I’m Nico and what I’m about to tell you is Secret and Dangerous and True. It’s also several planetary systems beyond Weird. Here’s how it started . . .
Picture this . . . Friday morning. A whole-school assembly in the big hall. Rows and rows of teenagers in lines of plastic chairs. I was sitting there, towards the back – dark hair, brown eyes – the guy all the girls wanted to get their hands on.
Anyway, there we all were, sunlight blistering in through high windows and the head teacher, Fergus Fox, droning on.
He’s not just the head teacher. He’s also my stepdad. I’ve lived with him in his boarding school since my mum died of cancer when I was five. We don’t get on, for reasons which will soon become obvious.
But this isn’t about him.
If it’s about anyone, it’s about her . . . Ketty.
She was sitting two rows in front and four seats to the left of me. You’re probably surprised I can remember that little detail. Well, get used to it. When it comes to Ketty, I tend to remember everything.
That day she had her dark, curly hair in a ponytail, tied back with a piece of string. Very Ketty, that string. She doesn’t go in for girly things like ribbon – she’s practical. Doesn’t wear loads of make-up or jewellery either and I’ve never seen her in a dress.
My eyes kept sliding over to where she was sitting. Which is when I saw Billy Martin put his arm round her shoulders. My mouth fell open. Everything else dropped away, even the sound of Fergus’s droning voice. I waited for Ketty to push the arm away. But she didn’t. Instead, she leaned in closer.
No way. But there it was. My best friend . . . with Billy Martin.
I looked away. Tried to calm myself. But my eyes kept going back to them.
I couldn’t believe she’d go with Billy. What did he have that I didn’t? Apart from a load of money, of course. But Ketty wouldn’t be interested in that, would she?
I looked up at the stage and tried to concentrate on what Fergus was talking about. Some long, dull lecture about the appropriate way to wear your school uniform.
Billy’s hand was on Ketty’s arm now, his fingertips moving slightly up and down.
I tore my eyes away and felt the fury building in my chest.
It’s your own fault, said the voice in my head. You’ve been friends for months. You’ve had every chance to ask her out yourself.
It was true. Worse, I didn’t even know why I hadn’t said anything to Ketty so far.
Actually, I did.
It was because I’d been sure Ketty would say no. I mean, we got on really well, but she was so completely into her running it was like there wasn’t room for anything else important.
I didn’t want to think about that so I tried to focus on Fergus again. But everything about him was annoying me now – his solemn face . . . his serious voice . . . I mean, he was talking about school uniform, for God’s sake, not war or dying babies.
Billy squeezed Ketty’s arm and smiled. I half thought of jumping up and pointing and shouting for the teachers to stop them. But even I’m not that crazy.
And then Ketty turned her head to look at him and right there, in front of everyone . . . in front of me . . . she smiled back at him.
A great, big, loved-up smile.
My stomach turned over. I could feel my face flooding red. I stared through the nearest window. It was open just a fraction. I imagined storming over to it and slamming it shut. Hard.
With a sudden swerve, the window swung wide open. I jumped. Before I could even register what was happening, the window slammed shut.
Several people sitting nearby looked round. I watched as the window opened and slammed shut again, then opened once more.
I glanced at the curtains beside it. As I did, they lifted away from the wall, like a gust of wind had rippled through them.
My eyes tore round the room. More curtains moved. Some floated up for a second and dropped again. Others flew high into the air. What was going on? Around me I could hear people gasping. Whimpers and anxious squeals from the younger kids filled the air.
‘Why’s everything moving?’
In the background Fergus’s voice was a loud appeal. ‘Be quiet. It’s just a freak gust of wind. Stay in your seats.’
My eyes lit on the clock beside the stage – a big, open, white-faced clock with black hands and numbers. The clock hands moved – first slowly, then faster and faster, whizzing until they were a blur.
I blinked and the hands stopped.
Which is when it struck me. This was no freak wind.
It was me.
I was making everything move.
My heart hammered like a machine gun. I glanced away from the clock, to a vase that teetered on the table by the stage . . . to the windows on the other side of the room. More curtains flew up. A chair tipped against the wall. The vase smashed.
