Glitches Free Online Serial Novel


Chapter 22

I was sitting on my father’s knee, and some part of me leapt at the possibility of it, the reality of it here and now. My father kept a tattered paperback book of T.S. Eliot and would flip it open during breaks and randomly open a page. And occasionally he would read from it to me. I didn’t really understand any of it, but my father’s deep, world weary voice made the poetry stand out and have a life of its own.

Rocking back and forth, he began reading from the Hollow Men and the pictures the lit across my brain will never be forgotten. “We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed me / Leaning together / Headpiece filled with straw / Alas! / Our dried voices, when / We whisper together / Are quiet and meaningless / As wind in dry grass / Or rat’s feet over broken glass / In our dry cellar…” My father squeezing me close as the imagery played out across my mind. More than once my mother would reprimand him for reading me “Such darkness.” But I would have it no other way. To be close to my father and hear his heart close to mine as the rat’s feet scratched their way across broken glass.


I was surrounded. And there were no less than five people all simultaneously touching me. I realized quickly that I was naked and that my life was in danger simultaneously. I had long since been stitched up, but there was significant concern about the resultant cranial damage from the encounter with Leif. I should be conscious by now. I could have told them that I was enjoying being close with my father and that there was nothing they could do to urge me out of his embrace. But the spell had already been broken. The gateway back to him was gone and now I was extremely mad about it all of a sudden.

It was then that the stored up pain and the trauma of the previous night hit me all at once. I thrashed about on the table under the weight of it. And then hands I recognized pressed against my chest and funneled pleasant thoughts of our time together yesterday, our kissing… and the pain subsided. I wearily opened my eyes and was staring into the face of the most beautiful woman in the world.


“I can’t” cough. “I can’t believe you would be so forward. I’m naked here.”

Her face didn’t change a bit at the joke. “You almost died.” She shook her head at the thought of it. “If only you had seen yourself last night. You resembled a pin cushion, quite literally. I couldn’t even stand to watch the healers carry you out.” Tears fell from her eyes and splattered on my face. I sort of blinked at that. And she quickly began fussing to wipe them off as quickly as she could. “Leif wants you back in the arena tonight. And I made it clear to Yolanda that that wasn’t happening. But she thinks you are up for the challenge.” I gritted my teeth a bit at that and flexed my mind a bit to see what I might be capable of. “No. No. No. Don’t even think it”, she said in response.

And then the healer’s cold hands were back again finding the internal injuries and cauterizing their way systematically from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. There were others who were strategically pulling her out of the room now. I tried to call out to them to let her stay, but my energy failed me and the darkness pulled back over my head like a warm blanket.

“Benjamin… look at me.”

I didn’t want to look. Something inside of me knew that my mother was already gone. That she’d been dead for years now… and that if I looked she would leave. But I eventually swung my head her direction and said, “Yes?”

“Do you know that your father and I think that you are special?” she had her hands on my cheeks now and was staring deep into my face.

“Yeah, I do. I know. You love me very much. And I love you to mom.” I answered compliantly. But I was half way between consciousness and dream state so I was in that state where I was holding two disparate truths simultaneously. She was alive. And she was dead. I was hopeful. And yet I was cognizant that she was gone, extremely shattered with this deep truth.

“No, you misunderstand. Your father and I… we believe that you are special. That you are not normal.” She wasn’t sure how to make it clear for my small mind. “We think you have abilities that others do not.”

“I am doing well with my math and am doing well on my homework.” I said in almost a question.

“That’s true, and it is your brain that I am referring to. But you aren’t like other people. We have hidden you. We have lived out in this farm for years to keep this truth from others. Others that might harm you.” She stared deeper into my mind. “Do you understand what I’m saying to you Ben? And now we are in danger.”

And in a flash – the only thing I could see were the insides of the shack.

Several hours later I was warming up and testing out my muscles to see which ones I could rely on and which ones were definitely still suspect. I had to admit that the healers were really something else as I pivoted and swooped on mended muscles.

