Freaks Like Me: Part IV

Freaks Like Me

Part IV

Our instructor guided us to a house not too far from the gate. It was in that brick colonial style, I didn’t think much of it, but the others seemed quite impressed. They all went in and I trailed at the back of the group. First thing however, I removed my shoes, shoes are evil.

The entrance was one long corridor with a staircase leading up, people split up and I decided to explore, see what was where. Aside from the kitchen’s equipment, the house felt a little lacking… The others didn’t see it that way however…

I saw people congregate around a corkboard in the kitchen and waited for them to leave before checking it out myself. Front and center was rooming assignment. There I was, room four with Drew Anders. I’d never had a roommate before, I couldn’t help a smile at the thought, but also felt that squiggly-wiggly feeling in my guts.

This was all so new, nothing was familiar here.

I grabbed the bags I’d left by the door and went upstairs, eight rooms were spread out each with a number on the door. There was also a bathroom and a second living room. Door number four however was already open. Inside I could feel someone, their enthusiasm and excitement was like a beacon in the dark.

I walked closer, “H- Hello? Is there someone here?” I asked. A few more steps and I saw there was a girl in the room, she was black, she looked pretty; she had brightly painted lips and long tight curls. She was unpacking her bags into the captain bed dresser and the nearby wardrobe.

She froze at my words, then turned around. “Hey! I’m Drew. You must be must be my roommate.”

I nodded. Wait, I had to answer that, didn’t I?

“Oh! Right, um, I’m Avery,” I said, that was good, I didn’t forget to introduce myself… I needed to say something else, something to keep the conversation going. “Are you excited to start learning? I am. It’s gonna be so cool!” My knee started bouncing, the excitement in the house was getting to me.

“I am too!” Drew answered. “I already have pretty good control over my abilities, but there’s so much more to learn. Do you have powers?”

“Y- Yeah.” I nodded again and put words together in my head, hopefully a coherent sentence would come out. “They’re not very cool, though. Nothing that can help in fighting, except maybe the telepathy. I can’t forget much, though. That’s fun most of the time.” That was bad, I was rambling. “What are your powers like?”

“That’s really cool! I’m pyrokinetic, which means I can manipulate fire and that kind of thing.” Drew turned to a candle that she must have set on the dresser before,  flicked her fingers toward it and the wick caught on fire. The melting wax let out scented oils, which smelled of coco and amber, it was gentle but it tickled my nose and eyes.

“Woah!” I muttered “That’s really neat. But, um, would you mind if the candle wasn’t going? Smells give me headaches sometimes, and it gets worse when I’m nervous.” I tried to smile, make sure she knew I wasn’t mad, but had to rub my eyes, they already stung.

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” Drew quickly put the lid on the candle and snuffed it. “Do you need a window open?”

I shook my head. “No thanks. I’ll be fine.” I said, there was a pause as I thought of words to say. “Thanks for agreeing, though. Maybe tomorrow we can try again. The smell is nice, for the record.” My smile stopped being forced, it was rare to have people go along with my sensitivities. I put my bags on the bed, my shoes at its foot and sat down. There was a second of silence. “I like your hair, by the way.”

That made her crack a slight smile, her brain signals switched from excitement and curiosity to being flattered.

“Oh, thank you. Yours is rather pretty too.” She said.

“Oh, thank you.” I didn’t like my hair, I’d had it dyed blue but when mom had seen it, she’d had dragged me back to the salon to be turned blonde again. Blue wasn’t a ‘proper’ color she said. Drew was looking at me, I’d gone quiet, so I shared my thoughts. “I need to dye it again. I don’t like it being blonde. What colour do you think would be nice?”

I flopped down on the bed and massaged my temple, my head was starting to buzz, this was a lot of talking…

“I don’t know,” Drew said, going back to unpacking, “Purple would look pretty cool.”

“Purple is definitely a good one.” I said, I’d done it temporarily with kool-aid before, mom hadn’t been too mad about that. “I’ve done it a few times, though. Maybe I’ll do a dark purple this time.”

