Breathe on the Small Things

Day 1


September 2, 1974

The white sedan careened down the highway and navigated the turn onto the country road at a speed which left most of the passengers’ hairs standing on end.

Nathan glanced into the rearview mirror. Instead of the road winding behind him, he saw Hanson in the back seat. His hands clutched at his coppery red hair, and his eyes were squeezed tightly shut. He droned out a questioning mantra. “Why why why why why why why?”

Next to Hanson, Yuri had his eyes closed, too, but not out of fear or anxiety. The movement of the car nudged him enough to cause his jaw to open slightly, and a small snore escaped his lips. He shifted his position and then returned comfortably back to sleep. His head fell to the other side, resting against Thayer’s shoulder.

In the seat beside Nathan, John and Sam squeezed together, John half on top of the console. John’s eyes were focused on the road in front of them, his arms bracing against the dashboard.

Sam had one hand over his eyes with the fingers splayed so he could peek through them. His other hand pointed out the way they should go. “Right turn ahead.”

Nathan whipped the steering wheel to the right before the roads intersected, nearly driving the car into a ditch. He quickly corrected and then made the turn, the back tires squealing and leaving black marks on the asphalt behind them.

“Watch out!” Joash yelled from behind Nathan’s seat, as Nathan clipped some bushes growing on the opposite side of the road.

Nathan clenched the wheel tighter as he swerved back into the right lane. He overcompensated and caused the car to fishtail before he was able to regain control.

Any sense of relief from the passengers was short-lived as Sam called out the next direction. “Second house on the left. This one! Here!”

Nathan spotted the turn-off a tad too late. The tires kicked up loose gravel as he tried to maneuver onto the unpaved driveway, but he overshot it. He yanked the steering wheel to the right, trying to circle back to the driveway. A tall pine tree loomed in front of him.

“Yuri?” Nathan asked uncertainly as he slammed on the brakes.

“I’ve got it,” Yuri mumbled sleepily.

The sound of the crash should have been deafening, but not even the birds in the branches above the wreckage were bothered by the accident. They chirped merrily on the warm, sunny day. The tree hadn’t shaken from the impact, because there had been no impact—not with the tree. The vehicle had crumpled up like an accordion, as if it had rammed straight into an invisible brick wall. The windshield, however, remained intact.

Nathan pried his hands off the steering wheel, his knuckles white from how tightly he’d been gripping it. “We’re here.” He tried to sound calm, but the quaver in his voice was undeniable.

“Yes, we are.” Sam smirked at him. “Miraculously.” He tried opening the passenger door, but it remained shut.

John, the youngest of the seven brothers, glanced at Nathan and then turned to Sam, his voice shaking slightly. “What’s wrong? Doors shouldn’t be a problem for you. Why won’t it open?”

“It’s not locked; it’s crammed shut. Warped too badly to function.” Sam peered at Nathan expectantly. “Your side?”

Nathan reached for the door handle and pushed. If it hadn’t been for his strength, it wouldn’t have budged either. Metal scraped against metal as he forced the door ajar.

Joash was the first one to climb out of the vehicle, squeezing through the tight space between the rear passenger seat and the driver’s seat, not bothering to wait for Nathan to get out and push the driver seat forward. He brushed himself off from the crash, smoothing the pale green geometric-patterned shirt he wore. Every hair on his head remained perfectly in place. “I’m starting to understand why my sister got upset when I accidentally blew up the house.”

Nathan stepped out of the car and paused, surveying the damage. An argument against comparing Joash’s accident to this more minor incident died on his lips. He stepped around to the other side quickly, even as John clambered over the driver’s seat to follow him out.

“Why? Why why why?” Hanson exhaled loudly. He pushed through the narrow opening and joined Joash and John outside the twisted metal remains of their car. “Why? He doesn’t even have a license. We should’ve flown.”

“Because he wanted to?” Yuri placed his hands behind his head and reclined comfortably in the back seat. “It’s not like we were in danger. But next time, I agree, we should fly.”

