When Halley’s Comet passes through the sky in 1986 the new kid in town – Nick – is partnered up with the strange girl in town – Mina – for a Science project. While observing this sometimes twice in a lifetime event, they learn that there are things that go bump in the night. And that it’s their job to hunt them down!
Chapter Chapter 1
To Wish Impossible Things
Chapter 1 To Wish Impossible Things
The house was old, Colonial America old, six pane glass and dust older than George Washington between the floor boards old. The door creaked as Nick and his mother, Trudy, opened it and walked through.
“Oh my God, you’ve grown into a man since the last time I saw you, Nicolas,” his Grandmother Sue said as he walked through the door, a duffle bag over his shoulder. “And Trudy, you’re blonde? I like it.”
“Me too, Ma,” Trudy ran her hand through her hair.
“Hey Grandma,” Nick said as she cupped his face with both hands.
“You’ve grown another six inches since Christmas, and turning into a heart breaker if I’ve ever seen one,” Nick’s Grandmother whistled.
Nick rolled his eyes.
“It’s so good to have you both here. I set the master bedroom up for you, Trudy, and I thought Nick would like the attic,” Sue put one arm around Nick’s waist and her other over Trudy’s shoulder.
“John’s room, Ma? I thought we talked about that.” Trudy said.
John was Nick’s Uncle who died in a car accident at eighteen – before Nick was born.
“Yeah, it’s got everything a young man needs, a bed, a desk and some privacy,” Sue smiled at Nick.
Nick smiled – half confused, half uncomfortable.
“And I’m so glad you’re going to help me keep this place going,” Sue looked around the foyer. The house was a Historical Town Monument and was used to show what Colonial America was like to fourth graders. His Grandmother had been a school teacher and his grandfather was the town historian before he died. “I just can’t keep up with this place anymore. This is going to be so much fun.”
“Glad to help, Ma,” Trudy said. “So, you’re sure there’s room in the barn for the extra furniture for now?” “Plenty,” Sue let go of her family and walked into the kitchen. “Come have a cup of tea, dear.”
“Drop your bag off upstairs then go help the movers get everything into the barn,” Trudy said.
Nick didn’t say anything; he just walked up the stairs, missing the city, the sounds, the lights and the commotion. He turned up the attic stairs and walked up into the long room that ran the length of the house. There were two windows at each end of the room with two more on each side jutting out from the roof. Full of light, dust danced in the air everywhere he looked.
The bed was made, and set against the wall under one window on the left hand side from the stairs, while the desk and dresser sat opposite each other between the windows on the longer walls. The gabled ceiling made walking anywhere but the center of the room a little inconvenient for Nick, but he thought the way the desk sat against it was an interesting effect.
Nick tossed his duffle bag in front of the dresser and sat at the desk. The desk had a dark stain and the top was well worn, some places showing almost no stain, like thousands of pages had been written on it. And it had five drawers – two on each side and one in the center. It was old, easily as old as the house and the rest of the furniture downstairs.
Nick pulled one of the drawers on the right side open. It was heavy, solid, but slide easily out. The drawer was empty. Next he pulled out the center drawer and found a note written by his Grandmother.
I hope you like this desk, it’s belonged to our family longer than this house. Your Uncle John put it to a great deal of use, and I hope you find it as useful as he did.
He smiled and put the note back in the drawer, closing it as he did.
“Nick!” Trudy yelled up the stairs. “Movers are here.”
Nick got up and ran down the stairs.
Nick walked into his first class, Introduction to Physical Science, a few minutes late after picking up his schedule in the front office. He stood inside the doorway as the teacher lectured, “This will require partners, and lucky for you Ms. Medellin, we have a new student joining us today.” The teacher pointed at him. “Mr. Stanton, right? I am Mr. Dower. Welcome to your first Monday here at Charles Kelsey High.”
Nick nodded, trying to smile.
“You can have a seat next to the lovely Ms. Medellin,” A chuckle burst out of a blonde boy in the back room. Mr. Dower trained his pointed finger on the blonde boy and the boy looked down at his desk. “Please, sit. You will be partners for the rest of the semester.”
