Leo Davis [En] – Chapter 1 : The Boy Who Died Waaaay Too Many Times

“Five…”

Leo gave a thorough look at his surroundings : obviously, he wasn’t in his world anymore. Well… Seems like I’m dead… Great. This theory at least explained the small, tingling sense of pain that he experienced prior to arriving here.

Only the faint glow of the faraway stars was noticeable. Darkness engulfed everything behind him, on his left, on his right, above him… Even below him if it weren’t for the faintly glowing and winding path that was leading to this weird little house… As if the person who built this place wanted to plant some sort of space vineyard and then felt lazy and abandonned before even planting one single seed. That or he had already drank some of that space wine before building this space path, hence the fact it wasn’t in a straight line*.

“Four…”

And then the thought occurred to him : he could breathe. In what seemed to be the dark end of the cosmos or something like that. That was kinda surprising. But then again, there was a house just in front of him, so anything was possible at that point, even a really-probably-dead-boy who could breathe… And smell the apple pie that was probably hanging at that house’s window.

The boy considered his options : either he could stand there, do nothing and never know what was happening, or he could go back, but what would be the point ? There was obviously nothing there to see ! The only thing worth doing was to follow the path and go inside the house to, maybe, have a slice of Death’s pie.

“Three…”

And why not jump ? He was in what seemed to be some sort of space-ey interdimensional hole, so maybe this place’s gravity differed from Earth’s and he could be able to do a moonjump. Could be fun and worth a shot. He jumped. Nothing. No variation in the height of the jump, nor its length. Just the good ol’ Earthly gravity. Tsss… No fun.

“Two…”

Leo finally decided to move towards the strange house. It seemed to him that it came from a faraway time… Or the countryside at least. Leo has rarely had the opportunity to leave Bordeaux in the past fifteen years and thus never had seen a house quite like it. Its wattle and daub walls were heavily reinforced by a strong wooden structure. Coupled wih a thatched roof, the house had a really charming look and a nice feel to it.

“One…”

Was that someone counting down ? It seemed to the boy that ever since he arrived he heard something. And as he was standing in front of this little wooden door, there was no more room for doubt : someone was counting down. But why ? The only thing left to do was to go inside despite the growing doubt and fear taking hold of him…

And as he was about to lay his hand on it, he noticed the small round doorknob : made out of what seemed like pure gold and carefully engraved, it had nothing to be ashamed of when compared to the most luxurious of palaces. But here it didn’t blend well with the rest of the buidling and even kind of ruined the overall vibe the place was trying to convey. Putting such a knob on such a common and old door truly was a waste and showed that the owner evidently had some questionable tastes… Or maybe that he was an excentric kind of guy.

Oooooooone ?

But now wasn’t the time to go full art critic. Leo had to open this door and see what was on the other side after all ! Gathering his courage, the boy got hold of the door knob, turned it and pushed the door open.

The moment the door reached its midpoint, a hand reached out, grabbed the young man by the collar and forced him to go to the center of the room. “You ! How dare you do this to me !?” The man seemed angr… Furious.

“Um… Yes ? No ? Um… Hi ?” the boy, confused by the sudden change of atmosphere, didn’t know how to react. It seemed to him that this bloke had something against him.

“You’ve been gone for less than a minute and already you come back here !? Who do you think I am ? Some sort of… God ? One who has only this to do in his spare time ? Get lost !”

Waiwaiwaiwaiwait… Wait. Wait… I’ve never seen you before ! Leo thought, though he obviously didn’t want to say it out loud as it would further anger his already furious host.

The man carried on : “It’s not that I don’t mind seeing you die from time to time. But twice in a row ? For foxes’ sakes Leo, be careful ! How many times do I have to tell y… Oh.” He stopped, as if seeing the boy’s clueless, yet terrified face reminded him of something important. His angry stare turned into an annoyed one “Oh yeah… You don’t remember a thing, don’t you ?”

Leo didn’t have a choice. He had to give out an answer. Unfortunately, he was so shocked that the only thing he could do was nod.

“Damned rules…” The man released the boy’s collar from his grasp and stepped back. Leo could finally have a clear look at his assaillant : in his mid-thirties, olive-skinned, he had long black hair and a nicely trimmed goatee. He wore a perfectly tailored black sleeveless vest with a white shirt underneath and black trousers. His black leather shoes also looked perfect and from one of his pockets came out the silver chain of what was presumably a pocket watch. He looked like a twentieth century gentleman. The boy admired the man’s style and started regretting wearing such simple yet worn out jeans, a questionnably old coat and ragged sneakers. Leo was also ashamed of his current neglected brownish hairstyle and his unshaven baby mustache. If he had known he’d meet such a classy gentleman, he would’ve taken care of his own style…

Finally regaining his confidence, Leo managed to ask ; “Soooo… Where am I ? And who are you ?

— Ah, those fairly common questions, I see you’ll never change.” The man went to his very comfortable looking chair near an old fireplace. Another chair was put next to his and looked as inviting as the other one, albeit less used. The man pointed to it and said, with a slight hint of exasperation in his voice : “Sit here. I know you’ll need it.”

Leo went forward and took a look at his surroundings. The room was quite large, mainly decorated with shelves filled with numerous books, all carefully arranged. The lighting came from oil lamps put on tables scattered across the place and a neat little chandelier stood in the middle, ensuring it wasn’t too dark. To the boy’s surprise, a television set had been placed in a corner a few inches from the fireplace. Its design seemed to come from another era : the screen was tiny and was part of a massive block of wood, though in the end, it wasn’t as big as even the most basic cathodic TV from the nineties. This man was obviously stuck in the past… But was that a flaw ? Not really. It did have its charm, kinda like hipsters or a steampunk-loving guy.

The boy sat on the chair and saw his host fetch a glass bottle and two glasses from behind his seat. He put both on the small table that separated both men. “I imagine you are thirsty. You didn’t hesitate to ask last time.”

The man was right. Leo hadn’t had a drink since lunch and his little run had left him dry. “Eum… Yes, please.” And then he added. “Erm… Not wanting to sound rude, but do you still have a slice of pie ?” The smell was so sweet his stomach started growling.

The man gave him an irritated grin. “If you had asked me this two minutes ago, I would’ve given you the other kind1. And to answer more directly your question, no you can’t have some, since you’ve already finished it earlier.”

The boy felt a little disappointed, but found consolation in the glass of water that was given to him. He drank it whole, then decided to have another one. Silence began to settle in. It was when Leo put the glass back on the table that his host decided to bluntly say : “To get this quickly out of the way… I am Stan and you are dead.”

Leo nearly spat what little water was still in his mouth.

“And it is a good thing I decided to let you finish drinking before I said that, because you did spit it all in my face a few minutes ago…” muttered the man.

“Well I kinda figured I was dead and all, but you could’ve said that a bit more…” Leo hesitated. “Less direct !”

What Leo could refer to as Death raised an eyebrow, which put the boy back to his place. Leo took the time to rethink what had just been said, and asked. “Sooo… Um, Satan ? Youuu… Tell me I spat in your face a few minutes ago… But I never even saw you !”

“First, call me Stan, not Satan. Do not make that mistake again. And second, you already saw me for the simple reason you also died five minutes ago.”

Leo was even more at a loss for words. “I… Died a second time ?”

