(c) 1995 Jari Komppa
"Remember, always: You're unique. Just like everyone else." -- Unknown
This was my first try on a complete story in any language. the main reason why I wrote it in English is that Finnish is simply very hard language =)
There are many mistakes in the story flow etc, and I'm probably going to rewrite this story at some point in the future..
Toni Lönnberg for critisism and proofreading, Tangerine Dream for brilliant music for concentration, Teachers Pörhölä and Grönman for ideas what to do in the summer, Hemmo the dog for giving me a reason to go out for a walk, and last but not least, for Mistril Starshine, wherever you are.
How to start? The sun is quite a typical, safe starting point for any story. That morning the sun rose, as its habit happens to be, casting some of its many rays through one window in a two-story building. But this story is not about the sun, but about a person who happened to lay in his bed that morning. It happened to be friday, which doesn't matter much since it doesn't change this story any way.
That day Tom slept late. It wasn't his fault that the batteries of his clock had ran out that night, although if he would have changed the batteries in time, it might have saved him from the shock of being late from school first time in his life. That shock was quite severe. He got up, glanced at the clock, figured that it can't be that early, checked another clock, felt enormous pressure of failing to wake up early enough for the first time in his life, panicked, jumped up from his bed in a quick motion which didn't give his blood cells enough time to figure out where is down and where is up, blacked out and woke up four hours later to find himself laying on the floor. The carpet felt wet under his head and he had an enormous headache. If you plan to fall down unconcusiously, remember to check where you leave your legos.
Few weeks later, after visiting a doctor several times, he got well and went to school as usual. But something had happened to him; he acted differently, and thus he slowly drifted away from his friends. He was simply a freak; nobody knew why, but people usually liked being somewhere else when he was around.
He didn't understand it himself, and felt lonesome, but due to his good and old-fashioned upbringing, he escaped the situtation by turning his mind completely to his studies. Due to this, he got quite good numbers from about everything, and used all his free time studying, which scared the hell out of his parents, but as time went on, people learned to adjust, and simply pushed all weird thoughts out of their minds.
Three years later, when Tom was 15, the family was having a holiday on an island in the inner country. Tom was fishing, but his mind wasn't. He was so concentrated in his thoughts that the poor fish that had eaten his worm had to struggle itself out of the hook, badly harming itself. Tom saw something other people did not. It had started the last night, his vision was changing, slowly but steadily. He had read lots of books about human development, about how eyes work, and so on, but he had never read anything about the thing that was happening to him.
He thought about it, and came to the conclusion that either the thing was so natural that nobody wanted to research it, or then it was unique. Either way he didn't want to talk to anyone about it; either it would be breaking of some tabu the human society had developed through the years, or then it was something unique. And Tom had seen enough B-class movies to be unique and tell people about it.
He saw structures in everything; even the air around him was filled with complex and very thin structure. The water, the fishing rod.. everyting had complex structures, some of them were floating around, some fixed, and it all fascinated him.
At dinner he didn't say a word to anyone, but then again, he had been quite silent for over three years, so nobody made a point of this. His big sister had made a point of his weirdness two years ago or so, while having a fight with her parents, but that was about the last time anyone even mentioned him anymore. He had quickly become a living piece of furniture; always going straight upstairs to his room every day, quickly and wordlessly eating his food, and so on.
He went to the woods after eating, just walking around and marvelling the beaty of creation, in his own way that nobody could understand, since nobody really saw like he did. The greatest artists of the world have learned to see things normal people don't, but he saw everything perfectly.
It took him a month or so to learn to see well again, not being blinded by the way he now saw.
Six months later, at about Christmastime he found out that he could change the structures. It started slowly, moving one molecule from one place to another, totally consciously, but by the time school ended, he already had learned how to copy a small stone. A mere pebble, but still something visible to the eye, and totally solid. And a perfect copy. It took him a week to do, but he was getting faster. He decided to call it weaving, not because it was like weaving but since he liked the word.
His school grades suffered slightly of this new hobby, but his parents didn't care; at least the kid was doing something else for a change, whatever it was, and since his grades still where way above average, they didn't even mention about it.
He, of course, kept his new hobby a secret.
