monkees, the Supremes, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Sinatra–all the good stuff. We started off strong but as the hours went by, we stopped singing as much but still enjoyed the music.

After a break for food, two gas stops, and more rest stops then I’d care to mention, we finally ended up in Twinbrook. I was very tired by this point and it was dark out, but I watched the buildings go by. Cal was watching too, and complained very noisily that this place ‘sucked’.

“You haven’t even seen it yet,” I pointed out.

“It still sucks!” he snapped and then kicked the back of Kay’s seat.

I twisted in my seat, ignoring the flare of pain. “Stop it! Professor Redding is helping us, you apologize at once!”

Cal glowered at the back of Kay’s head. “Sorrry!” he drew out and then slumped down, hugging Pendragon tightly.

“It’s okay,” Kay said, looking in the rear view mirror. “I underst-stand what it’s l-like to m-move suddenly. It c-can be a difficult s-situation. We’re almost th-there. How about p-pizza for d-dinner since it’s s-so late?”

Cal growled, but I settled back in my seat with a smile. “Sounds great,” I said, reaching back to rub the little knot in my back. We were almost there, I was not going to have him stop now so I kept my mouth clamped tightly shut.

Soon we pulled up by a smallish house. The moving van was no where to be seen and Kay explained he had told them to drop the big furniture off at a storage shed then bring in the boxes, since there were enough beds. I slowly got out of the car and Kay unlocked the front door.

“I h-hope it’s okay,” he said as we went in. “Th-this is the main r-room…”

“The k-kitchen-slash-d-d-dining room is over th-there…”

“This one I th-thought c-could be C-Calcifer’s r-room, if you d-don’t mind…”

“Th-this w-will be yours, J-Jacob. Sorry it’s a bit g-g-girly… Oh, there’s a b-bathroom there between y-your rooms, and the other b-bathroom attaches to the m-main b-bedroom…”

“Wh-which is m-mine,” Kay said, finishing the tour. “I know it’s n-not much.”

“It’s great,” I assured him. It was much bigger than our old house and I could tell Calcifer was a little more than pleased with his bedroom. Especially the bed. “I appreciate you letting us stay here until we get things sorted out.”

Kay rubbed the back of his head, blushing a bit. “N-no problem at all. It’s j-just me here anyway, s-so there’s p-plenty of r-room. Ah, th-the movers are h-here.”

By the time we got the boxes sorted out and a pizza called in, I was exhausted. Too exhausted to stay up for dinner. I apologized, and then went to what was my room. I just stripped down to my underwear, really not in the mood to hunt down pajamas, and then curled up in bed.

The pain was nearly unbearable but I was able to soothe it a bit by reminding myself that soon everything was going to be better.

The Danning Beginnings – Chapter One

I was in the park by eleven, feeling confused as to why I was even here. It had come as a huge shock, hearing from the Reddings after… what’s it been? Fourteen years. Other than the gifts they had sent Calcifer.

I wonder what they’re doing back in town, I wondered, skirting the edge of the center of the park. I didn’t see Professor Redding anyway. If he’s even here. I went over to one of the chessboards and sat down, glad there was something for me to do since I hadn’t brought a book and since I was so early.

I shifted in the seat to ease the pain in my lower back and carefully began arranging the chess pieces to their starting places. It felt weird, waiting to meet up with one of the Reddings in a situation like this. Other than a couple times in my house, I only ever saw them in the labs. I had never actually seen them outdoors except for going from my front door to a car–and that was in the evening, really.

As I moved the pieces around the board I kept an eye out for the Professor. Was he really going to show up? Fourteen years was a long time but the folks of Sunset Valley had a long memory. I had the feeling if some people knew he was around then trouble would start.

“Ow…” I knocked a few pieces over as my hand jerked when pain shot through my belly. I wanted to cry out but managed to hold it back. There were some old folks over at the picnic tables and I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself if… when… if Kay showed up.

