This is the continued story of Simon's Journal.
I would highly recommend you read the first volume of this story, Thirteen Days before you begin this novel.


The following narrative is nearly a complete work of fiction.
Any similarity to actual individuals living or dead is completely unintentional.
If reading a coming of age story about boys wearing diapers and exploring their awakening sexuality is offensive or illegal in your area, then might I suggest you go read War and Peace or something equally stimulating.


Simon's Journal

Volume II


Thirteen Nights After the Crusade


Written by

Author of Thirteen Days


Chapter - 4

Part 1 Wednesday, March 03, 2004 He no nuts, he cwazy!


I don't know what's wrong with me this morning. I woke up about twenty minutes past nine this morning, went, and had some breakfast before Mom brought me to my room and changed me out of my wet diaper. However, before she had even finished putting me into a dry diaper I fell back to sleep and slept until just before lunchtime. Heck, I've nearly slept my day away!

So now it is a few minutes past noon, Mom's making me a fried baloney and cheese sandwich for lunch and I'm sitting here at the kitchen table writing in my electronic journal that Aunt Catharine gave me for my birthday. I had a lot to write about from yesterday, and I only just caught up on that. I think after lunch I'm going to go check my email and see if I have anything new from anyone. Maybe Lowell might have sent me the next chapter to his story too. I really doubt he's had the time to record it all and get it emailed to me, but I sure hope so.

Lunch was good. I had a nice talk with Mom before she left again to go help Aunt Catharine. As it turns out, she wasn't mad about me wearing the Pamper's diaper at all. Actually, she sort of teased me that I looked so darn cute in it and wished she'd have taken a picture of me before she changed me. I was so relieved that she wasn't mad, that I let her torment me. Believe me, I was sure embarrassed. She told me that the reason she got upset was that she doesn't think that I should be letting just anyone see me naked. She said it just isn't proper.

Dad's back too. He had to go to the office for about an hour this morning but now he's back in his home office, and is working away. He did sit down and have lunch with Mom and me, though we were both nearly done with ours when he came dragging in the backdoor. Dad has the sniffles today and I think he might be getting a cold so I'm going to keep my distance from him for a few days!

After seeing Mom off and retiring to my room, I sat down at my computer to check my email but decided I wasn't in the mood. I just don't know what's got into me today. I really don't feel like doing much of anything. Maybe I have that cabin fever stuff that Mom's always talking about in the winter months. I started to wonder if Dad would let me get dressed and go outside for a while, so I decided to venture out and ask him.

Sure enough, I found Dad working away at his desk. When I asked him if I could go outside for a while, he said I could as long as I... "Stay close to the house and don't do anything that will hurt those ribs," he had said.

He's going to come in and change me into a dry diaper too before I get all my warm clothes and stuff on. He just has to finish something first. I think in the meantime, I'm going to get everything out and put it on my chair. I was doing just that when he came walking into my room.

"You know! I think playing outside is a good idea. Maybe the wind will blow some of the stink off you!" he said as he entered my room.

"I don't stink!" I protested and Dad only laughed.

"When you come back in, I think you better plan on taking a bath since you didn't take one this morning." He said as he helped me lay down on my bed.

Dad pulled off my sweat pants, exposing my very wet diaper. "Humm, I thought your mother had said that you were supposed to tell us when you were wet so we could get you changed and out of the wet diaper?" he asked while pulling at one of the tapes.

"I didn't even know I was wet!" I said in my own defense. However, I'm not sure he believed me, but I swear I didn't have a clue!

Dad had me out of my wet diaper and into a dry one in almost no time at all. He also stuck around to help me get dressed, put my shoes on and tied them for me then helped me with my coat, hat, and gloves. Of course, he had to be a comedian and pull my hat down over my eyes before putting it on me right.

Once outside, I felt like I was a little over dressed as the weather wasn't as cold as it has been recently. I walked up and down the front sidewalk a few times and then went and sat on our porch swing for a while. I'd been outside maybe a total of twenty minutes, when a police cruiser went by and I seen that it was one of the officers I'd met in Principal Freeman's office that day when Mr. Freeman had Peter and his gang lined up, giving them the third degree. I waved back as he drove on by. I felt kind of good knowing that they were still keeping an eye on me and my home, even though Peter and the rest were long gone!

I started feeling bored again and decided I'd go walk to the top of our street. When I finally did get to the top, I still felt pretty darned good and was hardly winded so I figured, "Well I came this far, I might as well turn around and walk to the other end." And that's just what I did.

I was passing the second to the last house on the right, near the bottom of the hill, when I spotted a rusted-out and primer-covered mini-van sitting in the driveway. I remember thinking that it looked really out of place in our neighborhood, but since I didn't know the people that lived in that house, I figured that maybe they had a teenaged son that was fixing it up or something.

Then I noticed this really rough looking man sitting in the driver's seat, eating French-Fries. I was polite and waved, mostly because we'd made eye contact, but I continued walking to the end of the street and didn't give him a second thought.

Okay, in retrospect that would have been a good time for me to turn-tail and head back home, but did I do that? Nooooo! I had to continue on my walk to the end of our street. When I was walking past the rusty van on my way back up our street, I heard the garage door across the street opening. A car pulled out and I watched as the lady in that car drove away, up our street. When it was out of site, I heard someone behind me call my name.


I spun around so fast I think I made my brain spin inside my skull. It was that same ruff looking man I'd seen sitting in the van, eating French-Fries, except now he was out of the van, looking right at me. He was tall. Very tall and thin. I barely came up to the mid-point of his thighs and those arms of his; they looked like tree branches. His hair was shaggy and oily, and he had a blob of ketchup on the corner of his mouth. He was smiling, probably to make me feel less threatened, but honestly, to me it was like looking into the mouth of some sort of beast that still had a bit of blood on it's lips from it's last victim! The sudden surprise at seeing the size of him, and allowing myself to wonder how he could know my name, caused me tp delay what I should have been doing, which was running. Funny thing is, at first I couldn't talk or move.

"Hello Simon!" He took a couple steps toward me; which for me would have been great leaps.

"Say something you idiot!" I thought to myself.

"You okay there?" he asked, still coming closer. I could feel my heart pounding against my plastic body armor. All I could think about was all those missing children on the news and that I was about to be one myself.

He wasn't any more than three feet away from me when I saw his fingers flex as if about to stretch out and seize me. I let out a scream that gouged through the late winter air like a scooper through a tub of ice cream.

I was a block away from the man even before I knew my feet were carrying me away as fast as I could run. The biggest problem was that I was running away from my home and everyone I knew, nevertheless I wasn't thinking where I was going, but where I wasn't at, and that was in the back of that van!

My chest hurt as it had when I'd ran the mile for my school, back before my ribs were all busted up by Peter. While still running, I turned to see if he was following me. Complete and utter terror enveloped me within its dark embrace when I saw the van turning off my street and coming my way. I had no idea where I was running to. I wasn't thinking. I was just running for all I was worth. My lungs were on fire, my ribs hurt worst than ever before, but I couldn't stop. Thankfully, my legs felt strong, fueled with the high octane of fear. I didn't look back again. I just kept running; running past trees, past parked cars, and houses that all seemed to blur as I sped past them. Thankfully, my brain didn't have to keep telling my feet to keep running like it had in the race. They already knew and were pounding the cold concrete sidewalk, making a very similar sound to when I'd run the mile, only this time faster and louder. "Thump Thump Thump Thump Thump Thump".

I reached the end of the street I'd been running down. I'd no idea which one it was and without stopping, I crossed to the other side and continued sprinting down another street. While I was crossing the street, I managed to glance over my shoulder and saw the van was still speeding toward me. I don't know where it came from, but I suddenly felt like I had rockets strapped to my shoes. Though I was crying hard and screaming, I was still able to run harder and faster than I'd ever run in the race.

I turned another corner; saw the van was right behind me, and cut into someone's yard. I jumped over a chain link fence without even touching it and sprinted through their backyard. I lost track of how many yards I cut through, and how many fences I'd hurdled. I think it was the third, or maybe the fourth fence I leaped over, when it started to suddenly get cold and a fine misting rain began to fall.

This rain must have been either warmer or colder than the ground, because a fog began to rise; curling around my legs like snakes made of smoke each time I brought one of my feet down. I continued running in the rain. It wasn't until I tried to jump the last fence that I stopped running. Not by choice, but by the fence itself. I'd come to a wooden fence that was higher than the chain link fences. It was one of those wooden privacy fences. As I reached the fence, I took a leaping step, grabbed hold of the top of its fence boards, and began to hoist myself over. With my damaged ribs there would have been only one way I could have gotten over the fence, had I not had speed and momentum on my side.

I threw my feet out to the left, swung them up over the fence, and was sure I'd cleared the tops of the boards. I'm confident that if someone was looking out there window at that very second, they would have been astonished at my physical abilities and may even wonder if I might have some special ability to defy gravity itself. However, if they continued watching, only one single second longer, they would see just how ungraceful I really was, and that gravity was very much against me!

As I started to push my body weight forward and prepare for my dismount, the hem of my pant leg somehow snagged on something. Maybe on a nail, I don't know. However, I do know that with just that slight tugging action, it threw my entire dismount into complete chaos. My right leg became a mid-air anchor and the pivot point for the rest of my body, causing my head to race toward the awaiting frozen earth.

I guess the only good thing I can say about the entire episode is that I didn't make the crash landing I was anticipating. Because my pant leg was caught on the far side of the fence, my body hung there, my head about an inch from the ground. My heart was still racing, blood was pooling in my head, my arms were thrashing about, trying to support my body, and free myself from this hanging trap I'd leapt into. It seemed like I'd hung there for several minutes, but in reality it was probably more like several seconds. I reached up with my thumb and released the button to my pants. That was all that was needed and I fell right out of my pants, landing on my head as the rest of my body crumbled on top of me. Had it not been for my body armor, I'm sure I would have probably sent one or more of my broken ribs into my lungs, puncturing one or both them.

I was laying face down and realized that the earth beneath me was not as frozen as I'd imagined it to be. Actually, it was quite muddy and the rain, though light, wasn't helping matters at all.

I lifted my face slowly from the mud, thinking how stupid I was and how much the top of my head hurt. I brought my left arm to my face and wiped my eyes on the sleeve of my coat. When I opened my eyes again, I couldn't figure out right away what I was looking at. I think it took me a good five or six seconds to realize I was looking at the front paws of a dog.

Without daring to so much as breathe, my eyes rose up past its legs and past its chest to its neck. There was a silver choker chain around it. My eyes continued up to its yellow exposed teeth. A single low growl gurgled from the dogs throat and the next thing I knew I was up and running so hard that my knees were nearly coming up to my chest as they pumped like a machine. I reached the far end of the yard, leapt over the wooden fence again, this time clearing it easily. However, my landing on the other side left a lot to be desired. I came right down on two trashcans. With an ear-piercing cry, I yelled out as my ankle, the same one I'd injured before, hit the grown sideways and buckled under my weight. I fell to my hands and knees, unable to see because of the pain. Something else happened while I was in midair. For a split second with a only my right hand in contact with the top of the fence, and the rest of my body seeming to be hung in the air, time stopped long enough for me to see that I didn't have my shoes on anymore.

"Where the heck are my shoes?" I thought. "They must have come off when I fell out of my pants."

Now remember, all that happened in only a split second. As my foot hit the ground and my ankle gave way, I honestly don't remember what I said. I know I was screaming and knowing my temper, I was probably cussing like a drunken sailor, but no one could have heard me over that dog's barking on the other side of the fence.

After the run-in with that dog, the first thing I did in this yard was to quickly scan it to be sure I hadn't jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the equally proverbial fire. Thankfully, I saw no animals. With the racket I made crashing into the garbage cans, and the barking dog, as well as my own cries of pain, I expected whoever owned the house and the back yard I was in would have come to a window or opened their backdoor to see what was going on. However, since no one did appear, I guessed that no one was home. Very shortly afterward, I would learn differently!

Unable to walk, I crawled on my hands and bare knees across the wet and very cold lawn while still sobbing. I reached the gate, reached up, flipped open the latch, and swung it open before I pulled myself through. Using the gate and the corner of the house for support, I managed to get myself to my muddy, sock covered feet. There was no way I could run anymore and I had serious doubts about walking too. I looked down and my entire front was covered in mud. The palms of my hands looked scraped, but it was my ankle that was hurting so bad that it was nearly blinding me. My bare legs, where not covered in mud and grass, were turning blue from the cold. I think that is when it hit me that I was, outside, in a diaper, with no pants on.