“Well, technically, you it is the 131,313th time you’ve died so far.”

It took a few seconds for the boy’s brain to fully grasp at how big of a number 131,313 was. If you could delve into his mind, you could almost see the left, right, front, center and back sides of the brain starting to fight over the reaction to have. After much reasonning, they decided to go for the amused one. “Heheheh… Funny, it kinda sounds like three times thirteen…”

“More like three times too many ! And even then, that is mathematically wrong.” Stan sighed and wiggled in his chair to get more comfortable. “You do understand now why I got angry back there ? Every time you die, you land here. And every time, I hear the same reactions, the same questions. And every. Single. Time, I have to explain the same things to you. Over and over and… I’d love to not repeat myself, especially when I did the same speech mere minutes ago. It gets tiring, you know…”

Stan leaned forward to grab his glass, poured some water he transformed into liquor when he snapped his fingers, drank a sip of it and continued talking. “So listen… To put it in simple terms, imagine every time you take a decision, there is a consequence. Quite simple here, I agree. But now imagine you are hesitating between two kinds of cereals for breakfast. Well, in one case you took the first one and in the other you took the second one. And congratulations : you just created two universes. Slightly different, but different enough so that they both exist. Now imagine that you were about to fall or that something… Deadly missed you just by a hair’s length. Well in another universe you actually fell or died. I think you know where I’m getting at, yes ?”

The boy thought he’d understood. “So basically you are the one who makes me choose which cereal I’m having in the morning ?”

Stan leaned towards the boy and smacked him lightly over the head. “Idiot.” he grumbled. “No, all decisions, for better or for worse, given how you handle some are yours and yours alone. It actually is a blessing I’m not in charge of that stuff, and it is even more of a miracle the universe-splitting is somewhat automatic, otherwise I’d already have gone mad ! My goal is just to make sure your life ends in a natural way and when your time is as over as it can be. So I have to create as many alterante realities as possible by bringing you back to life every time you meet an unwanted ending.

“So does that mean that that one time with the piano, I…

Yeah, you managed to die bacause of a falling piano.” ended Stan on a lighter tone.

Well that is a stupid death, thought Leo. This thought managed to calm him down. He even found the thought of dying that way amusing. However, one question remained. “But… How do you make me avoid repeating the same mistakes ?”

Death smiled. “Well that is quite simple : when you come here, I relunctantly repeat to you the same speech and whether you still want to continue living or not – because sometimes people do refuse – I wind up time just a smidge before you meet your demise. And when you come back into your world, you still have memories of your previous life and of meeting me. But when you finally manage to change your fate, then your memory is erased and you go on your merry way like nothing ever happened.”

The explanation was simple enough for Leo to understand it fully, but it still raised another question. “But then, why don’t you just let all of my memories intact ? Wouldn’t it be simpler for you ?”

Stan’s smile grew wider, but a faint touch of bitterness could be perceived. “I really appreciate the fact my mental health is of your concern, Leo. But I’m pretty sure you’d understand that if my existence was known to all, people would gladly kill themselves just to pay me a visit. Or they’d be even less careful, which would cause my workload to be way too considerable to be at least somewhat enjoyable. Like you all, I like to relax from time to time. Also, when I look at your case, you’ve died like, what… 131,313 times in seventeen years ?”

“Well, nearly eighteen… Sir.” corrected Leo.

“Sure… Nearly eighteen. That still makes of you an especially irritating case. Still, I appreciate you, but taking care of you about fourteen times per day is quite annoying.”

Wow… That many !? How do I even manage to do that !? Leo tried to consider all of the options available. “Isn’t there anything to do to help ? I could save myself if I could have the means to.”

The god’s smile faded, leaving only a concerned frown. His hand reached his goatee and he began twirling it. “Huh… You never asked me this before… Well, I might be able to do that…” His eyes narrowed as he stared into the fire. “But doing that could have some heavy repercussions that even I cannot measure…” Then his stare met Leo’s. “And since you won’t remember this when you’ll go back to where you were, I guess I can share my concerns directly with you.”

Stan got up from his chair, slowly starting to walk in circles in the center of the room, while waving his hand in great and dramatic gestures. “So you see, only your most deserving incarnation, the purest among the hundreds surrounding our universe, can obtain powers capable of benefitting the whole wide world. In your case, even if you are near being the perfect candidate, you are not pure of heart enough for me to give them to you. And before you want to try and argue about that, you know all too well you live too recluse from other people and are not mature enough to be given the right to have them…”

He stopped. His thoughts intensified, to the point they were nearly palpable. He wasn’t talking to Leo anymore, but to himself. “And if I… No. The consequences would be terrible ! Buuut we do not know what those consequences are. Could help him grow and maybe finally I’ll be able to…” His head turned towards the boy, who was looking at him with a intrigued and confused stare. “You know what ? You stay here. I’m going to take care of something. I’ll be back quickly.” Without adding a word, the god rushed to a weirdly modern-looking brown wooden door located at the back end of the room. He quickly opened it and disappeared behind, leaving the boy wondering if he had not done something extremely wrong.

***

Stan walked at a steady pace inside the Corridor, not looking for a specific door – as a matter of fact, the number of doors in the Corridor was as huge as the number of parallel universes, so basically an infinity – but for a white door.

Brown, brown, brown, brown, brown, brown… Every single door looked the same… Huh, this one is… black ? It had been a while since he last saw one. And this close to his door ? About what was behind , Stan was most certainly not ready to find out… Probably something ugly. He decided to walk faster.

Brown, brown, brown, brown, brown… Red… Stan frowned when looking at this door. It reminded him of a very nasty memory. Some god had met his untimely demise and Stan did not want to know who the god slayer behind this door was. He pressed on.

Brown, brown, brown, brown… Ah ! A white door ! Finally ! He stopped in front of the door, breathed deeply, and knocked.

“Erm… Come in ?” said the voice behind the door, who obviously didn’t expect some sort of visit. Stan grabbed the handle, opened, only to enter into a room reeking of modern stuff. The table was pure white, as were the ebook reader-filled bookshelves, the chair and the artificial fireplace from which a paper flame moved artificially. Everything had annoying pure curves and there were absolutely no smells aside the factory sealed boxes kinds, which didn’t please Stan in the slightest.

The owner of this horrid house was as ominous-looking to Stan : he wore an oddly cut vest. All angles. And white, obviously. As was the pair of trousers. He also had one of the weirdest hairstyles Stan had ever seen. Very closely shaved on the right side, while the silver hair on the left one went straight to the shoulders. He also wore a green-tinted monocle that seemed to display information for his right eye to read. Trying to make some sort of contrast between Stan and this man proved to be fascinating2, and their faces could point to them making just that. “Ah… You. I see that you are… Quite well.” The tone of the white-dressed man was as cold as the rest of the room.

“Erm… Yes ? Pardon me, but I am used to being called Stan and you… Are ?”

The odd man walked towards his seat. “My name isn’t all that important and I know you don’t care anyway.” He sat down, then snapped his fingers to summon a bottle of white wine. “Why are you here ?”

