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Below is the beginning of my current Work-in-Eternal-Progress (WIEP), The Whip-Slip:
I was running from vampires.
Maybe robots. Or aliens. Rabid monkeys? Perhaps genetically modified corn?
Any of these pursuers would sound better than the fact that I was running from the Waltham High School field hockey team effete, big word for worst team in Codde County: last in the league and first to take it out on others.
Well, in their defense, they weren’t after me because of an insult to their poor athletic prowess. I had, in fact, made their captain break out in hives and bleed profusely from her nose.
And in my defense, it wasn’t actually me that had done it. It was Her. Left-Hander, as I called Her. My significant Other. She was the squatter in my four-floor walk-up of a brain. And She liked to hurt people.
Some people deserve it, She said. Only I could hear Her, of course.
The rate you’re going, it seems everyone deserves it, I answered.
I was taking us out of the red zone and hurrying along my usual path to and from school. Normally I ran to school and not away from it, a combination of an ailing second-hand alarm clock and frozen breakfasts improperly cooked on the outdoor grill (which our neighbors had left on the curb, and had then watched me drag away on its one wheel). My Uncle Trenton still wouldn’t spring for a microwave. Or stove repair.
I cut through the back yard of the first house in a suburban set positioned across the street from the high school. No one was home. A kid-slide in the next yard helped my transition over the first yard’s wire fence. I kicked a dog bone to the mutt standing guard and helped myself to the fence of the third house.
“Come for tea, Thea, dear?” Mrs. Grisham asked me from her lawn chair. We had gotten friendly a couple years ago over a vest at the local thrift.
“Not today, Mrs. Grisham!” I waved, and finished off her yard at a jog. A gate let me out into the adjoining street.
“Is everything all right? Your nose is bleeding!” she called again.
I jogged halfway down the new street and let the trees on the opposite curb swallow me up. I stopped to rest on a boulder. Blood dripped to my orange Converse.
They’re coming, T., She told me.
“I know.” I just needed a moment to claw at the hives purpling my forearms and neck.
I heard cleats on pavement. They were close.
I shot up and continued down the woods path that would spit me out near home. The itching continued, now heading down my thighs. My jeans felt tight. Not as tight as my swelling throat though, my airway diminishing. I chose a tree in the distance to shoot for, a goal within reach.
But I was too slow.
A field hockey stick jabbed the back of my knee and I was down. Another stick hooked my arm and rolled me face-up. My sight blurred, my breathing forced. I could make out faces red from chasing me, the white and green school colors on their uniforms, a couple of victorious smiles.
Heal me, I told Her. Now.
I wouldn’t be able to run otherwise.
She was more focused on hurting them first.
“Where were you goin’, freak?” the blurry face in the middle said.
“What’s wrong with her?” another added. Her grimace was clear.
I tried to sit up. The butt of a stick knocked me down again. She twitched, revving.
Lefty. Don’t, I warned.
If I hurt these girls like I had hurt their captain, someone even larger than them would come after me: their older brothers, their boyfriends, their older brothers’ boyfriends.
Not to mention the police.
“We should just bring her to the principal,” one of them said.
“No,” the middle one shook her head. “We can take care of this.”
My words were rasped: “Please, I didn’t –.”
“What?” she snapped. “Didn’t what? Punch Susan in the face? We all saw it. She was just asking if you’d done your part of the group project!”
Their polite version had sounded more like: “Hey, freak, you better get your shit done before I use your head as a ball!”
And Left-Hander had responded according to Her policy of infect first, cool off later. I knew these girls hadn’t seen a punch. Left-Hander had forced my hand to grip Susan’s. The power had entered her, swollen her throat in two seconds and raised hives. She had passed out. I had run. As soon as Left-Hander broke the contact, the power rebounded into me and now Susan and I had a lot in common.
Only Lefty could reverse it.
I felt the blackout approaching. Spots tangoed in my vision.
She ignored me.
I bolted, twisting onto my belly and then to my feet. But my body was easier to find with their sticks than a field hockey ball. They pushed me down. Fingers gripped my ankle and flipped me onto my back again.
It was all She needed. Her force pulsed through me, bringing my hand to the wrist of the girl on my ankle. Like a bath faucet pushing from my fingertips, Her power slammed the girl’s skin. It surged through her veins, two seconds travel to find the weak spot, and she vomited on my legs.
The other girls screamed. I broke our contact, scuttling backward. The power, as if on a rubber-band, bounded back, pushing me flat. Nausea hit hard. I rolled to the side and vomited too. The screams multiplied.
I could see clearly again. They were watching me, cuddled together in horror. My eyes met with Left-Hander’s victim. Her hand shook as it wiped her lips, eyes wide.
“It’s true,” she said. “What are you?”
“Let’s get out of here,” one of the girls decided. No one asked for further instruction. They collected their fallen friend and ran before I could answer the question.
What could I say, anyway? I didn’t know what I was any more than them.