Saturday, March 29, 2008

julian's unusual secret

Julian was an odd boy. One day his parents bought him a book of florescent star stickers, which they promptly stuck to the walls and ceiling in his room. Julian was not upset, he knew most boys his age would have probably liked the stickers very well. An ex friend of his had something similar in his bedroom, and his parents probably figured he would want what the other kids at school had. For Julian however, nothing could be farther from the truth.

There were occasions in years past where he tried to explain to his parents why he was different, but they either didn't believe him, or they refused admit it to themselves. Most likely they thought that this was a phase he would grow out of. Sometimes kids feel awkward or have different interests than the other children, so they invent elaborate fantasies to make them feel special. Again, this was not Julian's issue. Far from it.

Julian's secret, the one that everyone forced him to keep secret, was very unusual. From the moment of his first memories, sometime between the ages of two and three, he had been living two lives. One life was that of a young boy cared for by his well meaning parents as they continued a wholly unremarkable existence. The other life was something that he was only starting to understand. Where most people lived one life that went in a straight line from birth to death, Julian had a second that went backwards from death to, he assumed, birth.

His first memories of this alternate time line were very confusing to say the least. All he could remember was a haze of aching pain throughout his body while he lay in a strange bed in some building he did not recognize. Occasionally someone would fuss with a series of tubes and needles that were sticking out of him, causing significant pain. The pain however was dulled somehow, so while it hurt it was like feeling pain in a dream, where while it seemed real it was somehow detached as well.

When he was very young he would cry about this often, and show his parents and doctors the spots on his arms and chest where the tubes and needles where inserted. He would wake up in the middle of the night shrieking when people showed up to fuss around with them, hurting him. For a while his parents were of course very concerned, but then one day it stopped. One afternoon all the tubes and wires were taken out, and his other self was sitting in a wheel chair being pulled backwards out of the horrible building that had been half of his home for so long. Eventually he was in a dusty old house, with lots of strangers standing around looking at him and asking questions, and then they were gone too.

The next few years were better, there was less pain but there was also great sadness. Julian would get up in the morning in his life, just as his other self was getting ready for sleep. He would then go to school while his other self re-read old books and stared listlessly into the many photos he had around his place. In the afternoon Julian would attempt to pay attention in class, while his other self took a nap and prepared himself a modest meal, usually of canned corn and some kind of salty meat. At home Julian would go through his regular routine of homework and faining interest in whatever program was on tv, and his other self would do something much the same, pretending to read the newspaper but not really paying attention. As he was getting ready for bed, his other self would work backwards through his morning, which usually involved gross tasting coffee and dry toast. And then they would both sleep, and dream.

Julian was an odd boy, this was obvious. One time his uncle bought him a ball that whistled when you threw it. He dutifully went outside with his well meaning relative and threw the ball back and forth. He even managed to smile when his uncle brought out a camera set on time delay and ran over to take a photograph with him. Somewhere far away his other self smiled as well, squinting through cataracts at a photograph in an old album, he leaned back in his cracked leather chair and closed his eyes. He could still see the stars, could still hear the ball whistle through the air.

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