“A key ?” Asked Jeff looking a bit surprised.
“Yes, that’s what was in the box.” Replied Maximilian as he looked at the two adults. “I have no idea why he would leave me a key… What does it even open?” He asked more to himself than to his foster parents, but as he said that Jeff looked at Doris and a silent conversation seemed to occur between them. Doris nodded and Jeff turned back to the teenager who looked more than curious. He cleared his throat.
“I- We might have an idea of what it opens. Thought it’s not absolutely sure, I don’t see anything else that would explain it.”
“So…” Asked Maximilian as Jeff didn’t go on with his explanation. “What do you think it opens then?” Jeff looked at him for a moment before answering.
“Their house… I think it’s the key to you parent’s house.”
“What? What do you mean their house?”
“Well Alexandre and Sophia lived a bit more to the north of New York than we are. They had a little old manor that they had bought and were thinking of renovating before, well before they disappeared.” Replied Doris. “That is the only explanation I see. Why give you a key without the object it opens? Maybe because it’s too big to be given like that…”
“I think so too.” Nodded Jeff. “Of course it coud be the key to something else but I place my bet on the house. I think he would’ve wanted you to have a place to call home in case, you know, something happened to him too. That sounds just like your father. And, if you are curious about why he wanted to give it to you on your sixteenth birthday or why he ravelled it in so much secret, I can only answer you that it’s very much like him. He always an odd way of thinking… Brilliant if you ask me, but out of the box.” Added Jeff with a light chuckle, cutting his son’s upcoming question off. “You could never know what to expect with him.”
“Their house… My parents’ house…” Whispered the teenager as he studied the key more intently. It was quite large and heavy, like one of those old keys for gigantic doors, but the pattern of its blade was extremely sophisticated. It seemed like it had been designed to look an old key but to open a very secure, and probably unique, lock. Maximilian didn’t understand what his father had meant to do by leaving him that key and apparently neither did Doris and Jeff, but it must have been for a reason. And he wanted to know. “You said it was somewhere to the north of New York ?” He asked looking back up at the two adults.
“Yeah, a bit up north from here if I remember correctly, about an hour and a half drive i think” Jeff looked at Doris who nodded to confirm. “We only got to go there once when Sophia and Alexandre invited for dinner just after they bought the house.”
“Mom!” Called Arthur from upstairs.
“Yes Arty?” Answered Doris as she walked out of the kitchen to the stairs.
“Mr. Cat and me are hungry! Is dinner ready yet?” Maximilian heard Arthur say. He didn’t hear Doris’s reply though as Jeff walked to his side and gave him back the key.
“I really have no idea what your father meant by giving you this, he has always been a man of many mysteries. But if you want to know more about this we could go see the house this week-end if you want. It might not be that but we can always try. Would you like to do that?” Asked the light-haired man with a smile.
“Yeah. I’d like that.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to Doris about it then, and I’ll try to call your father’s notary too. He should be able to tell us more about that.”
“Thanks dad!” Replied Maximilian with a smile.
“No need Max, I know it must mean a lot to you to know who were your parents. And I too want to know what this key opens, I’ve always been curious about your father’s mysteries, that’s what brought us together in the first place you know.”
“Oh really? How did you two meet?”
“Yeah really. We met at the role play club at the university. Yeah I know, I know, we were nerds at the time! Anyways, your father wanted to create a treasure hunt that would go on through the whole year and that would oppose each department on the campus. he had such great ideas! But he lacked in motivation and people to help him. So he came to me and sort of enrolled me in this project. We worked really hard and had so much fun creating the riddles and planning the clues. We became friends pretty quickly thanks to that, but unfortunately his project of a treasure hunt was not accepted by the headmaster and we weren’t allowed to achieve it that year. That didn’t discourage us though and we continued working on it and finally finished it during the summer. The day our second school year started we went to see the headmaster and we convinced him to let us do it. We didn’t think it would be very popular around all the students but we were surprised to see that almost everyone wanted to give it a try. We had to organize everything, it was so much work but we managed in the end. With some help of course…” Jeff explained, with a strange smile as he finished.
“Man, that must have been so cool! Did anyone manage to solve it?” As the teenager asked that Jeff’s smile grew.
