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       Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, p.20

           A. S. King
 
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  “The beach sounds nice,” she said.

  It did. It really did.

  “Will you tell Markus Glenn what happened?” she asked. “When you see him? Tell him we moved away?” She started to cry then.

  “Sure.”

  “Don’t tell him I cried, though. He’ll just think I’m an emotional girl.”

  “So? What’s wrong with being an emotional girl?”

  “Guys hate that.”

  “Who said?”

  “Um. All guys.”

  I laughed. “What do they know?”

  “I guess.”

  “Anyway, who cares what guys like? They don’t do stuff because of what we like, right?”

  “Sure,” she said.

  We stopped for a pee break an hour later at the New Jersey border rest stop. When I came out of the bathroom, I found Ellie standing there looking… sad? Lost?

  We walked back to the car and it was clear that something was wrong.

  “What if I never see them again?” she asked.

  “I don’t know.”

  “What if they just move and leave me behind?”

  “You always told me you’d get out as soon as you could.” I didn’t want to make her feel bad. But I didn’t want her to forget all the times she said she wanted out of there. “But I don’t think they’d just leave you behind, Ellie.”

  “I know. But it’s—uh…”

  “You want me to turn around?”

  “Yeah,” she said, and started to cry again.

  After a few minutes of her crying I said, “You can leave whenever you want. And you will, right? We saw it.”

  She just shook her head yes and kept crying into a now-soggy tissue.

  “You’re going to have a nice life. Kids. Two grandsons, remember?”

  I took the next exit and turned around and went back west. I didn’t mind. I had plenty of stuff to do at home—like buying an oven and printing pictures and getting on with my life because I was not Darla.

  “Can I use your phone?” she asked.

  She called her house and when Jasmine finally answered on the third try, she hadn’t even noticed Ellie was gone with all the moving commotion at the commune. Most of the stuff was already en route.

  “I’ll be home in about… an hour?” Ellie said.

  I didn’t hear what Jasmine said, but it made Ellie say these things, in order.

  “I’m an hour away. I can’t be there in ten minutes.”

  “I can’t tell you.”

  “Yes. I’m with Markus.”

  “No. Of course not.”

  “An hour.”

  “Fine. I’ll wait for Dad, then.”

  She hung up.

  “I guess today is our last day,” she said. “It’s been nice being your best friend.”

  “Same here,” I said.

  “Sorry for all the weird bullshit I must have pushed on you.”

  “Nah.”

  “Seriously. I told you your microwave was an atomic bomb.”

  “Well, it kinda is.”

  “Glory, your microwave oven is not an atomic bomb.”

  “Okay. Apology accepted.”

  “It’s messed up,” she said. “All of it.”

  “Yep.”

  I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t know what she thought was messed up. What’s messed up when you drink a bat? What’s messed up when you see the history of the future? What’s messed up when your best friend is an accidental semi–cult member? A dead mother? A book?

  The bat had a message. It was dead. It had a message from the other side. It was: Free yourself. Have the courage. Whatever it meant to each one of us, it meant something.

  Oh well

  We got home in less than two hours and the commune was empty. The RVs were gone. The barn doors were open, airing out fifteen years’ worth of semisanitary living conditions.

  The only things left were the chickens and the ducks. Ellie went to spend time with them after she found her bedroom in the house empty.

  Dad told me that Jasmine had come over and demanded to search the house for Ellie.

  He told me that when Jasmine was rummaging around upstairs, he went to the darkroom and got Why People Take Pictures and opened the book to her old pictures “from the nineties” and left it on the dining room table so she could see it on her way out.

  “You knew about Why People Take Pictures?” I asked.

  He nodded.

  He said Jasmine turned white when she saw the pictures. Ed was waiting on the front porch, so she couldn’t say anything. She couldn’t do anything. All she could do was wonder what we’d do with them now. Here was what we’d do with them now: nothing.

  Oh well.