Sighing, I reached down to pick up the dropped pieces, doing my best to ignore the pain. Nothing could be done about it anyway. Unless… Kay might know a way. He’d be here. I could talk to him. Ask him for help. Ask him to fix me. I could start feeling better! I grinned broadly as I put the chess pieces back on the board. I could be doctored up! I could be healed of these blasted aches and pains and–

“Jacob!”

I yelped and knocked over all the pieces I just put down. Kay Redding was standing near the table and began rubbing the back of his head. “I–I’m s-sorry to f-f-frighten you,” he stammered then quickly stooped over to pick up the pieces. I was a bit jealous that it didn’t seem to bother him or pain him in any way to do this.

“You’re early,” I mumbled, trying not to blush with embarrassment at being so startled.

“S-s-so are you,” he pointed out, taking the seat across from me. I closed my mouth tight, unable to argue that point. “It’s g-good t-to see you again,” he stammered as he began setting up the chessboard. “How’s C-C-Calcifer…?”

“As well as can be expected,” I answered, staring down at the board. Was he wanting to play a game? I glanced up at him and he was just smiling at me so I shrugged and moved a pawn. “He’s fourteen now. Acting up, y’know how teenagers can be.”

He moved one of the black pawns and then chuckled. “I’m sure he’s a s-s-sweet b-boy though.”

“Best thing that’s ever happened to me,” I answered and Kay glanced up, eyebrows a bit high. “It’s true,” I said with a grin. “So how’re you and Jay?”

“Oh! Um.” He watched me move another pawn then he began tapping his lips in thought. From my question? Deciding what move to make? He moved a pawn and then started tapping his lips again, so I guessed it was my question. “Sh-she’s okay, I s-suppose. A bit angry w-with me b-but n-n-nothing new with th-that. How are y-you?”

I reached out, putting my fingers on another piece but I just kept my hand there for a minute, thinking and deciding. Should I go ahead and tell him everything or…? I met his eyes and he smiled, waiting patiently. “As well as can be expected,” I mumbled, moving the pawn. “Aches and pains. Some trouble. The hospital…” I gulped and then squared my shoulders. “The hospital can’t really help me.”

“Wh-what’s wrong?” he inquired.

“I’ve got a womb,” I stated bluntly and he jumped. “The doctors all say there’s nothing they can do since my insides are all… all jumbled…” I trailed off and avoided his gaze. I knew it wasn’t really their fault, they hadn’t thought this through, and just saying it like I had sounded more like an accusation than I wanted it to be.

Kay’s hands fell against the table and his eyes widened. “J-J-J-Jacob,” he squeaked out. “I… I n-never…. Oh, I’m s-s-s-s-so s-s-s-sorry!” He could barely even speak as his hands started twisting around. “I–I–I d-d-don’t know if th-this will help b-b-but I c-came here to g-give you th-this!” He reached down to the bag he had next to his feet and then pulled out a wrapped box. “Here…”

I carefully pushed my chair back and stood up, doing my best not to wince. “What is it?” I asked, taking the box and staring at the bright red ribbons.

“My s-s-s-sister d-d-discovered this,” Kay whispered. “It’s a… a.. a youth p-p-potion. It’s n-not like amb-b-brosia but I th-thought… you m-might… if you w-want it.”

Youth potion? I couldn’t believe it but he looked earnest. “Um, a potion?” I finally managed to get out, tugging at the ribbon.

“Y-yes, my s-s-sister d-discovered it and t-t-took some. She’s… younger even th-than when y-y-you first m-met her,” he mumbled, avoiding my eyes. “Says sh-she has t-too much w-work left to do t-t-to just get old and d-die.”

I squinted at him, taking in the lines and wrinkles. “You haven’t taken it.” I felt a little suspicious about this sudden… erm, potion-thing. But I had no reason not to trust the two of them–except the whole contract thing but that was partially my fault for not reading it more carefully and, well, I had always trusted Kay more than his sister. Still, it concerned me he wasn’t as young as he claimed his sister was.

