A Voice at Midnight
“Mom? Dad? Whatever it was that dragged you off, I’ll be facing it tonight.”
Fourteen-year-old Braden Swift was not in the habit of talking to himself. But he knew that nightfall might bring his death—and already the sun was low. Any familiar voice, even his own, was a comfort.
Although the back yard was empty, his memories were not. Over the years his mother, Professor Cassie Swift, had taught him much: how to shape his first D-chord on a guitar, how to coax an ant lion from its pit-trap in the dust, how to compute the harmonics of a bumblebee’s wing. And his father, Professor Rodger Swift, had once smuggled him into the university’s observatory dome when no one else was around. Together, they had pointed the telescope’s thirty-inch mirror at Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, the land of methane volcanoes. No one else in town could claim such parents. Then again, no one else’s parents had vanished.
Tonight, just as on that evening a year ago, July lightning crackled from cloud to cloud—the exact weather he needed, but there wasn’t much time. He doubled his work pace, nailing flattened tin cans over holes in his tree house’s moss-softened roof. It probably would not rain—today’s lightning was dry. But if the roof were to fail, a year’s work could be ruined.
Would it even matter? Who could possibly care what happens here?