Stan felt uncomfortable, especially given the rude tone of this god. Obviously, there had to be anything and everything in the Multiverse… Even some less than desired elements. “Well, I wanted to ask you some questions about the rite of Passage and…”

The man interrupted him with a sneer. “Why did I expect it ? Do you not know how to do that ? Were you here to see my personnal glory ? The…” He waved, showing Stan the whole room. “Perfection, I, brought to my Universe ?”

This I do doubt… A lot, Stan thought. He had to stay calm and not laugh. “Erm… No. I came here to see if you thought it to be a good idea to let someone… Not entirely Pure Pass.”

The man in white couldn’t have been more pale. His stare widened. “Seriously ?” He focused on his monocle for a few seconds, as if he was scanning his interlocutor nine thousand times over. He nearly screamed. “Are you seriously considering doing it, even though you made absolutely no one Pass before !? Not even one Pure soul ? Did you even consider the consequences this could have on the person you’ll be experimenting on ? Or even the whole Universe ? Are you this willing to put everything at risk, only to satisfy your own curiosity ?”

Stan was surprised by the concern of the god, but quite shocked by his scathing tone. “That was the point of my visit. I wanted to know what consequences it could have.” And seeing the consequences it has had on you, I’m really starting to believe I’ll never do it on anyone Pure…

“I see…” The man stood up and went to the window near the door that lead outside. The sky was as bright as it could ever be. “Well, I cannot say anthing other than ‘do as you please’. After all, I see in your eyes that curiosity cannot be stronger. You just want me to say it is okay. And even though I’ll say I’d disagree to the idea, you’ll do your little experience nonetheless…” The man turned towards Stan with a stern gaze, only to surprisingly relax. “To be frank, I don’t care what you want to do. My Universe is a success, so if you want to ruin yours, then be my guest.” He turned again towards the window, to admire his work. “I managed to do the rite of Passage to dozens of deserving souls and it has perfectly worked so far. And while we’re speaking, one of them is about to be Pure enough to Pass. His name is Leo Davis. You have the same one ?”

The worst kind of terror crept though Stan. Leo will Pass with this clown ? But mine is only thirty doors from here !!! “Erm… Nope. Never heard of ‘im.” He tried to hide his face when the odd god turned back to look at him.

“A brave boy. He saved a kitten from drowning inside a burning house’s bathtub last week and in just a few good deeds he’ll be able to pass the Passage.” The odd god repeated that last bit a second time, laughing at his linguistic genius.

Stan thought he was about to suffocate. Not only was the odd god’s attitude embarrassing by gods’ standards, but Stan couldn’t let him know that they were about to make the same boy Pass, meaning one of them would never be able to do so. “I… Think I’ve come to a decision.”

The odd god was all ears. “Oh ? And what do you intend to do… Stan ?”

The insulting tone when speaking his name was enough for Stan to comfort him in his decision. “I’ll do it. After all, if it does fail, the consequences will be mine and mine only to assume and only my Universe will be affected, no ? So I’ll stand by my word, and do it.”

A large grin got through the odd god’s face. “Good. As long as it doesn’t doom us all, you are as free to ruin your existence as you can. So go. Try it out. But do not come back to me crying if your Universe blows up.”

The man was so mean-spirited Stan felt the sudden urge to leave. “Oh I do not intend to complain, believe me.” He turned back and opened the door that lead to the Corridor.

“Oh, so you’re leaving already ? Well goodbye, then.

Adieu.” Stan slammed the door shut, then started running back down the Corridor. He will not have Leo, oooh no.

Fully determined, he went back to the place he left the boy hanging.

***

While Stan was away being scolded by odd gods, Leo was waiting in his god’s living room, drinking his fourth glass of water. It started to feel like a long time since Stan had left Leo, but being sat on a comfortable chair in front of a neither too hot, nor too cold fire proved to be a remarkable thing. It sure wasn’t some sort of boring doctor’s lounge3. “Well if this is what is like being dead, I wouldn’t mind dying more frequen…” He stopped, realizing he was saying this out loud in the living room of someone who constantly revived him and also explained to him he specifically put up a system to prevent people from gladly killing themselves just to enjoy a more than busy god’s company. Woops… Good thing Stan wasn’t there to hear, otherwise he would’ve killed me again… Come to think of it… What would happen if per chance he died here ? Wouldn’t his soul just disappear, like in some books where, if you die in Hell, you’re basically super dead and there is absolutely no way of bringing you back ever again ? Whatever happened, Stan seemed like the sort of god incapable of doing such a thing, and nothing here could kill him.

Or maybe there could be, as, after all, Leo arrived here mere minutes ago and he did indeed die from a piano falling on his head. Besides, some of the books on this shelf back there looked big enough to be of public concern and the wooden shelves themselves seemed old enough that a neatly-placed splinter could instantly give him tetanus. He even forgot to renew his vaccines4 ! And even if it wasn’t a certainty at this point that spirits could catch a cold, they could inavertedly bash their skull against this thick television set by tripping over the rug… But maybe Leo was just overthinking it. But maybe, just in case, it was better if he didn’t do anything too dangerous. And so he decided to curl up in the chair, breathing heavily.

***

Time continued to pass. The boy started to feel bored5. He desperately wanted to move from his chair, but the fear of overkilling himself was big enough to convince him of doing otherwise. He observed this crackling fire doing its fiery thing in the chimney, then he thought about this story he skimmed over on the Internet where this guy managed to spontaneously combust just by sitting too close to a fire. Could it have been real or was it just a hoax, like approximately forty-two percent of what could be found on the Internet ? And why was he overthinking this, all of a sudden ? This wasn’t healthy. At all. Especially considering overthinking it could give the fire enough time to creep up and warmly embrace his feet and…

The boy leapt from the chair, deciding it was far better to give his surroundings a proper look than just stay there and developping weird thoughts. After all, wasn’t Leo more than a simple unlucky charm on legs ? Even with his lack of skill in living, chances of actually causing some sort of mortal accident in-house was more than minimal6.

The television set was what intrigued Leo more than everything else in the room. He never saw anything like it and looking at it more in detail proved to be fascinating. He wondered from which period in time it came from. At least a few decades, given the rest of the decorum, thought Leo.

Moving on to the wall farthest from the entrance, the boy took a more careful look at the bookshelves. More than a hundred books were carefully arranged in alphabetical order. Very quickly, it was noticeable that every single book was a biography, of whom Leo didn’t know anything… Until he stumbled upon the names of Gary Davis, Hugh Davis and then… Leo Davis. Wait, is this… Me ? And my father ! And grand-father ! Why is that ? Why are there books about us !?

Leo was so intrigued, he decided to see if there was a book about his mother. Elsa Dumont. Yup, thought so. I wonder what those books actually contain… But he knew that the moment he’d start snooping around, Stan would arrive and he’d know Leo saw things he wasn’t supposed to know about. The boy was a bad liar and he figured deceiving a god would prove to be an impossible feat. Better to keep those questions in mind and ask them when the time would be right.

And for now, it was probably better to just go back to the chair and wait for the return of his host… While also putting the chair a bit further from the fire. Just in case.

And to think he was dead… Oddly enough, aside from the initial shock that came along the announcement of his passing, he wasn’t feeling as nevous as he thought he’d be. After all, he knew he’d shortly be back in his world, whatever happened. He even might come back with some neat little superpowers, too ! Though he did not know what kind… Still, he wished it’d have to do with levitation. How would levitation be useful to the world, Leo did not know, but he knew it’d still be fun and all. That or predicting the future, so that he’d know in advance what could kill him and he’d be able to avoid it. Then again, as long as the power was fun to use, he wouldn’t really mind the kind. He just needed to know what he’d get.