“N-n-no,” he agreed. “I h-haven’t. I… I… I… I d-don’t w-want to.” This last bit was so quiet I could barely even hear it. “I, um, s-suggest you t-take it s-somewhere a l-little more, um, reclusive,” he sputtered out quickly. “It’s a… r-rather sparkly show and I d-don’t w-want… want…”

“Others to see?” I finished for him, looking over at the elderly folks who thankfully weren’t looking this way. Kay nodded and I lowered my hands a bit, still holding onto the box. “I guess I’ll try it tonight, I need to talk to Calcifer about it first.” And decide if I even should. I looked down at the box, my heart thumping harder than I liked it to. A youth potion. Would that help me…? Or would it just make me young with all these aches and pains?

“Well… I g-g-guess I should g-go then…” Kay rubbed the back of his head, looking even more embarrassed. “It was g-good to see you again, J-Jacob. I hope you… I hope this helps.”

“It was good seeing you too,” I murmured, shifting my weight a bit as pain made its way down my back again. “Er, Kay?” I asked as he was starting to leave. He paused and looked at me. “What made you–you know, want to give me this? It’s been… ages since we last saw each other.”

He gave me a small smile. “I was c-c-cleaning out my attic. Some old n-newspapers fell out and th-th-they were ones f-f-from when… th-things got b-b-bad here.” He shrugged and rolled his eyes away from me. “I r-remembered what we p-promised and, w-well, since I w-wasn’t going to be t-taking that I th-thought I should t-try and do right and h-help you.”

My eyebrows raised up at that. “This was for you?” I asked.

“Y-yeah,” he muttered. “But I d-d-d-don’t want it!” he added, a bit louder, holding his hands up quickly. “It’s y-yours. And I n-need to go. I d-don’t want to sp-pend more time outside th-than I should here, in c-case anyone r-recognizes me.”

I grinned at that. “I can’t just take this though, I mean–I should give you something in return.”

“Nooo!” he yelped. “N-no. Th-thank you b-b-b-but we sh-should be doing th-this anyway since we did p-p-promise something l-like it.”

“We? So, your sister knows you’re here?” I asked, already knowing the answer. Least, I thought I knew the answer. With the way he was acting I highly doubted Jay knew he was giving away his youth potion.

“I sh-should go! B-bye, Jacob!” He whirled around and started quickly heading off away from me.

Goodbye, I thought since I didn’t want to shout it after him. Making sure I had a good grip on the box, I turned and started slowly making my way back towards my house. What a strange morning, I thought, but maybe this will help get rid of–

As if on cue, a particularly bad jab of pain went through me. I gave an unwanted cry of pain and felt my legs going. No! I was heading down to the ground and I tried to turn my body, so the box wouldn’t hit the ground. I didn’t know how fragile whatever the potion was in, but I didn’t want to risk breaking it!

I hit the ground hard, on my back. It felt like every bone in my body was breaking. But the box was safe, in my arms and on my chest. Great, I thought as I lay there and stared up at the sky. I didn’t think I could get up. Not the hospital again… I tried moving a bit. The pain was pretty much unbearable but I started doubting I broke any bones. I just needed some time to get up. Before anyone saw me.

It was too late for that. Thankfully not the old folks over there but Kay came running over, his face full of panic as it bobbed into my view. “Jacob! Are you okay? C-can you move? Sh-should I c-call the ambulance?”

“No. I mean yes. I mean…” I moved a bit more then slowly pulled myself into a sitting position. “I’m not okay but I can move, but no please don’t call the hospital or anything–I just need a few minutes to… ahhh…” I let out a moan of pain and then closed my eyes tightly.

“You’re not okay!” he wailed.

“I just said I wasn’t,” I muttered. “I’ll be okay though. Just gimme a minute.” Why couldn’t this wait till I was home? Kay just waited for me and when I started trying to get up, he took the box from my arms and helped me get to my feet. “Thanks…”

“Are you sure y-y-you d-don’t want to g-go to the hospital?” he asked, a hand on my arm as he stared wide-eyed up at me.

