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New Beginnings, Chapter 13

Reply to Alex Parrish

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list October 6, 2003

Part: 13/19 "New Beginnings"
Author: Alex Parrish
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Katims, Metz and the WB. No infringement is intended. I own nothing, Trust me. Suing is futile!
Paring: M/K
Feedback: Please
Distribution: Roswell Slash Archive/Others Ask
Rating: X? Explicit sex and language
Spoilers: Nothing in particular and seasons 1,2,3 in general
Thanks: To aunty_mib, Beta extraodinaire, eh!
Summary/General: The lives of the 7 primary characters for 9 months after they leave season 3.
Summary/Chapter: Kyle's life undergoes some drastic changes.

See, Hear, Hair

      I spent quite a few days taking it easy, after my first 'flying lesson.' It didn't seem to have any lasting effects except one -- and it was a biggy -- I began losing my hearing. The problem started from the moment I woke up. I woke with a 'ringing' in my ears, but I figured it would go away with a little time. It didn't. It got worse hour by hour. Max tried over and over again to heal me, but my hearing was just not responding. Max doesn't take failure well, and I think he was half-angry at me for not hearing, but he got over it. The sound turned from a quiet 'ringing' to a deafening roar of 'white noise.' In three short days, I went from 'a little ringing' to being, for all practical purposes, deaf as a doorknob. The noise was with me 24/7 and made sleeping almost impossible, so I was tired as an old dog and grouchy as a bear. Jesse scoured the internet for any thing that might offer hope, but pretty soon I began to realize I was facing a life of 'white noise' and nothing else; at least, until we could get away from the lodge. Perhaps then, there might be some medical help. I held onto that hope, anyway.

      Everyone was really great to me -- very tolerant of me; writing notes to communicate and giving space for me to deal with my permanent bitchiness. Liz took it upon herself to start a daily class in 'American Sign Language.' She had studied it a little in school, and turned to the internet to refresh her memory and keep one lesson ahead of us. I wanted nothing to do with it at first. Looking back, I think, in my mind I saw learning to Sign as admitting defeat, as though learning to sign would absolutely guarantee that I'd never hear again. Max hovered and generally made a nuisance of himself around me, and pampered me far too much, so as a compromise, I agreed to learn to Sign if he would stop fussing over me. Even Michael came to the class every day -- I'm sure that some amount of guilt was at the root, but he came cheerfully and he participated. Even with daily classes, progress was slow, but we were learning. Life went on its boring way, and we fell back into the comfortable routine we had established before my accident.

      One event which anchored that routine was Wednesday night dinner. Some nights people ate on their own - alone or in couples, or in groups brought together by a project or something like that; but on Wednesday -- it was an ironclad rule -- we all ate together in the dining room around the big round table. We used a tablecloth, cloth napkins, real china, and we served the food on platters instead of helping ourselves from the pots on the stove. We paid attention to manners, and said 'please' and 'thank you.' It was something I really enjoyed and looked forward to. Dad and I had gone for so long eating pizza in front of the TV -- not that there is anything wrong with that -- but when Tess moved in and took-up being domestic, we felt like a family again for the first time since mom ditched us. This Wednesday ritual kind-of revived that family sensation and I wallowed in it.

      My deafness seriously cramped my participation. Everyone was considerate of me, but I couldn't really expect the entire dinner conversation to be carried out in written form just for my benefit. I appreciated the food and the atmosphere, but, even with everyone there, I felt very alone. I tried to compensate by scarfing down my food and then sitting back to 'watch' the conversation; occasionally I was able to make out a word or two by lip-reading. This way, I felt at least a little bit included.

      On this particular night I was seated between Maria on my left and and Jesse on my right; we always mixed-up the seating at this affair. I was cramming the food quickly, alone in my little universe and I was barely aware that I seemed to hear Maria say, "I'd really like more of those potatoes." It almost didn't occur to me that I heard her ask, and I suppose I thought she had touched my arm, or passed me a note, and I had not paid attention to how she did it. I reached the potatoes, between Jesse and me, and handed them to Maria. She looked at me oddly, but she caught my eye and said 'thank you.' A few ticks later, I was sure I heard Max say, "These beans need a little more salt." I realized that I had heard this, but my 'brain's ear' was still pumping out the 'white noise' at full tilt. I wondered if I was losing my grip on reality, but I thought I'd better pass the salt anyway. I picked up the salt and pepper from in front of Maria and nudged Jesse's arm to hand it to him to pass along. He also looked at me oddly, and mouthed "No, thanks."