"I'm having a nightmare! That's it! I'm dreaming! All of this is just a dream and I'm still at home, in my bed dreaming!" I said aloud, trying to convince myself that it was true.

"Okay, how do you wake yourself up when you're having a nightmare?" I asked myself, "How do they do it on TV?" I asked and then answered myself in the same breath, "A PINCH!"

I reached up and pinched my cheeks with both hands as hard as I could, "Holy fudge!" I cried. Except I didn't say fudge. "Okay that doesn't prove anything! I'm still dreaming... this has got to be a dream!" I said.

Somehow, I was able to totter down the side of the house and stopped alongside a bush using its limbs to steady myself. I was at the end of a dead-end street; one that I'd never been on before and I knew I was very much lost.

When I stopped moving, I felt the familiar pressure inside of me that told me that I needed to poop. I knew that it was probably just my nerves, coupled with my fear, that were making my insides react in such a manner. I clamped my butt cheeks together and tried not to think about it.

Then to my dismay and sheer horror, I saw the same rusty van turn slowly onto the street. It was far enough away that though I could see it, I figured the driver couldn't see me. Suddenly something noticeably bizarre was growing within my mind. No longer was I scared of being captured, kidnapped or who knows what; my only fear now was having someone see me `outside', wearing nothing but a diaper. Okay, so, I wasn't just wearing a diaper; but in my panicked state, that's exactly what my brain was telling me.

Quickly, I scanned each of the three houses at the end of the cul-de-sac. Every last one of them was dark inside. Not even a porch light was on except for the house I was standing next to; the one whose bush was partially hiding me from the view of the driver of the van. Hanging over the front door was a single glowing yellow porch light. The kind of front porch light you see on just about any home in any American suburb. Moreover, for the first time, I realized just how plain the house looked too. It was painted white, though it was cracked and peeling in places.

Though different, it was very much like every other house on the street or in our town. The bushes looked to have not been tended to for several years and had been allowed to grow wild. The flowerbed was really more of a mound of black dirt with dead weeds laying all over it. Nothing remarkable or memorable about the house, right? Well, I was about to learn different! The saying, `Never judge a book by its cover' comes to mind while I sit here writing all this now.

Hopping on one foot, I got around the bush, up onto the front porch, which thankfully was only a single step above ground level. My plan was to pound on the front door and scream for help. I reached the door and somehow it seemed out of place on this house. It seemed bigger than a normal house's front door too. It was a solid wood door, stained dark with one of those old-fashioned iron doorknockers in the middle of it, with the name `Peterson' on it.

I lifted my fist to pound on the door. However, with just a single hit, it swung open.

Okay, even I know you do not go into someone's house without being invited, and you definitely do not go into a stranger's house under any circumstances. Even if that homeowner invites you! That is just common sense right? Well, I didn't bother to reason out the pros and cons. When the door swung open, I threw my body inside and slammed the door closed again; praying the man in the van didn't see me dive into the house.

I was still crying and breathing hard between my sobs. Furthermore, my heart felt like it was about to explode inside my plastic armor at any second. Standing on one foot and holding the door closed with both hands, I panted and tried to get myself to stop sobbing like a baby. While attempting this, my brain started to function again. The abrupt realization of where I was hit me.

I closed my eyes and in a sort of prayer, I mumbled; "Please let all this just be a bad dream!"

With my eyes still shut, I spun myself around, put my back to the door, and still muttering softly said, "Maybe he didn't see me! Maybe he'll just turn around and go away! I'm safe here..." and as if I was willing him away, "I'm not here! You have to go look elsewhere! Far away! Just go far away!"

Ultimately, giving into the fact that I couldn't keep my eyes closed forever, I opened first one, then the other. To say I was astonished by what I saw would be an understatement. Every inch of wall, I mean every last inch of wall space was covered with row after row of books; books of every shape and size. There were even books stacked on tables. Books were stacked from the floor to the ceiling as if they were pillars holding up the floor above them.

There were no lamps or light fixtures anywhere that I could see. The only light in the room came from a roaring fire within the fireplace. I'd passed a window on my way to the front door. Though it was raining, there still should have been light poring into the room, but from the inside, I saw that the window was covered with heavy, faded, green velvet curtains. The hem of which, was frayed and tattered as if it had been chewed on by mice over many years.

Next to the fireplace were two empty, tired looking arm chairs with a single, round spindly table between them, and what looked to be an oddly shaped and equally empty fishbowl atop the table. One of the chairs appeared to be missing one of its back legs, and a stack of books was being used in its absence.

My ankle beckoned my attention away from the room for only a single moment as a sharp pain shot up through my leg. I rubbed at my naked, mud covered, thigh to symbolically sooth my ankle.

Again, I began to peer around the room. To my right was a darkened staircase that danced with the eerie glow of reds and oranges from the fire. The staircase went up three steps to a landing, turned, and vanished up into darkness. On the landing was a tarnished brass bird's perch sitting atop a stack of books. The perch appeared to be performing a precarious balancing act with a large, stuffed gray owl with glowing eyes and wings spread, making it look ferocious and threatening.

It was hard to take my eyes off the stuffed owl. It looked so real. Almost as if it had somehow been suddenly frozen in time and might come back to life at any second. After a moment, I was able to break the spell it had over me and looked down to my left side where there was a small table that looked like it was under great strain with the mound of books that were pilled on top of it. My eyes landed on the title of one of the books. `An Explorer's Handbook to the Universe and Beyond' and beside it was, `A Beginners Guide to Dragon Breading.' Yet another. `Frozen Time How to Live Forever and Still Be Happy'.

I swallowed hard and in an almost inaudible tone, hoping and praying no one would hear or respond, I said, "Hello?"

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move out from under one of the chairs. For a second, maybe two, I nearly panicked and thought about taking my chances with the man in the van, but I realized it was just an Old Persian cat. Its fur looked as if it hadn't been brushed in years.

The cat slowly, as if not trusting me, and why should it, made its way to the middle of the room. It stopped, sat down, and turning its head toward me until I could see the glow of its brown eyes. It gave out a small low, "Reeeoow".

From beyond the books, behind a dusty curtain, came a voice that made me think of rotting apples lying on the ground under an old apple tree beneath an October sky. "Be still Vera, I know he's there."

A wrinkled hand pulled the curtain aside and out shuffled an old man; `Old?' ancient was more like it! His withered brown skin reminded me of dehydrated mushrooms. His shoulder length hair hung from his head in clumps of greasy, grey locks, almost like a once-shimmering veil that had long since needed thrown out, while the very top of his head was completely void of any hair at all. Although he was taller than me by a couple feet at least, he probably weighed less. Yet for some reason, maybe it was the eyes that gleamed like two protruding white pearls below his brisling brow, he seemed very, very, powerful.

Shuffling his feet across the wooden floor, he moved himself around a stack of books that didn't quite reach the ceiling and came to stand directly in front of me.

Without looking directly at me, "Why are you here?" he asked. His breath smelled of milk that had long since gone bad.

I quivered, "I was uh..."

The old man shook his head the way a dog might shake the water from its fur, only much slower.

"Young man, no one ever comes into my home!"

His breath made it seem that his words were being forced into me.

"Get to the point! What do you need?"

"Ho-honest s-s-sir I-I-I..."

I was stuttering so bad that I could hardly understand myself, and I was sure the old man must think I'm some kind of thief or something.

He arched one eyebrow and squinted his other eye tightly shut.

Sounding disappointed, he said, "Well you are here." Then raising his voice to an unassailable echelon, "Now what do you need?"

The manner of his voice made it crystal clear to me that I'd better `NEED' something. I glanced around frantically, "I-I-I d-don't s-s-s-see a-a-nything b-b-but books!"

The old man's expression remained unchanged as he asked, "How much money do you have?"

"I-I-I..." I continued to stutter.

Coming even closer to me, and still not looking directly at me, he said, "Nothing is ever free! Everything in life costs!"

Putting a single finger to his chin, he tapped it twice. Speaking now as if he were talking to himself, he said, "Yes that's it indeed! Everything costs!"

He turned his head slightly so that his one open eye was looking right into the middle of my two eyes.

"But the question you must ask yourself is..." he took a short, shallow breath, "Are you willing to pay the price, no matter the cost?"

I knew I didn't have even a stinking penny, but still I thrust my hands into the pockets of my coat and acted as if I was fishing around for some money. Yet, to my surprise, I found a crumpled dollar bill. Lunch money I had perhaps forgotten about. On the other hand, maybe it was one of the bills from the robbery that I'd missed when I'd taken the rest out of my pocket to hide.

I suppose it doesn't really matter where it came from. I held my hand out flat with the crumpled dollar wadded in the center of my palm, "J-J-Just th-th-th-this d-dollar b-but I d-d-don't th-th-think." I stuttered.

Snatching it away from me, the old man snapped, "That will be fine!"

"Stand still!" he barked. Grabbing my head, he pried open my eye. The same one that only a few days ago had been gnarled and swollen thanks to a lucky blow by my brother.

It was like looking into the sun, the old man's silvery-white eye seemed to peer all the way into my soul. I was so scared, so exasperated, that my bladder released its contents into my diaper. Maybe it was because of the old man's close proximity that I knew it happened this time, but I was still helpless to stop it. I felt my face, ears, and neck burning with embarrassment.

"Surely he knows?" I thought.

The old man suddenly released me and just stood there. I was sure then that he knew.

"Quiet!" he yelled, though I had not uttered so much as a peep.

I stood as if carved from a slab of stone. The old man continued to stare at me for another minute, then closed his other eye and bent his head forward, almost as if he were listening for something.

After a moment, he opened his eyes and said, "Hmmm, wait here."

He turned and disappeared back behind the curtain in which he'd emerged from only minutes before.

I felt as if my feet had been frozen to the floor. When I looked down at them, I was horrified to find a puddle around my feet.

"What the?" I thought, "But I have on a diaper! How could I have peed on the floor?"

I was screaming inside my own head. I wanted to run and hide, but my fear was so immense that I couldn't have moved; couldn't have run away if I'd tried.

After what seemed like forever, the old man reappeared carrying what looked to be a small box wrapped in a shiny red silk scarf.

"Here!" he said, as if ordering me to take what he was carrying.

Extending the item to me he cackled again, "Take this! It's what you came here to get!"

My fingers trembled as I held out my hands to accept the crimson package. The old man leaned even closer, staring directly into my eyes, and speaking in a low hiss that made me feel as if a cold wind was running down my spine.

"For Setekh's sake," drawing out the word `sake', "be careful!"

Then he dropped the box, still wrapped in the red silk scarf, into my waiting fingers. It was heavier than I'd expected, and since I was still standing on one foot, I had to quickly draw it in close to my chest to keep from toppling over onto the old man.

He was now looking at the item he'd just given me and appeared to be sad. Sad like a parent might be who is saying goodbye to a child they know they may never see again.

With his eyes momentarily deverted from my own, I looked around wildly and through a thin slit, where the heavy curtain that covered the front window met the wall, I could see that it had begun to get dark outside.

"Now get out of my house!" He snapped, "You're dripping mud and water all over my floor!" the old man growled as he turned away and started toward the fireplace.

"Mud and water? Yes, it had been raining, it was just rain!" I could have cheered and inside I was.

"Take the side door." He said gesturing to his left, "It will get you home, more quickly!" He began to laugh.

I spotted the small door under the staircase.

"Why didn't I notice it before?" I thought.

I took a single step toward it before realizing that I still had a problem. My pants were still hanging from the fence in the neighbor's yard, and there was no way I was going to be able to get past that man-eating dog. With my aching ankle there was no way I could ever hope to get over the wooden privacy fence again anyway. Those two other times I'd had speed and momentum on my side, now I had neither.

I looked down at my stark naked legs. My diaper seemed to glow like a beacon in the firelight. "How could he not have noticed I wasn't wearing pants and only had on a diaper? How?" I thought to myself.

The idea of having to go back outside with no pants and my diaper in full view of anyone and everyone just didn't appeal to me at all.

Still only speaking inside my head, I asked myself, "Now what am I going to do?"