Nick walked over to the table, everyone’s eyes fixed on him, and he sat down. The girl sitting at the table didn’t look at him, but he could easily see her hair was dyed black with a strip of red down one side.
“So, what we will be working on with our partners is the observation of the Comet Halley,” Mr. Dower paused, looking around the room, but everyone was looking blankly forward.
“Come on, people,” Mr. Dower shook his hands. “This is a global event. Something that happens once, maybe twice, in a lifetime if you’re lucky. Many of you will be that lucky because you’re young and technology is advancing so fast that your life spans will reach further than we can imagine.”
A girl in the front of the room raised her hand.
“Yes, Ms. Park?” Mr. Dower crossed his arms.
“So, we just have to look at it?” the girl asked.
“No, you will have to fill in a star chart plotting the Comet Halley’s path across the sky and identify planets and constellations along its path.” Mr. Dower grabbed a piece of chalk from the runner along the bottom of the black board, and wrote information along the bottom. “Plus, each group will be assigned a year that the Comet Halley has appeared, every seventy-six years to be precise, and give an oral presentation concerning said information.”
Mr. Dower put the chalk down and started handing out the assigned years from a pile of papers he picked up from his desk.
Nick took this chance to introduce himself, “I’m Nick by the way,” and he held out his hand.
“Mina.” she said, and she held out her hand, which was covered in geometric patterns of red ink. He leaned in to look at her hand closer, “Henna, practicing on myself.”
Nick let go of her hand, “Oh, cool.”
Mr. Dower placed a sheet of paper down on their table, “And November 16th, 1835, for our happy new team.”
“Thanks,” Mina and Nick said at the same time.
“So, this is a team exercise and you will have to meet up at night for the next week. You don’t need to stay up past your bedtime, but you will need to wait for it to be completely dark out to see the Comet Halley. I suggest getting as far away from lights as you can, which I know isn’t hard in our little town. Now put your papers away and get out your notebooks.”
Everyone shuffled papers around and opened their notebooks. Thirty minutes later, Nick had multiple pages filled with facts about the Ort Cloud, Comet Composition, Perihelions, and elliptical orbits. The bell rang and everyone jumped from their seats and headed for the door.
Nick walked out with Mina.
“So, where do you want to do this?” she said.
“No idea, just moved here,” Nick said. “Living down on Main Street.”
“Oh, right, that explains the name,” she pointed at him. “The Stanton House.”
“You know it?” Nick looked confused.
“Uh, yeah, every kid has to go there in fourth grade,” Mina said. “There, and the Little Red School House.”
“Don’t know that one,” Nick said.
“You’ll learn it,” Mina stopped at a water fountain and took a drink of water. “I guess I can meet you at your house, since I know where it is and all, around 8:30. Should be dark enough in your back yard.”
“Okay, see ya then,” Nick said as Mina strode off down the hall.
That afternoon, Nick opened his boxes, which were all full of books. Sadly, he didn’t have the shelf space he used to have built into the walls like he had in the apartment in New York, so he stacked the books along the wall next to the desk all the way to the corner. He missed the apartment, the city and the sounds. It was too quiet – no cars, or honking or voices to fill the emptiness. All the things he had to leave behind rushed into his thoughts – the library, the museums, the park, the train, his buddies. He wasn’t ever really close to them; he missed the city itself much more than any person.
Since the walls were angled to follow the roof line, he could only stack the books a foot high and had to turn the corner sooner than he had thought. As he set a pile of books on the last floor board, their weight caused the board to see-saw and expose the beams and gaps below the boards.
As he reached down to push the board back into place he noticed a bag hidden in the gap. He grabbed it and dust billowed into the air as he brought it into the light. He coughed and tried to clear the air with his free hand, then opened the canvas messenger bag. Inside was a yellow, tattered notebook. He took it out and dropped the bag next to the desk as he sat down.
Nick opened the notebook on the desk and looked at the aging paper and faded writing. Inside the cover it said, “Ego Sum Scriptor, John Stanton.”