This time Tom woke up when the clock rang. It was his first highschool day. He wasn't too anxious about it, but at least there would be new people around to leave him alone. He got dressed, went downstairs, ate his breakfast, took his backpack and ran to the bus-stop where the bus was already waiting for him.
The fact that the bus actually waited for him is just about as strange thing as his strange ability, but since there are limits on analyzing fiction, so we'll leave it to that.
He exited the bus at his new school, and glanced around. At least it was bigger than the last one, he figured, and walked in. The school was almost empty; all the older students started the school a day later in order to minimize the hassle.
He took a table at random since there wasn't any empty ones.
"Hi! You new here too?"
"Yeah", Tom automaticly answered.
"I'm Nina", she said, offering her hand. It took Tom a while to figure out what was going on, since he wasn't what you could call a people person.
"Tom", he said, shaking her hand.
"Are you from around here?"
"You're quite silent, aren't you?"
At this point Tom, or the first time, took the time to look at her face. She was brown-haired, and her hair was cut so that it didn't reach her shoulders. Her eyes were blue, and since Tom did see quite differently from other people he could see all the makeup she used, which wasn't a lot. After about ten seconds or so she waved her hand in front of his face.
"Heelloo? Anybody home?"
"Oh, sorry, I was a bit lost in there. What was your name again?"
She giggled and told her name again as they reshook their hands.
They didn't get much further than that, since the bell rang and they went to their first class, which mostly included filling several forms. Nina was assigned to the same class as Tom. Although she wasn't aware of it, that changed her life, since people connected her to Tom in their minds, which meant that people generally didn't talk to her much. They didn't actually avoid her like they did him, but it meant that Nina was just about forced to spend her time with Tom. At least all the time in school.
Tom's parents started to notice him again when Nina had visited him three times, which in itself tells a thing or two about human mind.
They weren't in love, at first at least, but since Tom's freakishness scared away most of Nina's school friends, they spent a lot of time together, and became very close friends. And so she was the first person to hear about his special ability.
The family went to the island the next summer, after the first year of highschool, and Tom had asked Nina to come with them, with permissions of all the parents involved.
"What do you mean, see differently?", Nina asked, as they were walking around in the woods.
"It's hard to explain.. Try to explain a blind man what's green."
"Well... I'd tell him grass is green.. or.."
"Well, he'd think that green is small and wet something to walk on, then.", Tom said, grinning.
"Okay, so what do you see, then?"
"What I see isn't really wet and green, but it's.. I see how everything is structured, built, you could say.."
"..Aw come on.."
"..but as I said it's hard to explain. Anyway, once I learned to see this way.."
"..if we accept the fact that you do see differently.."
"..which I do", Tom paused.
"..Just go on with the story.."
"I learned that I could change things.."
Nina tilted her head. She had heard wild stories before, mostly true ones as well, from Tom before. Tom had a bad habbit of thinking that the person he was talking to knew about everything he did (which was quite much considering that he had spent quite many years poking his nose into several books), and thus Nina was quite used to not understanding most of what Tom said.
"Anyway, I call it weaving, since it's much like that. Let me show you..", and he dug the pebbles from his pocket.
"Two rocks. So?"
"They're exactly the same."
"Well, I made the other one. I don't know which since they are exactly the same."
"I.. expect that you don't tell anyone about this?"
Nina nodded, and thought that now she understood what was going on - Tom very clearly just wanted them to have a secret to share. She was ready to play that game so she let it be.
Later that night, they sat on the beach and watched the sun's slow descent into the horizon.
Later that summer Nina and Tom were spending an evening in Tom's room. Nina was laying in bed, eating ice-cream while Tom was sitting at his desk and searching something from within a three-inch thick book.
"Tom.. I was wondering.."
"Hmm?", Tom answered, without turning his head from the book he was going through.
"You remember Kate and Jack, Lisa and Ron.."
"Yeah.. from school..", Tom said, still not taking his eyes from the book. Nina frowned.
"Have you noticed that we haven't been out on a date yet?"
"Um.. should we?", Tom said, and stopped reading. He turned to look at Nina, who was grinning at him.
"Well, now that you mention it.."
Tom was a bit puzzled by this.
"Um.. wait a sec.. does next saturday sound okay? My folks happen to visit some relatives about that time", said Tom, leafing his calendar.