Three minutes passed. It was when Leo started to drink his seventh glass that Stan came back, at a swift and confident pace. He clapped his hands like an overenthusiastic manager about to start his working day. “Well ! I have very good news for you ! Since I want to get rid of you and stop caring for you every gods damned hour, and that you’re pure enough in this world… You’ll be the one to get the powers you deserve !”

Leo felt vexed by Stan’s overwhelming honnesty. Knowing he’d be independent just because a god is annoyed of taking care of him wasn’t really fun to hear. But at least, he’ll be able to dabble in magical experiments, so he let that slide. “Sweet ! And what kind of powers do I get ?”

Stan sat down and glared at him. “Hum… To be honest, I do not know yet. It all depends on the person and since only one ‘you’ can Pass in this area of the Multiverse, I can’t say it from experience. And besides, I still don’t know how it’ll work out.”

Leo’s joy vanished in a fraction of a second, leaving only fear. “Wait… So you’re saying it could go wrong ?”

“Erm… Kind of ?

W… What do you mean, kind of !? Are you saying you are willing to risk my lif… Death and risk toppling the balance of the Universe just so that you’d not take care of me anymore !?”

Stan felt that the whole Multiverse was after him, asking him the same question. That hurt his ego quite badly. It wasn’t as if he’d do that for his own amusement ! It was all about the boy’s well-being… Okay, it was also about his own sanity, but still, the boy kind of came first. “Well… Erm… No. Of course not. But if you could cut the middle man and live an easy life by your own means, I’m pretty sure that would do some good to us both.” Stan himself didn’t feel convinced by his argument. He had to jangle the good keys in front of the boy. His smile became slimier and his voice accidentally similar to one of the worst con artists. “Besides, isn’t it your desire to have super powers ? Something nobody else in the world possesses ?”

The idea itself was more than alluring. Doubt started to slowly retract in the boy’s mind. “You… Are positive that nothing wrong can come out of this ?”

The god gazed at the boy and lied in the most nonchalant way possible, given the current situation. “If the worst had to arrive, I could use my powers to make things right again.”

Leo fell for it. So much tension for this… If Stan has the power to reverse things, there is nothing to fear, he thought. “Oh, okay… Let’s just hope it doesn’t miss in the first place.”

Stan rose from his chair, asked the boy to do the same, then they both walked to the center of the room, where nothing could be in the way. The god stretched, then asked. “Are you ready ?”

Leo nodded. “Let’s do it while there is no time to regret it.”

Satisfied, Death smiled. “Good. So let’s do this !”

Stan stretched his arm towards the boy. A glowing ball of pure light rose from his palm. With a flick of the wrist, he threw it on Leo. The ball went through his chest, reching his heart and then… Nothing happened. They both looked at each other, not knowing what was happening.

“That’s it ?” asked the boy. He felt absolutely nothing… Until the moment where he did feel a great pain in the chest, making him writhe. And then he fell on the floor, unconscious.

“… Woops.”

***

Leo opened his eyes. The walls in front of him had been yellowed by time and a small window only showed the blackness of space. Turning on the bed, he realised the room he’d been sleeping in wasn’t his own, nor one of a friend with whom he might have spent a jolly evening from which he’d have no memories of : the furniture looked too old and the lack of posters on the wall was a good sign. He was also lying on a bed he had never seen, where the blanket was just a patchwork of various green sheets. Where am I ?

Then the memories of his death, Stan, and the rite came back. Oh yeah… That was it. Obviously, he was still in the odd little house, albeit in another room.

Quickly, he rose before noticing that his vest had been carefully folded on the bedside table. But there was something quite peculiar on top of it : a pocket watch made of pure silver. And since it wasn’t some sort of decoration and that it had been carefully left on top of his vest, Leo safely assumed it was his. But from where could it come ? Leo didn’t know. After all, he always had a watch on his wrist, so having also a pocket watch felt unnecessary. But that didn’t stop him from taking it and keeping it in his hand. He’d have to ask Stan about it.

Leo went to the bedroom’s door and opened it. The bedroom was directly leading to the main room. Strangely enough, his host wasn’t there. “Stan ?” The boy was wondering if he was away, like the time where he went away to think about the rite. If that was the case, the god probably couldn’t hear the boy.

But in the end that wasn’t the case, since Stan arrived very quickly from the door that lead to this dark and starry outside. Oddly enough, the god had changed clothes, meaning Leo must have had been out cold for quite some time. Stan now wore a long woolen black vest, going nicely with his black trousers. And this time, he also wore black leather gloves, along with some black-tinted pince-nez, giving the god an ever classier look than before. Less classy was his expression. If being worried could be defined by someone, it surely would’ve been Stan right now. “Leo ! Oh thank the gods you are all right ! Are you well ? Do you feel any kind of pain ?”

Leo immediately understood the rite didn’t go as planned. “No. No I’m fine, don’t worry. Something wrong happened ?

If something wrong happened ? Don’t you remember ?”

Leo felt he would not like what was to follow. “Erm… No ? And why are you wearing…” Leo pointed to his own nose.

“Doesn’t matter.” Stan took them off to reveal his eyes were as normal as they could be, albeit with a glimmer of worry, before putting them back on. “See ?” Then he put the focus back to where it should have been. “So the ‘getting powers’ part went quite well…” He stopped. Leo sensed that a nasty ‘but’ was about to arrive. “But for a moment, I thought you were about to disappear. I gave you your powers and a few seconds later, you started coughing. You spat out a…” He looked at the boy’s hand, and saw the pocket watch. “Ah, I seen you’ve already picked it up.” The god then saw the boy’s shocked and disgusted face. Leo then immediately started rubbing the watch against his vest to get rid of the spit that wasn’t there anymore. “So yes, you did spit this out. But alongside it came… Some sort of black cloud. It started wrapping itself around your body and then you started shrinking and distorting and then… It stabilized itself.”

The god’s voice was uncertain. Leo was horrified. He wished he didn’t know the details, even though he couldn’t figure out how he was back to being himself when, according to the god, he “condensed” earlier. As to what was this dark cloud…

“This cloud was probably your ‘inner darkness’, since you weren’t pure enough. I knew there was a reason why the purest form was selected to Pass… Anyway, did you get a closer look at the watch ?”

Leo denied, getting a closer look at the watch. The front of the watch showed a fox walking in a very familiar street7. It reminded him of rue Sainte-Catherine… Specifically the place where he died. Then again, this could’ve been some sort of coincidence, as pocket watches did depict these sorts of urban scenes or forest animals. The one who designed this watch obviously wanted to reconcile both. Stan asked Leo to open it, which he did without a second thought. The dial was most peculiar. It showed no numbers. Instead, it showed three segments, one of which was twice as big as the other two, all arranged like a tachymeter. To indicate what it wanted to indicate, the watch had a big red hand. And right now, it was at the very end, resting on a small bright red peg.

Leo’s gaze then met Stan’s. “And so… What purpose does it have ?”, he asked.

