There’s a place on the edge of town where people go to not be found; mostly kids skipping school and smoking weed, but you get all types. You can find it under the Franklin Bridge; you just have to know the way.
First you sneak through the hole in the chain-link fence (by the third post after the housing estate), then you drop into the embankment and follow it to the end. Once you’ve made it that far you’ll come to a gravel path that leads right under the bridge. Nobody goes there who wants to be bothered, especially at night.
Maybe that’s why Tanya was so weirded out when I asked her to meet me there. It was at least an hour after sunset, and the place didn’t come with its own lights.
She pointed a flashlight into the darkness; it didn’t cover half the six lanes of road sitting above. “Hello?” she called, like she was calling to a pack of wolves.
“Hey, I’m in here!” I pointed my own flashlight back to her and waved that it was safe; well, safe as you could be.
Tanya’s steps crunched as she wandered further into the shadows. Her silhouette blurred against the beam pointing at me, but I swear I could make out the pissed off look she was shooting my way. “Okay, spill. What’s so important that it requires us to creep to the one dark corner we’d probably ditch a body?”
I inhaled and took a few steps back. “You’re not going to believe me. Gods, I’m not even sure I believe me.”
“Can the suspense and tell me already,” she muttered.
It had taken the better part of the afternoon to master, even if I didn’t understand; by holding my breath and concentrating on my center of gravity I was able to call upon… I don’t know what you’d call it, an energy? The more I thought about it the more I felt its warmth coursing through my body. Finally it started to pour over my skin and lit up the bridge.
I held up my hand and stared. Not only had I changed, but so did the way I saw the world. Even the sky at night looked different; not like a sheet of black speckled with stars, but a cosmic rainbow telling the story of the universe. Beneath it was the bridge, and then Tanya whose body was radiating with heat; not to mention the trembling in her bones as she decided which way to run.
“Don’t be scared,” I told her. “I’m not going to hurt you. Trust me, I know how weird this is, and maybe I should have given you a better warning, but I thought it’d be better if I just showed you.”
Her hands shook. She dropped her flashlight. She whispered, “No, I don’t think you have any idea how weird this is. KC, what in the seven hells am I looking at here?”
I relaxed and the lights went out. Grabbing my own flashlight I took a step closer; slowly, just to show it was safe. “Remember that night at the park, before I went to the hospital? I… I think something happened to me.”
She listened as I told her the story: about running into the woods and the strange light, about Adrian trying to run me down and how his car mysteriously died, and how I’d gone home, swore never to use this power again, only to be fiddling with it an hour later. (Doing that had cost me a cell phone; whatever had happened to my body didn’t seem to like electronics.)
After that she was quiet; more than I could stand. Did she hate me? Maybe, I wondered, this was what it took to convince her that I was a freak.
Finally, she spoke.
“I’ve just got one question,” she began; “well, two. Are you or are you not an alien posing as my best friend, and is it or is it not your intention to ingest your hybrid alien invasion babies inside of me?”
“Uh,” I replied, “not that I know of.”
“Good enough.” She threw herself onto me and wrapped her arms around mine, then lifted me from the ground before dropping me again. Bear hugs; that had to be a good sign, right?
“So you’re not upset?”
“Not upset,” she reasoned, “but profoundly weirded out. I can’t promise to understand this, but you’re my friend. I’d be the queen of all bitches if I kicked your butt to the curb just because you glow in the dark.”
I smiled. Thank the gods.
“You know, I don’t just glow in the dark,” I told her. “The more I play around with this, the more I realize I can do with it.”
Tanya lit up; or… something. You know what I mean. “Show me,” she said.
I’d learned a few tricks since my run-in with Adrian, like how to turn up the brightness; all I had to do was think about it. Then I turned it down, dimming the glow to as dull as I could manage without turning it off. Once Tanya’s eyes had adjusted she reached out, paused, then placed her hand on mine.
“You’re… you’re warm,” she beamed.
“It doesn’t hurt,” I explained. “Actually, I don’t feel much of anything. It’s just like when your foot falls asleep, but over your whole body.”
“Want to see what else I can do?”
I grinned and pointed a finger to the concrete slab by the side of the water. On it was a line of cans set out in a row. Closing one eye and taking aim I pushed at the energy inside me, forcing a burst to fly out and knock the first of the cans over. Each can fell as I knocked them off their perch; my aim was getting better. Finally, one remained.
“You realize,” Tanya mused, “that with this power you could be a bona-fide superhero.”
“Like that’s even a thing,” I laughed.
“But… you have super-powers!”
“Weak super-powers,” I argued. “What am I going to do; find bank robbers and go ‘pew pew’ at them?”
Tanya stopped for a moment as if lost in thought. “Can those blasts come from anywhere, or do they just come from that one finger?”
“Uh, I guess I could do it from anywhere. I don’t know. I haven’t tried.”
“What if you tried blasting from five fingers at once? You know, like a kind of super-charge.”
“You’re going to keep saying ‘super-everything’ now, aren’t you?” I muttered, not that her idea wasn’t interesting or whatever.
I turned and faced the can, staring it down like the villain of a spaghetti western. My hand reached out, fingers pointed, and I put all my focus on the tips. Suddenly, a beam burst from them with power enough to lift me from the ground. My body flew back, and I didn’t open my eyes again until I realized that I should have struck the ground, but hadn’t.
Tanya stared at the missing corner of the concrete slab and grinned. “That was amazing! You just…!” Then she turned and saw me. “Oh my god. No way!”
Don’t ask me how I did it; I was just as stunned. My body stood suspended in the air with my glowing feet unable to reach the ground. I kicked for it, but I wasn’t getting any closer. Maybe that would have changed if I let go of the power, but the drop was growing more ominous.
“A little help?” I cried.
Tanya clasped onto my ankle and pulled me down. When I was close enough to earth I powered down and fought for breath.
“What just happened?”
“I think we’re living out your origin story,” Tanya hummed under the flashlight. “Don’t you see what this means, KC? You were given a gift. Nothing is going to be the same ever again.”
She was right.
To be continued…