"..that is, if you don't insist really going out," he continued, "which would be fine with me, just that it would be nice to eat something in candlelight and listen to some good music and.."
"You really have been reading too many books", she said, grinning, and before Tom got anything from his mouth, she continued, "but that would be brilliant. It's a date, then."
Rest of the week went rather quickly. Tom's parents knew that Tom didn't like visiting their relatives, so they didn't even ask him to come with them this year.
The saturday morning went extremely slowly. Tom had woken up earlier than he had planned, shut off the alarm from his clock and went to the shower. He spent at least half an hour in there, ate breakfast, and dressed up.
He rechecked everything he had planned and prepared last evening, and then he was standing before the mirror for the fifth time, combing his hair. "This is stupid", he thought. "I know Nina. I've talked with her many times. I could even draw an identificable picture of her face out of my memory. Why am I acting like I was standing in an anthive?"
After rechecking everything twice, watching the wall for fifteen minutes, combing his hair two more times, the clock was five to nine, which was the time they had agreed on, two days ago.
The doorbell rang. There was nothing wrong with the doorbell, but it sounded a lot louder than usual.
Tom scrambled to the door, then calmed himself and forced himself to open the door calmly. Behind the door, as he had expected, was Nina. But what he had not expect was how she looked. She was wearing a long, flowery dress, her hair was combed so that it looked like a piece of art, and her choise of perfume was simply perfect.
She wasn't wearing any makeup since she knew that he didn't like it.
If Nina wouldn't have said "Good evening" at that point, it's highly probable that Tom wouldn't have remembered how to breath.
They had their dinner in candlelight, almost not speaking at all. Tom, as stated before, wasn't such a people person and seldom spoke if it wasn't necessary, but they were both a bit stunned. Tom was admiring her hair, as it floated as she moved her head.
"Close your eyes, give me your hand, darling..", the record sang.
Since they had finished eating, Tom asked if she would like to dance, and they did. Tom didn't know how to dance any dances, so they just used their imagination.
"..I watch you when you are sleeping - you belong with me.."
If Tom's mind wouldn't have been otherwise occupied, he might have started to wonder whether someone stole the air and changed it to some other, heavier substance.
"..or am I only dreaming? Is this burning, an eternal flame?" the record ended.
They hugged in silence, and for Tom's surprise, Nina was crying.
"Is something wrong?", Tom whispered.
"Nothing, it's just.."
If Tom was puzzled by this point, the fact that Nina kissed him didn't help it.
Later they went out for a walk, hand in hand. The sun had already set, and the streets were empty.
"It's late.. You can stay at our place if you want.."
He thought a bit.
"Yeah.. your parents might get weird ideas. How about if I walk you home? Too bad that I get my driver's licence next week, or I could have driven you home."
It was couple kilometers walk, but it still felt too short. Walking back alone seemed to take a millenia.
When he got home, clock was already three in the morning. He sat down in the kitchen and glanced around in thought. He felt that the evening had went fine, but something had been missing, although he couldn't point his finger at it.
He left the dishes on the table; he could worry about them in the morning. He went upstairs and fell on his bed, staring at the ceiling, and was a bit surprised to notice that a noice he had been hearing for a while was the phone ringing downstairs. Only the downstairs phone was connected if nobody was expecting a call.
After two seconds, Tom was downstairs, answering the phone.
"Hi, this is Nina.. I forgot to tell you.."
"Oh, hi.. What?"
There was a pause.
"I love you."
Before the school started, Tom and Nina had been out together several times. This calmed Tom's parents even further, since it wasn't normal in their knowledge that a teenager spent all his free time studying and never went out. Not to talk about coming home every night before the sunset, or keeping his room clean.
In school Tom and Nina were now considered as a normal pair and people no longer avoided them as they had been doing the last year. Their first public kiss had caused a bit of a talk in some circles but that passed in a few days.
Their class had agreed on a week-long classtrip to Germany later next spring, so the semester included lots of money-gathering activities, such as selling ice-cream and candy inside the school to other students. Rest of the needed money came from a couple of sponsors.
Tom still got good grades out of just about everything, although he now helped Nina with her studies, and still found time to practise his special skill. He didn't talk about it to anyone, even Nina, although he had already told her of his skill. The skill was quite helpful few times. For instance when he succeeded in locking his keys inside his car, he just made new ones from his memory of the keys.