It was his Uncle’s journal and the first passage read, “If you are reading this, then I am dead. It’s one of the hazards of the job. It’s in the oath, ‘To the death.’ Pretty simple. Remember that.
“I turned fourteen today. My Uncle Ray, my father’s Uncle but I called him that too, gave me a pen that has been in our family for hundreds of years, maybe longer.”
Nick closed the journal and went back to the out-of-place board. He knelt down and slid the board into place, but it see-sawed again the other way. He could see a stack of journals on the other side just like the one that was in the canvas bag. He pulled the board completely out of place, set it aside and picked up the top journal.
Every page was filled, so he grabbed the next one and the next and on down the stack. Each one was filled except the last one. It had only one entry.
Nick picked up the stack and placed them on the desk. He sat down, opened the last one, and read the entry, “June 10th, 1971. Lauren and I are heading out to Chatfield Hollow. Gonna take a look at the Witch’s Chimney and hike. Nothing exciting, but the woods are nice at night this time of year. And I think it will be a nice place to ask her to marry me. Fitting for what we are. Known I’ve loved her since I was five, so I think I’ve waited long enough.”
Nick closed the journal, looked over the pile and shook his head. He went over to the board, fitted it back in place and continued to stack up his books until he was called down for dinner.
When they had finished eating Nick started washing the dishes.
“I can get that, hun,” his Grandmother spooned the leftover corn into a plastic container.
“I’m used to doing it, and it makes me feel useful,” Nick smiled as he squeezed more soap onto the sponge.
Sue put the lid on the container as she said, “So, what time is your friend coming over?”
“I wouldn’t call her my friend,” Nick scrubbed a pan. “She was the only one without a partner in the class and she should be here around 8:30.”
“Well, this is an opportunity to make a friend, so make sure you play nice,” Sue said as she put the container in the fridge. “I’m going to head upstairs. Let me know if you need anything.”
“Okay, Gran,” Nick finished the dishes quickly then headed upstairs to get his notebook and jacket. As he came down the stairs he decided to brush his teeth and comb his hair and his mother found him in the middle of reapplying deodorant.
“So, big date already?” Trudy crossed her arms in the doorway. “Your Grandmother filled me in on the details.”
“Seriously, Ma, stop,” Nick picked up his notebook and jacket, and walked past his mother.
“Relax, hun, I’m just teasing you,” Trudy followed him down the stairs. “I bet she’s pretty, though, isn’t she?” “Yes, but different,” Nick pulled on his jacket at the bottom of the stairs, “I’m gonna wait outside.”
“I don’t get to meet her?” Trudy crossed her arms again.
“It’s just a class project, so no,” but there was a knock at the door and Trudy got it first.
Mina stood there, bag hanging from her shoulder, her black and red hair pulled back in a pony tail. She had a motorcycle helmet in her left hand.
“Hi, is Nick home?” she said.
“He’s right here,” Trudy moved out of the way and Nick smiled. “Come in. Mina is it?”
Nick got out the door before Mina could step inside and said, “I think we’re just gonna head out back and work on the project.”
“That’s not very polite, Nicolas,” Trudy stepped back into the doorway.
“Sorry. Mina, this is my Ma. Ma, this is Mina.”
Mina stretched out her hand to Trudy, “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Stanton.”
“Call me Trudy, hun,” Trudy shook her hand, and noticed the ink designs. “That’s interesting.” “Thanks, the ink is washing off faster than I thought it would,” Mina examined her hand.
“Well, don’t work too hard, you two,” Trudy smiled and closed the door.
Mina looked over the house, “This place hasn’t really changed.”
“That’s sorta the point,” Nick stepped off the porch.
“Thanks for explaining my joke,” Mina followed as Nick lead them around the house to the back yard.
“Oh, sorry,” Nick said as they walked up to the barn.
They stopped and both looked up toward the stars, but only a small patch of sky was visible through the trees reaching toward the darkness above them. The comet was completely shielded from view.
“That idea is shot,” Mina said.
“What other options do we have?” Nick looked at Mina. Her eyes still fixed on the sky above them.
