Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 7
Stories
Silent As Dust
by James Maxey
Lost Soul
by Marie Brennan
The Price of Love
by Alan Schoolcraft
The Braiding
by Pat Esden
After This Life
by Janna Silverstein
The Smell of the Earth
by Joan L. Savage
From the Ender Saga
Ender's Homecoming
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
The Talk
by David Lubar
Split Decision
by David Lubar
Comics
A Plague of Butterflies
by Orson Scott Card
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

Split Decision
    by David Lubar
The Talk
Artwork by Lance Card

"So, New York or Chicago?"

"I don't know," Greg said. "I think you're crazy going to either place. You can't run away."

"Sure I can," I said. "All my dad cares about is that stupid woman he married. I can't believe she's going to have a baby. I'm out of here. The only question is -- New York or Chicago?"

"Ask Spooky Sheila," Greg said.

"No way. She creeps me out." I glanced at the back of the room toward Sheila Delphini's desk. She was playing with her hair, braiding and unbraiding several strands, and paying no attention to the teacher. Not that I was paying any attention, either. Why take notes when you aren't planning to stick around?

"But she'll tell you what will happen," Greg said. "I've heard she's got some kind of way to see the future."

I'd heard the same rumors. Kids had whispered stories about Sheila for years. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to believe any of that stuff. But it couldn't hurt to see what she thought about my problem. When the bell rang at the end of the period, I walked over to her desk.

"I've got a question," I said.

She raised her eyes up toward me without lifting he head. Her irises were so light blue, they almost seemed clear. A chill ran through my body and along my arms.

"You're going to split," she said.

"How'd you know?"

She didn't answer. Maybe she'd heard me talking to Greg. I'd have to be more careful. If my dad found out, he'd murder me.

"Should I go to New York or Chicago?"

She reached out and grabbed my hand. Then she closed her eyes. She took a long, slow breath. I waited. She breathed. Behind me, I heard people shuffle in for the next class. Just as I was about to pull my hand away, her body jerked like she'd been slashed across the back with a whip. Her fingers dug into my palm. She opened her eyes, but didn't say anything.

"Tell me."

She released my hand. "The future can hurt."

"I don't care. Tell me."

"New York if she has a boy. Chicago if she has a girl."

It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about. "My dad's wife?" I couldn't bring myself to call her my stepmother.

Sheila nodded. A single tear trickled from her left eye. She was starting to creep me out.

"But I don't want to wait . . ."

She shrugged. I fled. Something about her made my stomach feel like I'd swallowed razor blades dipped in acid.

I caught up with Greg in the hall and told him what she'd said. "Crazy, huh?" I asked.

"Maybe. But have you gotten any better advice?"

"Nope."

"Then wait. See what pops out."

"No way."

I wasn't going to wait. I had to get out of there. But I needed to make sure I didn't get caught. My chance came sooner than I'd expected. Saturday, late in the afternoon, Dad's wife went into labor. She was three weeks early. It was my perfect opportunity to split. They probably wouldn't even notice I was gone until tomorrow. The moment they left for the hospital, I crammed clothes into a duffel bag and headed for Sawtooth Ridge. Lots of trains went through there. I could hop one for New York or Chicago. I just needed to know which way to go.

I pulled out my cell phone and called Greg. "I need a huge favor. Go to the hospital -- okay? Wait at the place where they put the new babies. You know where I mean?"

"Yeah. I know. Are you really doing this?"

"I am. So help me out, okay?"

"All right. I'll call when I have news."

I hung up and went over to the tracks. The ridge was on a steep grade, so the trains slowed down a lot as they came through. I'd read books where people hopped trains. It didn't sound hard, as long as you were careful. I wasn't worried about getting hurt. Sheila said I'd go to New York or Chicago, so obviously I was going to survive the trip.

It was getting dark. There were no lights anywhere near the ridge. I didn't like the idea of hopping a train when I couldn't see what was going on. I called Greg again, but there was no answer. It figured I couldn't count on him.

"Forget the stupid prediction," I said. I decided I'd take the next train that came along.

About ten minutes later, an eastbound train came crawling up the ridge. "New York," I said. That would be fine. I waited until the engine and the first couple cars passed, then started jogging along. I had to be careful -- the tracks were close together.

I saw a boxcar with a sliding door. I grabbed the handle and pulled myself toward it.

As I was dangling from the outside of the boxcar, my phone rang. It was stupid to try to answer it, but habits are hard to break. When phones ring, we grab them. I fumbled with one hand, got my phone out of my pocket, and flipped it open.

"Twins," Greg said.

"What?"

"A boy and a girl."

The words entered my brain, and sat there like a foreign phrase. They didn't seem to tell me what I needed to know. Before I could say anything to Greg, the train rocked as it entered a sharp curve at the bottom of the ridge. The phone slipped from my fingers. I leaned over to try to catch it, and lost my balance. As I started to fall, I panicked and hooked an arm through the boxcar door handle. My duffel bag, which I'd looped over my neck, swung out from my other shoulder.

The phone clattered to the ground. I didn't care. Something else had my attention. Ahead, far too close, I saw a westbound train headed right for me. I tried to swing the duffel bag out of the way, but I couldn't get any leverage.

As the other train reached me, I heard Sheila's words.

"New York if she has a boy. Chicago if she has a girl."

She'd had both. I felt a jolting pain when the duffel bag got snagged by the passing train. I tried to yank my arm free, but it was wedged in the door handle.

Sheila was right. I was going to New York and Chicago. As pain beyond anything I'd ever known exploded through my body, I remembered her first words.

"You're going to split."

Right.


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