Whatever I looked at was moving – violently, angrily. Like I was riding a wave of anger and every time I looked at something that wave crashed down.
How am I doing this?
For a second I felt like I was two people: one watching what was going on along with everyone else; the other somehow making it happen.
My eyes swept back to the clock. As I stared, it fell off the wall and crashed to the floor. Jesus. Screams now around me. A girl sobbing in the row behind.
‘Help! Make it stop!’
My eyes flashed back to the window where the whole thing had started. It was still standing wide open. Mr Rogerson, the maths teacher, was walking towards it, hands outstretched.
Before he reached the window, I willed it to shut.
It did. Noisily.
I closed my eyes. My heart pounded. How was this happening?
From the stage, Fergus’s voice sounded low and reassuring.
‘Calm down, everyone. Like I said, it’s just a freak wind. It’s over.’
I took a deep breath and looked up, my pulse slowing. It was over at last. People in the hall were glancing round – some nervously, others with wide, wondering eyes. The babble of voices rose.
‘Did you see that chair tip up against the wall?’
‘And the clock hands going mad?’
‘Man, that vase just exploded!’
I looked over at Ketty. She was gazing round, her golden-brown eyes huge circles. At least Billy didn’t have his arm round her any more. I stared down at my lap. Fergus was still talking over the hubbub.
‘Just a freak storm . . .’ he repeated like a mantra. ‘Everyone be quiet . . . Show’s over.’
Slowly the anxious voices died away.
‘Stand and file out from the back, row by row,’ Fergus went on. ‘If you are close to the smashed clock or the broken vase, please be careful.’
I kept my eyes on the ground as we stood up. At least Fergus had assumed it was a freak storm. Not a freak stepson. My heart was still beating fast. What if I looked up and the whole thing started again? I shot a swift glance sideways, at my vacated chair. No movement. Good.
My stomach twisted with cramps as we walked out. None of this made sense.
Everyone around me was still talking about the ‘storm’. And then a large hand clamped down on my shoulder. ‘There you are.’ Fergus spun me round and glared down at me. ‘This way,’ he said.
Reluctantly, I followed him away from the crowds. As we reached his office Fergus looked round, as if to make sure we couldn’t be overheard.
‘What in God’s name did you think you were doing?’ he spat.
‘What?’ I said, startled. ‘When?’
‘Don’t play games with me, Nico. I know it was you causing that mess in assembly.’
My mouth fell open. How could Fergus possibly know it was me? ‘What?’ I said, weakly.
Fergus frowned. ‘How long has it been going on?’
My mouth closed, then opened again. My head felt like it might explode. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I stammered.
Fergus crossed his arms. ‘Okay, you don’t want to talk to me. So listen.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘The power you have is evil. I don’t ever want you to use it again. Understand?’
I stared at him.
Fergus gripped my arm and gave me a little shake. ‘Nico, are you listening to me? This power – moving things . . . telekinesis, whatever you want to call it . . . I’m telling you it’s evil.’
‘And I’m telling you I have no idea what you’re on about,’ I said, pulling my arm away. I turned to go.
‘Come back here!’ Fergus barked.
No. I stuck my finger up at him and dived back into the crowd. As I made my way up to my dorm, my heart started pumping hard again.
How did Fergus know that it had been me moving things with my mind? And why was he saying it was evil?
An ice-cold shiver circled my throat.
What on earth was happening to me?
Fergus didn’t mention me giving him the finger later. Well, he didn’t really have a chance. I arrived at the last minute for his history class and left as soon as the bell rang. As usual he picked on me all through the lesson, asking me the hardest questions, and giving me the least time to answer. Whenever I asked him why he gave me such a hard time in class, he’d say that because I was his stepson, it was important the other students didn’t think he was showing me any favouritism. Like it might hurt their feelings.
What about my feelings? He never stopped to think how embarrassing his behaviour was for me.
It didn’t used to be like that. When I was younger, we got on great. Maybe that was the trouble – Fergus still wished I was nine years old, or something. He certainly still treated me like I was.
After lessons finished, I went to the library and searched the internet. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly, then I clicked through to this psychic phenomenon site and there it was. Telekinesis – that word Fergus had used. Also known as psychokinesis: the power to move objects without touching them.