“From what I can gather, this watch could serve as some sort of magic gauge. Since you weren’t supposed to get those powers, I guess you can’t use them indefinitely.” Stan glanced quickly at the ceiling, knowing the question was coming. “As to what those segments mean, I cannot tell you… I don’t know. However, the more you use your powers, the more the hand will go towards the other end of the dial, so you’d better be careful when using your powers !”

Seeing the terror the rite had inspired in the eyes of the god, Leo gathered something bad could happen if he were to use up all of his magic. “If… I were to reach the other side of the dial… Would there be a way to make the hand go back ?

If you reach the limit, I do not know… But fret not ! Not all is lost, because I did notice the magic fills back up over time. You just have to wait for it to cool down a bit and not use your powers.”

Well that is at least somewhat cool. As long as it doesn’t empty itself too quickly and that filling itself back up doesn’t take too much time, Leo could be able to use his powers for as long as he wishes… Whatever they might be. “Oh, and you wouldn’t know what I can do ?

What you can do ? You mean, about your powers ?

Erm, yes… What powers do I have ?”

The god shook slightly his head. “Oh yes. I did forget checking the prize you’ve won with the saving and everything… Mind if I touch your forehead ?

Oh um, yeah, carry on.” Leo moved forward and felt the gloved hand of the god touch him. By reflex, Leo closed his eyes for a few seconds, waiting for the verdict.

Stan gently withdrew his hand. He looked the boy in the eye and beamed. “Well aren’t you a lucky one ! I’m sure you’re going to love it !”

Leo felt tense. To his own amazement, he felt as if he were ten years younger, the day before Christmas. “Watizitwaitizitwatizit ?

Well… You can manipulate time itself ! This is quite the gift you’ve got there.”

Leo could not believe what he had just heard. “Wait, so you mean I can go back in time and try to teach raptors how to do skateboard8 ?

One : no. Two : no. Three : what !?” Stan frowned. “You can’t go back in time farther than when you’ve obtained your powers. I guess it is the Universe’s kind doing, because if you were to create time paradoxes and whatnot, I’d go insane. I don’t want to take care of parallel dimensions on top of creating alternate realities. So to put it simply, you can just go back in time, slowing it down and stopping it, which opens up quite a lot of possibilities already.”

Leo looked at his hands, letting out a small sigh of wonder. For once in his life he was having tremendous luck and, more over, he has had the chance of meeting a godlike being ! “Oh thank you, Stan ! Can I give you a hug ?”

Stan’s frown ran even deeper, as if he was already regretting giving the boy powers. “No, you can’t. You’d crease my clothes… But you can hug me in thought if you want.”

***

After a last glass and a small discussion about keeping the existence of Stan and Leo’s powers a secret, it was time for them to say goodbye.

“Well now, I think it is high time for you to go back to your own life… And that you avoid getting hit by a car or a tram, thank you very much. Don’t want to see you coming back for all of the wrong reasons, especially since I did this to avoid you harassing me further.”

It was true that Leo had to come back to his world and live his life… But a small thought had him wonder. “Once I’ll be back home, will I forget about you ?”

Stan smiled. “Newpe. Now that you have Passed and that you have obtained your powers, there is no need to erase your memories. Besides, how do you think it’d go if one day you stopped time on accident without knowing about it ?” The god looked at the ceiling. Relief crossed his face. “And with that, I won’t have to explain everything to you ever again when you’ll come back here.” He then touched Leo’s arm, a big smile on his face, before opening the door leading to the void. “It is now time that you go home. If you ever need further explaining for your powers or need help, do not hesitate to call my name at least two or three times in succession so that I ‘beam you up9‘… But please do it in some place where nobody would see you and think you’re a madman, okay ?

Got it !” Leo got through the door, looked one last time in wonder at his surroundings and said to the god. “I’ll miss you.

Me neither.” Stan’s response was so spontaneous and said in a detached tone the boy felt offended.

“Hey ! Not cool !”

Stan laughed. Then he pointed towards the portal at the end of the luminous trail. “Now off you go. Have fun, live well and I’ll see you later.”

Leo smiled, faced the portal and said. “Planning on doing just that !”

Stan stood in the doorway, waving goodbye at the boy before he disappeared.

And that was when Stan’s smile immediately vanished, leaving only a horrified god. He slammed the door, flattened against it, and stared at his hands, panting. Nononononono… This can’t be happening. Not me ! Why… Why why why WHY !? Hesitant, he thought this was all but just a dream. A simple hallucination. That, when he’d remove his gloves, everything would be normal. Everything would be fine.

He removed the gloves.

And screamed.

***

“Oy, you ! Whadd’ya think of the decreasing quality of the oysters coming from the Bassin d’Arcachon ?”

Oh nooooo… Not this again… Leo immediately noticed he was back in rue Sainte-Catherine, right in front of this odd fellow. Stan clearly must have a twisted sense of humour to make him go back to this exact moment.

But this time, there would be no lost time ! Come to think of it, Leo only needed to ignore the man and his fate would immediately change. And by doing this, the tram’s timing would be completely off, so, if he wasn’t as unlucky as usual, Leo wouldn’t die !

“Sorry, don’t have time…” said the boy with a vaguely sympathetic smile. He moved on, turning his smile into a real one. He knew that in his bucket-list of annoying things to come, there was only the call and going to his class on time left. Both were fairly manageable, now that he knew they were coming. And given how much time he had left, he didn’t need to rush to school, so he walked at a relaxed pace.

Arriving at the deadly crossroads, he stopped, double-checked if there were no tram, cars or rolling pianos coming left or right, then nervously crossed. It was done ! No more deadly traps coming his way (he hoped), nor any huge risks (he hoped) ! There were now only him, chance and his time-manipulating powers.

As he was going on his merry way, his phone rang. Basically eight minutes left before he’d be really late for class. He continued moving on, ignoring his phone, that seemed begging for his attention, as if the operator on the other end was hoping for him to listen to her pointless banter he wouldn’t care about.

What he did care about though was Album’s storefront, diplaying many interesting comics and statuettes his inner geek wanted desperately to buy, but that his outer wallet straight up refused to acquire. Which was a real shame, considering the Asterix and Blacksad figurines were looking so good10.

Moving on, Leo saw the faraway Place de la Victoire’s obelisk, meaning his objective was getting closer by the second. He arrived at the second most dangerous crossroads in Bordeaux : traffic lights for vehicules and pedestrians everywhere and pedestrians and vehicules not respecting either11. Leo waited for his light to go green, and then proceeded to cross, only to hear the insisting and panicked sound of a small bell ringing. Leo turned his head and saw a cyclist about to hit him. Oh come on ! Stop it already !

And indeed the bike stopped. But not only that : the whole world around him stopped ! No one moved an inch and everything had taken many shades of grey12. Had Leo’s eyes decided to go haywire and make him see the world in black and white ? Maybe. In any case, he had to move out of the way of the cyclist, which proved impossible, even though he tried his damndest. Oooookay, that is soooo convenient. Leo wanted to call out for Stan, but even his mouth was unable to move. His jaw seemed locked. He then noticed he couldn’t breathe either !

Leo started panicking. Ok. So you can’t breathe… Why ? Why why why ?

And then it hit him : oxygen ! By stopping time, he even stopped matter. Even matter around him. Even if he wanted to move, he wouldn’t be able to, because all the atoms surounding him formed some sort of dense wall. There was no other option than to let time run its normal course and hope he’d have enough to avoid getting hit.

