Shimmer #18 – The Three Fates of Glimmer Girl (Part 1)
“Call it what it is,” she roared. “This is outright discrimination, and if you think we’re going to stand for it you’ve got another thing coming!”
Assistant Principal Ferguson urged her to be calm, but that was probably because he was new. Little did he realize that he’d started a war and that telling the scary woman with throbbing neck veins to cool her jets was the last thing that was going to help, not that I felt much sympathy: it was oddly satisfying to see him squirm, especially after the smug talk he’d given me when we were alone.
“Mrs. Cade,” he began again, “I can understand you’re upset,” (bull$#@%), “but there’s a specific code of conduct here at Andrew Jackson that all students are expected to adhere to. One of those expectations is to follow the basic dress code, which I am sad to say Justin is not.”
She turned and looked me over, not forgetting to stab me disapprovingly with her gaze as she did. “With all due respect, Mr. Ferguson, I’ve seen far more provocatively dressed students walking through these halls. Heck, what he’s wearing is something I see a lot of girls wearing to church.”
Of all the things that would leave me reeling from that meeting that was probably the thing that made my head spin. I didn’t think I was dressed all that conservatively. Not that it was that short, like probably a couple of inches above my knees, but still… whatever. More important things to worry about, remember, KC?
“Exactly,” he retorted. “Girls. This is not by any definition male appropriate attire. There are rules, Mrs. Cade, and they do not exist to be bent. Justin’s sudden mode of appearance constitutes a disturbance and warrants intervention.”
Oh gods. It was like he’d read the playbook on how exactly to piss off my mom. I had to fight not to laugh maniacally in my solitary chair while she morphed into a steel eyed, fire breathing dragon of unbridled hate and fury.
“In that case you might want to review your harassment policy,” she practically spat, “and why certain star athletes have yet to receive any serious disciplinary action.”
There was that ghost again, and like usual it wasn’t worthy of comment. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” Ferguson lied. Right, like he hadn’t read my file the last time he had me in there when my history with Adrian Dempsey was explained in an empty bathroom. Hell, I’d only broken his jaw two weeks ago: he’d seen the proof!
“I’m sure you don’t,” she seethed.
“Mrs. Cade, if there’s something you need to get off your chest…”
She stood, reclaiming what little power they let her have on her side of the desk. “Save it. I’m just as interested in bureaucratic games as I am trying to search out and appeal to what little humanity you have left. This is my son’s education you’re playing with here. Whether or not he’s spitting in the face of God is completely irrelevant. Taking that away from him, especially over something so trivial, is downright un-American, sir.”
I was floored by her statement. So much for her sweeping in and saving the day. Only a mom could be that progressive and passive aggressive at the same time: it had to be some kind of skill written in their genes.
“Come on, Justin. We’re leaving.”
That was that. No pleasant goodbyes, nothing. There was only Mr. Ferguson’s impatient grimace to see us out telling us that there would be no victory today. Yeah, that I wasn’t going to miss at all.
Being marched back into that hallway was some kind of déjà vu. Things had at least been simpler two weeks before: at least for the administration there was the cover of ‘fighting in school’, you know, not calling it what it really was. This, I was starting to think, might have been the point all along.
“Mom,” I started cautiously discerning how safe it was. The wrath of the gods had settled. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry, I guess.”
“It’s okay,” she said, an eerie calm washing over her. “We’ll talk about it later, alright?”
“Sure.” Later, yeah, that was fine. Never would have been even better, but the nervous butterflies would have eaten through me by then.
* * * *
The ride home was anything but comfortable. Maybe it was the silence, maybe it was the anti-venom still freshly working its way through my veins, or maybe it was even the way the sun cast shadows at unusual angles, I don’t know. Whatever it was this Monday had already peaked and was beyond recovery.
I turned to my mom in the driver’s seat and wondered if she’d notice if I fell asleep. She seemed pretty far gone, pushed to a plateau beyond her anger where she could only stare out into the wilderness and ask ‘what’s the point of it all?’ Usually she only got this way when she’d had a really bad day at work or when she found out I’d been cutting class, so I knew it was serious.