Apparently loads of people throughout history have claimed to be able to do this. In the olden days they’d be burned as witches. More recently they were likely to get their own TV show.
But no one had ever scientifically proven what they could do. And I couldn’t find any records of people unable to control their abilities either, though similar stuff happened quite often in horror movies.
Not exactly a reassuring discovery.
It was almost 5 p.m. by then, and the light was fading. I went outside and spent about half an hour trying – and failing – to move a twig on the grass near one of the school benches.
I didn’t get it. I’d hurled a clock off the wall when I hadn’t been trying . . . but now I couldn’t move a twig? I slumped onto the bench, closed my eyes and tilted my head towards the dying sun.
‘What’s the matter?’
I jumped. Ketty was standing over me. She was dressed in her running gear – sweats and trainers. Her curly hair was still scraped back into a string-tied ponytail and her skin was glowing. She smiled, like she was really pleased to see me.
My heart skipped several beats.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.’ She paused. ‘You okay?’
‘Course I am, babe.’ I stood up, shoving my hands in my pockets so she wouldn’t see they were shaking. ‘Why shouldn’t I be?’
Ketty’s smile deepened. Her eyes really light up when she grins. And her nose wrinkles. It’s beautiful.
‘Whatever. I’ll get on with my run, then.’ She turned to go.
She turned back, eyebrows raised. I ransacked my brain for something to say. Part of me wanted to tell her what had happened in assembly, but I was scared she’d think I was a complete freak.
After all, I thought I was a complete freak.
‘Saw you with Billy earlier.’ I smiled. ‘You know he used to bully Curtis to do his homework?’
This was true, though a secret.
‘So . . . you going out with him?’ I held my breath.
Ketty shrugged again. ‘Dunno,’ she said. ‘Maybe.’
Well that, at least, was hopeful. ‘Hey, d’you wanna see a magic trick?’ I said.
I took the twig I’d been practising on and placed it on her hand. ‘Watch,’ I said. ‘I can make this move without touching it.’
Praying I could make the thing at least twitch across her palm, I focused hard. Nothing happened.
A strand of Ketty’s hair fell across her face as she watched.
I tried harder. Still nothing.
Ketty frowned. ‘What’s supposed to happen?’ she said.
I could feel the panic rising into my throat. Move. The twig lay resolutely still. And then Ketty’s mobile rang. I stared at it as she answered. It was new . . . and startlingly pink. Sleek, girly and expensive – it was the last phone I’d have expected Ketty to own.
‘Hi,’ she said to the caller. ‘Yeah, I’m outside, I’ll come and meet you now.’ Ketty closed her phone and looked up at me. ‘Gotta go.’
‘Wait, let me try the twig thing again.’ I laid it on my hand and stared down at it.
Ketty laughed. ‘You’re bizarre, Nico.’
‘Not as bizarre as your new phone, babe,’ I said, pointing to the mobile. ‘I mean, pink?’
‘I know.’ Ketty made a face. ‘It’s . . . Billy gave it to me.’
‘He got you a phone?’
How much money did he have?
‘Yeah, it’s got a great camera and brilliant sound quality.’
‘Cool,’ I said, trying not to sound bitter.
‘That was Billy calling, actually,’ Ketty said. ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go.’
‘Okay.’ My face burned with humiliation as she turned and walked away. Could I have looked more of an idiot? Trying to move a stupid twig while her actual boyfriend had bought her an ultra-cool phone.
Furious with myself I chucked the twig on the ground. I felt like punching the bench behind me. As I stared at it, rage pulsing in my chest, the bench fell backwards. It landed with a thud on the ground.
The rage in my chest vanished and I felt cold with fear. I stared at the bench. My mind had knocked it over. I was sure of it.
How was that possible?
I wandered over to a clump of trees. Beyond them the school’s two playing fields stretched away. Most of my year were there. Ketty, of course, slim and scruffy in her running gear, with Billy and a few of his friends. Tom and Curtis were there too – heading for the sports hut, almost certainly to sneak a smoke in before the home room bell. Nearer me a bunch of girls were chatting, giggling over some magazine. All ordinary school stuff. I sighed.
‘Nico?’ Fergus’s deep voice echoed across the grass.