I stood still for a moment, pondering the question. Finally, gathering my courage I stepped toward the man who'd now settled himself in one of the tired-looking chairs. His cat too, had jumped up, and was making itself comfortable on the old man's lap while still keeping its eyes on me as if it knew the old man wasn't watching me, so it had to. I felt embarrassed to even have a cat see me in my diaper!

"Mind your own business!" Is what I wanted to say to the cat, but I didn't as I felt myself blushing.

I limped toward the man, "Uh, S-sir? I-I n-need t-to t-talk t-to you."

With the flick of his wrist, as if trying to brush away an annoying insect, "Go away!"

Frustration caused my voice to rise several notes, making me sound even more childlike, "B-but I-I-I n-need y-your help!"

"Go away! I've helped you enough!" The old man turned his face away and that darn cat lifted his head and hissed at me.

"B-but I-I d-d-d-don't have any p-p-pants!" I finally shouted.

Shouting back the old man said, "That's hardly my fault!"

I felt myself getting ready to cry and struggled to keep control of my emotions, "W-well how w-will I g-g-g-g-get home?"

"Walk!" He was nearly worked up to a full rage, but was still not looking at me.

Throwing my hands into the air and then dropping them at my side I said, sounding very defeated, "I can't do that!"

The old man finally turned his face back toward me. Raising a finger, he said, "Young man, if you do not leave my house soon, I will show you how disobedient children were dealt with when I was a boy!"

The hair on the back of his cat began to stand on end as the man puffed himself up with anger.

"Now go!" he snarled one last time.

The man's rage caused me to stagger backward several steps. Thoughts were flying around in my head like a swarm of bullets, "I'm nearly naked! How can I go home? On the other hand, how can I stay here?" In the time that it took me to take a deep breath and let it out again, I thought it over and considered how much trouble I was in already. "Dad had said to stay close to the house, didn't he?" I supposed that being half-naked when I got home wasn't going to make that much difference.

However, when I reached the small door under the staircase I could not force myself to open it. The idea that had almost made sense thirty seconds ago now seemed insane. I tried to convince myself, "It was Wednesday afternoon, everyone should be in school or at work, and hardly anyone would be home at this time of day. Besides, the stripped-down fact was, there was nothing else I could do. I had to make a run for it, so to speak.

At last, my hand obeyed my brain's orders. I reached out, opened the door, and slipped through. Immediately, I felt that everyone in our town was looking at me. Even the trees seemed to have eyes, yet the world was strangely silent. I shivered at the feel of the cold March air against my bare legs and then I began to notice where I was.

"I-I kn-n-now w-w-where I-I am at!" I said aloud to no one but myself.

To my astonishment, I found myself in the alley. The one that ran behind the Colonial Barber Shop and once I made my way to the other end of the alley, I would only be about six blocks away from home.

For a moment, the thought that I might still be dreaming came back to me, but I literally shook it out of my head and I looked up into the sky. It had stopped raining... mostly, but I could still see nothing but dark gray overhead. There were no stars, no sun and no moon.

"Is it night?" I asked aloud, and feeling the twinge in my bowels again I started limping for home.

While I was stumbling down the alley, I began to remove the red silk scarf from around the object the old man had given me and found that it wasn't a box as I first beliefed, but a book.

That was when I noted, "Simon, you are such an idiot! You were surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of books... what else would a senile old man give you?"

As I was examining the book, I could see that it was indeed, very old. It had a brown leather cover; the corners and edges of which were heavily worn. There was nothing on the front or back cover, but on the spine of the book it looked like there was, at one time lettering, that had long since vanished.

I flipped open the book and could detect the faint but lingering smell of dead fish.

"I thought old books were supposed to smell musty, not like rotting fish!" I mumbled.

The pages of the book were yellowed and brittle, and on the very first page was the title of the book,


Be Ye Crimp or Grommet

A Survivors Guide


However, there was no author's name anywhere that I could find, and the title page looked to have been wrote by hand instead of printed as books are now. I carefully flipped through the pages and found that the entire book had been written in the same manor. There were also many hand drawn pictures of ships, sailors, boats, and diagrams throughout the book, with words I'd never heard of before and couldn't pronounce.

Looking back to the front pages of the book at the title, I said aloud, "What the heck are Crimps and Grommets?"

I had been hobbling unsteadally down the alley, probing the book, and wondering what made that nutty old man think that I needed this particular book. I was lost in the pages that talked about a group of sailors called a `Press Gang' who would seek out and "recruit" for their ship, using violence and intimidation. My thoughts were all over the place and I didn't see a pothole that was right in my path until it was too late. I'd been limping along and just happened to step right into the pothole. It was filled with icy-cold mud water that saturated my sock instantly and bit at my skin.

"Oh that's just beautiful!" I scolded the pothole as I pulled my foot back out.

"Yeah, it's official," I looked up to the gray heavens and shouted, "THIS DAY SUCKS!"

I shook my soaking wet, sock-covered foot, causing water to splash everywhere, I don't know why, but I carefully re-wrapped the book with the red silk scarf, slipped the book into the pocket of my coat, and snapped the flap closed; locking it safely inside.

So, with a cold foot, a soggy sock, my ankle throbbing, and covered in mud from head to toe, I made my way to the end of the alley. However, when I reached the end of the alley, I suddenly felt exposed again. At least in the alley I felt that I had some places I could hide should I see or hear someone coming. I flipped my hood up over my head to offer some safe feeling that I might not be recognized.

Once the fright of being out in the open had passed again, I started to enjoy my walk despite my physical state. The chill in the air, and the sheer craziness of walking across town with my diaper right out there for everyone to see, made me wildly alert. I felt opened to the world, delighted by every sight and sound my greedy senses could absorb. The man in the van was the furthest thing from my mind or maybe I was denighing myself the opertunity to think about it.

By taking to the lesser-traveled streets, which meant I had to walk four extra blocks, I managed to remain unseen until I reached Enting Street.

I was passing a small, well maintained grey brick house when I saw a tired looking woman standing at a window, holding a can of Pepsi, and gazing out with her eyelids at half mast. When she saw me, it looked as if someone had plugged in her curlers. Her eyelids shot up, her jaw dropped down, and Pepsi flew in all directions. I only caught a glimpse of her again as she strained to see who I was, but I was gone, trying not to let my laughter slow me down; though I really was moving at a racing snails pace.

The closer I got to my home, the brighter the sky seemed to get. Like the gray mass overhead was thinning and allowing shafts of light to filter through. Sure, it was cold and wet, and not one of Mother Nature's better days. Of course, having a wet sock and being covered in mud wasn't helping to keep me warm or improve my opinion of her handy-work today. Though I was enjoying the briskness, I was also feeling glad that I was nearly home again.

My belief that I was was going to have another run-in with that rusted-out, primer-painted mini-van grew stronger the closer to home I got. I expected it to come screeching around every street corner I approached.

I made the last turn that would take me to my street and came to a screeching halt. Where my street dumped out onto Marshall Ave, there must have been ten police cars blocking every possible direction with lights flashing away. There were also dozens of people standing around in front of houses, talking to one another, and probably gossiping about the whole affair. I was wondering what was going on when I spotted it. Right in the middle of all those squad cars, was the very same van that had been chasing after me. Though I didn't see the scruffy man anywhere, I guessed he was probably cuffed and stuffed into one of the cruisers. I felt an inexplicable joy and freedom overcome me. I wanted to run up and congratulate every one of those police officers for catching the depraved man who had been driving the van.

However, instead of trying to get through the cluster of men in blue, I decided to go up Mike and Tater's street, then cut over and come down my street to my house. Okay, I knew I was taking a big risk by going past Tater's home, but it was better than getting near that weirdo and his van again, even with all those cops around!

Though I made up my mind in what direction I was going to go, I decided to take a moment to rest before tackling the hill. I was standing and leaning against a large tree that looked to be sleeping. No leaves, no gentle swaying in the breeze as it most certainly would be in the spring and summer months. With my head tilted all the way back, I looked up at the damp bark and wondered what the tree would say if it could talk. While admiring the majesty of such a quiet, yet living specimen, a single snowflake drifted down through the vacated branches and landed just above my right eye. I wiped it away, glanced back to the police cars flashing their red and blue lights against all the houses, and noticed a small group of people off in the distance. They were so far away that I could never have identified them, but I could tell that they looked out of place and I'm not sure why I felt that way then or now.

There were quite a few housewives and a couple of househusbands standing around gossiping and whatnot; but that group?

I squinted to try to count them, "Four? No five?" I said aloud.

"There are six! You're missing the little guy by that tree!" a familiar voice spoke.

I spun around fast. Forgetting about my injured foot, I put my weight down on it. Before I knew what happened, I was on my butt, looking up into the grinning face of Runt.

"RUNT!" I all but shouted.

He stuck a finger to his lips.

"You want to keep it down? I'm not exactly the most popular guy in this town right now!" he said, extending a hand and helping me up again.

I stood against, and held onto, the side of the tree while I lifted my sore foot up from the ground.

"What's a matter with your foot? And where in the hell are your pants and shoes Spaz?" He bent down and was pulling at my sock to look at my ankle.

"That man over there," I pointed to the primer painted van, "he was chasing after me and I got stuck on a fence and then chased by a dog."

He moved my foot causing an overload of pain signals to race to my brain.

"Ah dang Runt! That hurts!" I said, moving my foot away from him.

"It doesn't look broke." He said standing back up.

"No, I can put a little bit of weight on it." I was giving him a dirty look for hurting me, though I know he didn't mean too.

Runt leaned against the backside of the tree again so that he wasn't as exposed to the eyes of the police, and for the first time, I noticed what he had on.

"What-you wearing?" I asked.

He smiled and tugged at the lapels of his grey coat, "What this? Ah, it's nut'n. Just clothes!"

"Yeah, but you look like you just stepped out of some civil war movie!" I said.

He did, too. All he was missing was one of those gray, funny-looking hats they wore back then.

I could tell by his response that he was egging me on a bit.

"What? Don't you like it? I think it's grand!" he said while petting it.

He reached into an inside pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

"I didn't know you smoked." I said, moving closer so that I too was leaning against the tree.

While he answered my question, my bowels again came to life and this time with greater urgency than the previous times.

"Did when I was your age. Smoked a pack a day, but stopped when my Dad found out and bounced my head off the side of the garage for about ten minutes." He pulled one from the pack, stuck it in his mouth and then offered me one.

"No thanks!" I said, not really paying a lot of attention to what he said, as I had to really concentrate on holding it in.

I noticed he was looking at me funny, and I didn't want him to figure out what was bothering me, so I asked another question. "Where you been hiding?"

"Here and there!" He lit his cigarette, "Mostly been staying with some good friends."

He drew in a deep breath of smoke. "Yeah, that's the stuff!" he sighed with an exhale.

He looked at the cops and all the flashing lights before saying, "Sorry about him."

"Huh?" I grunted, as the pain of my bowels was getting worse.

Runt pointed over to the cop cars and the van, "That was old Tom. He was only supposed to keep an eye on you, but it's not a great secret, at least to them that knew him, that he was a bit of an idiot."

He took another hit on his cigarette.

"Actually that's being kind, he was a total ass, but he was big and strong and a hard worker."

Runt sucked on his cigarette again.

"He never could follow directions." he said, still looking toward the lights while I was staring right at him.

"Y-you k-knew him?" my rising fear was not well hidden.

"Ah Spaz! Don't you worry `bout him. He's dead now!" Runt said it so casually, you'd think he was talking about what color to paint a house and not about a man's death.

"Dead?" I said, now looking toward the lights myself and biting into my bottom lip to try to draw my minds' attention away from the cramps inside my diaper.

I looked back to the peculiar group I had spotted before, but they were gone now. With one last desperate attempt to clench my butt cheeks together, I finally lost the battle and couldn't hold it in anymore. With a gush, my bowels completely evacuated into my diaper. Aside from the sound of my gasping, I don't think I made any other sound that would make Runt think I just pooped my diaper.

Something funny though, I'd not realized how cold my butt was until I pooped in my diaper. I could feel the warmth spreading over my bottom, between my legs and even up on my lower back area.

"Yep!" he said before sucking hard on his cigarette and then flicking it out into the street.