She nodded and finished packing.

“Do you want to explore a little before I start unpacking? I don’t feel like doing that right now.” I offered.

“Yeah, sure! Sounds fun.” Drew said, she bent down and put on some high heeled boots.

“Can you actually walk in heels?” I asked, “I would fall on my face. Not good, not good at all.” I jumped off my bed, forgoing my shoes

“Yeah, I’ve had a lot of practice though.” She said with a laugh.

“That makes sense, I think. I do not like heels so I don’t get practice.” I answered, opening the door, holding it for Drew.

“Where to?” She asked.

I spun around, looking at everything, there wasn’t much upstairs.  “I’m not sure what there is, really. Maybe we should start downstairs?”

“Sure.” Drew answered with a smile.

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Freaks Like Me: Part III

Freaks Like Me

Part III

Planes are terrifying. It’s not that I’m scared of them, but imagine being stuck inside a metal tube with with hundreds of people and then having to feel every drop of anxiety, nausea, claustrophobia, and irritation from all of these people.

At least I didn’t have to touch any of them, thanks to mom upgrading my seat. The seven hour flight turned into a nightmare and when it finally ended I couldn’t move, shaking in my seat and crying.

One of the stewardesses came to me, talking gently. I could feel the compassion in her heart.

“I’ve never flown before… That wasn’t fun.”

“There’s no shame in that,” she said. “Flying is scary, especially the first time. There so many people, strange noises.”

I nodded and she offered me a hand to get up. “I don’t like touching people,” I said quietly, “sorry.”

She smiled and let me get up on my own.

“I need to get onto bus B-181.”

“Just walk across the gate, take a left and when you’re outside go right maybe fifty steps and you’ll see the sign.”

I nodded and followed her instructions, going through customs first. The bus was right where she said and I climbed on board. After a moment it drove down to a bus station, there I had to get onto a long distance bus.

It wasn’t hard to find the right ones, there were all sorts of people, some clearly mutants with physical anomalies. The air here was different from the plane and airport, there was excitement and anticipation in the air.

As most people went for the back seats first, I sat down near the front and watched people pass by until a girl stopped next to my seat. She had light-brown skin, short brown hair that reached her ears, and big and warm brown eyes. She looked quite young, maybe thirteen, that was the youngest Ravenhold accepted.

“Hi! I’m Lucy!” She said with a big grin. “Can I sit here?”

“Of course.” I said, nodding, hiding my hands in my sleeves to avoid touching her inadvertently.

She sat down and a dog-thing sat down in the aisles next to us. Although it looked like a german shepherd, the proportions were all wrong, it had long ape-like arms instead of front paws, it was too big and looked like it could walk upright…

“Oh, that’s mr. Kibbles, he’s my service puppy.” Lucy said. “He’s very nice.”

“I see.” I mumbled, I wasn’t sure what to make of Mr. Kibbles, animals couldn’t be mutants… Maybe Lucy’s power did something?

She giggles, probably used to the reaction. “You know, you didn’t introduce yourself.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m Avery. I’m from Edmonton, Canada.”

“I’m from Miami.” Lucy said. “Can you believe we’ll be Ravenhold students?”

“It’s sinking in.” I said with a laugh. Her enthusiasm was contagious – quite literally for me. “Are you a mutant? I’ve never met a mutant before!”

“I am.” Lucy said. “Just don’t ask me what my power is, I just know Mr. Kibbles is a good boy.” Mr. Kibbles let out a little affirmative yipp. “What about you?”

“Well, I don’t know how it’ll help as a superhero, but I’m a psychic.”

“Woooaaahhh. So you can read my thoughts?” She asked. There was none of the usual fear or revulsion people had…

“Well, unless I’m touching someone, just the ‘loud’ thoughts.” I said, putting loud in air quotes. “I can sense feelings.”

“What makes a thought loud?”

“It’s those with emotion behind them, like angry thoughts, afraid thoughts.”

