It wasn’t even a very long dream!
“Look.” Dylan shifted a little, trying to get comfortable with her shield wrapped around his throat. “You actually belong here, I mean, your family belongs here, your father is on the board. He is,” he added sideways to the tall one. “And your mother — I figured out who your mother is. You belong here.”
“Not what you were saying earlier,” she pointed out. She was not feeling charitable and they were not listening.
“All right, so — well.” The third person came up behind her. She was out of hands. Lina made a soft grumbling noise of warning, but she didn’t dare turn around.
“Okay, I think I convinced the guy that he tripped really badly trying to get up here. It’s just a pizza, you know, guys. It really wasn’t — Miss? I think Dylan’s lips are turning blue.”
“He has air.” She didn’t spare him a look yet. “They’re missing the point.”
“Point?” Dylan coughed. “Someone has to tell you what’s going on here, don’t they?”
“How about – how about the nice lady and I go share this pizza and I explain those things to her and you to let her know you’re not going to make anyone else bleed?”
Lina thought maybe she liked this guy.
Dylan’s friend huffed. “Fine. Fine, until you explain things to her and she understands what’s going on, we won’t jump anyone else. And we’ll ask your highness first before we do it, how’s that?”
“Good.” Lina put Dylan down and released her shield around his friend. She wanted to crow and jump around. She hadn’t known she could do any of this! “Thank you.” She smiled sweetly at Dylan and turned to the other guy. “So, you were going to explain things to me?”
“That I am. If you’ll come this way,” he gestured, “I know a nice place where we can eat this pizza in peace.”
“Well,” she muttered, “if this is a trap, at least it’s a polite one. With food.”
“Always polite,” he agreed.
The path he took her on wandered away from the campsites but still within the park, around a cliff-edge that overlooked the water below. There were two well-weathered picnic tables there; he sat down at one and spread out his take out.
“Firstly, thank you for rescuing my delivery guy. I don’t know what got into those two, but they were going nuts.” He rubbed his face ruefully. “Secondly,” he held out a hand, “hello. I’m Jackson.”
“Catalina – Lina.” She shook his hand. “You’re, uh. You’re part of this?”
“My parents are. The same as yours, I think? And Dylan and Ethan’s. And our parents like to keep us in the dark. But mine, well, they’re not as good at it as some, or maybe I’m just nosier.” He passed her a napkin. “Ladies first.”
She pulled out a piece of pizza and sniffed it. “Oh, this smells good.”
“It’s the best place in town. My family comes up here at least once a year,” he added. “I spend a lot of time down in town.”
“I’ve never been here before. My dad — my dad never takes time off. I mean, he’s still working now, but it’s — “ She flailed with her free hand. “Do you seriously know what’s going on?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say I know everything, but I’m willing to bet I know at least as much as Dylan and Ethan.” He pulled out another piece of pizza, eyed her, and took a pointed bite. “Not poisoned.”
Lina chuckled nervously. “Nobody’s ever tried to poison me,” she admitted. “Or assured me that something wasn’t poisoned.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” He sketched a half-bow and took another bite of his pizza. Lina gave in and did the same. Several bites later, he poured a cup of soda, drank down half of it, and wiped his mouth.
“So, I know a few things. But I’d appreciate it if you don’t get me in trouble for telling you all of this. I’m not sure why everything is so hush-hush in some directions and then all ‘here’s magic, woo’ in others, but I have my suspicions.”
Lina drew an X in the air over her chest with the pizza. “Promise. If you give me anything that’ not ‘you don’t know anything, you don’t belong here’, I’m gonna be too grateful to tell anyone at all.”
“Then we have a deal.” He finished the piece of pizza. “All right, well, I don’t have to tell you that magic exists. That’s a neat trick of yours — telekinesis?”
“Forcefields.” She floated her pizza on one demonstratively. “That was the first time I’d tried it against someone,” she admitted shyly.
“Pretty impressive for your first time. You’ve been doing this for a while?”
“Not a long time, but until — my mother, she pulled a house out of a briefcase!” She attacked her pizza as if it had been keeping the secrets from her.
“It’s a bit much at first, isn’t it? My uncle can do this thing with little portals. Means he never runs out of beer, but that’s about all I’ve ever seen him use it for.”
“I didn’t know it was real. I mean, I knew I was doing something,” Lina flailed. “But I didn’t know anyone else could do it. I was afraid maybe I was losing my mind.” She wrinkled her nose. “And here’s you and that, what, enforcement lady, and Dylan my-daddy-will-hear-about-this and everyone acts like everyone knows this stuff and also like kicking the shit out of a delivery guy is normal.”
“It’s not normal,” Jackson assured her. “Not even for these people. Okay.” He cleared his throat. “Magic is normal, and this group – the Organization – they’ve been, I guess collecting, people with magic for a while. Centuries. Because a rich woman a long time ago had a vision.”
“Okay, this sounds like, I dunno, a slightly weirder hobby than playing tennis or scoffing at the neighbors?” Lina took another bite of the pizza. “This really is good pizza.”
“I know, right?” Jackson distracted himself with his piece of pizza for a bit, long enough that Lina was worried he might not actually remember what he was supposed to be telling her. “Right. So, the vision — and there’ve been a few more over the years, so there’s a good chance there’s some validity to it — was that, let’s see, ‘the land will be struck as if by a giant force, or by a wave that is not wet, and the place that shall be safe shall be only the Place Upon the Rocks at the Hill Top.”
Lina looked around them. “The Hilltop campground.” She tried not to scoff; she didn’t really succeed.
“There’ve been a lot more prophecies over the years, and this is the place. So, here we are, in the place and time where we’ll be safe.”
“Okay.” If she could accept houses out of briefcases and force fields from her fingertips, she could accept some sort of prophecy skill. “So everyone is here to be safe from the end of the world? What about everyone else?”
“Aye, that’s the rub. You’ve met Dylan and Ethan. Do you think their parents — their dads pretty much run this thing — care about the peons?”
Lina wrinkled her nose. “Peons,” she complained. “People.”
“Yes, well.” He half-bowed with a pizza flourish. “That’s not how I feel. That’s how they probably feel. And people like that started the Organization. People like that wanted their friends and family and kids to survive, you know? So here we are. The friends and family and kids of those friends and family and kids — two steps removed from that, actually; it’s been going since the 1890’s.”
“So this group — this is all of the Organization?” She looked around as if she could see all the people here when all she could see was trees.
“About half, maybe a little over that.” He made a so-so gesture. “There’ve been a few different groups, err, factions, you know, that didn’t agree on where the Hill Top was.”
“So, wait, this could be the wrong Hill Top and we could all die?”Want more?