The High Five Gang
Exactly one hour later, six raggedy looking teenagers showed up out of nowhere in the astral, sitting on the ground near a farm. For a moment, they weren’t quite sure where they were. Then it all came back to them. The gravel underneath their legs was leaving imprints like always. They smelled hay. It was a sure sign they were ‘there.’
The Emergency Meeting Place.
The group surveyed the landscape, and it appeared exactly as it was supposed to be. The field over the hill lay behind Mira’s childhood home. Then they caught themselves staring at each other because of the sheer scale of difference between their before and after appearances.
“Wow.” Jonathan spoke first. He gaped at Michael, who, true to his word, had come back at about sixteen-years-old. Even his clothes were teenage clothes. “You’ve learned some things haven’t you!” He was impressed.
“From Mira,” answered Michael. “And apparently you have too.” Jonathan looked obviously older than Michael. If Michael had to guess, he would say Jonathan was nineteen or twenty. “But, I’ve re-thought this, and maybe I am going to return to age twelve. It’s closer to Mira’s age, and I can build more rapport with her.”
He didn’t mention that also he just plain missed her. If they were both twelve, well, hopefully her former crush on him when they were younger would manifest this time too. In real life she was older than him, though not by much. That was the weirdness of the astral. Playing with ages got really complicated.
Michael amazed the others as he shrunk. Suddenly he wasn’t sixteen anymore. Jonathan knew the technique, but the others were in awe.
“Can I do that too?” asked Zac, who was changing into the clothes he brought. Jonathan noted his older clothes were hanging off of him. Zac was the only other one at about age twelve. He was also the only one who hadn’t seemed to travel into the correct clothes. He had arrived still wearing his adult attire. Somehow his traveling skills were a bit behind the others, who looked their appropriate ages.
“No,” said Michael. “You are the cousin I have that is Mira’s age. The more people her age the better.”
Trina laughed at Zac’s adult clothes falling off. “Okay, Mr. Hobo, about ready there?” she teased.
Then she turned to Onie. “Wow, you’re suddenly a cougar , aren’t you,?” she said laughing, for Onie had turned up as age sixteen, four years older than her husband.
“Ha, ha,” said Zac.
“Yeah, forgive me if I wait until we’re back into the real world to um—oh never mind,” said Onie.
“So you do only love me for my body!” teased Zac.
“Well,” said Jonathan, getting everyone back on track, “we have to be careful how we introduce ourselves to Mira. It needs to be like it was before; except at our current astral age, so we don’t freak her out. I’m not sure where she would end up if she got confused and upset, but it wouldn’t be good.”
“Right,” said Michael. He popped a few more Tums. “She could end up in a forest or a storm. Or alone in the desert—you never know what the unconscious will do, so everyone needs to concentrate hard because Mira won’t be able to. So I will find her first and try to develop our old rapport. Knowing her, she will want to learn, and then I’ll introduce her to Jonathan like before.”
“Let’s write this down,” said Lu.
“I have paper and pen,” said Onie.
Lu looked at the group. “We really haven’t changed much personality-wise. There’s Onie with supplies on hand, Jonathan ordering us around, and Zac falling apart.” She laughed.
“I think it will be easiest if we think of this like a play. We all have our parts that are mimicking how we met and acted before. Only don’t forget how serious it is,” said Trina.
“I agree,” said Michael.
The group spent the next hour recalling their collective memories, remembering the old days, and then reenacted some of their initial encounters with Mira. Michael decided to leave out some of the negative events so as not to traumatize Mira. In the end, they had a plan.
“Does everyone feel comfortable with this?” asked Lu.
“Do you mean, do I feel comfortable as a nineteen-year-old?” said Jonathan. “Hell, yeah. Loving this.”
Perturbed, Zac spoke. “I’m surprised that I’m only twelve. I thought I’d be older. Why am I the only one that was automatically so young?”