      "Max asked for the salt," I explained, quickly adding, "I think." While I couldn't actually hear the dinner conversation, I knew immediately that it had stopped, because everyone at the table was staring at me.

      "What? What is it? Do I have broccoli in my teeth, or sauce on my face, or what?"

      No one made any attempt to either resume eating or to communicate with me. Finally, Max, never taking his eyes from me across the table, scribbled a note and passed it around to me. It said, "I didn't ask for the salt. Why did you pass it?"

      "Sorry, I sort-of thought that I saw you say you needed salt for your beans. I must have imagined it."

      No one moved, and I could see Max's lips moving, but I couldn't read them, and I heard nothing but 'white-noise.' He stopped moving his lips. Then, just barely above the white noise, I was sure I heard the sound of Max's voice, calling my name. It was beautiful; I had not realized until that moment how much I missed the sound of his voice. He was repeating the words, "Kyle, can you hear me?" but I was looking directly at him and his lips were not moving at all. I didn't know that Max was a ventriloquist. I was absolutely stumped at how this was happening, but if this was some kind of a joke, I was not laughing; it was cruel.

      "This is NOT funny. How are you doing this? What are you doing to me?"

      Nobody moved. I was getting creeped-out by everyone staring at me. I could still hear Max repeating my name without moving his lips.

      "Yes, I can hear you. How are you doing this? This isn't funny."

      Gradually, I realized that Max was not alone in this elaborate practical joke; I could hear Isabel calling my name as well, even though I could see that she was sitting with her eyes closed, in deep concentration, and also not moving her lips.

      Wait! What if it wasn't a practical joke? What if...nah...couldn't be. Still, I did think I heard Max's and Isabel's voices.

      Oh-my-God! Could it be? Could I be hearing their thoughts? It was beginning to dawn on me; what I feared most was beginning to happen -- I was developing an alien power. But, how could it be an alien power if none of the Pod Squad can do this? Or, maybe they can do it and have been lying to us miserable humans all along. No, that is unthinkable, but still... Quick, Kyle! Look at your hands; are they turning green or scaly? Not yet, but that can't be far behind.

      Even though I expected all along that I would develop alien powers, I was terrified. The dinner, which I so looked forward to, had been completely trashed by this accidental discovery, and my stomach was paying the usual price for fear. I got up, wiping my face with my napkin, and quietly excused myself. "I think I need to be near my bathroom." Nearly at my door, Max caught up to me and lightly grabbed my shoulder.

      "Please, leave me alone for a while. I need to..., I need to... I don't know, I just need to be alone and figure this thing out." I pulled away from him and quietly closed the door, locking it, in the same useless ritual I had used to keep Michael out. I lie on my bed, wishing I could wake up and find that this was just a nightmare. I'd had this nightmare before, just not so real. Oh-oh! I headed for the 'head' and ditched my dinner. Damn, throwing-up sure seemed real enough.

      OK, if this is real, if I am hearing thoughts, why can't I hear any now, and what's with all the noise in my ears? I lie down again to calm myself and make some sense of this.

      In a few minutes, it was Isabel's voice I heard, saying, "Kyle, please, I think I can help you; let me in, please? Kyle, please let me in."

      How? How was this possible? How was I able to hear her when the 'white noise' was still rocking my ears, blocking out absolutely everything but her voice?

      "Kyle, please let me in; I think I can explain." "Kyle, Max isn't here, he's gone back downstairs; it's just me. Please let me in."

      I let her beg a few more times, then said, "Just a minute" and unlocked the door, opened it and stood in the doorway to block her entrance. She didn't even try to get past me. She just looked directly at me with her eyes extra-wide open as though she were startled.

      Without moving a muscle on that china-doll face; blood-red lipstick emphasizing the fact that nothing on her face was moving, she said, "Kyle, I know you can hear me. This is real; it's not a trick and you're not dreaming, I swear to you. Kyle, listen to me; you're not hearing my voice -- you're hearing my thoughts."

      I stepped aside and motioned towards my bed. She entered and sat daintily on the edge.