“We can take my scooter over to the beach, or out to Chatfield Hollow where the sky isn’t cluttered with all these trees,” Mina pointed toward the trees, and then looked over to Nick.
“You have an extra helmet?” Nick smiled.
“I brought one just in case something like this happened.”
“And how come you didn’t have a lab partner? You seem so well prepared.”
“It’s certainly not because I don’t pull my weight,” Mina looked down at the ground. “I don’t really fit in. People tend to think I’m a little strange.”
“Nothing wrong with a little strange,” Nick smiled. “Give me a minute to let my Ma know I’m leaving. Meet me in the driveway.” Mina nodded and Nick ran inside, then met her in the driveway a moment later. She sat on her scooter and held out a helmet, “Hop on.”
Nick got on and secured his helmet.
“Now, hold my waist,” Mina started the scooter.
“What?” Nick asked, but there was no answer, just the scooter taking off. It was only Nick’s quick reflexes that kept him on the back of the bike, but he felt weird holding onto her waist like that. Especially since her hair was right in his face and smelled like coconuts.
“We’ll try the beach first, since it’s so close,” Mina yelled as she pulled down a small street not far from his house. They came to a stop at the entrance to the parking lot which had a handful of cars already parked in it.
“Seriously?” Mina said.
“What?” Nick looked at the group of kids hanging out on the beach.
“I really don’t want to go down there with all of them,” Mina pointed at the people horsing around on the sand.
“Who?” “The idiots in our class,” Mina said. “Like I said, I don’t fit in with them.”
“Then let’s try that Hollow place you mentioned.”
Mina turned them around and headed back out on the road. Chatfield Hollow was much further away than Nick had thought, but didn’t want to ask how much further cause he didn’t want to be that guy.
When they finally pulled into a small parking lot, Nick had no idea where he was.
“My ass is numb,” Nick said as he got off the scooter.
“Happens,” Mina pulled off her helmet. “The gate is closed this time of night, so we’ll have to walk down to the lake. It’s not far through.”
After a few minutes of walking down the narrow access road silently they could see the moonlight dancing on the rippling lake, the small waves lapped at the shore, and Halley’s Comet sat clearly in the open sky.
“This is good,” Mina dropped her bag on a picnic table just before they hit the beach. “There’s our little comet.”
Nick looked up at the open sky, stars, comet and moon. The air smelled like pine needles and coconuts as he sat down at the table.
Mina pulled out the star chart from her bag and laid it on the table. She shined a small light from her key ring on the paper, “We have to chart its progress across the sky and identify a constellation. Is there a picture in our book or anything for us to compare to the sky?”
“Don’t need one, there’s Cancer,” Nick pulled a pen out of his pocket and drew the constellation in. “Here’s M44 or The Beehive Cluster of Stars, M67 – another cluster of stars – and Asellus Australis, Asellus Borealis, Acubens, Altarf, and Tegmen. And just for the heck of it, here’s the North Star.”
“How do you know all that?” Mina asked.
“I’m new, not stupid,” Nick finished writing in the names of the stars.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Mina read the names he had written on the star chart.
“Sorry, just not used to working with other people,” Nick smiled. “I didn’t fit in at my old school either. Me and social situations have never gotten along.”
“You must explode at parties then!” Mina laughed.
“Yeah, I’m a huge partier,” Nick laughed back.
“That’s so weird, cause so am I!” Mina put her hand to her chest.
“Sucks to be us,” Nick turned and looked out over the water.
Mina sat down with him and stared in the same direction. After a moment of this, she said, “I guess we’re done for the night then. We can hit the library tomorrow to start working on the presentation.”
“I know where that is,” Nick looked over at her. He noticed their arms were touching, but he couldn’t feel her through his jacket. “About a mile down the street from my Grandma’s opposite where the beach was, right?” “That it is,” Mina said and picked up the star chart and put it in her bag. “Ready?” “Yeah,” Nick said. “I think I regained all the feeling in my butt, so let’s do it all over again.”
Mina laughed all the way back to the parking lot.