Tempting as sleep was the silence was worse. It was like water torture and was begging to be broken. “So how long am I grounded for?” I asked. Seemed as pertinent a question as any.
My words took her off guard. She shook, her eyes wavering off the road for only a split second. “What makes you think you’re being grounded?”
“Because,” I shrugged, “that’s what happened last time.”
The uncertain cogs in her head were rolling slowly. You could hear them as she was struggling for a diplomatic answer. “I don’t know yet,” she concluded. “We’ll see.”
Funny, but I couldn’t shake the feeling like all of this was my fault somehow, like things wouldn’t have come to a head if I hadn’t pushed this whole Kaira thing, not that it mattered. Playing a pretend boy for the sake of others was way too tiring and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Damn the consequences. It was my life, wasn’t it? So why did I feel so guilty?
Finally she spoke. “I don’t agree with what you’re doing,” she stated flatly, “but they have no right to do that. At all. I mean how dare they!”
“They’re just transphobic douchebags, I guess,” I muttered without thinking, probably because I was too exhausted to keep the brain filter working.
She fumed lightly. “Stop saying that, Justin. You’re not a transexual.”
That, actually, kinda pissed me off a little. “How would you know? Who are you to decide that?”
“I just know you, okay?” she pleaded. “Look, I understand that you’re special, different. We’ve known that for years, and we’ve always tried to love you and give you room to explore, and then suddenly, completely out of the blue, ‘mom, dad, I’m a girl’, as if it’s as simple as that.”
“It is as simple as that,” I whimpered. Gods, she was tearing me apart.
“Then why come out with this now, Justin? It’s like you suddenly decided overnight that… Lord, I don’t even know. You were never that sort of child. You liked playing with tools and trucks and soldiers. I remember you wanted to be a robot or a ninja turtle when you grew up.”
“So,” she concluded, “these are things that little boys say.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She wasn’t serious, was she? “Is that what this is about? You don’t actually think that being trans is wrong, but you won’t let me have it because I’m not like those kids on that Barbara Walters special? Gods, mom. Sometimes it takes a while to figure this stuff out! It’s not new!”
“On the one hand I can understand it,” she continued to reason terribly. “I know it’s hard sometimes being skinny and… well, pretty, but that doesn’t make you less of a man no matter what the jocks say.”
“I’m not a man,” I told her for the millionth time, but of course I was wasting my breath.
“How can you say that when you haven’t even tried? If only you had more confidence in yourself and realized that there are different kinds of men out there, then maybe you won’t feel like such a failure at manhood. Get a girlfriend, or… or a boyfriend even! Join the track and field team again, and who knows? You might actually find that you like it.”
It was all I could stand. She didn’t know what she was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing. The entire last month snapped back with all the violence and yelling and rejection, aliens and mind control, all while recovering from an assassination attempt from only two days before. They were built around me into walls a mile high, teetering on the edge of collapse, ready to crush me into paste. It was too damn much for a kid to handle!
I couldn’t hold it together, keep myself from cracking. Shameful tears burned down my cheek as punishment for not being stronger. Gods, what was wrong with me? What was I supposed to do?
My mom was suddenly quiet. She knew she crossed some kind of a line even though she didn’t know which one. Her uttering “I’m sorry” even almost sounded genuine, or at least it would have if she just left it at that.
“These are the facts of life,” she said. “I know it’s hard. I really know, but…”
“You have no idea,” I choked, and that was that. I wasn’t going to listen to her anymore. What did she know? Everything she thought she knew about me was from somewhere else, a gathering of ideas from news clippings, headlines, and her own inability to live outside her experience. What was the matter with her that she couldn’t ask me who I was and what I wanted!? Huh!?
The conversation was halted by the roar of an engine. There was only the briefest moment to catch the black streak in the passenger mirror before the immense jarring force collided with our tail and sent the car veering off the road. After what seemed like forever but was no more than an instant we were stopped against the pavement, my mom clutching at the wheel, me pressed against the dashboard, and both of us rattling from the screams of terror we’d managed to stifle.
