Stargate Horizons


Daniel helped Mrs. Underwood clean up the table after dinner.  He liked being helpful.  She'd never made him do anything before, except make his bed and keep his room clean, but, now, he was getting a few other chores.  He didn't know why things had changed all of a sudden, but he was glad they did.  Mrs. Underwood seemed happy to have the help.

Once the dirty dishes were in the sink and the table wiped off, the woman sat on one of the chairs with her usual evening cup of tea.

"Daniel, please come sit down.  We need to talk about something."

Now worried, Daniel took a seat.  He tried to think if he'd done something wrong or something that would make her mad at him.  When he came home on the day of the fight, he was certain that she'd be mad, but she wasn't.  He hadn't done anything wrong since then that he could remember.

"It's about your schooling, Daniel.  The school has decided that you don't belong in the first grade.  You're a very smart boy and should be in a higher grade.  For now, they'll be putting you in the second grade.  That's going to start tomorrow."

He wouldn't be in the same class anymore?  All the kids in his present class were one or two years younger than him.  Because he was bigger, they mostly stayed away from him and never talked to him, which was okay with him.  It was a lot better than the looks, comments and teasing that he got from the older kids.  If he was put in a higher grade, he'd be with some kids who were his age, kids that would bother him about why he didn't talk, why he wasn't the same as them.

"I'm sure you'll like the schoolwork much better in the higher grade," Mrs. Underwood said.  "I know that some things might be harder on you, but, all in all, it will be better for you.  I promise."

Daniel did not refute her claim.  All he could do was accept this new change in his life.  He had no say or control over his life now, not since Mom and Dad died.  Every day, he waited to see what else would happen, what other terrible thing would take place.  He was alone, so completely alone, living with people he didn't know, in a culture that didn't feel like his.  He longed for the hot deserts of Egypt, the sounds, smells and tastes.  He wanted to be on a dig, unearthing ancient treasures.  But Egypt was lost to him, and it would never be the same without his parents.  They and his old life were gone forever, and he needed to accept that.

Feeling tears yet again sting his eyes, Daniel gave Mrs. Underwood a nod and got up.  She guessed correctly that he wanted to leave and gave him permission to go.

In the solitude and safety of his room, Daniel let the tears come.  He picked up the book on ancient Egypt that had belonged to his parents and held it to his chest.  He closed his eyes and brought their faces into his mind, smiling and happy.  He thought about moments with them, the things they taught him, the way they loved him.  Nobody else would love him like that, not ever, and he would never, ever love anybody as much as he loved them.  He didn't want to love anybody else.  If he did, they'd just go away, too, leaving him all alone.

Daniel had made a promise to himself that, when he grew up, he'd be just like his parents.  He'd be an important archeologist and go on big digs.  He'd go all over the world, but his home would be in Egypt.  He'd become somebody that his parents would be proud of.  Maybe even Nick, who didn't want him, would be proud and would finally let Daniel call him Grandpa.

That night, Daniel had another nightmare of the coverstone falling, his mother's scream.  He awoke in tears, an abbreviated cry on his lips.  He sat up in bed and hugged his knees to his chest, burying his face against them.  He wanted his mom there to soothe away the badness, to sing him a song and lull him back to sleep.  But she wasn't going to be there to do that ever again.

Sometimes, he wished that he'd died with them.  The ancient Egyptians and many other cultures believed in life after death, that, when you died, a part of you still lived on.  Maybe if he'd died, too, he'd now be with his mom and dad, and they'd all be happy.  He wanted to be with them more than anything.

Daniel got the book on Egypt.  Picking up the little flashlight that Mrs. Underwood had given him, he hid under the covers and turned the flashlight on.

He turned to the first page and stared at what was there.  "Property of Melburn and Claire Jackson" was scrawled in his father's familiar handwriting.  Underneath it, in the finer, neater writing of his mother, was "and Daniel Jackson", that second part having been added two years ago.

Daniel ran his fingers over the ink, thinking of that day he'd been given part ownership of the book.  He began turning the pages, his eye roaming words he'd already seen many times.  He'd nearly memorized the book.  But it didn't matter if the words were all familiar to him.  It was their book, his book, one of the only tangible connections he had left to them.

As the minutes passed, Daniel's eyes grew heavy, and he finally drifted back into sleep, the beloved book beneath his cheek.

The next morning, Mrs. Underwood took Daniel to school.  They got there earlier than he would have by bus.  There were only a few children there, and Daniel liked it better.