      "Kyle," she repeated, "You're hearing my thoughts. I don't know how this is possible, or how or why it happened now, but I swear to you, this is real. You're developing Antarian powers. We all knew that this was going to happen eventually; even YOU said so. All of us here will to do everything we can to help you get through this as painlessly as possible, OK?"

      She looked real enough. If she was dream-walking me, wouldn't she tell me? She always had before.

      "Kyle, whose voice did you hear first?"

      I thought for a second and replied, "Maria. She wanted more potatoes."

      "Kyle, I want you to concentrate on the sound of Maria's voice; try and imagine you are hearing it -- close your eyes if it will help you concentrate. Listen for Maria."

      "This is crazy."

      "Humor me. Just do it."

      I grudgingly sat down next to her on the edge of my bed. I closed my eyes and tried to do as she said. After a moment, I opened my eyes and said, "Nothing; I hear nothing but 'white-noise.'"

      Somehow, I could still hear Isabel's voice; "Try again, Kyle. Just relax and try again."

      I don't think I've ever wanted to fail at something as much as I wanted to fail at this. Reluctantly, I tried again.

      Unbelievably, as I relaxed and allowed the white-noise to play freely in my mind's ear, I began to be able to pick out Maria's voice amid the racket. I was skeptical, but still, I reported, "She's talking... she's talking about ... about ... about doing the dishes. It's her turn to clean up along with Michael, and she is trying to get him to do it by himself and let her go to bed."

      "See," she sounded pleased, "Now try to concentrate on hearing Max"

      I gave it a try. It took a few moments, but soon, Maria's voice faded away and I could clearly hear Max talking about me. He was saying -- or maybe thinking -- that he hoped I would let him sleep with me tonight, it was 'our' night, and he thought he should be with me because this was going to be traumatic.

      I reveled in the deep resonance of his voice, and wondered for a second 'what' was going to be traumatic. Then I came back to reality and realized that I WAS hearing him.

      I still didn't want to believe it. There must be another explanation; I was grasping at straws. I asked, "Can you hear MY thoughts?"

      "No, I can't. I've never been able to do that," she explained, "The closest I can come is 'dream-walking.'"

      'Dream-walking!' She was talking about an alien power all right. Liz had developed the ability to heat objects and, occasionally to sense the future. Why couldn't I have developed something like the ability to smash rocks, or something less scary? This was the very thing I feared most -- even thought I knew it was coming. Could big ears and antennae be far behind?

      "Stay right here," Isabel ordered. I did as I was told.

      My head was spinning and I quickly checked my arm to see if it looked like it was turning green. I couldn't see any green, but I kept checking, just in case. Maybe there was still a chance that this was just a nightmare -- I hoped.

      In less than five minutes, all seven of us were crowded into my room. Apparently, the dishes could wait. Isabel made up an exercise where, each member of the group, in turn, would think a specific thought, and I would try to hear their voice, their thought, out of the cacophony of noise in my head. I was able to do it with Maria, and then with Max, I did it again with Isabel. We went around the room. Michael was next. I knew for sure it was his voice, because it kept repeating, "Valenti, you're a fucking moron." That made me laugh, but no one but Michael knew what I was laughing about. That was weird.

      Then Max butted-in out-of-turn, "Listen, Buddha-boy, I can hardly wait to get your half-alien ass in bed tonight. I'm gonna have you up-side-down, in-side-out, and bass-akwards! I'm getting hard just thinking about it. If men think with their dick, can you read my dick's thoughts too? Let's see!"

      "Stop it!" I demanded, "not in front of everybody." I could feel my face turning red, and hoped my pants weren't beginning to 'tent'. Max was blushing too; but obviously enjoying my embarrassment. Then everybody wanted in on the joke, but all I would say was that Max had said something embarrassing. They pleaded and cajoled, but I held firm. "Let's get on with the drill."

      We continued to go, round-robin, until I could instantly and consistently pick out each voice. Everyone was astonished, but no one more so than me.

      I began to realize that it was possible to shut out some of the 'white-noise,' at least when I was concentrating on a particular person's thoughts. For the first time since I had become deaf, I was able to 'turn down the volume' on the noise in my head. I could actually control it.

      That night Max and I had 'hot-alien-sex' for the first time since the accident, and I didn't care who could hear it. It was incredible! I could actually read Max's thoughts; things like; slower, to the left, more, lower, harder, and I even began to visualize his thoughts -- recognizing feelings as well as words. I could even tell that Max was frightened by this first example of change in my body, and more than a little worried about where it might lead. I could tell, however, that he wasn't too worried to enjoy the sex. That's my Max -- always practical; have sex now, worry later.