Jonathan answered, “Well, it is representative of your inner evolution, so physically you may be older, but astrally, in this world, you haven’t really done that much more traveling or ad- vanced your learning so you haven’t particularly grown intellectually or evolutionally ‘here.’ And remember,” he added, “when Michael first came back, he was twelve too. And look at him now—he can stretch to any age.”
Zac frowned. His wife saw and added, “It’s not a bad thing, Zac. Some people get older and can’t go back because they’ve lost their sense of wonder and attitude of learning. Other people never grow up because they never mature. I think we are right where we are supposed to be, and you never know, this adventure may change us a bit.”
“Yeah, hopefully in a good way,” Zac acquiesced.
Lu and Trina at sixteen voiced no complaints.
“Actually, Onie, this may come in handy, because you know we are not exactly the same ages as when we first met Mira, except for me, so I think Zac being closer to her age is a good thing,” said Michael.
“That’s a good thought,” said Zac. “I feel better.”
Jonathan was gathering his things and making moves to go. “It’s getting late. Is everyone clear on what to do? And the order to do it in?”
There were nods all around. Michael added, “Okay, from now on, I am twelve-year-old Michael. Is everyone also clear where to sleep tonight, how to eat, and all the practical things? We sleep in the real world, eat in the real world, but if anyone can, someone should bring some real food to the astral next time.”
Jonathan volunteered to try.
“Okay, unless there are any last concerns, let’s get this show on the road,” said Trina.
Onie had one last comment. “Everyone remembers our name, right? We loved it at the time and believed we were so slick. Mira liked it.”
Michael remembered back to his younger self. “The High Five Gang.”
“Right!” said Zac. “And anyone who actually gives a high five, you know is masked.”
“Yeah,” said Trina, “Never mind that none of us ever learned how to mask…”
Masking, a very advanced skill, was when people could travel the astral but disguise themselves as someone else, either real or invented. The degree of realism as to how they looked was representative of their skills. This was why some people appeared scary. Maskers could also change their age, as Michael was doing, however that was a fairly mild and easy type of masking.
Someone who could concentrate enough to hold an area of safety—another advanced skill—might see strange things. People sometimes appeared half-formed. It was one of three possibilities: someone trying to travel but not able to bring a good representation of his or her body; someone trying to travel who had not developed a fully mature core self; or someone trying to mask and just doing it poorly from not having practiced. Jonathan wasn’t even sure if half the gang knew what masking actually was.
“Actually,” Jonathan declared, “I learned.”
“Really.” Michael’s voice lowered. “I can guess how.” Just how much time had Jonathan been spending with Mr. advanced skills guy?
Lu and the others turned sharply to the two brothers.
“Problem?” asked Trina.
“No problem,” said Michael, letting it go. “I’ll be running into Mira tomorrow morning, here in the astral. Everyone, stay on your toes.” The group split up, off to their separate dwellings in the real world while Michael stayed to go find his future wife once again, hoping that maybe this time she would remember more. If she’s been in the astral awhile now, it’s possible that she’s gotten comfortable and aged some. If that were the case, he hoped that she would recall her former life and abilities.
Mira ran down to the creek and over to the hay bales. Her favorite thing to do was climb on top of the bales and look up at the sky. Her chores were done until later, so she had plenty of time to daydream. While she was daydreaming on top of a hay bale, she saw something move to her left side. She sat up awkwardly. Of course it had to be a boy. A cute one too. Flustered, she didn’t try to get off the hay bale; it might create more dirt. Here she was in a dirty dress from playing all morning, and she felt her hair flying all over her face. Probably had smudges on her face too, but she didn’t have a way to look and didn’t want to draw attention any- way. She had forgotten about her previous dream with twelve- year-old Michael.
Oh well, I am what I am. The boy was stocky with brown hair cut short.
“Hey,” said the boy. “Do you live around here?”
“Yeah,” she answered, “I live over the hill. Who are you?”
“My name is Michael. We just moved in the old McArthur house down the road.”