I shook my head, wondering how I was going to stoop down to grab that stupid box. “I don’t think anything is broken, thanks. I’ll be okay. I’m just going to sit for a while.”

Kay picked up the box and helped me over to a bench as if I were a little old lady needing help across the street. Nothing to cheer me up like something like that. “Thanks,” I said once we sat down. He sat down next to me. Cue awkward silence.

“J-Jacob,” he finally said, turning to me. “I’m s-sorry.”

“No, it’s okay!” I said, shaking my head at his apology. “Please stop apologizing. I know things… have turned out a bit different than I expected…” I reached down and touched my midriff. The slight pressure from my fingers made my belly hurt. “But it was worth it.” Understand that, I urged in my mind. Calcifer didn’t seem to understand and I was worried nobody would. The pain is worth it. Always will be worth it.

Kay reached over, taking my hands, clutching them. “It’s our f-f-fault you’re like th-this. I want to h-help.”

“The potion–“

“I d-don’t know if that will f-fix your h-health problems,” he said quickly, letting go of my hands. “It’s j-just a youth p-potion. I d-don’t think it will ch-change what we d-did to you.” He began rubbing the back of his head like usual. “If it d-doesn’t help, I p-promise I’ll figure something out.” He pulled some paper out of his pocket and scribbled something down. “There. Th-that’s my n-number. C-call me tonight after you t-take it and l-let me know if you’re s-ss-still having p-pain.”

I looked at the number and then put the paper in my pocket. “I will,” I promised. I took in a few deep breaths then pushed myself to my feet. Kay offered to help me back home but I turned him down. If I took it slow, I’d be okay.

*

I took a nap that day, not even coming out of my sleep when Cal got home. When I woke up, I was glad I had the night off since my body was pretty much screaming in pain as I climbed out of bed. Cal was watching TV, talking to his non-existent friend but as soon as he saw me, he acted a bit nervous.

“Hey Dad!” His voice sounded unusually cheery. “Mail’s here. You got something.”

I went over to the table and shuffled through the mail. Bill, bill, magazine–“What’s this?” I asked, staring at an envelope. I opened it up and it stated I had won a trip, all expenses paid, to a bed and breakfast. “Must be a scam,” I snorted.

“Nononono!” Cal practically flew across the room, bouncing up in front of me with a big smile on his face. “I entered you in a giveaway and you won! I thought you might need a nice… restful vacation! I didn’t think you’d win but I’m glad you did because Dad… you deserve it.”

I looked at Cal’s happy, eager face and couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks Cal,” I said. “Maybe I will.”

“You totally should,” he said, bouncing again. “And I was thinking, since I am fourteen and all, I could stay here by myself!”

I eyed him at that and he just grinned back. “I don’t think so, young man,” I said, chewing at a fingernail.

“Aw c’mon Dad, don’t you trust me?” he asked.

“I trust you but you’re still too young. I’d feel better if you stayed at a friend’s house,” I said and he looked kinda annoyed for a moment but then he hugged me tightly, something that didn’t happen as often as I’d like.

“Okay Dad,” he said. “I’ll stay with Ali.”

“Okay,” I said, hugging back. “But we need to talk.”

He stepped back, looking anxious. “Did I do something wrong…?”

I went over to the couch and sat down. “No. But it is important. Something that… we really need to talk about.” He sank down next to me and looked a bit bored. I turned to him and wasn’t sure what to say. “You know I’ve been having some health problems,” I said slowly and he nodded, looking even more bored. “When I signed the contract with the scientists when I was agreeing to undergo male pregnancy–“

“Oh Reaper, Dad!” Cal shrieked. “I don’t want to talk about this! I know I’m a monster, stop rubbing it in my–” Suddenly he jerked as if someone smacked him, and he began rubbing his arm with a scowl on his face. “Jeeez, okay Penny, you don’t need to hit me.” He glared at the air then turned to look at me again. “Continue,” he growled.