I prayed the smell didn't escape my diaper. I couldn't look at him anymore. I was so scared he was going to find out what happened if he didn't already know. I heard myself repeating over and over inside my head, "Please let me become invisible! Please let me become invisible!"

Runt continued, "Listen! There's still some shi... uh sorry, some stuff going on."

"Oh no, he knows!" my panic level went off the scale.

"Keep close to home and don't go out by yourself anymore." He said.

I continued looking at the flashing red and blue lights for a few seconds and noticed that it was snowing now as I waited for Runt to say something else. When he didn't, I turned back to him and he was gone.

"Runt?" I called, but not too loudly.

I looked all around, but he'd simply vanished like a puff of smoke.

I leaned back against the tree, rested my head against its bark, closed my eyes and sighed.

"I am so dead!" I muttered to the tree.

Then, looking up the hill toward Tater's house and feeling about as low as I could possibly feel, I pushed off from the tree and started across the street.

Now trying to walk up-hill was a lot harder than the flat streets I'd just left. As I made my way up the hill on the far side of the street, I pulled the hood of my coat so that it hid even more of my face, in hope that if I was seen by anyone, namely Tater, they'd just think I was one of a hundred other kids in the neighborhood."

"Yeah, one of a hundred other kids in the neighborhood that was out on a cold, wet day for a walk, in a wet and poopy diaper." a voice in my head said.

I kept my head down, eyes on the sidewalk, and tried to concentrate on walking without looking like I was limping too badly. I was endeavoring to keep from doing anything that might attract attention to me.

For the most part, I was doing okay, progressing up the hill at a slow, but steady pace. I didn't remove my eyes from the sidewalk, didn't attempt to glance at any of the houses, especially not Tater and Mike's house! However, it seemed that with each step I took, the heavier the snow fell around me. It wasn't a blizzard kind of snow, just a heavy, wet snow. It was too late in the winter for another blizzard, or so I thought.

I'd reached the point where I was directly across the street from their house. I still don't know why I looked, but I did. Not a full-on staring as if I was trying to peer through the walls to see who was inside, but just a quick glance. It looked dark and empty like no one was home. Yet, in my minds-eye I could see everything inside, the kitchen, the living room, Mike's room with all his models, Tater's room with all those trophies, and the basement workout room where Tater and I had worked out together. I looked again, quickly scanning the front windows for any sign of life or light, but there was none.

"Why am I disappointed?" I whispered to myself as I wiped another snowflake from the end of my nose.

With a silent sigh, I gave a small shrug and continued walking up the hill, still glancing over my left shoulder every few steps, just to be sure the house didn't suddenly pull itself from its foundation and come running up the hill after me.

"Simon! You're being an idiot!" I heard a voice inside my head say.

After I had pasted three more houses, I stopped looking back and returned to watching the cracks of the sidewalk vanish beneath my feet. I also noticed that I was beginning to hobble more the farther I went up the hill. My legs and feet were long past cold and though my ankle hurt, it wasn't screaming as it had been before. The sidewalk was beginning to turn white as the snow accumulated on it.

I stopped again, lifted my injured foot in the air and tried to rotate my foot. I don't know why, I just did it.

"Man that hurts!" I grumbled, still talking aloud to no one but myself.

"Why don't you rest against that fire hydrant for a few minutes?" the voice in my head said to me.

"Good idea, thanks!" I spoke to the voice as if it were another person, but when I looked closer at the hydrant I saw it was glistening with the rain from earlier and snow was sticking to it as well. Not wanting to get my backside wet, though it wouldn't much matter since I had on a diaper, and the front of me was already wet and covered in mud, I decided not to sit on it. I guess it was the principle of the thing.

So, I continued up to the hill until I reached my turnoff point. Making a left turn and crossing to the other side of the street, I stopped and looked down the hill one more time. I couldn't really see their house from where I was standing, but I could see their front yard. There was no change; I sighed, shrugged again, and started to take a step when I thought I heard something.

"What was that?" the voice in my head asked.

"How should I know, but I heard it too!" I answered the voice.

I turned around and listened but there was nothing, so I said to the voice, "I think we're both hearing things."

"That's nothing; you're also carrying on a conversation with yourself." The voice in my head said.

I shook my head hard, "Come on Simon! Get a hold of yourself!"

I gave my face a hard slap with my right hand and then another with my left hand. "Snap out of it!"

Almost as if the wind were talking to me now I heard, "Ssssimmmooonnnnnn!"

It seemed to hang in the air as if it had come from a great distance.

Finally, I spotted someone all the way down at the bottom of the hill I'd just climbed. Whoever it was, they sure looked small, and not because they were so far away. Whoever it was had something in their hand and was waving it high overhead.

"A flag maybe?" I thought.

"Why would they be waving a flag?" the voice in my head spoke up again.

"Oh shut up you!" I snapped, giving my head a firm thump.

I heard the small person call my name again and was sure now that was who'd called before. It wasn't until he was halfway up the hill before I realized it was Jasper Hawkins, Bull's little brother, and it wasn't a flag he was waving in the air... it... it was... MY PAINTS!

Forgetting momentarily about my sore ankle, I took a half a step, but stopped when the pain shot all the way up my leg and into my side. Since I couldn't go to him, I waved.

A few seconds later he was in front of me, bent over, hands on knees, and gasping for air. Without looking up, he stretched out his right arm to hand me my pants.

Gratefully, and not even thinking how he ended up with them in the first place, I took them and started putting them on. I looked at my legs as I was pulling my pants up. They were nearly ghostly white from the cold. I'd just got my pants zipped up, when Jasper leaned back and put his hand on my chest for support; thank god for my pastic armor!

Still breathing hard, he tried to speak, "Dang" gasp, "I been" gasp, "looking ev," gasp "rywhere" gasp, "for you!" gasp-pant-gasp. "I seen you" gasp, "go over our fence" gasp.

While he was talking, I notice that in his other hand, he was holding my shoes. He saw me looking at them.

"Oh here" gasp, "you go." He said, handing them to me.

"Your fence?" I asked, looking around for a place to sit while I put my shoes on.

Jasper reached out and took one of my shoes back away from me.

"Here, let me!" he panted as he knelt down in front of me. "I was by the backdoor, letting our dog out to go potty when you fell over our fence. I didn't know it was you until you were running away again."

He finished tying my shoe for me and reached up to take the other one, but he stopped and looked around.

"Man, something stinks around here!" he exclamed

I could have died at that instant. Jasper stood up, looked at the bottoms of both of his shoes to be sure he didn't step in something.

"Man that really sticks!" he said fanning his hand in front of his face.

A plethora of emotions were swimming around inside of me. I felt humiliated for crapping myself, embarrassed that Jasper could smell it, and angry to learn that it was his dog that nearly killed me!

He reached for my other shoe again, but I didn't let go of it as I timidly asked, "That was your dog? Ah, your backyard?"

"Yeah! But if I'd known you were going to be coming over our fence, I'd never have let her out!" He said, still holding onto my shoe.

I was about to ask, "Why do you have a man-eating dog?" but he asked his question first.

"Say, why did you come flying over our fence anyway?"

I let him have my other shoe. He helped me get it on and tied it for me as well.

As he stood back up, I said, "Thanks!"

"That was the funniest thing I've ever seen! Bull saw it too. He fell over one of the dinning room chairs `cause he was laughing so hard." Jasper was smiling and trying very hard not to laugh right in my face.

I rubbed the top of my head, "Well, I didn't think it was very funny!"

"Trust me, it was!" Jasper accidentally let a laugh escape and quickly apologized. But he was looking like he was about to throw up if he didn't let it all out soon.

"So why did you come over our fence like that?" he asked again.

With a very heavy sigh, I told him about the man in the rusty, primer-colored van, and how he'd chased me, trying to catch me.

"Oh, is that what all those cops were doing?" he said, motioning over his shoulder with his thumb.

"Yeah! I guess they caught him!" I said, but I didn't tell him about Runt or that Runt had told me that the man was now dead.

"You think he's the one that took all those kids on TV?" Jasper asked.

I wrapped my arms around myself. Funny, when I had no pants or shoes I didn't feel as cold as I did now that I was fully dressed again. Maybe it was because I'd stopped moving and the cold was getting to me.

"You look pretty cold!" Jasper said.

"I am!" I answered back.

"I can't believe you walked all the way here in the snow with no pants and shoes and wearing a diaper!" He giggled when he said the word diaper.

I felt myself blush which was good, because it helped to warm my face.

"Hey, I have a secret fort not too far from here, if you want to go there until you warm up!" Jasper asked.

For several seconds I was tempted to go with him, but I figured I was already in enough trouble. I'd better not make things worse for myself. If I had gone with him, he was sure to find out that I was the one that smelled so bad because I had a load in my diaper.

"I better get home. My Dad's going to kill me the way it is!" I said, pointing in the direction that I was about to go.

"Yeah, it's snowing pretty hard anyway! I should get back home too! Can I email you?" he asked, which I found somewhat odd.

"Ah, Yeah! Maybe we can chat online later. That is, if I don't end up grounded from my computer again!" I kicked at the freshly fallen snow on the sidewalk.

"Okay and I'm glad that man didn't get you too! Oh and sorry my dog scared you! She's really nice normally! I think you just scared her!" Jasper said.

"I scared her?" I thought, but didn't say it aloud.

"Okay, hope I see you online!" Jasper said.

As he turned to go, he stopped again and said, "Man there must be a pile of dog poop right here somewhere! Sure does stink!" and then took off running at full speed back down the hill.

I watched until he was out of sight, then turned and limped the rest of the way home. All the while dreading what Dad was going to say and do when he got his hands on me. When I walked in the front door, I fully expected to be greeted with a flurry of yelling, but that's not what happened at all. I stepped in the front door to find the house was quiet. I was about to go limping across the living room, but one look down at myself, at the mud that was all over me, and I knew that Mom would kill me if I tracked mud all over the carpet.

I stood quiet for a second, trying to think how I could get to the back of the house without risking making a mess. I thought about stripping myself down right there at the door, but two things stopped me. The fact that I could only strip as far as my diaper because it was filled with poop and secondly, even if I did strip to my diaper, my legs, feet, and diaper, were still covered in mud. Resigned to needing help, I decided to announce my homecoming.

"Dad?" I called out, but there was no response.

"Dad, I'm home!" I called again and listened for any noise at all.

I could see the glow of light coming from around the corner where Dad's home office was, so I knew he must be here. Plus, he'd never leave me home alone without telling me so. Then the thought occurred to me that maybe he was down at the bottom of our hill, watching the police bag up that man that had chased me. Maybe he thought the man had captured me after all.

"Daaaad!!!" I screamed, and he finally emerged from his office.

When he saw me, he got the oddest look on his face, as if he was seeing a ghost or something.

I was so relieved to see him walk around the corner, "Oh there you are! I thought you... ah weren't here!" I switched what I was going to say at the last second.

Dad just continued to look at me with that odd expression. He didn't look mad or angry, more like he was surprised to see me.

"What?" I said not sure what his look meant.

Pointing toward the back of the house, he said, "I thought you already came in."

I shook my head ever so slightly, but didn't speak.

"But I thought you came in when it started snowing?" he said, still with that same expression.

I shook my head again and said, "I just now came in."

"I thought you were in your closet. I was even in there talking to you!" he said, pointing toward my room again.

I pointed to the front door that was still standing open. "I came in, just now!"

He scratched his head, "Well I'll be! I thought you were mad about something again and that's why you didn't answer me!" He smiled and started toward me.

"You were really outside all this time?" he asked.

I was so relieved that he wasn't mad, but I was still a little afraid he was going to get mad!

Finally, noticing the mud he asked, "What happened to you?"

In the space of just a single second, the entire episode from the moment I stepped outside our front door to the point where I stepped back into our house all played out in my mind. I was about to tell him everything, about the tall man, the van, the dog, the old man with the cat and books, about seeing and talking to Runt, about Jasper bringing my pants and shoes, and everything else but for some reason, I didn't. I only shrugged and said, "I fell down!"

"It looks like you fell down about twenty times!" he said, holding his hands out and acting as if he didn't want to touch me. "Wow, Simon! You are a mess! I've never understood how you can get so dirty. Are your ribs ok? You didn't hurt yourself did you?"

"I'm fine," I lied as I looked down at myself again and noticed the stark contrast between my muddy coat and my clean pants. Dad noticed too.

