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Gasp

Gasp

Gasp 8


  “Yes. Lots of people. And they’re jumping and sliding and falling off . . .” She chokes on a sob. “Some are hurt. A bunch of them are going to drown.”

  We are silent.

  “The looks on their faces . . . ,” Tori says in a near whisper. “The panic and fear . . .”

  Sawyer springs to life after the initial shock and starts typing everything into his phone. I wait for him to catch up, and I try to pull my thoughts together.

  “How big is the ship?” I ask, my voice more gentle now. I know how horrible it is to see death over and over.

  “I don’t know. Pretty big. Not like a giant freighter or cruise ship or anything, but yeah. Kind of big.”

  “What color is it?”

  “White. And some blue.”

  “How many people do you see?”

  She’s quiet for a long moment, and I think she might be counting. “Twenty or thirty,” she says. “It’s hard to count them because the scene goes by so fast.”

  Sawyer mutters an expletive.

  “And do they all . . . drown?”

  “I—I think so.”

  “Dear God,” I say. I slump against the step and stare blindly at the phone. I can’t comprehend. How are we supposed to save that many people? “Hey, Tori?” I say after a minute. “I’m going to have to call you back once I come up with a list of questions for you. Okay?”

  “Yeah.”

  “You okay? I know this is horrible.” All my anger toward her and her mother has now evaporated.

  “I’m okay,” she says. But I hear her crying.

  “Tori, if you help us, it’s going to be okay. Why are you crying?”

  It takes her a minute. And then she says through sobs, “I don’t want this to be my fault too.”

  Twenty-Five

  When I hang up, I hear a noise behind me, and for a second I panic. What if my parents heard everything? How would I explain this? But when I turn to look, it’s Trey. Rowan’s there too, behind him.

  “You gave me a heart attack,” I say. “How long have you been standing there?”

  “I had the bedroom window open and I could hear you guys talking,” Rowan says. “So I got Trey and we came out.”

  “We heard almost the whole thing,” Trey says, his voice grim. He glances over his shoulder at the house and says, “Let’s take a walk. I’m pulling Ben in on this over the phone if that’s okay.”

  “Yeah, definitely,” I say. We head across the street to the elementary school and walk the sidewalks around the property while Trey updates Ben, and then he keeps him on the line to listen to our conversation.

  Sawyer begins by recapping the notes he took. “White-and-blue ship, ocean, high waves, rocks, twenty to thirty people, some injured, in the water, all going to drown.” He stumbles and sucks in a breath. “Geez,” he mutters, shoving his phone into his pocket.

  “You okay?” I ask.

  “Yeah. Just . . . just blinded for a minute by the phone’s backlight.”

  I frown, because his breathing is a little too heavy and his hand a little too clammy in mine for that to be the problem. But I push it aside. We need to figure this out.

  “Okay,” Trey says. “I’m really not excited about this at all. So let’s start with this ocean bit. I’m telling you guys right now, we are not going to any freaking ocean. If this thing isn’t local, it’s out of our hands. That’s my decision, and I’m the oldest, and I can, like, vote an’ shit, and I’m telling you that this is the way it’s going to be.” He sounds like he thinks we’re going to argue.

  “No, you’re right,” I say. “I’m on board with that.” I cringe at the unintended pun. “Anybody want to challenge Trey and his self-appointed authoritay? Nobody? Okay.” I look at Trey. “Hey, I think you just defined us as being strictly local superheroes.”

  “There’s only so much a superhero with no actual powers can do,” Rowan says matter-of-factly.

  “And we’re a picky, demanding bunch,” Sawyer adds, apparently feeling better now. “We put our foot down whenever we decide a tragedy is on the wrong side of the local boundary line.”

  “Feet,” I say. “Our foot? Like we all have one big collective foot?” I shake my head. “I don’t think so.”

  “Thank you, grammar whore,” Rowan mutters.

  “I also have feet, not foot,” Ben contributes through the phone.

  Sometimes this is just how we do our best thinking.

