PORTLAND, OREGON - PRESENT DAY
The world was slowly coming into focus, and though his heart was pounding and his breathing ragged, Jack was aware of Bart going frantically through his pockets and instinctively knew what he was searching for.
Continuing to draw in raspy lung-fulls of air, he swatted his friend’s hand away, reaching deep into his jacket pocket for his inhaler. He exhaled as far as he could and shoved it into his mouth. With a dramatic inhale, the medicated mist shot down his lungs, and gradually, his breathing slowed, and he was able to calm himself.
Pushing himself up into a seated position and supporting his weight with his hands, Jack looked accusingly at his friend, who, judging by his wild-eyed stare, was just as shaken by the episode as Jack was.
“What in the freak is that thing!?”
“What do you mean?” Bart asked indignantly from where he knelt on the floor. His voice was squeaky and a little louder than usual, but seeing that his friend was now recovering, his shoulders relaxed a bit.
Reaching up, he removed his cap and brushed the hair off of his forehead where it had plastered itself to him with sweat. Wiping his hand on his pants leg, he slumped down onto his butt, blinking aggressively and shaking his head back and forth in dismay.
Feeling a sudden weakness as the adrenaline wore off, Jack leaned back against the wall. He stared up at the ceiling, feeling his best friend’s eyes on him.
“What just happened to you? It was like you had some kind of seizure or something. Do I need to call 911?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “No. It wasn’t me, dummy! It was that freaking telescope!” He looked down at it lying on the ground a few feet from where they were sitting.
“Keep that thing away from me,” he said, scooting a little further away from it for emphasis.
“What do you mean, it was the telescope?” Bart asked. “Nothing happened to me when I held it, so it can’t be the telescope. I mean…you saw me holding it. I handed it to you, remember?” He looked at the floor, hesitating before he continued. “I hate to ask this…but could your asthma be getting worse, Jack? Is it possible that you’re just starting to have seizures now, too?”
Jack met Bart’s eyes, and irritation flared in him instantly. This was not about a medical condition; Jack was sure of that.
Or at least, he was pretty sure.
Jack started to think, rubbing his eyes and gazing absently down at the floor next to his legs. Was it possible that his body spontaneously had some kind of attack, making him hallucinate the images and experience he had just been through?
Oh, man…he groaned inwardly.
He hadn’t considered that, but Bart might have had a point. After all, his asthma attacks had been happening with increased frequency lately. And then there was the new tingling sensation in his hands. Maybe…maybe he was right.
He shook his head and sighed. " As scary as it is for me to say this…you might be right,” Jack looked at Bart, his heart starting to race again.
“I hadn’t told you this before now because it hadn’t occurred to me, but I’ve actually been having more asthma attacks lately. They have been getting more intense, and… there is something else that’s new…that I don’t understand,” he paused, gauging Bart’s expression before moving on.
“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and my hands are tingling…intensely. Not like I’ve been lying on them or anything like that. Like…they just start burning, really bad.” He looked down at his hands and rubbed them together, struggling to comprehend how his body could go from feeling so out-of-whack to so…normal.
“Sheesh. What in the world, Bart? Am I starting to have seizures? I mean, that’s pretty much the only rational explanation, right?”
“Dude. I have no idea,” Bart replied. “But maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for you to get checked out by a doc, at least.” He twisted his mouth into an odd expression, clearly uncomfortable presenting the idea.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right…I mean, if this keeps getting worse, who knows where I’ll end up…” Jack subconsciously clenched his hands into fists. The thought of being at the mercy of his condition freaked him out. But, as always, he swallowed his fear and resorted to reason and logic. The doctors would figure out what was wrong with him. He would be okay.
“I mean. It totally sucks…” Bart said, “but what just happened to you right there? That really tripped me out, Dude! Who knows when or where you could be next time it happens? You’re lucky you weren’t alone—you could’ve gotten hit by a car or something!”
He reached over to pick up the telescope, looking at it curiously, then stood up and carefully placed it back on the desk.
“It’s just so strange, though…” Jack started as he pushed himself off the floor,” I don’t understand where those images came from. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen or experienced before.” He grabbed his backpack, which was leaning up against the door, and tossed it over his left shoulder.
“Well, the brain is a mysterious thing. Who knows where it pulls junk from?” Bart said. “What images are you talking about, anyway?”
“The experience I just had…that seizure? It seemed like it was related to the telescope. I mean, it’s almost like I was transported onto the deck of a ship…back in the olden days. I could literally see and smell the ocean, feel the movement underneath my feet as the ship rocked with the waves.” He followed Bart back into the storeroom, closing the office door behind him as he continued. “But the weird thing is, it wasn’t…me.”
Bart stopped ahead of Jack, turning just before pulling back the curtain to the shop floor. He observed Jack carefully, a soft frown creasing his forehead.
“What do you mean?”
Jack shrugged. “It was like I was looking out of someone else’s eyes. I remember looking down at my hands, but they weren’t my hands. They were grown-up hands with hair and a big ring on one of the fingers. And…” Jack looked down at his hands as he spoke, re-imagining the scene in his mind. He was thinking through all the details now for the first time since the incident occurred. “I was holding that telescope. The telescope was in the vision I was having. Doesn’t that seem a little weird?”
“Well, yeah…I guess that does seem pretty crazy. But then again…the brain…you just saw the telescope before it happened, so maybe your brain just picked out the first thing it remembered and threw that into whatever you saw.” He paused, deep in thought. “Either way, I still think it would be a good idea for you to get checked out.”
“I agree with you, I just…” Jack sighed. He didn’t know what he was trying to convince himself of, anyway. “Never mind,” he said. " I think I better skip school and call Aunt Lizzie, just in case. Oh, there’s one thing I didn’t mention yet…” Jack added, following Bart through the store toward the front door. The sunlight glaring through the glass felt too bright after being in the dimly lit office for so long.
“What’s that?” Bart asked, pulling the door open so Jack could step through and onto the sidewalk.
“There was this beautiful woman on the ship. She was standing on the deck with me.”
Bart snorted. “Forget a doctor. I think we need to find you a girlfriend.”
Jack rolled his eyes but smirked, pulling out his phone to call Aunt Lizzie.