"How'd you managed to get so muddy on top? Where you walking on your hands?" and he gave me a half smile.

Sometimes, when you don't have a good excuse, the best thing to do is just keep your mouth shut. So, that's what I did. I sealed my lips together and shrugged again.

"Well, let's get you out of those wet and muddy things, and into the tub before your mother comes home and sees you." Dad said, finally kneeling before me and helping me with my coat.

"Oh boy! Did you have another accident?" he said covering his nose and mouth.

I don't know why, but I started to cry. I didn't want too, the tears just started coming out and I couldn't stop.

"It's okay Simon! You don't have to cry. We'll get you all cleaned up again." Dad said, while taking off my coat.

He continued to strip me down and when he took off my pants, he asked, "How'd you get your legs and diaper all muddy but not your pants?" Then he said, "No wait! I don't want to know!" I glanced up to see he was still smiling.

Once he had me down to just my diaper, he picked me up, carried me to his bathroom and deposited me into the bathtub.

When he took off my diaper... boy, the smell was strong enough to take down a bull-elephant!

He turned on the water and left me to rinse while he took my diaper to the trash and took my wet and muddy things to the laundry room.

When he returned, he helped me out of my body armor, which somehow I'd gotten mud way up underneath it.

"Had I known you were going to be playing in some mud hole I would have just clad you in a trash bag before sending you out to play!" Dad commented, as he used his hand to remove the mud from my skin.

"Can you turn around and bend over for me so we can get your backside clean?" he asked and I obeyed.

I used the wall to brace myself and bent over, allowing the water to run over my back and bottom. The warm water felt increadably good as it flowed down through my crack. Dad reached in with the washcloth and scrubbed that area clean for me.

"Did you have your pants off out there?" he asked. "Your knees are all scratched up!" He noticed the palms of my hands. "I guess you did fall down." He said as they too where all skinned up.

"What did you do with your gloves?" he asked.

"My gloves?" I thought. I'd not even realized I'd lost them. In fact, I had forgotten that I'd even been wearing them when I left the house. I tried to think when the last time I remembered having them on was, but I couldn't think of when that could have been.

"I-I-I don't know." I answered truthfully perplexed.

He was carefully washing my chest and stomach and reached up to hold my right arm to help steady me. He took hold right at my elbow, and a pain shot through my arm.

"Ouch!" I said and jerked my arm away from him.

"What? Did you hurt your elbow too?" Dad asked, and then added, "I thought I heard someone telling you to take it easy before you went outside."

"Actually you said not to do anything that hurt my ribs, and I didn't hurt them at all." I said without thinking.

"Yeah, but you managed to hurt the rest of your body!" Dad said playfully spanking my bottom.

When Dad washed my hair it hurt a lot too, but I didn't let on. I could tell he wasn't too happy that I'd come home so banged up and I was still expecting him to say something, or punish me somehow. Also, I still kept wanting to tell him about everything that happened, but at the same time, I didn't. That doesn't make sense, but that is how I was feeling.

When Dad was satisfied that I was once again squeaky clean, he helped me out of the tub and dried me off thoroughly before taking my armor and washing it out in the tub too.

While he was cleaning my armor, he left me standing beside him with the towel rapped around me like a cloak. Just to see that everything was still okay I tried to move my upper body a little and felt little twitches of pain, which I counted as a good thing. Little twitches are better than stabbing pain!

Dad handed me my two pieces of armor and then picked me up and carried me to my bathroom where he had me sit on the toilet while he sprayed some liquid Band-Aid on my hands and knees. Boy it stung like fire, but Dad didn't have any sympathy for my whining.

"It burns! It burns!" I cried.

"That means it is working." he said.

A few seconds later, the burning subsided and all pain faded away. Dad was reaching around me to scoop me up in his arms again when the phone rang.

"Think you can get to your room without this?" he pointed to my armor.

"Dad! I'm not paralyzed!" I complained.

"Just be careful! I'll be right in." He ran to get the phone and I made my way back to my room, sat down on the side of my bed, and waited for him to return.


PART 2 Wednesday, March 03, 2004 The Riddle Stone

Five minutes past, then ten. As I waited, I started to get cold while still wrapped in my wet towel. I stood back up slowly, went to my hamper, and deposited the towel into it before going to my closet, got out my bathrobe and slipped it on. It felt kind of funny to be moving around without my armor on, but at the same time, I was scared to move too fast or too much.

After I had my robe on and tied, I looked over at my alarm clock, which said it was 3:23 in the afternoon. "Whoa!" I said, because I had thought it was much later. It also confirmed within my head, just how long I had actually been away from home this afternoon.

Then another thought occurred to me, "Why was Jasper home so early? Didn't he say he was going back to school today?"

That got me wondering about Jasper more. There was something bugging me about him, but I couldn't for the life of me, put my finger on it. I mean, sure it was odd that the first backyard that I fell into and lost my pants in, just happened to be his back yard; what are the odds of that? Nevertheless, I'd been running for all I was worth despite my ribs, and I could have very easily ended up in anyone's backyard. I only had one thought in my head at the time, and that was getting away from that creep in the van.

"The guy in the van?" I thought aloud, as I walked carefully over to my desk, pulled out my chair, and sat myself in front of my computer. I pressed the power button and continued thinking.

"Runt knew that guy." I was whispering to myself, "I should have asked him who that guy was."

My computer dinged several times, which brought me out of my thoughts. My elbow had been resting on the spacebar and the computer wasn't too happy about it. I logged onto the Internet and opened my email. I was very surprised by the fact that I didn't have a single new email. Not even one from Lowell. I'd hoped he'd of sent the next chapter of his story, recorded as he said he was going to do, but really I knew that it would probably be a day or two before I saw anything else from him.

Just then, Dad popped back into my room. "Your friend Lowell is here." He said.

Excited at this news, I turned in my chair too fast and my ribs gave me a jab to remind me I wasn't wearing my armor.

"Oh shit!" The word had blazed past my lips before I realized I'd even thought it.

Dad had caught me because I nearly fell out of my chair from the pain. He sat me back up in my chair, "Oh that was dumb!" I said while trying to make believe I'd not just cussed right in front of my Dad.

"Let's get you put back together; then you can go see Lowell. I told him you just got out of the tub so he's waiting in the living room." Dad said, without commenting at all about my vile forked tongue.

He helped to my feet and helped to get my robe off so that I was once again standing before him totally naked, but it didn't seem to bother either of us. Heck, until just this second while writing about it, I'd not even given the idea any thought. Nor the fact that one of my friends was only a few feet away in the living room, while I stood naked in my room with my door wide open.

Like he'd done before, he got my bottle of baby powder and coated the inside of my armor before putting it on me. When he had all the Velcro straps in place, he said, "That better?"

taking a strong breath as the pain faded away again, I answered, "Yeah."

"Lets go ahead and get you diapered and dressed, okay?" he asked.

I didn't protest, mostly because I was still expecting him to say something about the cuss word.

I assumed the position on my bed. Dad again went to my dresser and pulled out my cloth diapers. I closed my eyes and let him get on with the task at hand. So many things were swarming around in my head, the man with the van, Runt and his warning to me, Lowell and his story, Jasper, the strange old man and his books...

"THE BOOK!" I called out, nearly giving my Dad a heart attack.

"Simon! Don't shout like that!" Dad said while patting his heart and leaving a white handprint from the powder that was on his hand.

"Sorry, but I left a book in my coat!" I said, fearing Dad had put my coat in the washer and started it.

"It's hanging up in the laundry room, you can get it later!" Dad said, putting in the last safety pin before helping me to sit up again. I looked down and saw that yet again, Dad had pinned me into a double layer of cloth diapers.

"Dad! I can't let Lowell see me like this!" I protested, feeling my face get warm with embarrassment.

However, like I hadn't even uttered a sound, he stood up, went to my dresser, got out a pair of my plastic pants, and brought them over to me.

"Come on, let's get these on, and then get you dressed."

"Dad, please!" I begged.

"Simon!" he said in his `Don't mess with me' Dad voice.

"It don't matter anyway, `cause I done already seen." Lowell said.

My head snapped around so fast I'm surprised it didn't pop right off my shoulders.

Dad too, had looked over at the door in surprise, and was about to say something to Lowell, but Lowell spoke again.

"Sorry, but there is a policeman at the front door!" he said while pointing down the halway.

Without saying another word, Dad stood up and walked out of my room, closing my door behind him and talking Lowell away as well. I don't know why, but I thought I was going to start crying. Instead, I stood up and went to my window to see if I recognized the officer, but I didn't. I'd never seen this one before, but then again, it was hard to see him clearly as the snow was really coming down hard now.

Something moving down by the road caught my eye. It was Lowell's father getting out of his car and walking up toward our house. I guess he'd been sitting out there waiting for Lowell to return. I'm sure he must be wondering what's going on and wanted to be sure Lowell was okay.

Desperate to know what was going on myself, I waddled over to my bed, picked up the plastic pants, and pulled them on. I then went to my closet, found my sweat pants, and pulled them up over my bulging diaper. Retrieving my robe, I wrapped it around myself and went out to the living room.

When I arrived, Lowell was standing in front of his Dad who had ahold of his shoulders with both hands and was talking with my Dad and the police officer who was covered in snow and looking cold. I guessed he must have been one of the officers I'd seen down at the end of our street.

Dad saw me too, but didn't say anything. He looked more serious than I'd ever seen him. I stood motionless and listened as the officer told Dad that they'd captured the man who the believed had kidnapped all those children on the news and that he'd killed himself before the police could stop him.

All the while I was listening, I kept wondering why he came here, why he was telling us, and not out looking for those children that had been taken. Then he handed something to Dad who then showed it to Lowell's father. I looked at Lowell who was looking directly up at his dad and appeared to be really scared.

The Police Officer pulled a plastic bag from inside his coat, holding it for both Lowell's dad, and my own, to look at. Dad looked over at me. The seriousness had left his face and was replaced with horror. He was white as the snow falling outside, and Lowell's dad, Mr. Vandoan, was starting to swoon like he was about to pass out.

I wanted so desperately to see what was in the plastic bag that would make two grown men react like that. However, the Officer returned the bag to his coat. He said something that I didn't understand before shaking my Dad's hand, then Mr. Vandoan's hand, and finally patting Lowell on the head and waving at me with an odd kind of smile. I lifted my hand up about chest high and gave a single wave as he turned and left.

Lowell once again tilted his head back so that he was again looking up at his father. He said something, then came over to me and handed me a CD jewel case.

In a whisper only I could hear, which wasn't necessary as Mr. Vandoan and Dad had gone out on the front porch, Lowell said, "This is all of the first three chapters. I stayed up nearly all night reading them into my computer for you. I saved each of the first three chapters as separate mp3's, mostly `cause one file would have been too big for my computer to handle."

"Wow! All three?" I said, holding the CD case with both hands. I could see through the clear plastic that on the front of the CD in a sort of nervous chicken scratch was, `MP3's for Simon'.

"I told my Mom and Dad that you are helping me learn to read better and they think it's great. I just didn't tell them what I been reading!" The corners of Lowell's mouth curled ominously.

"Thank you so much!" I said, still looking at the CD case.

"You are welcome!" Lowell said. He added in an even softer whisper, "Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah sure, what?" I answered.

He then asked, "Is it okay for us to be best friends?"

Totally missing the mood of the moment I looked at him and said, "But you hardly know me."

"I know you well enough!" he shot back quickly.

"Well, yeah, that's cool with me!" I said.

Lowell then changed the subject, "Can you believe they caught that kidnapper?"

"I, uh, yeah, that's cool too!" I stammered, not wanting to share with him what had happened earlier. Mostly because I didn't want to scare him, or have him telling anyone else just yet.

Lowell looked down at the carpet and said, "I hope they find those kids now too and that they are alright, I mean not hurt."

`Yeah, me too!" I said back.

Lowell looked to the front storm door to be sure neither of our dad's were looking, then quickly leaned forward and kissed me on my left cheek.

"Thanks for being so very cool!" he said.

Before I could reply or react, he had turned and was out the door.

I started to walk to the door, but stopped when Dad opened the storm door and stepped back into the house. He had his arms wrapped around himself and was stuffing his hands into his armpits.

"Wow! It's really getting nasty out there!" he said, and then sat down on the arm of the couch.

"Come here!" He said.