“That’s still cool, you can be in bad guy’s heads! Know what they’ll do!”

“I guess I can be.”

“That’s way better than me, Mr Kibbles just does all the work.”

“Well, he looks strong. I’m not. What if a bad guy gets me? Mr. Kibbles can protect you.”

Lucy nodded. “Do you want to watch cartoons? I got the latest Steven Universe.”

I smiled. “Sure!”

She passed me an earbud and put the show on.

***

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, Lucy was shaking me. That flight had taken so much out of me.

“We’re there!” She said.

We filed out of the buses and joined a crowd assembling before the wrought iron gates, bearing the Raven crest of the school. A superhero in full costume came out to greet us, I didn’t know him – mom and dad had put parental lock on every superhero thing in the house. They didn’t like the glorification of violence, they said.

 

The hero gave us a speech welcoming us before dividing us in five groups by calling everyone down alphabetically.

“Lucy Abernathy, Class four.” The hero called.

“That’s me!” Lucy said. “Bye Avery!” She waved at me, smiling.

I waved back and waited for my turn, being in the G’s it took a moment. “Avery Gordon, class one.” My shoulder sank at my class assignment, Lucy was the closest thing to a friend I’d make in a long time but we weren’t together.

When all names were called there were sixteen of us in class one; most impressive of all, at least one of us wasn’t human! There was a Tzari among our group – their species had briefly invaded earth four years ago in 2012.

The one with us, I didn’t know their gender, was tall, really tall, like almost seven feet tall. Although they look human-ish, they were different; they had sort of a bone covering their nose, eyes like a cat’s, tusks coming out of their mouth, their hands were also covered in bones with ended in a sharp claw. Strangely enough, this one was wearing jeans and a Gryffindor tee-shirt. Their black hair was long enough to reach the middle of their back and held in braids.

But the Tzari wasn’t the only unusual person in our class; There was a black girl with pristine white wings her name I’d heard was Michelle, a bipedal wolf named Kayla, and another black girl, her name was Freyja, was actually pregnant!

It was so strange, aside from the first three we didn’t really look different. We were just teenagers, not freaks like my parents thoughts…

“Class One, please follow me to your assigned dorm!” A woman with glowing skin that softly went through all the colors of the rainbow said. She wore black clothing which shut down the light.

We started walking and I felt my heart beating. I was there, I was at Ravenhold and, most importantly, I was with my kind…

I wasn’t alone anymore.

God’s gonna cut you down: Part III

God’s gonna cut you down

Part III

Now that I was out on bail, there was something that I had to do. Something I’d neglected, or rather should I say someone.

I hate hospitals, nothing good ever comes from them. On top of that you can’t evade the smell of death and antiseptic or the sickly colors. A few people gave me looks as I walked through the halls of Huntsville Hospital, but I paid them no attention, all I could hear was my heart beating out of my chest.

Room 362, I’d just passed 350, I was almost there. The door was open, I stopped a few steps away and took deep breaths. How would she react, did she even know? Breathe, in and out, in… and out… in… out…

Okay. I stepped further and there she was, sitting on the bed, a paperback in hand. Her frizzy brown hair was held in a ponytail, her mild brown skin didn’t look as pale as when I’d first seen her.

I took one last breath.  “Hey, sunshine.” I said.

She turned around, “Penny?”

“That’s me alright.” I said, smiling. Despite the face I put on, my insides were squirming.

She threw her book and me and I dodged aside.

“You idiot!” She screamed.

“So you’ve heard…”

“Heard? Penny, the whole town’s heard about what you did!”

“Well, darn, so much for costumes.”

“Gee, let me think? You know, the mysterious redheaded old west gunslinger might just be the one redheaded cowgirl in town who runs a business making guns.”

“Touche,” I conceded.

One of the nurse came by. “Is there a problem?” He asked, eyeing me up suspiciously.

“Yes, she’s clearly lost her goddamn mind. Do you have a psych ward here?” Mina said.

