Displaying items by tag: fiction
“What’s mine is yours,” Lila told me the day I moved into the 1050 square foot apartment; the one I shared with the girl who would soon prove to me that these first words were a life-altering lie.
My arms ached from carrying all my belongings up to the fourth floor earlier that afternoon. The sun had only been absent for maybe an hour, but my first class of the semester started early the next morning, and I just wanted to shower and crawl in bed. It was a relief to see the roommate I’d been assigned seemed nice, but her talkative nature was exhausting. Hoping she’d eventually take the hint, I stayed silent and nodded as she pointed out and asked my opinion on the decor she had accumulated in the week since she’d moved in.
“It’s not much, I know,” she chatted on with a wide white smile. Flipping her strawberry-blonde hair over a bony shoulder, she seemed completely comfortable sitting in her swimsuit in front of a stranger. She had come in from a welcome party at the campus pool when I was unpacking my last box; there was little doubt in my mind she had walked all the way back with nothing to cover up but her beach towel. I found this fascinating and slightly annoying. “I figured we could spice the place up together, right?”
It’s your eighth day of football and your tenth day of grade nine.
You’re in the locker room. Everyone’s getting ready for practice. Your mouthguard is no longer attached to your helmet. No mouthguard means you’re running laps. You don’t want to run laps.
You slink your way to the coach’s room. The coaches are meeting, speaking nonsensically.
“Let’s install Gooo principles today. We need to get our counter play in before next week. On ‘D’ we’ll put in Hawk formation, get the ‘Deebees’ learning their zone principles, linebackers flow and scrape — stress pursuit. We’ll script Chicago vs. Eagle, work trips into the package, see if the receivers know their waggle and motion.”
They notice you.
Mae had discovered why the wands didn’t work anymore. She found the answer in an old leather-bound book deep in the Wizard Tower’s library.
She had the book clutched to her chest and was on the way to the Master Mage’s study when she ran into Lenn and Morph in the west corridor. Lenn was a dark-haired girl with a narrow face and dull eyes. Morph was a sallow boy with a permanent frown. The sight of them made Mae’s stomach clench and her legs turn to jelly.
“It’s the bookworm,” said Lenn. “And look, she has a book. What’s in this one, then?”
Mae had never been able to think of anything to say to counter Lenn and Morph’s frequent taunts. Her mind froze as her muscles tensed. Flight, escape, had always been her only response.
Putting her head down, she tried to dart past, but Morph gave her a shove on the arm while shouting, “Where are you going with that?”
The shove was enough to drive Mae into the stone wall. Pain burst along her left arm as she recoiled and fell to the flagstone floor, the book slipping from her hands. Her wire spectacles slid down her nose, but she caught them just in time.
At first, Kelly could not figure out why a wool mitten was in with her summer clothes. She studied the orphan with its worn ribbon bow as the box of cut-offs, tank tops and bikinis sat in the sunlight outside her storage unit. Clothes unworn since high school. The bikinis alone gave her angst.
She expected pain by opening the overhead door. It was why she took the whole day off without telling Donna to clean out her meager belongings. Donna would have demanded why she paid rent on the unit in the questionable part of town for so long. And Kelly had no answer for that.
She reminded herself that having her bikini days behind her didn’t matter. Donna scoffed at going to the beach. Instead, she played volleyball two nights a week in the cold sand of indoor courts. Sometimes Donna didn’t wash the sand off her feet and stood at the bar barefooted afterwards, but the real beach wasn’t her environment. The bar was. Kelly sat next to her in an oversized T-shirt with the logo of the bar, drinking the beer Donna bought for her and listening to Donna and her friends.
It’s time to clean out what you don’t need. Kel. Just get rid of everything, a voice inside her head told her.
I cruised out of BLE’s house in my crate. A teenaged girl like me, she was one of few people I’d ever seen in person.
I stopped my crate in no place in particular to flat out break the law. I was so good at hacking crates that I’d reprogrammed mine to open upon command. Crazy illegal!
All crates were programmed to protect everyone’s fundamental right not to be seen. Basically, they remained closed until confirming you were in the presence of only legally sanctioned live contacts. Then you went back in before seeing any unauthorized people.
History recounts that long ago, people judged one another by things such as gender, ethnicity, occupation, personal transportation vehicle, etc. But the modern American Political Union, our beloved A.P.U., made that intrinsically impossible.
“You sure you want to do this?” Kai asked. “If you don’t, just say. No pressure.”
