There was simply too much going through my head to go back to sleep, so I stayed up. My name, my true name, was, if those figures could be trusted, Jamie. It wasn’t that bad of a name, so that was good. But still, those figures, they screamed it out in anger and pain. What happened? What did I do? Most importantly, what was the Dark Place? The last time, I assumed that I was dreaming, and that place was a representation of my mind. Now, I was sure that I wasn’t dreaming. This raised the question: if I wasn’t dreaming, then what was I doing?
I sat on the couch that morning dressed in my silly uniform, eating a grain bar, trying to comprehend what had just occurred overnight. I still didn’t feel good. I felt ‘icky’, and my stomach hurt, although I suspect that was either because my period finally decided to arrive, or because I punched myself in the stomach. Probably the latter.
I thought over everything as I waited to be picked up. The old lady hadn’t returned yet, so I wondered who would be taking me to school. I was hoping it was Lacey, because I didn’t know anybody else that knew me well enough and actually liked me. I hoped because I had some questions I wanted to ask her. Not about the Dark Place, but questions such what happened at Lhasa. I decided that before I went to class and was mocked for my lack of knowledge, I should find out what exactly happened at Lhasa. I knew enough from an old 1975 atlas that the old lady had that it was the capital city of Tibet, in China. But what exactly could happen in an isolated city such as Lhasa was beyond me.
If the old lady had any information on it, she hid it really well. I thought that maybe the television would have something about it, but I quickly realized that I had also forgotten how to work a flat screen TV. I literally stood in front of the television, completely clueless on which buttons to push, then proceeded to bang my head against the remote, giving me a headache.
In the midst of my thoughts, I heard the front door open and close. The old lady, or at least Lacey, I hoped, had arrived to take me to school. As much as I didn’t want to go back, I was looking forward to at least some sort of training to use my ability. I quickly threw my trash away and went to greet… Margaret? Oh fuck. It was Margaret, Lacey’s mother and the bitch that slapped me back during Thanksgiving dinner because I had the unfortunate luck of my telepathy emerging at that moment.
“We need to hurry, so where is your backpack,” her husband asked as he walked into the kitchen while his wife glared at me. I pointed to the bookbag that I had hidden underneath the table last night. “Do you have everything?” I nodded yes.
“Then what are you waiting for, let's go,” Margaret snapped in a demanding, rude tone. Yup, she still hated me. The husband seemed on edge from his wife’s tone, but he motioned me to hurry. I grabbed my bookbag, which had my gym clothes in it, and followed them to their car. Lacey wasn’t in the car, meaning it would just be Margaret, her husband whose name I didn’t remember, and me. To top it off, I was still feeling like crap.
Just like with the old lady, I was demoted to the backseat. For a while, we drove in silence, Margaret taking odd times to cast disapproving glances at me, making me feel uncomfortable about myself. Well, now was as good a time as any.
“Um… ma’am,” I started to say. Her husband glanced back at me from the mirror, but Margaret kept her eyes on the road, “It wasn’t really my fault…” I was hesitant to start. I didn’t really owe her an apology for anything. It wasn’t my fault that my ability decided at that moment to emerge and wreak havoc. “I had no idea that my ability would emerge at that moment, and I’m…”
“Just shut up, Bug,” Margaret finished, interrupting me. She didn’t even look back at me, she just kept her eyes straight, doing the opposite of what she had been doing the entire fucking ride! I was upset and angry. I was attempting to apologize, and she just blew me off.
“Why do you hate me?” I asked. Her husband tensed, as did Margaret. “Why…” I started to ask again but stopped. I hadn’t felt good all morning, since I fell out of bed. I felt my stomach heave and I knew I was going to throw up. The husband looked back at me and quickly realized the same thing I did.
“Crap. Find a bag. Find a bag! She’s going to puke!” Both started to panic, but did manage to find one and throw it back to me. Unfortunately for them, but sweet revenge for me against Margaret, they were a little bit too late.