One evening after going to the movies, Nina and Tom walked to the parking place, still laughing at some of the best jokes in the film.
"Uh oh", said Tom, going through his pockets.
"Don't tell me, you've locked the keys in the car?"
"Um, I suppose that's the case here.."
Nina sighed and glanced around. She didn't see anyone who would have any intentions to break into a car. Why weren't robbers there when you needed them?
"Look, we could take a bus home, and you could come and get the car tomorrow with a spare key?"
"Nah.. I don't think so", he said, picking up a rock from the ground and weaving a new pair of keys from it with a rapid pulse of light.
"Oh my God..", Nina said, since she hadn't really believed when Tom had told her about this ability. Tom grinned and unlocked the car.
"Which one would that be?"
When they were driving back to Nina's place, she suddenly turned off the radio.
"I have to confess one thing. I didn't really believe you when you told me... so I didn't think that it would be so.. important not to tell anyone, so I told it to a group of pupils in one of those chat groups in school, as an example how hilarious things people sometimes did to make someone believe in them.. I.."
"Don't worry.. they probably didn't believe it either. If I keep out of headlines for a few years, they probably forget about it", Tom smiled, but although he was very glad that she had had the strenght to tell him, he was a bit concerned about what she had told him.
"But I hope that you won't do it again."
"Um.. can you.. make anything?"
"Well.. I can copy stuff, but I really can't make anything new.. I have tried, yes, but everything I've tried to make has collapsed down and turned back to whatever it was originally. I can copy things, though.. "
"You mean you can make things out of thin air?"
"Thin air is a bit like making a house with a pile of sand, but I suppose I could do that, if given lots of time. It's not as easy as I probably made it look like, and it wears one down like carrying a pile of bricks on one's head.", Tom said, while parking the car near Nina's house.
"Well.. see you tomorrow", Nina said, and they kissed.
Tom spent the Christmas with Nina's family, behaving as a perfect gentleman. That scared Nina's parents a bit, but they figured that things might be a lot worse. Nina gave Tom a tie that had a picture of a loom in it, and Tom gave her his first and up to now only creation. It looked like a normal, but nicely decorated egg-shaped stone, and was light gray, but if you held it in your hands and watched it for a while, you might make out its fine structure, which looked a bit like if you were looking down a spiderweb-filled tunnel that goes down into infinity.
That night Nina drove Tom home, and they talked about it, and about a lot of other things. Before Tom got out of the car, he had offered Nina a ring, which she accepted gladly.
After Christmas came the New Year's Eve, which Tom and Nina celebrated together, walking around in the capital, admiring the fireworks and wondering why so many people had to drink themselves totally senseless.
The school started as usual, and life was back to normal for the couple weeks that remained before their awaited trip. Passports were ordered, permissions from parents were collected (not to mention the pocket money), and soon everything was ready for the trip.
The whole class stayed in a hotel in Berlin, and the first four days included going through most of the museums they could find. They did have enough free time for the essential shopping, which they did a lot. Nina and Tom found a small restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel and they had a late dinner there. The owner, noticing that there was nobody else inside, was so considerate to flip the card on the door so that it said closed to anyone who would walk by, dimmed the lights and put some slow music on. After this he went to the back room to do whatever he did. Tom made a mental note to write down the address so they could mail to the owner after the trip was over and thank him again - with a Christmas card, perhaps.
Tom and Nina shared a whole room in the hotel. The room had separate beds but that night they decided to sleep together. In the morning a cleaning lady came into the room, waking them up, and was quite shocked seeing the two of them in the same bed. An unintresting and loud English/German conversation followed, resulting the cleaner's swift exit from the room.
This of course had a negative effect in their mood that day, which explains the fact that Tom went and corrected a tour guide in a museum, causing a lenghty argument that ended after the guide went and fetched a book from the museum library and found out that he had been talking nonsense to the museum visitors for the past three years.
They visited all kinds of shops. They bought records, some clothes, and generally ran around in all kinds of shops. They visited a jeweler's shop, admiring some of the items that were in display. They visited a car shop and sat in a Porche while the shopkeeper was otherwise occupied, and got thrown out as soon as he noticed them.
Generally speaking they had fun.
