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William Ellison sat at his desk, chin in hand, apparently studying the papers in front of him. In actual fact, his eyes were totally unfocused, although his mind was working busily.

What to do for the best?

He had never realised that young Jimmy's almost constant crying was anything other than an annoying, but eventually to be outgrown, infantile complaint about a world less comfortable than the one he had known before birth - until Stephen was born.

Stephen rarely cried.

Jimmy slept lightly, easily awakened by any strange noise, though over a period he had clearly begun to recognise, even in his sleep, familiar, repetitive sounds.

Stephen slept like a log, undisturbed even the evening a low-flying jet roared over the house, leaving behind it a noise so loud that even the adults had jumped in momentary shock - and sending Jimmy into screaming hysterics that had taken over an hour to calm.

Finding Sally had been a life-saving miracle. She could calm Jimmy when nobody else could.

Now, at five, Jimmy was claiming to see and hear things nobody else could.

No - in fairness, he made no claims. He would simply say he saw something while pointing to a place so far away it was impossible for anyone to see that far without binoculars. He would say he heard a noise when nobody else could detect the faintest sound. And he was surprised, apparently genuinely surprised, when nobody else would admit to hearing or seeing those things.

His father would have dismissed this as childish imagination, a stage the boy was going through and would soon outgrow if nobody paid much attention to it - but for the several times that it had been proved, when what he said he had heard or seen later materialised.

Then there was that strange day a month or so back when Jimmy, normally a relatively unfussy eater - he wasn't over fond of spicy food, but then neither was William - had flatly refused, after one mouthful he had promptly spat out again onto his plate, to eat a meal of the hamburgers he normally loved. Given the option of eating them or going hungry, he had chosen to go hungry, just saying, "They don't taste right."

When Sally pressed him for an explanation of this, all he could say was, "They taste funny." Nobody else thought there was anything wrong with the taste.

Jimmy and Stephen, too young yet to be fed hamburgers, had remained unaffected by the food poisoning that struck down the adults a few hours later - as well as virtually everyone else who had eaten hamburgers bought from one particular store on that day.

William could only assume that Jimmy had somehow tasted the contamination.

He sighed. Everything was coming together to say that young Jimmy was some sort of freak. No normal person had sight or hearing so acute, or could taste contamination nobody else could detect in a hamburger.

That was the incident that had driven Grace away, his wife no longer able to cope with the strain of her older son's freak... abilities, and fearing that one day soon Stephen would begin to exhibit the same weird skills.

William was anxious, more than anxious, to do what was best for his sons; but what, in this instance, was 'best'?

Slowly he nodded to himself. Yes. Refuse to admit that those abilities existed, that they were anything other than a figment of an over-active imagination. Force Jimmy into 'normal' mode.

It would make life so much easier... for everyone.


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