I turned. He was striding towards me. I started walking away.
It was pointless trying to resist. He’d give me a detention if I pushed him any further. Like I told you, even though he was my stepdad he always seemed to come down harder on me than any other pupil.
I stopped walking. Fergus marched up, panting slightly. ‘I’ve been wanting to speak to you all day,’ he said. ‘But I’ve had the local paper on my back since lunchtime. Some bright spark called them about what happened in assembly.’
‘The “freak storm”?’
‘We both know it wasn’t that.’ Fergus paused. ‘You know you were very rude to me earlier.’
‘Yeah?’ I stared down at his polished brown shoes. ‘Well, you were accusing me of ripping up the assembly hall.’
‘Which you did.’ Fergus’s voice rose. He checked himself. ‘Look, I’m sorry . . . but are you seriously telling me it wasn’t you?’
‘Okay, no.’ I sighed. ‘But I didn’t mean to . . . anyway, how did you know? There were three hundred people in the room.’
Fergus rubbed his head. ‘I can’t . . . look, I don’t want to go into it. You don’t need to know any of that . . .’
‘Any of what?’ Now what was he talking about? ‘You’re treating me like a little kid,’ I muttered.
‘I’m not.’ Fergus’s forehead creased into a frown. ‘I just . . . I worry about you.’
I rolled my eyes. ‘Which means you think I won’t be able to handle whatever it is you think you know.’
‘No. And I don’t know anything except that the power you demonstrated is highly destructive. That’s it. Come on, Nico. You saw what you did.’
He was lying, I was certain. He must know more. How else could he have worked out so quickly that what he was seeing was telekinesis – and that I was making it happen? Smashing clocks and vases with your mind wasn’t exactly an everyday occurrence at Fox Academy.
‘Now promise me we won’t have a repeat of this morning’s events.’ Fergus attempted a wry smile.
I frowned. It didn’t make sense. Surely any normal person would be curious about how or why I’d suddenly developed telekinetic powers?
‘Don’t you even want to know what actually happened?’ I said.
Because I do. I want to know a whole lot more – and, anyway, I can’t control what I’m doing, even if I wanted to.
Fergus shuddered. ‘Absolutely not,’ he said. ‘Whatever you can do is evil. Your mother would have hated it. I know she would.’
I stared at him, my resentment building. How could Fergus know for sure what my mum would have thought?
‘Are you listening? It’s really important you don’t ever try to use your telekinetic powers again. For your own good. Understand?’
I narrowed my eyes. How typical was this? Fergus treating me like a child who had to be told what was good for him. When was he going to see that I was old enough to work stuff like that out for myself?
‘Promise me you’ll stop, Nico. For the sake of your mother’s memory.’
‘Sure, Fergus.’ I lied. He was just using my mum to get me to agree. He didn’t care about her memory. ‘Whatever you want.’
The next two days passed in the usual boring blur of school activities. There was a bit of minor excitement when the local paper’s story on our ‘freak electrical storm’ came out. But everyone soon forgot about it.
I tried a few times to make stuff move again. But nothing happened. I was just starting to believe that maybe I’d imagined the whole thing, including Fergus’s strange reaction, when I got a text that changed everything.
Like most schools, Fox Academy had strict rules about switching off your mobile in class. I usually kept my phone in my pocket, on vibrate, so if I got a call or a text I would know, but the teacher wouldn’t.
It was double maths. Boring as hell. And I was almost asleep, when my phone vibrated. I fished it out of my pocket, checking first that our teacher, Mr Rogerson, wasn’t looking. The text read:
That was no freak storm.
I know the truth. All of it, including what Fergus will never tell you.
If you want to find out who you really are, come to Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, 2 p.m., Saturday.
I froze, staring at the words, then checked the sender. Number withheld. My first thought was that it was some kind of wind-up. But who from? No one apart from Fergus knew that I had been responsible for what had happened in Monday’s assembly. I glanced quickly round the class. Over to my left, Ketty was busily writing in her maths textbook. Next to her, chin propped in his hand, Billy was staring into space. Behind them Tom and Curtis were passing notes. On the other side of the room Lola and Lauren were surreptitiously peering into mirrors under their desks. Everyone else was working on their algebra. No one was paying me any attention.