When we arrived at the school, it was Margaret’s husband, whose name I finally remembered to be Eugene, who took me inside. We were a half hour late because I puked what little I had left in my stomach on the backseat, and Margaret was so angry that she couldn’t even stand being in my presence.
Once we were inside, Eugene explained our reasons for being late to Gare, but he told us to shut up. “I don’t care why she was late. All that matters is that she broke the rules, so take this worthless piece of shit back home. She doesn’t belong here!” he demanded.
Eugene was taken back by this. “Excuse me?” he asked Gare.
Gare simply stared him down. “You heard me. One infraction is one too many and I do not tolerate any infractions from any student. So I deemed, because of this, that Claire does not belong here. She has failed the trial run.” Fucking asshole, Gare had wanted me gone since he first met me.
Eugene slammed his hands down on Gare’s desk. “Bullshit. There are those in here that do far worse things and you turn a blind eye. I know exactly what you are doing, you racist pig!”
Gare’s anger boiled over and he looked ready to strike Eugene, but my anger reached a snapping point first, A WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT, HUH? WELL THEN, I’LL SHOW MY WORTH, YOU FUCKING ASS!” I wasn’t near any wall that I could punch, but I certainly could stomp my leg on the solid floor. Sure, it made me look like a little girl having a temper tantrum, but at that point, I’d been put through so much shit that I didn’t give a damn. I slammed my foot against the concrete floor. Immediately, the building shook as if a train had hit it going as fast as it could, and the lights flickered as dust rained down on us.
Gare took cover, fearful, but Eugene stood firm. “Now…” he started, “me and my wife have to be at my sister’s funeral in less than an hour. We do NOT have time to take Claire back to my mother’s house. She is staying here today. If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with my mother, when she comes to pick up the girl later today, or Galen. You choose.” I watched as Eugene stood up for me and put Gare in his place. Gare may have been military (at least I thought that was what he was), but he was no match for my new hero.
Gare considered his options, then wrote something down on a piece of paper. “Here’s a pass to class. Now get going!” he ordered, clearly embarrassed. Once outside the office and in a hallway full of students who were trying to figure out what had caused the building to shake, I gave Eugene a hug, to thank him for helping me.
“You’re very welcome,” he said, clearly guessing why I was hugging him. “Don’t worry about Gare. He may act tough, but he’s really a pitiful coward. His true self clearly showed itself when you proved who was more powerful.” That made me feel very happy. I was finally able to prove myself here, even if I was throwing a temper tantrum. “And don’t worry about my wife,” he finished.
“Oh?” I was surprised that he brought her up.
“It just that she’s never been the same since our son was killed. It takes her a lot longer to warm up to people. Don’t worry, she will warm up to you at some point. It may just require Lacey knocking some sense into her.” He laughed at his own joke about his daughter, but his face told me that he didn’t really believe his own words. “Now, you better get to class. My mother will be here in the evening to get you.”
I took his word and headed off to my first class, waving to him as he left. Strange that he never brought up the fact that I puked in his car. But at least I knew who Lacey took after the most. Her father.
Gare must've passed the word, because today my classes were worse than the last time. The professors took every opportunity to belittle me, and every mistake I made, they laughed at. They found my inability to use this ‘iPad’ to be hilarious. I flushed with shame. It wasn’t my fault I didn't have my memories. I was so sure that I’d known at one point, but my stupid amnesia robbed me of so many things. And of course, what bad day would be complete without a run in with Greg, Frank’s perverted grandson. Seriously, when I was heading to the lunchroom, he knocked me on my ass AGAIN, and spent nearly the entire time that his friends were yelling at me staring at my chest. I knew I didn’t having anything outright special, but it didn’t matter. It made me feel very uncomfortable and I wished that I had something in my stomach so I could puke on him. But I became very afraid when his eyes moved from my chest to my groin.
“I never noticed this before, but you are very pretty, Cutter. How about you and I sneak away and ‘do it’.” He began to drool, literally. This guy was obviously a sick bastard. But his friends agreed, patting him on the back, congrating him as if it was a done deal. As if I was some prize. How dare they think of me like that!?!