Erm… Resume ? Fortunately for the boy, time started flowing back to normal. And as soon as things started moving again, Leo put all of his strength on his ankle and leapt back. It was a great success, as he barely avoided the cyclist.

Going back to the pavement, panting, he then decided to call out for Stan, by repeating his name a few times, hoping something would happen. And one again, Leo saw the world going black and white, but at a much slower and manageable pace. A portal appeared in front of him. Without hesitation and before time made of him a weird statue, Leo leapt through it, arriving in a dimension he knew all too well…

***

Leo knocked on the door. “Come in…”

The god was sitting on his chair, looking confusingly at the TV screen. “Stan !”, said the boy. “I have erm… Kind of a liiiittle problem with the powers you gave me.”

The man didn’t bother turning around. “If you want to contact Customer Service to get a refund, you can take the door on the left.” he said in a sad voice.

“Har har, very funny, but… Wait, is something wrong ?

Huh ?” Stan jumped from his seat, surprised by the boy’s question. He felt very embarrassed. “Oh um, no. Nonono, everything’s fine. What could possibly make you think that…”

His voice trailed off when he realised he wasn’t fooling the boy. Leo had the ability to see when someone wasn’t feeling well and it was as clear to him that Stan was unwell as a depressed elephant trying to call his wife living in England via a payphone located in the deep corners of Russia. “Something’s not right and I can feel it.” said the boy. “What’s going on ?”

Stan saw the boy’s determined gaze. “Oh it’s nothing. Nothing concerning you in any case.” He then started to get angry. “And since it is none of your concern, forget about it !” He moved forward. “But anyway, your problems are mine and your case is way more important. So. What’s going on ?”

Leo didn’t want to let this slide. Stan was too agitated to not be hiding something very important. But, seeing as how the battle was already lost, he had to relunctantly change the subject. “… Yeaaah, so I managed to stop time, which in and of itself was pretty awesome, but I couldn’t move. At all. So basically I was wondering if by stopping time, I was also stopping every single atom around me from moving, in which case it’s a real pain, because oxygen too was stopped and I can’t breathe…” He stopped, seeing his host’s curious expression. “Do you think my theory is correct ?

Spot. On.

Seriously ?”

Stan nodded. He was sincerely impressed by the boy’s deductions. “Of course I’m serious ! Your mind is really sharp. This makes me so proud I chose you !” His earlier sadness was long gone, replaced with enthusiasm. “Indeed. By stopping time, you do stop everything surrounding you. I guess that if you want to move freely, you’ll have to make some sort of time bubble, that would negate the effects of your powers… You follow ?”

Leo smiled. “Cristal clear. I thought about that too on the way here, but… How can I do that ?”

Stan was lost in his thoughts for a few seconds. “I guess I’ll have to train you. Come with me.”

Both men went to the center of the room, in the same position as with the rite. “Ok, so first, tell me how you stop time.”

Leo looked over the god’s shoulder, noticing a small odd detail. He pointed at it. “Funny… You have a black door now. You decided to paint it while I was gone ?”

Stan frowned, confused. “What ?” He then looked behind him and realised the boy was right. His stare widened for an instant. He felt tense, terrified, even.

Leo noticed it. “It wasn’t you ?”

The god jumped, then snapped his fingers. The boy’s stare went blank for a millisecond. “Funny… You have a black door now. You decided to paint it while I was gone ?” he repeated, as if he went back a few seconds.

The god shrugged. “Oh, you know, us gods do tend to get bored every once in a while, so I like to paint my doors different colours, when the others don’t play pranks on me and repaint it. You should’ve seen. One time, one of them decided to paint this door pink ! Wasn’t even angry to be honest. Kinda liked it…”

The thought of seeing a god dressed like this living in a pink house amused the boy. “Pretty original.”

The god winced. “Yeah… Seeing as how you react now, I guess it was a good think I paint it black… Anyway, back to the training, shall we ? So… Explain to me how you do to stop time.”

Leo started to think back on the moment he did it. “Well, I thought about stopping the cyclist that was about to hit me and it kinda happened.”

Seeing Stan’s face, Leo knew that wasn’t the response he had in mind. “That’s it ? No cool effects or anything ? No cool moves readers of your adventures might want to replicate ? Did you at least use your watch ?” He saw the boy’s eyebrow go up. “Huh… Okay. Can you show me ? Don’t worry, I’m immune to your magic.”

Leo closed his eyes and focused on the moment. If it was as easy as last time, he only needed to think… Stop !

The air surrounding both men stopped moving and colours began to fade away. Every object of the room took a greyish tint. Stan looked around him, both surprised and in awe, while Leo was unable to move. The god moved towards the boy, who, given the look on his eyes, was starting to pannick. “I see. You can come back, now !”

Resume ! Colours came back, as was Leo’s breath. “So yeah… I’m stuck and unable to do anything.”

The god smiled. “Fret not ! I think I might have found out the problem ! When you stop time, you only think to stop time, right ?

Huh ?

And if, once you stopped time, you focused on resuming it, but only on yourself ?

You mean… By visualizing my surroundings ?

Exactly. But more specifically you immediate surroundings. Not much more than fifty centimeters from your body, so that you can move freely and not resume the danger you want to avoid.”

Of course ! Why didn’t I think of this sooner ? Leo beamed and said. “Got it ! Let’s start again !

Right !” Stan went back to his place, as enthusiastic as the boy. “Ready.”

Okay, let’s go ! Stop ! Time stopped again around them. Leo visualized his immediate surroundings, then resumed time. He tried moving his head, then his hand, with great success. YES ! It worked ! He saw his master’s approving stare and decided to walk to him… And he hit an invisible wall. The boy let out a small “Ooooow…”

Stan laughed, then went to Leo. “Almost there !” He started thinking. “Try to visualize this bubble more like an armor. I think it should do the trick.”

Leo nodded, then tried it immediately. The bubble shrank, but it seemed to work well enough. Stan crouched and then said jokingly “Come see papa !”

The boy frowned, but let it pass, since the god wasn’t feeling well a few minutes back and probably felt alone most of the time. Guess he had to find amusement one way or another. Carefully, Leo took a step forward, hoping there wasn’t an invisible wall waiting just there. But he felt nothing. He then proceded to do the same thing with his left arm. Nothing either ! He tried walking and realized he had absolutely no problem to do so. I’ve done it ! Hell yeah ! Looking at Stan, he noticed a glimmer of confusion in his eyes. “Stan ? Is everything okay ?”

The god snapped out of his state. “Huh ? What ? Hum, no, nothing. Errything’s aright.” He gazed a the ceiling. “I was just having odd thoughts. Nothing of concern…” He then proceded to look again at the boy, even more afraid than before. “Could you… bring back time to normal, please ?”

Leo did not understand why there was a sudden rush to put things back to normal, since both of them were now immune to his magic, but seeing his host’s fear, he didn’t wait any longer to resume time. The preoccupied man looked everywhere, except at the boy. “Well… Everything’s fine now. Perfect. You managed to control this thingamajig, so that’s a good thing. You can now go home. And besides, don’t you have a class to attend to ?” The boy looked at the god, concerned. “Yes ! Yes you do, so off you go, now. Chop chop !”