Oh Watcher, I thought, closing my eyes. Every time he did this it scared me, for his sanity. Just ignore it right now. Talk to him. “When I signed the contract I thought I’d be given some ambrosia because I knew I was getting older and I wanted to see grandkids–“

“DAAAAAAAAAD!”

I held up my hand quickly. “Wait, please listen!” I begged him as he got a horrified look on his face. “They didn’t give me the ambrosia and I decided that having you was more important. Well today, one of the scientists showed up–“

What?! Those jackasses are here? You didn’t talk to them, did you?” I just stared up at him and he rubbed his forehead. “Dad, you shouldn’t have! They’re monsters for what they did to… you… What’s that?”

I had pulled the box out and was unwrapping it. “Apparently, a youth potion. Professor Redding gave it to me today to make up for what they did, even though they didn’t do anything bad.” I pulled out the vial of liquid and stared at the bubbles.

“You’re not going to take that, are you?” Cal asked, sounding horrified.

“Why not?” I asked. “You used to mix things up yourself and take them without my permission. If this works then… I…” I’ll be young again, I thought. I might be healthy again. I looked at my son who looked genuinely pissed off. Cal, I want to do this for you, stop glaring at me. “I’m going to take it,” I said firmly.

“It’ll just kill you,” Cal spat out.

“I trust Professor Redding,” I said, standing up, holding the vial.

“You shouldn’t!” Cal whined. “No–Dad–DON’T!”

It was too late. I put the vial to my mouth and tipped my head back, drinking the strange liquid. It tasted super weird. Not exactly bad but not exactly good either. I drank it down, though, feeling it in my belly and then–

“Dad!”

I looked down at myself. Sparkles. Was this working? Or was I going to become an old man? I looked at Cal who had gone from angry to concern. Please, don’t let this kill me, I thought, closing my eyes as I felt overwhelmed by the strangest sensation.

Then it was over. I didn’t dare open my eyes. “Oh my Watcher, Dad!” I heard Cal gasp.

I slowly opened my eyes and then looked down at myself. My hands were young again. My skin was smooth and without wrinkles. I lifted my hands to touch my face. No wrinkles. No signs of aging. I looked at Cal who just stood there, mouth wide open. I gulped and then took a few shaky steps towards the bathroom, flinging the door open and going to the mirror.

A young me stared wide-eyed back. It worked, I thought, slowly smiling. I’m young again!

The Danning Beginnings – Prologue

When Jacob Danevbie turned eighteen, he left Bridgeport and his abusive father behind to make a new life in Sunset Valley. Though scared of the dangers, Jacob remained optimistic and cheerful as he embarked on this journey–remaining happy even when he didn’t have a roof over his head at first.

Over the next few years he went from a part-time job to a valued employee at a daycare center, and also was in contact from the local science facility as two voices kept offering him awards if he ran errands for him.Eventually he started feeling very sick from awful headaches and wound up going to the science facility for help from the mysterious ‘Lab C’. He did not get to meet the scientists in Lab C, however, as he was put under before being taken in. Whatever they did, however, helped and he no longer suffered from the headaches.

He eventually met a woman he thought would be the person to spend the rest of his life with, Nicky Dowe. The two of them started dating and Jacob was soon head over heels in love, spending 3 years with her as they talked about their future. A future Jacob envisioned together with children. A future Nicky lied about.

One night Jacob proposed but Nicky turned him down, yelling at him that he was acting old-fashioned and a typical man. Jacob tried convincing her that he didn’t care if she got a job and that he’d be happy to stay home and raise the children, but Nicky continued yelling that he wasn’t modern enough and she never wanted that “nineeenth century” crap, even though previous she had told him she did.

Jacob fell into a depression but it was nothing compared to the hell he felt when he found out that not only was Nicky getting an abortion, but she had done so before. As a man who wanted more than anything to be a husband and a father, the discovery that he lost two possible children threw him into a spiral of misery that took years to slowly climb out of.

During those years he continued helping the mysterious scientists from Lab C. “We understand some of the… things you want out of life, and the thing is… there are some babies. They need parents. I think you should come in. We will meet you in Lab C.”