They went straight to the principal's office.  After a brief talk with the man, Mrs. Underwood said goodbye to Daniel and left.  The principal then took him to his new class and introduced the boy to his new teacher.  The man then left to go back to his office.

Mister Greer was a very tall, big man who looked pretty scary.  But when he smiled, his eyes and entire face smiled.  Then he didn't look so scary.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Daniel," Mister Greer said.  "Mister Parker has told me all about you.  I understand that you are quite the reader and that you can speak several languages.  Is that right?"

Daniel nodded, hoping the man didn't expect him to say anything.

"Well, that's fine.  I focus a great deal on spelling and English in my class, so I think you'll fit in well here.  So, what other subjects do you like?"

The teacher handed Daniel a piece of chalk, which surprised him.  He went to the chalkboard and wrote "Archeology, Egyptology, ancient history and cultures, social studies, geography."  After a short pause, he added geology to the list.

"Thank you, Daniel," Mister Greer said.  "That's quite a list.  I see you didn't put math down.  You don't like math?"

Daniel shrugged.  Math was okay, but it didn't interest him that much.  Math was just a bunch of numbers.  Language and history were alive to him.  They spoke to him just as they did to his parents.

"How about science?"  Daniel gave him another shrug.  "Well, I'm sure that you'll do just fine with both of those."  The teacher handed him some papers.  "These are the recent work assignments I've given the class.  That one on top is this week's word list."

Daniel glanced at the words, which were all familiar to him.  He already knew these.

"I'm guessing that you already know those words."

Daniel hesitated before nodding, not sure if he should admit that.

The teacher smiled.  He gave Daniel another piece of paper.  "This is the word list I want you to learn."

Daniel looked at it and was surprised.  These were much bigger, harder words.  He knew many of them, but some were unfamiliar.

"So, how many of those words do you know?"

Daniel did a count and held up ten fingers, then another four.

"Hmm.  Fourteen out of twenty, huh?  I guess I'm going to have to come up with even harder words for you."

Daniel looked at the man, who was smiling at him.  Mister Greer seemed to be pleased about something.  Was he happy that Daniel already knew so many of the words?

The teacher took him over to one of the desks.  "This is your desk.  Put whatever of your things you want in the drawer, then take your backpack to your locker.  Your classmates will be arriving soon."

Daniel did as he was told.  There were a lot more kids there now, many of the buses having arrived.

Daniel was about to go back to his classroom when he saw Sam.  She didn't notice him, which gave him the opportunity to watch her.  He didn't know what to think about the little blonde-haired girl.  It seemed like she wanted to be his friend, but he didn't know why.  None of the other kids wanted to be his friend.  Most of them avoided him, except for the ones like Bud, who wanted to cause trouble.  Yet Sam had defended him against Bud, had stuck up for him when nobody else would have.  She had her lunches with him and had played with him in the park.  And she was nice to him, really nice, even though she didn't have to be.

Daniel liked the lunches, liked the way she made him feel when he was with her, as if he wasn't quite so alone.  When she hugged him that day he had what Mister Carter called a flashback, it had felt good, made him feel like somebody cared about him.

He wished she could be his friend, but he didn't think it was safe to have friends.  Friends could go away, too, just like family.

At that moment, Sam saw him.  She smiled brightly and came over.

"Hi!  Daddy said that you were going to be put in the second grade.  Is that happening today?"

Daniel answered with a nod.

"That's neat!  You're way too smart to be in first grade.  You should probably be in like fourth or fifth.  I wish you were put in third grade and in my class.  That would be great."

Daniel wasn't sure he'd like it in third grade since some of the kids would be even older, but being in the same class as Sam would be kind of nice.  He knew that she liked math and science, two things that he wasn't as good at, and that she didn't have a lot of interest in English and history.  Maybe they could have helped each other to do better in the subjects they weren't quite as good in.  He'd love to tell her all about the cultures and history he knew about, the interesting myths, legends and lore with which his parents filled his head.

"Are we still going to have lunch together?" Sam asked.  "It's raining outside, so we can't have it under the tree.  It'll have to be in the cafeteria."

Daniel hated the cafeteria.  It was noisy, there was no privacy, and the other kids stared at him and whispered things about him.  But if Sam was with him, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

He gave her a nod, which seemed to make her happy.

The girl named Louise came over, and Daniel wanted to tell her to go away.  She was probably there to take Sam away to be with her other friends.  But maybe Sam would rather be with them.  Why would she want to be with him when she could have lots more fun with her girlfriends?