Ooookay… Something definitely feels off… But since Stan wasn’t doing well, Leo felt like he couldn’t press on. Not today, at least. “You’re… Right. I’m gonna go home now.” The boy stopped at the door nd then turned back. “But I’ll be seeing you very soon, okay ? Later.”

Stan finally managed to look at him, though still confused. “Erm… Yeah. Later, Leo. Have fun !” He oddly waved the boy goodbye.

When Leo finally closed the door, Stan rushed towards the nearest mirror to look at his reflection, more specifically his hair. Nothing weird. So why did his start to go red !?

Stan felt the worse was yet to come…

***

Leo arrived back to his world, only to see the traffic light was green. Without wasting another second, he crossed the road and looked at his watch. 16:40. For a moment, he panicked. But then he remembered he stopped time around him a fair few times and he did spend about ten minutes in some place faraway from time and space. That was most certainly the reason his watch wasn’t synched anymore. He sighed.

And even if he didn’t know what time it was anymore and that there was still time before his class started, if he continued stopping and questionning the laws of all worlds, he’d definitely be late… Especially considering he had to go to the fourth floor of the farthest building of his school13. Because that wasn’t annoying enough…

Walking at a faster pace than usual, Leo arrived just in time in the corridor where his classmates were waiting for the teacher to open the door. They found the boy more lively than usual, which, to some, was more than worrying.

Nothing special happened during class, though the teacher did take ten minutes to talk about enrolling in university or private schools, which made Leo sigh. Talking about his future wasn’t a subject dear to his heart… Then again, that could’ve been said an hour ago, when he wasn’t aware of the deeper mysteries of the universe and the powers he now possessed. He let out a stupid smile get noticed by his neighbour, who gladly and slyly commented on it.

Once class ended, the boy went Place de la Victoire to get the tram that helped him go home. The afternoon’s events repeated themselves in his mind, but at this point in time, he wasn’t fully able to fully grasp their importance.

***

Leo arrived home fourty minutes later. The house was too big, located on a small quiet street of Gradignan. Life there was pretty peaceful, since most of the people living there were quite old and thus less capable of making any trouble. Leo’s parents found themselves quite fortunate to have bought the house a few decades back, as prices were very affordable back then and recent developments made life easier to the point it became a really good investment when the house was valued more than twice its buying price.

Opening the door, Leo yelled a small “Hello ?” complete with an English accent14. The voice of his mother could be heard from the living room, though said mother didn’t show herself. “Hello !” His father did the same, though his voice could be heard coming from the kitchen. He was cooking the night’s meal.

Leo took his shoes off, went to his bedroom to get rid of his stuff, then went to the kitchen to properly meet his father. “Hey Dad ! How’s it goin’ ?” said the boy in French.

“Pretty good, thanks” replied his father in clear English while clearing the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. He switched back to French. “The day was a wee bit tiring, but I’m good.”

Leo smiled. “How’s the investigation going ?”

Hugh let out a sigh, slightly annoyed. “If only it was going well…”

For a few days now, Hugh had been investigating on a gruesome murder, and to hear him talk about it, it seemed the perpetrator did a good job of hiding the evidence. Not that that would discourage him : Hugh Davis was a very tenacious man and neither the years nor his increasing weight and greying messy hair would stop him from giving up.

Leo noticed his father’s frown, sign that he was still trying to figure the case out. He decided to stop interfering and going to see hie mother, who was neglectly sitting on the couch of the living room, watching a documentary on Arte15. He kissed her on the cheek and sat on an old chair, next to the couch.

Elsa turned to her son and asked the usual, albeit soon-to-be-weird question : “How was your day, today ?”

Oh, nothing much, Leo thought. Just met an odd fellow that spouted weird things about oysters, died at least twice, met a god that gave me super powers and I stopped time once. “Pretty good. Easy peasy.

You did have an English test this morning, am I right ? I guess you managed ?” she asked, with a slight touch of jealousy in her voice. Because even though she lived more than two decades with her husband, Elsa Dumont still wasn’t able to correctly speak English. She wasn’t always happy when her son came back from school with more than excellent grades.

Leo knew that and replied in English with a gently mocking tone. “Of course I did. What did you expect ? That I’d mess up ?”

His mother grimaced seeing his huge grin. “Pfff… You and your father are the same. Aaaalways teasing me.” She lifted her hand to her forehead in a pseudo-melodramatic way and added. “Have a little bit of compassion towards your mother, please ! Don’t you see her hair is white enough ? Don’t add any more of’em… And especially wrinkles ! Oh poor… Poor old me !”

Leo chuckled. “Yeah sure, we do love you !” Then he noticed something. “You… Didn’t go to the hairdressers, did you ?”

Elsa smiled. “Oh, so now you’ve noticed !

Weeeeell… To be honest, it doesn’t make much of a difference.”

Elsa took one strand of her brown hair and looked absent-mindedly at it. “Eh, you’re right. Then again, I did need to cut them down a few centimeteres… So ? Looking good ?”

Leo nodded, but then turned his head towards the TV screen, showing a documentary about oysters and the Bassin d’Arcachon. He growled.

His mother noticed his animal sound. “Hum ? Got something against oysters ?”

Leo jumped a little. “Hum ? Ah erm, no. It’s just that I went to the Fnac this afternoon when I had a bit of free time and I met this weird guy who asked me about the declining quality of the oysters…” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t believe he was saying this out loud.

As did his mother. “Errrrrm… Okay ? You didn’t let him get to you ?

Yeah, obviously. It didn’t last more than ten seconds.” … The second time, he thought glumly.

Elsa stared at his son, worried. “You know what I always say : be careful when walking the streets of Bordeaux. There are always weird people there… And especially in those times. Come to think of it, people seem to get madder when money’s missing.”

Another point that made Leo wince. He and his familly weren’t the richest people around, though not to the point of beeing considered poor. The boy only fairly recently noticed how bad the situation was when he had to cross off his mind the idea of studying in one of the more prestigious schools of the country, as they asked for way too much money. Since this disappointing realization, he had been much more alert as to his parents’ spendings and refused they’d buy superfluous things for him, to the point they felt annoyed.

“I guess you’re right”, he said before leaping out of his chair and go to the door. “You’ll call me when dinner’s ready ? I’ve got homework to do.

Yup, no problemo.”

Leo went to his bedroom. It wasn’t particularly well decorated, but it was quite tidy. The sofa bed was placed so that he could easily watch TV or play one of his numerous gaming consoles. He also had a personal library occupying a corner filled with games, movies, science-fiction books and games and movie soundtracks, while his desk had been placed just beside it. All of his textbooks and work equipment were inside and that’s where he decided to go.

The boy sat on his chair, switched on his MP3 player to listen to the Star Wars soundtrack while working and he started to look at what he had to do… Philosophy and Physics. He sighed. Not that he didn’t like the concept of philosophy, but the classes he took were uninteresting. His teacher was so boring and bored with what he teached that Leo felt he was just wasting his time. He decided to start with his physics homework, which fortunately for him took only ten minutes.

And while he was packing his physics stuff to work on philosophy, it hit him. I. Can. Manipulate. Time ! He started to laugh. I can manipulate time !