      After a few days, I figured out that, as I filtered out more and more of the 'white-noise,' I began to hear more and more of the real noises around me. I wasn't deaf after all. My brain was in overload with the mental voices around me, and, until now I couldn't separate the sounds that were real from the thoughts that I was picking-up. In two-weeks time, practicing constantly, I was back in the hearing world. Even better -- I was sleeping again. My mood improved. I joked: why couldn't I have developed this power while I was still in High School where I could use it to improve my GPA, or at least improve my SAT scores?

      Life was sweet, but it had not become a bowl-of-cherries. There was a down-side to this incredible gift. Sometimes I had to work as hard to NOT hear someone's thoughts as I did to hear them. Everybody was concerned about privacy, so I called a group meeting to promise that I would try my best to shut-out any personal and private thoughts I might intercept. With several week's practice, I was able to actually turn it 'on' and 'off'. Little by little I began to realize what a profound effect this alien power was going to have on my life, and on those around me.

      We had no explanation for the exact cause of my new ability, but we did agree that it seemed to be linked in some way to my 'flying accident,' as we came to call it, and Max having healed me, over and over and over during those three days. It wasn't until much later that we got a full explanation; more about that later.

      We had been warned long ago that anyone Max healed, was somehow changed. My life had been not only changed, but turned up- side-down, in-side-out, shaken, spun and forever altered. I wondered if there was anything of Kyle Valenti left. I would find out the answer to that question, much sooner than I expected.

      Exactly one week from breaking out in my first case of 'alienism,' I changed again. It was hardly an earth-shaking change, in the great scheme of the universe, but it came as a total surprise to all of us. It was a surprise because it was actually visible. Liz had developed alien powers, but nothing had changed in her appearance, and the aliens all appeared human; you couldn't tell anything by looking at them. Well, you could tell that Max is the most beautiful man on earth, and that Michael still has the personal grooming habits of a razorback hog, but nothing in their appearance gave them away as aliens.

      Max woke me that morning by falling out of bed. It had been our night together -- he yelled a little as he fell and I knew something was wrong because I knew I hadn't pushed him. As he picked himself up he was almost at a loss for words, resorting to pointing and motioning me to my bathroom. As I squinted into the mirror, I was not at a loss; I screamed and screamed, waking the entire household, who crowded into my bedroom as I stood there in my night-shirt, and they started to laugh. These people who were supposed to be my friends, laughed themselves silly -- all except Liz, who knew me well enough to realize that I would never do something like this to myself, at least, not intentionally.

      Liz at least sounded concerned, "Kyle, what did you do to yourself?"

      "Nothing, nothing at all!" I yelled, "I didn't do this; I had NOTHING to do with this; I was fine when I went to bed and when I woke up--this!" I quickly checked to see if I had turned green, too. I hadn't.

      'This' was my hair. It was white. All of it; head, eyebrows, sideburns, chest, armpits, legs, and, yes, down there too -- and I don't mean it was a sweet golden blonde, no it was WHITE. Whiter than an albino, whiter than my sheets, white, white, white!

      Everyone got a little more serious when they realized this was not a practical joke, nor anything I had chosen to do. Expressions of sympathy and concern soon gave way, however, to a resumption of laughter. I looked funny, no, ridiculous and I started to laugh too and then I grabbed Max around the throat and screamed, "You did this to me! Change me back! Change me back!"

      Max was laughing so hard he fell over onto the bed, taking me with him, and next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of a dog pile on my bed, all of us laughing so hard we couldn't get up. When we finally did get up, everyone left, but I held onto Max by the hand and dragged him back onto the bed.

      "Seriously now, can you do anything about this?" I was grasping at a faint hope.

      "I don't think so; I can heal, but I don't think you're sick."

      "Would you please try?"

      "How do we know I won't make it worse somehow?" It was a good question, but the look on my face apparently was enough to get him to risk trying.

      Max put his hands on my head, and I looked deeply into his gentle eyes, and then I could feel his presence within me. He smiled and said, "There, that's better," but almost before he said it, he had to add "Oh-oh! It's changing back." We did it twice more. Each time he restored my original color, only to have it turn white again almost as quickly.

      "Sorry." It was all he could say.