I slid my mobile back into my pocket, heart thumping. If the text hadn’t come from someone in my class then who had sent it? Who was ‘a friend’? The words drummed in my head.
Find out who you really are.
What on earth did that mean? I turned the whole thing over in my mind as Mr Rogerson droned on about some equation. How did the sender know my number? And how did they know that the storm wasn’t real? I tried in vain to tell myself the text was just some weird bit of random nonsense, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what it meant and who had texted it and why they’d sent it.
By the time the class ended I’d decided.
I had to find out.
I checked the suggested meeting place again. I knew where Trafalgar Square was, but getting to central London on Saturday wouldn’t be easy. Fergus would never give me permission to go so far on my own.
Fox Academy is based north of the city, right at the end of the underground’s Northern Line. If you want to go into town at the weekend, one of your parents has to sign a special permission slip. Fergus only let me go once, and that was on pain of a million detentions if I wasn’t back by 5 p.m. I got back just before six. He hit the roof and I was grounded for three weeks.
Still, I’d sneaked out often enough since then.
I asked Tom if he’d cover for me if Fergus asked where I was on Saturday.
‘No worries,’ he said. ‘What’re you doing?’
I shrugged, doing my best to look casual. ‘Just a date.’
Tom grinned. ‘Fit?’
The sun was shining in a bright blue sky and Trafalgar Square was heaving with tourists.
I’d got away from school without anyone seeing, then made it down to Charing Cross tube station in plenty of time. I was now standing by one of the lions at the base of the stone column in the centre of Trafalgar Square, waiting.
Almost fifteen minutes had passed and I was starting to think whoever had texted me wasn’t coming, when I spotted a girl on the other side of the square.
Now, obviously, being male and not dead, I tend to notice pretty girls, but this one really stood out. For a start, there was her hair. It was red and very long – almost to her waist. And then there was the way she walked – swaying slightly, like a model on a catwalk. She was dressed in boots and denim shorts and every head turned as she crossed the square.
I watched her too. After a few seconds I realised she was looking right back. In fact, she was walking towards me.
A few seconds later and she was standing in front of me – all long legs, creamy skin and slanting, pale green eyes.
‘Are you Nico?’An American accent.
‘Yes,’ I said, trying to look as if unbelievably fit strangers approached me all the time. ‘Er . . . how do you know my name?’
The girl smiled, revealing a set of perfectly white teeth. The smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. ‘I’m Dylan,’ she said, rather coolly. ‘Jack sent me.’
‘Oh.’ I stood there, feeling stupid. I wasn’t prepared for this . . . some beautiful girl coming out of nowhere, talking in riddles. ‘Who’s Jack?’
‘The guy who sent you the text about this meeting,’ Dylan said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. ‘He’s my godfather . . . Jack Linden. Come on, he wants to meet you.’
She glided away. I followed, feeling completely bewildered. As we reached the edge of the square I stopped.
‘Wait,’ I said.
Dylan twisted her long hair in her hand. She raised her eyebrows. ‘Yes?’
‘How does this Jack Linden know me? How . . . where did he get my number?’
‘He’s kind of like a database expert . . . he can get hold of any telephone number he wants. He would have met you himself but he was worried you might have been followed.’
‘Followed?’ I stared at her. ‘By who?’
‘Fergus, of course.’
‘Why would he follow me?’ I remembered the text had specifically mentioned him. ‘How do you know Fergus, anyway?’ This was getting weirder and weirder.
‘Jack’ll explain everything.’ And she glided off again.
Head spinning, I had no choice but to follow. Without speaking, Dylan led me up St Martin’s Lane and along a very busy Long Acre. As we stopped at some traffic lights, I studied her face. She was undeniably beautiful – like a doll or a painting. But there was something cold and aloof about her I didn’t like at all.
I suddenly missed Ketty.
We turned off the main road about halfway down. The bustle and noise of shoppers and traffic immediately calmed. Dylan took me along a series of short, increasingly deserted roads. We turned into a little cul-de-sac full of tiny brick townhouses. She stopped outside one with a red door and took out a key.
It struck me that this whole thing could be some kind of trap. Some elaborate plan to lure me away from home and rob me . . . or worse. My fingers tightened round the phone in my pocket and I braced myself, ready to run.