Suddenly, my fear turned into anger. My body was for me and me only, not for this insane kid undressing me with his eyes. “No!” I outright yelled at him. He and his friends became angry at me, but I didn’t care, I didn’t want anything to do with Greg. He’d only known me for a few hours and already he wanted to have sex with me. Sure, I had amnesia, but I wasn't stupid. I knew what Greg was. A deranged, perverted, sick, evil bastard.
“How dare you speak to us without permission!” Greg screamed at me, reminding me of Gare’s ‘rules’. How dare I? Okay, you little sicko, I’ve had enough of you.
“Watch me,” I said, and I finally did what I should have done a long time ago. This might get me kicked out, but I was so done with this sick pervert. Right then and with his friends watching, I took both of my legs and kicked as hard as I could in his groin. Immediately he fell to the ground in pain. I was disappointed that my ability didn’t emerge. I would have loved to see his balls get sent flying through the roof, but I guess I could settle for second best.
His friends set upon me as fast as I stood up, but right now, I was feeling empowered. This feeling was new, and I liked it. I was finally standing up to that asshole. “You will pay for that,” his friend yelled, and took a swing at me. Now this guy was huge, even bigger than Greg, but it didn’t matter. I took a gamble and moved my hand to meet his fist. And it worked; I stopped his punch. I didn’t even feel the impact. Then Greg recovered enough to take his own punch at me. I knew what his strength was, but it didn’t matter. I blocked his punch with my other hand. I clenched my fists down on their hands, forcing the two to fall down onto their knees.
Both the girl and Greg’s guy friend became fearful, as well as the high school onlookers as they realized along with me that I was more powerful than them. That my tiny body held great power. “How… how…” the guy tried to say. In response, I simply shrugged. Now, while this guy was afraid, Greg wasn’t. His face was full of rage, and I saw something in his eyes. An evil that despite everything, I still feared. So I let go of them and skipped to lunch, with Greg’s eyes boring into my back. Even if I’d won that fight, I was still afraid of what he would do to me. Also, I was worried about what Frank might do if he found me.
At lunch, the boy with the strange accent struck up a conversation with me, and I finally learned what his name was. It was Dhruv. “So, Claire, I see that you are still struggling with that iPad. At least you didn’t break it this time.”
“Don’t remind me…” I said as I stirred my soup, my thoughts on Greg, my abilities, but most importantly, on the Dark Place.
“Here, let’s fix that,” a girl sitting next to me said, pulling out her own iPad. “Let me re-teach you how to use it.” In that one sentence, this girl was doing more than any teacher i’d had, so I enthusiastically agreed. I learned that the girl’s name was Sybil; she taught me how to use the basic functions of the iPad. Not enough to be an absolute master of the device, but enough to keep up with my classmates.
“So, Claire, would you happen to know who was responsible for our little earthquake this morning?” Dhruv asked me while Sybil taught me the ropes to her device. I gave him a sheepish smile, pretty sure he already knew it was me. “Word travels very fast here, so I heard that you went up against Greg.”
Suddenly, every one of the test run students, including Sybil, stopped eating and stared at me in shock. “You went up against Greg, leader of the Destructors?” she asked.
“Uh… yeah?” I remembered my little fight with Greg earlier.
“Oh man, he hates being beaten at anything. He and his gang will stop at nothing to get revenge for anything,” another kid said, showing a hint of fear.
“Yeah, those Destructors dudes are messed up. Next to Gare, Greg is the most powerful guy in this school, and the runner-ups fill all the top ranks.”
Okay, I was confused. “Who are the Destructors?”
It took a second for everybody to remember that I had amnesia and it was very likely that the Destructors fell under that do-not-remember category. Sybil ended up being the one to tell me who they were. “Well, the Destructors are a superhuman gang that runs free in Harrisonburg. They terrorize non-superhuman and superhuman folk everywhere, and since Greg possesses the most powerful ability here at this school and Gare refuses to do anything to stop them, the local cops have tried without success to put a stop to them. So far, it's only making it worse.”