He could tell Mira had changed somewhat, but still didn’t remember anything, from the way she was talking. Perhaps her unconscious had remembered something, because she appeared about twelve today, instead of nine. Not that she seemed to notice.
“Oh, that old place!” said Mira, excited. “I’ve been in there! It’s spooky!” Her voice dropped. “Not that I was trespassing or anything—they showed the house to everyone when they were trying to sell it.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t care,” said Michael with a smile. “I like exploring. Don’t tell anyone, but I might have trespassed in a few places in my day.”
“Really? So you’re an adventurer like me! Or like I like to think I am.” Mira smiled self-consciously. “I love to explore.”
Michael remembered the first time they met. Just like this. Only Mira looked older this morning than she had last night. She must have considered last night a dream, though it was really her astral self, moving about. Mira looked like she might be twelve finally, but she was still acting out of it. He had expected her memory to return at twelve. He was flummoxed. His whole plan flushed down the drain. He realized also that it didn’t help that people could be any age bodily in the astral and it might or might not coincide with their maturity of emotions or mind.
“Mi—” he caught himself before he said her name. “Um, maybe we can explore together sometime then. I like to find un- known places, and I like to learn new things. What is your name, by the way?”
“I’m sorry! Oh, my manners. I’m Mira.” She held out a grubby hand to shake.
“Nice to meet you, Mira,” said Michael, shaking her hand. Good. Physical contact between them would help the connection. “Do you go to school around here?”
“Yes, we’ll both be going to the middle school here in town.”
“Well, Mira,” said Michael, “we have two months before that happens, and I think there’s plenty of time to find an adventure or two.” Then he sensed he said something wrong. Michael remembered that even though Mira was a little older in real life, Mira had chased him a lot when they met before. He had reluctantly let her tag along with the gang in the astral. Well, too late for that scenario . He’d have to get himself out of this. “Of course, I have other friends too, but I’m sure I could introduce you. I have a brother who is nineteen—”
“Wow, that’s grown up!” exclaimed Mira.
“Yeah, well, he thinks he is,” he said with a wink.
Mira blushed. “But I also have a couple cousins staying with us this summer, and one is your age, so I was thinking we might all get along well,” recovered Michael with relief.
At least they were on the same page. He gallantly bowed before her and offered his hand. “Would milady like to come off the bale of hay?”
“Phew,” said Mira, giggling with a release of tension. “I was wondering how I’d get off this thing without looking like a dork.”
Michael noted another thing he always loved about her, even when they were young. She was guileless. With some maneuvering they managed to get her off the hay bale with her dress intact and a minimal amount of smudges.
“Thank you, kind sir.” She did her best impression of a courtesy. “I would love to meet your friends. I have chores in the morning and evenings, but I have my days free. Before you came, there wasn’t anybody here except my brother.”
Michael cleared his throat. “Your brother?”
“Yeah, Paul. He’ll be going up to the high school in September.”
Michael stared at her with sadness in his eyes. “Sure,” he said in an offhand manner. “That sounds great.”
“What’s wrong? Did I say something wrong?” asked Mira.
Michael made a motion with his hand. “Nah,” he feigned. “I was just thinking about all that schoolwork coming up. Yuck. Listen, I have to go.” He thought quickly. I need to leave her wanting more. “But if you’re around tomorrow, I can introduce you to my cousins. I’m sure you’d get along.”
“Sure,” said Mira, sounding excited again. “In the meantime, can we think of a place to explore?”
“That sounds perfect,” said Michael as he turned. “I’ll tell you what, you think of some place or new thing to show us tomorrow and we’ll do the same thing the next day. We’ll take turns. How about that?”
“Great! I can’t wait.”
Again, Michael smiled at the fact that she was too young to know to hide her enthusiasm, and he loved her more for it. He could see his future, err, current children in her. He was already halfway down the hill, partly to leave her wanting more and partly because he felt like he might cry. “See you then!” he yelled and waved.
Thrilled and blushing, Mira was sure this would be a good summer after all.
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