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He's Not Here

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"I'm telling you," Michael whispered as he paced Jake's stupidly big bedroom a few nights after Zoe's door ceremony. "No one knows anything about Rich, or the cracks. But they'll show up again, they have to. Right?"

Jake smiled. "Right."

"Besides, Rich-" 

The door swung open at that, and Christine stood in the doorway. "Sorry!" she chirped, not looking sorry. "I just thought I'd do some laundry around here. Someone ought to." The last sentence was a jab at Michael, who almost never did his own laundry, and would often bother Rich into doing his. Come to think of it, Michael didn't remember the last time he'd actually gotten changed.

But if he didn't do his laundry without Rich...

"Christine!" Michael launched forward and grabbed Christine's arm, eliciting a squeak from the girl. "Rich. Where's Rich? What do you know?" 

The poor girl looked like a deer caught in headlights, and she frowned and said, "Michael, I can't tell you that."

That was still a victory. "Aha! So you know he's out there! He didn't just up and disappear!"

"Michael," came another voice from the doorway. Michael turned to see a fairly PO'd Jeremy in the doorway. "We don't talk about Rich!"

"But-"

"No buts! We don't talk about Rich!"

"Jeremy, I need help. Help me understand."

Jeremy let out a long-suffering sigh. "You're ridiculous."

"Tell me something."

"We don't talk about Rich." When Michael opened his mouth to protest, Jeremy cut him off with a sharp, "But-"

"We were going on our first date!" Christine chimed.

Jeremy nodded. "Yeah, our first date."

"It was so pretty, y'know, all the stars in the sky."

"I loved looking up at the stars."

"And Rich came up to us, looking mischievous-"

"The devil," Jeremy added.

"Are you telling this story, or am I?" Christine teased.

"Agh, sorry."

"So, Rich said, 'Chris, you look like you've seen a ghost', and obviously, I was nervous for our first date, but then Rich kept talking about how it was supposed to rain, and he's-he's the future guy, so I believed him."

"It rained and rained, and our picnic was ruined," Jeremy said seriously. "Rich's prophecy ruined our night. So, we don't talk about Rich."


An hour or so of Rich-bashing later, Michael left Jake's room, crossing the hall to his own. He was intercepted almost immediately by Jenna, who looked serious. 

"I have a Rich story, if you want to hear it."

"I'd love to."

Jenna sat Michael on the marble steps just outside of her bedroom and said, "I'll be the first to admit, Rich freaked me out. He kind of talked to himself, but in a loud way. It was so weird. I guess I kind of associate him with the sound of shattering glass."

"Was he okay?" Michael couldn't help but ask.

"Having such a heavy power must have put him under pressure, but he always confused the hell out of us, giving us incoherent prophecies and refusing to explain any of it. He said he hated his power, and no one knows why."

Michael had a feeling that he knew.


"That guy was tiny," Jared said with a laugh as he and Michael sat in the kitchen the next day. They were meant to be making everyone lunch, but Evan was with them, and Evan could cook better than they could anyway. "And I'm pretty sure he befriended the mice."

"Rats," Evan corrected, stirring his pot of what was presumably pasta.

"Yeah, yeah. They called him 'Dread' for a while, y'know."

"Seriously?" Michael leaned forward. "How come?"

"No, they did not." Evan hit Jared with the dishtowel. "Stop it."

"Because hearing his voice could send chills up and down your spine. He knew everyone better than they did - seeing dreams and shit. So, since he up and left, Jeremy made it super clear that-"

"We don't talk about Rich," Michael finished quietly.


After lunch, Michael went about getting stories from people outside the house.

"He told me that my wife would leave me," an angry man said. "She was gone the next day."

"He said he hated storms, but it poured for that whole week," called another woman.

"He told me that everyone would hate me, and now I'm alone," a man in a black coat said.

"He has the fate of the world in his hands!" someone shouted.


"Why should I help you?"

"Chloe, please," Michael said softly. "I just want to know what your prophecy was."

Smugly, Chloe replied, "Well, he told me I'd be the most powerful, the most pretty, I'd have the life that I'd always wanted. He said that I was the best of the best, better than you by far."

"Chloe? Are you in here?" Jake's voice.

Michael scowled and pushed himself out of the door, almost knocking Jake down in the process.


"He told me that I'd always be second," Brooke said. "Second best, never the best."

Michael's heart ached for her.

"If I could see him now..."


"Hey, Michael?" Chloe asked, looking smug still. "I don't want to hear a sound out of you. Got it?"


"I want to see him now. I have so much to say."


"Food's ready!" Evan called. "Time for dinner!"

But as Michael ate, he couldn't focus. Words swam around his head, buzzing and trying to click together like puzzle pieces.

He shovelled a forkful of pasta into his mouth.

We were going on our first date! Yeah, our first date. It was so pretty, y'know, all the stars in the sky. I loved looking up at the stars. And Rich came up to us, looking mischievous- The devil. Are you telling this story, or am I? Agh, sorry. So, Rich said, 'Chris, you look like you've seen a ghost', and obviously, I was nervous for our first date, but then Rich kept talking about how it was supposed to rain, and he's-he's the future guy, so I believed him. It rained and rained, and our picnic was ruined. Rich's prophecy ruined our night.

Another forkful of pasta.

I'll be the first to admit, Rich freaked me out. He kind of talked to himself, but in a loud way. It was so weird. I guess I kind of associate him with the sound of shattering glass. Having such a heavy power must have put him under pressure, but he always confused the hell out of us, giving us incoherent prophecies and refusing to explain any of it. He said he hated his power, and no one knows why.

And another.

That guy was tiny. And I'm pretty sure he befriended the mice. Yeah, yeah. They called him 'Dread' for a while, y'know. Because hearing his voice could send chills up and down your spine. He knew everyone better than they did - seeing dreams and shit.

And another.

Well, he told me I'd be the most powerful, the most pretty, I'd have the life that I'd always wanted. He said that I was the best of the best, better than you by far. And that's not too much pressure, I'm fine.

And another.

He told me that I'd always be second. Second best, never the best. And that's fine, I'm fine.

No one talked about Rich. Why did he talk about Rich? He never should have brought up Rich.