“Are you okay?” she asked in a panic. I told her I was fine at least two or three times before it began to sink in for either of us. Holy crap, that was terrifying.
I stared into the mirror again and to the black panel van with the collapsed grille, aka the monster that had taken us out. Anger started to creep up as I hated the driver in silence. Of all the days for some idiot moron motor head to not pay attention to where he was going!
Mom was still shaking, but she was okay she said. “Call Triple A,” she told me placidly. “I’m going to… talk… to… the other driver.” It was a simple plan that would keep her from losing her mind until she could get it together again, so I did as I was told, took her cell phone and dug through her purse for her insurance information.
The phone rang twice and then I was put on hold. In the rearview mirror the back of my mom narrowed away toward the van. Something about it didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That tint job couldn’t be legal and the plates… weren’t there. Gods!
By the time I was out on the street she was already unconscious face down on the ground. The man standing over her with the heavy coat and the stun-gun didn’t seem at all phased by this and was more concerned with his next intended victim. He lifted his head so that I could see his face, his scraggly beard, his thinning gray hair.
“We meet again, Mr. Cade,” Fellows mused flatly. “Or is it Miss Cade now?
I froze. What was I going to do!? Why him!? Why then!? $#&%! I had to think of something! I only hesitated long enough to remember how little my secret identity was worth compared to the rest of my life, but even that was going to cost me.
In my civvies I flared brazenly into hard light form and shot forward. “Leave my mom alone!”
Dr. Vortex, it seemed, had anticipated exactly that reaction and held out an open palm. I don’t know what happened next because that was where it ended. The whole world was suddenly dark. No mass, no weight, no definition. I was nowhere and everywhere, trapped again in unspace and left absolutely helpless within it. The mad theonaut had tricked me again.
* * * *
I snapped awake to the sound of music, wailing, cheering, and a wild carnival scene. What happened? Where was I? Something didn’t seem quite…
“Head in the game, Firefly!” the big man in brown roared as I recovered my position on the ground. He struggled in vain to wrestle down the immense bulk of creature who seemed more than a little frustrated by his presence.
There were people in animal costumes: not like the furries that were marching behind us before, but wearing spandex and masks in a definite hero motif that was vaguely familiar. Shaking myself back to reality I immediately recognized them, Bear, Cheetah, Flamingo, Minx and Hawk: they were the Pride, San Francisco’s own native queer superteam. It seemed weird that I should forget them, I mean… they were my teammates after all.
In the middle was our clear and definite enemy, the white supremacist douchebag known as ‘K-Bomb’. His power? Blowing up. That’s right: he beats people up, collects their kinetic energy, then explodes using whatever power he can muster, and to top it all off he regenerates in order to do it all over again. In other words the harder we hit him the more damage we could end up doing to the neighborhood.
“Ah, hell.” It was no coincidence that he’d chosen that day to make himself known. Guys like him thought that nature made them better than ‘them filthy queers’, and what better way to express that hate by blowing up a portion of them the day they decided to have a parade?
Cheetah zipped to my side and placed a pawed leather glove on my shoulder too keep me from swaying off balance. “You okay, Firefly?” he asked.
Firefly… Firefly… that was me, wasn’t it? Gods, what was wrong with me? I kept forgetting all of these little bits and pieces; it was almost like we hadn’t been planning this march for weeks and I should have been somewhere else entirely.
“Just a dizzy spell,” I told him. “Too much homework, not enough sleep, I guess.”
The muscular pink clad queen in feathers and fishnets bounced back from the action figuring that his trademark flurry of punches and kicks probably only made the situation worse. “Methinks miss thang has had too many late nights keeping unsuspecting straight boys on their toes,” he quipped. You’d almost think we weren’t in the middle of life or death combat.
Minx swept in and tripped the villain’s leg. With bear on top K-Bomb was contained for the moment but ready to go off at any second.
