To Feel, A Modern Tale (06.01.11)

Fans of Chloe, Ecker and CarthMoore, you need not wait any longer. The story continues with Chapter Eight…

CHAPTER ONE <Click here for all of CHAPTER ONE.>

CHAPTER TWO <Click here for all of CHAPTER TWO.>

CHAPTER THREE <Click here for all of CHAPTER THREE.>

CHAPTER FOUR <Click here for all of CHAPTER FOUR.>

CHAPTER FIVE <Click here for all of CHAPTER FIVE.>

CHAPTER SIX <Click here for all of CHAPTER SIX.>

CHAPTER SEVEN <Click here for all of CHAPTER SEVEN.>

CHAPTER EIGHT

It was eight o’clock. Chloe should certainly be here by now, Ecker thought to himself. They had agreed earlier that day at the table in the resource center that they would meet up tonight before the scheduled trip to both prepare and plan for their big journey that lay ahead during the wee hours of morning.

For Chloe, it would be her first OTE ever, but for Ecker, it would be his return after traveling there once before, many years earlier, when he was even younger than Chloe now. He had told his friend that he remembered little of this journey, but this was not true. He had left out a few significant details. Like the fact that he had been left behind on the return trip. For four years.

Ecker was six then and being accompanied by his then chaperone and older friend Clint, about eight years older than the young traveler. The village he visited as a small child Dunston was not the same one as this upcoming excursion to a place called CarthMoore but he recalled being  just as excited, scared and contemplative as a child as his friend had articulated to him just hours ago. Like Chloe, he had never known what it was like to have parents, so when he prepared for that first visit at just six years old, he couldn’t get out of his head or heart this powerful dream to discover and experience the secrets of Element N for which he had heard so much about during his studies. He had struggled through the advanced writings of famous explorer Jeremy Fowler in his groundbreaking account of a trip to another nearby village and witnessing Element N firsthand. Though his reading level was not quite far enough along to comprehend everything he read, he managed to take down a few details in his tablet about the mysterious phenomenon.

When he finally took his trip to Dunston, he had found strangers there very polite and helpful but wasn’t sure how to identify Element N for himself. That is, until that morning, when Clint led the way up a hill from the village. Ecker followed faithfully but as the hill grew steeper, Clint’s strides appeared to get longer and though he tried to keep up, Ecker struggled to move his little legs fast enough to catch up to his friend. When he finally did reach him, Clint turned toward little Ecker and kneeled, “You deserve to feel, my friend,” then pulled away in an instant and Clint was gone.

Ecker didn’t know what Clint had meant at the time but was surprised to see that his friend had conveniently left him just outside the village’s school where both teachers and students had just begun entering the tall, bright red brick building. He was scared and uncertain what to do, running toward the women who now stood outside the school’s entrance doors. They reached down to console the apparently lost child. Ecker didn’t know anyone or anything, but that didn’t matter, because he had been left behind. Dunston was home now.

For four years, Ecker lived in Dunston. A nice young couple, the Barnes, took him in and provided a comfortable and loving place to eat, sleep and play. And during his time in Dunston, he made friends, learned many new things and became stronger, smarter and braver. By the time he turned ten, he was convinced that no one was coming back for him and this was okay. He missed Clint and his younger friends with whom he played fun games like Rocketeer and SwordMaster. He missed e-books and his tablet which was in his backpack that Clint had hoisted over his own shoulder on top of his own before he left his little friend with those mysterious final words. But he didn’t miss the loneliness he often felt and had come to care for the people he now called Mom and Dad, Cindy and Patrick Barnes.

When others did return and transport Ecker back to what had once been home, it was a tough transition for the growing boy, one that took years to overcome. The academy had circulated a story that Ecker had been attending a faraway camp, and he didn’t bother to dispute this. For no one could ever understand what I had experienced, no one would ever believe that I truly felt Element N, he thought to himself back then.

Years later, he was thinking about this journey from so long ago. What if he decided to stay this time? Would they come back for him again, he wondered. And what about Chloe? She echoed many of his same curiosities as a young boy. What if he saw to it that the two of them could both stay behind and he would have yet another chance to experience Element N once more? The thought of this sent chills down his spine. It had only been three years since his return but he knew that this other faraway place was where he should be, not here in this cold, sterile, digital world.

But he couldn’t let Chloe know, he thought to himself. If he were even contemplating the notion of staying behind on this OTE, let alone possibly keeping her behind, too, he could not let it slip about what really happened those many years ago. No one else had ever known about that trip besides Ecker, Clint and the principal at the academy who had concocted the alternative explanation for his disappearance for four years. Ecker would have to make sure that no one else found out, certainly not before the overnight trip that was to take place in a few hours.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Chloe exclaimed as she whipped around the corner beam of the dormitory. “I know they don’t like us meeting up before we go, but I just think there are too many important details and things to pack, and I don’t want to forget anything.” She turned to her suitcase and backpack and began going through the contents to assess what items she could check off her list posted on her tablet.

Ecker watched her as she enthusiastically unzipped pouches and secret crevices on the luggage, finding mysterious new places to stash other items that she or her friend might need for their field trip. “You know, it is just for one day, right?” he chuckled at his friend, then covered his mouth quickly as Chloe shot him a look of exasperation. “Sorry, just kidding.”

Would his friend be able to find her own Cindy and Patrick Barnes if she too missed the trip back home? If there were only a way that he could help Chloe experience that same remarkable phenomenon as he once did. He wondered if by staying behind with her, if she might get the chance to fully experience Element N in its most raw, natural environment by having a fellow traveler in her circle. Would she ever forgive him if he let go of her hand and left her behind? Chloe now stepped away from the many bags of luggage to hunt down a scarf that had mysteriously jumped out of her bags or dropped out of her hands along the way. He watched her walk away, still half-excited and half-distracted.

Though still a young man himself, at a mere thirteen, Ecker knew what his friend had done for him all of those years ago and wanted to bestow this opportunity to his good friend. “You deserve to feel, too, Chloe,” he whispered aloud.

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