  • • •

  We come up with a list of questions and call Tori back. Her phone rings and rings, and finally someone answers—Tori’s mother. I get a sick feeling in my stomach, like I’m about to be yelled at, but all she says is that Tori is asleep, and can we maybe text the questions instead?

  I agree and she actually thanks me, and we hang up. I start typing.

  Five things to ask Tori:

  1. Are the rocks in the middle of water or part of a shoreline or what?

  2. Do you see any land?

  3. Are there any markings on the ship—name, numbers, logos, designs?

  4. What’s the weather like?

  5. Time of day? Sun position?

  I look up and show everybody.

  “That’s enough to start with,” Sawyer says. “We don’t want to overwhelm her.” His uneasy look is back, and I wonder if he’s changing his mind about this.

  We head back home and stand in the driveway. I make everybody gather around, and I say, “I wish we didn’t have to do this, guys. It was so nice there for a couple days, thinking it was all over and we could go on with our lives.” I watch Sawyer’s face as he stares at the ground. “You can all walk away, you know. This is my deal. And I don’t want anybody here who doesn’t want to be here. I can’t handle that hanging over my head.” I look at them. “Think about it and let me know.”

  “I don’t need to think about it,” Trey says.

  “Me neither,” Rowan adds. “I’m in.”

  “I’ll go where Trey goes,” Ben says. I forgot he was still on the phone with us.

  Sawyer looks up. “We’re all in, baby,” he says. “Sink or swim.” He chuckles uneasily.

  Trey groans and pats Sawyer on the back. We say good-bye to Ben and hang up, and make our way to the house. Rowan and I walk together, while Trey and Sawyer fall behind and linger by Sawyer’s car. And I hear Trey say, “It’ll be okay, bro. We’ll get through it together.”

  I glance at them, puzzled. And I realize Sawyer’s not following us to come inside.

  “Later, guys,” he says. “Night, Jules.” He gets into the car, starts it, and pulls out of the driveway. I knit my brows, then lift my hand to wave, and watch him go.

  Twenty-Six

  In the morning, after the traditional jockeying for the bathroom at 6:00 a.m. (I lose due to phone-checking distraction), I’m relieved to find a lengthy message from Tori:

  1. Rocks are in the distance along (I think) the shore.

  2. Can’t really see much land per se though because of weird angle, spray, and chaos but I think it’s there.

  3. Ship is mostly white, but blue on bottom. Didn’t catch any markings—everything goes so fast.

  4. Weather is stormy. I think it’s raining but could be spray.

  5. Some light low in sky like early midmorning and maybe a glimpse of a far-off building? Could just be a weird shadow. It’s just a flicker. Is there a way to stop this crazy thing so I can actually look at it?

  I reply: Great stuff here. Will check in with you soon. We’ll teach you how to pause it. Let me know if anything new shows up—it usually does. As she probably already knows.

  There’s another text message, from Sawyer this time. Sorry I left all weird. Wasn’t feeling well. Better today. Ready to tackle Tori’s vision. See you at school.<3

  I smile. Maybe that’s all it was.

  • • •

  At school Sawyer acts completely normal, and I think I must have seen something that wasn’t really there regarding his weirdness yesterday. Trey, Sa
wyer, and I meet up for lunch as usual, and for the first time since the fire, Roxie and BFF Sarah give me a long stare as they walk by our table, and Roxie says something immature about my ugly, hand-me-down fire clothes.

  “Ahh,” I call after her, “an insult! Finally! Now things are really starting to feel like they’re back to normal. I knew I was missing something in my life.”

  “You’re welcome,” Roxie says.

  Trey and I look at each other. “She was actually funny,” he says.

  “I was just going to say that,” I say. “Jules is impressed!”

  “So is Trey,” Trey says.

  Sawyer looks at us. “Is this the latest Demarco thing to do? I’m just trying to keep up here. I thought we were still doing dot-com jokes.”

  “Please,” I scoff. “Dot-com jokes are so two visions ago. Stay on your toes, Angotti, or you’re off the team.”

  “You can be on my team,” Trey tells him with a wink.