“What kind of ability does he have?” I asked. Sybil took a second to remember, but Dhruv spoke up before Sybil was ready.
“He has what is known as Movement Direction. His ability allows him to change the direction and speed of an object just by touch. While it is a level 3, its capabilities put it above the other level 3s here.”
Dhruv seemed to know a bit too much. “How do you know this? You have only been here for a day,” I inquired.
“Everybody knows Greg,” another girl said. “Everybody knows him because the Destructors live up to their name. Greg especially thinks he is so untouchable that he believes he can get away with anything.” That made sense. He wanted to have sex with me, and became pissed when I refused him. Or did he get pissed because I kicked him in the groin? Hard to tell.
One of the normal middle school students wandered up to our table. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.” This student glared down at me, and I felt an urge to shrink away. “You better watch your ass. He has what he calls his ‘signature move’. He pushes his ability to its limit and kicks a ball at you.” Several of us couldn’t help but giggle. “It's no laughing matter. Regardless of how silly it sounds, it has put many kids in the hospital for months at a time, the worst being a year. There are even rumors that Greg has killed someone using his ‘signature move’. Since you showed him up in a fist fight, you can bet your life that he will use it against you, Claire. You may have been one of the few who blocked his punch, but you will never be able to block that kick. No one has.”
When the kid left, no one talked. It was silent for the rest of lunch. I guess we all thought the same thing. What was going to happen when I ran into Greg again?
It was finally gym class. Sure, changing into my gym clothes with a bunch of girls was a little discomforting, but my excitement couldn’t be contained. Another student did downplay what was going to happen in terms of ability training, but still, it was something. Something other than the old lady, and by now, I didn’t feel sick, so I could put my full attention into the lesson. Another good thing: Sybil was in this class, so at least I could have a friend for support.
“Sybil, I never asked. What is your ability?”
“Oh, I have a technology based ability. It's quite weak, only a level 2. What about you, Claire?”
“To be honest I do… oh, shit.” My eyes came to rest on the gym teacher, and it was none other than Frank himself. A wave of emotions overcame me and I wanted to run. Run far, far away from this school. But before I could even move a muscle, Frank caught me, and he smiled. Not a good, welcoming smile, but a devious, angry smile. To make matters worse, Greg stepped out from behind him. Grandson and grandfather, together, against me. This day was a complete setup.
“Something wrong, Claire?” Sybil asked, but then gasped when she saw who I was looking at. “Oh, shit.”
“No kidding,” I agreed with her. I was in deep shit.
“Well… well… well, look who it is.” Frank walked up to me, the other students stepping far away from him. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who’d had a run in with him. “It's the girl that killed my cattle, broke my door, caused me to land in cow dung, and now, deeply embarrassed my grandson.” Leaning down close to me and grabbing my shirt, pulling me close, he said: “You may have gotten away with your crimes at my farm, but you are certainly not going to get away with what you did to my grandson and his friend.” He looked down at my exposed arms, noting the fading scars on them. “Nice scars,” he said rather loudly, then threw me to the floor, walking away laughing, obvious pleased with himself.
Sybil helped me up. “What’s his problem?” She obviously hadn’t heard what Frank had first said, but she did hear about the scars, because that was what she was looking at when she helped me up. “I’m guessing those came from before the accident that took your memory?”
“Yeah.” I really did want to know how I got the injuries I had when I woke up on that farm. Everything else had healed, except for the scars on my arms. “Let’s just get started with this class,” I said while looking over at the other students, who’d all heard Frank’s final words and were giggling. Great, now everybody is going to call me ‘Cutter’.
We all did a warm up, three laps in the gym, which I obviously excelled in, before lining up. I was dismayed that this class was going to be taught by Frank and I no longer wanted to learn how to use my ability, not if Frank was the one teaching it. “Okay, students, I know that ability training is scheduled for today, but since we have a longer class today, lets play a game of kickball with the high schoolers to warm up.” Everybody cheered, everybody except me and Sybil. We knew what was going to happen. It was all a setup.