"Hi, Sam," the girl said, giving Daniel only a brief glance.  "Me, Sandra and a couple of the other girls are going to have lunch together, and we wanted you to eat with us."

Daniel's heart sank.  Sam would now ask him if she could eat with them instead, and he would have to eat alone in the horrible cafeteria, surrounded by kids who didn't like him.  Maybe he would go eat under the tree after all, regardless of the rain.

Daniel was so sure of what Sam was going to say that he was utterly stunned when, instead, she said, "Thanks, but I'm eating with Daniel today."

The boy stared at her, astonished.  She was choosing him over her friends?  Why?

Louise didn't look happy about her invitation being turned down.  She glared at Daniel.

"You've been eating with him almost every day," she said.

Sam's chin lifted.  "So?  He's my friend, and I like eating with him."

Daniel felt something warm grow in a place deep inside him.  Sam really did like him.  She wasn't spending time with him just to be nice.  She really was his friend.  Daniel so badly wanted to be a friend back to her, but he was afraid to be.  What if she went away?  Then he'd be all alone again.

"Whatever," Louise said, sounding disgusted.  She walked away in a huff.

Sam turned back to Daniel.  "I don't think I like her as much anymore."

The ringing of the bell prevented the girl from saying anything more on that subject.

"I'll see you at lunch," she said, then headed off to her class.

Feeling happy, Daniel went to his own class.  The happiness died the moment he stepped through the door.  The eyes of everyone in the room went to him.  Avoiding all those eyes, Daniel went to his desk and sat down.  He heard a couple kids in the back whisper to each other, one of them snickering.

Mister Greer tapped a ruler on his desk.  "Settle down, class."

Daniel was dreading what he knew would come next, introducing him to the class.  He was surprised when that didn't happen.  Instead, the teacher looked around at everyone and said, "I hope you all came back with completed homework assignments today.  I'm not going to accept any more excuses in that regard . . . and that includes saying that your dog ate it."

Daniel started panicking.  Was he supposed to give Mister Greer his homework from his former class?  He'd been so preoccupied that he left it in his backpack.  He could go get it.  It wouldn't take long.

Daniel was tense with worry as the man went from student to student and got their homework from them.  As the teacher approached his desk, his throat went dry, and his heart beat faster.  He didn't want Mister Greer to be mad at him.  More than that, Daniel didn't want to disappoint him.  He seemed kind of nice, even if he was scary-looking.

Daniel breathed a silent sigh of relief as the teacher passed right by him and went to the next student.

Once the homework had all been gathered, Mister Greer returned to his desk.

"Okay, yesterday, as always, you were given a new list of words to learn this week.  How many of you have gotten started on learning those words?"

Around half the class raised their hand.  Daniel didn't know if he should raise his, so he kept it down.  Mister Greer was already aware that he knew all those words.

Mister Greer didn't seem happy that only half the kids had started learning the words.

"I know that, to some of you, English and spelling are boring," he said, "but reading and writing are very important things.  Your entire life will be affected by how well you can do them.  They are the most important things you will learn in school."

The teacher looked around at the students.  "I have something new for you to try that I hope will make you more interested in learning how to spell.  What I want you to do is make up a story that contains the words in this week's word list.  You don't have to use all the words, but the more words you use, the higher your score will be.  Your parents are allowed to help you a little, give you ideas, but you must be the one to write the story.  It can be as simple as you want it to be, but it must be a real story.  Now, I know this might be hard for some of you, so there will be no other homework assignments for the rest of this week.  The only other homework you'll have to do is finishing any class work that you don't get done that day.  On Friday, instead of the usual test, you will turn in your stories to me.  I'll read and grade them all during the lunch break.  The best stories will be read aloud to the class."

Daniel felt a thrill of excitement course through him.  He thought of all the tales he knew about ancient people and mythical characters.  Surely he could write his own story.  It could take place in Egypt!  Perhaps it could be about Tutankhamun, the boy king who ascended the throne when he was only a year older than Daniel was now.  He wondered if he was supposed to use the words that the rest of the class was or if Mister Greer would let him use the special word list.  He couldn't wait to get started on his story.

The morning went well.  Though Mister Greer never asked Daniel to speak, he didn't ignore him.  When the class was working on a project, the teacher wandered around, glancing at what the kids were doing.  When he came to Daniel, he watched the boy work for a moment, then smiled and patted his shoulder.  Maybe being in second grade wasn't going to be so bad after all.