      Every day I checked, everywhere, for the slightest hint of color, but white was all I saw. I decided to ask Isabel to give it a try; she has had more experience with hair than Max -- hey! It was worth a try! She agreed, but had no more success than Max. She was enjoying herself, trying different colors, but nothing would stick.

      Maria walked in and said "While you're at it, can you do me? I'd like to go a little shorter and a little lighter for a while."

      "Get out of here", I snapped, "this is serious; we're not playing 'Barbie's Beauty Parlor!'"

      "All right, all right, don't have a cow," she said, and then added as she was out the door, "Ken." As she left I saw Isabel silently mouth "later."

      "Hey, I saw that!"

      "Sorry... Ken." Isabel dissolved into laughter.

      "There goes your tip, lady!" I countered as I got up and left her there, still laughing.

      After two weeks, I stopped checking, and they stopped laughing. Max told me repeatedly that it was sexy, and I told him repeatedly that he was a liar, and that he couldn't get away with that with me, I could, after all, just read his thoughts if I chose to and his lie would be exposed. He told me to go ahead and try it, but I didn't call his bluff because, if he was lying, I didn't really want to know. I decided to just get used to it; I had gotten used to being deaf, then used to reading thoughts, then used to hearing again, so now, I would just get used to this. I was getting used to getting used to things.

      I also got used to having the dream again; the dream where I look at my arm and it begins to look all green and yellow and scaly, and in the dream I realize I am turning into some kind of alien monster. I scream and scream, but no one helps me. In fact I was having that very dream about ten days later, when I woke to find that the light was on in my room. That was strange, because I was alone this night, and I knew that I had definitely switched off the light before going to bed.

      I stumbled out of bed, and over to the door to the light switch, but it was already off. I tried to shake off my grogginess and, slowly began to notice that the light in the room was odd -- not an ordinary color of light, but quite bright; I could see everything clearly. I switched the light 'on' to see if the switch had magically changed its polarity, but it came on with a normal glow, I switched it off again, but the room was still flooded with light. 'On' - - light, 'off' - - more light. 'On-off-on-off-on-off' -- no difference but the color. Strange. I started to step out to the balcony, but felt the chill, and jumped back into my room to shiver and then pull on my jeans over my night-shirt. As an afterthought, I found some almost not-too-dirty socks and put them on and my boots over them, then headed out to the balcony, only to find that it was flooded with light as well, in fact the whole lodge seemed bright as a summer day. I walked around the balcony and over to the stair leading down into the Great Room. I could see that the bulbs on the old chandelier were not burning, but the room was still bright. I was quiet descending the stairs, carefully avoiding that third step which, I remember, squeaked loudly enough to wake the whole house.

      I wandered through the whole of the first floor, never turning on a light, but each room seemed flooded with light. I looked out a window, and the land was lit as brightly as any day I had seen here. When I had gone full-circle, I went quietly back up the stair, avoiding the squeak, and then around the balcony to my room. I left the light switched 'off' and went into the bathroom, leaving the light 'off' there too. Looking into the mirror, I could see myself as clearly as if I had a 100-watt bulb next to my face. Leaning closer to the mirror, I stared into my own eyes, but the eyes staring back from my image were not mine. They were entirely black, as if the iris of my eye had opened the entire front of my eyeball. I must be dreaming. I reached over and switched on the light, only to see my eyes actually change; like the iris had closed, but where I should have seen a clear blue -- like my dad -- I saw gold. And where I should have seen white, I saw silver, bright and shiny like looking into my dad's sunglasses. I switched off the light and watched the iris of my eyes open so widely that my entire eye was black again; switched it on to see the iris close to reveal nothing but gold and silver.

      I stood there, in front of the mirror switching the light 'on' and 'off' ten or twelve times, watching the change in the orbs where my eyes -- my dad's eyes -- had been. My heart sank; I knew what was causing this, and I knew that no one could do anything about it. My body had betrayed me, and I was rapidly turning into an alien freak. I was no longer having the nightmare, I was living it.

      I'm not ashamed to admit that I stood in front of the mirror and I cried. After all, I'm only human -- or at least I used to be. When I had exhausted my tears, I splashed some water on my face, dried off, and went back to bed. Why wake anyone at 3:30? No one could tell me more than I already knew about what was happening to me, or when it might end, and no one could do anything about it, either. My own father wouldn't recognize me now. I had become someone or something else, but I didn't know who or what I had become.