Nathan yanked open the passenger door which swung precariously from the hinges, allowing the others to exit.

“That would make quite a sight, the seven of us flying down from the heavens.” Thayer leaned forward. He was stuck behind Sam, next to Yuri. “We have to do our best to blend in.”

“Says the one who never blends in.” Sam stepped out of the car easily and then leaned against the frame as he addressed their young, sandy-haired brother. “Every assignment—every single one—nearly everyone we meet wonders if you’re actually human.”

Thayer couldn’t prevent his signature square grin from forming on his face as he joined Nathan and Sam at the side of the wrecked sedan.

“Fwoosh. Even that grin,” Hanson added, mollified now that the ride was over, “doesn’t really look human.” His wide smile and brown eyes lit up his tan face.

“And you don’t sound human,” Thayer teased back, his green eyes twinkling. He was alluding to Hanson’s inability to stay quiet, since Hanson often made random sound effects or hummed incessantly. In reality, neither Hanson nor Thayer had any trouble fitting in, despite how different they both looked and sounded.

Yuri followed Thayer out of the vehicle at a leisurely pace and then stretched and yawned.

“The whole argument is flawed, anyway.” Sam pointed his thumb at the metal shell of the vehicle. “The car had nothing to do with blending in. It had everything to do with Nathan wanting to learn how to drive one of these contraptions.”

Yuri frowned at the wreckage. “What do we do with this?”

“I can take care of it.” Joash ran his hand along the edge of the car. “Repair it or break it down?”

“Repair, if you can.” Nathan looked around the clearing and at the large house at the end of the drive. The home was in slight disrepair, but not in too bad shape. There were no neighbors close enough to worry about. He cleared his throat and leaned against the car door, which was still hanging open loosely. The door fell off the vehicle and Nathan had to catch his balance, almost letting his wings emerge.

John covered his mouth to suppress the giggle trying to escape. He was dressed in black from head to toe, including a black leather jacket and black boots he wore, despite it being summertime.

Nathan narrowed his blue eyes at the youngster, noticing his outfit for the first time even though John had been sitting next to him the entire drive. “What’s with the fallen angel look?”

“Troubled teen,” John replied. “Too much?”

“A bit.” Joash waved his hands over the other boy a few times, his fingers moving too quickly to make out the movement. The ripped black jeans were replaced with faded blue ones, the long-sleeved black shirt became a short-sleeved blue button up, the leather jacket turned into an olive-colored blazer, and the black boots changed into tennis shoes. He stepped back and put a finger to his mouth, surveying the changes he’d made. “Better.”

John looked down and frowned. He pointed to his feet. “Let me keep one thing at least. Can I have my boots back?”

Joash sighed. “Sure.” He moved his hands quickly over the tennis shoes and they were restored to the original black boots.

Nathan shook his finger at the pair of them. “I thought we’d agreed—no magic.”

“It’s not magic,” Joash argued. “It’s science. Quantum laws, you know? I was just moving the atoms around and playing with the electrons to change the light reflection.” He frowned at Nathan and then turned his focus to the car. “If I’m not supposed to manipulate any molecules down here, how do you expect me to repair this?”

“You didn’t have a problem with me using ‘magic’ to save the tree,” Yuri pointed out.

“Can you move the atoms on our house and fix that shutter that’s hanging down?” Hanson asked, pointing at their temporary home. “It’s blocking the light from the window.”

Joash glanced at Nathan for approval, but Nathan shook his head. Joash shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, I think you’ll need to grab a hammer and nails for that.” He winked at Nathan. “And I guess you’ll have to call a tow company to remove this wreck.”

“Right. I can do that. We might find some tools in the shed over there if you want to do any light repairs on the house while we’re here. Be careful, as always, though.” Nathan put his hand on the wrecked vehicle which wobbled precariously before one tire spun off, rolling for a bit before circling to a rest.

This elicited a chorus of laughter from the others.