We sat facing each other on the bed in his room, with heavy, black curtains drawn closed. Zombies, ghosts and aliens stared from a hand-painted wall mural, but the only human eyes were ours. Kai tried to meet my eye, but I dodged his gaze, my focus drifting down his bony frame to his waist.
“Be sure,” he said. “Once this happens, it can’t un-happen.” He tugged a loose thread on his jeans. “It might change how you feel about me.”
But I was fourteen, sure about everything and Kai was going to be my soulmate. I reached for his belt.
I loosened his jeans and he inched them down just a little. As he exposed goose-pimpled flesh, my heart fluttered, then it thundered as black and silvery ink appeared. Beside his hipbone sat a gun tattoo, glossy and shadowed, perfectly realistic.
“Katha, what have you done?”
A hand gripped my shoulder and shook me, pulling me from sleep. I scrunched my eyes closed and attempted to roll over, but the grip on my shoulder tightened. Squinting, I could just make out my mother standing over my bed. One hand was grasping my shoulder, while the other held a book. A blue book. A book I’d hidden in the far reaches of my closet so no one would find it.
Suddenly wide awake, I pushed myself into a sitting position, shoving my hair behind my ears.
“Why were you going through my things?” I asked, my voice still scratchy from sleep.
“You’ve been acting weird for the past few weeks,” retorted my mother. “I knew something was wrong, and you wouldn’t tell me what it was, so I had to find out however I could.”
I didn’t appreciate that she’d gone snooping through my things, but a small part of my mind could understand that when you were worried, you looked for answers. And she was right; I hadn’t told her what had happened…how I’d discovered just a few weeks ago that I could use magic. I’d wanted to, but I hadn’t known how. And I’d been afraid of her response.
Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers. One word of graffiti-filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!
A boy stood facing his audience in his best white shirt. “Took me three weeks to finish it,” said the kid, motioning to the gigantic word behind him. “Had to use six cans of paint, but Daddy don’t miss one off the back of his truck every few days.” He fanned himself with a wad of posters then admired his handiwork. “So now, we may rejoice.”
The Monson twins looked back at the boy, who stood on top of two palettes. Then they stared at each other, dumbfounded. They were too young to read the posters he’d drawn, perhaps too young to even understand the word rejoice. One of the girls, Shannon-Lee traced the outline of the word on the wall with a stubby finger.
They say in horror films that the ditzy, beautiful girl always dies first. In Kimberly’s case, that did not happen. She survived. Survived in the sense that she did not die that night.
It had been a month, and that night still haunted her every thought, her mood, her speech. The only reason she was returning to campus was because her parents were driving her crazy. Their response to her trauma was to project their fear and panic onto her, just pile it on as if she were not already a trembling mound of jello.
The psychiatrists and support groups had not really helped. They made her seep in the trauma of that night, the terror settling into her bones, her teeth chattering with the all too recent memory.
She remembered the gunshots, the screams… the crying and begging. She remembered the chaos, flashes in the suddenly blackest of nights, the thumps as bodies fell to the ground. That pool party had been packed, until suddenly she had felt all alone, running for her life. She had tripped over an exposed root, her body pitching forward, her face crushing against the Earth. All sense of direction, all ordered thought, had vanished as she tried to focus on her own escape and not the screams and shots. Dear God, not the screams and shots.
A blanket smothered the sky, a faint light filtering through the nightlamps. Chivena’s feet followed the same path she had taken for years, skipping in Grade 1, sprinting in Grade 5, and now in Grade 9, she was simply walking. The light was unnecessary; Chivena knew her way, memorization was her strong suit after all.
The bus was pulling in at its usual time when she got to the stop. She took her usual spot at the front. The usual girl sat next to her. And in the usual silence, they rode to school.
Stepping off the bus into the musty air, Chivena joined the stampede of school children gravitating towards a single light in the sleeping dusk. Like moths toward a flame, they floated up the sidewalk falling into step with the rest. Slowly, the crowd dispersed into the maze of hallways, linoleum tiles reflecting the florescent lighting. Despite the masses of children, a stagnant silence floated through the air. There was simply nothing that could be said. Walking to Block 1, Chivena stopped to rub her aching back. Her pack had gotten so much heavier over the years, filled to the brim with her Notes. She sighed and went on her way. This was the best way. Nothing better than a pack had been mentioned, and therefore nothing such existed. Chivena smiled to herself in her brilliance, no wonder she was Top of Class.
The bell was just about to ring at its usual time when she got to Math. She took her usual spot at the front. The usual boy sat next to her. They brought out Notes in the usual silence.