Today’s free short fiction story is the kind of thing that happens when I stop trying to force my work into boxes I understand, and just follow the prompts where they lead me.
This post comes from my effort to write a Story a Day every (week)day in May. I’m not posting all of them, only those I think will be great for blog readers. They will all be tagged [Free Short Fiction] for easier browsing.
The first prompt for today’s story comes from Terrible Minds:
The second comes from The Daily Prompt:
“Have You Seen This Girl?”
And the third comes from Our Write Side:
“Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth.” ― Aesop
The fliers – printed on copy paper in a half a dozen different neon colors – waved at him from every bulletin board, telephone pole, and tree within a 12-block radius. The eyes watched him. He walked to school every day with her face smiling back at him, mocking him, calling him a fool and a fraud.
“Have You Seen This Girl?”
Some hero he turned out to be.
It’s not like he intended for anyone to get hurt. He wanted to be popular, and saying he was something he wasn’t should have been the easiest way to get there.
But when his sister disappeared, he couldn’t shake off the lie. No one believed him when he said he didn’t really have the powers he had claimed. They all thought he was glad to be rid of her. Some of them even thought he might have had something to do with her disappearance.
It was a ridiculous accusation, but no one stopped to consider what was out of the realm of reality anymore. Not since the explosion in which a select few had gained so-called super powers.
After that, anything was possible. If a child claimed to be able to run faster than a car could drive or see through walls, they were tested to see just how super their abilities were. Except Cash. His parents didn’t believe in the testing, didn’t see a reason to send their son to a group of doctors who would experiment on, poke, and prod him. They wanted him to have a normal life.
That’s why everyone believed he had powers he refused to use to save his sister.
When the wind blew the dry leaves against the grass, he could swear he heard her whispering to him. He never told anyone about it, though, because he was afraid they would accuse him of having another power he was wasting.
The voice was familiar, but he kept plodding along the sidewalk with his head down. Familiar voices and faces had been tainted.
He didn’t look up as the boy jogged up and fell into step next to him. He watched in his peripheral vision as one pudgy arm came up and a puff of medicine was dosed through an inhaler on a lanyard that dangled around the boy’s neck.
“Have they heard anything about Fortune yet?” the boy asked.
“I’m sure she’s okay. Maybe she got on the wrong bus and got turned around. She might be trying to figure her way home from China by now.”
The boy laughed, then took another puff of his inhaler.
“I’m Devon, by the way. We have science together.”
Cash didn’t lift his head. The boy sounded sincere, but they always did before they started in on him. He started to walk faster.
“Oh, come on!” the boy said, his breath coming in wheezing gasps that turned into barks after a few moments.
Cash saw him drop back against a telephone pole upon which his sister’s face stared back at him. She could almost feel her eyes on him, boring into him, blaming him for her disappearance. He tucked his head down and broke into a sprint, and he didn’t slow until he got to the bus stop.
“Look who decided to show his stupid face.”
Another familiar voice, but this one he knew without looking up. The boy’s name was Gabe and he was one of the loudest haters Cash had accumulated since the whole charade started.
“Do you see this?” Gabe asked the circle of kids he surrounded himself with. “This jerk is waiting at the bus stop when his sister is who knows where. She could be dead, and he’s not even trying to look for her.”
Cash squinted his eyes at his sneakers and tried to tune his ears into the sounds of the street. As soon as he heard the bus, he knew he would be safe.
“I guess you’re glad your baby sister is gone,” Gabe said. It was the same mocking refrain he had carried on for the past week, but his followers still booed and hissed in all the right places as if they had never heard it before.
“Leave him alone.”
Cash dared a glance at the kid who walked up beside him. He was pudgy and his skin had gone red with exertion. Cash recognized the inhaler and the glasses he pushed up on his sweaty nose.
“Who’s gonna make me?” Gabe asked. He stepped forward out of his posse, but didn’t leave the safety in numbers they provided. “You, fat boy?”
Sweat dripped down Cash’s nose and onto his sweatshirt as if he had been the one running to catch up, but he didn’t move. Devon stepped between him and Gabe.
“I could flatten you in a one-on-one fight,” Devon said. “But you’re too scared to fight without your buddies.”
Gabe glanced back at his friends, who watched for his reaction, then walked forward so he was nose-to-nose with the shorter boy. “Yeah? You think so?”
Devon didn’t flinch. He raised his arms and pushed Gabe away from him with a grunt. When Gabe stumbled on a hole in the sidewalk, Devon reached forward and caught him by the shirt. He jerked him back to standing.
“Yeah. I think so. Don’t you?”
Cash watched it all through the corner of his eye. Secretly he cheered Devon on, but he stood rooted to the same spot. He didn’t dare move in case someone noticed him and he became the center of attention again.
Gabe backpedaled into his group, then cleared his throat. “You’re lucky the bus is coming, or I would cream you for that.”
Devon didn’t respond, but stepped up next to Cash and waited as the bus pulled into the stop and opened its doors. Cash made to get on the bus first, but Devon held him back by his jacket. As the group led by Gabe got onto the bus, no one turned to speak to them, and a cold fear began to build in Cash’s stomach.
The bus driver waited a moment, and when the boys didn’t get on, closed the door and pulled away.
“What was that for?” Cash asked, his voice small and weak.
“You shouldn’t let them get to you,” the strange boy said. “If you fight back, even once, they’ll leave you alone. Don’t you remember when Dad told us that?”
Cash turned to face the boy. He searched his face. “What did you say?”
The boy pushed his glasses up and smiled. “I said you shouldn’t let them pick on you. Gabe isn’t any bigger than you. You could cream him.”