“Yes, actually it was the Red house who managed to solve it. You see we were divided in five houses. Each one having a colour. Your father and I were in the Blue House, the loyal. But there were also te Red house, for the passionate, the Green house for the cold-headed, the Yellow house for the imaginative and the Purple House for the resourceful. We weren’t really sorted out like this but each house had a motto and a colour symbol to ‘keep the competitive spirit’ active. Anyways, your father and I couldn’t participate in the game so our house was at a disadvantage” Jeff chuckled. “but I must say that the Red house won only because they had luck. The first person to solve all the riddles was a young woman, she came up to your father and told him they were too easy to solve, and amazingly that rendered him speechless. Unless it was her good looks? I don’t really remember. Anyways her name was Sophie. That’s the first time your father met your mother too.”
“My mother was the one who solved all my father’s riddles?” Asked Max, completely taken aback.
“Yes, she was as much a riddle lover as your father and that is why I think they ended up together. Though it wasn’t obvious that they would at the beginning, they almost despised each other you know…” Added the man as he laughed. Maximilian laughed too, strangely it didn’t surprise him that his parents hadn’t like each other at first sight, it strangely almost relieved him. “I still have trouble believing that she could’ve shut him up that day. She was so confident it threw him off-balance every time.”
“And how did you meet Doris then?” The teenager could swear he had seen the adult blush as he asked that question but it was so quick he couldn’t be sure.
“Well… that is a long story…” Started Jeff. Maximilian was ready to press him on when Jelly ran into the kitchen and jumped in his knees. “Oh! Looks like we are ready to eat!” Said Jeff, apparently relieved to not have to tell the story of his meeting with his wife. “We’d better go and set the table.” The man in his forties added as he left the room with the plates.
Maximilian stood up and took put the key back in his pocket. He had spent a week trying to open that box and to guess what could be in it, hoping that it would give him some answers. But after finally succeeding tonight he had been a bit disappointed. The teenager sighed as he took out the rest of the dishes and walked to the living room. Guess I’ll have to wait until the week-end to have my answers… He placed the forks and knives on the table with one hand, having to carry Mr. Cat with the other. He was about to sit when Arthur and Doris came in the room.
“Here you are Jelly!” Exclaimed Arthur. The cat jumped of Maximilian as soon as he heard the young boy and ran off past him to play.
“Well you seem to be growing on him Arthur!” Said Doris with a smile.
“Yes, he loves to play with me! Don’t you mister Cat?!” Agreed the young boy, taunting the kitten with a small piece of rubber. Jeff who had returned to the kitchen to get the food came back and started to serve everyone.
“Dinner is ready!” He exclaimed. “Everybody sit down and eat now” Arthur pouted but gave his rubber to the small cat and came to sit between his parents. “Tonight we’re eating fried rice!” Added Jeff.
“Yay! I love fried rice!” exclaimed Arthur as he dug into his newly served plate.
After working about two hours on his program Maximilian decided he had done enough. His progress was constant but much too slow in his opinion, he had managed to make the ‘save’ and ‘load’ functions work almost correctly. There were still some bugs but he had decided to correct them later on. He had also been looking for the reason why it had behaved strangely the previous days but nothing indicated that anything was wrong with his code. That evening it hadn’t shown any weird reaction but he was sure it would occur again so the teenager decided to program small searching bot that would detect any strange activity on the computer. He wanted to know what was going on. He turned off the screen but let the computer run, since it continued in a semi-standby mode (an old function that had long been replaced by the cold core but that Maximilian was fond off) it was silent so it didn’t bother him during the night, and he went to lie on his bed.
The teenager lay there a long time before finally getting to sleep. he thought about his parents,about the key and the house his father had allegedly left him. He thought about his mother, how young and happy she had seemed on that picture. His father felt more distant, but maybe that was because he hadn’t remembered him from his dreams. An who was that red-haired woman? He wondered. I’ll have to ask Jeff about that, he didn’t tell me who she was when he showed me the photograph… Maximilian thought about his program and the weird reactions it had shown. Not asking his username and remembering it before he had added the save function, but maybe he had added it for the username. And the part of the scenario he didn’t remember adding, he had almost finished the function but could swear he hadn’t implemented the function yet. Maybe someone was playing with him… Anyways he would see that as time passed. He also thought about his ability and of new ways he could train it. What would he be able to do if he decided to train seriously? Since he had started to use it more frequently the week before he had seen improvements each day. Each day he could sense more things and from farther away. For the first time he wondered how far he could push himself. A mad thought ran through his head at that moment. What if… What if this evening in the bus hadn’t been a fluke? If he did train his power, could he be able to make objects move simply by thinking about it? No it couldn’t be… But as the night dragged him deeper into sleep the teenager couldn’t let go of that possibility, of course it was impossible that he could ever do that. But yet, what if?