  I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I was glad Jasmine was gone. I was glad we had the land back. I was glad we could keep Ellie’s chickens and ducks. Or, our chickens and ducks. Or whoever’s birds they were now.

  But I was sad about losing Ellie. After years of wanting to lose Ellie, I was sad about it. This was not an oh well. It was something, but it wasn’t an oh well.

  I went upstairs to change into shorts. Summer was coming—quickly.

  When I came back downstairs, I found Dad on the front porch watching Ellie. She was hugging her ducks. One by one, picking the runner ducks up and hugging them.

  I ran across the road and hugged her.

  “You’re going to be okay,” I said.

  “I’m never going to be okay,” she said.

  I pulled out the cashier’s check from my pocket and handed it to her. It was folded in two. She opened it.

  “Ten thousand dollars?”

  “Don’t tell anyone. Not anyone.”

  “Where did you get this?” she said. “I can’t take it.”

  “You have to take it. It’s a gift,” I said. “It doesn’t matter where I got it. It’s mine. There’s more. Don’t worry.”

  She looked at the check. She looked at the ducks. She looked at me.

  I said, “It’s your way out.”

  She tried to hand it back to me and I put my hands up so she couldn’t.

  “You always said you wanted to get out,” I said.

  “But—I—I don’t know how.”

  “Call me when you get where you’re going and I can help you figure it out. Maybe we can meet out west like you always wanted. Right? Wouldn’t that be cool? Just don’t tell anyone. It’s a cashier’s check. It’s like cash. I don’t want them taking it from you.”

  “I—uh…”

  She put the check in her skirt pocket. She pressed on it to make sure it was there. I did too. Then I hugged her and went back across the road because I heard a car coming.

  Then, there it was, exactly as my transmission had shown me. Ellie stood in the field by herself, crying, surrounded by her ducks. The car pulled up. She stepped into it and they drove away. She didn’t look back.

  I watched and my heart broke.

  It broke because I knew the transmissions were true.

  It broke because I knew what was coming. For Ellie. For me. For the world.

  “We have to get a real oven,” I said to Dad. “We can’t keep eating this microwaved shit.”

  He looked at me over his glasses.

  “Electric,” I said.

  He nodded.

  “You okay?” I asked.

  “I ordered canvas last night, you’ll be happy to know.”

  I smiled.

  “I’m going to paint the ovens,” he said. “I can see them.” He tapped his skull. “I can see them in here.”

  We will be surrounded by ovens. We will be gluttons after years of starvation. Ovens will be our outlet. He will paint. I will cook.

  And we will have a future.

  I called Peter that night from Darla’s rocking chair on the front porch. I didn’t flirt. I just told him I wanted to talk more about psychology. I told him I was interested in college.

  “Will you be at the mall tomorrow?” he asked
. “We can talk about it over lunch.”

  “How about you move your experiment to Main Street? Plenty of passersby,” I said. “Half the restaurants have outside tables, too. We could sit all day and smile at people.”

  “True,” he said. “See you there. Noon. That Irish pub place.”

  When I hung up, my train—the one that had been speeding down the track for a week—came to a graceful stop. No one in the passenger car was jarred. No food spilled in the dining car. The sleepers in the sleeping cars weren’t in any way inconvenienced.

  It just stopped. And I got off. It was the beginning of the history of the future and it was the end of Max Black.

  And I would live.

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  There will be spaceships. There will be cures for every disease including hatred. We will knock the chips off our shoulders. We will realize, as the population of the galaxy reaches the hundred trillions, that we are no one special. We will realize that all of us are here to do something. Our job is to find out what that is. And all will be equal—plumbers, presidents, movie stars, ditchdiggers—and no one will want to just sit and waste time. Because life will be short again.

  The cosmic palindrome will whittle us down to elderly fifty-year-olds. To creatures with life spans like pets on Earth in the twenty-first century—every moment with them treasured.

  Yet, we will be mundane.