Dylan pushed open the door and indicated I should go inside.
‘What about you?’ I could hear the shake in my voice. I cleared my throat.
‘I’m going home,’ she said. ‘I’m in London for a month, staying with relatives. I just came over to see Jack for the morning. He’s inside.’ She leaned into the hallway. ‘Jack!’ she yelled. ‘Nico’s here.’
She pointed to an open door at the end of the hallway. ‘Wait in there.’
I opened my mouth to ask more questions, but before I could speak Dylan shut the door, leaving me alone in the hallway. My heart pounded. Rubbing my sweaty palms on my jeans, I crept along the dimly-lit hall. What the hell was I doing here? I reached the door at the end and pushed it open.
A kitchen. Wide . . . bare . . . full of pale wood, with a few designer appliances on the countertop and a huge stainless steel fridge in the corner.
So where was this Jack Linden?
I looked around anxiously. There were bars on the window, which looked out over a tiny, overgrown courtyard. I heard footsteps down the stairs and along the corridor. My stomach twisted over. I had to be insane coming in here like this.
And then the door burst open and Jack Linden swept into the room like a tornado.
‘Nico?’ He was breathless. Filling the kitchen with his presence. ‘I can’t believe it. You’re here.’
He was tall, maybe in his late thirties or early forties, with dark wavy hair and wide eyes – a bright, startling blue. He laughed. ‘After all this time,’ he said. ‘I’m finally meeting you.’
I nodded, unsure what to say. At least he seemed normal. I slowly let my breath out, beginning to calm down.
‘Sorry, let me . . . I’m Jack. I’m . . . Christ, I don’t know where to begin. ‘
‘Um . . .’ I hesitated. ‘How about we start with how you know me?’
‘Sure, er . . . let’s sit.’ Jack led me over to a couple of stools beside the wooden counter. We sat down and Jack adjusted the back of his jacket so the shoulder line sat neatly. I’d already clocked his suit. Dark grey, with silver buttons. Dead flashy and very designer.
‘I . . . okay.’ Jack blew out his breath. ‘Years ago, before I got into, er . . . data retrieval, I worked for a scientist called William Fox. Fergus Fox’s brother.’
My mouth fell open. ‘My stepfather, Fergus Fox?’
‘Fergus has a brother?’ I said.
Why hadn’t he ever mentioned that?
‘Had a brother,’ Jack corrected me. ‘William’s dead now. Like I say, I used to work for him, raising money to fund his scientific research. He was looking into gene sequencing. One Christmas William invited me and some other friends to a party and Fergus was there with your mum.’
‘So you knew my mum, too?’ My stomach churned. I didn’t often meet people who’d known my mum. She’d died when I was little from a rare cancer, and my own memories of her had almost faded. At least I wasn’t sure any more what was a real memory and what was a story Fergus or someone else had told me about her.
‘I didn’t know her very well,’ Jack admitted, ‘but she made a big impression on me that night at this rather dull party. She was great fun . . . really lively. We got chatting and she explained to me she was going to have a baby.’
I nodded. I’d heard my mum’s story many times – how she arrived in London to study English, got pregnant by some man she hardly knew, and then met Fergus, a teacher at her college, who took her in when she had nothing and no one else to look after her.
‘Anyway, to cut a long story short, William’s research was going well. He had discovered a series of genetic codes which he was certain were connected to extrasensory abilities – a psychic gene, if you like. Eventually, he managed to create a synthesis of the codes . . . he called it the Medusa gene. Anyone implanted with the gene would develop extraordinary abilities.’
‘what sort of abilities?’ I said.
‘For example, the ability to move things without touching them . . .’ Jack grinned. ‘Such as might appear to cause a freak storm.’
I suddenly realised what he was saying. I stared at him, shocked. ‘You mean . . . that gene’s inside me?’
Jack nodded. ‘William embedded the Medusa gene in a virus, which is standard gene therapy practice. He then injected the virus into your umbilical cord while you were in your mother’s womb. He predicted that the gene would take effect once combined with the hormones released at puberty. Does that make sense?’