What Daniel liked was that, just as the teacher had said, he seemed to focus on spelling and English the most.  Best of all, after giving the rest of the class a project, he'd come to Daniel's desk and give him a special project just for him, one that was a lot more challenging.  Daniel knew that the other students were wondering what was going on, but he didn't care.  For the first time since he began going to school there, he was actually enjoying it.

Unfortunately, once he stepped into the cafeteria, the enjoyment ended.  Several of the other students stared at him as he walked by.  He heard one child whisper the words "weird kid" to his friends.  Daniel tried to ignore them, but it wasn't easy.  He quickly found a table at the back of the room in the corner and sat down, hoping that Sam would get there really soon.

She arrived a couple of minutes later, spying him after looking around the room for a few seconds.  She came over and sat across from him.

"How's your new class?" she asked as she got the things out of her lunch box.

Daniel wrote on the pad he already had out.  "I like it.  Mister Greer is nice, and he gave me different work than the other kids, harder stuff."

"Really?  I didn't get Mister Greer when I was in second grade, and I was glad I didn't."  Sam lowered her voice.  "He always looked kind of scary to me."

Daniel nodded.  "I thought so, too, but I like him."

"So, what's the special work he gave you?"

"I think it's for kids in higher grades.  I remember some of the stuff from what I already learned, and that was fourth and fifth grade stuff."

"Wow.  You see?  I said you were really smart."

Daniel blushed.  "I'm not so smart with math and science, not like you are."

"Well, maybe I could help you with that, and you can help me with history and social studies.  I really stink at history."

Daniel smiled.  "Okay."

They turned their attention to eating.  As always, Sam carried the conversation.  Up until now, Daniel had been content with it being that way, only writing down a question or reply every now and then, but the voice that had been locked up inside him since he saw his mom and dad die felt like it was ready to come out.  He hadn't spoken in so long, though, that he was afraid to talk.  He'd think about saying something, and his heart would start beating very fast, and his throat would close up, and he just couldn't get any words out.

The lunch ended without Daniel saying anything.  He returned to his class feeling frustrated.  The frustration faded as he got immersed in the lessons.  But then, a new emotion suddenly arose: mortification.

It happened about an hour before the end of class.  Again, Daniel's lesson was different from everyone else's.  The curiosity of one of the girls finally got the better of her, and she raised her hand.

"Yes, Barbara?" the teacher inquired.

"Mister Greer, why are you giving him different work to do?  I don't think it's fair that he's given easier work than the rest of us."

Daniel's face blushed violently as every head in the room turned toward him, every head except one, that is, which belonged to Mister Greer.  He was staring at Barbara.

"Why do you believe that I'm giving Daniel easier work?" he asked.

"Everybody knows that he was in first grade until today, and that he doesn't talk, and that—"  She cut herself off quickly.

The man frowned.  "And what, Barbara?  Say what you were thinking."

The girl blushed and ducked her head.  "And that he's not very smart," she mumbled.

"I see."  He looked around at the other kids.  "Is that what all of you think?"

Nobody dared answer.

"Well, then I think it's time that you know the truth.  The work I've been giving Daniel is not easier.  It is, in fact, harder, lessons and assignments that I got from the fourth and fifth grade teachers.  Daniel may not talk, but he is very smart, especially when it comes to reading, languages and history."

Mister Greer turned to a Hispanic boy.  "You speak two languages, right, Carlos?  English and Spanish.  Well, Daniel here knows six spoken languages and five others that are called dead languages, ones that are no longer used by people."

Daniel's cheeks were getting hotter by the moment.  Why did Mister Greer have to tell everyone all that?

The teacher went to the front of the class.  "Would any of you like to guess which spoken languages besides English Daniel knows?"

One boy raised his hand.  "Spanish?"

Mister Greer nodded.  "Yes, that's one of them."

Another child guessed French, and the teacher said that was right, too.

Progressively more kids raised their hands.  Some guesses were wrong, of course, ranging from Vietnamese to Swahili, the latter one coming from a boy who watched Star Trek and knew that Uhura was a Swahili name and that she spoke that language.

Finally, all but one of the languages Daniel could speak had been identified.  Ironically, it was the one closest to his heart that had not been guessed.

"Any more guesses?" Mister Greer asked.  When no one said anything, the man turned to the subject of the conversation.  "Daniel, come on up here and write down on the chalkboard the language nobody guessed."