September 11th 2038
The alarm went off at 7 o’clock and the young man immediately turned it off, groaning loudly. He took a few minutes to fully wake up and then stood up and walked out of his room towards the bathroom to relieve his strained bladder. Then, before going downstairs, he came back to his room and took a quick look at his computer. The search program still displayed no result. Maximilian groaned again, it had been two days already since he had launched the small bot and, since then, nothing interesting had happened which was starting to get on the teenager’s nerves. Of course, when I look nothing happens… He turned his screen back off before walking down the stairs, almost falling over the small kitten who had come to him to get his daily cat petting.
“Careful there Jelly, you’ll get hurt if you surprise me like that!” Said Maximilian with a smile as he took the little kitten in his arms and gently scratched his back. Jelly was purring softly as he arrived in the kitchen and sat down at the table. He tried to put the animal on the floor but apparently that didn’t please Mr. Cat as he frantically clawed his way back to his lap. Maximilian smiled and spent his whole breakfast eating and petting the small kitten. It then took a few minutes to convince it to let him go take a shower and prepare himself for school but the teenager managed to be ready to go by half past seven and after a quick hug to his Doris who had just woken up he hurried out of the house to the bus stop which was around the block. That day he only started at 9 o’clock so he had been able to wake up an hour later than usual but he was still tired. Maximilian managed to hop on the bus just in time, he went to sit down in the middle on the right side and put his bag on the seat next to him. He checked his jacket pocket to see if the coin was still there as he wanted to test his power. He put it on the palm of his hand and focused on it, letting his mind expand over the bus, he tried to cast out any other objects he could sense but it wasn’t as easy in a moving bus as in his room. It took him a good minute of effort before finally managing to only focus on the coin in his hand. Let’s try some things then! He thought.
The young man first tried to imagine the coin moving on its own, thinking about it gliding on his palm but it didn’t move from the center of his hand. He tried to imagine it floating, spinning and even jumping out but even the slightest shake didn’t occur. He then imagined his mind being an invisible arm that would grab the coin and make it levitate but as soon as he tried to picture his power with a physical form he lost the focus he had on the coin and reverted back to extending it to the whole bus. Damn it! I can’t concentrate! He thought. It took him a another few minutes to focus back only on the coin, though less than before it, and once he managed it he tried once more to visualize an arm. But the coin still refused to budge. Move! Come on! Maximilian was frustrated, he felt like he had built his hopes up too much over something that wasn’t possible in the end… He almost put the coin back in his pocket but instead took a deep breath and sighed deeply. maybe he was much too stressed about this, his power always had been instinctive to him bt maybe this time he had to work hard to get some result… He decided to keep trying, he couldn’t give up so soon after trying.
Maximilian changed his strategy of approach a bit and imagined the coin moving, at the same time he focused on one word : move. He repeated it over and over in his head like a mantra, each time trying to put his will and his energy in the word. He went on like this for so long that he started to lose track of time, focusing entirely on the small metal circle. But despite the time that passed and the concentration he was putting into it the coin still refused to budge. He was starting to feel tired of all this useless effort when he opened his eyes and let go of his power. As soon as he did he saw fall down and felt it bump lightly into the palm of his hand. Wha-? Had he seen well? Had the coin really been floating over his hand? His heart skipped a beat and he felt light-headed. Did it really work? He had to check it. He closed his eyes again and concentrated on the coin once more, and strangely found it a lot easier than the first time. He calmed himself and concentrated on the coin and what he wanted it to do : move. After a few minutes of concentration he felt a strange tingling sensation in his left arm, as if he had slept over it for a long time. He slowly opened his eyes, careful not to break his focus, and saw the small coin hovering a few centimeters over his hand. Maximilian stared at it in awe for a few seconds, unable to do anything else. He then let his focus slip away and the coin fell down in his hand. Wow… It worked, I wasn’t crazy… He thought as he put back the coin in his pocket. The teenager looked around him, suddenly wondering if anyone had seen him. But the bus was almost empty and no one was looking at him with and astonished face so he calmed down and sat back comfortably on his seat. This is amazing… But man I’m tired… He only had time to think before falling asleep with a tired but contempt smile on his face.