As the high schoolers filed in, I noted that Greg’s ‘girlfriend’ and the other guy who’d tried to punch me were among them. The girl caught my eye and smirked, clearly knowing what was about to unfold, but the guy, he saw me, but he couldn’t look me in eye. His face looked heavy, and he appeared nervous. Was he afraid of me?
“Alright. It will be high schoolers vs middle schoolers. Normal rules apply. Do not use your abilities.” Frank listed, but I caught it. He quickly glanced at his grandson and winked. Well, luckily for me, I had very little control over my abilities. However, I didn’t actually have a power that could stop a ball kicked by a guy who had put people in the hospital for months at a time doing the same thing. Sure, I could stop a punch, but stopping something that had put a kid in the hospital for a year? I wasn’t so sure.
To my relief, we got to kick first which meant I wouldn’t have to face Greg just yet, but my relief was soon shattered when Frank had me kick first. I was nervous and tried to back away, but one of the students pushed me into position to kick the ball. “Uh, what do I do if I kick the ball?” I quietly whispered to Sybil as I waited.
“You run to the first base over there, then to the second, then third, and so on.” She pointed to each corner of the gym. Okay, it made some sense.
“Get ready,” Frank sneered at me. He really hated me, and would do his damn best to make me miss the kick and embarrass myself in front of the students, adding to my misery. Well, not today. I was determined to not miss. Frank rolled the ball at me, in a way that would make it difficult to kick. He must’ve had an ability, but it didn’t matter. I watched the ball and calculated where it would end up. When it reached a point, I moved and with all the force I could muster, my foot made contact with the ball.
Well, my ability didn’t emerge, but it didn’t matter like before. The ball was sent flying, bouncing off the wall, while I ran for first base. Now, I’m pretty sure that when you want to get someone out in this kind of game, you have to throw the ball at someone. Well, instead of getting a ball thrown at me, I was tackled to the ground by Greg’s ‘girlfriend’. It hurt just as much as getting body slammed by Greg and I got the wind knocked out of me.
“Claire!” Sybil yelled, running over to me and throwing the girl off, “Are you okay?”
“You’re out!” Frank yelled. “Now, get back in line before I send you to Gare’s office!”
I coughed a few times, trying to get air back in my lungs. “I’m okay. Nothing is broken. Just help me up,” I asked Sybil. She didn’t hesitate. Quickly lifting me to my feet, we both slowly made our way to the back of the line of middle schools. After me, the next two people were struck out and we switched, the high schoolers now kicking. I was still feeling winded, so Sybil helped me to a spot in the gym that we could avoid the kickball.
Sybil sighed. “I swear these people have it out for you.”
I concurred. “Yeah, they do. If I’m being honest, it’s bad enough that I don’t want to come back here tomorrow.”
“You have to if you want to come here,” Sybil reminded me.
I shook my head. “Considering my past with Frank and his perverted-ass grandson, not to mention how the other students and teachers treat me, this isn’t a good place for me to be.”
Sybil was silent for a second. “Well, where else would you go? There aren’t many schools out there that are willing to take superhuman kids. We are not that well liked anymore, because, well, you know, the war.” Actually, I didn’t. “To tell you the truth, Claire, because there are so few of us left, there might not even be anything for us in the coming years. The school may soon disappear, along with the level 4s.”
Wait, what? Stepping to face her, I asked: “What about the level 4s?”
Sybil gave me a sad look. “So, you don’t even remember that, do you? Well, the level 4s are the verge of extinction. Less than ten remain worldwide…” Suddenly, she stopped talking and became very afraid. “Oh my god, he’s doing it. Claire, MOVE!” she yelled. I realized right then that I had made the stupid mistake of turning my back on Greg, who must ahve been up to kick. I turned just in time to see the ball flying full force right at my head.
Greg couldn’t believe that a middle schooler had stood up to him like that. Sure, there were several that had earned his respect, but this girl, this tiny, worthless piece of shit who was no good to anybody except for sex, had the nerve to kick him in the groin and then stand up to Eddie and himself when they sought to give her the just punishment she deserved for rejecting his advances and for humiliating them.