  Sawyer shakes his head and grins. “Aw, man. I thought Ben would cure you of this desire to force homosexuality on me for your own selfish whims.”

  “Ben’s not here,” Trey says. He leans toward Sawyer. “Come on. Kiss kiss. Huh? Yeah?”

  Sawyer laughs out loud. “Trey, my friend, if you can keep me from drowning, I’ll give you a kiss you’ll never forget.”

  “Aaand, here we go.” I fold my arms.

  Trey sits back and looks offended. “How dare you, Sawyer. Really. I’d never cheat on Ben.”

  Sawyer just shakes his head.

  I change the subject. “So, what are we going to do about Tori? Should we head over there after school, or what?” I’m personally getting really sick of the drive to UC. The traffic makes me crazy.

  Trey and Sawyer sober up and we toss around the options. “There’s not a huge hurry, is there? All the visions have had time frames of at least a few weeks, right?” Sawyer asks.

  “Yeah. Mine was more like six or seven weeks. Longer than yours,” I say.

  “And mine was longer than Tori’s first one,” Sawyer says.

  Trey knits his brows. “So it appears that the time from first vision to the day of the tragedy is growing progressively shorter. I wonder if that’s something to note or just a coincidence.”

  “Good question,” I say. I consider it for a moment. “But in all instances, or at least in Sawyer’s and mine, the vision gave us more information as time progressed. A hidden frame exposed here, an extra scene there,” I say, remembering the moment I discovered Sawyer’s face in the body bag.

  “And in all cases, the visions appeared more frequently as the event became imminent,” Sawyer says. He taps his chin. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the way it works, it really seems like the vision gods want you to succeed.”

  I give a sarcastic laugh. “They’re on our side, all right.”

  “You know what I mean.”

  I nod. “Yeah, I do. The vision really does give you the clues you need and the urgency to find all the answers. You just have to work at it to see them all.”

  As the bell rings, Trey concludes, “So maybe we should wait a few days to visit Tori, in hopes that she gets more information or some new scenes in the vision.”

  Sawyer and I look at each other and nod. “Let’s shoot for the weekend, then,” I say. “I’ll let everybody know if anything changes. But I’m sure we’re safe to wait until then.”

  Twenty-Seven

  Tori gets discharged from the hospital on Tuesday to finish her lengthy recovery at home. All week I stay in touch with her, coaching her and keeping her calm despite the fact that the vision is growing more intense every day. “Even though it seems like everything is out of control, it’s okay,” I tell her. “You’ll see more soon, and as long as you are telling me everything, we’ll know when we can start to act. But right now, we just don’t have enough information.” I pause. “You got more information over time with your last vision, right?”

  “I guess,” she says. “Yeah. But this is horrible, going through it all over again. And this one is so . . . gruesome. It makes me sick to my stomach.”

  I rise above the urge to say she should have listened to me last time, and instead I tell her, “Just try to stay sane. And let me know if anything changes. You can call me anytime, day or night. I mean it.”

  “Thanks,” Tori says.

  “Is your mom still being cool?”

  “Yeah. No worries. She gets it now.”

  • • •

  Friday morning Tori texts me: It’s getting worse, and I think there’s something new.

  I write back: We’d all like to come to your house tomorrow. Is that okay?

  She gives me her mom’s address, and thankfully it’s much closer to our house than UC is. We were going broke paying for gas.

  • • •

  On Saturday, Trey, Ben, Rowan, Sawyer, and I sprawl out in the Hayeses’ living room, surrounding the recliner where Tori rests wearing loose-fitting sweats.

  “You look fancy,” I say. “No hospital gown.”

  “Finally,” Tori says. She smiles for, like, the first time ever. “I’m so glad to be out of the hospital.”

  “I’ll bet.” I tell her about my recent time in the hospital after the crash.

  “So, wait—you got hurt doing your vision thing?” Her face is troubled.

  “Totally,” I say. “And obviously you know Trey got shot in the arm during the one at UC, and he was helping. He knew about the vision. He was lucky, though. He’s doing physical therapy stuff now.”