“We’ve got to get rid of him!” the team leader bellowed.
K-Bomb, however, just laughed as his immense mass hardened. “I swallowed nearly twenty pounds of C4. It doesn’t matter what you do to me, because when I got off I take a whole lot of Jew loving homo-faggots with me!”
Funny, I thought idiots like this were supposed to disappear into obscurity after high school.
Hawk unfurled her wings and charged toward the flattened foe. “Cheetah, I need lift! Firefly, follow me!” she ordered. We followed suit oblivious to the plan because there was no time to explain. Teamwork, trust, and all that jazz: we’d work it out as we went along.
In a flash the Cheetah was on his feet, racing from one end of the Castro to the other in seconds with the ever-growing K-Bomb swept up in his momentum. Hawk was next, then me, working in tandem for the very next step: the one that would either save hundreds of lives or spread the carnage even further.
K-Bomb howled as Hawk’s claws dug into his flesh and guided him with borrowed force into the air. It would have been impossible for her to move him by her own strength, but at escape velocity all he needed was a little nudge upward… and upward… and upward…
The villain screamed, “put me down now, you insane bitch!” Maybe he was scared of heights. Too bad.
Soon Hawk began to look strained. There was only so much she could do before the forces of inertia enacted itself on his super-dense form. “I can’t hold him much longer,” she grunted.
“I got it!”
Her claws released and for the briefest of moments the hold of gravity had forgotten about K-Bomb and his unfortunate placement high above the streets of San Francisco. His aimless flight began to arch downward to where the powerhouse quivering with pent up energy was going to blow a crater into countless lives and homes: or at least he would have if I didn’t make that shot.
K-Bomb’s body detonated with a shockwave that left me and the winged woman reeling, but to the people on the ground it was nothing more than a loud noise and distant fire. Our job was done, the day was saved, and all that needed doing was to wipe up the spray of supervillain terrorist that would take weeks to reform.
The crowd cheered as we returned to solid ground, celebrating the murder attempt turned harmless firework display. I almost wished I could be more impressed, but it was all in a day’s work.
Parting for the burly Bear they roared eagerly as the team reassembled. Cheetah, Minx and Flamingo gathered around, waving for the cameras and posing under the hail of flashes going off from all directions. This was the part I was least comfortable with, but I guess it’s just part of the package when you’re an out and proud superhero with a message to send.
“You did some good work today, people,” Bear grinned while stretching a large paw over my uncovered shoulder. “You saved a lot of lives. Doesn’t get much better than this.”
No, I grinned, it probably doesn’t.
* * * *
Things started to slow when the ocean swallowed the end of the day, leaving behind pink highlights to rim the clouds. No more drag queens, no more leather clad biker lesbians, no more music or banners, and no more super-humans with animal motifs, myself included. Unless another maniac suddenly wanted to spoil a perfectly good Saturday by blowing up half of San Francisco I was done with Firefly, thank the gods.
Away from where the action had taken place Jenna sat balanced on the railing just where she’d said she would in her text. She wore the same tired look she always did when sobriety had been so cruelly thrust upon her. Her aura was as dark as the long dress hanging over her combat boots, chasing any anyone who’d dare get close with the same level of muted resentment as brandished by the bible bashers.
She picked me eagerly from across the street as I negotiated the slowly bleeding traffic. Her rolling eyes said it all: ‘finally!’
“What took you so long?” she chided, as if somehow her being there was my doing.
I frowned sarcastically at her and crossed my arms. “Better question. What are you even doing here? I thought we weren’t going to meet up until later tonight.”
We stared long and hard, shuffling the rest of the world out of our focus, both of us determined to be the hardest and the surliest. It could have gone either way, but this time she cracked first. “And let my Kaire-Bear go home by herself with all those psychos and maniacs out there? No way in hell.”
“Audrey was busy, wasn’t she.”
“Yeah, for like a month now,” she complained as she hopped back onto the sidewalk. “Okay, she meets some girl and gets laid for the first time in forever, then suddenly she forgets she has friends? And with you zipping around here and there I’ve got nothing to do with my Saturdays anymore.”