“Sorry, just a little friend’s argument, I’ve gone and done something dumb.” I told the man.

He looked at me and stepped back. “I’ll be watching, you better calm down or I’ll have to call security.”

I nodded and looked back at Mina, still sitting in the bed. Of course she couldn’t walk no more… I stepped closer. “Mind if I sit?” I asked.

She nodded, I sat down and she wrapped her arms around me. “How could you do this, Penny? Do you have any idea how crazy and dangerous that was?” My heart beat so strong I thought it would burst out of my rib cage.

“I had to do something, they hurt you… and I almost lost someone I cared for to gangs again…”

“You could have died! I… I could have lost you… What if you go to jail, it’ll be because of me!” Her voice broke into sobs, “I don’t want to lose you Penny…”

“Well, I’m alive and I ain’t going to jail.” I answered.

“You’re lucky I don’t feel like punching you.” She grumbled. “What’s going to happen then?”

“Well, I may have been ever so slightly recruited into being a cape.” I said. “They want me to go to Ravenhold.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“‘Fraid not.”

She held onto me tight. “So I am going to lose you…”

I held her tight and ran a hand down her hair. “Hey, sunshine, you ain’t losing anyone. This ain’t jail, I can call, I can visit, I get vacations and all.” I kissed her forehead and held her for a moment, the both of us quiet. “Beside, it ain’t me you ought to worry, you ain’t out of here. How does it look?”

“They say I might regain some mobility, I’ll need a few years of physiotherapy, they doubt I’ll walk unassisted ever again…”

My jaw clenched. “Can’t they do something?”

“My pa’s insurance don’t cover no experimental stuff.” She said.

“That’s not fair… You were going national…” I mumbled, feeling my ears mist up. She’d almost done it, become queen of junior MMA… “Your dreams…”

“I’m already counting my blessings, I’m alive.” She said.

“But—”

“Everything will be okay Penny.” She interrupted me. “Life don’t always go according to plan.”

I shut up, bit my lip hard enough to taste blood. It was bullshit, she hadn’t deserved any of it, who deserve to be paralyzed from a stray bullet? And now they couldn’t fix her because of insurance bullcrap.

Someone had to do something… I had to do something… I was supposed to be gifted. “I have to fix you…” I mumbled. “If no one else can’t.”

“Pen—” Mina began but her words became frozen as my brain accelerated, going into the mindspace where hypertech happens. A million idea hit me all at once; gun slides, mechanism, chemical payloads, fiber reinforcement process— No, those ideas wasn’t what I needed, I tried to push them aside, I had to help Mina so I swam against the current of ideas.

A glimpse of an idea came but shattered, I tried to focus, there had to be something… But every idea just flew away, out of my grasp, I would start to think of something only for it to slip through my fingers like trying to catch water with your bare hands and—

“Penny!” Mina shouted and it rang through my head like gong. The world around me came back into focus, drawing me out of that endless well of ideas. “You’re bleeding for fuck’s sake.”

My head rang and I barely could register what she said, she reached around for tissues and without her support I just fell, sliding on the ground and hitting my head.

“Nurse!” Mina shouted.

Nothing made sense, there was blood, my head rang like an alarm clock, everything moved in slow motion. Blurs of powder blue came toward me, then I got in the air and onto a chair, I wasn’t sure how, but I did.

There were words or sounds said, then more powder blue, was that a person? It must have been a nurse… Yes, that’s what it was. I blinked and slowly everything came back into focus.

The nurse was wiping my face, blood was dripping from my ears and nose while my brain felt like it’d just been stabbed with a hundred needles.

“I’m fine.” I mumbled a few times.

“Can you get her over?” Mina asked and the nurse gave me a hand to walk. I stumbled down onto the hospital bed and Mina held me. “What the hell just happened?”

“I can’t fix you…” I cried, the tears just came out. “So much thoughts in this damn head and they’re all fucking useless!”

“Penny, it’s not your job to fix me…”

She held me and I cried my heart out… Why was I so fucking useless?

