I was eight years old when the world decided I was a lost cause. Everyone else in my class had already manifested their aberrations, every single student, except for me. Even the sickly Ignatius Thistle, who was absent five days out of seven for dizziness and weak lungs, had manifested a few weeks ago. He had a rare gift, transferable regeneration, and was not only able to cure his elderly neighbor of skin cancer, but his weak lungs as well. However, he is still frequently absent, dedicating the majority of his time in the terminal ward of nearby hospitals. Devoting the rest of his life to care for and cure ill patients. He was the closest person I have to a friend, and sometimes I wish he would come to school more often, but I could never ask him to limit his time at the hospitals. Besides, we have hardly spoken to each other before, it would be too selfish.
My mother was my most resilient supporter through the years, always reminding me that her manifestation was not until three years after every other girl she knew. My grandmother had all but given up on her, she would remind me, up until her seventh birthday party when she blew the candles so hard it broke every window in the house. But when my seventh year came and went, her smile was numbered, waning each month until there was nothing left.
“You are just a late bloomer,” she would tell me, “just like me.”
She was kindhearted by nature, but even her seemingly endless faith had to cease at some point, and it seemed that time was now. Like a kettle overflowing on a hot burner, I could no longer ignore the signals.
There had never been a recorded case of manifestation occurring after eight years of age. In a recent statistical review, funded by BAM (the Board of Aberration and Manifestation), it was reported that less than ten percent of the population registered as void of an oddity. A diminutive margin that included those who had lost their aberration due to old age and or medical means. As well as those whose skill was below a recognizable level, such as increased muscle fibers or brain cognitivity. But despite the broad categories I could have landed in, I was unqualified for them all. My name was dropped into the smallest percentile, below two percent to be exact, a naturally born depravity. I had no aberration at all.
These facts and more were mailed to our house in a crisp, yellowish paper package on the twelfth of October, my eighth birthday. Despite my growing inklings, I was still caught off guard when my mother burst through my bedroom door, tears pouring down her face and neck. Her voice was choking out my name as she ran to my side. I did not know how to react to the abrupt onslaught of anguish, especially from the soul who had always cheered me on. I sat as still as cut marble and waited for her to calm down. She held me close and ran her trembling fingers through my hair, chanting a chorus of apologies.
I wanted to tell her that it was not her fault that I was a depravity, and to reassure her that I was fine. But my mouth would not open, an hour had passed, and I said nothing. My mind was too busy to function, replaying the past eight years of my life like a poorly funded, musicless video. Images flashing around in my brain of all of the times I had stood with my chest puffed out and chin skyward. The daily pain I suffered from craning my neck too far and for too long. Trying to eavesdrop on my classmate’s conversations about how it felt to fly or to breathe underwater. How many times had I envisioned myself in their shoes? How many hours did I spend daydreaming of this power I would surely soon be bestowed?
Every lunch period I would close my eyes tight and imagine myself on the top of the tallest building in the city, watching the birds fly by. And with a crinkle of my nose I would soar off with my arms out stretched, ready to embrace the world. Landing only for a moment to save a wayward cat from a busy intersection or to stop a speeding train from running off an unfinished bridge.
But this eight and a half by eleven inch paper, warping in my clammy hands, is an empty pistol. All of its ammunition released the moment I unwrapped the blood red string and rendering me motionless, possibly dead on the scene. My mind flutters over Ignatius for a moment, a fleeting thought that perhaps this was a disease, and with a few short treatments I could be cured. I knew I am grasping at invisible strings, but reality is a harder concept for me to understand at the moment.
That night I counted every crack in my ceiling, 847 if I included the small bump left to the light, and I imagined they were people. Each one in trouble and calling out for me to save them from a one perilous danger or another. The last memory I had that night was of my bedside clock flashing at three in the morning and how the the darkness seemed to be encasing me like a blackhole.
The next morning my parents were both awake and baking in the kitchen. I can tell from the scent of burning pancakes wafting in the air and the slight smog stinging my eyes. The table, the granite counter top and the center island were all covered in a collage of breakfast food and desserts.
“You’re up early today, honey,” my mother cheered, plucking up the spatula from the skillet and posing for a moment.
“It was the tantalizing smell of my cooking wasn’t it?”
How could I not smile at that?
“Yeah, Mom, it smells great,” I laughed, patting down my morning hair and grabbing a seat at the island. “So what’s up with all this food?”
“Well...with all that happened yesterday we never had a chance to celebrate your birthday,” she smiled warmly at me, ignoring the pause she took and started grabbing all sorts of dishes and piling it all on a plate. After the mountain was safely packed and stable she placed the plate in front of me and started crafting another for my father.