I laughed like I always did when Jenna got into a rant. It was a hobby of hers and with a world full of stupid people and her very particular sensibilities there was always going to be new material to draw on.
“Still, to drag yourself all the way down here…”
“Tell me about it.”
The smell of exhaust ushered us away from the sidewalk and gently to the sand: not that we could enjoy it for very much longer by the look of the tide. Hooray for something else to whine about! (Not sarcasm at all.)
“So how did it go?” she finally asked. Already I could hear the venom collecting in that secret gland she had: figured I may as well just let her have at it.
“It was good,” I admitted. “Lots of fun, though I’ll never get used to people lining up for autographs, not in a million years.”
Jenna gritted her teeth uncertainly, like she was trying to hold back. 3, 2, 1… “I don’t know how you can stand it,” she lamented. “It’s not like they wouldn’t throw people like you and me under the bus if it were convenient for them.”
“Not all of them,” I protested, but not strongly enough to think she would ever be convinced by it.
“That there’s any at all is a problem. Listen, transphobic a#$holes are like pieces of dog $#&%,” she explained. “It only takes one to wreck your whole birthday.”
“Still,” I laughed caught up in the imagery. I wasn’t sure if there was an end to that statement or not. If there was it had been washed out to sea.
The salty air gave us pause. At any moment I expected it to be shattered by a building speech, one in which it was only an invisible T at the end of LGB, that I was letting myself be used as the token tranny to make the Pride seem more friendly and inclusive, and that the term ‘transgender’ was an evil drag queen conspiracy to begin with. It always came back to drag queens with Jenna and her borderline obsessive hatred for them: especially Flamingo, not that I could blame her for that.
Instead there was silence, at least from the two humans on the shore. The sea still hissed and the engines of cars still turned, and we were lost in the slowly falling blanket of darkness drawing from the east.
“Can I ask you,” Jenna began, “a really stupid question?”
“You. In the Pride. Why? You were your own hero for a long time, and now you’re a token figure on a team of super-furries. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
I thought about it for a while. Gods, that was a hard one. I but my lip and prepared for the hundred times I was going to attempt to articulate… “Lots of reasons, I guess. Okay, yeah, I was Glimmer Girl for how many years? And I was on my own, doing my thing, yay, go me. Sounds great, right? Like being your own boss, but…”
“But what?” she asked after a moment.
It was hard to say. Actually, I think my mouth might have run away with a random sentence before my brain had fully processed it.
“But,” I began again, finally settling on a train of thought, “I got over it. One day I realized that I’d finally grown up, and there I was, right on the cusp of having to build another new identity. I realized that what I really needed was to stand for something, and to belong. Jorge and Bear asked me into the Pride and… well, the rest is history.”
“That’s it?” she pressed.
“No, that’s not all of it,” I grumbled, “but if I had to pick a main reason…”
Jenna, like usual, wasn’t satisfied. That was her other hobby. This time though it seemed serious: you could tell by the way she couldn’t summon the energy to argue or soapbox like the know-it-all jerk she always pretended to be.
I wandered closer to where she stared vacantly at the waves and nudged her shoulder. “Something on your mind, sailor?” As if I needed to ask.
“Can I ask you another really dumb question?”
Somehow I doubted it would be that dumb. “Always.”
She turned to me seriously like I was the one dangling answers over her like a carrot she couldn’t quite reach. The words struggled along the length of her tongue, but soon they found their way. “When you’re out there as Firefly and you’re in those rallies, marches, parades, all that… are you really proud of being trans?”
It took a moment to register that yes, what I’d been asked was a real question in an earnest tone, that perhaps somehow what was obvious to me was not obvious to the rest of the world, perhaps even my own college dorm roommate.
“Of course I am,” I told her. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Jenna laughed scornfully. This time I was the one missing the point. “Because… #$%&, lady. You think this is some great life we’re living? You think fighting to get even basic recognition, medically and on paper, by employers, teachers, you name it, that it’s some great, noble and enlightened struggle? That never quite feeling at home in your body even after you’ve finished transition, no matter when you started, is somehow a good thing to be flaunted? Because from where I’m sitting it %&$#in’ sucks.”