  Yet, we will be no one special.

  It will not be about who we think we are. It will be about what we do.

  I will do great things.

  You will do great things.

  Most people can’t handle that.

  Can you?

  For more great reads and free samplers, visit

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  Acknowledgments

  To write books is a solitary thing. To put a book in a reader’s hand is most certainly not a solitary thing. Thank you to my agent, Michael Bourret; to my editor, Andrea Spooner; and to Deirdre Jones, Victoria Stapleton, and the entire team at LBYR.

  Librarians, teachers, booksellers, and bloggers, I cannot thank you enough for your support. Without you, where would I be? Not here, I tell you. Not here. If I could send you all a herd of goats or a home-baked pie in return for what you do, I would. For now, please accept my gratitude and a hug the next time I see you. Unless you don’t like hugs. Then I will high-five, nod, or wave.

  Andrew Smith kept me sane as I wrote and edited this book. It should be duly noted that he is not only a genius writer but also a great friend and a top-notch golfer. Also, thank you to the students of Bryan High School in Omaha who heard the first pages of this book in December 2011 and told me to finish it so they could find out the rest of the story. You all taught me so much that week. You know what I’m talking about. Stay real. It’s the only way to wade through the bullshit.

  I realize I have used an eight-letter F word in this book that some may not like. (Hint: It ends with eminist.) I want to thank my parents for raising me with that F word and for not succumbing to the consumerist pink nonsense that was shoved toward them from every direction as they raised three daughters. Be proud, Sarigs. You are the history of our future.

  To Topher and my girls, who put up with the life of this author: I love you. I couldn’t do this without your support and understanding. Thank you. I can’t think of three other people I’d rather form, shine, and burn with. Kapow.

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Welcome

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Prologue: The clan of the petrified bat

  Book One: The origin of everything Hippie weirdo freaks

  The origin of the bat

  The ballad of Darla O’Brien

  Everything tasted like radiation

  The Zone System

  Boobs

  Empty plastic

  Obligate parasites can’t live without a host

  Say that in a sheep voice

  Saturday—It’s complicated

  The ballad of Max Black (aka God)

  The clan of the petrified bat

  Twoooeee-toooo-tooo-tooo

  The big joke was

  Glory O’Brien, atomic bomb

  Why people take pictures

  I am no one special

  Jupiterians

  It was the nineties

  Book Two: The consequence of the bat The world is never what it seems

  Free yourself. Have the courage.

  I would fly

  Pay to the order of

  Can you believe it, Glory?

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  Most people can’t handle it

  I couldn’t think of a title

  Ripping meat from the bone

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  What if we’re stuck like this?

  Very

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  So smart

  How stuck I felt

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  Ellie didn’t give a shit about chlorofluorocarbons

  Ferret Company will sniff out exiles

  You can tell by the hair

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  Am I making sense?

  Book Three: The road to nowhere Shit, Cupcake

  Everything serves to further

  There’s got to be another door

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  What do you think makes you different?

  That’s a high bar

  Cancer enchiladas

  Would we care more?

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  Innocence sells

  I felt like a ghost

  I’m not normal

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  Minesweeper

  Beer

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  How’s Glory?

  Book Four: Remnants of the future Who knew?

  Layers

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  People still do that

  The Sniper

  I would live

  That’s all

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  I can’t see… anything

  Darla Darla Darla

  Like, today

  Oh well

  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

  Acknowledgments

  Copyright

  Copyright

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright © 2014 by A.S. King

  Cover image © Mattia Pelizzari / Getty Images

  Cover design by Liz Casal

  Cover © 2014 Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  Little, Brown and Company

  Hachette Book Group

  1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

  lb-teens.com

  Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their c
ontent) that are not owned by the publisher.

  First ebook edition: October 2014

  ISBN 978-0-316-22274-7

  E3

  For more about this book and author, visit Bookish.com.

 


 

  A. S. King, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

 


 

 
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