‘Well, no . . . except . . .’ I gasped. ‘That’s what started this week . . . in assembly . . .’
‘Ah, yes.’ Jack raised his eyebrows. ‘I read about that in your local paper and guessed it was really you. That’s why I decided to get in touch. I assume the “storm” was Fergus’s idea of a cover story?’
‘Yes, but . . .’ I stared at the mosaic tiles on the kitchen floor. It was all too much to take in.
‘So Fergus knew . . . knows . . . about this Medusa gene?’ I said.
‘Yup.’ Jack made a face. ‘Look, Nico, I don’t know what your relationship with your stepdad is like, but the truth is he and I never got on . . .’
‘I don’t really get on with him either,’ I admitted.
Jack nodded slowly. ‘So he doesn’t know you’re here with me and he didn’t tell you anything about your . . . “gift”?’
‘Er . . .’ It probably wasn’t a good idea to tell a total stranger no one knew where I was. Except . . . Jack seemed okay. Anyway, I needed to know more about this Medusa gene and Fergus certainly wasn’t going to tell me.
‘Fergus hasn’t told me a thing. He never does – it’s like he always thinks he knows best about everything. When he realised what I’d done in assembly he got angry . . . told me never to use my telekinesis again.’
‘What?’ Jack’s eyes blazed a fierce blue. ‘That’s outrageous. It’s part of who you are.’
I frowned. Was it? With so little experience of my telekinesis – and no control over it – it was hard to feel like it was part of me. Still, maybe if Jack was right that would come in time.
‘So how come I never met Fergus’s brother . . . this William Fox?’ I said, at last.
‘I told you, he’s dead . . . he died in an accident before you were born. Look, there’ll be plenty of time to explain about all that. Would . . . I mean . . .’ He hesitated. ‘Would you mind showing me what you can do? It’s just I’ve waited such a long time to see whether William’s work paid off.’
I bit my lip. ‘Er . . . I’d be happy to show you, but . . .’
‘What is it?’
‘Well . . . the truth is . . .’ I stopped, feeling awkward.
Jack tilted his head to one side and gazed at me. ‘You can’t do it to order?’ he said slowly. ‘Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t?’
‘Yes,’ I said with relief. ‘That’s exactly it.’
Jack nodded thoughtfully. ‘I’m sure I can help you with that . . . if you’d like me too, I mean.’
‘God, yes.’ The words blurted out too fast. I blushed.
Jack smiled. ‘You know, maybe it would help to think about how mastering telekinesis might improve your life . . . What do you want? Power . . . girls . . . fame . . .?’
I stared at him, almost laughing. How could moving objects around bring me any of those things? Jack saw my expression and frowned.
I realised he was serious and looked down at the kitchen floor. What did I want?
The answer came back in a single word.
There was no way I could say that to Jack, though. Anyway, I knew it would take more than moving objects without touching them to impress Ketty. Still, a bit of money might help . . . at least then I could compete with stupid Billy Martin and his expensive mobile phone.
I looked up. ‘I’d like to be rich,’ I said.
A grin curled across Jack’s face. ‘No problem,’ he said. ‘I can certainly help with that! Now, let’s get started.’
I tried again, but the tyre still wouldn’t move.
Jack leaned against the garage wall, watching me thoughtfully. He’d brought me in here – the little garage next to the kitchen – after I told him how my telekinesis could easily get out of control.
‘My car’s parked outside,’ Jack had said with a grin. ‘And there’s nothing else in here that matters.’
I looked round the garage. There wasn’t much here at all. Just some shelves with stacks of old newspapers for recycling at one end, a few tools on a bench and the tyre I was trying to move propped up against the wall opposite.
‘Have another go,’ Jack said in an encouraging voice.
I focused on the tyre once more. Move. Move, you stupid thing.
Nothing. ‘AAAGH!’ I turned away in frustration and thumped the palm of my hand.
‘Hey, Nico, easy tiger,’ Jack said smoothly. ‘I think . . . if you don’t mind me saying . . . it looks like you’re trying too hard.’
I nodded, my face burning. Why couldn’t I just make it work?
‘I know it’s frustrating when you can’t control it,’ Jack said, shrewdly. ‘But the telekinesis is already there, inside you, part of who you are. Just relax and it will happen.’
