Genius_ The Game - Leopoldo Gout

PROLOGUE

THE VANISHING

0. REX

The night Teo disappeared started off just like any other.

I was at my desk, trying to finish a few projects before I got too tired, when the front door opened. The hinges were rusty and the screech they made was like nails on a plate. Ma had begged me to put some oil on them but that would’ve defeated the purpose. Those hinges were our alarm system.

Just hearing the door creak open wouldn’t normally have given me pause.

A lot of people came over to our house. Sometimes they’d even show up before breakfast. But this was near midnight. The town was asleep.

It was silent.

It took a second for the fear to creep in.

I switched off my desk lamp and glanced down the hall at my parents’ bedroom. Ma and Papa were asleep, curled up together, him snoring.

Teo’s door was closed, and he only closed it when he slept.

So who just opened the front door?

I leaned back in my chair to peek around the corner toward the front of the house. It was hard to make anything out in the half-light.

I scanned the room, my eyes making out rough shapes as they adjusted to the dark. The couch. The TV on its stand. Nothing out of the ordinary …

“That you, Uncle Bobby?” I asked, trying not to be too loud.

No answer.

Uncle Bobby (who’s not really my uncle) would sometimes show up at our place drunk. And when he was drunk he sang Mexican folks songs, corridos, as loud as he could with his big, thick gringo accent. I think, deep down, he was a Meximorphic and he really believed he had an inner Mexican begging to escape. He and Papa connected because they understood the land. It was fun to watch them differentiate hundreds of trees and plants by their possible “medicinal” qualities (aka booze content).

Papa would say things like, “Did you know that in Europe they throw away all their corn if fungus grows on it? I’m serious! In Mexico, huitlacoche is like caviar!” And Uncle Bobby would just nod in agreement.

Thing is, Uncle Bobby never came by this late.

That’s when my chest tightened.

Okay. Okay. You can handle this. Just need to wake Papa.

My hands scrambled over my desk for something, anything to use as a potential weapon. I found a screwdriver. It was dinky, but I had nothing else.

One … two … here goes nothing.

I got up and crept into the front room, ready to scream at the top of my lungs, left hand balled into a fist and—

It was Teo.

I instantly relaxed, then got really mad.

“You scared the crap out of—”

Teo put a finger to his lips and shushed me. Glancing out the window as though he was reading the darkness, he said, “I want you to go to your room until morning. Don’t come out.”

“What do you mean? Why?”

“I’m leaving, Rex. I don’t want Ma and Papa to know.”

“Where?”

“On a walkabout.”

I was confused. “Walkabout? What do you mean? How long?”

“Forever.”

I should have asked, “What’s wrong?” But I didn’t.

I was too stunned to say anything.

Teo led me back to my bedroom, sat on the edge of my bed, and frowned. “I don’t want Ma and Papa to get too worried. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t get it. Why aren’t you coming back?”

Teo just stared off into the shadows. “Something big is coming and I need to be out there to be a part of it.” Then, looking me straight in the eye, he said, “World’s going to change, little brother. We’re all going to have to shift out of our default settings and I just hope I can wake everyone up soon enough to realize it. Good-bye, Rex.”

“What about Ma and Papa?”

“You take good care of them for me.” Teo stood up.

“Wait! I don’t understand. Why are you doing this?”

“I have to.”

Then he left.

I heard the door to the house screech one last time, then it was silent. I looked out my window, searching for Teo in the darkness, but I couldn’t see anything.

I was tired. Confused. And scared.

Too scared to move.

After that, I guess I just passed out.

0.1

The next morning I wasn’t surprised that he was really gone.

That word, forever.

Man, nothing’s worse to hear than that.

Teo’s vanishing act hurt. Deep like a knife wound. And the days just after were filled with fear, worry, and panic. Panic because calling the cops would mean exposing my parents’ immigration status to the world, and not calling the cops meant we were somehow giving up on finding my