Cash shook his head. “No, I mean…” He had heard it, hadn’t he? As he watched, Gabe yawned and glanced down the street in the direction they had come. “Did you say…?”
“What?” Devon asked, then turned and started walking. “Come on. There’s something cool I want to show you.”
Since he didn’t get on the bus, he was going to be late anyway, Cash rationalized. He might as well enjoy his day off school before his mother came home and found out he hadn’t gone.
“This is crazy,” he said, but started to jog in the direction Cash was walking.
They walked past the street Cash would need to travel to get back to his house, and several blocks past where he was allowed to walk alone, until Devon finally stopped in front of a building that was more skeleton than structure.
“Can you keep a secret?” Devon asked.
Cash turned to answer him, but the boy had already started inside, and Cash had to clamber to keep up. They crawled over piles of crumbling bricks and broken pylons until they came to a portion of the bottom floor that wasn’t demolished.
“If you won’t tell anyone, I want to show you something.”
This time, Devon waited until Cash nodded his agreement before pushing open a sheet that covered a passageway inside small enough for only a child to crawl through.
“Go ahead,” Devon said. “You first.”
It didn’t feel right, and alarm bells rang in Cash’s head. This reminded him of one of those shows his mom liked him to watch before the start of summer camp or a new school year. Cautionary tales, she called them.
Cash got onto his knees and climbed through the tunnel until it stretched tall enough that he could stand again. The first thing he saw when he stood up made him gasp aloud.
“Fortune!” he cried as he fell to his knees and crawled over to her still body. “What happened to you?”
He took her in his arms, but her body was limp, and her eyes were closed. He turned to look at Devon with his face twisted in anguish.
“What did you do to her?”
Devon shook his head. “No imagination.”
“What?” Cash cried. He kissed the top of his sister’s head, then put her back down and got to his feet with his fists clenched at his sides. “I’ll kill you for this.”
“Calm down, Bub.”
Cash slumped and fell against the unsteady wall. He slid to the floor and stared up at the boy. “Why did you call me that?”
“I’ve always called you that. Since I was born. Dummy.”
The child who introduced himself as Devon pulled off his glasses and inhaler, then lie down on the floor next to Fortune’s still body.
He took her hand and the little room filled with a bright, red light and a hum that seemed to come from all around them. Cash tried to watch, but shielded his eyes with one arm as they started to burn. When the hum stopped, he put down his arm and gawked as Fortune sat up next to the still form of the boy who had protected him from the bully minutes earlier.
“Cool, right?” his little sister asked. She was smiling. She was… alive.
“Fortune, where have you been?!”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Here, I guess. When that explosion happened, I was hanging out with this kid, Devon.” She gestured at the boy’s body. “When I woke up afterwards, we had sort of mixed together.”
Cash reached out a hand, but stopped when he thought of what had happened when Devon touched Fortune.
“Don’t worry. It doesn’t work on anyone else,” Fortune said. She stood up and carefully stepped over Devon’s body. “It only works with me and him. When I touch his body, we both go into him. And when he touches mine, we go into me.”
She walked across the floor and sat down next to Cash. He gawked at her, then glanced at Devon’s body.
She shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know. We’re both in me right now.” She cleared her throat, and when she spoke again, Devon’s voice came out of her mouth. “But it doesn’t last very long. After a couple of hours, the body gets all shaky, and we move to the other one.”
“What happens if you’re not with the other body when it happens?”
Fortune shook her head, but still spoke with Devon’s voice. “I don’t know, man. It takes forever for us to float back here. Last time it happened, and we were across town, it took like three days for us to go back, and even then, it was hard to get situated again.”
“That’s why you haven’t come home,” Cash said.
Fortune nodded. “We have been trying to think of how to get back to normal,” she said in her own voice. “Mom and Dad will be so sad.”
Cash watched his sister get back up and walk back to Devon’s body. She sat down near him, but not near enough to touch without reaching out.
“But you’re alive. They’re going to be so happy,” Cash said. He stood up, walked over, and held out a hand. “Come with me and show everyone that you’re okay.”
The hum started like before, and Cash lost his footing. He fell onto his hip hard as the building around them shook. Fortune cried out as she landed on Devon’s body. Light erupted all around them, but instead of red, it was purple. Cash hid his face in his jacket until he heard the voice.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” a new voice, a man’s scratchy, deep tenor, sounded all around them.
“Who’s there?” Cash cried, and squinted his eyes at the eruption of light.
Devon sat up and scrambled away from the figure that emitted the deep, blue light. “No, not again!” he said, but this time, his voice and Fortune’s had mixed together. “Leave us alone!”
“It’s time to come with me, children,” the man said, and as Cash watched, the figure seemed to float across the room to Devon. On the way, Fortune’s body lifted from the floor of its own volition, and the man grasped her under one arm. “Don’t fight it. These are Doctor’s orders.”
When he had both Fortune and Devon in his arms, the man turned back to Cash, who was struggling to get to his feet under the weight of the humming and the light. It felt like his body was a magnet being repelled by another.
“Stop! Leave my sister alone,” Cash growled as he pushed himself inches away from the floor. “Give her back!”
“Don’t worry, little boy. You will see your sister again soon. But next time, she will be a part of something greater than any of us could imagine.”
The humming grew louder and the light brighter until it drowned out the sound of Cash’s screams and his vision altogether. He reached out and grabbed the man’s ankle, but with a crack and a sizzle, the humming and the light had gone along with the man and the two children, leaving Cash alone, writhing in pain, on the floor of the demolished building.
When they found him wandering in the middle of the darkened street later that night, his eyes had clouded over with a thick layer of gunmetal grey, and he sizzled with electricity.
And Bainite was born.