I nodded again, but inside I was all jangled up – how could I relax, feeling like this?
‘Can we try something?’ Jack said. ‘I’d like you to focus on your breathing for a moment. Don’t change the way you’re breathing, just become aware of it. Okay?’
‘Okay.’ I concentrated on my breath. It was shallow and jagged to start with but, as I concentrated, it calmed a little. I closed my eyes and took a few deeper breaths. Ketty’s face floated in front of my mind’s eye.
‘Nico?’ Jack’s voice made me jump.
My eyes snapped open. ‘Sorry,’ I said.
Jack smiled. ‘No worries. It’s easy to lose focus, but I’d like you to try again. This time look at the tyre but keep concentrating on your breath.’
I did as he told me. My mind wandered off several times, but Jack kept reminding me to watch my breathing and, after a few minutes, all my earlier frustration seeped away.
‘Okay.’ Jack rubbed his hands together. ‘Now, breathe out, then, on the in-breath, say to yourself: I will lift that tyre.’
I did as he asked. It was funny. I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else without feeling ridiculous, yet Jack – a complete stranger – made it feel like the most natural thing in the world.
I focused on the tyre again. Breathed in . . .
I will lift that tyre.
‘Good. Now, don’t think about it, but on your out-breath, make it happen.’
I breathed in again. I can do this. I breathed out. And the tyre rose gently into the air.
I could hear Jack gasp beside me, but my eyes followed the tyre up . . . up . . . to the ceiling.
‘That’s amazing.’ Jack’s voice was completely awestruck.
Yes. Adrenalin surged through me and in a split second my focus vanished and the tyre plummeted to the ground.
No. Furious, I felt my mind connect with the gut instinct to lash out. Seconds later the tyre was careering round the garage, completely out of control. Again I had that weird sensation that I was both watching it and making it move simultaneously. As the tyre flew past the shelves my eyes lit on the piles of old newspapers. The entire bundle flew up into the air. Papers zoomed in all directions.
‘Okay, Nico. Bring it back to your breath. Focus on your breathing.’ Jack’s voice was tense beside me.
I tried to do what he said, but I was too frustrated with not being able to control the tyre. My eyes followed it as it bounced against walls and spun in the air.
‘Come on, Nico, you can do this.’
With a huge effort, I brought my awareness back to my breathing. I was almost panting . . . my breath coming out in fierce gasps.
‘Okay, now slow that breathing down. Come on, calm down, Nico. You can do this.’
My eyes still on the tyre, I slowly calmed my breathing. As I did so, the tyre slowed down too. Gradually it came to rest above my head, hovering in mid-air.
‘Now breathe out and lower it to the ground.’
I breathed in and then out . . . a long, slow breath. Without consciously telling the tyre to move, I held the direction to lower it in my head. The tyre wobbled for a second, then slowly, steadily, descended to the floor.
I watched it for a few seconds to make sure it had really stopped, then I closed my eyes. My head was aching but I felt exhilarated. Not in the wild, intense way I’d felt before, but with a new, deep-rooted, calm feeling.
A hand on my back. I looked up. Jack was smiling at me.
‘Well done. You did it,’ he said. ‘Would you mind if I get my camera? Then I can film your telekinesis . . . study it when you’ve gone. That might help me work out how to help you better.’
‘Sure.’ I was so excited I think I’d have agreed to anything at that point – not that I could see any harm in Jack filming me.
He got the camera and I managed a couple more demonstrations with the tyre. I felt like I could go on practising for hours, but, after a while, Jack insisted we went back into the kitchen so I could rest – and have something to eat and drink.
We sat at the table and Jack ordered in some pizza, advising me as we ate that I should start a daily practice.
‘Just ten minutes every day. Go outside, Nico. Find something small to work on and stay focused on your breathing. Once you’ve got on top of that, I honestly think you’ll be able to move anything.’
I stared at him. Did he really think that?
I remembered Ketty and what I’d said to Jack earlier. ‘So how can I use what I do to make money?’
Jack laughed. ‘First things first,’ he said. ‘Practise every day for a week and we’ll meet next weekend and, if you’re ready, I promise I’ll take you to a place where the Medusa gene will make you rich.’