Forecast by Elise Stephens
Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Date Published: 7/9/2013
Calvin isn’t a teenager, not really; instead, he’s spent his life trying to protect his mother and sister from his alcoholic father. Calvin keeps a knife close and sleeps with one eye open, even years after his father has left the family. A summer vacation spent at their late grandfather’s estate promises him and his sister the chance to leave their problems behind.
Instead of blissful freedom, they find the old house harbors secrets at every turn, like a mysterious stone door in the forest with rumored powers to give its entrants the gift of future-seeing. When Calvin faces the return of his seemingly-reformed father, he throws himself through the door to receive the gift of foresight. But the door offers more doubt than certainty, and the future he sees is riddled with disturbing confusion. With a revenge-obsessed lawyer hunting him down and a secret society out to control him, Calvin must figure out how to stop what he’s started before he loses what he holds most dear.
As he battles the legacies of his past and the shadows of his future, Calvin must accept help from unlikely sources, give trust he never thought possible, and learn that the greatest challenges lie not in the things to come, but in the present moment.
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He found matches in the desk drawer. The decrepit and gelatinous oil in the lamps kindled with a cough of dark smoke. He lit both, left one hanging, and brought the other down with him. The lamps had hooked handles for attaching to the ceiling chains and flat bronze bases.
The gray bark of the tree mural shone silver in the lantern light, and the green leaves sprang to life, revealing themselves as writing. Calvin leaned closer, squinting as his fingers traced the words. They were names of a family tree. One name was written in a slightly larger hand, as if the painter couldn’t help but underline its importance.
December 11, 1931-January 1, 1980
There were no last names printed anywhere, just first and middle, which didn’t usually change with marriage, divorce, or adoption. One strand connected Percy’s name to Ingrid Angelina, Calvin’s grandmother, and two strands interlocked beneath Ingrid and Percy’s names revealing Hazel Elizabeth and Joseph Russell, Calvin’s mother and uncle. Calvin compared the handwriting. Someone else, not the original painter, had added Hazel and Joseph to the tree. He could tell by the different slant in the letters. Nobody had added him or Cleo underneath Hazel.
He knelt. There was another detail here, one he’d originally dismissed as flecks of stray paint.
Little colored circles hovered over each name, centered like halos. The circles he saw were almost all white, but not everyone on the tree had one. Two of the circles were red, like a Japanese flag. The one over Percy’s name, however, was blue and bright like a sports jersey. It seemed to emphasize something special about him.
Calvin had set the first lamp on the floor beside the tree and was standing on the desk to unhook the second from the ceiling, when Mrs. Seabrook pushed the door open, scrunching her nose.
“I smelled the smoke. What are you doing in here?”
“Checking out my family tree.” Calvin let the glass cup dangle in front of him. He felt like a priest swinging a censor while the prayers of Percy’s clients echoed around him.
“I see,” she said, shifting her weight uncomfortably.
“Do you know what the little colored dots over the names mean?”
She answered without glancing at it. “That would be the classification system that your grandfather learned from the VisumOris society.”
“Do you know what the blue circle means? Percy has it, but no one else on this tree does.”
She took a step forward. “There are many circles in this area—” her finger described an arc across Percy’s parents, siblings, and grandparents “—and only a few here—” she pointed to cousins, aunts and uncles, and more distant relatives.
Calvin said, “Like there’s a concentration of whatever it is in Percy’s closest family.”
“Something got thicker,” she agreed, her eyelids drooping. She wasn’t going to give him a full answer, even though Calvin was certain she knew exactly what the blue circle meant.
Mrs. Seabrook swept her eyes toward the exit.
“You can go,” Calvin said. “I promise to not burn the house down.”
She left with even steps. The rhythm of her walk seemed to flaunt her ability to withhold superior knowledge.
Calvin knelt again and blew out his breath, staring at the bright blue dot over Percy’s name, intensified by the glare of the lantern. When he finally blinked, he saw its shape on the back of his eyelids.
Something got thicker, she’d said. Was it some kind of power or talent?
Responsibility : The Word that Pushes us Around
I'm the eldest of three children in my family. Responsible was a word that I instantly tried to emulate. I think this idea of responsibility affects all of us.
Whether we'd call ourselves responsible or otherwise, the notion either inspires us or makes us shrug apathetically (and sometimes sends us fleeing in the other direction).
It's interesting that the single idea, a commitment to act with consideration of the expectations or the wishes of others (at least that's my definition), can drastically alter a decision landscape. I've passed upon a lot of fun-sounding activities because I knew the proposed outing conflicted with the rules, or perhaps I just needed my sleep for the next day. I was wholeheartedly subscribed to being responsible.
Calvin Forsyth, the main character of Forecast, has shouldered the burden of responsibility to an unhealthy degree ever since his alcoholic father left him, his mother, and his sister to fend for themselves. Calvin bosses his sister around as the new man-of-the-house and believes in his heart that it's up to him to protect his family from the threat of his father's return.
When word reaches Calvin that his father is back in town and trying to make peace, Calvin's urge to protect flips into overdrive. He knows in a place beyond any reasoning or rationale, that he must do anything in his power to outmaneuver his father before his father can get close.
Calvin sees lucky break he's looking for when he discovers an opportunity to access a magical sight into the future, a chance to glimpse what his father will do before he ever does it. And here's the ironic part, Calvin has plenty of evidence that this magic is the most dangerous, wicked, unwieldy thing he'll ever encounter, yet his responsibility pushes him into using it.
Thus, a responsible person is pushed by his own responsibility, into doing something completely reckless.
Funny how the noblest motives can lead to crazy consequences (and the consequences of Calvin's choice are indeed crazy!)
I think it's important that we all look carefully at our inclinations toward or away from responsibility. Do we shun it because we don't want to be boring? Do we cling to it because it feels safe? Are either of those good enough reasons? Do we have better reasons?
I hope that as I continue to make decisions about important matters in my life, that I weigh them less against the weight of responsibility, and more against the truer discerning weights of right and wrong in the light of the situation.
How does the idea of being responsible sit with you?
Elise Stephens received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. Forecast is her second novel. Her first novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Her short fiction has appeared in the Unusual Stories anthology, as well as in multiple journals. She lives in Seattle with her husband where they both enjoy swing dancing, eating tiramisu, and taking in local live theater