Kayla Origin

After two weeks of hiding locked in my lab, only taking the food trays left for me when I was sure no one was watching, I could finally look in the mirror and see the perfected me. The real me.

Sharp, pearly white teeth, a shapely snout, glistening gorgeous white fur. Damn, I look hot. With a confident nod to myself in the mirror, and after practicing a few expressions with my new face, I left my lab in search of my father.

He wasn’t hard to find. He was in his office, like always. I kicked down his door, bellowing, “Hi Dad!”

“Hello James, “ he responded calmly, not looking up from the report in his hand, “that new medicine took quite a while. I hope it’s perfect-” He glanced up at me and his report slipped out of his hand, his eyes widening. He sat there, frozen, then his lips started flapping as he stammered, “J-J-James? What did you do to yourself?”

I stepped into his office, throwing my hands out wide, “This is my form of transitioning.” I walked towards him and he pressed back against his chair. He’s afraid… good. “Oh I didn’t develop any new medicine cause I’m done being your perfect heir.” I pointed a claw at him. “And my name is Kayla. Remember it.” I turned and marched out of his office.

Step one of fucking over dad’s plans for me was complete.

And on to step two.

Once I was back in my room, I admired my new body in the mirror, posing, making faces, and feeling great. When I felt satisfied, I crawled into bed with my laptop. It was still open to the Ravenhold Academy application.

An hour later, I hit submit and step two was complete.

Freaks Like Me: Part II

Freaks Like Me

Part II

As promised, Mom and Dad had a conversation in the morning. I wasn’t supposed to hear but it was so loud I had no choice but to hear every bit of it from the next room over.

“Abigail, you can’t be serious!” I heard Dad shout.

“That’s what she wants.” Mom answered. “She’s a big girl.”

A knot formed in my tummy. I had never told anyone, but I don’t think I’m a girl… I’d been inside girls’ minds before, it wasn’t like mine. I don’t think I’m a boy either… I’m just me… Having a body is dumb and so much trouble, why can’t humans be shapeless people blobs?

“A big girl? She can’t even take care of herself, she won’t bathe herself for Christ’s sake.”

“She’s been getting better, if you spent time with her you’d know that she does it on her own now, she just need a little push and stability.”

“She’s a retard honey, she’s approaching fifteen but acts like a toddler—” Dad’s words hurt, like a stab through the heart. I curled up on my bed, driving my nails into my wrist. “She won’t talk about anything except books or computers, do you know how infuriating it is to try and have a conversation with her?.”

“One, she is not a retard, she’s a smart girl, she’s just… different.” Mom snapped; autistic was a bad word in this house, you don’t say bad words. “Two, if you hate her so much, then why do you want to keep her so close? Shouldn’t you be excited to send her away?”

Dad went quiet.

“I’ve already signed off her papers,” Mom declared. “I might not approve of her little superhero fantasy, she’ll probably beg to come back by the end of the month, but it’s what she wants and maybe it’ll do her some good.”

“Whatever.” I heard Dad’s footsteps leave the room and then go down the stairs, he was stomping his feet loudly.

Mom stayed in the room, I could feel how irritated she was, trying to keep her emotions under control. After a moment, she came to my room. “Avery, it’s time to get up.” She said softly.

“I’m up.”

“Did you hear us?”

I nodded.

She swore under her breath, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay… You don’t approve of me going to Ravenhold?”

“Superheroes are such American nonsense, putting on a costume and thinking one person can change the world, and fix problems,” Mom said, “It’s like their good guy with a gun narrative. Change happens at the social level, no amount of punching or lasers can ever fix crime or the issues that cause people to do bad things.”

“But we have superheroes in Canada too; the Toronto Justicars, Vancouver Vanguards or Team Canada.” I said.

“Yes, we regretfully have a few, nowhere near as much as the Americans thankfully, they’ve turned this whole parahuman thing into an absolute circus, capes are just ridiculous, they should just be quietly integrated into police force, not made into a spectacle and give these so called villains the attention they crave.”