Without hesitation, I moved my feet until I was standing directly in front of him. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me, but not too tightly.

"Dad? What was it the policeman showed you?" I asked.

Releasing me from his embrace, he said, "It was just a list." I could tell he was holding something back.

"What kind of list?" I continued to probe.

"Oh, just a list." He said, kind of flippantly.

Quick as he could, before I had a chance to ask another question, he said, "Say, I better call your mother and find out when she's coming home."

He stood up and started for the kitchen as he continued to say, "If she doesn't start home now, I don't think she's going to get here tonight!"

He picked up the phone and started dialing. I went over to the front door to close it and saw Aunt Catherine's car pulling into the driveway.

I shouted, "Dad there she is now!"

"Oh, sorry Catherine. She just got home! Yes, I sure will! Okay, and take care of yourself! Alright, you too!" He hung up the phone and went to the back sliding door to open it for Mom.

I closed and locked the front door before waddling into the kitchen and sitting myself down at the table. Mom came in the door covered in snow, carrying several grocery bags. She hadn't made it two steps inside the house before she started vomiting words very much the way a volcano does molten lava.

"That woman is infuriating! How someone could be so horrible is beyond me!" She nearly threw the bags onto the counter. "How dare she try to tell me how to do anything!"

"Who?" Dad tried to ask, but all he got out was "W" before Mom cut him off.

"That self righteous Millicent Bulstrode, that's who! What on earth was I thinking? Do you know she had the gall to tell me that I don't deserve to have children?"

Dad and I were the unfortunate victims caught in the path as Mom continued to erupt for over twenty minutes. If one of us would try to say something, she'd round on us and vent her frustrations as if she was trying to keep us from attempted to escape her wrath.

She'd have probably continued spouting off had she not accidentally dropped a small jar of jam onto the kitchen floor. Now normally Mom would have started cleaning up the mess right away, but instead she just stood there and looked at it. Dad and I snuck glances at one another. It was obvious we were both scared to say anything for fear of setting her off again. Mom started to weep, then sob. She broke down and was full-out crying. Dad stepped right over the mess of glass and jam on the floor and wrapped his arms around her. She just sort of fell apart in his arms. Every couple of minutes, she'd eject a couple more vile words as if spitting on the grave of Millicent Bulstrode.

I didn't move from the chair I sat in. I didn't so much as make a peep. I'd seen Mom have a total freak out like this before, and I knew there was a really good chance that she wasn't done.

After a few minutes of being held, she said through her tears and sobs, "I have to clean this mess up!" She tried to get away from Dad, but he only held her tighter.

"Don't worry about it! I'll take care of it! Why don't you just go back and lay down for a while?" Dad said to her.

The two of them stepped over the broken glass and jam. When they both disappeared around the corner, I finally took a sighing breath. I didn't know for sure, but I figured that while he was back there, he'd tell her about the police catching the kidnapper, and that the kidnapper had killed himself. I kind of hoped Dad would tell her while I wasn't around. That way I wouldn't have to risk saying something that would get me into trouble.

I slid off my chair, went to the kitchen sink, got the trashcan out from under it, and started carefully picking up the fragments of broken glass, dropping them into the trash. When I was sure I had all the glass, I put the trashcan back under the sink and took the sponge from the sink, wet it, and started to clean the floor. I nearly had the mess cleaned up when Dad came back into the kitchen.

"Wow Simon! Thank you so much!" he said when he saw the mess was almost gone. "I'm going to get the mop and a bucket just to be sure we get all the sticky stuff off the tile."

"Is Mom okay?" I asked, kind of apprehensively.

He stopped, put one hand on the back of one of the chairs and said softly, "I wanted to say, I told you so, but sometimes people have to learn for themselves just how bad some people really are." Then he went to retrieve the mop.

By the time he returned, I was back at the sink again, rinsing out the sponge.

"Why don't you go ahead and toss that in the trash, dad suggested, "and get a new one to put on the sink."

I knew Mom kept a good supply of sponges under the sink, so I tossed the one I'd been using away and got out a fresh one. When I turned around, Dad said, "Uh-oh, you got jam on your robe!"

I looked down. Sure enough, there was jam on the cuffs of my sleeves and around the bottom where it had been touching the floor when I'd been down on my hands and knees.

Instead of risking getting jam all over the house, I took my robe off right there in the kitchen and wadded it into a ball. That left me once again wearing only my double layered cloth diaper, plastic pants, and my armor.

I waddled past Dad who was bellying up to the sink to fill the mop bucket, went to the laundry room, and dropped my robe on the floor in front of the washer.

Back in the kitchen, Dad was mopping the floor and muttering something under his breath.

"So, you going to tell me what that policeman was here for then?" I asked.

Dad looked up at me and said, "I thought you heard him say they caught the man that had been kidnapping the children?" The tone of his voice made me feel like I was in trouble for asking.

"Uh, yeah I heard that part. But why'd he come here to tell us? Why isn't he out looking for the missing kids?" I asked cautiously.

There was a pause and I could tell by the way he was scrubbing the floor so hard that he was irritated and having trouble coming up with the right thing to say.

"You want me to drop it?" I asked.

"Would you, please?" he said, sounding relieved.

There was another awkward pause and I again spoke up, "Well, uh, should I go to my room?"

Dad leaned on the mop, looked me in the eyes, and softly said, "I'll be in to help you get into your pj's in a moment, okay?"

"That's okay, I can do it myself." I said, starting for my room.

As I was about to enter my bedroom, I stopped and listened at the door to Mom and Dad's room, but couldn't hear anything at all.

Just as I was closing my own door, I remembered the CD which I'd slipped into the pocket of my robe, and the book that I'd left in my coat. I went back down the hall and made my way to the laundry room. Thankfully, both were just fine and I made it back to my room without anyone seeing me again. However, I did notice that Dad was starting to make supper.

Back in my room with my door shut and locked, I took the book the crazy old man had given me and hid it behind some other books, up on one of the shelves over my desk. I popped the CD into my computer (best place to hide it), found the pajamas I wanted to wear, and pulled them on. Due to the bulk of my diaper, I had to stretch my pajama bottoms to get them to fit over my diaper, but I managed. When I looked in the mirror I nearly laughed at the sight I made.

After I was dressed, I was going to sit at my desk with my earphones on and listen to all three chapters, but I heard Dad just outside my door say to Mom, "Honey, I've got dinner ready if you want to come eat?"

Mom said something back to him that sounded like, "Wattal doughter" which I knew wasn't right. I went over, unlocked and opened my door.

"Dinner's ready." Dad said to me.

"What we having?" I asked, rather curiously since he'd not really had time to cook anything major.

"Vegetable soup." He answered.

"Uhh!" I said making a face. He and Mom both knew I didn't care for vegetable soup, but no sooner had I said it than I wished I could take it back again. "Sorry!" I said when Dad frowned at me.

Mom had come to the table to eat with us, but very little was said at the table. Her eyes were swollen and red, her makeup was gone, and I figured she'd taken it off while Dad and I had cleaned the kitchen. I also ate the vegetable soup and didn't complain once about how much I disliked it, but I'm sure they both knew because I couldn't totally hide the reaction my face was making.

After dinner, Dad asked if I would clear the table and take care of the dishes, which I did, while he and Mom went to the living room to talk. I could hear them in there talking to one another, but I could only make out a few words now and then. I was taking my time, straining to listen, and every so often I'd hear one of them start to raise his or her voice, but the other would make the shushing sound and they'd get all quiet again.

I actually had the table cleared and the dishes washed and put away long before I finally left the kitchen. When I walked through the living room, Mom eyed me curiously, probably because of the double cloth diaper Dad had pinned me into earlier.

I went on to my room and closed my door, being sure to make enough noise so they knew it was closed. I then locked myself in and stepped out of my pajamas. I wanted to listen to Lowell's story while wearing only my diaper. I almost decided to attempt to take off my armor too, but I thought better about it and left it on. If I hurt myself, and Mom and Dad found out I had taken it off, they'd be really mad. The fact that I've pushed my luck just about as far as I could push it today played in my decision to keep it on.

Looking very babyish in just my diaper and plastic pants, I started for my desk when I remembered the pacifier Lowell had given me as a gift.

"Now were the heck did I put that?" I asked myself.

Standing in the middle of my room, my feet spread apart because I couldn't put my legs together with all the cloth that was pulled up between them; I tried to think where I had left it. Then it hit me that I'd slipped it into my pocket when Lowell was over and it was still there. I went to my hamper and was so glad Mom had not done laundry yet. I had to scrounge through the dirty clothes a bit, but I eventually found it and popped it into my mouth.

I'm not sure I could have been any more content as I went to my computer to start listening to the CD Lowell had made for me. He was right, there were three files on the CD. Before I double clicked the one titled, `3.mp3', I put on my headphones and plugged them into my computer. Unlike the test file Lowell had sent last night, this file started playing right away, with no background static or noises.



of the Dead

By B.L.


~ Chapter Three ~

Out of the Mouths of Babes


During the night, I dreamt about sailing across the Black Sea with my father when a storm came up and thunder crashed. Man, I was scared to death, but then I awoke to find that the thunder was the servant knocking on the door to my room, thinking I might want my morning cup of tea.

I pulled back my sheets to reveal a large wet spot where I had wet during the night. I wasn't surprised. This happened every night. Actually, I would have been surprised if I had awaken and found the bed to be dry. No, I wasn't moved at all. I pulled myself out of bed and shouted to the servant to come back later. I heard him go on down the hall and knock on another door.

As I sat there, looking down at my wet underwear that was plastered to my skin, I questioned my reasons for not putting myself into one of the diapers that I had in my pack. Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I decided that I was too grown-up for diapers. I was on a man's mission, continuing my father's life work. Surely, that meant I wouldn't wet my bed anymore! Waking up wet didn't surprise me, but remembering how I had tried to convince myself that I wouldn't wet in my sleep did, I guess. At least a little.

I sighed, thinking about the dream I had been having, and about my father. I missed him so much. I was still being ripped apart inside over the fact that I had been the one holding the gun that killed him. I managed to choke back my tears, pulled myself out of bed, and walked into the bathroom. I filled the tub nearly to the top with hot water while I made use of the toilet.

Stepping into the tub still wearing my pee-soaked underwear, I found that the water wasn't very hot at all; it was really just barely warm and smelled a bit like boiled eggs, but it felt good none-the-less.

I soaked in the tub for several minutes until I heard Miss Lillian Hassley knocking at the door to my room.

"Jonas, wake up!" She knocked again, "It's Lillian, come on, wake up!"

I shouted through the open bathroom door, "I am up, I am taking a bath!"

"Okay, hurry up and meet me downstairs in the front lobby." she shouted through the door again.

Even though I wanted to stay in the water longer, I knew I had to get moving. I lifted myself from the water, dried off, and slipped my pants on over my drenched underwear. I finished getting dressed, gathered my things, raced out the door, and down the steps.

A Jeep was waiting for us and we rode out to the excavation site. It was quite a distance from the hotel in Cairo to the campsite. Just never mind where it is, because that is my business, and the University that funded the dig on my father's recommendations.

About forty-five minutes into our journey, the right rear tire went flat and there was no air in the spare. So we lost a lot of time trying to get it pumped up. It was late in the afternoon when we finally arrived. I knew this because my stomach was growling. We had skipped breakfast to get a faster start on the day. Now I was wishing we had taken the time.

Miss Lillian Hassley and I stood overlooking the excavation. It was huge; larger than any dig I had ever been on with my father. This was the one place I had never been with him as well. He had always told me that it was not safe for me here. If he were still alive... I mean if I had not shot him, he would probably be furious with me for being here.

Miss Lillian Hassley started to explain to me, "You see, these places are built one on top of the other, almost every village in the east is." She talked like I had never seen a dig site before.

I just said, "Yes, I know."

She looked down at me, pulled off her hat, and ran her hand through her sweaty hair.

"I guessed you would," she said.

"Does anyone know how many city ruins we have here?" I asked.

"Well there may be any number of cities built on top of the ruins of another," she said.

"The reason this dig has been going on for the last five years is because we keep finding new cities. The last city ruins that we excavated and pulled all the artifacts from, was the seventh city built right on this spot." She sounded a bit astonished, as was I.

"So this is... well you believe this is the lost city, huh?" I said, wiping my face on my sleeve.