On the next to the last day the whole class went to the country, and spent the night in a farm. On the way back to the city and to the airport they stopped to visit some caves.
The pupils wandered around, admiring some of the walls, until the teacher yelled that they had to return to the bus now and leave or they'd miss the plane. When the pupils rushed back to the bus, Tom and Nina were a bit left behind. In the hurry, Tom stumbled on something and fell into a crevice in the floor. Nina hurriedly figured that the reasonable thing to do was to go and seek help. Logically ignoring that thought she hurried to follow him down into the cavern where the crevice was leading. She thought about dropping down but she used the stairs instead.
At about this point the bus left the caves, and the teacher kept a roll call to find out if anyone was missing. After finding out who was missing, she had a problem to think about; if they turned back to seek for them, they would probably miss the plane. Then she thought about what would happen to her if she left any of the students behind. She pondered about this for a while and came to the conclusion that they were almost grown-ups and they could use the phone to call a taxi or something. If everything else failed, they could always find the embassy and get help. The longer she pondered, the harder it came to her to tell the driver to go back, so she never did.
Tom came to a few minutes later, to find that he was laying in Nina's hands and his head hurt.
"You fell down a few meters on your head. I thought for a while that you had kicked the big one."
"It seems that I wasn't so lucky.. Auch!.. uh.. how long ago was that?"
"Five-fifteen minutes, I don't know.. the class left anyway."
"I suppose we have to find a phone or something.."
Nina helped Tom up, and they walked out of the cave.
They looked around. There were no buildings in sight. There was a forest nearby, and they saw a farm several kilometers down the road.
"Great.. I've always wanted to find myself stranded in the middle of nowhere.." said Tom, sitting down.
"What's that smell?"
"What? Oh.. it seems we're near somesort of open sewer system.", Tom said, shaking his head. "You don't happen to have your driver's licence with you?"
"What? Oh, wait a sec.. yeah, I do.. what are you thinking? Are you going to make a car out of thin air?"
"Not exactly, but something like that."
Tom concentrated and formed the image of the Porche they had been sitting in two days ago in his mind, seeing it on the road in his imagination. Then he started to throw the molecules from the sewage into his image. It took him about half an hour but it was finally ready, complete with keys and filled gas tank.
"I'm really not in a shape to drive", Tom concluded, "So I suppose you'd better do that. Let's go straight to the airport, all our luggage was in the bus anyway."
"I suppose this would be the moment where I can say for certain that this car is a real piece of..", Nina said, opening the driver's side door.
A couple minutes later a gauge waved abnormally in a water purification facility, but was completely ignored by the worker who was otherwise occupied in analyzing the latest issue of Playboy.
The car started and they were on their way. After getting used to the car, Nina turned the radio down.
"So.. can you copy.. anything?"
"Well, yes, probably, but I wouldn't bet on it. One thing I can't do is to copy any living thing. I'll happily leave that to God. I could copy a living thing, a person even, but I can't copy its memory. If I'd see an accident and went and copied a person that wouldn't survive, and then somehow made the other one to disappear.. well, that would be a great thing if it worked, but it doesn't. The body wouldn't remember anything - it wouldn't even remember how to use its limbs. It would be just as good as dead in a couple minutes. The only good thing for it would be that it wouldn't remember how it felt to remember.."
Tom saw something in Nina's look and continued, "Anyway, even if the memory would still exist, it wouldn't be the same person. There is no such thing as immortality - at least not this way. Let's say someone would build an immerse computer and would transfer people's mind into it; the original person would cease to exist and new, programmed mind would continue. It would think that it had existed before, but it wouldn't be the same person. In the same way, if you'd meet a copy of yourself that would think that you are her.. well.. it wouldn't work."
An automatic traffic reconnaissance camera recorded the car, and a totally bored office assistant wrote the number down, checked it from a list of stolen vehicles and forgot about it, since the car wasn't reported stolen.
They were quite silent during the rest of the trip, just listening to the car radio as it played some soft music in a language they didn't understand. They really couldn't have cared less.
The flight was delayed as usual, so they made it in time. They left the Porche in one of those 30-minute parking zones so someone would find it quite soon. They caught up with their class, and explained that they had hitched from the cave.