“She’s right,” my father started, ignoring the pile set before him. “I know that you are upset about -”
“I’m not upset, Dad,” I cut in innocently.
“Wait until I am finished, please,” he said in a serious tone, demanding my full attention. “I know you are upset, but despite what label they put on you, it does not lower your value as a human,” he had barely blinked and my eyes were trapped. “Aberrations are not a deciding factor for who you are and who you will be,” he continued, as resolved as a mortician. I wondered for a moment if I was still in my bed dreaming. The amount of food was curious, but never in my life had I seen my father so stoic.
“Phil,” my mother warned, her spatula aimed and ready to strike.
“This is important, Claire. I can’t just sugar-coat it,” he was so calm, so collected. How long had he been preparing for this moment? How many times had he practiced this speech?
“Dad, I’m alright, really,” I said in half truth. I was able to get out of my bed this morning, that was true, but it did not diminish the fact that I was walking around with eight or nine bullet holes to the chest.
My mother and father exchanged a look and I knew that I had said too much. But instead of pleading them to believe me, I started eating. Stuffing my mouth full of chocolate chip banana pancakes until my cheeks were puffed out like a chipmunk. I raised my head and smiled at my parents, syrup dripping from my tightly sealed lips.
“Mm-ovf-ooo,” I muffled to them before painfully swallowing the sugary mess I had stored.
“We love you, too,” my mother said, giving me a quick hug before walking over to the fridge and grabbing the milk and a glass.
My father seemed satisfied for now, but still his mouth was pursed in thought, possibly tip toeing on whether or not to continue his speech. In the end he grabbed a slice of bacon and stood up from the table, walking over to the window.
“It’s a warm day out,” he commented, lifting his palm to the largest light beam and spread out his fingers in a fluid motion. A flame sprung from amidst the rays and danced around his digits, circling downward toward his knuckles and then to his wrist, only to vanish into the air. “The traffic is going to be Hell, I just know it.”
“Why don’t you stay home today, sweetie,” my mother chimmed. I thought she was speaking to my father, but her head then turned in my direction. I placed my fork down and quickly jumped out of my chair.
“I can’t, Mom. I have a big test today and if I miss it I will have to stay after school tomorrow to make it up. I’d rather just get it done,” I say running over to my backpack and then to the front door.
“Oh, okay then,” she seemed a little hurt by my immediate answer, but I could not stay home today. I needed to get out and breathe.
“Remember what I said,” my father called from the window, a cool breeze brushing past him.
“I will, Dad. Goodbye,” I called out, gently opening the door and stepping out into the inviting air.
“Have fun,” she hollered.
School had never been fun, but I promised her I would anyway.
We lived a few short streets away from the brick building they called ‘Rogers Junior High School’, and I was glad I was able to walk to it every morning. Once in a while I needed the fifteen minutes to clear my head and prepare me for the day and today was definitely one of those days.
The street was still asleep beneath the orange sky, my only companion a forgotten pink tricycle in the Ander’s yard. Maybe the owner had left it there overnight, after rushing inside at the call of dinner Or maybe she was ignoring it, her mind set on the newest model coming out next week. I felt unsatisfied with either answer, so I kept walking, and put my mind on something else.
“I wonder what we will learn in class today?” I said under my breath, my eyes skipping around the trees and following a leaf in its descent to the cement ground.
After the first corner the city was thrumming, cars lined up in the early morning traffic, and students slowly making their ways through the streets. The metallic chirping of electronic walking signals drowning out the chickadees and allowing the annoyed pedestrians to enter the crosswalk.
I ran to catch the heard, but my feet were not cooperating and I was too late. The speeding cars forcing me to wait until the synthetic birds would once again allow me a chance to cross. I slumped my exhausted body against the steel post and watched the stream of colors pass by.
My ears rang from the intensity of the shout in my ear, a blur rushing past me throwing me off balance. I stumbled from my position against the pole and wobbled in search of my feet. Voices and screams flooded the streets, pointing and staring in my direction. I turned in a circle, my eyes searching for the source of this unforeseen, rapid terror.
“Oh my God! Someone stop him!”
“Quick, help him!”
“Someone do something! Where are the police?”
A crowd had materialized around me, sucking me into its depths before I had time to blink. Where had these people come from so soon? Why are they here? What is happening?
I stretched my neck over the crowds and pushed through a blockade of backpacks and briefcases to get a better look.
A circle had formed around a man, he was hunched over something, deep brown stains covering much of his blue suit. I crammed my body out of the whimpering bodies and stood on the inner rim, watching the man bare his teeth and growl. The two twisting horns on his head giving him the appearance of a mad bull, rearing its head to charge. But he did not move from the center, his body covering another figure which seemed limp in his arms.