What was I supposed to say to that? It wasn’t like she was wrong. We knew ourselves, but the world said we were something else. From there the battle began and ended with so many being snowed under. It was the unquestionable truth that we were born into, and yet…
“I’m not sure I can believe that.”
“Oh, so it doesn’t suck?” Jenna retorted.
“No, it sucks,” I confirmed. “It really, really %&$#ing sucks, but at the same time…”
She gave me that look, ‘oh please’: you know the one. As far as she was concerned I was deluding myself with what I was talking straight out of my ass, and maybe I was. “You’re not going to heap me with that ‘greater perspective on life and gender’ B-S, are you?”
“No,” I shrugged, “but at the same time I can’t be that pessimistic. I don’t think pride works the way you think it does.”
‘Oh please’ switched quickly to the much more sarcastic ‘oh, do enlighten me.’ Gods, she could be caustic.
“It’s about not letting the bastards win,” I told her. “There are so many boxes and names people try to jam on us, they have forever, and told us that… we’re not normal. We’re deficient. We’re only the way we are because there are pieces missing.”
“That’s kinda true,” she interjected. “Most trans people are #$%&ing psycho. Myself included.”
“Yeah, but even if that were universally true whose fault is that? When an indifferent world stomps someone on the sidewalk again and again and again do you really expect them to come out with all their marbles intact? It’s messy, but it’s not without cause.”
Jenna rolled her eyes and sighed in sage disapproval, the kind that said ‘you’re young, you have all the time in the world to become bitter and jaded.’ If you asked me she was the one who was determined to be that way, but what the hell, she was entitled.
“So you call out the shame and you throw it off because it doesn’t belong to you,” I continued, “and what’s left behind when you’re just you living your life honestly and as best you can, that’s pride. I mean, don’t you think that’s worth standing up for?”
Realistically I didn’t expect an answer. She wasn’t the sort to just brush her pessimism to one side, even for words tainted with what passed for realism in my worldview. Instead I let the bay reply for her and let the point rest under the inky black sky robbed of stars by the city below.
Suddenly Jenna stopped as she was hit by a flash of realization. “We need booze,” she grinned, then dragged me back to the sidewalk.
Actually it sounded like the best plan I’d heard all day.
* * * *
It was late when I made it back to the dorm room and I was feeling less than stable. Tequila shots will do that to you, for sure. Still I felt confident enough to cross the room in the dark, ignoring the main light and going for the bedside lamp, knocking over an awkwardly placed frame while doing so.
While putting it back in its place I stopped for a moment and considered the picture: it was me and Tanya on our graduating day of high school all the way back in Milestone City. Gods, I looked like such an awkward young brat in that shot, and if I looked hard enough I could still see traces of the boy I was determined to leave behind. But they were good times, and with the help of close friends I’d found a way to scale the mountain of crap laid out before me and get a real start on an adult education.
I pondered for a moment whether or not I should call her: after all we hadn’t spoken in months except online, but it was late and I was far too drunk to have a coherent conversation anyway. I knew my limits: I knew I was more wasted than I’d intended to get.
That’s when I noticed my phone sitting on the side table. Crap, what was it doing there? Had I forgotten to take it with me? Weird, because I could have sworn Jenna and I had texted earlier that afternoon…
There were several new messages: none hopefully from the Pride. Since Jenna had found herself the target of a hot older dyke’s affection through the course of the night I was alone and free to play my voicemail out loud without complaints.
“First message,” the automated voice stated as I collapsed on the bed, weary, numb and exhausted, “two. Fifty four. Pee em.”
First came the beep, then the message. “Hey, it’s Audrey. Just wanted to let you guys know that I’m still alive and junk. Can you also tell Jenna that I’m sorry for standing her up the other day? I overslept and—thanks, hon—and I had a biotech paper I was slaving over the night before. I don’t mean to keep bouncing you guys around like this, but my schedule is hell. Anyway, see you guys Tuesday… I hope.”