When they were flying back home, the airport police noticed the car, and placed a parking ticket on the windshield. The car would have been towed away a day later, but some kids got to it first. They broke in it and drove away, ran over a dog, drove into the woods, hit a tree, and ran away. The next day the car shop got an intresting call.
"..What do you mean is it stolen? I'm actually watching the car right now. Do you want me to go and touch it? There. It's here, it's not a hallucination, and I don't have a clue how you can see this car smashed up against some tree several kilometers away... Okay, okay, go ahead, come and check it. Same to me..".
Two days later the kids were caught, but since no leads of how the car had appeared were found, the case was closed. Even the reporter who heard about the case forgot about it five minutes later when he heard about a whale that had given birth to an elephant.
As the summer began, Nina and Tom were planning lots of things; they knew that this was their last really free summer together. After this, Tom would have to go to the army, and Nina would probably go and study in an university, so they wanted to make the most of it.
It didn't work, since they couldn't think of anything intelligent to do, so for the first weeks they just walked around in parks, hand in hand, and talked about all sorts of things, and were a bit worried about the time that was slipping through their hands.
One afternoon they got it; they'd go for a long trip in the woods. Preparations were made, and in a few days they were ready to go. They took a bus to their planned starting point and started walking.
They built a camp as the sun was descending. They were talking most of the time, partly about the forest, partly about school, partly about their parents. They didn't talk about each other, knowing that they should part after the next semester. They built a fire and made some food before going to sleep.
"I wonder.. what do your parents think about me?", Nina said after they had gone into the tent.
"I really don't know.. they are glad I met someone, at least, but I don't know anything specific", Tom said, turning his head away as Nina pulled off her shirt.
"Well, my parents were worried at first when they saw you.. but they calmed down after I told them some of the things you've been telling me. They couldn't understand most of it, I gather, but I guess they think you're okay.", Nina said to Tom's back. Tom turned back to face her after he heard Nina's sleeping bag's zipper.
Tom turned off the lamp that had lighted the tent.
"Why are you so shy?"
"You know why."
"No, but really?"
"Ask a mass-murderer why he likes to kill people."
"Why do you always say something like that?"
"Because it's so. I don't know. I'm afraid of people. Some people think that I hate people. It's not that. Books have never really hurt me, but I'm afraid that people might."
There was a pause.
"I suppose you're right."
Next morning they woke up at about noon. They didn't have a timetable, so they travelled as quickly as they wanted. After a couple days' walk they arrived to their first destination; a place where they could rent a rowboat so they could continue their voyage down the river.
"What are you planning to do after highschool?" Nina asked as tom was rowing. Tom frowned and lifted the paddles into the boat and let it drift. Breaking the topic had to happen sooner or later, so there was really no need to be evasive about it.
"Well.. I at least have to go to the army after midsummer, but after that.. perhaps some university."
"Any specific topic there?"
The sky was almost cloudless, there was a slight wind, and the river was flowing slowly.
"What about you?"
"Oh.. I don't know. I suppose I should also try to get into some university but just like you, I don't have any specific topic I'd be specifically intrested in."
They sighed at the same time and then laughed about it.
"It's possible that we're not seeing each other too much after this year, you know..", Tom said.
"I wish it wasn't so"
They drifted silently for a couple minutes and then Tom continued rowing. They didn't talk at all for the rest of the day. Some dark clouds started to appear as the night approached.
Since it was getting dark they came ashore and built the tent and started to look for firewood. It was raining lightly. The forest was rather silent as they stood looking around.
"Nina..", Tom said, breaking the long silence.
"Would you marry me?", Tom managed to say without letting his voice crack. Nina slowly turned her back on him.
"I mean it..".
Still no answer. Tom looked at her, small drops of water gathering in her hair. The silence felt heavier by the minute.
"Do you want me to beg?"
Another pause. Tom glanced down on the ground, sighed, and shook his head.
"No.", Nina said, finally.
Suddenly Tom felt like a complete idiot. Why did he have to go and say something like that? Could he again look at her and not feel that way? It was a strange strike of luck (although not by far the first in their story) that he hadn't been standing close to a tree or else he would have started to bang his head on it.
"You don't have to beg. My answer is yes."
And so it ends - their last year at school went quite rapidly, and they got married at Christmastime. Nina got into an university and Tom followed her there after finishing his time in the army.
What happened there might be another story..