The people behind me were shaking where they stood, a few running off and throwing themselves between the racing traffic. I swallowed the accumulated spit in the back of my mouth and made my body still, never breaking the sight I had on the frenzied bull-man.
“Police,” a man shouted from behind me, “Police! Police! Police! Police!”
“What are you doing?!”
Blood red eyes locked onto the shrill voice, his nostrils flaring as he bellowed, scrapping his freshly shined leather shoes on the concrete. He turned away from the body at his feet and dropped onto his hands and feet, his pristine navy tie fluttering in the dust and gravel. With a stomach curdling roar the beast charged at the crowd, his mad eyes swiveling as they tracked down the high-pitched screamer amongst the other nonsensical vocalists.
“Where are the police?” I thought as I watched the crowd fan out, leaving one soul behind quivering and bruised from the stampede. “Where are the fire breathers and ice mages?” The bull-man reared back, his head lowered, bone-like horns gleaming in the sun rays. This would only take a few seconds, a few seconds and another would be killed, I could feel it.
My eyes flickered from the torn and bloody woman the creature had left and then to the trembling man now five feet from his merciless hands.
“H-help,” the man squeaked, tears flowing freely from his eyes.
“Rrrrrrrrraaaaahhh,” the beast sprang forward, gasoline lit candles burning in his eyes.
“Ouch! My knees are on fire,” I thought with a grimace, “So are my hands and my head.” I rolled off of my knees and hands and pried open my eyes, feeling the world spin around me. I brought my hands into my vision and watched them split into three copies, each interlocking with the others. They felt like they were on fire, but there was not a scratch to be seen. Slowly I dropped them onto my chest and frowned at the wet slap the action caused.
“Warm?” I coughed, feeling an equally heated river being pushed up my throat. “I hate throwing up,” I thought in a daze.
“Where are the police?!”
“Quick! Call an ambulance!”
“Why are you all so far away?” I whispered as my head lolled to the side. I tried to pick it back up, but I could not feel a connection to the rest of my body. My pupils flickering to the sky, hoping to see the sun again. “Where are you?”
My eyelids wouldn’t close, and I mutely wondered why I couldn’t blink.
“Are you okay?” I heard a voice loudly ask in my ear. I did not pay it much mind, the sight of rushing feet and cars was too distracting. The blurs intertwining and fusing into the flashes of blue, red and white.
“Dear Lord, what happened?”
“We are not sure yet, Sir. Please stand back,” The voice was clear cut, but it sounded nice. It reminded me of my mother.
I felt my body being lifted into the air, my eyes finally able to look at the yellowing atmosphere above the peaks of the skyscrapers.
“Is he going to be okay?”
“We are not sure. Please, step back.”
“He saved my life! Please, can I ride with him? Please!”
“Okay, but stay clear of the EMTs while they work.”
It was cold and I wanted the warmth from before back.Where did it go?
“Where?” I asked as the skies were painted white.
“Hey, um-I, you’re in an ambulance,” someone to my right said, but I could not turn to see who it was and I did not recognize the voice.
“He’s lost too much blood. Sir, sit back.”
“Wait, is he going to be okay? Please, there must be a healer close by! Someone has to be able to heal him!”
“Sir, please. You are creating too much stress, lower your voice. We are doing all we can.”
“It’s not enough! Why aren’t you all healers?! What right do you have to be doctors if you can’t heal!”
“Sit down, Sir!”
I wonder if my father is at the office yet. Working his magic on the third floor printer machine. It was always breaking down.
“Why are we driving?! There are hundreds of flying and speed aberration specialists! Where are all they?! What can you guys even do?!”
“Sir, if you continue yelling we will be forced to calm you down. Please be quiet, this boy doesn’t need any more stress.”
There was not one crack in the ceiling. It was all white.
“You’re right. I’m sorry I-...I wish I could do something for him, anything! But all I can do is see at night, I’m nothing.”
The air was so cold, I want warmer air.
“He’s a strong boy, Sir.”
“Yeah, he is. Did you see what happened?”
“No, Sir. Please, we let you ride, do not make us throw you out.”
“This guy just lost it and started attacking people right in front of the subway station. No one was doing anything and when he came after me I thought that was gonna be it.”
“Sir, you have to be quiet.”
“No one was going to help me. No one. But this kid ran out and he just ripped one of the guy’s horns right off of his head! The other horn must have...He ran right in front of me. No one would even get close and he ran in front of me. God, if I had a useful aberration, I-”
“There was nothing you could do, Sir.”
“I know. This kid, he is something else. He ran out in front of me. He saved my life.”
“He’s very brave.”
“He’s a hero.”