“Then why let me go?”

“I’m hoping you’ll change your mind and grow out of it.” Mom said. “But this is what you want, and as a mother, I have to be supportive.”

“Thank you.”

Mom drew me closer into a hug and I froze, just going along with it. Our skin touched and I saw into her mind— No, that wasn’t accurate, I didn’t just see into her mind, I was her. Everything she felt, I felt; her regrets, her sadness. Her dream of having children, plural. How trying to stand up for me against Dad had driven a wedge between them, how they didn’t even have sex anymore. (yuck!)

I broke away from the hug, my head buzzed from processing two brain’s worth of feelings and thoughts.

“You didn’t have more children because of me, didn’t you?” I asked, or maybe said, sometimes I’m not good at tone.

“Avery!” Mom snapped. “You know you’re not supposed to read minds.”

“But Mom, I can’t help it when we touch directly.” I said, looking further away.

“Right, right,” she took a deep breath. “I did.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Mom said, I knew that wasn’t true. “If your father was different…” I didn’t need to read her mind to see the water in her eyes.

I hugged her, starting it myself this time. She tensed at the gesture, but ultimately returned it. “You don’t usually start the hugs.” She said softly.

“I don’t like touching people… But I love you mom, I’m sorry I’m not what you wish I was.”

She held me quietly for a minute, I made sure not to touch her skin directly, keeping our pajamas between us.

“So, breakfast?” She asked, letting go.

“I’m starving.”

“Egg in a basket?” She proposed, it’s what I always ate, it was so good.

“Of course.”

She ruffled my hair and I didn’t jerk away. “Get dressed.” She got up and took a few steps before speaking. “I love you, Avery.”

“I love you too Mom.”

***

For days Mom was frantic, running around the house, making sure I was packed, she made sure I saw my doctor and therapist one last time, she made me memorize dozens of scenarios, and what to do if just about anything happened.

It was kind of exhausting…

“Mom, we’ll be late.” I said as she repeated

“Right, we need to go.”

She pushed me toward the car, which she’d already packed. “Okay, what do you do if you get hurt?”

“See Doctor Sij, Mom we went over this, I have super memory.” I said.

“Well, it keeps me from panicking and turning the car around.” She said. “If you need help with your daily needs?”

“Ask the administration, they’ve already pre-approved a caretaker if I request one.” I answered. Mom had wanted me to have one, but I’d asked for the chance to try and take care of myself, I’d be embarrassing to have a caretaker…

We went back and forth until we reached Edmonton International Airport. Mom guided me through the terminal, doing all the talking. She only let me go when we reached the gate.

“Okay, okay, this is it.” She said.

“I’ll be okay. I have everything I need.” I said. “Except my ticket, you’re still holding it.”

“Right,” she handed it over. Mom had seen that the ticket Ravenhold provided me with be upgraded to business class, she thought it’d be better for me to have more space.

“I’ll be okay.”

“Goodbye Avery. Call— Okay, I know you don’t like phone calls, but text me at least?”

“I’ll try my best Mom.”

She sighed. “I love you.” She kissed my head. “Go now, don’t want to miss your flight.”

Another New Life: Part II

Another New Life

Part II

The door opened. The sound and suddenness of it sending a chill up my spine. I went invisible, curling in on myself. My arms ached as I hugged my knees to my chest. I bit the frayed denim at my knees as a blonde guy in loose clothes stepped into the room, followed by a very furry creature. A dog? Very different from dogs I’ve seen though. His green eyes swept over me unseeing and he made his way towards the other bed.

I was trapped.

Would he freak out if I  just suddenly became visible? Would he be mad? Would he hate me? Hurt me? Fear froze me to the bed as he dropped one of his bags and I teleported out of the room.

I stood outside of the room, heart pounding. With a deep breath I reentered the room.

“H-hi.” I forced a greeting through my teeth.

“Hi, I’m Ryland, are you Kioshi?”