"Oh, don't sound so skeptical Jonas. We have found proof that this is indeed, the lost City of the Dead." Miss Lillian Hassley said matter-of-fact like.

"What evidence?" My curiosity was peaking.



I nearly fell out of my chair when someone tapped on my bedroom window. I jumped in my chair and banged my knees on the bottom of my desk, which I'll add hurt something awful!

My pain sensors were quickly overpowered by embarrassment at being seen wearing nothing but a very large diaper and sucking on a pacifier. I looked toward my window and saw Jasper looking into my window, with the biggest and craziest grin on his face. He was waving for me to come over to the window. Once I managed to stop blushing, I slid out of my chair and went over to the window. I knelt down. Not so that I was low enough, but because I wanted to hide my diaper from view.

After unlocking the sash, I slid it up a few inches. The cold billowed in and hit me right in the face.

"OH!" I gasped.

"Cold huh?" Jasper asked.

"Holy crap, Jasper! What are you doing out there?" I asked.

"Gee-whiz, haven't you heard? They already closed down the school for tomorrow and the snow's still coming down! It's been on the news!" Jasper said.

"They closed school?" I asked, and quickly followed up with, "Yeah, but you shouldn't be out in this stuff!"

It wasn't just snowing; it was coming down almost like a curtain of white. I couldn't even see where my yard met the sidewalk, or where the street was supposed to be.

"Hey! How come you didn't leave any foot prints in the snow?" I asked after noticing that our front yard was completely smooth and unblemished.

"I did!" Jasper said pointing down beside the house.

I lifted the sash up far enough that I could stick my head outside. Sure enough, there were footprints along the side of the house were the snow wasn't as deep due to the direction the snow was falling, and the slight overhang of the roof.

When I retracted my head back into the room, I had snow in my hair and the hairs in my nose seemed to have frozen together.

"Don't your Mom and Dad know you are outside in this?" I asked.

Looking kind of miffed, he said, "They ain't even home right now, so I can do anything I want!" Forcing a smile across his face, he commanded, "Hey, get dressed and come out, okay?"

"No way! It's cold and getting too dark and my parents would kill me!" I said, pushing away from the windowsill a few inches and rubbing the front of my chest armor. The plastic was getting very cold against my skin and it sort of felt like it was nibbling at me.

"Ah, come on Simon! We can go to my secret fort! It's not as cold in there!" he tried again.

"If they will let me, maybe tomorrow!" I said, then countered with, "Hey, I thought you were going to be online tonight and we were going to chat or IM or something."

"Why should I be inside when I can be outside?" Jasper said, wiping the snow from off the top of his head.

"Jasper! You are going to get covered with snow and they won't find you until it melts!" I said.

"Ah well, stay in there and play your baby games! I'm going to my fort!" Jasper said, and tromped back down beside the house, disappearing in the storm of white.

Sliding my window shut again, I thought about going and telling Mom about him. I mean, just so they would get him in and out of the snowstorm. Then I thought about the fact that they'd then know I was still in contact with him. They might figure out that I was also in contact with his brother, and with Tater too.

"He's an idiot! He's going to freeze to death out there!" I said, standing up and relocking my window. I pulled my curtain completely closed this time, before returning to Lowell's story.

I sat down at my computer, put my headphones back on, and looked at my closed curtains.

"He's got a lot of nerve saying anything about me playing baby games!" I started to get angry with myself the more I thought about what he'd said. I tried to think of a way to spin it so that it didn't sound the way he said it, but I kept coming back to the same point.

"That sorry so-and-so!" Except I didn't say `so-and-so'.

Instead of restarting Lowell's story, I clicked open my messenger program hoping Lowell might be online. He wasn't. Instead, I found BJ was on, but I didn't message him right away. I clicked on my email that was still open from earlier and there was still no new email, not even any spam.

"Dang! Got to be something wrong!" I said to my computer, closed my email completely, and then clicked to reopen it. This time I did have new mail, several bits of junk mail that I deleted right away, and then I reexamined the contents of my INBOX. I had two emails from BJ, both of which turned out to be forwarded jokes that I read, didn't laugh at, and deleted. I also had one from Lowell that said he was sorry he couldn't stay longer today and he wanted to know if I had started listening to the CD yet. I wrote him back and told him I had, but didn't take the time to say much more than that. There were three emails from Tater that were short and just him complaining that he's already sick of being stuck in the house and that he had to go talk to a therapist today. I figured that must have been why his house looked so empty earlier.

Tater's emails did make me wonder if, or when, Mom and Dad were going to make me talk with a therapist; I mean Dad did say I had too.

I wrote a kind of long letter back to Tater and told him all about my day and about seeing Runt and basically everything that had happened since I got up, but I never sent it. It was done, but something in me told me that I shouldn't send it. I did however, save it in my DRAFTS folder, just for safekeeping. I went on to read the seven emails Mike had sent me.

Most of what Mike had to say was how he can't wait until I get back to school and how he hates it where he and his little sister are staying now. He also said, several times, that he hates his brother and wants him to die. However, I think that's just anger talking. I think he's mad because he didn't do anything wrong, yet he still basically got kicked out of his own home while Tater, the guilty one, gets to continue living there.

In his last email there was a bit of good news. Seems Mike and Tater's Dad might be coming back from the Middle East sooner than expected. Mike didn't go into details, only that he might get to come home early.

After replying to Mike, I cleaned up my INBOX again and saw that I still had one unread email, and it was from Bull. It was kind of short and went something like this...


Simon I saw you coming over our fence earlier today. What were you running from? You looked absolutely terror stricken. Man, I have never seen anything as funny as you falling out of your pants! Sorry little man, but it was just too funny! Anyway, I hope you are okay and didn't get hurt too much. Since I'm not allowed out of the house without one or both of my parents, I sent Jasper out to find you and take you your pants and shoes. He said he caught up with you near Tater's place. Did you see Tater? How's he doing? Well, have to go! Thanks for the laugh - Bull


I wanted to send Bull the same email I'd wrote and not sent to Tater, but didn't. Instead, I chose to only send a generic email response that I was good and that I might tell him about it another time.

Done with my emails, I closed out of it and found several Instant Messages from BJ that had been hiding underneath my email window. I looked up at my buddy window and didn't see his name.

"Dang! Why didn't I hear him messaging me, or go off-line?" I said aloud.

Figuring I probably made him mad; I closed all the messages and logged off the Internet. I pulled back on my pajamas, having the same difficulty getting the bottoms up over my thick diapers, and headed out of my room to see if I could call BJ at home.

Mom and Dad were not in the living room anymore, but had moved to the kitchen where they were not talking anymore; they were now arguing, only quietly. I stood around behind the wall where they couldn't see me and listened. Unfortunately they were talking so soft that I couldn't understand them. Peeking around the corner, I saw that they both looked about as angry as I've ever seen them. I'd never seen them so mad and yet not screaming at the top of their lungs. It honestly scared me, so I slinked back to my room and closed myself in again.

I was going to dive into the bottom of my closet and try to force myself not to think about them in there arguing, nor try to figure out what I'd done this time to set them off like this, but I stopped and reconsidered. I was standing in front of my open closet door with my pillow, flashlight, and electronic journal in my hands when something inside me made me say aloud, "No! I'm not going to hide!"

Why? I still have no idea why I said it or what made me put my things back away and sit down at my computer again. Maybe putting on my headphones and listening to the rest of Lowell's story, or as much as he'd given me so far, was still a form of hiding from reality, but at least I wasn't cowering in my closet!

Before clicking on the play button on my screen again, I took a minute; maybe two, to calm myself down before allowing myself to time travel back to Jonas and his the City of the Dead.


"Well, you see this spot we are standing on? It was the metropolis of the great city," she said.

"Huh? It looks like a pile of dirt to me," I said, not seeing any signs of civilization.

"The cemetery, it is right under us. Here, look over the edge, down there." She moved over and bent down, pointing the way for me to look.

I edged in slowly, as I am not too fond of heights. Yeah I know, an up-and-coming archeologist that is scared of heights. My father was scared of spiders, so go figure. I looked over the edge and saw literally hundreds of little cubbyholes in the side of the earth.

"Wow it must be 50 feet down!" I exclaimed.

"Try 83 feet from where we are standing," she said amusingly. I took several steps back away from the edge again.

"You all right?" she asked me.

"Um, yes, sure, I just don't care for heights, um... excuse me for a minute." I ran over behind the jeep and proceeded to relieve my bladder. When I was finished, I walked back over to where Miss Lillian Hassley was standing.

"You okay now?" she asked again.

I knew what she was asking about, "Yeah, everything is fine." Moreover, she knew what I meant too.

I scanned across the massive site again, "So, did you find any gold or treasures yet?" I asked.

She scratched her head as she spoke, "No, not yet. That is something we have not been able to figure out. Normally, there is something, even minor valuable artifacts, but so far, this city seems to have been picked clean of everything. Even the mummies we've found had nothing at all of value buried with them."

"Okay, so you have a number of little tombs in the side of a hill. Where is the evidence that this is the lost city my father spent his life looking for?" I sounded a bit impatient.

"Alright mister skeptical, follow me." She started down a very narrow path that snaked its way down into the bottom of the excavation. The paths were barely wide enough for one person, yet the workers here would move up and down them, passing one another like it was nothing. I, on the other hand, kept my back to the dirt wall and all the way down I watched where I put my feet.

Below where we had been standing looking down into the pit, Miss Lillian Hassley now pointed to a large Egyptian inscription of hieroglyphics.

"Ah, can you read it?" I asked her.

"Me? Oh no, it's all just pictures and shapes to me," she said.

"Mind if I give it a try?" I replied smugly.

I looked it over, "Huh, here on this slab it says:

"Here was I, Hotep prepared" no wait, "invested with the working tools of those who build. In my hand, I Hotep did take..." uh, "took the tools of the second" um... "grade of workmen in stone... the" um, "sum, the square and the..."

"The level, huh?" Miss Lillian Hassley interrupted.

"How did you know?" I asked surprised.

"You mean there were masons in those days?" she asked with astonishment.

I gave her an odd look, not believing she'd just said that, "Well sure, how do you think they built all this stone stuff?"

"Hey, look at that, what's that there?" She pointed up over one of the open tombs.

"Um...well it's the name, Shaman... well probably Solomon." I wasn't sure because it was not as well preserved.

I was enthralled with the moment as I normally got when I was this close to so much history. At least I was, right up to the point where my stomach growled quite loudly.

Miss Lillian Hassley heard it, turned away from me, and shouted something that I didn't quite understand.

"What language was that you just spoke?" I asked, puzzled.

"Oh the locals here speak a sort of sloppy version of the prominent languages of the area. It took me several months just to be able to ask where the toilet was. Which by the way, is not a very pretty place to go, so I would advise you to wait until we get back to the hotel if you need to go, or find a big rock to duck behind." She smiled and looked back up to where I had been reading.

Momentarily distracted I wondered how she had guessed I wasn't wearing one of the diapers then I remembered I had run to pee behind the Jeep earlier.

I was just about to start reading again when a small boy, no more than eight or nine, came sprinting up to us with a basket under one arm and a pitcher under the other. The boy was covered head to toe in the pale dirt that covered everything here in the excavation. He smiled as he handed Miss Lillian Hassley the basket and the pitcher, said something that I again did not understand, and bounded off again like a Hind on a mountainside.

Miss Lillian Hassley opened the basket to reveal fresh baked bread, obviously made by the locals, and what looked like large roots of some kind. We both sat down on the ruins and ate our lunch, which I was so very grateful to have. Just as I was taking another drink from the pitcher, my eyes again fell to the area I had been reading from, and just to the left of it was a painting.

"Hey, look at that!" I said spilling some of the water down the front of my shirt. The water, though warm, still felt good as it soaked through to my chest and stomach.

"I was wondering when you were going to notice that." Miss Lillian Hassley said with a know-it-all attitude.

"You see it then?" she asked.

Do you know what I saw? Do you know whose portrait I saw painted on the ruined outer wall of all those tombs? That painting was older than King Tutankhamen himself, yet coincidence or not, here was the face of the girl I had seen outside my room, back in Jerusalem. I have always found it amazing how racial characteristics persist through centuries in Egypt. I have seen Egyptian men that could have easily been Tutankhamen's brother. I have seen women that... well you will forgive me, but the resemblance of this painting and the girl that disappeared is so uncanny. I also noticed that I again smelled myrrh, spikenard, and cinnamon, but I didn't have time to think about that then.

