Come Find Me(9)

I shouldn’t be afraid of the ticking of the gauge, or the way the dial shoots down into the red for no apparent reason. A quick spike. A long pause. A quick spike. A long pause.

I shut it down, because it’s giving me the chills, the way it keeps up the pattern. I back out into the hall, open my parents’ bedroom door, hear my father’s predictable snoring.

“Nolan?” The sheets rustle as my mom wakes up.

“Yeah,” I say. “Sorry. The power’s out. I’m gonna go reset the circuit breaker.”

    “Just a minute,” she says, getting out of bed. I wait for my mother to grab a flashlight so I don’t have to go down to the basement alone. God, I’m an embarrassment to the male teenage species.

* * *

It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I feel something, like that premonition from two years ago. Like there’s a dream I’m not remembering, and by the time I do, it will be too late.

Which is how I find myself at the computer, typing Negative EMF signal? into the search bar.

The results get me nowhere. I add the word pattern, but nothing seems relevant. The meter starts at zero, which leads me to believe there shouldn’t even be a negative possibility here.

It must be the meter. Maybe I can pretend it came that way from the store. Maybe I can get a refund, or exchange, for the same model.


There, deep in the search results, is a link to a SETI message board. The acronym sounds familiar, but my mind isn’t really placing it. I click on the link, and I see the initials spelled out—search for extraterrestrial intelligence—and I almost close it automatically.

But the message is titled Signal at Negative Frequency? by someone named KJ.

It talks about a pattern.

And it was posted within the day.

I’ve got seven responses when I wake up, all telling me more of what I’d already assumed. That there’s something wrong with the dish, or the wire, or—most likely—the program setup.

And something from a Visitor357.

Most visitors without account names are trolls, and I’ve heard enough stories about online message boards being the new Internet hookup site, which is why I use my initials and keep all my personal data off the site. Visitor357’s message begins:

Hey, I was taking readings in my house with my EMF meter and kept getting a negative reading.

I do a quick search for EMF meter and let out a groan. Not only is this guy possibly a troll, but now it looks like I have a ghost-hunting troll.

    My finger hovers on the delete key, but something makes me stop. It’s the way he describes it.

A spike, then a pause, like a pattern.

And the way he signs off:

I turned off all the electricity. Sounds like this interference you speak of. Glad to know I’m not alone.

I tap my pointer finger on the desk a few times, debating. Then hit the button to send a private message:

Hey Visitor357,

This is a site for signals we are receiving FROM SPACE. Not our houses. Probably a different type of interference (say, your microwave), but if you want to send me what you got I can take a look at it for you.


In the meantime, the most likely reason for my own signal is either something mechanical or something computer-related, and there’s only one person left I know who can help me. The phone rings four times, and I’m on the verge of hanging up when she finally answers, clearing her throat before speaking.

“Hello?” Her voice is quick, unsure.

    “Hey, Lydia. It’s Kennedy.”

“Yeah, Kennedy. Hi. I know. Your name is on the display.”

A pause.

“So,” I say.

She clears her throat again.

So, it’s going to be like this. Awkward, because we haven’t really spoken in six months. More awkward, because the only reason we ever did was because she’s Marco’s best friend and I was his girlfriend. Most awkward because I once heard her refer to me as Child of the Corn, and no one called her on it, which led me to believe she probably used it more than once. I even Googled Children of the Corn later to see what she meant, but there was zero resemblance that I could tell, which made me wonder what she was really saying about me.

“I was wondering if you could help me with some computer thing today,” I finally say.

“I don’t have a car,” she says.

“Right, no, at my house. By the satellite dish. You can walk. I mean, you were there Friday night, right?”

And with that, I know I have her. “Sure, okay,” she says, like I haven’t just accused her of trespassing at my house, a crime scene, a place she has no right to be anymore. “What kind of computer issue are we talking about, though?”

“I have no idea,” I say. “That’s why I called you. I’ll be there in one hour.”

* * *

When I arrive at the house and round the corner to the backyard, Lydia’s already there, leaning against the split-rail fence. I walk the bike toward the shed and wave for her to come closer. She steps tentatively away from the fence, as if even this—being this close to the house, alone—is too much.

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