I nodded. I couldn’t stand looking in his eyes anymore so I started to glance around. I’m being rude. “It’s nice to meet you.” I added, my heart still full of fear.

“Likewise,” he answered, turning back to unpacking.

I teleported back to my bed, sitting in seiza, trying to find something else to watch besides him. Don’t stare. Don’t be rude, you useless idiot. No matter how much I yelled at myself I couldn’t move my eyes from Ryland’s back.

He glanced over his shoulder at me then turned around , “I saw there’s pizza in the kitchen,” he said.

“I saw that too…” I didn’t deserve to eat without working, “I’m not hungry-” My stomach growled. I looked down, away from him.

“Maybe I could get some for you?”

I looked back up at him. Refusing would be rude, wouldn’t it? But I don’t deserve it. But I shouldn’t be rude. And I’m so hungry… I dug my fingernails into my upper arm, “That would be nice. Thank you.” I whispered.

“Well, I’ll be right back.”

He left the room, his dog following behind him.

My knees ached from sitting in seiza. I sat back against the walls, stretching out my legs.

Ryland returned sooner than I thought he would and I couldn’t get back into seiza before he saw me. “Is cheese okay?” He asked, “I wasn’t sure what to get you and it’s the only one I eat.”

I took the plate he handed me then backed up against the wall. I shouldn’t eat this, I don’t deserve it.Ryland sat on the other bed and took a bite of his pizza. I shouldn’t eat. But I’m hungry. And it smells so good. Hesitantly, I sniffed it and took the smallest of bites.

“Thank you.” I muttered to Ryland.

“Are you… okay?” he asked, “You look kind of on edge.”

I flinched, he hates me. I nodded.

He said nothing else and ate in silence. I ate bite after bite, feeling guilt filling my stomach.

“So… Where are you from? I’m from California.”

Jumping slightly as he broke the silence, I answered, “Japan. Kyoto.”

“Oh cool.” Once again it was quiet and I was trying not to stare.

Once Ryland finished, he left again with his dog and I was alone in the room. I finished the pizza and opened my backpack, pulling out a picture of me and the Phantoms.

***

After a rather long time, my thoughts were interrupted by Ryland bursting back into the room. He kicked the door shut and my heart jumped at the sound. He jumped at the sound. He jumped onto his bed, curling into a ball.

My shoulders rose and my face fell in startlement and worry. Is he okay? Should I ask him? Would he hate me if I did? Would he hate me if I didn’t? “Ryland, are you okay?” I asked, full of hesitance.

“No…” I could barely hear the answer.

“O-oh.” I didn’t know what else to do or say.

His dog joined him on the bed and he wrapped his arms around it. “I’ll be okay…” Ryland added.

Boss’s instructions floated into my mind. If the client is upset, then ask if they want to talk. Be a good listener but don’t pry and they’ll come back for you again and again.

“D-do you want to talk about it?” I offered.

“I don’t know…” Ryland sighed. “I just miss Gabe so much. He’s my boyfriend, or he was…”

“Was…?” Don’t pry. I shook my head and shrunk back against the wall. “No you don’t have to answer that! Forget I said anything!”

“He’s been in a coma since July…”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright… I think I’m going to bed, mind if I close the lights?”

Be good and courteous to every client. “G-go ahead.”

Ryland stood and flicked off the lights and darkness fell in the room.

God’s Gonna Cut You Down: Part II

Penny Origins: God’s gonna cut you down

Part II

It all began a decade ago—

***

“You’ve had a grudge against the Saints for a decade?” Partisan said, glaring at me. “Seeing as they’ve only formed three years ago, I find this hard to believe.”

“Shut up, my story.” I told her. “You’ve got to understand why.”

***

As I said, It all began a decade ago, when Pa was discharged from the military and for the first time in my life, we went back to my parent’s true home; Alabama. I’d grown up ‘round barracks an’ military life,

The first day at school was scary, back then, this gal was quite shy, scared of making friends and losing them. I stayed away from others, but that didn’t work out cause of Mina.