He’d wanted to march full force into that cafeteria with his gang, but his grandfather had urged for him to wait until gym class. He too had a bone to pick with the girl, who’d managed to escape punishment for what she did to their house. This made planning it so much easier, and it would all end with the girl getting crushed by his signature move.
Gym class came fast, and he laughed when he watched his grandfather confront the girl immediately after she walked into the gym. He knew that this plan would work, that she would soon get what she deserved. But Eddie was unsure and refused to be a part of it. He would participate with the activities, but he would do nothing harmful toward the girl. “When I made contact with her, I saw something,” Eddie had told him and Kelsey after stepping into an empty classroom. However, even after he was pressured into revealing what he saw, he only told them that it was some dark place. After that, Eddie refused to be part of anything that involved the girl in any way. He was done, but he did warn Greg and Kelsey to stay away from her, as there was something strange about her abilities.
But Greg, leader of the Destructors, didn’t care. His so-called friend, Eddie, was a coward. This girl was at least a three, but it didn’t matter. His own power was unrivaled by anybody except Gare, and Gare did everything to support him in his crusade to make mankind once again respect and fear the superhumans. This girl was nothing but a bug to him and he would soon put her in her place, so once his turn to kick came up, his grandfather nodded to him, motioning to get ready. He looked around and found support from his teammates. He noted with glee that the girl had turned her back and wasn’t paying attention.
It was time. His grandfather rolled the ball and immediately ducked. Greg felt his ability charge up and direct the necessary energy into his leg. He was going to make this one of his most powerful kicks ever. The ball rolled, he kicked, the energy transferred from his leg to the ball and it was off, its trajectory putting it right at the girl’s head. This became even better when another girl yelled for the worthless cutter to move. And she did. She turned her head, her face now in the path of the ball seconds before impact, making his and his grandfather’s revenge so much sweeter.
I turned around, the ball seconds from my face. I couldn’t move and I watched as the ball… hit Greg right smack in the face, himself getting blown off his feet and blown into the wall by the force of the impact, before continuously sliding down onto the floor, his face bloodied and broken. It took a few moments for everybody, including me, to realize what had just happened. I had just redirected Greg power back at him. A ‘move’ that people said has never been blocked, that had put kids in the hospital for months at a time, was effortlessly redirected by me, and sent flying back at Greg.
Frank ran to his grandson’s side, but all the middle school students looked at me. They were shocked, to say the least, but most importantly, they seemed scared. Looking over at Sybil, even she was nervous. “What just happened?” she finally asked me.
“I… I… don’t… I don’t know,” I looked down at my hands. But for what reason? They had nothing to do with what happened. That ball was blocked and redirected with the same force that Greg kicked it, inches from my head, in midair. There wasn’t any physical contact.
Suddenly, a relatively small high school student came running at me with a bat screaming out, “You’ll pay for hurting Greg!” He must have been part of that gang, because no student went to block him. He reached me and swung the bat as hard as he could at me, but the same thing happened. It hit something, but that something wasn’t me, rather something a few inches from me. It hit, a sound was produced, then the kid was sent flying backwards with the force of the bat being redirected. Another kid, a large high schooler, attempted to punch me, but again, he hit something that wasn’t me but produced obviously by my ability. He stumbled as the force of his punch flowed back into his hand, then fell to the ground. He looked up at me. “That’s impossible,” he managed to squeak out.
“Oh, shit, he needs to get to hospital. Somebody call 911 NOW!” Frank suddenly yelled out. He then turned to me. “I swear you’ll pay for this, you worthless piece of SHIT!”
Everybody seemed to agree with him, all stepping away from me. Well, everybody except Sybil, but she kept her distance. Tears openly streaming down my face, I felt the urge to run away. I turned to run, only to see Gare in the doorway, with some old short guy, and none other than the Old Lady. It was apparent that they had witnessed the entire thing.
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