He got off his chair, checked the insides of his pockets and got his silver watch out. He stared at the motif and opened it. Nothing had changed. The hand was still at the same place. He decided to close it and stuff it back into his pocket.

But then, the thought of experiencing a bit crossed his mind, so he decided to stop time. Every single colour in the room washed away. Right away, he noticed he got the hang of the “time armor”, because he could easily move without even thinking about it. He then decided to go to his desk to grab a pen, but it seemed they were unable to move, so he thought more intensely about picking one up. It was a success. Curious, he decided to throw it upwards, but as soon as the pen left the borders of his armor, it froze and lost its colours again. Leo took the time to move around it to look at how it behaved, then decided to place his hand beneath it and resume time. He managed to grab it effortlessly before putting it down, smiling.

The boy decided to have anyther look at his watch. He took it out of his pocket, looked at the dial and realized the hand had moved about one fourtieth of the way towards the other end. So I’ve been experimenting for two minutes, which means I can still use my powers… About an hour and twenty minutes. Then again, that didn’t explain what the three marks meant. With Stan not around, Leo didn’t feel trying to know more about this. Then again, with the end of the smaller first segment about eighteen minutes away, he guessed he could still do one last experiment.

He took the pen again and threw it, focusing all of his attention towards the object. Stop ! He was quite surprised it worked ! He tried taking the frozen object, only to realize his hand met some sort of invisible obstacle. Curious as to how big this invisible wall was, he started patting it. He had formed a perfect sphere around the pen. Even weirder, the sphere was an objec in and of itself, as it slowly started descending, as if gravity tried to have an effect on it, albeit a less important one than all other objects. Leo took the sphere in his hands, launched it in the air to see if it really was as light as he thought and decided he had enough experimentation for the day by resuming time once it came back to him.

The pen, freed from its time prison, was put back to its place. Leo got once again hold of his watch and once again, the hand had moved one fourtieth of the way.

Wondering how much time it took for the magic gauge to refill, the boy decided to put the open watch on his desk, near the small clock he used to check the time when he was working. It was 19:05. Seeing as he still had some work to do, he grabbed his philosophy textbook and studied it while glancing at both the clock and the pocket watch from time to time.

And after twelve minutes, the watch’s hand came back to its starting point. So if I use my magic for one minute, it takes three minutes of doing no magic at all to refill… Good to know ! With that information in mind, Leo got back to work for ten minutes, until his mother knocked at the door to call him for dinner.

Leo came back to his room after a nice meal. He finished his homework and then spent the rest of his evening in front of his computer to check his different social media and few forums and chat with his friends. At 23:13, he started preparing to go to bed, also thinking about the crazy day he had. What did the future had in stock for him ? He did not know, but was more than excited about all of the possibilities that just opened up to him !

*If you thought the French were obsessed with wine, well you’d be thinking right. Especially in the South of France, and the region of Bordeaux, hence Leo having this particular thought and oenology… Erm… Analogy in mind.

1To all non French-speaking people reading this, you need to know that asking for a pie in France (“une tarte”) can lead to some unexpected results. Mainly, if the person you are speaking to isn’t happy nor a baker, the kind of slappy pie he’ll offer you will likely result into you wanting to give him another one in return and then probably end either in hospital or the nearby police station. Then again, if he isn’t a baker, but you are, you can give the pie-giver a real pie in return if his “pie” was related to a lesson you will have learned that has wisened you in some way.

Point is : pies can hurt

2Some could have even said it was “black vs white”, “old vs new”… Light … Vs… Darkness ? Could’ve been, but only people – or litterature teachers – who tend to overanalyse other people’s writing would say these sort of silly things.

3Even if it is a universal thing, it has to be known that, in France if you are going to some doctor’s office for a set time, then you’ll feel a rush of unwanted hatred towards yourself, as you’ll probably have forgotten to take into account the time set should’ve been “set hour +2” (or +1 if you are really lucky) and you will surely have forgotten to take something to distract yourself with, be it your book, the power cord of your phone (huge mistake) or a gaming device that could’ve alleviated the pain of reading some years old magazine about some celebrity you never had heard of.

4Oh, and good luck going to the doctor’s just to get vaccinated ! That can escalate to “set time +3” if you are not careful.

5Leo could’ve thought he was “bored to death”, but the Universe couldn’t allow this joke to happen, lest it would’ve had to cancel its plans and start Armaggeddon right away.

6Given you don’t mess with electrical devices, touch chemical substances, don’t leave the floor wet, put an old, shriveled rug near some pointy or very blunt object, have a cat, have a big dog, have a chihuahua, have a collection of old war weapons and swords on a wall, have a cat or a big dog or a chihuahua near a collection of old war weapons and swords, etc. Other than that, chances of a domestic accident are indeed more than minimal.

7While it would seem like a very normal scene to londonners, seeing a fox roaming in the streets of Bordeaux is (unfortunately) pretty much impossible.

8Note : this scene was written a year and a half before Jurassic World even came out. Did writing this scene inluence the Multiversal knowledge to the point the writers of the movie thought it to be a good idea to make raptors do silly things ? Probably not. But one can only dream.

9Unfortunately for Stan, this Star Trek reference totally flew by Leo’s head, since this expression isn’t near as popular in France as in English-speaking countries where Star Trek was a thing.

10Asterix, while still really popular, has seen quite some form of decline over the past ten to twenty years. Especially in the movie field, where the quality dropped more and more as time went on, thanks to really bad writing and the wittiness of the comics being thrown out for cheap and easy jokes and live guest stars that absolutely mean nothing to foreign viewers. But not all is lost, thanks to the talent of the people involved in the latest animated movies.

Blacksad, on the other hand, is really taking off. And that is most certainly a good thing, seeing as how the writing is marvelous and the style is so unique. If you can, you should really check it out !

This book is educational and filled with good recommendations. Who knew ?

11If you ever intend to go though Bordeaux by car, it is strongly recommended to take a few gallons of coffee to stay alert at all times. You never know when or where someone might cross, to the point you’re wondering if pedestrians are not mindless chickens playing Russian roulette with a gun fully loaded. At least ducks behave better on countryside roads…

12This pun has not been approved by the Board of Bad Puns.

13On this particular case, I don’t know how it works in schools around the world, but in France, students must go from class to class. And sometimes, they need to go from one class located at the last floor of the farthest building on, say, the left side of the school to the last floor of the farthest building on the right. And in five minutes, no less… Though, that’s in theory, because students usually go to the next classroom at their pace. Still, when considered through a certain lens, French schools can sometimes combine intellectual and physical development. Everybody wins !

14And here is the pickle. As it will be made clear in a few paragraphs, Leo is half-English and half-French. In the original version of the text, he speaks either in French or English, depending on who he talks to. But since this is the English version of the book and I couldn’t be bothered to change the setting of the book to an English-speaking country for a few number of reasons, he’ll speak English either way, soooo… Joke’s on me, I guess.

15The best channel TV has ever created. If you don’t live in France nor in Germany, Arte is a German channel broadcasting its programs both in French and German and there is always something interesting on it, be it a documentary or a really good movie most people would consider classics. Unfortunately, since the pacing of the documentaries are slow and the movies mostly “too intellectual”, it isn’t as viewed as it should be… Oh well, at least there’s YouTube and its wealth of documentaries filmed in a more entertaining fashion.

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