I remember the first thing she ever said to me at recess. “Why are you hiding all alone, that’s dumb.”

“You’re dumb!” Was the only thing this not so clever gal could think of. So she punched me. Then I punched her. Then we fought and the teachers pulled us apart and we got sent to detention while our parents got called.

“You hit hard.” I whined while we was in the principal’s office.

“Duh, I do martial arts.” She said, all haughty. “My uncle owns a gym.”

There was something about getting a black eye that awoke something in me, I wanted to beat her and darn it, I had to get better. Next monday, Pa signed me up at the same gym as her and we kind of become rivals, then slowly we started hanging out at school and at home.

You could say it was love at first punch. Mina was my firsts; my first real friend, my first love, my first heartbreak. She’s my alabama sunshine, and I almost lost her.

***

“Lost her?” Partisan arched a brow.

“She was wounded in a shooting a few weeks back.” I said. “Hit right in the spine, docs say she probably won’t ever walk again.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I have looked into your family history, you’ve lost your mother to gun violence have you?”

“Aye.” I answered. “‘Bout a year after we settled here, we was making french toasts, or at least we wanted to, but we was low on bread so ma put on her coat an’ went out… I never saw her again after that. Dumb junkie tried to rob the store, he and the owner fought an’ accidentally fired a shot right into my ma’s neck. She bled out before the ambulance got there…”

“I’m sorry.” Partisan said, she had this unyielding poker face, it was hard to judge if she was sincere or not. “Although pardon me if it’s insensitive, but how does one go from losing their mother to a shooting to running her own firearm store and going all old west gunslinger.”

“For a time, the sound of gunfire terrorized me, I’d start crying whenever I heard it. I’d have nightmares about what happened.” I said. “But Pa, he’s always had some interesting idea. One day, he brought me to a gun range. Told me that I could keep being afraid or I could master my fear.

First gun I ever held was a tiny .22 rifle, I was shaking when I took it on. Pa guided me how to aim and fire. Even now, I’m not sure how I felt after. Pa took me back every week, I got good, started competing too. Most importantly, pa taught me that guns can be used for good or ill.”

“Like shooting some gangsters?” Partisan said.

“I don’t regret what I did.” I answered. “I already lost someone to violence, almost lost a second. Someone had to stop ‘em and the cops weren’t.”

“And you had to do this dressed as a cowgirl because?”

“I’m a dork for spaghetti westerns.” I answered. “Plus the duster’s all ballistic fiber and ultra-light shock absorbent pads. I ain’t dumb, I prepared for it.”

“I’ve noticed.” She fumbled about her pocket and took out a round transparent capsule. “You made these?”

“Gel rounds.” I said. “Less-than-lethal, biodegradable.”

“Impressive, but why use those.”

“I don’t want to kill no one, not even dumb ass gangbangers, just wanted to put the fear of god in them.”

“Admirable.”

“They’re just young and dumb, don’t all deserve to die. Maybe they’ll wisen up and rethink their lives.”

“You have the Legion spirit.”

“Are you inviting me to join your little cape club?”

She laughed. “You have the spirit, doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right.”

“Well, darn. Guess I’d be a hard deal what with me probably going to juvie.”

She looked at me and I could almost see the grin on her face. “What makes you think I’d let you go to juvie.”

“Oh, where else would you have in mind?”

“What do you think of Maine?”

Other than lobster and clam chowder, the was one thing Maine was known for. Ravenhold Academy, the world’s premiere superhero school.

“Ma’am you may officially call me flattered.” I said. “You want to make a cape out of me?”

“It beats letting you rot in jail, beside you’ve already taken the first step.”

“Well Ma’am I reckon I couldn’t agree with you more.”

“Excellent.” Partisan said. “I’ll be in touch.”

Without another word, she left me in the interrogation room. Mustache and his friend guided me back to my cell and by morning I was out on bail. A letter awaited in the mail for me;

You’re leaving September 4th.
-P