“How can—someone–who’s sup—posed—to be in—charge—be so ut—terly destruct—tive?” Yuri asked rhetorically, gasping for breath between words because he was laughing too hard.

“Yuri!” Nathan gazed wide-eyed at his older brother. “Did you just curse me?”

Yuri put his hands over his mouth. “I’m sorry. I’ll be quiet now.”

Sam managed to calm down first. “Seriously, Nathan. That was all you, not Yuri. Don’t blame him. You need to learn to control your strength.”

“I know, I know.” The corners of Nathan’s mouth turned up into only a small smile, not wide enough to show his dimples. “Sorry, Yuri.”

Hanson took charge of the group, leading them towards the house. “Uh huh huh huh. Our brilliant and graceful leader briefed me on our assignment before we left. We’re in a town called Woods Kill. Pew, pew.”

“Um, is it safe here? No revolutions or anything happening, are there?” Sam scanned the area, his eyes darting nervously back and forth as if he expected to encounter snipers hiding behind the trees.

“A kill is a creek,” Nathan explained patiently. It’d been a hundred years since the area last had to worry about any battles. “No one should be shooting anything. Well, maybe hunters, but I don’t think it’s hunting season yet.”

“Oh, that sounds much nicer. Splash, splash, then?” Hanson grinned, and then his smile fell as he listened to the sounds around them. “No, it should be gurgle, gurgle.”

Yuri let out another exaggerated yawn. “Creek does sound calmer.”

Nathan glanced over at Thayer who was staring up at a bird in the tree they’d nearly crashed into, chirping away merrily, apparently having some side conversation with it. “Thayer, care to join us?”

Thayer obediently turned around and focused on the group again, walking with them. “Go on, I’m listening. I like calmer.”

“Where did John go?” Sam suddenly asked. “He was just here.”

The other brothers all looked around the clearing. John had wandered down the path a ways. He plucked some green fruits off a tree and put them in his mouth.

“What the heavens? Yah! John!” Hanson called out to the auburn-haired boy. He waved his arm, gesturing for John to rejoin them.

John swallowed whatever was in his mouth as he jogged back to the group. “Just checking if these were edible.”

At Nathan’s reproachful glance, he tossed the half-eaten, unripe crabapple on the ground, his brown eyes wide and alert.

Nathan nodded, pleased that everyone was finally paying attention. “Like Hanson said, this town is called Woods Kill. Our teenage assignments all live in this town, and they all attend the same high school two towns over in Hunterton.”

“Teenagers?” Thayer looked thoughtful, almost concerned. “How are we going to blend in, then?”

“Look at yourselves.” Nathan wondered how blind they could actually be. “Look at each other. Haven’t you noticed we only look like teenagers ourselves?”

John pouted. “I noticed. I’m not happy about it. Hence the troubled teen look. Seems like I never get to grow up.”

John had been alive for over a century, but because their kind aged much more slowly than humans, physically he was equivalent to an eighteen-year old boy. With his naturally smooth skin, he could pass for as young as fifteen or sixteen easily.

Joash had worked his molecular “magic” on the others to make their features a bit softer and younger looking than their normal twenty to twenty-seven year range so they all passed for teenagers, but he hadn’t had to do anything for John at all. 

“We’re going to be students at school with them.” Joash sounded disappointed. “I’d rather be a teacher, but Nathan’s right, as usual. We’ll be able to reach them easier, connect with them, as fellow students.”

Thayer raised his hand, as if wanting to be called on, already getting into character. When Nathan nodded at him, he asked, “Can I be the class president?”

Yuri put his hand to his head and shook it slightly. “Seriously? We’re only supposed to be here for a few days.”

Hanson and Nathan exchanged looks, their eyes twinkling with light. The family of seven was sometimes difficult to corral, each having their unique strengths and weaknesses, but Nathan knew their group worked really well together. He couldn’t have asked for a better team or better brothers.

This is just the beginning, a short teaser, for the first book in a series I'm working on. The story is complete, but still in the editing process.

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