  “Wow, that’s terrible,” Tori says. “I didn’t realize that you guys could get hurt while doing this. That’s not fair.”

  I glance at Sawyer, who is looking at me. “Invincible,” he says decisively, and I give a reluctant half grin. I turn back to Tori. “We try not to think about that.”

  I officially introduce Trey and Rowan to Tori, and then I make sure Tori knows Ben since I don’t know if she was at the meeting from the Gay-Straight Alliance side or the choir group side of things. Ben assures me they are well acquainted.

  “Great,” I say. “Let’s get moving, then.”

  I pull out my smartphone while Ben and Sawyer set up their laptops. Tori gives us the Wi-Fi password, and within a minute we’re online.

  “It’s like Command Central in here,” Rowan says, looking around the room.

  Sawyer props his computer on a small table next to Tori’s chair and directs his browser to a video page. I pull out some tracing paper and a pencil that I bought from a craft store a few days ago for this purpose and set it on the floor next to Sawyer for later. We’re starting to get good at this.

  “Everybody ready?” Sawyer asks, looking around. We’re all poised to take notes and research anything that is researchable. Sawyer starts the video. “Do you see your vision?” he asks Tori.

  “Oh, yeah,” Tori says. “Question is, when do I not see it these days?”

  “Okay, good,” he says. “So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to start this video from the beginning and pause immediately, which should pause your vision. Then I’m going to need you to talk us through what you’re seeing little by little, scene by scene, and tell us everything. Don’t leave any detail out, even if it seems unimportant. Got it?”

  “Got it,” Tori says.

  “And then after we talk through each frozen screenshot, I’ll have you do a little tracing of the scenes, if that’s okay.”

  “Yeah, totally,” Tori says. She seems very eager to redeem herself, and I’m glad. I’m actually starting to like her. She walks us through the vision.

  “The first thing I see is the ship. It’s all white where I’m standing, but later from a different angle I can see it’s blue on the bottom.”

  “What’s your point of view in this scene?” I ask. “Are you, you know, standing on the ship, or looking at it from a different spot?”

  “For the first scene, I’m on the ship. Like I’m standing on a deck,” Tor
i says. “The ship is rocking and there’s a lot of spray and big swells like you’d find in the ocean. There are benches out here, and then there’s a door that leads to . . . like a giant glass room, and I can see a bunch of empty seats in there. Rows of them, like in an airport terminal. Some tables, too. There’s stuff strewn all around.”

  Ben looks up. He tilts his head, eyes narrowed, but says nothing.

  “Can you see any land in this frame?” Sawyer asks.

  “Not this one. Just sky. Cloudy, possibly raining, windy. Slight bit of yellow behind low clouds, like it’s morning.”

  “Anything else? Any writing on the ship that you can see?”

  “The benches have words indicating there are life vests inside. That’s all I notice.”

  “Any people in this shot?”

  “Only blurry images far inside that glass room. Nobody’s sitting—if they’re not on the floor, they’re all in one place, crowding around.”

  Sawyer hands her a piece of tracing paper and the pencil, and she holds it up to the screen and quickly traces what she sees.

  Tori slides the video play bar slightly to the right, narrowing her eyes and trying to get it in just the right spot. “Okay,” she says. “The next scene is from farther away, like I’m not on the boat, because I can see the whole thing and a vast expanse of water behind it. There are words on the side, but I can’t read them—I’m really far away, like maybe my view is from land. When this scene is in motion, there’s a very sudden jolt or something. I can’t really describe it, and there’s no sound or anything. It’s like the vision has a glitch in it. . . .” She stares at the computer and we all look at her quietly.

  “Oooh,” she says softly. “That’s why.” She looks closer at the screen. “There’s something in the water, and I think the ship hits it. I never realized what that bump in the vision was until now.” She touches the screen and slides her finger across it, as if we can see what she’s pointing at. “There,” she says. “It’s like a seawall sticking out.” She looks up. “It’s almost invisible because the waves are so high.”

  “Good job, Tori,” I say. “That explains a lot.”