As relief from reading Journal of a Plague Year, Station Eleven, and The Plague, the board of EPIC Group Writers penned a serial novel for your entertainment. Since each author could only see the immediately preceding chapter, there are numerous plot twists and wild goose chases. Fortunately the “instigator,” Diane Naab, was able to pull the whole novella together after it veered wildly off course from the original story. Enjoy!
Considering the curious events of the day so far, Jason might be excused for wondering whether the card he chose from the Chance pile was a sign. “ADVANCE TO GO,” he read out loud, glancing at Uncle Bill. “Collect $200.”
“Two hundred bucks, huh?” his uncle said, as though they were simply playing an ordinary game of Monopoly. As though Jason hadn’t fallen through a rabbit hole into a strange new reality where a symbol drawn in the dirt with a stick matched a tattoo that magically appeared on his leg. It wasn’t entirely crazy to think that a Chance card would be a sign.
Cousin Lucille counted out the money. Then she gave a flirty flip of her hair and handed it to him. He supposed she was kind of cute, in a Tennessee sort of way. But she was old, probably over twenty.
“Well folks ….” Aunt Ruby stuffed her skirt between her legs and gave herself a push off the grass with both hands. “Whew!” she said, panting from the exertion. “I’ll just go start dinner. You are staying, aren’t you, Jason?”
“Uh ….” He wasn’t sure he had a choice. “Uh, sure. I guess so.”
Uncle Bill winked at him.
This whole thing was crazy. Jason needed to go back home. His dogs were in top shape, his sled ready to go. This year he could actually win the Mukluk Race. Ignoring Uncle Bill, who was probably cheating again, he unlaced his heavy boots and pulled them off. This place, this Tennessee, was hot as a tugboat engine room. He yanked off his thick wool socks. Then he pushed his left pant leg up, and examined the mysterious tattoo on his left calf. Spitting on his fingers, he rubbed it as hard as he could.
“It’s not coming off, boy,” Uncle Bill said. “It’s yours now, for as long as you live.”
He turned to Lucille. “Did you know about it, my … power?” He whispered the word.
Lucille giggled. “Sure. I knew about it.”
“And Aunt Ruby, did she know too?”
Jason frowned at Uncle Bill. “Then why didn’t I know until today?”
“Because …” Uncle Bill smirked, as though he’d asked a stupid question, “you hadn’t reached the age of knowing yet.”
“This isn’t my birthday.”
“Birthday, shmerthday. Do you think our way of counting time is the only way there is?”
“No, but ….”
“Well, there you go.” Uncle Bill skipped his little metal boot over INCOME TAX and Reading Railroad and slammed it down on Oriental Avenue. “Ah ha!” he crowed. “A house, if you will, Miss Lucille.”
“Does my dad have the power?” Jason slapped a mosquito on his ankle, tiny by Alaska standards, but darned itchy.
“Does my grandpa have it?”
Lucille sat up straight and looked at him sideways. “So why didn’t you ask about your mother and your grandmother?” she asked in a quarrelsome tone.
Jason pushed out his bottom lip and leaned back on his elbows. He figured he could ask about anyone he pleased. Besides, it was darn hot here, and he was tired. He closed his eyes and thought about home. Behind his eyelids, he saw a thin, slanting light shining in the kitchen window, falling on Mom’s cheek as she set the table. He could hear the dogs outside and Dad stomping his feet on the doormat. And ….
Suddenly Uncle Bill’s hand was clamped around his arm, pulling him down.
“Where the hell do you think you’re goin’, boy? Didn’t I tell you, you gotta be careful with this power? Like I said, I’m gonna explain the whole thing to you over dinner. Now throw the dice, and let’s finish this game of Monopoly.”