      Before going down for breakfast, I searched through my bureau drawers to find my sunglasses; "no sense scaring anyone." I would wait until everyone was there to unveil my latest change.

      Liz cried, and so did Maria. Jesse silently shook his head. Max came over to me and put his arms around me, then Isabel did the same. Finally, Michael came over and joined them in a kind of group hug with me in the middle.

      Michael is the only one who spoke. "I was wrong, Valenti. Back in June, I was wrong; You definitely are one of 'our kind.'" Then, -- he added, "brother." It appeared I was now a full-fledged member of a group I never asked to join.

      After a moment or two, Michael stepped back and said, "Come with me, I've got something I have to show you." He turned and headed for the hall outside the kitchen where the stairs are that lead to the basement.

      I didn't move immediately. Michael turned back to me and said. "It's OK, come with me, please." Then, as an after thought, he added, "The rest of you can come too."

      We followed, single-file, me in the lead behind Michael, as he led us down the stairs to the dank basement and to the area he referred to as his 'studio.' This was a first. The 'studio' was strictly off-limits to the rest of us except Maria, and she entered only by invitation.

      When we all were in, he spoke again. "You remember the painting that's in Kyle's room -- you've all seen it -- 'Icarus?'

      There were nods and quiet acknowledgments all around.

      "I painted it back in November. The reason I painted it was that, I had been having a kind-of block for a couple of days. I went to the library and thought I might find something in a book that might inspire me, and I came across the book of Mythology, and the story of Icarus and Daedelus. It struck me as a way to get back into working, so I painted the painting that Kyle now has. But, as I was finishing it, something just wasn't quite right; I don't know -- I just wasn't satisfied. I finally decided that the subject just wasn't what I wanted, I wasn't interested in Mythology. What interested me was the figure, and particularly, the figure in flight, so, right then, the same day, I started a new painting."

      As he finished the story, he moved to some shelves in the back of the room, and picked up a rolled canvas. He brought it to a table in the middle of the room, and cleared a space with a sweep of his arm, sending pencils and brushes and all sorts of accumulated junk clattering to the floor. He began to unroll the canvas.

      It was clearly a figure, about three-quarter life-sized, and in the same bold pallet of tones that had so appealed to me in "Icarus." As he rolled out the last few inches, I could see that it, also, was a figure in flight, but, unlike the previous work, ascending rather than falling. While ascending the figure was pointing up to something in the sky which was beyond the edge of the canvas. The painting was exquisite, at least to my unpracticed eye, or my new alien eyes, and it could have hung proudly in any gallery, but that was not what caused the group to gasp in unison.

      The flying figure had white hair -- longer than I care to wear mine, but clearly white -- not blonde or grey. And then I saw the eyes. The painting was representational, but like its mate, the details were abstracted, and the eyes were nearly life-sized. The abstract face was not exactly mine, or anyone else's, for that matter, but the eyes -- the eyes were unmistakably silver, where human eyes should be white, and gold where my eyes used to be blue -- like my dad's. The eyes were a perfect representation of my new alien orbs.

      We all stood in silence for at least 60 seconds.

      Michael spoke again. "When I saw what happened to your hair, I just thought it was a weird coincidence, but, this morning, when I saw your eyes, well, I was just blown-away. I don't know... this is just too weird for words."

      We stood there discussing what could have caused such a coincidence, and how strange it was, and asking what it could mean -- if anything.

      After a few minutes of discussion, and remarks about the beauty and the strangeness of the painting, Michael began to roll the painting for storage.

      Max said, "Wait a minute. Why don't we hang it?"

      Michael stopped rolling for a moment and looked to me.

      I didn't have to think very long to know the answer. "Let's not."

      Fortunately, no one argued with me. I was just too creeped out by the whole experience. I didn't think I could live with the painting staring back at me every day.

      "Just one thing, Michael," I said as we were heading back upstairs. "A favor?"

      "Yeah, what's that?"

      "Please don't paint or add anything to that painting -- I don't think I could take it."

      He chuckled as he said, "You got it, bro."

      For a while, I found it impossible to sleep more than a couple hours. I would wake up and feel like I had to go to the mirror to see if anything else had changed. When nothing else appeared after about two weeks, I began to be able to sleep again. Just one more thing to get used to. I never saw the painting again.

Continue to Chapter 14

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