Feeling excruciatingly self-conscious, Daniel walked up to the front.  He picked up a piece of chalk and wrote "Egyptian Arabic" on the board, deciding to specify the dialect of Arabic he knew best, though he was familiar with some of the others as well.

The teacher smiled at him kindly.  "Thank you, Daniel.  You can go back to your seat now."  As soon as Daniel was seated, the man looked at the rest of the class.  "This should teach all of you a valuable lesson on not jumping to conclusions about people.  You all made assumptions about Daniel that were wrong, assumptions that, if you had bothered to get to know him, you'd have found out were wrong.  Unfortunately, some of the adults here at the school made the same assumption, and that's why Daniel was put in first grade by mistake."

"So how come he doesn't talk?" Barbara asked.  "Is there something wrong with his voice?"

'Please don't tell them.  Please don't tell them,' Daniel begged silently, his eyes tightly closed.

"The reason why Daniel doesn't talk is because of something that happened not very long ago.  It's a personal thing, and I don't have the right to tell you what it is.  Perhaps if any of you become Daniel's friend, and he learns to trust you, he'll tell you himself."

Mister Greer told everyone to get back to their schoolwork.  Daniel had a hard time concentrating on his and was only two-thirds of the way through when the bell rang.  He stayed at his seat as the other kids left.  He knew that a lot of them were staring at him, but he kept his head down.

He was just about to get up when Mister Greer sat down on the chair at the desk beside his, his large frame overflowing the child-size seat.

"So, do I owe you an apology?" he asked.

Confused, Daniel looked at him.

"I'm sorry if what I did embarrassed you or made you self-conscious, Daniel.  I'd like to tell you a little story.  When I was your age, I spoke with a stutter.  I was just as smart as every other kid in my class, but, because of the way I talked, they all thought I was stupid.  I eventually overcame the stutter.  After that, all the kids who'd called me dumb didn't call me that anymore.  But I never quite got over the effects of my fellow classmates cruelly teasing me and making an assumption they shouldn't have."

The man laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder.  "I know that you have a reason for not talking, Daniel, and I know that, when you feel that you are ready, you'll find your voice again.  Then you'll have lots of friends, and people will know that you are a bright boy.  But I couldn't let your classmates continue to believe that you were stupid.  I didn't want you to go through more weeks of teasing.  I know how much it can hurt.  That's why I did what I did.  Now that the other kids know some of the truth, perhaps you won't get teased quite so much."  Mister Greer smiled.  "So, am I forgiven?"

Daniel looked up into the warm brown eyes, thinking that Mister Greer really didn't look all that scary after all.  He gave the man a nod.

The teacher smiled more brightly and patted his shoulder.  "Good.  Now, you'd better hurry or you'll miss your bus.  If you didn't get that last assignment done, you can take it home and finish it."

Daniel rushed to his locker to get his backpack, then ran all the way to the bus.  He was among the last ones to get on.  The boy he sat next to was in his class.

"Can you really speak six languages?" the child asked shyly after the bus began to move.

Daniel nodded.

"Wow.  I bet the CIA would want you to translate things for them."

Taken completely by surprise by the comment, Daniel just blinked and stared at him.

Another boy sitting behind them leaned forward, resting his arms on the backrest.  "So, you're doing fourth and fifth grade work?"

Daniel nodded.

"Why don't they put you in the fourth grade, then?"

Daniel gave a shrug.

"It's probably because you can't talk.  They wouldn't want someone who doesn't talk in the fourth grade."

Daniel turned away from the boy and stared at his lap.

No one else talked to him on the ride, but Daniel was still very glad when it was over.  Mrs. Underwood asked him about how his day went, and he told her it was okay by writing it on the little pad attached to the refrigerator with a magnet.  He then went to his room and finished the schoolwork he'd brought home.  There in the privacy of his room, he got it done quickly.

It would still be a few hours before dinner, and he didn't have any chores to do, so Daniel decided that maybe he'd get started on his story.  He realized that he forgot to ask Mister Greer which word list to use.  He didn't want to wait until tomorrow, so he decided to use the one the teacher gave specifically to him and try to include as many of the words from the other list as well.

Daniel sat at his little desk for a while, pencil poised above paper, trying to come up with a story.  Finally, he had a rough 'plot' in mind and began writing.  He was still hard at it when he was called to dinner.  He went right back to it after the meal was over and he'd helped clear the table.

By the time he'd gone to bed that night, Daniel was satisfied with what he had so far.  He hoped that Mister Greer would like it when it was finished.

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