Always the responsible one, I mused silently. If only she weren’t so prone to over-committing herself then maybe she could relax more, spend some time with her friends, and maybe finally admit her feelings for Jenna: or at least that’s how it always played out in my mind. Considering the soap opera that was my social circles it seemed bound to happen eventually.
The string of voicemail messages continued: “Second message. Three. Forty-one. Pee em.” Beep.
“This is my son’s education you’re playing with here,” a familiar voice seethed. “Whether or not he’s spitting in the face of God is completely irrelevant. Taking that away from him, especially over something so trivial, is downright un-American, sir.”
I darted up in my bed. “…Mom?” The words were so familiar, but they were entirely without context. Was this some kind of a joke? Because if it was it wasn’t very funny.
Ignoring the old, lingering sense of alienation I played it back again. There had to be something more to this. Even if it were a prank it wasn’t the sort of stupid, insensitive game my mom went for even after years of estrangement.
“This is my son’s education you’re playing with here. Whether or not he’s spitting in the face of God is completely irrelevant. Taking that away from him, especially over something so trivial, is downright un-American, sir.”
She was serious… no. No, she couldn’t be. Why bring this up? Why then? Why like that? Why not just say something more direct? I sobered up quickly enough to try and call her back but nobody was answering: not on her cell, not at home, even my dad wasn’t picking up. Something was seriously wrong in the state of Denmark.
There more messages. For the moment my mom could wait, at least for as long as I could get through the rest.
“Third message. Three. Fifty-seven. Pee em.”
“On the one hand I can understand it I know it’s hard sometimes being skinny and… well, pretty, but that doesn’t make you less of a man no matter what the jocks say.”
I remembered the words so clearly: it was that day assistant principal what’s-his-name kicked me out of school for wearing a dress. All I’d wanted was to be myself but nobody believed me, so I acted out like a brash idiot and…
None of this made any sense. I clicked the next message.
“Fourth message. Four. Twenty-two. Pee em.”
“Are you okay?” she asked hurriedly.
I recognized what had to be my own voice except it was deeper than I thought it was, even back then. “I’m fine. I think. I’m fine… oh, gods. What, I… I’m fine.”
“Call Triple A,” she said placidly. “I’m going to… talk… to… the other driver.”
It took everything I had to keep from screaming out to her. That memory of years before was so vivid: I could still hear her shoes clicking against the pavement, the faint hiss from under the hood… and the sound of her body as it hit the warm tar.
Suddenly I was very, very worried. There seemed every chance in the world that this wasn’t just a weird string of calls but a very real threat. If I were smart I would have called the Pride in on it right away, but I had to know she was alright. If there was even a slight chance that she was safe at home in her bed then I had to take it just so my heart wouldn’t explode with fear.
Three rings. Nothing. Four, five, six, they dragged on. After the next dozen or so my panic was reaching critical mass, but still I had to keep trying. It had me on my feet and pacing the room, but it did little to cool my mood.
Then for that brief split second I found him in the mirror. I should have known he was there all along: he was behind everything.
The villain wasted no time in thrusting me into the reflective glass and leaving shattered pieces to fall after my body had collapsed to the ground. Suddenly I was dizzy and could no longer support my weight. The pain in my head along with the steady stream from my brow was probably from cuts and a concussion that left me feeling like I’d been thrown from a moving truck.
“Don’t try to use your powers, Miss Cade,” Dr. Vortex said as he leaned to my side. “They’re useless here.”
“You’re… dead…” I moaned.
And then a weird thing happened. He smiled at me. Dr. Vortex never smiled and yet there he was, grinning like a madman. I couldn’t quite comprehend it, but I knew it wasn’t a good sign.
“You can’t kill a god,” he said. Crap. Somehow I’d gotten the feeling that the whole world was about to come to an end. Actually that probably wasn’t far from what he had planned.
* * * *
TO BE CONTINUED…