QSFer ‘Nathan Burgoine has a new YA fantasy book out: Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks.
Being the kid abducted by old Ms. Easton when he was four permanently set Cole’s status to freak. At seventeen, his exit plan is simple: make it through the last few weeks of high school with his grades up and his head down.
When he pushes through the front door of the school and finds himself eighty kilometers away holding the door of a museum he was just thinking about, Cole faces facts: he’s either more deluded than old Ms. Easton, or he just teleported.
Now every door is an accident waiting to happen―especially when Cole thinks about Malik, who, it turns out, has a glass door on his shower. When he starts seeing the same creepy people over his shoulder, no matter how far he’s gone, crushes become the least of his worries. They want him to stop, and they’ll go to any length to make it happen.
Cole is running out of luck, excuses, and places to hide.
Time for a new exit plan.
On the list of things I’d considered might go wrong in the last two weeks before I had finals, it hadn’t occurred to me to put “teleporting to the aviation museum” among them. But here I was. At the museum.
The guy behind the ticket counter probably wondered why I’d just walked into the museum and stopped dead with my mouth open. I was wondering the same thing, but not in the same way since just a few seconds ago, I was many kilometers away at school.
“You okay?” he asked, which made me realize just how long I’d been standing there.
“Yep. Yes, I mean. Yeah.” I was nodding so fast I must have looked like a bobblehead. I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself down. Sweat broke out across my forehead. I felt woozy, like I’d just run a small marathon. I didn’t do marathons. Hell, I tried to avoid running at all, unless maybe someone was chasing me.
This was impossible. I was standing in the aviation museum. I could see the gift shop and the cafe and the Lancaster Bomber and it just wasn’t possible, but here I was.
What the hell had just happened to me? Had I snapped and gone completely mental? Maybe I’d get an upgrade in nicknames from Colenap to Colesnap.
The man was frowning at me again.
Make a plan, Cole. That was my thing. I was good at it. Plans, I mean. Not getting stared at. Although, truth be told, I was pretty good at that, too.
Move. Rather than stand there with my mouth open, I made my way into the gift shop. The guy at the admissions desk finally went back to what he was doing. Immediate crisis averted. Except not at all. Because, again: museum.
I rubbed my temples, shaky and not just a little bit dizzy. Maybe I was sick. Did I eat something funny?
Plusses and minuses. Plus? The longer I stood there trying to calm down, the better I started to feel.
Minus? The museum didn’t stop being a museum. I looked at the rack of postcards in front of me without really seeing them.
Okay. Think. How did you get here?
No idea. One second I was at school, the next—
Was it the next? Had I lost time? Was it like before?
Oh God, anything but that.
An older woman stood reading a book at the cash register. She hadn’t seemed to notice me, which I was fine with. I circled closer to her, and she looked up and smiled.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hi,” I said, looking at her monitor. The clock and the date was in the bottom corner.
I exhaled in relief. Nope, that was right. No lost time. Same day, same hour, same impossible location.Lunch will be over soon. How am I going to get back to class?
“Are you okay, dear?”
“Awesome. Great. I mean, I’m good.” I smiled at the woman, going through the lobby again and refusing to make eye contact with the guy at the ticket counter. I pushed my way through the glass doors to the outside.
The aviation museum was basically in the middle of nowhere, off the highway where an old airport had once stood. No one could see me, so it didn’t matter if I just stood for a little bit. It was a nice day, and the air helped clear my head.
Other than feeling suddenly bone-tired, I was very much my usual self.
What, exactly, had just happened to me?
It was a regular lunch. We were sitting at our usual spot outside near the field on the front rows of the bleachers, talking. Rhonda had her head in Lindsey’s lap, and they were taking pictures of each other with their phones. Grayson was texting one of the ever-shifting possible new boyfriends he kept talking about and laughing just loud enough at whatever he was writing or reading to make us look over at him now and then. Nat had their eyes closed and face turned up to the sun, and I had my bullet journal open and was sketching everyone’s faces into the spaces around my latest to-do list.I had no idea my day was going to take a detour into the surreal. These were normal things. Lindsey and Rhonda were always being super-sweet to the point of giving the rest of us cavities. Grayson always wanted us to notice what he was doing. Nat was always miles away from the rest of us. I always made lists and then drew all around them.
Finals were coming, and my list was mostly my study plan. I wanted to ace French, didn’t have too much fear about my English exam, and was working on when to go over my Calculus and Biology notes.
“Why did I take Calculus?” I said. I was currently holding on to my B+ by the skin of my teeth.
“Because you’re smart,” Nat said, without opening their eyes.
“I’m not smart.”
“You’re smart,” Nat said again, in that frustratingly confident voice they had.
“Tell that to my B+.”
“Some of us would kill to have a B+ in a math class,” Grayson said.
“Some of us could, if they’d study now and then,” I said.
“See?” Nat said. “Smart.”
I put down my notepad. “I don’t even need Calculus.”
Nat finally opened their eyes. “How do you sign math?”
“Two M’s. Like this.” I showed them the sign.
They smiled. “See? It might come up. You might need to interpret calculus for someone.” I blinked. I hadn’t thought of that.
“You just gave him something new to worry about,” Lindsey said.
Nat laughed. “I did, didn’t I?”
“No,” I said, though I wasn’t sure I meant it. “I’m good.” I wasn’t good. They were right. It was one thing to look ahead at an interpreting career, but it was another to realize once again how many different concepts I still had no idea how to work with.
“I’ll be right back,” I said. “I just want to get my phone and check something.” We weren’t allowed our phones in class, and I hadn’t stopped to pick mine up at the start of lunch. I’d bought my lunch today and wanted to get to the cafeteria before the line had gotten too long.
“You worry too much,” Nat said, but I just shrugged and put down my notebook and pencil.
I didn’t worry, exactly.
I just thought a lot about possibilities. Contingencies.
And interpreting Calculus hadn’t been a possibility I’d considered before.
This wasn’t the first time I’d faced vocabulary I hadn’t known. All last summer, my dad had let me shadow him on his Video Remote Interpreting business, and a guy had booked an appointment to talk to the Aviation Museum. I’d taken a tour of the place and realized pretty quick I didn’t know how to sign a crap-ton of engineering terms. My dad walked me through doing my own research. I’d spent a couple of days there beforehand, reading the plaques and using my phone and my computer to figure out creative ASL interpretations for words like “aileron” and “variometer.” After he’d done the official tour, we’d come back the following week and done a pretend version of our own with him as the “client” and me interpreting, and it had gone pretty smoothly.
Maybe Nat was right. Maybe doing enough homework did make me smart. They were definitely right about being prepared for new topics.
I reached for the door to the school and pulled, thinking about all the stuff I’d learned about the Lancaster Bomber.
Was that it? I looked warily at the door to the museum. I’d been thinking about this place. And here I was.
Should I click my heels?
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. This began his long love affair with short fiction, which has seen dozens more short stories published.
Even though short fiction is his favorite, ‘Nathan stepped into novel writing, and his first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Triad Blood and Triad Soul are available now from Bold Strokes Books, as is his first collection, Of Echoes Born.
A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing cat-or-dog détente ended with the rescue of a husky named Coach.
They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in. You can find him online at nathanburgoine.com.