Sumner walked into the training room with a taunting laugh. “Amazing! Hahah. You have got to see this…” and he showed me a picture on his phone of me skewered by at least ten fairly long and sharp weapons of varying lethality. “I gave you even odds of kicking off last night mate.” And he shook his head as he took the photo back and looked at it himself. “That had to be one of the most monumentally awesome choke jobs out there the world has ever seen. You had him dead to rights. The knives and the shoulders? And the invisibility and the – BOOM!? I mean. Seriously? That was money. And yet you choked big time and almost died.” He slid his phone back into his pocket and then said, “Here’s our game plan for tonight. No. More. Choking. Kill him dead. Got it?”

“Thanks man. I was hoping for a game plan, and I figured you’d come through for me.” I laughed a bit at that and then said, “So, where is Bea?”

“Ah, about that. The healers have not allowed her anywhere near you. Orders. Apparently they thought she was going to try and keep you from going back out there tonight.” Sumner eyed me for a second and then continued, “They couldn’t allow you not to go.”

“Let me get this straight, the healers can’t allow me to stay? The people that salvaged me from pin-cushion land are making me do it again?” I picked up a staff and swinging it in wide arcs and feeling the pull and release of my back muscles while I kept a distracted eye on my friend.

“Its simple really. And it has nothing to do with the healers. There are five days of ‘interviews scheduled, you’ve completed one. Unless you complete all five, I’m thinking they will just hand you some hemlock laced beverage and be done with you. And seeing as though Gordon has made it painfully clear our fates are tied together, I found someone in the crowd who would take 10to1 against and bet everything I had.”

“10to1 against?” I was aghast. They really only thought I had a 10% chance of making it through the week? “That’s what the odds are right now? That’s terrible.”

“My friend, 20to1 is the standard book. I just wanted to bet five figures and I had to pay for that. This audience definitely doesn’t see you surviving too much longer, especially after last night’s performance.” Sumner eyed me up and down trying to figure out the odds of his own survival as well.

I was aghast at this. But then I just shook my head rapidly to snap this conversation out of my head. And then a thought came to me. “Hey, can you find a way to get a message to Barley? Or is that outside the realm of the possible?” I enquired. “Are we hostages here?” I asked tentatively enough.

“Oh we can leave any time we want I think. We wouldn’t survive long if we didn’t come back. But yeah I can play mail carrier for you if you’d like.” I laughed at that.

“Great, I’ll scrawl something out for you to give our detective friend here in a bit. As for right now, get up. I need a sparring partner if I plan to beat these 20to1 odds.”

“Take it easy?” he asked.

“Sure, if you want to die.” I answered.


I knew something was terribly wrong when I found my father’s T.S. Eliot tattered paperback in the grass of the back yard. There was a sprinkling of blood across the back cover and the front cover had been ripped off. I picked the book up and pressed it to my face as if it were my father himself. Tears were running down my face now. Something was very very wrong and I knew it wasn’t good.

I began running out to the tractor that sat out in the field like a talisman proclaiming the end of the world. And as I crept closer I couldn’t quite look, and I couldn’t not look. I was certain that I would find my father under the tractor or slumped over the wheel. But there was nothing. I searched a number of obvious spots for clues. Nothing was out of place minus the fact that the keys were still in the ignition and the tractor was out here in the middle of nowhere. I pulled the keys and dropped them into my pocket and started heading back towards the house.

As I continued on I noticed my mother’s half empty laundry basket. I turned it over looking for some hint or some clue as to what might be happening. Deep amongst the sheets and the clothes to be hung up was my copy of Moby Dick that I had just recently finished. I flipped through it and as I did I noticed she was reading my highlights and my notes that I’d made as I went. There were 3×5 cards inserted into particularly poignant passages that I’d highlighted. The first one I came to said “My son, Captain Ahab, and the whale that will ever be before him unless he hunts it down and kills it. The parallels are tragic really. But I have faith. I hold on to faith that one day, if we can just help him survive long enough, he will hall in his whale.” What did this mean? It was too many layers deep into the rabbit hole for me to understand at my young age. And yet, I knew these cards would become important to me some day. And so I added my Moby Dick to my father’s book of poetry and continued on.