He’s been instrumental in the lives of thousands, helping men and women discover a life beyond their imagination, a life of perfect health, incredible wealth, and abilities bordering on magic. The example he’s set has shown each of them that using each of those gifts to enact positive change in the world is the right thing to do.
They’ve been pulled from all walks of life, all possible backgrounds, and will do anything that Will Stark asks of them, for they know that, without him, none of what they’ve experienced, none of what they’ve accomplished, and none of those positive changes would come about.
Now Will needs their help.
The Hunters have found him.
He is completely helpless and unprepared to defend himself. They will target his wife and his young son, further limiting his emotional ability to respond to their attack. And the Hunters, who find Will Stark’s existence and philosophy of life anathema, will demonstrate their disagreement with a severe beating before hauling him away to face punishment for his “crimes.”
They must stand in the shadows as it happens, though. They must not interfere. For they know that if Will doesn’t go through with that experience, everything he and others like him have accomplished will vanish from the world.
They have the advantage. They know exactly what will happen, and where, and to whom. They have planned where each of them must be, and what they must do or be prepared to do, to ensure happens as it must. Each knows and has accepted their duty, no matter how frustrating it might be. They’re even able to use their foresight to try to right past wrongs.
But not every gift is accepted.
And even with perfect foresight, the smallest deviations can turn the perfect plan into a nightmare.
Sixteen-year-old Will Stark sat in the back seat of the family’s four-door sedan, twiddling his thumbs. Thus far, everything about the day had gone well. They’d gotten out of the house without incident, and he’d soon complete a major life milestone.
But history suggested his parents would find a reason to deny him that accomplishment.
As long as he could remember, he’d been treated, not as their beloved only child, but as some type of disease to eradicate. Only public opinion prevented them from leaving him on the side of a road somewhere and forgetting he’d ever been born, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to rely on that type of pressure to keep his life… minimally tolerable.
He knew the smart move was to stay quiet, to let events play out, to talk about this later, after they’d gotten home, or even a week from now. But he couldn’t avoid asking, and had the haunting suspicion that this conversation would be the trigger to changing this positive experience into one he’d rather forget.
He cleared his throat.
Rosemary Stark, seated in the passenger seat, whirled around, her eyes full of loathing. “What do you want? We’re taking you to get your driver’s license. Isn’t that enough?”
“Thank you for that,” Will replied, his voice quiet and timid. Most people would be startled at his mother’s tone, for Rosemary presented a sweet, gentle persona in public. The public didn’t see this side of Rosemary, though.
His mother nodded, as if his apology had appeased her wrath, and she started to turn away.
“But,” Will continued, “once I’m able to drive myself around, I’ll need to get a job.”
“You’re not getting a car,” Richard Stark snarled, glaring at his son from the rear view mirror. “We’ve discussed this.”
“I’m not asking you to buy me a car,” Will replied.
“And we can’t waste time driving you around, so getting a job is out of the question,” Rosemary added. “Don’t we provide you enough as it is? You get an allowance, and…”
“If I get a job and can walk or ride my bike to and from,” Will said, speaking quickly, “I can save up the money, buy my own car, buy my own gas, and then nobody would need me to drive anywhere.”
“There’s the insurance cost, however,” Richard said, in a tone that was both cold and bored. “Are you accounting for that in this plan of yours?”
Will nodded. “Of course. The insurance cost goes up whether there’s a car in my name or not, so…”
“What?” Rosemary whirled on him once more, eyes blazing. “I was under the impression that insurance costs only kicked in if there’s a car registered to you.”
“My friends at school said that the insurance costs for their families went up as soon as they became registered drivers,” Will replied, his voice fading. The conversation, as he’d feared, was veering off course, and not in his favor. Just as it always did.
Rosemary directed her gaze back at her husband. “Did you know that, Richard? Did you know that this boy’s going to cost us more money when he gets his license?”
Richard glanced in her direction. “The boy didn’t see fit to tell me, either.” His eyes flicked briefly in Will’s direction via the rear view mirror. “Thought you’d spring that little surprise on us after the test was over and the damage was done, did you?”
“No!” Will shook his head in protest. His hands pressed against the seat, and his knuckles turned white as he gripped the edge in his desperation and despair. “I thought you already knew. It’s why I want to get a job, so that I can help pay for the increase…”
“Help?” Richard interrupted. “Help? You’ll be fully responsible for those increases as soon as they begin. Thought you’d drop something like that on us when you know full well my hours have been cut back, how tough times are, and…”
“I never tried to hide anything!” Will snapped. Then his face fell. “I mean… that’s not what I… that didn’t come out right.”
Rosemary snorted. “It didn’t come out right? You’re trying to con us into an extra expense that you know we can’t afford, and you have the gall to sass us when we catch you?” She glanced at Richard. “There’s only one way to punish the boy.”
Richard nodded. “I’ll turn around up ahead.”
“What…. what do you mean?” Will asked. But at only sixteen years of age, life had taught him to anticipate exactly what his father meant.
“You’re not getting your driver’s license,” Richard hissed. “And that’s final. When you’ve saved up enough money to fund the increase in insurance costs, and your own gas money? Then we’ll talk.”
“But I can still get a job, right?” Will asked. “I can walk, or ride my bike, or…”
“No, I don’t think so,” Rosemary told him. “It’s too dangerous to be walking or riding your bike around at night.”
“So… you’ll drive me, then?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Richard replied. He glanced at his wife, who nodded at him to continue. “I think you need some time to learn your lesson, boy. It’s not right to lie to your parents.”
“But I thought…”
“Nobody cares what you think!” Rosemary snapped. “You’re not worthy of having an opinion. Remember?”
Will winced as if slapped, and his head drooped, crushed by the latest disappointment in his life. Sometimes, he wished it would all just end.
Rosemary shook her head. “Seth never would have given us this kind of trouble,” she muttered. “It should have been him, not Seth.”
The single tear escaped Will’s right eye and slid down his cheek, and he turned to face out the window. He wouldn’t let them see him cry.
But even in his despair, he felt something. A tingling sensation, a strange sense that someone out there, someone he’d never met cared about him. It might not make up for his parents’ apathy and antipathy, but anything helped. His life might not have meaning to those who’d brought him into the world, but maybe, just maybe, it would have value for others.
He’d be happy to make a difference for just one person.
The car swerved, and he slammed into the door.
“Look out!” Rosemary screamed.
“I see them!” Richard shouted. Will snapped his head forward and leaned to the middle of the car. He could see the men loafing around in the middle of the street.
Will heard the horror in his father’s voice. “The brakes are out! I… I can’t stop the car!”
“Richard, do something!” Rosemary screamed.
“I’m trying!” he shouted. In the last act of his life, he glared at his only living child with complete loathing, a look assigning blame for the accident underway.
Will saw it. But he had no time to dwell on that final look of disgust.
Richard swerved right to avoid hitting the men in the road, a sense of incredulity forming as the car accelerated, even as he tried to activate the parking brake. The car slammed into the guardrail with a sickening thud, with a force sufficient to snap the seatbelts of the car’s occupants. Richard and Rosemary hurtled forward into the dash, heads slamming hard, their deaths occurring in an instant.
Will, held in place by some miraculous force he couldn’t explain, was the only survivor of the initial collision, the only one conscious and able to experience the shock as the guardrail fell away, as the car slowed just enough to teeter on the edge of the road, dangling precariously.
Will wondered if he’d be able to escape and survive… and then the car tipped over the edge and plummeted to the street forty feet below.