Against his better judgement he went, and met the two scientists that had been on the fringe of his life in Sunset Valley.

The introduced themselves as Doctor J. Redding (the female) and Professor K. Redding (the male). They explained to Jacob that they were researching something special that stemmed from their lifelong dream: to meet aliens. After Jacob pretty much almost died of laughter, Jay Redding told him that what they were researching–and needed his help with–was to replicate something the aliens once did to people when they actually visited: male pregnancy.

Jacob agreed only after he asked them for ambrosia, as he knew he was getting older and he wanted to live to see his grandchildren. Jay Redding made it sound like they added that into the contract he signed, and then Jacob was put under so the Reddings could examine his body to make sure it was “right” for male pregnancy. When Jacob woke up, Jay informed him that they had already impregnated him and said that the bit about ambrosia was not in the contract.

Angry, Jacob left and decided if the impregnation wasn’t a success he wouldn’t agree again until they agreed to giving him ambrosia. However over the next couple weeks, he grew excited at the thought he might have a baby so by the time he went back to find out if he really was pregnant, he decided to go ahead and do what the Reddings wanted.

But that didn’t matter since he was pregnant! Over the next few months Jacob’s happiness and excitement grew along with his belly until something horrible happened. The public found out about Lab C and started protesting. The newspapers published articles about what an abomination it was, how monstrous, how unnatural, how disgusting; unfortunately they also knew who was pregnant and Jacob’s name was dragged through the mud and he was forced to leave his job.

The science facility quickly denied any knowledge about what went on in Lab C and fired the Reddings as well as filing a lawsuit against them. The Reddings were reduced to a small medical room to keep Jacob and his unborn baby safe, with the assurance that once the baby was born the Reddings would leave, as they agreed to pay an exorbitant fee to stay out of courts.

Two weeks before his due date, Jacob went into labor. Just before he passed out he managed to contact the Reddings and when he woke up, he discovered the Reddings had performed a C-section, saving Jacob’s life–and his son’s life. That day, the Reddings said their goodbyes to Jacob and disappeared out of his life seemingly forever.

Jacob happily raised his son, whom he named Calcifer, and did all he could to give Calcifer a good life. Jacob took a part-time job at the graveyard, despite his fears, and worked hard for his son even though things were starting to become difficult. He was getting older and starting to feel strange pains and aches. He never felt anything like them and eventually went to the hospital, only to be told there was nothing they could do as he was not a normal person. He was a man, and he had a womb. What the Reddings did to him messed up his inner workings and he couldn’t do anything about it but try to deal with the nearly crippling pain when it came.

Despite the Reddings stating they’d never see Jacob again, they send Calcifer a few gifts. First a doll, and then a science station. Both of which Calcifer loved–as he got older he started “imagining” that his doll was a real person and also worked hard with the chemicals for a purpose unknown to Jacob. But as long as Calcifer was happy, Jacob was fine with it; problem was, Calcifer wasn’t always happy.

Sunset Valley knew Calcifer was born from a science lab and the hatred that the parents felt about Jacob was picked up by the kids, and they bullied and teased Calcifer. When Calcifer was just 6, his babysitter abandoned him in the night because she decided he was a ‘monster’. Jacob did his best to assure Cal that everyone else was wrong, and that Cal was a perfectly normal boy (even if he did talk to the air sometimes).

When Calcifer became a teenager he revealed that he knew that he was a science experiment and started rebelling. He got into fights, played tricks on Jacob and other people, and was always arguing. Jacob was at a loss for what to do. He didn’t want to be like his own father, who had yelled abuse at Jacob and treated him like crap; so even though Jacob knew he was making a mistake, he never punished Calcifer who–as he got older–became worse and worse. But this isn’t about that life.

This is about a different life. Calcifer just turned fourteen while Jacob is still in his early fifties–just four years before he would die. And now things are about to change.  Jacob receives a note, one that he never originally got.

And thus begins Blackened Sky: The Danning Legacy.