At that moment, Max Wheeler, the man who was in charge of the actual excavation, came up behind us.

"Well I'm glad you're back, Lillian!" Max turned to me, "Oh and hello there Jonas... err I mean Mr. Browning."

I shot him a confused look. I had known Max since I was six-years-old. He was always like an uncle to me, when he was around that is; heck, I even called him Uncle Max. He obviously realized my puzzlement at the formal greeting.

"Well with your father's passing, that makes you the head cheese around here now, doesn't it?" He offered without me having to ask.

He didn't know how I felt about my father's death, and he couldn't know how much it hurt me to have him talk of it so lightly, but I didn't let on.

"Uncle Max, could you please just call me Jonas still?" my voice cracked a bit under the strain of choking back my emotions.

He got the message, "Okay kiddo, you got it kiddo!"

He was now trying to goad me on, knowing that I would rather be called Mr. Browning then be called kiddo.

"I suppose you are getting too big for a hug now, huh?" he shot me a half smile.

I faked a jab at his gut before grabbing him around the waist and hugging him tightly.

"You know, I think you might have grown another inch or two since I last saw you?" he tussled my hair and patted the top of my head.

"Another year, and you won't fit in my pocket!" he joked.

It was a joke he loved to torment me with every chance he could. Uncle Max was a big man. Whenever I was around him, people would say I looked like a small doll.

We also had another sort of tradition. Whenever he would come to see Dad and I, he would bring me a present. Usually it would be some worthless artifact that he picked up from some dig, but there were times that he brought me things like gold coins, and other stuff like that. I stretched out my hand and held it up to him.

"What?" he growled while trying to look offended.

"Come on! Cough it up!" I grinned.

"I don't know what you are talking about!" he teased which was also part of the game.

"You mean you don't have anything for me?" I said with big, pouty eyes.

Miss Lillian Hassley's expression was priceless.

"Oh, brother! Give him something so he'll shut up already!" she said, giving Uncle Max a swat on his bulging arm.

"Oh, wait! I think I might have a little something..." he said reaching into the pocket of his vest. "Uh, wait a second... almost, uh-ah there it is!" He pulled from his pocket an average sized...

"You got me a rock?" I asked, "You haven't seen me in ages and ages, and all you got for me was a rock?" I complained.

"Are you so sure it's a rock?" he said, holding it up to the sun and examining it. "Well, if you don't want it?" He acted as if he were going to put it back into his pocket.

"I didn't say that!" I complained, jumping up and grabbing it out of his hand.

I examined it, turned it in my fingers, and just as he'd done, I held it up to the sun.

"It is a rock!" I exclaimed and stomped my foot.

"Break it in half!" he said smugly.

"I can't break a rock!" I said kicking dirt on his boot.

"You little twerp!" Uncle Max took a swing at my head, but as always he aimed to miss. "Just break the rock, or I'll break your head!"

So I took the stone in both hands and with all my might I tried to break the rock in two. To my complete amazement, the rock broke apart into several little pieces that glimmered in my hands. A strange odor hit my nostrils and caused me to turn away.

"Uh! Is that sulfur?" I asked.

"Yeah, Yeah it is! And that's not iron pyrite in there either!" Uncle Max was almost ecstatic with excitement.

"Woah! That's real gold?" Mrs. Lillian Hassley nearly shouted.

"Holy crud!" I said peering into my hands, "Then this is?"

"Fewmets" Uncle Max said.

Miss Lillian Hassley trying not to show her ignorance stood with one hand on her hip, "Are one of you going to fill me in on the little joke?"

"Joke?" I scoffed.

"Oh, I assure you, it's very much the real thing." Uncle Max said, taking off his hat to wipe his brow. "How do you think we kept this dig open? Paying all these people after..." he looked at me, but I didn't have to pretend I didn't know what he was about to say. I was fascinated by what I held in my hands. When he stopped talking, I looked up at the two of them.

"So, Father's backers pulled out after they heard he had died?" I asked.

Uncle Max nodded, "So we've been keeping this discovery very hush-hush, as I'm sure you can understand."

"Alright, one of you tell me what the hell `Few-whatever' is, or I'm going to get very upset!" Miss Lillian Hassley said with the stomp of her foot.

I sat down on one of the boulders to examine the specimen and let Uncle Max tell her what he'd found.

"I am really glad you both are here." Uncle Max said to Miss Lillian Hassley. "Shortly after the Professors passing, I found the first of those. At first I didn't know what it was, but its shape caught my interest. A day or so later, I found more by uh, stepping on them. When the light from my torch caused the gold to sparkle, I knew right away what it was, and that we were on the right track.

"Wait! You mean? No!" Miss Lillian Hassley began dancing around with her hands in the air, whooping and singing.

"Ah, please, no singing. You will scare the workers!" Uncle Max joked with her, but there was no stopping her from rejoicing. Uncle Max continued talking anyway, "Everything we've found is very old."

Finally stopping her little dance, she looked at him, "How old?"

"Very! We have not found any sign of anything more resent than thirty-five-thousand years."

Uncle Max put his hat back on his head.

"So then the day before yesterday, we broke through a place that goes down to what we think might just be another city under this one," Uncle Max looked too serious.

I jumped to my feet, "Another city?" Both Miss Lillian Hassley and I said it at the same time.

"That's impossible! How can there be another city under this one? This is supposed to be it!" There was no hiding how upsetting this was to Miss Lillian Hassley.

Uncle Max continued, "Well, one of the workman found a big sandstone slab and we cleared off all the dirt and rubble completely. We have the big cranes rigged over it now and I thought we would wait until you two got here before we lifted it off. Uh, you want to do it tonight, or what?"

I turned to Miss Lillian Hassley and was about to speak, but then I turned from them both and took a few steps away.

Uncle Max started to speak when I turned back around and interrupted him with a fearful growling in my voice, "Seven orbs, and seven nights. Seraph defends the entombment bleak. Contravene their seven clasps and issue forth mankind's end."

They both stood, speechless staring down at me.

"Don't you get it?" I shouted.

Neither said anything. They just stared at me as if I had just grown a third eye. I ran both hands through my hair and puckering my lips as I sucked air.

"Uncle Max, are there any inscriptions on the sandstone slab?" My excitement was obvious.

"Well, yes Jonas," He looked at Miss Lillian Hassley with puzzlement, "There are inscriptions all over it, but they are not hieroglyphics. They are not any form of writing I have ever seen." He answered back.

"Please take me to it. Now!" I ordered.

Miss Lillian Hassley didn't object; she didn't offer any words at all. The three of us raced across the excavation, past workers, up an embankment, and down several ancient steps that led us right to the sandstone slab. I kept reciting just under my breath, "Seven orbs, and seven nights. Seraph defends the entombment bleak. Contravene their seven clasps and issue forth mankind's end."

The air was filled with such a strong aroma of myrrh, spikenard and cinnamon that it was intoxicating.

Once we finally reached the sandstone slab, I fell to my knees and stared at the writings, "Uncle Max, Miss Lillian Hassley, this is it, it is here!"

They moved in closer and I started to read aloud, pointing out each word as I went, "Seven orbs and seven nights." You see it is there and there and there. I pointed out all seven orbs and all seven Seraph nights.

"My god!" Uncle Max exclaimed.

"Are you telling me that we actually have found `Him'?" Miss Lillian Hassley asked.

I pointed again, "Seraph defends the entombment bleak."

I continued, "Contravene their seven clasps and issue forth mankind's..."

Then I went quiet. I'd just seen something, something that made my blood run cold.

"What is it Jonas?" Uncle Max asked, while kneeling down beside me.

"It's cracked," I said, and then pointing, "Here. The corner is gone, along with the last word of the inscription."

"Okay, that sounds bad." Miss Lillian Hassley said, kneeling beside the two of us.

"Bad isn't the word for it!" I said, more as a thought than a statement.

"I don't understand." she said.

I stood up; fists clenched, teeth grinding together, and hissed out, "It's almost all here, but the last word!"

"Now wait a minute," Uncle Max demanded. "How are you able to read that?"

I looked up at him, "Uncle Max, didn't you ever wonder how my father knew this city was here when no one else in the world even believed the city was a real place?"

"Yeah, how did he manage that one?" asked Miss Lillian Hassley.

I squatted back down beside them, brushed some of the dirt away, and said, "Because he found the equivalent of the Egyptian Rosetta stone when he was in his twenties. No one knew what it was. It just got stored away on a shelf at the university where he was teaching at the time. But, father couldn't just let the mystery of that stone sit there unexplained. He spent three years of his free time at school studying it until one day, it finally became clear to him and he understood what was written on the stone," I tried to explain to them.

"Well, what was on it?" asked Uncle Max.

I stood up and turned away from them as I scanned the area around us, "Seven orbs, and seven nights. Seraph defends the entombment bleak. Contravene their seven clasps and issue forth mankind's end."

"But that wouldn't tell him where the city was," Uncle Max said.

"But that was the key! Everyone was looking at this stone as if it were a piece of a wall of a tomb, or temple or something. However, it wasn't; it was a fragment... a fragment of a coin!" I turned back to them. They were standing now too, and both looked is if I had their complete and undivided attention. "It was a 10 pound stone coin fragment and what does every coin have?" I was beaming now.

Miss Lillian Hassley's face lit up like the sun itself. "Two sides!"

"Right! On the other side, what nobody saw because it was not visible to the naked eye, was the secret," I said.

"How did your father discover it?" Uncle Max asked.

"Coffee," I said quickly.

That did it, I lost them both with that one, and together they asked, "Coffee?"

"Yes, Father spilled his coffee on the stone and in his panic to clean it up, fearing he had stained the stone, he found that letters where faintly visible. The coffee was soaking into the stone where the letters had been. My father could make out the inscription of the location of a city. A sort of map!"

Miss Lillian Hassley gasped and then clapped her hands, "Oh my word, now I get it! He always use to say..."

Uncle Max and I joined him, "You got to look at every side of everything to find the truth!"

"All right boy!" Uncle Max was stern sounding, "Why didn't you tell me about all of this before??

"I couldn't Uncle Max. Father taught me how to read the writing, but he never told me what was so special about this city, and what the inscriptions meant. I memorized, `Seven orbs and seven nights. Seraph defends the entombment bleak. Contravene their seven clasps and issue forth mankind's end.' Nevertheless, until recently, I never knew what it all meant. Well, except..." I paused.

"Except what?" Miss Lillian Hassley asked.

"I... I don't know what Seven orbs and seven nights. Seraph defends the entombment bleak. Contravene their seven clasps and issue forth mankind's end means. I mean, I knew it would be the inscription that would lead to whatever or whoever it was Father was looking for, but I never knew what or who it was." I was staring at Miss Lillian Hassley as I spoke. "I am sorry for lying to you Miss Lillian Hassley, I don't know who `He' is, only what `He' is. Furthermore, I only know about `Him' because I overheard you and father talking about it the night..." my voice trailed off for a moment. Regaining my bearings, I added, "I am sorry, but I had to tell you that I knew because I didn't think you would let me come otherwise."

I paused for another moment, waiting for her reactions. She just looked at me.

"You know, don't you Lillian, I know you do. Who is it that my father believes is buried here?" I asked, and for the first time, I didn't call her Miss Lillian Hassley, rather just Lillian.

Uncle Max looked at her knowingly. I looked at Uncle Max, "You know too?" I asked.

"Yes, we both do. We are the only two people that your father ever told." Uncle Max said.

"Oh, come on Max! You know as well as I do that `the greatest being Earth has ever known' is no answer," Miss Lillian Hassley said.

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" I shouted.

"That's just it Jonas, we don't know." Uncle Max said.

I grabbed a fist full of my own hair in frustration and pulled. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.


There was nothing else at the end of the recording. I kind of would have liked it if Lowell would have said something instead of just cutting it off like that. Then I remembered he'd been up most of the night reading the first three chapters into the microphone of his computer. He was probably very tired by the time he finished the third chapter.

After shutting down my computer, I slide out of my chair, went to my bed, and climbed under the covers. I don't remember falling asleep, but I do remember dreaming about Lowell's story, about Jonas, and oddly enough, about Runt.