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A Time To Speak

Every solution to every problem is simple. It's the distance between the two where the mystery lies.

Derek Landy

Chapter Thirty-Six


I was driving down a quiet country road with Clark, a pastoral area with flowers on either side of the road, a blue sky overhead. Clark reached over and turned on the radio and started singing to music I couldn't hear, his fingers tapping out the rhythm to match, his head bopping from side to side. I was singing along with him, even though I didn't know the words or even what song it was. But I didn't need to. We were driving and we were free, and I was happy.

And then the music changed. I still couldn't hear it, but I knew I didn't like it, whatever it was, and my smile faded as I stopped singing. I reached out to change the station, but no matter where I turned the dial (the dial? how old was this radio?), the same awful music kept coming out of the speakers. And now it wasn't music at all, just a loud buzzing sound that I wanted desperately to make stop. At the same time I noticed, without looking, that the car was now driving through a busy city street, and there were billboards everywhere. Cars honking, people rushing by on the sidewalks, and everywhere I looked, loud, gaudy billboards, stretching out for what looked like miles. But I couldn't read any of them.

And then I looked over at Clark to ask him to change the radio station for me, only now it was Sam driving the car, and the car was speeding up, beginning to go faster and faster. And I could see out of the corner of my eye that the billboards were rushing by on either side of the car, but all I could look at was my brother, and he was looking back at me with a sad smile, and his hands weren't even on the steering wheel. And as I looked at him he just shook his head back and forth, slowly, and held one finger over his lips as if to tell me to be quiet.

But I couldn't be quiet because the car was speeding up, and we were about to crash into a billboard even though the billboard always disappeared as we got closer to it. Still, in my dream I was beginning to panic, pushing my foot through the floorboard as if trying to push on the brake, bracing myself against the seat for the impact I knew was coming. I reached frantically for Sam's hand but found only the empty leather seat where he had just been.

The car sped up again, and now I was alone in the car, driving straight at the biggest billboard I had ever seen. All around me I could hear the sounds of other cars speeding, racing, careening straight towards the billboard and their own destruction, taking me with them. I was going too fast to see the faces of the people around me, but somehow I knew that Regina and the rest of the Disgruntled were all there, laughing, oblivious to the disaster that awaited them as well as me.

The giant billboard in front of me took over my whole field of vision, making me feel like I was about to be swallowed up in the darkness in the middle of the sign. But as I got closer, the dark center of the billboard became a mouth. It was my dad's mouth, a cavernous circle large enough to swallow the car with me in it, whole. But now the mouth was opening and closing while Dad's voice said, over and over, "Get off of Facetime! Get off of Facetime!" If the car kept up the way it was going, we would run right into Dad's teeth, which jutted up alarmingly from the edge of the black circle and moved up and down as he spoke. I tried to scream, and suddenly woke up.

I was sitting upright in bed, Clark snoring gently beside me. There were no cars and no billboards, no cavernous mouth with oversized teeth waiting to tear me up. Just Clark and our safe bedroom, and the curtains fluttering in the air coming out of the vents on this muggy summer night. But there was my dad's voice, still ringing in my ears. "Get off of Facetime . . . get off of Facetime . . . go get your own page!"

Dad didn't know anything about computers, but on this subject he was a genius. I don't know why I hadn't done it before. I had been too scared, I guess, but now that everything about Sam was out in the open, I had nothing to lose.

And that was how I started my own blog. I started designing it at three o'clock in the morning and by seven, when Clark woke up, I had already published my first entry.